Return to Transcripts main page


Washington Post: Trump Discussing Replacing Sessions; McCain Returning To Senate Tuesday For Crucial Health Care Vote; Kushner Admits Meetings, Denies Collusion. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 24, 2017 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A short time ago, I spoke with "Washington Post" reporter Matt Zapatosky.


COOPER: So, Matt, what did you learn?

MATT ZAPOTOSKY, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST (voice-over): Well, we learned that as President Trump and his aides have been discussing possibly removing Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, which maybe isn't a total surprise given what he told "The New York Times" last week. But interesting that it's maybe not just him venting and not thinking about what he's saying, but a calculated move and he is considering, you know, getting somebody else in there.

COOPER: Do you have any idea based on your reporting, I mean, how serious the discussions, what level they're at, or what the kind of permutations are being discussed?

ZAPOTOSKY: We understand at this stage, it is pretty informal. Some names have been floated, but maybe not even with the president, himself. It's not as if he is asking people what you think about with this person, what do you think about with this person?

And some people characterize this as just a sort of intense level of vetting, or excuse me, venting, on his part. So, it is pretty early, but, I mean, in this administration, things move quickly, so.

COOPER: Yes. Is there any timeline that's been discussed to your knowledge?

ZAPOTOSKY: No, no, not at all. I don't think the talks are quite that serious that we're going to remove him on X date, just discussing the idea of removing him.


COOPER: With me now, April Ryan, Ryan Lizza, A.B. Stoddard, Matthew Whitaker, Kirsten Powers, and Mike Shields.

Mike, as a supporter of the president, would it be a mistake to remove Jeff Sessions? MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it would be. I think, you know, there's been a conversation about loyalty a lot tonight. And I think loyalty is a part of this, but I think it's also confidence.

I think the president needs to have confidence in the attorney general and my understanding is that he's frustrated because Jeff Sessions recused himself from an investigation that hadn't begun. When he recused himself, there wasn't an investigation, now there is.

And so that makes you lose confidence in somebody when they recuse themselves from something that hasn't begun. You may have contributed to the sort of atmosphere that created it. I think Jeff Sessions has to get the confidence of the president back.

COOPER: How do you do that, though? I mean, you know, the Communication Director Scaramucci saying that they should sit down and have a face-to-face. It doesn't seem like that's something that President Trump wants to do. I mean, Jeff Sessions, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was at the White House today and there was no face-to-face.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So I seems like what he wants to do is stop the investigation. I don't think it's necessarily about Jeff Sessions, because the recusal happened on March 2nd and, you know, we're now, you know, in August. So, obviously something else is happening.

And so I think it's more about the fact that he is panicking about the investigation and particularly probably with the Donald Jr. e-mails. And so he's trying to figure out how to stop it and the only way to stop it, he figures, is to get rid of Sessions and to try to start the domino effect of getting somebody in there that he thinks will do his bidding.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's what's getting lost in this discussion is, you know, is he loyal, can he do it? The President of the United States is trying to undermine the rule of law by getting rid of an attorney general who has done the right thing, followed Justice Department guidelines and recused himself for an investigation.

You said that the investigation hadn't started. The investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia started last July. So the investigation had started and Sessions had conversations as a campaign surrogate with Russians, was a very clear case for recusal. He did the right thing. A lot of people -- and he deserves credit for that.

What we are watching now is a public machination by the president to undermine the rule of law at the Justice Department.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But, Anderson, this is much deeper than timelines. I understand what you're saying about the timeline and I understand what you're saying about the fact that he wants to stop the investigation. But if he cannot stop the investigation, he definitely wants to control the investigation. He is very concerned about Mueller. The scope of what Mueller is able to do.

And I talked to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today in Baltimore at the NAACP, and he says he's going to come back and start talking in September because he's very concerned with these impediments. He's also saying that we are nation possibly entering into a crisis. So, at issue is Mueller, what Mueller is doing.

Yes, Jeff Sessions, they've had this back and forth. And Jeff Sessions did send his resignation in earlier. But the question is, since he and the president don't get along, who did he get that resignation to that the president did not accept the resignation? That's one question.

Two, Jeff Sessions, yes, they don't get along, but the issue, why is Jeff Sessions staying? Is he realizing that this situation is bigger than what is on the surface? There are a lot of questions going on.

COOPER: But, I mean, Jeff Sessions is not only was an early supporter of the president, also among, you know, a lot of conservatives, among the more sort of nationalistic wing of the Republican Party. I mean, Jeff Sessions holds a lot of ideals which are really important to those supporters of the president. And he held those ideals probably before the president, himself, talked about them.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Which is why "The Washington Post" is reporting that he is -- the president is asking how it will play in conservative media because he knows there's an army of loyal supporters fervent believers in how qualified Jeff Sessions is for the job.

[21:05:08] And the fact, what Ryan said last hour, that he has achieved more for the Trump agenda, for president short on wins, everything with regard to immigration, criminal justice issues, law enforcement issues, all controversial, civil rights issues, he has been over there making changes hand over fist.

RYAN: I'm not going to say civil rights.

STODDARD: As his agenda -- well, it might look like the opposite of civil rights, but the Trump agenda is chugging along at great speed over at the Justice Department. And so Ryan is right, it doesn't have anything to do with the Trump agenda at the Justice Department. It has to do with what everyone said, which is Mueller.

The question for people who he's thinking of replacing Jeff Sessions with, has he already asked Jeff Sessions? And people are concerned about this, to fire Mueller and Jeff Sessions said no, therefore the outburst last week. If Ted Cruz wants to be the step-in, he has to know it's all about firing Mueller.

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. And the biggest challenge right now is you have a Department of Justice that isn't even firing on all cylinders. No U.S. attorneys have been confirmed or very few. And so you have offices that are being headed by interim appointments since you had most of the U.S. attorneys fired, including three up in southern district of New York. And so, I think this is a Department of Justice that while the fiasco in Washington is happening, out in the field, they really need some leadership and they need those U.S. attorneys in place. And then not have an attorney general with the confidence of the president I think really slows that down and causes Grassley and others in the judiciary committee to focus elsewhere where they should be focused on --

COOPER: I'm sorry, how difficult would it be to get another attorney general confirmed?

POWERS: Yes. It probably would be difficult. It probably would have to be a recess appointment if he did it I think.

LIZZA: But he's going to be put the Democrats into the very unusual position of being the great defenders of Jeff Sessions as remaining as attorney general.

POWERS: Right.

LIZZA: And -- I mean, you can imagine what Democrats will do if Jeff Sessions is fired as a way for President Trump to control the investigation of himself. They will shut down the U.S. Senate. They will not allow someone else to go through.

COOPER: We're going to continue this conversation after a quick break.

We also have some breaking news about whether John McCain will return to the Senate tomorrow. Right now, he's in Arizona recovering from surgery for brain cancer.

Also ahead, the latest on Jared Kushner's statement today and why a member of the House Intel Committee says he expects Kushner will have to come for multiple days of interviews.


[21:10:57] COOPER: Breaking news tonight, we just learned about Senator John McCain who's battling brain cancer, earlier we reported he may come back to Washington tomorrow. Now, we have a statement from the senator. Jeff Zeleny joins us with that. So what is he saying, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is a significant development. Senator McCain's office is saying that he is going to be coming back to Washington tomorrow to be on hand for that critical vote in the Senate on health care.

His office just released a statement just a few moments ago. It says this. It says, "Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on the important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea." So health care, obviously, getting the most focus.

We also know that Senator McCain is deeply engaged in the Russian sanctions bill and has been furious at the House of Representatives, Republicans there, for not following the lead of the Senate. So with the new agreement there, he also plans to focus on that.

But, Anderson, this is a significant moment that Senator McCain, of course, is battling an aggressive form of a brain cancer here, and this is, you know, by no means a signaling, you know, anything more than just a moment that he can travel back. He's still receiving chemotherapy and will be in the future here, but the reception that he'll receive tomorrow on Capitol Hill, Anderson, I can only imagine will be significant and a hero's welcome.

And, again, Republicans in the Senate need his vote to proceed to that health care bill. He's not yet said how he'll vote on the final bill, but he has given an indication that he will vote to at least go forward to the debate, but such an important moment here for this Washington and certainly the United States Senate, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, you know, for a guy who's lived a life of service, he continues to do that even right now with all he's battling. What is the state of the health care bill tonight?

ZELENY: Anderson, the state of the health care bill is very uncertain. We saw the president engage today in a way that he really hasn't been. He was standing in the blue room of the White House giving an address and I think speaking in the most forceful way.

And you almost wonder why he hadn't done this earlier, why he didn't give, you know, some type of a primetime address. But he was, you know, speaking about, you know, the need for Republicans to uphold their promise and pass this bill. But the state of this, you know, this evening is uncertain.

As our Phil Mattingly has been reporting all evening, the Senate Republicans do not believe that they have the 50 votes needed to get on to the debate. So it will happen in two phases. Tomorrow is the stage where Republicans will vote to move forward and have a debate on a bigger bill that can be changed and amended.

But, again, it's amazing, Anderson, that the Republicans after seven years of talking about this are still uncertain about going forward with this debate because some senators simply are not pleased with the policy prescriptions.

Senator Rob Portman, Ohio, I had my eye on him. Tomorrow the president is flying to Ohio for a big rally in Youngstown. Senator Portman tonight is an example of one of those in the middle Republicans, unsure how he'll vote on this, Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Back now with the panel. I mean, nobody would have blame Senator McCain if he had not come back. And yet -- I mean, I just think --


SHIELDS: Well, it's a powerful statement to come back and it will influence his colleagues. I mean, when someone is going to come back and take a vote like this, they take notice of that.

And if he's going to go on the floor and actually talk to other senators about how he's voting as well, that's a huge help to Mitch McConnell to get this over the finish line, because it really is on a knife's edge that only have one or two votes that they can afford to give up. And having John McCain come back, specifically for this vote is a huge, huge break for Mitch McConnell.

COOPER: Do you think it can turn the tide.

SHIELDS: Absolutely, I do. Yes. I mean, there's a powerful emotional. These senators, when they get on the floor, they do have emotions. They do think this stuff through from a level of talking to their colleagues and it can have a huge impact on them.

WHITAKER: Along the same lines, I think John McCain if he votes for this to proceed and we all know it's a technical machination but at the same time, if he votes for that, there will be a question for other Republican senators, why didn't you vote with John McCain, because it's going to be all the focus tomorrow.

RYAN: But he's also been a critic of the president, so I'm not necessarily sure that he's going to vote for or against it, but what it shows me is that he is very convicted.

[21:15:08] The stakes are very high right now. There's so much on the table and he wants to be a part of it before he can't be a part of it. But I'm not sure he's necessarily going to vote for it, because you got a lot of Republicans who are --

SHIELDS: Well, he said he's voting for the rule and that's why he's --

COOPER: To move forward.

SHIELDS: And he's coming back specifically for this vote. So that would lead you to believe that --

RYAN: But when it comes to repeal and replace, things like that --

SHIELDS: Well - but, yes. I mean, he's going to --

RYAN: Yes. But when it --

SHIELDS: That's a whole other issue.

RYAN: Right. But that's what they still ultimately want to do. So the bottom line is, if they were to do that, too many people would lose jobs, meaning people in that industry, meaning people in some of the service organizations where these patients go.

He understands, again, the stakes are high. To help the party, yes, maybe do that or maybe not. So we have to wait and see, because a lot of people are very cagy on what they're going to do with this vote tomorrow. LIZZA: The first thing to say is it's great news that he is just going back to Washington to do his job, whether it's the health care vote or not, that's a nice positive sign for someone with his diagnosis. So, you know, that's great.

He's been very unclear -- he's been very ambiguous about what he thinks of this health care -- as it's been developed in the House and the Senate. He's sort of being critical of the process. He's talked about, you know, some kind of bipartisan bill. He's been in favor of that. He hasn't been such a big fan of how this legislation has been produced. It's quite a bit of mystery where he actually would vote on a repeal bill, or the other versions.

SHIELDS: Well, but voting -- getting a vote on the floor allows amendments, allows all of those types of things to begin the process.


RYAN: But the (INAUDIBLE) is still in the details, though. We still don't know everything that is --

POWERS: But from a political standpoint, though, what McConnell wants is he wants to basically force a vote, right? I mean, want -- so to get the ball rolling and he thinks that if he can put people on the line and they have to actually put their money where their mouth is, they may be afraid to cast a vote against it, right? That probably is -- I still think it probably isn't going to make it. But, I think he thinks that if he can just get them to a point where they have to cast a vote, then they're going to have to own their positions in a way.

RYAN: Last week they didn't have 50 votes, but let's see what happens tomorrow. But it's just still sounds --

LIZZA: You know, it's basically gone from absolutely no chance, because if you look at the math before we got this news about McCain, you have Rand Paul -- excuse me, Susan Collins and Murkowski, and maybe Rand depending of what version of it is. But you really -- Murkowski and Collins seem ungettable. Rand seems very, very difficult. So, let's assume Murkowski --

SHIELDS: Well, this one is ongoing. This is legislating. Obamacare didn't pass until after August, right? So -- I mean, the actual bill that they're repealing, which was the landmark legislation of the president on health care, didn't pass until after August. And so getting them on record, let's get a vote. Let's see what happens in August.

If they don't get the fix through or maybe get pass the rule, now we've taken another step, now we've taken another step. The president was engaged today. He had a rally. You know, he's having people travel from the administration out to different states to put pressure on them.


SHIELDS: I think the real message here is they're not giving up on this because they can't.

LIZZA: I think you're exactly right.

SHIELDS: They have to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something to go into 2018 and they know that and they're not going to give up on it.

LIZZA: The bill is not dead and McCain coming back is --

COOPER: The danger of not doing something after all the years of promises, after the all --

WHITAKER: Yes. The Republican base --

LIZZA: Absolutely right

WHITAKER: -- wants this bill repealed and they want the people that they have voted for the last three elections really put in place to make this happen with a majority in the House and Senate. They want them to take that.

LIZZA: You know, I think it's true that they wants Obama -- doesn't really like Obamacare. But when a bill polls at 20 percent, that means that a lot of Republicans are saying, "Oh, we don't really love this bill so much."

SHIELDS: I understand. On the Georgia 6th special election when the House bill passed in the middle of that election, and we loved that that passed, because we knew we did not want to go into that special election with our base being angry, that you hadn't done something to move the process forward. And so that's a lesson for these senators.

LIZZA: But the details matter.

COOPER: You know, let's look at this. Joining me on the phone right now with more about what the news about McCain's return, what it does to the vote counts, CNN's Phil Mattingly. So with Senator McCain coming back, do we know what this does to the overall count?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I mean it certainly gives Senator McConnell more space. There's no question about it that certainly if -- that Senator McCain ends up voting yes on this motion, he said last week, or before he left for treatment a couple weeks ago, I guess, that he traditionally votes for motions to proceed.

He hadn't committed yet on the bill, itself, yet, but said he was willing to move the process forward and if that ends up to be the case, what it means numbers wise is this. Senator McConnell now has two votes to lose and still be able to move forward on this motion to proceed. So there's 52 Republican senators. All 52 would be present with John McCain coming back tomorrow.

We have it on very good authority from Senator Collins, herself, that she is a firm no vote. Before we knew Senator McCain was coming back, that meant essentially Senator McConnell couldn't lose anybody else. Now, if McCain is a yes tomorrow, that means Senator McConnell can lose another vote and they can still move forward, so no question about it. This gives them space.

[21:20:02] This is exactly why Senate leaders were hinting to the idea that he would come back. I think a lot of us thought there was no chance. There were several senators, including senators in leadership who said they didn't expect him to come back, but his ability to come back, his willingness to come back, if he is a yes tomorrow, certainly gets Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell more room to work with.

COOPER: Phil, what do you think of the possible emotional impact this might have? Mike was talking about this. I mean, could his being there and voting for moving forward, could that actually push some votes on the fence to yes?

MATTINGLY: No question about it. And I think, you know, you forget when you look at these chambers, both the Senate and the House, that these are real people with real emotions that care deeply about their colleagues, particularly somebody like Senator McCain.

You know, I was in there -- I was standing outside of a closed-door meeting between several senators and administration officials when this was announced last week, so you could feel the air go out just the reporters that were standing outside and certainly senators that were inside. It's kind of a devastating blow to them thinking about their colleague for so many years.

His willingness to come back, if he chooses to vote yes, it's a rallying cry, there's no question about it. In terms to the thing that they had promised for year after year after year, having one of their colleagues who's dealing with this kind of health crisis right now, who's battling this very serious thing, his willingness to come back and take this vote, a very difficult vote politically, a very difficult vote on the policy side of things, it can provide a boost.

And if I guarantee you, certainly it doesn't assure that they're going to have their votes to move forward, but it will have an effect. They're people just like everybody else. The emotions are real here and the emotional toll as you've seen on these senators over the course of the last couple of days, the last week and a half or so, has been very real, very visceral in some cases, particularly some of Senator McCain's closest friends.

It's a very real possibility this has an impact on the entire debate. Certainly the vote tomorrow and then if they get the votes tomorrow, what happens moving forward. This will have an impact. There's no question about it. It doesn't guarantee a vote, but it will have an impact, no question about it, Anderson.

COOPER: Phil Mattingly, I appreciate you on the phone. Thanks very much, Phil.

I mean, if you're a Republican and you've been campaigning on this, why not vote to at least move forward, to at least keep it alive and continue the discussion? POWERS: Because then you might have to vote on it and they don't want to vote on it. That's the point. And so if you're Lisa Murkowski, you don't want to actually have to cast a vote. You want to just never have it come up, right?

SHIELDS: Yes. There's like four that don't. There's plenty that do. I mean -- and, look, here's one of the things that I've tried to counsel some of my Republican friends on this. Whatever ad you're worried about getting run against you is not going to be as bad as if we don't do this and our base stays home and looks like '06 or '98.

And so they have got to do this. And the White House knows it and the leadership knows it and they're going to keep doing this over and over and over again until they get it done.

RYAN: But you keep coming up with CBO numbers that are saying people are going to be left off and certain groups will have -- not have this, certain groups will not have that.

The constituents are having problem. When it hits home, it hits home and you just gave a talking point talking about, you know, Obama did this in August. It's not about the timeline, once again, it's about the issue, what's at stake. It's about those with pre-existing conditions versus those who don't have pre-existing conditions.

And it's interesting that even what was up for discussion, the opioid substance issue in the Republican Party and that's one of the things that you campaigned on. And people are upset. Your Republican Party constituents are upset, people in Appalachia.

COOPER: But you still -- yes. I mean, you're making the argument that the cost of doing -- of not --

SHIELDS: Yes. I mean, look, of course the polling is bad now when you're making sausage because sausage before sausage is never popular. It's popular when you're done with it, right? I mean, that's the point. You have to look at 2018 what that polls look like.

I'm glad you brought up the CBO. You know, the CBO number that said there are going to be 22 million people without insurance, 16 million of that by their estimates is from the individual mandate, because they only believe that you get insurance from the individual mandate.

What they don't ever take into consideration is when you lower the cost of health care, more people can afford it. And what Republicans need to do, we haven't done very well, is quit fighting over how much money is getting spent because we never win those fights. The Democrats always have more money. And get back to fighting how a free market health care solution can lower the costs. Costs is what drives the health care debate in every focus --

RYAN: But a lot of people are going to lose their jobs in the health industry if what the CBO says and what you're trying to push through happens.

SHIELDS: I don't know if you saw that -- COOPER: We got to take a break. But, you finish your thought.

SHIELDS: 174 percent premium increases coming in October according to one insurance company, so when those things happen in October and the skyrocketing prices go up again, it will be even more pressure.


COOPER: We got to leave it there. More with the panel, ahead.

Coming up, the president's son-in-law, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, admits meeting Russians but denies any collusion. He faces another interview from the House panel. What we learn could happen with that when we continue.


[21:28:13] COOPER: The White House says the president is "very proud" of his son-in-law who today met behind closed doors with Senate Intelligence Committee staff in the Russia investigation.

Jared Kushner spoke briefly after that meeting and before released an 11- page statement that talks about -- admitted four meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition with previously undisclosed details of those meetings. He said he did not collude with Russia and didn't know of anybody who did.

CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us now with the latest. So what more did Kushner say -- have to say after the meeting?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in effect making the same points he made in his written statement. As you said, he said he did not collude. He was not aware of anyone else on the Trump campaign who colluded. He also said that he did not, his businesses did not rely, his choice of words, on Russian money.

That word drew some attention because it might indicate leaving some window open to having some Russian money in his businesses but, in fact, we're told by his advisers they thought about clarifying that statement that he did not mean to leave that door open. He meant to say that as far as he's aware, he doesn't have significant amount of Russian money in his businesses.

COOPER: And I understand Representative Schiff expects Kushner to come back for more interviews or multiple interviews?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, he described this as the first interview with Jared Kushner. He said that the time limitations made it that way. Two hours is not enough time to get even to half the questions, Schiff said.

And he said that this is something that has bipartisan support there. And he said that if -- that offer to come back is not accepted that they would reserve the right to subpoena him, to force him to come back.

COOPER: And his description of the Donald Trump Jr. meeting, he basically said that, you know, he only read the part of the e-mail chain that he received saying that the meeting was moved from 3:00 to 4:00, had no idea who the people in the room were. Didn't even remember how many people were in the room and had no knowledge of what the meeting was about.

[21:30:05] SCIUTTO: That's right. And, listen, it's an explanation that if this raises some questions, the subject line indicated something about the topic of the conversation.

And remember, that this was two conversations that Donald Trump Jr. said that he had with Kushner about this, in advance of the meeting, to ask him to be there, in effect, and then forwarding that e-mail that described in very clear terms what it was the Russian lawyer was offering up, but that's Jared Kushner's explanation and he's standing by it.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Back now with the panel. The thing now I don't understand is if according to what Jared Kushner is saying and Donald Trump Jr. is saying is that Donald Trump Jr. received information in this e-mail that the Russians were backing his father's campaign, which seems like big information, and according to -- as far as we know, never mentioned it to anybody. Isn't that -- whether it's accurate or not, isn't that big information for Donald Trump Jr. to hold on to and not tell Manafort or Kushner or his father?

LIZZA: It's highly, highly improbable. Well it did -- the e-mail did go to Manafort, right? So it did go to Manafort and knew about that.

COOPER: And you would think somebody if you were --

SHIELDS: And that speaks to the fact that Don Jr. didn't rate that because the guy is talking about crown magistrates and a whole bunch of stuff didn't even -- was days and days later. They're in the middle of June when they just got the nomination. And trust me, I was around the campaign, there was a little bit chaotic. And so you read all these e-mails. Look, I would --

LIZZA: What do you mean Don Jr. didn't rate the e-mail?

SHIELDS: I'm saying he didn't rate that information as something that I've got to go run around and tell everybody --

LIZZA: He responded --

COOPER: You're saying that in hindsight, we're looking (INAUDIBLE) --

SHIELDS: You're able to look at it in hindsight, of course, he response. Look, here's --

LIZZA: He responded love it and then he forward it to the Manafort and then Kushner invited them to a meeting. SHIELDS: OK. So we've -- we all use e-mails because we're older than like 15-year-old who thinks e-mail is absurd. We don't all read all the e-mails. We don't remember a lot of the things that you're saying. I think it's very possible.

Look, let's talk about Jared. Jared had a very, very good day today. And I know that because people aren't talking about it that much anymore. And so that means that he must have done well.

He had 11 pages of testimony and it didn't really fit the fantasies that are out there that have been purported onto him, like, he had a backchannel to Russia that was like reported as it's just fact and repeated over and over again.

He came out today and said, "Well, that's actually not true and we're not sitting here (INAUDIBLE)." Jared really screwed up, that's actually true. There's no evidence of that being true.

LIZZA: He actually confirmed.

SHIELDS: And so --

LIZZA: It was actually reported was that a backchannel was discussed in a meeting between Kushner, Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador. And Jared Kushner confirmed that today and he gave a little bit of extra detail. He said that Kislyak wanted to get some information to the Trump team of -- from Russian generals in Syria.


LIZZA: And the three of them --

SHIELDS: That is not the way that this has been talked about for the last six months. And here's my admonition to my friends in the media.

RYAN: But there was a concern about legalities with that or just that information of the backchannel.

SHIELDS: Sure, sure. We could get out --


COOPER: Finish the thought.

SHIELDS: David Brooks wrote a great column in "The New York Times" about when he was the editorial page editor of the "Wall Street Journal" covering Whitewater, where we got so far out of our skis. And I say, well, I worked for Newton in the '90s, we, Republicans. And it turned out to be nothing.

And my sort of admonition to the media is, what is the credibility of the media going to be if they have a lot of days like today whether it's just -- it turns out to be a big nothing burger and we've been talking about secret backchannels and colluding and there's actually no evidence of it and one day we discover there really actually was no evidence of this? POWERS: Can I just say I don't --

SHIELDS: We could talk about it for six months as if it was true.


POWERS: I don't know if we know that it's a nothing burger. I mean, I do agree that he did well and I think he gave some explanations for some things that we didn't have before. You know, he confirmed that the meeting happened. He kind of left Donald Jr. out. He hung him out to dry basically. I mean, he confirmed everything about it except basically said, but I didn't see anything or do anything or talk to anything -- anybody about it.

You know, I worked in many chaotic situations, you know, whether it's been a campaign or whatever it is, you know. And I have to say that if an e-mail came through that said Russia/Clinton, and Clinton was the opponent that we were running against, it's inconceivable to me that that would not catch my attention. And the idea that you -- that that -- this wasn't just to like, oh, some random words or something. This is Russia/Clinton. That's going to grab your attention, I think.

LIZZA: I think you're 100 percent right that we should stick to the facts and just as we should not exaggerate or get ahead of the story. We should not -- every time there's a revelation say, yes, this is a big nothing burger so they got an e-mail discussing collusion, but that doesn't prove anything.

SHIELDS: No. I think we should cover this. It should be the right context for it, but hat's not what's been happening.

LIZZA: But what you're saying -- I don't think that's quite right what you're saying. This Kushner confirmed that the reporting about the discussions, about a backchannel, were essentially correct. They did indeed in that meeting discuss using a communications setup at the Russian embassy that would evade U.S. detection.

And as a journalist, I think that's really important to know. I want to know if the White House officials, why are White House officials talking to Russian government representatives about that? Why was --


[21:35:06] COOPER: The objective was -- by the way, the objective wasn't to evade U.S. It was that they -- that Kislyak said is there a secure line here from Trump tower, Kushner and Flynn they know there's not a secure line and raised the idea of using something in the Russian embassy --

SHIELDS: By the way, and keep in mind, some of that -- Jared was a transition official and is a White House official as well. So some of the things that were going on were after he became a transition official. And so that's a context that's really important for us to talk about.

COOPER: I think your point is a good one that, you know, the idea of getting over your skis too far, whatever the analogy is, I mean, you know, it's very possible there is no collusion there. The problem is a lot of folks in the Trump team by not being upfront about it have furthered this whole story and you're in this position where you can not follow up on it because it does, you know, Mike Flynn did -- is gone and --

SHIELDS: No, I think that's a good point. And look at -- they should take a lesson from today, because look at what happened. He put 11 pages out. He said he voluntarily said he would testify. Adam Schiff --

LIZZA: Well, few of those pages were just about like what a great campaign the Trump folks.


SHIELDS: He volunteered --

LIZZA: He did.

SHIELDS: -- to testify. He said he would come again. Adam Schiff saying, "Well, see of he comes again." He's volunteering to come up again.


SHIELDS: And so the point is that transparency is helpful and he got a good day and the Trump administration had a good day and it's a good lesson.

LIZZA: I agree with you.

RYAN: Months and how many days?

COOPER: We're going to have more on this in a moment. The question, how much do voter's actually care about the Russia investigation? One of our panel members says, no. I think you know who it is. We'll dig deeper into that.


COOPER: Well, last week, Mike Shields, who's back with us tonight, made the point on "360" that people in the heartland of America don't care about the Russia investigation as much as the mainstream media cares. I think it's an important point that he made.

And it just so happen CNN recently did a poll on this very topic. 57 percent said that the Trump campaign should not have taken the meeting with the Russian lawyer. But at the same time when asked whether they were concerned about contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign, people split almost down the middle. About half said they were concerned, the other half said they were not concerned or not too concerned.

[21:40:11] So with Mike with us again, tonight, we want it to dig in to this a little bit more. Also to get another perspective, Conservative Talk Show Host, Dana Loesch is joining us. Great to have you here.

Dana, you talk to callers every day. Do the people you talked to, do they care about the Russia investigation?

DANA LOESCH, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: Anderson, thanks so much for having me. They do but not in the way I -- is that I believe Washington thinks that they should or do.

I talk to people every day all across the country and the message, Anderson, that I'm hearing from people is it's not that they're unconcerned with the story about Russia, it's that they want to see for them to get agitated or really in to it. They want to see some sort of criminality. They want to see something actionable, because the way it is right now, to them, it seems like a lot of back and forth in the press.

Now, for people who are political nerds like me, or who work in the industry like all of us, you know, this is the stuff that we deal with every day and every little development is news to us. But for the rest of America, it's not so.

We're talking about people who are really concerned about what's going to happen with their health care in the next year. A lot of small and medium-sized businesses are concerned about tax reform going into the New Year. That's their priority. That's their top concern. They really don't follow the story unless there's something actionable.

COOPER: And the concern is that all the talk and focus on Russia and the investigation takes away from focusing on health care or jobs or tax reform or infrastructure.

LOESCH: Right, yes.

COOPER: That's what you're hearing (ph).

LOESCH: Anderson, there are a lot of small business -- yes. There's a lot of small business owners out there, for instance, that would love to have more discussion, not just about corporate tax rates, but how small business owners, how they file for taxes as individuals and how they would get left out if there's corporate tax rates.

And, you know, they want to -- for instance, the initiative that Newt Gingrich and others are getting ready to embark on, that something that speaks to them but they're not hearing a lot of coverage about that. Or all they hear -- they want to focus more on health care, but yet all they hear is back and forth about Russia.

And it's not -- again, I want to stress it. It's not that they don't care about the story. They don't care about it in the way that we do. They don't care about it in the way that the beltway does and the way the mainstream media does. But they do care more about health care, more about tax reform, more about those particular issues that immediately impact them on a day-to-day level.

COOPER: Has the investigation so far had any effect on -- among people you talk to who are supporters of President Trump, has the ongoing investigation had any effect on their -- the depth of their support?

LOESCH: Not really. I mean, look, most of the people that I talked to, and I would put myself in this category, we're not partisan bigots. Let me put it like that. And they're not partisan bigots, either. And I know that they got a really bad rap this past November, which I think was quite unfair.

These are people who love their country. These are people who just want to do right by themselves and their families and they want to contribute to their community and that's really ultimately what they care about.

When they hear stories such as whether it has to do with Robert Mueller and the back and forth with everything concerning the investigation, or Mike Flynn, anything like that, a lot of times they just don't want to follow the media into the weeds of every single story. And it's not that they don't care. It's that they're waiting, show me something actionable.

I had one caller today, Anderson, that was waiting for evidence. Show me some evidence. And he agreed that the meeting regarding Trump Jr. and this non-emissary from Russia maybe wasn't the best idea as Donald Trump Jr., himself, had said.

But at the same time, they're like, you know what, while the media is fighting that out, where are the stories about the absolute failure of Republicans to get together and passed any thing resembling free market health care, free market place base health. Where is that? Where are those stories? And they say because that has more -- bigger impact on them and their families, they want more coverage of that.

COOPER: Dana Loesch, always like coming on. Thanks so much, Dana.

Back now with the panel. I mean. Mike, you made this point last week and we thought it was important.

SHIELDS: You know thanks. I mean, you know, to talk about polling, and I'll tweet this out, poll from the Winston Group, David Winston, he actually ask this, and I've seen this on multiple polls, which most recently what I've seen, just the list of issues, terrorism, health care, the economy, jobs, education are down the line. Russia investigation is almost last on the list.

And so in terms of how much -- that's her point. People may be paying attention to it. When you talk to them about it they're going to go, OK, yes, is there something to this? Tell me what's going on, fair comment.

But if you ask them what really matters to me every day when I'm trying to survive in the economy, I'm trying to take my kids to school and plan for, you know, college and those sorts of things, the Russia investigation, until something they know something that totally illegal happened, they're just like --

COOPER: But I guess -- I mean, maybe to that point, is that the way it is with all investigations and until, you know, that journalists pursue these things, and it's piece by piece, and it's a slow process, and FBI does as well, other people do as well. And the body politic at large doesn't pay that close attention until there's actually some actionable criminality.

[21:45:06] STODDARD: Well, I agree with Dana. And Mike said Trump supporters do not care about this. And other Americans obviously --

SHIELDS: At least the poll have us national, everybody.

STODDARD: But -- and I understand that other Americans also would rather hear what's going on with Washington solutions to the problems in their lives that have been promised and promised.

Congressional Republicans don't talk about Russia. They would like the president stop giving "New York Times" interviews talking about Russia and how is A.G. (ph) was supposed to be his personal lawyer and protect him. They would like him to stop tweeting about all of these people and actually do the kind of event he did today on health care. That's what they want. They want the focus back on the agenda.

But, Anderson, you're right. Last year, and the year before, I was absolutely fixated on Hillary Clinton's decision to have a private server, where she stood an unsecured store -- server where she stored government records that belonged to us. And she -- what she did was deliberate and I think illegal.

Everyone kept telling me, no one cares about e-mails, no one cares about e-mails. And I would say, what happens if the FBI finds the 33,000 deleted e-mails? Then your candidate is sunk literally in the middle of the campaign. Then you'll care about e-mails.

These investigations are real. They're happening for a reason. There is a lot of smoke. There was a letter saying the Russian government was trying to help Trump Sr. They're going to pursue this stuff, because there are actual concerns about real something, whether it's financial crimes or even if they were just duped into colluding.

We won't know until the end. People -- and the media cover health care all the time. I mean, what Dana was saying, all we do is cover health care and the fact that Republic can't pass it. So, I do get a little tired of the fact that what Trump supporters want to do is pretend that the Russia investigations are a media creation.


WHITAKER: And as far as that someone who lives in Middle America and these are my friends and neighbors and I talked a lot about, you know, politics and these issues with folks. And what they tell me is until they see a smoking gun, they really don't care about the Russia investigation.

They want better jobs. They want this health care situation, very important to them, especially Republicans that I talked to, not just Trump supporters, but Republicans broadly. They really want the bill repealed and they want a good market-based solution to replace it. COOPER: I mean, I remember asking Carl Bernstein about this during the Watergate investigation, you know, the reporters, were they fascinated by this in following this? No, they were undercutting reporters and saying, look, this was a whole lot of nothing until it was something and then --

LIZZA: Nixon called Watergate a witch hunt. I mean, look, there's always a gap between what we in Washington obsess over and a lot of what America cares about. But, frankly, there is a huge appetite for news about the Russia investigation among certain segment of the population.

Country is very polarized, very divided. Trump defenders don't really -- Trump supporters don't really like hearing about this. A lot of people who don't like Trump so much are extremely interested in this story. But how much we cover it? I don't think it should be decided by that no matter what.


LIZZA: Half of the Supreme Court decisions are really boring and nobody really cares about it. But I don't think anyone would say, "Well, the Supreme Court really should get in the business of doing more interesting decisions because the public doesn't care about it."

COOPER: We got to take --

LIZZA: We cover this story because it's important for our democracy.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break.

Up next, A.B. just mentioned Hillary Clinton. We'll talk about the president's tweets and shots at Hillary Clinton. He won the Electoral College. He's in the White House. He's still mentioning his old rival from the campaign trail. He did it this morning and again this afternoon in front of the Boy Scouts. I want to get everyone's take on that in a moment.


[21:51:36] COOPER: President Trump (INAUDIBLE) the six-month mark of his presidency. He cannot stop talking or won't stop talking or tweeting about his former opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Just this morning when he went after Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the tweet, he mentioned her, "So why aren't the committee and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G. looking into Crooked Hillary's crimes and Russia relations?"

There were three other tweets over the weekend where he mentioned Hillary Clinton. By our count, this makes it 41 tweets by the president about Mrs. Clinton since he won back in November. He is also talked a lot about her over the past six months, even tonight's Boy Scout rally. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, my opponent didn't work hard there because she was told -- she was told she was going to win Michigan.

There is no path to victory for Hillary Clinton.

People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset. Remember, with the stupid plastic button.

Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn't report it, that's a horrible thing. When WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they're not giving classified information.

They're giving stuff what was said in an office about Hillary cheating on the debates, which by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. Does it make sense that the president continues to talk about Hillary Clinton? I mean --

LIZZA: It actually does. In his warning, he clearly misses her, right? But I think he has -- I mean, he did because needs -- Trump needs an enemy. He's at his, I guess, best, and maybe that's not quite the right word, but he loves having someone to beat up on. Republicans do not really like Hillary Clinton, so it works well with his supporters. Having control --

COOPER: Tonight at Boy Scout saying about Hillary Clinton.

RYAN: I'm not --

LIZZA: Politicizing things at the Boy Scout is a little bit inappropriate. But that aside --

WHITAKER: I was waiting for the lock her up chant.

LIZZA: Poor kids. But he has control of Congress. He can't get his legislation passed, so everyone in a while is convenient to bring out Hillary --

SHIELDS: You know, today was the re-branding day. We got lost completely in the news was the Democrat re-branding day.

COOPER: That's right.

SHIELDS: It looked like a really sad like PTA meeting over on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: Right. Like Russia, health care --

SHIELDS: I think it came out with the slogan that sounds like Papa John's and they're sort of scrambling around.

COOPER: When anyone talks about re-branding, it just makes me really -

SHIELDS: I've been there. I was at the RNC in 2013 with Reince when we have to growth, an opportunity report. And here is the reason why that worked. Because we actually asked ourselves some really hard questions, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Chuck Schumer today did come out and said --


LIZZA: You guys put that out. I wrote a lot about that report. It worked in what sense? Donald Trump literally lifts that thing on fire and took the exact device and won.

SHIELDS: Absolutely wrong. We had 26 --

LIZZA: Absolutely wrong, like, the core recommended -- policy recommendation that was --

SHIELDS: Oh, Ryan --


SHIELD: I mean here's the thing.

LIZZA: -- was to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

SHIELDS: Did you read they growth and opportunity report?

LIZZA: I've read it many times. The core -- those are core policy recommendation.

SHIELDS: It didn't have any policy recommendation.

LIZZA: It did. It said passed comprehensive immigration reform.

SHIELDS: Right. But here's my point.

LIZZA: Is Donald run that?


LIZZA: Is Donald run that?

SHIELDS: OK, answer the question.


SHIELDS: There's a 150-page document with one policy recommendation. The rest of it was about data, it was field programs. But the Trump campaign embraced all of that stuff, OK? It also talked about --

LIZZA: It was stuff about mechanics and there was stuff about messaging and policy. The stuff about mechanics -- [21:55:01] SHIELDS: Let's talk about re-branding today. Chuck Schumer did come out and say, look, Hillary Clinton was not liked and we need to face the facts on that. He's the only Democratic leader that still saying that.

So Donald Trump keeping saying this, you don't see any Democrats coming out and say, "That's not true, Hillary was great." They're not being honest with themselves. They want to say the Russians -- Paul Begala was here today saying the Russians helped elect President Trump. That is -- I love it because what that means is they are absolutely not facing the fact of the fact that they -- Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate.

COOPER: Literally about 30 seconds left. But why do you think he keeps mentioning Hillary Clinton? I mean --

SHIELDS: Well, he's more popular than her to this day.

RYAN: Obsession and deflection.

SHIELD: And because there is a narrative out there that he was aided in his victory by the Russians and he knows it wasn't true and so he wants to keep pushing back on that narrative in saying, "I beat her fair and square."

RYAN: Subconsciously, he does not believe he won. Its deflection and obsession -- he wants to believe he gained the popular vote that's why he talked --

SHIELDS: Well, we don't have a popular vote system.

RYAN: Yes, we do. We have a popular vote, but we have our president --

SHIELDS: In the constitution, an Electoral College.

RYAN: -- by the electoral -- that's what I'm going to say.

LIZZA: I don't want to be so argumentative tonight, but --

RYAN: He did not get the best --

LIZZA: He was aided by the Russian. I mean, that is just the fact of what happened last year. The Russians launched a campaign of hacking into Democratic servers and dumping that information into the public sphere that have been --

SHIELDS: And he won anyway.


RYAN: Americans voted for her.

COOPER: We got to end it there. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [22:00:05] COOPER: That's it for us. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon, "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.