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Facing Revolt, GOP Senate Leaders Delay Health Care Vote; Pro- Trump Group Pulls Health Care Attack Ad. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Tonight in a controversial figure in Donald Trump's orbit, as well as the Russia investigation, drops a bombshell. Roger Stone wants to testify before Congress. We'll have details on that shortly.

First on health care. Remember this?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Real change begins immediately with the repealing and replacing of the disaster known as Obamacare.

Repeal it and replace it.

Repeal and replace.

Repeal and replace.

Obamacare, we're going to repeal it, we're going to replace it, we're going to get something good.


Repeal it, replace it, get something great.

We're going the kill it. Let it die, let it die, and we're going to come up with something much, much better.

You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it's going to be so easy.


COOPER: Well, it hasn't been that easy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to pass an Obamacare replacement legislation quickly before the July Fourth recess, that hasn't happened either.

So, tonight, the Senate bill is now on hold. The White House is in damage control mode. The president's negotiating strategy has been coming under fire, and Republicans now head home for the recess to face voters, any of whom might become one of the estimated 22 million fewer Americans with coverage if this bill becomes law. That figure according to CBO, which Republicans pushed back on.

There is controversy over attack ads by conservatives slamming other Republicans. In short, a lot of moving parts that are still moving.

Let's start with CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House where a busload of senators sat down with the president late today.

What can you tell us about that meeting?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the president summoned the Republican senators, all 52 of them, over here to the White House after it became obvious that this was not going anywhere this week.

So he brought them all into one room. And this was important, Republicans believe, because there's so many different factions inside these Senate Republicans. You know, there are some conservatives, a few moderates. But all had sort of different sets of disagreements here.

But the president sat them down, and it was more of a venting session, I'm told, a listening session, I'm told. But this is what he said at the beginning.


TRUMP: We're getting very close. But for the country, we have to have health care. And it can't be Obamacare, which is melting down.

The other side is saying all sorts of things before they knew what the bill was. This will be great, if we get it done. And if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like, and that's OK, and I understand that very well.


ZELENY: So, interesting right there, he said if we don't get this done, that's OK, I understand that.

Of course, they know, though, Anderson, that failing here is not an option. In fact, Senator McConnell walked out after that meeting, which is about an hour and 15 minutes or so, talked to a few of us reporters and he said, look, doing nothing here is not possible. We must have action. Status quo is not acceptable.

The reality is, as much as the president wants to talk about Obamacare melting down, the Republicans now own this. They realize that. And they have to try and find a way to fix it.

COOPER: And the president has been working the phones on this, calling up senators.

ZELENY: He has been working the phones, and he, you know, spoke to about five or six senators over the weekend, yesterday, again this morning. He had Rand Paul in for a one on one meeting. But it became clear there were enough senators who were resisting

this, who were saying look, we're not even going to do the procedural vote to get to the actual vote, a bit of (INAUDIBLE) there. So, that's when they realized they had to put the brakes on all of this, because they did not want to have a defeat.

Now, the question here is, going home into a recess, into a legislative break here, will this lose momentum or will it be a time for resetting and regrouping? Senator McConnell hopes it's the latter. But that is the open question here, Anderson. Still, all the outside groups, all the conservative groups, the medical groups still oppose this plan. Until they get some of those on board, it's hard to imagine how they get themselves united around one plan -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate the update from the White House.

There were two changes at today's White House press briefing. Yesterday was Sean Spicer and no cameras. Today, it was cameras, no Spicer. His deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, fielded questions.

One focused on the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the health bill. Keeping them honest, watch these two sound bites and decide for yourself whether she did the kind of cherry picking you normally need a cherry tree for. Here, she is criticizing the CBO report.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In terms of the CBO score, as we said yesterday, the CBO is a budget office, and while it does very well at times predicting things on budget, whether it's revenue or spending, I don't think it does a great job, and I think the administration has been clear and consistent that we don't always agree that it does a great job predicting coverage.


[20:05:05] COOPER: Well, clearly not a man of the CBO's work.

Keeping them honest, though, the criticism does seem selective. The CBO did overestimate the number of people who get their care through the Obamacare exchanges. That's true. So, if that's all she's referring to, she's accurate.

However, if she is suggesting as she appears to be doing that the CBO did a bad job overall on Obamacare, other facts don't support her. For instance, the CBO also estimated the loss impact on the total percentage of people with and without insurance, as well as total number of people lacking insurance, and they were very close in those.

In any case, just seconds after attacking the most politically toxic part of the CBO report, she did embrace others.


SANDERS: And the CBO score that they pointed out was that it would cut deficits by $300 billion and cut taxes by $700 billion. I think those are good things and I think when they focus on the budget side, that's probably a good thing.


COOPER: Cherry picking? You decide for yourself.

More now what led up to today's GOP decision to punt for the time being on replacing Obamacare, and bring it to a vote.

CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now with that.

Do you have any sense how far away they are from getting the actual votes they need?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very far, to put it plainly, Anderson. To give you a sense of perspective, within an hour, Senator McConnell telling his conference behind closed doors that they would be waiting until after July Fourth to vote on this bill, three new Republican senators came out and said they opposed the discussion draft. That brings it to nine total.

And I think the interesting element here -- I've had several GOP aides tell me over the course of the last 24 hours, it's even worse than that if it would have gotten to the Senate floor.

And if you want to know kind of the scope of the problems that some senators have, take a listen to what Senator Susan Collins of Maine had to say.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I have so many fundamental problems with the bill that have been confirmed by the CBO report, that it's difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill.


MATTINGLY: Now, Anderson, that's not having a couple of problems or quibbling with a few minor issues. That is a fundamental disagreement with the shape and scope of the current bill, a current bill that despite what they're going to do behind closed doors in the days ahead, trying to hammer out a compromise, the fundamentals aren't going to change.

Now, Susan Collins is a moderate senator and she's always been kind of considered a tough get for Republican leadership. But she's not the only one voicing similar concerns like that. Rand Paul on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, kind of the same place.

And if you think about the numbers here that really matter, there are 52 Republican senators. They can afford to lose two and still pass this bill. Well, Susan Collins says those kind of programs on one side, Rand Paul has those kind of problems on the other, they have zero margin of error to work with, Anderson. COOPER: You've been told, though, they want to reach compromise by

the end of this week.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's exactly right. Look, they're not going to keep working. There's no question about it. They're not going to wait until after next week's congressional recess to try and hammer out this compromise agreement.

Over the next 72 hours, I'm told, they will be working behind closed doors, shifting proposals back and forth, trying to see if they can get there. And the reality is this -- Majority Leader McConnell knows where his members are, all 52 of the members. He knows what the Medicaid expansion state senators want and need to get to yes. He knows where the conservatives are. In fact, they have submitted specific proposals to him that would help them get on board.

But the question is: how do you thread that needle? How do you say, use some of the deficit savings we saw in the CBO report to give more money to opioid rehabilitation, to drug addiction, to bring some of the more moderates on board who are worried about Medicaid cuts, while also not alienating conservatives who want very conservative policy when it comes to regulations?

That is a needle that up to today they haven't been able to thread. It's very clear that they are very far short on the votes.

The big question now is, what's going to change? The ideological differences in the conference, Anderson -- those aren't changing anytime soon. The demands from certain senators -- those aren't changing anytime soon.

So, what's going to bring them together? What's going to bridge that very real divide right now? That is the open question they're going to try and answer by the end of this week. Will they be able to do? Well, that's an open question.

COOPER: All right. Phil Mattingly -- Phil, appreciate the update.

I want to bring the panel, Kirsten Powers, Jeffrey Lord and Bakari Sellers.

You know, Kirsten, I think back to when the House was going over their version and there was a lot of the same kind of talk of, look, you know, what appeals to the moderate Republicans is going to make more conservative Republicans back off. They were able finally to get to an agreement. It seems like the Republicans have to get to some sort of agreement. They've been running on this for so long.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I think that we're seeing the exact same thing play out in the House, play out in the Senate. I think that on the House side, they sort of always operate under the assumption that the moderates will cave. I don't think that that's going to be the case here.

And so, you know, and I think you're absolutely right. They made this promise. This is something they've been running on for the last seven years basically. And, unfortunately, you have a political position that is pushing a policy change, and it's fairly significant policy change that they're doing in a week or two basically, which is one of the complaints of a lot of the senators, to really reform a major part of our economy and a very personal issue of health care for people.

[20:10:13] And so, I think that this is really tough, and they have a lot of ideological division within their group and I think they're going to have a hard time make this work.

COOPER: Jeffrey, do you think they can get to yes? I mean, Ted Cruz was quoted earlier as saying he thinks that's possible.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it's possible. I mean, this is why I'm glad this president is in office. This is "The Art of the Deal".

And when you're doing these kinds of things, you have to get people from all sides in a room together and keep shepherding them and shepherding and shepherding them until you get it done. I've seen this at work myself as a staffer on Capitol Hill. I've seen it at work in platform committees at the Republican National Convention.

Over and over and over again, it's always the same process. It's sausage-making. It's not very glamorous. There's always people that say, well, I don't like this or that. This is how it gets done, and this is where the president's background I think is going to be very helpful.

COOPER: Bakari, I just assume, as a Democrat, maybe you feel a little emboldened tonight. But I mean --


LORD: A little?

COOPER: -- do you think that this is going to get done?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually don't feel emboldened at all. As a Democrat, I feel as if we have to keep the pressure up, as if we have to keep the resistance going because if there's one person in American politics that you cannot underestimate, it's Senator Mitch McConnell.

It's time and time again, he -- and one thing you can't overestimate is the courage of Republican senators, let me also say that as well because we've seen them cave time and time again.

And so, I think as Democrats, what we're hopeful for is someone like Senator Heller, Senator Collins, they hold true to their constituents. They remain steadfast in saying that we're not going to allow 23 million, 24 million Americans to lose their coverage. And then you get one more.

But I do know that Democrats across the country, and Americans -- I mean, Anderson, let me be -- let me be quite, quite frank with you. This is boiled down to not a Democrat or Republican issue, but this is truly an American issue that affects one-sixth of our economy. There are people in Arkansas, there are people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, that voted for Donald Trump who rely on Obamacare, Kentucky.

And so, I think you're seeing people of good hearts and common minds come together and say wait, slow down. This is not right for our country.

And so, I'm prayerful that we fix Obamacare, not repeal and replace with something that's pretty bad.

COOPER: But, I mean, Bakari, this is what Donald Trump and many other Republicans have run on and voters voted for him in many of those states that you talked about.

SELLERS: Well, it's one thing for Donald Trump to say, we're going to repeal and replace. But I've listened with you on many nights, on panels and throughout the campaign season, Donald Trump really doesn't know what's going on when it comes to health care. He doesn't have one singular idea or one vision.

And the irony in this whole thing is that the policy minds and the policy wonks of people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, they've had seven years to come up with an idea and they still haven't. And we've seen three iterations of this bill. It went from 24 million to losing coverage to 23 million losing to 22 million losing coverage. All that means for Jeffrey and the rest of his colleagues, is that with 22 more iterations, finally, they may get to a bill that in the words of Donald Trump is a little less mean.

COOPER: Kirsten, it's going to be see if what, if anything changes over the July Fourth recess. Some of these senators, you know, what kind of feedback they're going to get from their constituents when they go back home. Not all of them are having town halls, but that may have an impact.

POWERS: Yes, I think so. But, you know, the problem has always been with the Republicans that they ultimately don't -- Democrats believe that, you know, health care is a right and Republicans believe it's a privilege. And left to their own devices, they wouldn't come up with a health care plan. We know that because they never did, right?

And so, now, suddenly, they're on the hook for it, because they made this promise to repeal something, which is what they're good at and what McConnell is very good at is blocking things, but not necessarily coming up with some sort of reform, which is what this is. This is reforming Obamacare, supposedly.

And so, I think that they don't -- they don't have a very good plan. And sort of the irony of this is even if they get this through, it's just not a very good plan, and it's not particularly not a good plan for, like as Bakari was saying, a lot of Trump voters who will see their out of pocket costs or their premiums or both go up so much that it would be prohibitive, that they actually wouldn't be able to get health insurance. And so, you know, they're sort of I guess deciding maybe in the short run they want to get the political win, but in the long run, there's going to be a price to pay for this if they even get it through.

COOPER: Jeffrey, do you think there is a price to pay if they get it through?

LORD: Well, hopefully not.

Anderson, here's the thing. You have to be a leader. You know, in 1964, after Ronald Reagan went on television and gave an impassioned speech for the principles of conservatism and Barry Goldwater, and California was lost to Lyndon Johnson by about a million votes.

[20:15:02] Two years later, Ronald Reagan himself was elected to California on those same principles by a million votes.

My point is, you've got to go out and sell what your principles are in relation to a particular program. Obamacare was sold as one thing. I was just looking -- admittedly, this is a White House video of people who suffered under Obamacare. I have talked to these people -- some of them, not the people on that camera shot, but some people like that myself.

I have heard these complaints ad infinitum from regular folks. There's great unhappiness with Obamacare. So, this is the attempt to do something about it, and that's what this is all about. And Republicans are going to have to suck it up as it were, be Reaganesque, and get out there and sell their principles.

COOPER: All right. We'll talk more -- sorry, go ahead.

POWERS: Oh, I was just going to say. Jeffrey's right, that there are a lot of problems with Obamacare. And I think if they were actually fixing those problems, that would be a good thing and it would help them politically and it would be good for the country. It just doesn't look like this plan does that.

COOPER: All right. More to talk about tonight. Coming up next, to Jeff's point about "The Art of the Deal", some hardball tactics by Republicans against other Republicans and fallout from an ad produced by a pro-Trump PAC targeting a Republican senator.

There's breaking news and reaction to the White House meeting.

Also later, breaking news on longtime Trump associate Roger Stone's decision to testify in the Russia probe, and his feud with one of the victims of Russian hacking.


[20:20:11] COOPER: More details emerging tonight from today's Republican health care sit-down with the White House. A source in the room telling CNN's Manu Raju that a number of senators raised concerns with the president about an attack ad aimed at Nevada's Dean Heller, a Senator who said he would not support the bill. It was produced by a Trump-friendly advocacy group which pulled it tonight, saying that credit for giving -- credit for bringing Senator Heller to the negotiating table. In a moment, we'll talk to a spokesperson for the group who joins us.

But, first, CNN's Tom Foreman.


AD ANNOUNCER: Obamacare is rapidly racing towards collapse.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even by D.C. standards, it was a vicious attack. A political pact founded by campaign officials of the Republican president savaging one of his own party senators with an online commercial and a small TV ad buy in the lawmaker's own state.

AD ANNOUNCER: But now, with strong leadership and a real chance to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered care that protects American families, Senator Dean Heller is saying no.

FOREMAN: In a tweet, the American First Policies PAC even tied the Nevada lawmaker to liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi, saying they'll have $1 million worth of follow up, ads, social media, and more to push Heller into supporting the health care reform bill backed by the president.

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: This bill, this bill that's currently in front of the United States Senate is not the answer. It's simply not the answer.

FOREMAN: The problem -- with his home state going for Hillary Clinton last fall, Heller was already considered vulnerable in his bid for re- election next year. If he loses, the two-vote advantage for Republicans in the Senate would be down to one. So, his Senate colleagues quickly bristled at the strong arm tactics from the White House and allies.

That was not the right thing to do, one source told CNN. You cannot do that to a senator.

"The New York Times" reports other sources saying Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the White House to complain that the attacks were beyond stupid, because they upset the delicate, behind-the-scenes talks which might have eased the measure to approval.

And some lawmakers are even speaking out publicly.

COLLINS: He's an excellent senator. He's taken a principled stand, and I want him back in the Senate. So, I was amazed and appalled to learn that any Republican group would be running negative ads against Dean.


FOREMAN: It's true that flipping Heller to the yes column would have made passing the measure at least one vote easier for the president. But now, instead, it looks like the hardball tactics may have made a tough vote even tougher -- Anderson. COOPER: Tom Foreman, thanks.

Katrina Pierson is with the group, America First Policies PAC. She joins us now. Along with CNN political commentator and GOP strategist, Ana Navarro.

Katrina, you heard Senator Collins this expressing dismay about your group going after a fellow Republican. How do you respond?

KATRINA PIERSON, SPOKESPERSON, AMERICAN FIRST POLICIES: Well, Anderson, we're not really concerned what she thinks. In fact, our main concern is pushing forward policies that support America First, particularly those Republicans have been campaigning on for the last seven years.

And if I could just give you a little context, mainly because there were other senators who did not support the bill in its current form. However, they stayed at the table, they offered their own ideas. Whereas Senator Heller held a press conference on Friday, said absolutely not, and walked away from the table. So, I'm happy to see that he's back.

COOPER: So, that's why you're saying you didn't go after a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul, you're saying that they were willing to offer ideas?

PIERSON: Oh, absolutely. Any time that you talk to either Senator Paul or Senator Cruz, they would express their opinion, whether they support it or not, but they've always said this is how we can get there. This is what I need. This is what I want to see.

With Senator Heller, he just says, no, I can't support this, and he walked away from the table. And you had mentioned that the ads were pulled today. But I will say, we are prepared to resume.

COOPER: Ana, what about that? I mean, what's so bad if a Republican group wants to run ads against a fellow Republican because they think he's, you know, too liberal on this, or with Nancy Pelosi or going to vote against someone that all Republicans have run on for years now? Why shouldn't they run ads?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, they can do whatever they want. But I think for a lot of us, this is political cannibalism. This is eating of your own. It is political bullying.

It is also disrespecting the will of that senator's voters. Remember that Senator Heller stood there with Governor Sandoval. Both of them are Republican.

And I got to tell you, a senator who says no to something is not because they want to be a thorn in the side of leadership or the president of their own party. It's because they think it is destructive to their voters, to their constituents, to the people they are closest to.

[20:25:07] And the right thing to do is figure out how to make the policy better. There are six or more Republican governors who don't want this bill, who have expressed concerns or share opposition to it.

And you know, every single Republican senator should have refused to go to the White House while these ads have been playing, because today, it is Dean Heller. Tomorrow, it could be any of them.

People can die from friendly fire, too. And they are taking on a vulnerable senator in a swing state, and they are doing what to him? They prefer a Democrat? You think a Democrat is going to be more in agreement with President Trump or the Republican leadership than a Republican senator is? Hell, no!


NAVARRO: And the other thing is, I think -- I think these senators who are being attacked this way by their own party, who are being cannibalized by other Republicans, they are going -- they can't cave, because you see, if you cave now, you might as well just hand in your spine and a couple of other choice body parts to Trump and his cronies.

COOPER: So, Katrina, OK --

PIERSON: You know what, Anderson? I'm not sure what caving means considering how this was a part of his campaign and every Republican that was elected. They wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is dead. We have an opportunity to do something about it.

And as for cannibalism, I'm a conservative. I've been attacked by more Republicans than Democrats. So, let's just set that aside for a second.

We have a responsibility now, being Republicans in charge, where all of the Republicans said if you give us the House, we'll stop it. If you give us the Senate, we'll stop it. Now, we need the presidency, and guess what? You got it.

Now is not the time to play games with Medicaid expansion or catering to a particular group or electorate. This is about getting this horrible bill that has raised premiums, priced people out of their own health care insurance, increased huge taxes on the middle class, another group we're not talking about in this discussion, and --


NAVARRO: Well, let me tell --

PIERSON: -- which is something Republicans said they were going to do.

COOPER: Katrina, what --


NAVARRO: Let me tell you what caving is. Caving is trying to force an elected official, who was elected by his people, to vote against his conscience, to vote against his principles, to vote against what thinks are the interest of his people, the people that voted for him, and to do it by force instead of bringing him to the table and figuring out the solutions are.

It's not just Heller. There's a lot of Republican senators who don't want to vote for this for one reason or another, and mainly because it's not good for the people of their state. So, that is caving. Handing in your principles --


COOPER: Let Katrina answer.

PIERSON: These are the things he ran on. He ran on repeal and replace. Go look at this Web site, he talks about the impact of Obamacare and how it kills jobs and raises taxes. These are the things on why he was elected, which is exactly why we want to hold those accountable.

And we are talking about bringing him to the table, which, in fact, I hear he is today. But he walked away, Ana, that's the difference. That is why the ad ran against him to begin with.

COOPER: Katrina, let me just --


NAVARRO: There's not one Republican I know who is not in favor of repeal and replace, but the devil is in the details.

COOPER: OK, let me just ask a question.

Katrina, to Ana's earlier point, just playing the long game in terms of keeping the House, keeping the Senate, isn't it more important long-term, that Heller -- as a Republican, that Heller gets re-elected instead of a Democrat?

PIERSON: Well, I think you're just thinking of one seat in that case. I will tell you in the case of Republicans, Anderson, I was there on the lawn at the Capitol, when Obamacare was passed. Several of us across this country fought against it before it passed and said, premiums are going to go up. You will not be able to keep your doctor, and we were right.

So, we are talking about losing far more seats --

COOPER: But the question is --

PIERSON: -- if they don't address it now, and that's the problem.

COOPER: All right. We've got to leave it there. Katrina Pierson, Ana Navarro --

NAVARRO: When you got a two-seat majority, one seat matters.

COOPER: All right. Ana Navarro, Katrina Pierson, appreciate it. Coming up, breaking news: the House Intelligence Committee meets with

the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign trying to get to the bottom of Russia's interference in the election. I'll speak with a member of the committee who was in that meeting, next.


[20:32:55] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: More breaking news tonight. The former head of Hillary Clinton's campaign was late this afternoon emerged from a close door question and answer session with the House Intelligence Committee over Russia's interference in the election.

Now, as you probably remember John Podesta's e-mails were hacked during the run-up to the election. He spoke very briefly, very briefly with reporters after today's meeting. Here's what he said when he was asked if the Obama administration was aggressive enough in going after Russia's meddling, which some of the current President obviously has criticized on Twitter.


JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The President and the entire administration were dealing with an unprecedented incidents of the weaponization of the fruits of Russian cyber activity. And I think they were trying to make the best judgments they could on behalf of the American people.


COOPER: Joining me now is Congressman Jim Himes, member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat. Congressman Himes, today former Clinton Campaign Chair, you saw John Podesta testifying from your committee about Russian interference. I know it was a closed door session and you can't publicly talk about what he said. Can you say if his testimony shed light on the hack of the DNC? I mean, did you learn anything new?

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yeah, Anderson, we're working pretty hard to, you know, keep what happens behind the closed doors of this investigation behind closed doors. But, you know, surprise to see that John Podesta was a victim in this situation. You know, his e-mail was hacked. His private e-mails were put out there. And so, you know, he's -- at the time he wasn't privy to classified information. So, you know, as you might imagine, he obviously had his own perspective of what happened to him. But beyond that, you know, things are under way. We have a lot of witnesses coming before us, and we want to assure we can assure those witnesses on what they say behind closed doors will stay there. So good progress.

And, you know, I'm happy to report that on the House side any way, things went pretty well. I was in a meeting yesterday with Mike Conway and Adam Schiff, and, you know, they're working terrifically well together. Good agreement on what we take on the next steps and, you know, finally now, we're doing interviews at a pretty rapid pace that I think is going to shed light in the aggregate on all that happened.

COOPER: You know, leaving aside what John Podesta said today, which obviously you're not going to talk about. Do you feel the DNC took this hacking seriously enough early enough? Because I mean, obviously President Trump has been critical of that. He raised questions about that.

[20:35:09] You know, "The New York Times" reporting from months ago, you know, the initial calls from the FBI, it seems like the person who answered the phone at the DNC wasn't sure they were talking to a real FBI agent. Did the DNC drop the ball here?

HIMES: Yeah. You see a lot of mistakes that in retrospect just look so silly. And, you know, even in the John Podesta case. Of course, you know, one person said, hey, this is not a legitimate e-mail, but somehow it got transcribed, this is not illegitimate. I think it's fair to day that the DNC and remember, this is in retrospect, they didn't know what was going on. It took far too long for experts, both the FBI and CrowdStrik, which was the -- I don't know if I have the name right, but the private sector organization that came in and did analysis. It took too long, given the gravity of the situation, for that to get resolved. So I think in retrospect, yes, the movement that phone call came in, the DNC -- first of all, the leadership at the DNC should have been alerted and they, you know, they should have had people calling all over that place figuring out both what happened and how to plug the leaks.

COOPER: You mentioned Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on your committee. He has said that the Obama administration should have done more to counter Russian interference. Do you agree with that, should they?

HIMES: Yes. No, I absolutely agree with that. And look, what the President said that there was some sort of collusion or that President Obama did nothing is absolute nonsense. I mean, President Obama mobilized the intelligence community to put together a unanimous intelligence assessment very quickly. He called Putin, and John Brennan to the CIA, called this counterpart. There were sanctions.

You know, a lot was done, but not enough was done. Look, Vladamir Putin is like your school yard bully. He is not going to -- he is not going to change his behavior until he gets knocked down. And so I do think that he didn't pay nearly the cost that he needed to pay. And therefore, I fear that the lesson he took away from this is, that he can do this with impunity. And I do worry that he's, you know, already plotting antics for 2018.

COOPER: Tonight, we're learning that Roger Stone has agreed to testify in front of your committee, the House Intelligence Committee. Stone has told CNN that he wanted the hearing to be open, but that was the committee which said it was going to be a closed door hearing. Is that the case? And can you say what you want to ask to Roger Stone?

HIMES: Well, I don't know if that's the case. It doesn't surprise me. Roger Stone is an unpredictable guy. Obviously, the big questions around Roger Stone, which have been reported on for a long time, are questions that can be asked in open session.

Look, the guy bragged about knowing in advance that the attack on John Podesta was about to be released. He bragged about talking with and coordinating with WikiLeaks. He bragged about his friendship with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, called him his hero. Boy, you know, for an investigation -- and I want to be very careful in how I say this, for an investigating that is looking at the possibility of linkages between the Trump campaign and the Russians, the fact that a guy who, until August of 2015 was employed to that campaign, seems to know in advance what WikiLeaks is going to do. Those questions can probably be asked in open session. But boy, are we ever interested in the answers to those questions.

COOPER: To that point, I mean, Stone has told CNN, "I am confident that Podesta most likely repeated his lie that I knew in advance about the hacking of his e-mail, and I'm anxious to rebut this falsehood. I'm still unhappy that my testimony will not be in public. But believe it is more important to resolve the question of Russian Collusion with the Trump campaign which I believe was not existed."

You can't say, I guess that, whether or not John Podesta claimed that stone had knowledge of the talking of his e-mail. I think Stone in a tweet talked about an October surprise. But that's clearly going to be an area that you're going to be talking about.

HIMES: Well, I can say this. And by the way, Roger Stone after the hearing can say whatever he wants in public. But, you know, he calls John Podesta a liar on this point. Roger Stone posted a tweet well in advance of the release of the information out of John Podesta's e- mail, well in advance saying pretty soon it's going to be John Podesta's time in the barrel #lockherup. So, you know, this is not a question of truth or lies. Several days before the exposure of john Podesta's e-mails, Roger Stone seemed to know about that. And we're going to want to understand why that is.

COOPER: All right. Congressman, Jim Himes, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

Coming up, the White House says Syria may be planning another chemical attack. And they warned publicly the Assad regime that it will "pay a heavy price." If the President warming more USA air strike, does go against what it said over and over again about not taking his hand. We'll hear from two military experts, next.


[20:43:28] COOPER: The White House says Syria may be getting ready for another chemical weapons attack. Similar to the repreparation the Assad regime made before its attack back April. This came in a statement from the White House last night, which also read "As we had previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price." After the April attack, the President authorized strike in the Syrian air base. This new statement seems to be at odds with the President's policy of not telegraphing future military actions, a policy he's off repeated.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATE PRESIDENT: I don't want to tell the enemy how I am thinking. Does that make sense? Surprise. Remember they used the "the element of surprise." I keep saying, whatever happened to the "element of surprise?"

You know, I've been saying, the "element of surprise." We're too predictable. We need to be unpredictable. We have to be unpredictable. We want to be unpredictable, folks. We want to be unpredictable.


COOPER: White House official today said that last night's statement was not in congruent with that strategy. It's the equivalence of putting someone on notice.

At the press briefing today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the statement. And if Syria is getting ready for another attack, does that mean the U.S. strikes in April did not work? Here's how she responded.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think that our goal every day is to do what we can to protect life in all forms, and to take steps to move the ball forward in defeating ISIS, defeating all efforts of terrorism. And I think the statement yesterday helped to do that.


[20:45:07] COOPER: Joining me now is CNN Military Analyst, retired Air force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. Who is a military attache in Syria, and Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, who also served as a Pentagon Press Secretary. Colonel Francona, I mean, the President talks about never telegraphing his next military move. Certainly he didn't do that with this statement. What do you make of the reasons behind this statement?

RICK FRANCONA, U.S. AIR FORCE (RETIRED): Well, I think he's trying to deter an attack. You know, deterrence is always better than having to resort to military action. So if you can make a statement and put the other people on notice and say if you do this, there will be consequences, you may not have to do the consequences. Deterrence, if it works, is great. I think that's different than if you're already engaged in military action, telegraphing your intentions.

COOPER: Admiral Kirby, I mean the last attack was supposed to deter another attack. If there is another attack being planned, does that mean the first attack was ineffective?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), FORMER PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, look, if in fact that's what Assad was doing, one could certainly make the case that he obviously wasn't deterred enough since April. But I think Rick is right. This was all about trying to prevent that from happening. And so far, it looks like it's also has had the desired effect.

COOPER: Who do you think Colonel Francona the message is to? Because it can't just be the Assad regime, it seems like it's also, you know, its supporter, Russia.

FRANCONA: Yes. I think this was primarily aimed at the Russians and to some extent the Iranians but primarily the Russian. You know, the Syrians are the Russian clients right now. The Russians are calling the shots in Syria. If we can get to the Russians, so we could've been this behind the scenes. But I think the President wanted that public putting on notice but if you tell the Russians that you have to tell Bashar al-Assad not to do this. Because it will require us, given the events of April we've already reacted ones. We can't let it go again. So you tell him not to do this.

COOPER: Admiral, the U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley talked about that in the hearing this morning. I just want to play that.

KIRBY: Sure.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The goal is at this point not just to send Assad a message but to send Russia and Iran a message that if this happens again, we are putting you on notice. And my hope is that the President's warning will certainly get Russia and Iran to take a second look.


COOPER: I mean, one of the concerns obviously about military strikes in Syria is given Russia's close relationship in Syria and just close proximity is in striking an Assad complex, you also end up striking Russian forces or Russian aircraft.

KIRBY: Right, yes, sure. So that would be why this is important for the communication channel to stay open in Russia and the United States. And I suspect it's also why they put this statement out publicly last night to make sure that Russia got that message, as well. Look, it's in nobody's interest. Not in the Russians and certainly not in ours, for there to be an escalation of tensions between our two countries or to have this in some way result in some sort open conflict between us. And I think, again, that's one of the reasons why they did this.

The other thing I would say is, let's not overestimate the influence that Russia has on Assad. Yes, they had some sort, you know, Assad went out and visited an air force base, Russian Air Force Base today that sort to pump that up a little bit. But the Russians have been frustrated from a foreign ministry perspective as well as defense ministry perspective with Assad and some of his actions. Very frustrated as a matter of fact. And they have admitted. You know, behind closed doors that they don't necessarily have 100% control over this guy. So it is important to send them a message. I completely agree with that, but I don't think we should overestimate the kind of influence they might have.

COOPER: All right. Colonel Francona, Admiral Kirby, I appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up, as we mention former Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta was on Capitol Hill today testifying on the Russian investigation. His e-mail hacked is part of CNN's Special Report airing tonight, "The Russian Connection, Inside the Attack on Democracy." Jim Sciutto is the host. I'll speak with him coming up, next.


[20:51:52] COOPER: As we reported earlier, former Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta met with the House Intelligence Committee in the Russian investigation late today. And Trump associate Roger Stone has agreed to do the same next month. All behind closed doors. During the campaign, Podesta's private e-mails were hacked and published on WikiLeaks. How that happened, though, is incredibly fascinating story part of a CNN special report coming up at 10:00 p.m. eastern tonight. Jim Sciutto, host, "The Russian Connection Inside the Attack in the Democracy." Here's part of Jim's report.


JOHN HULTQUIST, FIREEYE, DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS: In addition to the organizations that were targeted, multiple individuals were targeted with spear phishing e-mails that resembled Google warnings.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Hultquist is Director for Intelligence Analysis at the Cyber Security Firm, FireEye.

HULTQUIST: They clicked on those thinking they were security warnings and this basically transported into a place where the adversary could collect their credentials and reuse them to gain access to their accounts. It was a reasonably realistic e-mail. It looked fairly legitimate.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): A prime target was the Chairman of Hillary Clinton's Campaign, John Podesta.

PODESTA: There was a Google alert that there was some compromise in the system and that change the password.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): This seemingly benign message was actually a spear phishing e-mail. It warned someone just used your password and prompted Podesta to change his password immediately by clicking on a link. It was signed innocuously, best, the Gmail team.

PODESTA: It actually got managed by my assistant, who checked with our cyber security guy. And through a comedy of errors, I guess. He instructed her to go ahead and click on it and she did.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The fatal error, Podesta's I.T. person wrote back calling the e-mail legitimate when, in fact --

SCIUTTO (on camera): He meant to say the opposite, right?

PODESTA: Right. He meant to say it was illegitimate. He said it was legitimate. The rest is history.


COOPER: Jim Sciutto joins us now. I mean, it's unbelievable that that one key error by an I.T. person, who should have known better, began this whole thing.

SCIUTTO: Really, just a typo. You know, I think we've all done it in text messages and e-mails, auto correct. And that's part of the story, part of his story, but really part of the broader story that at the end of the day, a lot of Russia's cyber hacking tools were pretty blunt instruments. Spear phishing e-mails have been around a long time. It doesn't take a lot of people to get fool just one or two. And in this case, John Podesta's team and that opened the door to some 50,000 e-mails and then those e-mails were in effect weaponized and they were released after a big tranche. They released pretty much every day leading up to the election and they had. I mean, really I don't think you can argue that they had an enormous effect at least on how the election was covered going into the actual voting.

COOPER: Do you look at the DNC response to this? Because, again, everything I've read on it, it just seems like, you know, early on they just didn't take it seriously.

[20:54:59] SCIUTTO: There is a lot of blame to go around here and not just John Podesta's cyber security person but the DNC. They got their first warning in the summer of 2015. A good year and a half before the election and kind of sat on it for a few months. But the fact is, that warning came from the FBI and went -- in effect to their computer help desk, right? It didn't go to the chairman of the DNC. It didn't go to senior leaders. It went and stayed at that level and the FBI kept coming back to that computer help desk number for a number of months before elevating it to a higher level. So you have the DNC not really seeing those warning signs for what they were, the FBI. I mean even we talked to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. He said that while he was aware of that breach early on, it wasn't even clear to him how big a deal this was going to become. And I think that's why when you lock at this a lot of folks missed this early on.

COOPER: It's certainly fair to raise questions as the President has about what the Obama administration was doing. Did they take it seriously enough? It's also fair to raise questions about what the Trump administration is doing to prevent this from happening again.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And I'll tell you. This is one thing and I speak to folks on the Hill all the time of both parties. One thing that there's bipartisan agreement on is that really no one is treating this today with the seriousness with which it needs to be treated. You know, we end this documentary with this warning from everybody I spoke to. These attacks, these cyber intrusions continue from Russia party organizations, individuals, probing attacks, even voting systems, voter registration systems, probing attacks and of both parties. And really the only question is, what will Russia do with those attacks?

And this is the most serious concern, Anderson. I'll end with this, the concern that the next time around, 2018, 2020, they might actually attempt to mess with voter tallies and just imagine the effects of that.

COOPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, I appreciate it. Look forward to that again. "The Russian Connection: Inside the Attack on Democracy" airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. on CNN.

Coming up on 360, senators took a field trip to the White House after Senate GOP leaders announced a health care vote delay. We'll have the latest on what President Donald Trump told those senators in a closed- door meeting, next.