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Trump Shames Sessions, Says "Time Will Tell" on His Fate; Washington Post: Chief of Staff Tells White House Attorney General Has No Plans to Resign. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 25, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:02]ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight.

The Senate votes to proceed on debating a health care bill that is still mired in mystery. Jared Kushner once again behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in the Russian investigation.

But we begin with the president's continued attacks on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as well as the acting director of the FBI whom he'd accused basically of being corrupt. For a man who campaigned on respecting law enforcement, the president sure has a funny way of treating the top law enforcement personnel in the country.

Today at the White House, the president was asked if he was going to fire his attorney general or if he's trying to make him resign.


REPORTER: Why you're sort of letting him twist in the wind rather than just making the call for him?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't think I am doing that. But I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office and I would have quite simply picked somebody else.

So I think that's a bad thing, not for the president but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency. And that's the way I feel.


COOPER: When pressed by another reporter about whether he'd fire Sessions, the president said we'll have to wait and see and that, quote, time will tell. Which does seem to mean the attorney general is twisting in the wind.

But the bigger issue is whether the president understands or cares about what the role of the attorney general is supposed to be in our democracy. He's already criticized Sessions for recusing himself for anything to do with the Russian investigation. He's already called him beleaguered.

Today, the president tweeted this: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes where are the e- mails and DNC server and intel leakers.

Now, putting aside the obvious point that the president may be reviving attacks on Hillary Clinton to divert attention from the Russia investigation, the role of the attorney general regarding Hillary Clinton should be -- not a really surprise to anyone. Keeping them honest, six months ago, Sessions own confirmation hearing, he made it clear he had no intention of going after Clinton.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: With regard to Secretary Clinton and some of the comments I made, I do believe that that could place my objectivity in question. I've given that thought. I believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kind of investigations that involve Secretary Clinton that were raised during the campaign.


COOPER: For all his new attacks on Clinton, the president himself didn't seem interested in fulfilling those campaign chants of lock her up right after he was elected. Here's what he said on "60 Minutes" in mid-November, talking about the Clintons.


TRUMP: I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to hurt them. They're good people. I don't want to hurt them.


COOPER: What a difference eight months and an escalating investigation to the people around you makes.

As for Attorney General Sessions, today, White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said the president, quote, wants his cabinet secretaries to have his back.

What Trump doesn't seem to understand is that the role of attorney general is to represent the country in legal matters not to have the president's back. One person among many who does seem to understand that is the current attorney general. Here's what he said at his confirmation hearing back in January.


SESSIONS: The office of attorney general of the United States is not a normal political office. And anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the Constitution of the United States. He or she must be committed to following the law. He or she must be willing to tell the president or other top officials if no if he or they overreach. He or she cannot be a mere rubber stamp. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And for a president who's often talked about how important loyalty is and reportedly asked then FBI Director Comey for a pledge of loyalty, the president himself doesn't seem very loyal to his attorney general, one of his earliest and most important campaign surrogates.

In an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" today, the president said this about the campaign rally in Alabama where he won Sessions' endorsement, his first from a sitting senator. Quote: I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of states I won by massive numbers.

But he was a senator. He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, what do I have to lose and he endorsed me. So, it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement, but I'm very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.

It brings to mind that old say, with friends like these, you know the rest.

Let's get the latest from the White House now. Jeff Zeleny joins me.

So, Jeff, let's start with the president early this morning tweeting about the attorney general but it seemed to go on throughout the day.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it did. It started in the 6:00 hour and a flurry of messages that the president was sending out clearly still agitated and fuming about his attorney general.

Now, he's essentially setting the tone for the rest of the day with that. He did an interview with "The Wall Street Journal." He held that press conference in the Rose Garden, all along you know, so agitated with his attorney general.

So, the question hanging over all of this: would he fire him? But this is what he said in the Rose Garden.


TRUMP: I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level.

[20:05:09] These are intelligence agencies, we cannot have that happen. You know many of my views in addition to that, but I think that's one of the very important things that they have to get on with.

I told you before, I'm very disappointed with the attorney general. But we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.


ZELENY: So, saying time will tell, time will tell not exactly a ringing endorsement but not giving any certainty either way there.

But interesting, Anderson, for the first time he's bringing up the fact that he wants his attorney general to be harder on leaks. Of course, the reason for his anger, the root of his anger you talk to any of his advisers, it is the entirety of the Russia investigation. Still so upset about that, but he shouldn't have been surprised, Anderson, because the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then senator, said he would recuse himself during his own confirmation hearing in January.

COOPER: I mean, why is the president so hesitant to fire Sessions if he's so clearly upset with him?

ZELENY: Well, Anderson, I think his first instinct was to fire him or make things -- you know, the shaming so obvious that he would just step aside. But he's been advised by many of his advisers here in the West Wing, as well as some outside advisers, that replacing the attorney general will be so incredibly difficult. Imagine in this environment in Washington trying to confirm someone, trying to get someone through the Senate even the Republican controlled Senate.

So many Republican senators are coming to Jeff Sessions' defense, saying, look, the attorney general is not the president's lawyer. He's the attorney general of the United States. So, that's why advisers are saying the president has held off as of now on firing him because he has been persuaded at how difficult it would be to replace him.

But still tonight, Anderson, the attorney general very much uncertain, sort of in limbo, if you will, and the president still fuming, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff Zeleny, Jeff, thanks.

ZELENY: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, the president is in Youngstown, Ohio, tonight for a campaign style rally. Sara Murray is there. She joins us now.

So, the president taking the stage a short time ago. What's been his message so far to this Ohio crowd? Has he talked about the attorney general?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly we've been watching for any sign of the president was going to bring up Jeff Sessions. He left him twisting out there today, even though he was asked repeatedly about it. Now, he hasn't actually mentioned Sessions by name, but he did hint at what people have thought is sort of erratic behavior from the president particularly when it comes to this Sessions issue.

Listen to President Trump just recently earlier this evening talking about his not so presidential behavior.


TRUMP: Although I'll be totally honest with you. Sometimes they say he doesn't act presidential.


And I say hey, look, great schools. Smart guy. It's so easy to act presidential. But that's not going to get it done. In fact, I said it's much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we're doing here tonight. Believe me.

And I said, with the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office. That I can tell you.



MURRAY: Now, that riff certainly seemed like a veiled reference to the game of chicken he's playing with his attorney general. It wasn't only the newsy item, though, so far. Trump is still speaking.

He also brought up health care, warning that any senator who votes against repeal and replace is probably going to have problems -- Anderson.

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

Lots to talk about. Joining me tonight, Kirsten Powers, Jeffrey Toobin, Maggie Haberman, and in Washington, Jim Sciutto, and David Chalian.

Maggie, I know you've been talking to folks probably close to the president. What is he doing with Jeff Sessions?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, look, a lot of this is a kaleidoscope. So, you're looking at it through different vantage points and people are seeing different things.

He is he genuinely very angry, blames Jeff Sessions. He said this in this interview with me and my colleagues last week in the Oval Office. He has continued to say it, even saying it privately.

I think in his heart of hearts, he would like Jeff Sessions to be gone. I do think Jeff is correct, that he is he caught in this sort of catch-22. He wants him gone, but who is the replacement and how do you get the replacement in unless it's a recess appointment, which is going to create all kinds of chaos and anger and backlash.

But in terms of backlash, he is choosing the one person who really is not only enacting a pretty pure conservative policy formula out of anybody in his administration with the exception of Scott Pruitt to attack and he is somebody who has a lot of cred with the conservative base and the reaction and support that Jeff Sessions has gotten I think surprised the president a bit.

COOPER: David, I want to read you something that "The Washington Post" just reported. It says, quote, in a recent conversation, Sessions' chief of staff, Jody Hunt, told Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus the attorney general had no intention of stepping down. Hunt, according to people familiar with the conversation, made it clear to Priebus that Sessions, quote, plans to move forward with his agenda in the department and he has no plans for resigning, according to one person familiar with the exchange. Priebus did not say Trump planned to fire Sessions if he didn't leave, these people said.

What do you make of that, David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. So, we're missing the, well, what do you make of that, Mr. President? You have ball's in your court now.

Clearly, what Sessions and the team around him are trying to make clear here is, you know what, Mr. President, if you really don't want me to be your attorney general anymore, you're going to have to fire me. I'm sticking around.

And it's not too surprising that that is the posture after a day where all of his former colleagues up on Capitol Hill in the Senate started putting out statements supporting him, attesting to his integrity, some going as far as to make the case that he was correct to recuse himself, which as you know, Anderson, is at the very core of what angers President Trump about Sessions.

COOPER: You know, Kirsten, I mean, what sort of message does it send to other senators or folks on Capitol Hill who may be facing, you know, whether it's tough votes on health care when the president says I'll have your back, he turns on Jeff Sessions, why would they believe he would support them when times get tough?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they shouldn't. I mean, the thing we've discussed before, that loyalty is a one-way street with Donald Trump. He expects it to flow to him. He doesn't necessarily feel the need to send it back in the other direction. It also raises the questions why would anybody want this job, why would anybody even take the job when they see what's happening.

I think the reason he isn't firing, one of the reasons is because we often talk what would it take to get Donald Trump's base to turn on him. This actually could possibly be one of those things, even Breitbart today ran something criticizing Trump for his treatment of Sessions.

Sessions is Steve Bannon's mentor. He's described him as one of his mentors. So, this is somebody who the base really loves and who is really carrying out the few things that I think people can look at and say are happening sort of in terms of conservative governing.

And so, probably for Trump, he'd prefer that he resigns versus him having to fire him. So, maybe he thinks he can humiliate him into firing him. But it's not going to work though.

COOPER: And, Jeff, just the idea that the attorney general should have the president's back, I mean, that's not his primary responsibility of the attorney general. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right, and that's what's

really I think the substantively disturbing part of this. I mean, the human interaction of his lack of loyalty is kind of creepy but that's sort of just a personality matter.

The Department of Justice exists to enforce the law equally with regard to all people. The president of the United States entered this office under investigation. Jeff Sessions realized correctly that as an important campaign surrogate, he couldn't lead that investigation. Everyone agrees that was a correct decision.

And Trump's obsession with loyalty, I mean as you pointed out, it was a big theme of his interactions with Jim Comey. This is why he's mad at -- this is why he's mad at Sessions. Mr. Scaramucci, the new communications director, said, you know, cabinet members have to have the president's back.

No, not the attorney general. The attorney general's job is to be independent. The president doesn't get that.

HABERMAN: That's not how the it went down though. There's a really important factual issue there which is it's not that Jeff Sessions realized this is taking place and I need to recuse myself because I was a surrogate. Jeff Sessions gave a botched answer during his confirmation hearing and when that was confronted with that, then he recused himself and he didn't give the president a heads up in the process.

And so, in the president's mind -- I'm not just justifying it -- but I am saying that I don't think it was because Jeff Sessions initially realized there was some issue at play. I think it was an issue that he created inadvertently.

TOOBIN: But that makes Trump's position even more bizarre.

HABERMAN: I understand what you're saying.

TOOBIN: It's because there was this intervening fact --

HABERMAN: Correct.

TOOBIN: -- of the botched testimony.

HABERMAN: Correct. What Sessions did most people think was the right thing to do. The president would be one of the few exceptions. But it is an important point in terms of how that went down.

COOPER: Jim, I mean, the president's essentially criticizing Sessions for not being tough on leakers. The fact of the matter is, Sessions did oversee the arrest of a leaker and he's still doing his job in every capacity -- cracking down on immigration, the war on drugs, all things that the president wanted him to do.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: True, but this is about none of that except Russia, right? I mean, when the president fired James Comey, there was a cover story, a veneer, that lasted less than 24 hours. You remember this Deputy A.G. Rosenstein email about -- or memo rather about how Comey mishandled the Clinton investigation. This was something that the White House spokespeople propagated for again, about a day until the president blew that up himself and said it was how Comey handled the Russia investigation.

Here now before the president makes a move, he says outright, it's about how he handled the Russia investigation. And that's really what this is.

The president has said it himself and it's with a pattern here that he's upset with a number of people whether it be Sessions or Mueller or Comey before him because it's an investigation he's uncomfortable with and that he wants to go away.

[20:15:11] And as the president often does, he measures loyalty and effectiveness via the prism of how does it affect him himself and with Sessions here, he's the latest victim to fall to that. Sessions did not defend him from this Russia investigation, did not make it go away, and therefore, Sessions is not doing his job right. That's the way the president sees it. It's not the way Democrats see it, it's not the way many Republicans I speak to see it, but that's the way the president sees it.

COOPER: Kirsten, have you seen anything like this? I mean, just this sort of hanging in the wind, that the president going after his attorney general or such a high level position?

POWERS: No, of course not. I mean, this -- you know, this is kind of the only word I can think of is sort of bullying, right? It seems like somebody who's just taunting somebody. It's not bullying in the sense that, you know, Jeff Sessions is an adult and can take care of himself. But it is this idea that Trump can just kind of swat him around, you know, like a cat playing with a toy, you know, is there's something very unseemly about it.

COOPER: We're going to continue the conversation after a quick break. Take a look more specifically at this idea of loyalty in the Trump camp. Also, Senator John McCain making a plea for bipartisanship after voting to bring a health care bill to the floor, a bill he says he has no intention of voting for in its current form.


[20:20:04] COOPER: Well, tonight the attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue from the man who appointed him. He's even saying in an interview in "The Wall Street Journal" that Sessions' endorsement of him, his first endorsement from a sitting senator was, quote, not like a great loyal thing. It was all about the sizes of Donald Trump's crowd in Alabama and Sessions saw that and decided to just get on board.

We now know or we know how this president feels about loyalty. He said it to the Boy Scouts yesterday and other crowds for a while.


TRUMP: We could use some more loyalty. I love loyalty. Loyalty can be a wonderful thing. Loyalty is very important.

Loyalty. You know, some of these people have like a 10 percent loyalty, meaning if they sneeze in the wrong direction, they're gone.


COOPER: Well, this isn't a new thing for the president. He said this back in 1994.


TRUMP: I'm like this great loyalty freak. I am loyal to a point of the absurd.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. Joining the conversation as well, Ken Cuccinelli and Scott Jennings.

Scott, last week, you said the Attorney General Sessions is a man of integrity. There's certainly a lot of Republican members of Congress, including, you know, others who have come to Sessions' defense who disagree what the president is doing. Do you disagree with what the president is doing?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think at some point, these guys should think about talking. I think Jeff Sessions could clearly call up the White House and ask for a meeting and they could either clear the air or they won't.

And what Sessions signaled this week is, look, if you want to fire me, fire me. Otherwise, I'm going to be over at the office enacting your agenda and doing a pretty good job of it.

I think what the president is frustrated about if he's going to be put through the investigatory wringer over things that came in the campaign, why is he being held to a standard over campaign stuff that Hillary is not being held to? And I think something caught my eye tonight, Anderson, that you're going to see more of in the coming days, it appears to me that reacting to perhaps the president's frustration, some conservatives on the House Judiciary Committee are going to try to move forward with a congressional investigation on Loretta Lynch and some things that came out in Jim Comey's testimony.

So, I don't know what's going to happen to Jeff Sessions. I don't believe he's going to resign based on what I've heard. But I do think, ultimately, the president may get his wish. People are going to look into Hillary, but it might be Congress, not the DOJ.

COOPER: Ken, is this something that just makes sense to you that is playing out so publicly, the president is doing this so publicly?

KENNETH CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, I wouldn't use that phrase it makes sense. But I will say that Jeff Sessions is showing people that he's a standup person when it comes to the rule of law and the Constitution and respecting the office he holds. And I have to also say that it is nice to hear after eight years so

much of the largely left media establishment defending the role of the attorney general as somewhat independent. The last attorney general's for President Obama did his will, but President Obama and they were much smoother about not doing all this public junk that we're seeing almost daily from the president directed at Attorney General Sessions.

COOPER: I mean, to your point, you had Director Comey testifying about Loretta Lynch telling him what I think adjective it was or verb, I guess an adjective.

TOOBIN: Noun, matter.

COOPER: What noun it was how to describe whether it was an investigation or you know --

TOOBIN: Matter.

COOPER: A matter which is just -- and he went along with it which I am also surprised by.

Maggie, I saw a tweet from you. I think it was this morning, where you went through folks who have been fired who actually -- in this administration, who actually did the firing.


COOPER: And it never seems to be the president himself. For a guy who's so well-known as being the person on "The Apprentice" who said, you're fired, does he not like actual interpersonal, you know, pressure?

HABERAMN: People who -- people who have worked for him and worked with him closely over decades say that he actually really, really dislikes interpersonal conflict when it's direct interpersonal conflict. He's fine with this kind, which is tweeting that Jeff Sessions is beleaguered or that this is terrible or sort of giving a shove in a certain way.

But he is -- I asked one a couple of people close to him, you know, why is he doing this? Why doesn't he just fire him? And the answer that I got back from all of them paraphrased was, you know, because he can, he can do this. And you can do with that what you will.

But in all of these instances, Comey, he sent Keith Schiller, his aide with a letter. Corey Lewandowski when he was fired the campaign, it was Trump's son, Don Jr., who basically executed it. When it was Flynn, I believe that Steve Bannon was the one who had to deal with that. When Chris Christie was shoved off of the transition, again, it was Steve Bannon.

This is not something that Trump does where he calls somebody on the carpet and says, that's the end. And it is very counter, you know, this image that he created on "The Apprentice." And I think that maybe part of what you're seeing here.

COOPER: David, yes --

POWERS: Also, if you listen to the litany that you just said, who is it he's so loyal to? Like he was -- in that clip he was saying I'm a loyalty freak or so loyal to people, like who is it -- is there somebody he's been loyal to?

HABERMAN: He's loyal to himself.

POWERS: Yes. I mean, really, you just did the whole list how he has other people go. He doesn't have the decency.

HABERMAN: And he's loyal to his family. But that's --


TOOBIN: But also politically, think about the House Republicans who voted for the health care bill. He has that big celebration. All these House Republicans took a tough vote that they may lose their office because of.

[20:25:04] And then he turns around and says, well, you know, the House bill was too mean, which Chuck Schumer jumped on immediately and said even the president says -- so that's an absence of loyalty that may cost Republicans their jobs.

HABERMAN: Really important.

COOPER: I mean, if Sessions is replaced eventually, what does that mean for the leadership of the Russia investigation? It would revert back to the sitting attorney general instead of Rosenstein?

SCIUTTO: Well, that's right. But it would also depend on if -- well, first of all, if you fire Sessions, does Rosenstein stay? And then you have a question as to who would be willing to carry out what the president wants.

I mean, you have these Watergate parallels that come up. And you remember the Saturday Night Massacre, right? You had the deputy -- the attorney general and deputy attorney general resign, refused to carry out the firing of Archibald Cox. Then you had Robert Bork coming who was willing to do it. You know, who would that character been in that scenario?

But then beyond that, you have -- would the Senate in light of not just being upset with this decision but also with their collegial loyalty to a former fellow Senator Jeff Sessions, would they be -- how quickly do they go through the process of approving a presidential appointment to replace a Jeff Sessions?

COOPER: Ken --

JENNINGS: Anderson, to that point, if you were trying to replace Jeff Sessions as a political matter with one who was as popular with the nationalists sort of conservative base that Trump has cultivated, I don't think you could get that person confirmed right now. So, at the end of the day, have you Sessions who's popular with Trump's base, and if you try to confirm someone new, I can almost guarantee you the Trump base wouldn't like whoever they could get through.

So, Sessions staying around ultimately, politically may be the best thing for the president even if he has short-term frustration.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, Sessions isn't just popular with the president's base. He's also popular with the movement conservative base that didn't initially get on board with President Trump, but did later. And he -- so he has a broad coalition of grassroots support himself just in the attorney general.

COOPER: And, David Chalian, to a point I think Kirsten made earlier, I mean, he's -- at the Justice Department, he's actually doing things to enact the agenda. I mean, it's not as if he's -- you know, it may not get coverage every day but he's moving forward.


CHALIAN: Tonight at the rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Anderson, Donald Trump touted how tough the administration is being on sanctuary cities, how tough they are cracking down on immigration. Now, he didn't give hat tips to Sessions tonight. He left his name out of that.

But he was touting the big achievements of his administration to this crowd before him at this rally, he was touting the work of Jeff Sessions.

COOPER: Ken, did you say maybe he should tweet it?


CUCCINELLI: Yes, I said, Jeff Sessions, maybe he should tweet this stuff.


COOPER: I'm not sure if he's on Twitter. I'll have to check on that.

I want to thank everybody.

Up next, the other breaking story out of Washington today. The Senate barely voted to move forward with the debate on the GOP health care plan, but they did. Now, there's a twist, something the Democrats are doing tonight. We'll tell you about that, plus Senator Bernie Sanders joins me, as well.


[20:31:25] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More breaking news tonight. The Senate just barely eked out a vote to move forward with debate on the GOP repeal and replacement plan. Two votes, Senator Ron Johnson and Senator John McCain, who returned to Washington for the vote, despite recovering from Brain surgery made it all possible with the tie breaking vote by the Vice President Mike Pence. But McCain's support for startling debate may not extend to the actual bill or the process his party leaders are using to create it. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think we all agree they haven't been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now, they aren't producing much for the American people. Both sides have let this happen. We keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That's an approached that's been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that it requires. We are getting nothing done, my friends, we're getting nothing done! I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that.


COOPER: CNN'S Phil Mattingly joins me from Capitol Hill. What are you hearing from sources about how Republican leadership was able to pull this off today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, a lot of policy promises, a lot of political assurances and some old fashion, arm twisting. I'm told that even this morning, President Trump, Vice President Pence, on the phone to on the fence members, trying to get them across the line.

One source is telling me the President would essentially tell members how well he did in their state and why politically it would be effective to vote with him on this, as the Vice President ran through details. And don't kind of look past what Senator Mitch McConnell was doing, behind the scenes, making the promises to his members, that they would at least get opportunities to vote on what they wanted policy wise. But in the end, it was the pressure that ended up working. Members recognizing it. This was a vote. They were going to be going on the record. And very real concern, almost fear of being the person that killed this issue that they voted on for several years or campaigned on for seven years. The process will continue. But there's no question about, Anderson, it was not easy to get here, probably won't be easy to get it done either.

COOPER: Where do things stand now in terms of passing some version of the health care bill to just open it up for debate?

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's extremely complicated right now. They're in the process of debating. They're about to vote on the first amendment. But take a listen to what Senate Majority Mitch McConnell said after the procedural vote today, kind of underscoring the difficulty they face going forward.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: It's an open amendment process. This is just the beginning. We're not out here to spike the football. This is a long way. But we'll finish at the end of the week, hopefully. So we're pleased to have been able to take the first step in that direction today. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now, Anderson, he says it's about to happen in a couple minutes. One of those amendments that was offered to those wary senators to get them on board, something that would add $100 billion for those Medicaid expansion, state senators who are worried more robust regulatory cut back or people like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, that will be on the Senate floor for a vote in short order. That will fail.

After that they will continue to debate. They'll have the repeal only vote. To my observation, what you're seeing right now is votes on amendment that kind of check the boxes for these members who they hadn't been able get on board up to this point.

But a key point here, all of those amendment votes are expected to fail. So where does that leave members, where does that leave Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Well, it's an open question. You have Democrats that have been kind of delaying things as much as possible up to this point.

They will also start to throw out a lot of very damaging political amendments, trying to make Republicans vote on those types of things. And the reality remains. There is no clear end game right now, Anderson. We're going to have to watch this play out. There's real concern and a very real possibility that they don't have the votes when this all set and done. Needless to say, it's going to be awhile next 48 to 72 hours.

[20:35:14] COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, I appreciate it.

Earlier, I spoke with Senator Bernie Sanders for this take on today's vote.

Senator Sanders, based on what you saw today, President Trump calling today's vote a big step forward. Do you think the Republicans are going to be able to repeal and then replace Obamacare?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Anderson, I think I can say without any hesitancy that there's nobody in the United States Senate who has a clue what's going on or what will go on.

What Trump thinks is a great step forward is part of his belief that we should throw 22 million people off of health insurance, raise premiums for all the workers and cut Medicaid by $800 billion. That's not what the American people think is a great step forward.

Now, what happened today with the tie-breaking vote by the Vice President is that we are going to proceed. What I think is going to happen later tonight is that the Trump-McConnell disastrous bill in fact is going to be defeated. We will see what happens tomorrow. So I think nobody quite knows where we are. But I was disappointed that only two Republicans had the guts to say no to this disastrous process.

COOPER: If it is defeated tonight, what is the next step? I mean, Republicans clearly want to push this forward?

SANDERS: What I think is, there is so much confusion and disagreement within the Republican ranks that what they may end up doing is coming together on a much, much narrower bill. It would be a bill that perhaps repeals the individual mandate, repeals the employer mandate, repeals the tax on medical devices. And then if they can pass that, and by the way, there's no guarantee that they can pass that. If they could pass it, they would go to conference committee with the House. But this narrow bill is very, very different from the disastrous bill in the House. And whether they can reach agreement and how long that would take frankly nobody knows.

COOPER: Earlier today, you tweeted "This is America, we are not going to pass legislation that allows thousands of people to die."


COOPER: Some critics have pounced on that saying, is it fair to insinuate that the Republicans are going to put forward legislation that would allow thousands of people to actually die?

SANDERS: This is not what Bernie Sanders said, Anderson. This is what study after study has shown. And you know, Republican don't like to hear, that I know no Republican in the Congress wants to see anybody die unnecessarily.

But what study after study, including studies done at Harvard School of Public Health show is that when you throw 23 million people off of health insurance, people who are now receiving cancer treatment, people who have serious heart diseases, people who have diabetes, people who have life threatening illnesses, what do you think happens? And what study after study shows, is that many, many thousands of people will die. Republicans don't like to hear it. They don't want to hear it, and then they should not pass legislation that would do exactly that.

COOPER: Well, what can Democrats do next? I mean, is there any hope for actually a bipartisan effort on this bill? Senator John McCain called for it today.

SANDERS: That's right. Senator McCain got out there, and I was on the floor hearing them. Anybody said in so many words, these whole has been process absurd. You can't write a bill behind closed doors without any public hearings and without any serious debate. So I would hope that Senator McCain and my other Republican colleagues will, in fact, vote to junk this process and there will be amendments being offered by Democrats to enable them to do that. Take this bill back to the committees and let's see how we can improve the Affordable Care Act.

Nobody thinks the Affordable Care Act is perfect, serious problems, premiums too high, deductibles too high, co-payments too high, prescription drug prices off the charts. Let's see how we can improve the Affordable Care Act about, not destroy that. In my view after that, we have to go forward. I believe we should move towards a Medicare for all single payer programs like every other major country guaranteeing health care to all people.

COOPER: But as you know, I mean the President has said, well, look if the Republicans can't pass this, and let Obamacare fail on its own and the Democrats will come to the table.

SANDERS: That is what he says. But I want you to think about that for a second. Here is the President of the United States saying I, the President -- and this is what he's doing now, we're going to sabotage the law, we're going to make sure that components of the law are not being implemented. We want to see it there. We want millions of people to lose health insurance so we can win some political point. How pathetic is that for a president of the United States to say? And by the way, Mr. President, if you think it is the Democrat will going to be held responsible for the failure of the Affordable Care Act, you got an oath to just come in, the American people know what's going on. You, Mr. President, and your Republican colleagues will be held accountable.

COOPER: Well, more of my interview with Senator Bernie Sanders in a moment. I'll get to take on Senator John McCain's return for today's vote, plus what do you think on the President's attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

[20:40:07] Also, we had more breaking news, President's Former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner each spoke with congressional investigators today in the Russia probe. One of them got a subpoena dropped, the details from Capital Hill in a moment.


COOPER: Well, quite a day in Washington. The Senate barely advances the GOP health care plan with Senator John McCain returning just days after brain surgery, and the Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. At the White House, the President not backing down from his attack against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

I talked about both of these issues with Senator Bernie Sanders. Here's more of that interview.

Just on a personal level, what was it like -- what do you make of the speech that Senator McCain gave, what was that moment like?

SANDERS: Well, I've known John McCain for many years, and I'm personally very fond of him. Obviously, I was disappointed by his vote today. But John is an old timer. And John remembers when the Senate functioned in a very different way. And what John was essentially saying is, you know, this is not working. It's not working on health care, it's not working on anything else.

And I think it was a message to -- and by the way, indicated that he would not vote for this legislation in its present form. And I think what he was saying is, let's get back to regular order, which means you have committees. I'm on the health and education labor code. Let the committees work on these issues. Let's have serious debate. I think what he said was useful in that regard. COOPER: I know you went up and spoke to him. Can you say what you told him?

SANDERS: You know, I known John and obviously I think every member of the Senate regardless of their political views, has a lot of affection for him. He's a real American hero. He's an icon. He has time and time again done things that you would not expect a Republican senator to do, and he did it again today.

COOPER: Just last night, sorry.

SANDERS: I'm sorry, go ahead.

[20:45:00] COOPER: Just last -- I want to ask you about what is happening between the President and your former colleague in the Senate Attorney General Session. I mean, what do you make of this -- what do you think is going on here? The President is just telling the "Wall Street Journal" that it wasn't even so much a loyalty thing with Sessions that he basically was attracted by the large crowds during the campaign in Alabama and that's why he stood by the side of Trump.

SANDERS: Anderson, I would tell you that what the President is doing is unbelievable, but that's become a hackney word everyday. What the President done is unbelievable. How do you appoint the guy, who was a member of the United States Senate, make him attorney general, and then undermine him and then humiliate him? You know, Trump's -- you know, Sessions' views are very different than mine. And I think many of his ideas as attorney general are disastrous. Just very much the opposite of what I think we need in terms of criminal justice and immigration and so forth.

But you don't treat a human being, somebody you have appointed to that position in this kind of humiliating way. And I think it sends a message to every member of Trump's administration that you have an unstable guy at the top, who will turn on you for whatever reason. And it's just hard for me to understand how he can have an administration running this country with that kind of mentality.

COOPER: Senator Sessions -- sorry, Senator Sanders, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Probably the only time he's ever been mistaken for Senator Sessions. There's more breaking news from Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee has pulled back on an effort to force the President's former campaign chairman to testify publicly. Manu Raju joins us now for details on that and the other key testimony today in the Russian probe. So the subpoena issue to compel Paul Manafort to appear tomorrow was dropped. Are there plans to have him testify publicly at this point?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That is still under negotiation. It's one thing that Senator Dianne Feinstein told me yesterday, that he absolutely needs to appear in a public session no matter is when. But we do know in this now, he will not appear tomorrow. And that's what the treat was initially when Monday night both Chuck Grassley, the Republican Chairman and Feinstein issued a subpoena to compel his appearance before Wednesday, because they believe he backtracked on a separate deal and which they agreed to have an interview with him privately, for him to submit documents, and then after which that they said that Manafort only agreed to have one transcribed interview with the entire, all the congressional committees investigating the Russian issue.

And today, earlier Anderson, Manafort did meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee, gave a private interview about that Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 with Donald Trump, Jr., which Donald Trump, Jr. was promised dirt from the Russians. He did testify and meet with investigators on that. But the judiciary committee wants its own meeting with him, and right now they dropped that subpoena threat after Manafort agreed to negotiate for a private interview, he's also provide more documents at them as well, Anderson.

COOPER: So Kushner's appearance to inform the House Intelligence Committee today, will that be the last time he testifies?

RAJU: Unclear at this point. I talked to Senator Mark Warner earlier tonight, the Chairman -- or the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee he said, "Absolutely, Kushner must appear again." Because earlier this week he only talked to staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but today he met for more than three hours with the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Conway, the Republican leading that committee, told me he doesn't have a need for Kushner to come back. He said if Democrats wanted him to come back, he would be open to that request. I tried to ask Jared Kushner that on multiple occasions today, Anderson, he would not answering questions that he's coming in and out of the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. But expect pressure for him to come back, particularly on the Senate side where Mark Warner says, he absolutely must come back and answer questions from senators, Anderson.

COOPER: OK, Manu Raju, I appreciate it. President Trump is back on the road tonight. This time playing to a crowd of thousands in Ohio. What his supporters at the rally think about the Russian investigation, next.


[20:52:15] COOPER: With health care reform, the Russian investigation hitting up on Capitol Hill. The President is hitting the road a short time. President Trump finished a campaign style rally in Youngstown, Ohio. It's pretty much the based of this support, not to mention a key swing state. Our Gary Tuchman caught up with Trump supporters before the rally started.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): JoJo Jusino says she arrived for Donald Trump's Ohio rally at 5:00 a.m.

You are 14 hours early?


TUCHMAN: You're devoted?

JUSINO: I'm devoted. True.

TUCHMAN: And she is among many others just like her. The people who come to Donald Trump's rallies are among the most loyal portion of his base.

Do you think he stop talking about Hillary Clinton and move on in the election?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: locked her up. Locked her up.

TUCHMAN: You're going with some locked her up stand?

JUSINO: I want her locked up, too so. Tweet away. What I say is tweet away. As long as he gets his message across that's all that matters.

TUCHMAN: Amid the loyalty and devotion though, there is a difference of opinion between the President and some of his supporters about Jeff Sessions the attorney general has been loyal to Donald Trump from the beginning.


TUCHMAN: And Trump is tweeting about him, saying some things that seem like he is shaming his attorney general wanting him to step down. Do you think that Donald Trump should try to get rid of Jeff Sessions?

COOK: I personally like Jeff Sessions. I think he is doing a very good job. I think he is dedicated to what his job is to do.

TUCHMAN: Does it bother you that Donald Trump is doing that?

COOK: In a way it does.

GENE MCCALPIN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Sessions is a good attorney general. And I don't think that they should get rid of him. I don't think Donald Trump wants to get rid of him. I think the news media makes that out.

TUCHMAN: For the record, President Trump has called his attorney general beleaguered and criticized him for being weak. Many here agree with that, adding that Jeff Sessions should go, for the good of the team.

DANIELLE JASKULA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think that if Donald Trump feels that Sessions is not doing his whole job, bye-bye.

TUCHMAN: Danielle Jaskula is one of many we talked to here who like the President is angered that the attorney general recused himself in the Russia investigation.

What some people think is the Donald Trump wants Sessions to quit so he can bring in a new attorney general who would then get rid of Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

JASKULA: I think the special counsel should be gotten rid of. It's ridiculous.

TUCHMAN: Robert Mueller has had an esteemed professional career. There's not much talk about that here.

KELLY COWAN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Hope that Mueller is trying to get himself fired. He is obviously a very -- he is not a -- it's not a special counsel. It's a witch-hunt.

TUCHMAN: You know that for sure?

COWAN: Look at all the people he hired.

TUCHMAN: But you know that for sure, you think he is corrupt.

COWAN: I believe that he is. Yes.

DAN CAPRIANO, TRUMP SUPPORTER: He has to do what is best for him?

TUCHMAN: Who does?

CAPRIANO: Donald trump. He's trying to make America great again.

TUCHMAN: So you think it will help him, stay out of trouble, he get rid of the special counsel?

CAPRIANO: If it helps him stay out of trouble, yes.

TUCHMAN: And what if the President gets into increasing trouble, Donald Trump could be allowed to pardon himself, get in legal or ethical trouble, do you think he should pardon himself?

[20:55:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I don't think that that's the case. And I don't think that he should do that.

TUCHMAN: What's the case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then he shouldn't pardon himself.

TUCHMAN: But most people we talked to do not agree because they believe and hope it will stay a moot point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't need to pardon himself. There's nothing to find him guilty on.


COOPER: Gary joins me now from Youngstown, Ohio. We heard the folks there some of them chanting lock her up when someone was asked about Hillary Clinton. Did you hear a lot of that today?

TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, today as people came into the parking lot outside the arena -- came inside this arena, they felt like they had gone through a time portal, going back in time to a date before November 8, 2016, when the campaign was still going on when President Donald Trump was businessman Donald Trump. So yes, we heard lots of those chants of lock her up outside. And even a chant of lock her up inside just before Donald Trump took the podium. Another chant we heard during the campaign that we heard today while Donald Trump was speaking was, build the wall.

Donald Trump said, we will build the wall. But what was notable, Anderson. He did not say Mexico will pay for it. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Gary Tuchman. Thanks very much.

Up next, Well, get our panel's take on whether the attorney general will resign. Plus, the loyalty question. Sessions was the first senator to support the President. President Trump says loyalty is important. So why they disconnect now? "The Wall Street Journal" reporter who asked the President about that joins me as well.