Return to Transcripts main page


Senators Demand Assurances House Won't Pass "Skinny" Repeal Bill; Scaramucci: Priebus "is a F-g Paranoid Schizophrenic". Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired July 27, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:09] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

If you thought the White House seemed chaotic with the drama over Sean Spicer and Jeff Sessions, wait until you hear what the new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, has to say about the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon. Suffice it to say there's not a lot of collegiality in the president's inner circle tonight. We're going to get to that in a moment.

But, first, an important night the future of health care in the country. Brianna Keilar joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Brianna, Paul Ryan just issued a statement to address concerns from four prominent Republican senators who spoke earlier about the vote on a skinny bill. Explain what's gone on.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So, the Senate, Anderson, is in a very weird position, and that is that the bill that the Republicans do feel confident they can get the 50 votes that they need for this skinny repeal, they don't actually want it to become law. That is very unusual.

And so, what they want to do instead is use this as just a vehicle to get to what's called a conference committee, where they get together with house Republicans and hash out a bill that the entire Congress could pass. So, they're not really in love with this bill before them, the skinny repeal. It does get rid of the individual mandate, the employer mandate. It defunds Planned Parenthood for a year.

But unlike the House bill, it doesn't tackle subsidies. It doesn't tackle taxes. And so, because of that, you do have a number of senators who don't like it, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that, yes, he's going to give them assurances the House is not going to pass this bill. Is it going to be enough, though, for senators like Lindsey Graham?


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The skinny bill as a policy is a disaster. The skinny bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud. The skinny bill is a vehicle to getting conference to find a replacement. It is not a replacement in and of itself.

Not only do we not replace Obamacare, we politically own the collapse of health care. I'd rather get out of the way and let it collapse than have a half-assed approach where it is now our problem.


KEILAR: Some very plain language there from Senator Lindsey Graham, Anderson. The statement from House Speaker Paul Ryan reads in part: Senators have made clear that this is an effort to keep the process alive, not to make law. If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something that House is willing to do. But he goes on to say that the Senate is going to have to take up whatever final measure they can figure out first.

And he also says the priority is to get something repealed. So, he does sort of have that ace in his pocket, in a way leveraged against the Senate to come to agreement with the House, if they really don't want the skinny repeal bill to become law, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's fascinating that senators are going to vote for a bill that they actually do not want to become law, sort of defies common sense.


COOPER: You still have a long night ahead of you. Voting is expected to, what, continue into the early hours.

KEILAR: That's right. And so, there is some action on the floor right now. And you're going to see some votes in a half hour. That's not actually part of this vote-a-rama marathon session that is technically part of this skinny repeal bill process.

You're going to see, though, once that does get started later this evening, tons of votes, potentially unlimited amendments. Although eventually, they will get pared down. But we're talking hours and hours. This goes into the wee hours of the morning.

The Senate has extended its recess by two weeks. And just today, Anderson, House members were told they need to be flexible with their travel plans because they were expecting to go home after this week.

COOPER: All right. We'll continue to cover it all night long. Brianna, thanks.

Right now, it's about the time we usually do a segment called keeping them honest. We have one ready to go about how there are now two senior members of the president's staff twisting in the wind. The attorney general and chief of staff, both critical positions in helping the president actually further his agenda.

Then just a short time ago, a story came out in the "New Yorker" that's kind of hard to believe because it's playing out in real-time on television and in print. It's the kind of thing you usually have to wait decades to hear, like comments on old recordings of LBJ's White House or Richard Nixon's. But at the same time, it's also like an episode of "The Real Housewives", only in Washington and with men, with harsh expletives and accusations about who said what to the press and who is upset about not being invited to a dinner. White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci called CNN's

political commentator and "New Yorker" Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, last night. Ryan is going to give us the down and dirty in a moment. Some of it is very dirty.

But, first, you have to know that the story begins with a tweet. The seemingly benign tweet from Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker" last night. Scoop, he said, Trump is dining tonight with Sean Hannity, Bill Shine, former Fox News executive, and Anthony Scaramucci for two knowledgeable sources.

Then, Ryan after he tweeted got the phone call. That might be how it is forever known, just, the phone call.

Ryan Lizza joins me now. I'm not sure where to start with this, Ryan. But there's a lot to talk about.


COOPER: Anthony Scaramucci calls you last night. He thought that Reince Priebus leaked the information about the dinner at the White House to you, because Reince Priebus was not invited. I want to read part of what Scaramucci said to you.

Quote, Reince is a blanking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac, he said.

[20:05:03] He channeled Priebus as he spoke. Oh, Bill Shine is coming in, let me leak the blanking thing and see if I can blank block these people the way I blank block Scaramucci for six months.

Didn't Scaramucci say they were actually dear friends just last week at the press briefing?

LIZZA: He did. He did. He said there was no friction between them. They fight like brothers. But at the end of the day, they're brothers.

And over the course of the last week, I think Anthony Scaramucci has become increasingly convinced that every negative story about him somehow Reince Priebus was behind. And when he got out of that dinner with Trump and Sean Hannity from FOX News, he saw either my tweet or other people asking him about the dinner.

And I think he got a little angry, and sort of wanted to know who leaked that to me. And called me in the first part of the conversation that I had with him was just about who leaked it, who leaked it, him trying to get me to tell him that.

And frankly, Anderson, I tweeted that, I remember, it wasn't a significant enough scoop to write a story about it. You know, sort of interesting who the president is having dinner with, but I didn't think it was a big deal. But he did.

COOPER: I mean, it's kind of amazing that a guy as sophisticated as Anthony Scaramucci and the communications director at the White House would call you up demanding to know who your source or sources were on this story.


COOPER: I mean, that's like journalism 101.

I want to read another part of the conversation he wrote up in the "New Yorker."

Quote: I asked these guys not to leak anything and they can't help themselves. You're an American citizen, he's talking to you, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So, I'm asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it.

Obviously, you did not end up giving him your source.

LIZZA: I didn't. I told him what I would tell anyone, if he tells me something in confidence, if he tells me something off the record or on background, I'm not going to go then to some other White House official and sell him out and tell -- and reveal that he was the source for something.

You know, I think, frankly, by the end of that part of the conversation, he understood that. But as the conversation -- I did think it was strange he was pushing me so hard and appealing to my patriotism. You know, for a White House communications director, he doesn't have a really subtle understanding of how political reporting in Washington works.

And it's just standard operating procedure, you don't ask someone about their sourcing. You're not going to get that out of them. And so then the conversation moved on to the problems he was having in the White House, gaining control of what he believed is a leaky White House, and specifically, the problems he was having with Reince Priebus as -- I don't think there's any other word for it, sort of an internal enemy.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, I can't remember the exact words, what is it, a paranoid schizophrenic. I mean, that's pretty severe.

LIZZA: Yes. I mean, he's basically -- he was saying -- what he was saying there is, he was -- he convinced himself that Reince had leaked this to me because that's the only thing that made sense to him. Why -- you know, it's these -- look, Bill Shine, the former FOX News executive is very good friends with Scaramucci. Bill Shine's best friend is Sean Hannity, that's well known.

So, it was a little bit of a click, the three of them having dinner with Trump. And Scaramucci thought that that got Reince Priebus upset. So, obviously, he leaked it.

I've said this publicly already, I'll say it again, Reince did not leak that information to me. So, he was just wrong about that. But he spun himself up into a lather thinking it was the case.

COOPER: He also had some really choice words, I guess you'd say, for Steve Bannon. And I guess if you can -- LIZZA: Yes, choice words.

COOPER: Maybe you can read --

LIZZA: You read this one.

COOPER: Use your judgment on this one.

LIZZA: Yes. You've got to be careful with some of these. They're pretty salty.

So, yes, we were talking about, I was talking to Anthony about, you know, the coverage and profiles about him, and, you know, whether he would cooperate or not. And he compared himself to Bannon and said, I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to blank my own expletive. I'm not trying to build my own brand off the blanking strength of the president. I'm here to serve the country.

So, he was really ripping into him saying, you know, he's someone that is more out for himself, craving the media spotlight, and that he, Anthony Scaramucci, was going to try to stay more behind the scenes. You know, leave it to viewers to decide if that's what's happening over the last week.

COOPER: You know, it's so interesting, because we've had so many people from the White House in the last months and weeks say, look, there's no friction in the White House, everything's running perfectly smoothly and it's a fine oiled machine. Clearly, there is all this, I mean, this drama.

[20:10:03] One more thing that he said to you is, what I want to do is I want to blanking kill all the leakers and I want to get the president's agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people. You went on to say that he cryptically suggested he had more information about White House aides, that he had sort of a trail -- a digital track of them or something?

LIZZA: Yes. I mean, this -- let me see if I have this one, Anderson, in front of me. You know, he talked about -- he mentioned two things, digital fingerprints. And even sort of started a sentence -- he didn't quite finish this thought but he also talked about lie detectors.

So, he really was sort of spun up on trying to figure out who is talking to the press without authorization.

COOPER: Yes, I actually want to read -- just to be fair, his exact words. He said, OK, the Mooch --

LIZZA: Oh, there we go, sorry.

COOPER: That's nickname for him. He said, OK, the Mooch showed up a week ago. This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, OK? Because I nailed these guys. I've got digital fingerprints on everything they've done through the FBI and the f-ing Department of Justice.

And you said, what? And he said, well, the felony, they're going to get prosecuted, probably for the felony.

LIZZA: Yes. And let me explain what he was thinking there. This is a little bit convoluted but its' really important to understanding this. Yesterday, "Politico" reported some information that comes from Anthony Scaramucci's financial disclosure form. So, when Anthony called me last night, he had been spending the day thinking that someone in the White House leaked information inappropriately from his financial disclosure, and these financial disclosure forms are public, but he believed the information had been leaked before his had become public, right?

He actually believed and told me that Reince Priebus leaked the information to "Politico". He did cite any evidence, but he did say that. And he believed that it was a felony that was worth getting the FBI involved in. So, this is the communications director of the White House accusing Reince Priebus of committing a felony, and the communications director telling me on the record he's talked to the FBI about this.

COOPER: That he wants to get the FBI going after the chief of staff of the president?

LIZZA: Exactly. Now, it turned out today that the "Politico" reporter came out and said, actually, they just got the financial disclosure information from public sources. It's -- you know, it was as easy as that. It wasn't anything mysterious.

Anthony Scaramucci has a job at the Export/Import Bank before he was communications director. And so, he had to file one of these anyway. And so, there was no mystery. So, that is what -- that's what's going on here.

COOPER: So, then, subsequent to that, he basically -- he told you that when he was getting off the phone with you, I think he said that Priebus would be asked to resign very shortly, and then he said he was going to go tweet. And sure enough, right after talking to you, he did tweet, in a tweet that seemed to indicate that he believed Priebus had released his financial forms.

LIZZA: Yes, we talked, I think the conversation started at 10:28 p.m. last night. The conversation lasted about, I don't know, about nine minutes. And at 10:41, the last thing he told me, I've got to go. This is a paraphrase, I've got to go because I'm going to go tweet some stuff about Priebus. Gets off the phone.

And before I could report, I was actually about to report this scoop about, you know, the FBI. Before I could do it, he did it, publicly. And then two hours later, he decided he thought better of it, deleted that tweet, and put up a new tweet basically saying, oh, never mind, I didn't mean this about Reince Priebus.

COOPER: Which obviously is counter to what he told you, because what he told you was he very clearly meant that Reince Priebus had done this leak, which turned out not to be a leak at all.

LIZZA: Absolutely. COOPER: Just overall, what did you make of his tone, of his -- I

mean, how did he seem to you?

LIZZA: He seemed like someone who had believed that he had a very broad mandate from the president to change what the culture of the White House, and he believed that the key problem at the White House is unauthorized -- people who are not authorized to talk to the press, talking to the press. And that he was just absolutely driven to stop that from happening. So that's one thing.

The other thing was, he seemed -- I don't want to say paranoid, but he seems rather obsessed that all the negative stories about him were coming from his main rival in the White House, Reince Priebus, and he was making allegations about Priebus that really were not backed up by the facts, whether it was that, you know, my information had come from Priebus, whether Priebus had given information to "Politico". So, just a series of sort of paranoid accusations about that.

COOPER: Ryan, have you ever had an official at this level speak to you like this in a way that's not off the record?

[20:15:03] I mean, you know, usually --

LIZZA: No, I mean, look --

COOPER: I mean, look, adults have frank conversations, and use expletives all the time. But on the record, have you ever had somebody have a conversation like this with you about the inner workings?

LIZZA: I've never had someone at that level, the communications director for the White House, sort of unsolicited, call up and start in, one, on demanding to know, you know, who my sources are. That's just not done. Nobody would do that. Or they would just think it was a waste of time.

And then two, you know, without saying, oh, this is off the record, or, oh, this is on background, just answering questions in a frank way about his rivals in the White House, what was going on with the leakers. And doing it in such a colorful and sort of -- I guess you could say transparent manner. One thing you have to say as a journalist, I think it's great that these guys talk, and they talk in a sort of frank manner.


LIZZA: You know, I called -- I talked to him this afternoon before the piece posted because I wanted to make sure he knew that, you know, this was coming out. And wanted to see if there was anything, you know, he wanted to say. And, you know, it was -- it wasn't the easiest conversation I've ever had. I don't think he's happy about it.

But he agreed with me that the conversation was fair game on the record. And that I posted it shortly after that.

COOPER: Yes, he's come out and subsequently said, you know, he was using terms that --

LIZZA: Look, to give him credit, you know, I have a little bit in common with Anthony Scaramucci to be honest. You know, we're both from Long Island. We both come from Italian heritage. And so, I've come to know him a little bit and joke about some of that.

And, you know, he's not a traditional political operative, not a traditional Washington guy. And I think he's -- he's a little new at this, frankly.


LIZZA: And I think the fact that -- the way he handled it with a funny tweet, you know, I think that was the proper way to handle it. Not to go to war over it.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan, we're going to speak with you more after the break. We'll also hear what the White House is saying about whether the president has confidence in Reince Priebus.

We're also keeping an eye on Capitol Hill and get an update on the Republican effort tonight to roll back part of Obamacare.


COOPER: Well, first, Sean Spicer then Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Now, another senior member in the president's staff kind of twisting in the wind.

We've been talking about White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci calling White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus a blanking paranoid schizophrenic.

What makes this more fascinating is that no one in the White House seems to be backing the chief of staff up. No one in the White House is able to answer a simple yes-or-no question, does the president have confidence in his own chief of staff?

Joining me now with the latest from the White House, Sara Murray.

So, I understand Anthony Scaramucci just responded to all this. Ryan referenced that. Explain what he said.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, much like his boss, he decided to respond to this controversy on Twitter. So Scaramucci tweeted, I sometimes use colorful language.

[20:20:02] I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for Donald Trump's agenda, using the #MAGA, make America great again.

Anderson, of course, you will notice in that tweet, there is no apology to Reince Priebus, no apology to Steve Bannon for the things he said about them, which is the way he may have described those sentiments.

COOPER: And what's the White House -- have they had a response?

MURRAY: Well, look, earlier today, we heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders who had multiple opportunities to say whether the president still has confidence in his chief of staff, Reince Priebus. She declined to do so, but did essentially said if the president wants someone fired, then Priebus would be gone. So, not a vote of confidence there.

And this evening, we caught back up with her to ask about the drama surrounding Anthony Scaramucci. He said, look, he's a passionate guy. Sometimes that passion gets the better of him. She said she didn't expect to use that kind of language again.

But I asked her, you know, wouldn't you want an apology for something like this, if someone you were working alongside day in and day out said something about you to this effect? She said that she was not going to weigh in on this situation between Priebus and Scaramucci, that it's up to those two gentlemen to sit down together to hash this out. As to whether the president is going to wade into it, she said, you know, he's got a lot of executive experience and he'll decide if it's necessary for him to get involved, but no indication that's happening yet.

COOPER: All right. Sarah Murray, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Peter Beinart, Jeffrey Lord, Abby Phillip, and Josh Green, author of the new book, "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency". And with us again also is Ryan Lizza.

Josh, again, this is what Scaramucci said about Steve Bannon. He says, I'm not Steve Bannon. I'm trying to blank my own blank. I'm not trying to build my own brand off the blanking strength of the president. I'm here to serve the country.

What do you make of that? Does any of that surprise you?

JOSHUA GREEN, AUTHOR, "DEVIL'S BARGAIN": You know, I was mostly surprised to find someone who's more profane than Steve Bannon.


GREEN: You don't encounter that very often. But this is a kind of conversation these guys have privately off the record. It's very unusual for this to be said on the record to a reporter which is why it's dominated the news today. But this is the language that these guys use with each other. And it's not limited to the Trump White House.

COOPER: But it seems to speak to a certain, I don't know if dysfunction is the right word or chaos, or just, you know, "Hunger Games"-like atmosphere.

GREEN: Yes, "Hunger Games," "Game of Thrones," choose your TV metaphor. But that's exactly what's going on. And I think Scaramucci is new to the White House. He's new to

Washington. He's clearly trying to make an impression. Not just on the president, but on his staff and on the media. And to kind of come in and sweep away the chaos through shear force of will, which also happens to be the method that Bannon used and Trump used, it hasn't really worked that well. I think Scaramucci's going to have problems if he continues along these lines.

COOPER: But, Abby, it does seem like that he's role. I mean, he's brought in to get the ships running, which is sort of what you would be a chief of staff's job, I guess.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And that is his role. But my favorite TV metaphor for this is actually "Real Housewives" but it's more like the warring of personalities has actually gotten in the way of that task of cleaning up shop.

I mean, in the last six days, we've heard much more about the relationship between Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci than we've heard about just about anything else. There hasn't been restructuring in the White House. There's only been one person fired and fired in a way that everybody acknowledged was really unusual and perhaps cruel to this person who was a lower press office staffer.

There is not a sense of order to this. But it is also pretty clear in the White House from the people I talked to that everyone there feels like this is a battle to the death between these two people. The two of them --

COOPER: Are you talking about them being like brothers, he referenced Cain and Abel.


PHILLIP: Nobody believes that they can co-exist like this. So, this is about who is going to win out. I think Anthony Scaramucci is acting in that way, that he knows that if he's going to survive, he has to totally destroy the other person.

COOPER: Jeff, is this -- I mean, people always said about Donald Trump as a businessman with his own company, that's how he ran his organization. He sort of liked the chaos, he liked competing factors. Does the president -- do you think this is fine with him?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: FDR called this the competitive ad hocracy, meeting he would pit stop members together in an ad hoc basis to get them physically to go crazy with one another so that he would get his results and I think that's the style here.

That said, I mean, the White House communications director I think it's safe today, has communicated, and with somebody new to Washington. I hear by all accounts he's a great guy, nice guy.

Doing something like this on the record with a reporter is not the best. That said, I checked, Anderson, CNN on April 30th of 2011, ran a story called the top 16 foul-mouthed politicians. [20:25:00] Number one and two were Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

So, I mean, we shouldn't be so naive to think this kind of stuff doesn't go on.

COOPER: No, it's usually just on the record --

LORD: Correct, correct.

COOPER: -- to a reporter, you know, we've all heard --


LORD: He's a smart guy. He'll learn the ways of the culture what not to do. He's there specifically not to become part of that culture.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think this is a perfect illustration of Donald Trump himself, right?

First of all, it's incredibly vicious and crude and unprofessional. But most of all, and I think this is what makes it different from previous White Houses, Scaramucci and Priebus are not killing each other over substance. They're killing each other purely over ego, over the fact that one of them was invited to a dinner and the other one wasn't, right?

There's no -- there's no -- it's not about the health care debate, about big things that actually affect ordinary people. It's perfect Trump. It's basically incredibly vicious, brutal stuff which is purely about your own ego and your own power.

COOPER: Ryan, I mean, is it going to become, you know, Scaramucci early on, I think it was last Friday when he made -- when he talked from the White House briefing room, he talked about, you know, letting -- not these words exactly, but letting Trump be Trump.


COOPER: And sort of -- is there -- is that at odds with what Reince Priebus is trying to do? Is that part of the conflict?

LIZZA: That -- you know, other conversations I've had with other people, that is something I certainly picked up in the last week is that -- there is a faction in the White House that treats Trump a little bit like a -- you know, a grenade that can go off anytime, or, you know, sometimes a child, frankly. You know, choose your metaphor.

And that those people, they don't want Scaramucci there because he's not like that. He is in this let Trump be Trump camp, right? And he channels Trump himself.

What did everyone comment when they first saw him in the briefing room? They said, wow, he's just like the president. And what did he do last night? He publicly berated his chief of staff on Twitter and in on-the-record conversation with me. That's something Trump would do, right? You know, he sort of crossed those lines. And so, I do think that the people in the White House who think that

their job is to contain Trump is to make sure that he doesn't blow up their message every day. They see Scaramucci as not the right person for the communications job because that's not -- you know, I've talked to him quite a bit in a number of interviews over this year.

And I've never heard him say anything bad about Trump. I've heard him have some tough words for people in the White House, but he -- despite the fact he was a Trump critic previously, he has this -- he really believes in President Trump and he really believes that he's on this mission to fix the White House and get people to see what he sees in Trump. And I -- you know, the most charitable explanation of his behavior is that that's what drives him. He's sort of blinded by it.

COOPER: Well, we're going to have to take a quick break. We're going to continue this discussion. Before the details of the phone call came to light, Scaramucci called in to CNN's "NEW DAY" to explain his relationship with Priebus. It was a fascinating interview. You'll hear some of the key points, next.


[20:30:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We've been talking about White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci's late-night profanity-laden phone call with Ryan Lizza, reporter for the "New Yorker." But before the details of that call came out tonight, Scaramucci took a long, strange trip on CNN's New Day this morning. Listen to some of that.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: As you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. Well, I can tell you two fish that don't stink, OK? And that's me and the President. I don't like the activity that's going on in the White House. I don't like what they're doing to my friend. I don't like what they're doing to the President of the United States or to their fellow colleagues in the West Wing.

Now, if you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had differences. When I said we were brothers from the podium, that's because we're rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel.

There are people inside the administration that thinks it is their job to save America from this President. OK, that is not their job. Their job is to inject this President into America, so that he can explain his views properly and his policies so that we can transform America and drain the swamp.


COOPER: And just in case, you're not up on the biblical references, Cain killed is brother Able. So there's that to think about.

A lot of discuss with out panel, I mean, is this -- you know, Jeff, you said look, these lots of people, curse in White Houses, and that's happening all throughout history.


COOPER: But I mean, this is all playing out so publicly.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: The President is not in any way weighing in and letting all these people twist. Now, the stories about the CNN's reporting about McMaster being isolated in the White House. Is it a sign of a White House in chaos, or dysfunction?

LORD: I've seen too many other stories about White Houses. I mean, I've made a point of looking, going all the way back to Reagan. All of the recent ones, both parties, et cetera. And there are plenty of stories out there, saying literally, White House in chaos.

COOPER: A lot of White Houses have been in chaos.

LORD: Right. Because it can be there's a lot of pressure, there's a lot of things going on. You've got new personalities, et cetera.

One of the things I want to pick up on --

COOPER: But if the national security adviser has been let go, the press spokesman has been let go, you have a new communications director --

LORD: Right.

COOPER: -- who's now at war with the chief of staff who may be fired, McMaster being isolated according to some reports, and Jeff Sessions, the president going after the attorney general.

LORD: You're trying to be equilibrium in all of this. Each president has to get to their own center of gravity with this. And it does take a while to do. And they're all different. So it works differently. One quick thing, Anderson, the very first column I wrote on Donald Trump running for president was in 2013. And I quite specifically said in the Reagan White House we used to say let Reagan be Reagan. And I said in there the way that Donald Trump could win is to let Trump be Trump.

COOPER: All right.

`LORD: Now he's there.


LORD: Right. Right, now he's there, that's the advice --

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's clear that the amount of turnover in this White House is unusual. The amount of public acrimony in the White House is unusual. There have been interpersonal disputes in past White Houses. You're absolutely right about that. But to the degree to which this is playing out publicly, that people are calling in and talking about each other publicly, and talking to reporters and calling each other names. That has not -- that has absolutely not happened.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The notion that the biggest problem the Trump administration has is leaks. Is it self- pathological, right? This is part of what led Richard Nixon down the path to Watergate, right?

You have the President -- you have the health care bill that the president clearly does not understand one of the largest policy changes that's going to take place in our lifetimes being passed by Republican senators who mostly hate the bill they're going to pass and they think their biggest problem is that they have too many people leaking. And that's what they're hugely obsessed. But the idea that if you got the handle on the leaks that the Trump presidency would be OK is insane, right? But that's at the core of the craziness here.

PHILLIP: Part of it is a lack of understanding --


PHILLIP: Just very quick about the dynamics in Washington. I mean, this is a President who is not a politician. He has now a communications director who is not a political figure. And the idea -- they're coming from a New York perspective. Anthony Scaramucci said this to himself.

LORD: Right.

PHILLIP: Where New Yorkers and all these guys are dizzy people, political animals and the New Yorkers don't understand the degree to which Washington people rely on the press to sort of move their agenda forward, both personally and policy-wise. And they don't like it. And that's what Anthony Scaramucci wants to change.

COOPER: Well, also, you can't have everybody have a non-D.A., nondisclosure agreement --

PHILLIP: Exactly.

COOPER: -- which is President Trump is used to having in private business.

JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Right, and I don't think this is -- I think this is right. But I don't think this is just about Anthony Scaramucci's new to Washington. I was sitting on the CNN set as Scaramucci's call came in. And after about 15 minutes of his rambling dialogue, I started getting e-mails and texts from Trump advisers who were aware that this was --

[20:35:06] OPER: They were watching the --

GREEN: They were watching the show and freaking out. And one of them called and he said, this is a car crash. Another one said it seems like Scaramucci is working through issues with his therapist. Another one called me afterward. This is somebody who's very hostile to Reince Priebus and outside Trump Adviser. He said that outburst bought Priebus another four months in the White House. So, I think there was a clear sense among other Trump advisers that this was a very bad look.

COOPER: But I mean, it's -- I don't know -- have there been communications directors in the past who have made themselves so prominent -- I mean, usually communications directors are certainly working behind the scenes to advance the president's agenda six months down the road.

Clearly this is a period Anthony Scaramucci feels, he needs to be hands-on, he needs to clean the deck.

But isn't there a danger in making yourself so well-known, and especially in Trump world, where, you know, the kiss of death for Donald Trump is when he says to you, oh, you're getting more famous than I am.

LORD: The best thing always is to remember what Anthony Scaramucci has said. This is all about the President. There's only one important person in the White House, that's the President of the United States. And everybody works for him.

So, you do have to do that. That said, I mean, I was in the Reagan White House when there was sort of a dismissal of staff during Iran contra and they brought in Pat Buchanan, who is very experienced in the Nixon era, et cetera. Well, some of the press went bunkers over this because they couldn't stand Pat Buchanan. So these people can bring with them a certain, you know, bed of controversy but things worked out --

COOPER: Again, I just want to play what Scaramucci said about some people in the White House feeling they need to sort of protect people from the President. I don't want to put words in his mouth. Let's play that.


SCARAMUCCI: There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this President. OK, that is not their job. Their job is to inject this President into America and so that he can explain his views properly and his policies so that we can transform America and drain the swamp.


COOPER: Peter, I mean, that's an amazing statement about people who are working in the White House that Scaramucci believes, and clearly others in the White House believe, that other people in the White House who think President Trump is the problem.

BEINART: What makes it even crazier is that what exactly are the policies that Scaramucci is talking about? Because Scaramucci himself basically on a whole litany of issues. Up until recently basically said he thought Donald Trump was wrong. That's what makes different from Reagan, right? With Reagan, you had the idea that there were pure true believing conservatives who believe Reagan was one of them and they thought there were moderates who are trying to kind of carve off the hard edges of Reagan. But that's not what this is about. Because we don't what does Scaramucci thinks Donald Trump actually stands for that Scaramucci actually believes in anyway?

COOPER: But the irony is one of the, you know, arguably one of the true believers for Donald Trump is Jeff Sessions, who is actually executing policy on the President.

GREEN: Exactly. And we're playing, I left the country today to fly to El Salvador, maybe get distance from this chaos. But that's the real frustration among true believing conservatives in the administration. They understand that this White House has a considerable amount of dysfunction, and they also understand that Sessions is one of the few people capable of carrying out some of Trump's policies.

In fact, was doing so, we see immigration arrests up, and all the things that Trump talks about at his rallies, Sessions has been working to carry out. And yet that's not what we're talking about on T.V., that's not what Trump is thinking about. And the story to go to Jeff's point, Scaramucci is out there trying to glorify Trump, but he's making the story all about him. And I think that's problematic for everyone in the White House.

PHILLIP: Yes, I think to Peter's point about policies, for the people who call themselves movement conservatives, who are finally getting their Republican president, their Republican congresses, the quiet frustration, or not so quiet frustration is that there is not a whole lot on paper about what this President believes and what he wants to accomplish. There's a one-page tax plan, there's a health care bill that's in bits and pieces right now, there's an infrastructure plan that doesn't exist and there's a lot of frustration that the issue isn't communication, it's actually the lack of policies, the lack of things, concrete views of the President of the United States. That hasn't been resolved by any of this.

COOPER: Yes. I want to thank everybody. Also, understand that Josh's book is going to be debuting at number one on "The New York Times" best-seller list. Congratulation on that.


COOPER: That's huge, that's great. Everybody should check it.

Up next and the update on the other breaking news, the new effort under way on Capitol Hill to scale back Obamacare. The restart of so- called vote-a-rama expected within the hour. The question is, can Republicans get anything passed after Lindsey Graham just called the bill half-assed.


[20:42:58] COOPER: Back to other breaking news tonight as Brianna Keilar reported at the top of the hour, a Senate vote is expected on the so-called skinny repeal of Obamacare. I want to check back in with Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill. So you mentioned earlier Paul Ryan issued a statement offering some assurances to senators, that they would go to conference. Is this a game changer for the Senate Republicans who demanded those assurances?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We just don't know. And there were like about four Republicans who did demand it. But most Republicans want this, Anderson. This assurance that actually what they're going to vote on is not going to become law. Unusual because it is. What they are voting on is this so-called Skinny repeal. It's not actually what they would want for the House to take, and then pass, and then put on President Trump's desk. So they wanted some assurances that that wasn't going to happen. Instead, they want to vote on this skinny repeal.

If they can use it as a vehicle just to get together with House Republicans and hash out a new bill, a very different bill, and what the speaker said was, yes, he will give them assurances, but he also said the Senate is going to have to act first in voting. And he also said, look, the priority is to pass something.

So in there is a little bit of a threat. You have to figure out something, Senate, to pass because we want to pass something in the House.

COOPER: And just -- let's talk about this idea of a skinny repeal. Explain, you know, why it's being called that, what it actually includes? I mean, it would eliminate the individual mandate, right?

KEILAR: Yes, think of it as repeal light. Because it does do something key which is it gets rid of the individual mandates, it get rid of the employer mandated, the defunds Planned Parenthood for a year, but it doesn't do what the House bill does. And in part, that's because Senate Republicans, they couldn't get enough votes to deal with things like the subsidies, the Medicaid expansion that is very much downsized in the House bill, to deal with taxes.

And so that's why it's being called the skinny bill. I will tell you, Anderson, some Republicans do not like that. In fact, one GOP aide said whoever named it skinny repeal should get kicked in the face because it speaks to the idea that Republicans aren't doing a full repeal in the Senate, and they really want to certainly appear like they are trying to make good on this promise to repeal Obamacare.

[20:45:09] COOPER: Yes, I appreciate it. Thanks very much. We'll continue to check back in with you.

Ken Cuccinelli joins us along with Doug Heye and Jen Psaki as well.

So, when you -- there was the announcement, Doug, from the four key Republican Senators. Senator Graham said the skinny bill is as policy as a disaster, the skinny bill is a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud. Is he right?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think so. I think we know that the House is now promised that they'll vote on something that takes it to conference. It's certainly unusual that the Senate will be voting on something that a lot of them hope doesn't become law. That's obviously not a position that they want to be in.

But it also highlights how difficult it is to do anything on health care. I think aside from President Trump, we all knew that health care reform, that Obamacare repeal was a very difficult and complicated thing. House Republicans have been demonstrating this for about four or five years now, and all the struggles they've had. I've worked on some of those. It's about time the Senate learns how to actually move something as well.

COOPER: Jen, I mean as somebody who supports Obamacare, obviously in the efforts of the Democrats, how concerned are you?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think if you look closely at Paul Ryan's statement, he said, if it requires a conference committee, we are willing to do that. It will be up of course to Republican senators to determine if that's enough of an assurance. Reportedly he's meeting with the conference tomorrow as well, so many of them are going to have to make that decision tonight.

I think Obamacare repeal is still alive. And I think what we've learned over the past couple of weeks when many thought it was dead before this week is that until Democrats take over either the House or the Senate or the White House, this drumbeat is probably going to continue. Whether or not this effort is successful, I think we'll know a lot more over the next 24 hours.

COOPER: Ken, obviously this is probably not what you envisioned the Obamacare repeal would look like that is from the ideal world in the last seven years of Republicans talking about this. What do you make of the process and where it's going?

KENNETH CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's interesting, you hear the staff comment of whoever named this skinny repeal ought to be kicked in the face because it doesn't trick people enough into thinking this is real repeal. Look, these folks have campaigned for years. They've made half careers, whole careers for some of them, out of campaigning against Obamacare. And here it's time to deliver and now they don't want to deliver. And some of them are downright vehement about it.

And really, more than anything, they need to be held up to that standard. Let them vote on it. If it doesn't pass, it doesn't pass. And then this gets litigated again in 2018. And then they have to go back to voters and say, no, no, now this is what I really believe. And particularly with the environment with voters that helped deliver President Trump to the presidency, I think that's going to be an awfully hard stew to jump in for Republican senators who are flipping back on the promises they've made for years.

COOPER: Doug, if Paul Ryan promises that there will be this, you know, discussion, is that a binding promise? I mean, is it possible that Congress -- folks in Congress and the House could just get together and say, look, we're just going to vote this forward?

HEYE: Well, it's a promise that when Paul Ryan gives his word, he means it. He's trying to -- he's in obviously a very difficult situation in trying to do something. You know, I can take you back to 2014 when I was in a lot of meetings with Paul Ryan, some of his staff, other committee chair where we tried to move any kind of legislation forward. We couldn't even put a white paper together. So to think that this is something easy I think Republicans have demonstrated it's a very hard thing to do. But to the attorney general, Cuccinelli's point, campaigns really matter here. I'd point out four races in the Senate where we nominated terrible candidates who close seats in Delaware, Indiana, Missouri and Nevada. If we had those four Republican Senate Seats right now instead of Democratic senate seats we're probably not having this conversation.

COOPER: Doug, since you've been there, what does a conference look like? I mean, how many people are involved in that, from the Senate, from the House, I assume it's staffer as well as members?

HEYE: Yes, initial meetings will be a small group of staffers, maybe six to ten to 12 members. You'll have anywhere from four to six, the top leadership, and then the committees of jurisdiction members.

But ultimately, every member has a say. When the Republican conference -- House Republican conference meets tomorrow, they'll have something that's called open time where any member can get up and say whatever they want to on anything. And I can tell you, it won't surprise you. A lot of members aren't shy to get up there and express their feelings, maybe even using some kind of Scaramucci-like language.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, Anderson, look, the Republican leadership, especially in the Senate, is at a crisis point, because they've been exposed as liars. The entire leadership has been exposed for lying. Remember root and branch, root and branch, it involved out root and branch. So if we had people who just were honest in the Senate Republican leadership, we could pass a bill but they aren't honest and the voters are finding this out the hard way because the thing they wanted the most policy wise for the last seven years is being yanked out from under them when the votes are there to deliver it, because we have liars and leadership. That's the problem. And it's going to be explosive in 2018.

[20:50:19] HEYE: I just don't think that's true.

CUCCINELLI: I know you don't think it's true. But the facts remain, Paul Ryan may be honest with you but he wasn't honest with conservatives when he became the speaker. So the people in the Senate have to look at that and go, gosh, what is this worth? Eventually it catches up to you and it's catching up to the Republican leadership right now.

COOPER: Jen, I just want to -- you were communications director for President Obama. I do -- I've just got to ask you, what do you make of the new communications director Anthony Scaramucci's comments? And presume you talk like that all the time to reporters when you talk. But --

PSAKI: My mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if I ever talked like that publicly. COOPER: But look, I mean, look, adults talk like that behind the scenes just -- you know, where mixed of story that talking like that to a reporter. But just in terms of his ability to get things done and move the President's agenda forward, what do you make of it?

PSAKI: Well look, you never are supposed to be the story when you're the White House communications director. You're supposed to be telling the story of your boss and you're certainly not supposed to be making his story worse.

So what I think, you know, put the language aside he obviously apologized for that. People can take that for what they want. But the problem here is he is becoming the center of attention and right now the health care bill is potentially imploding. We don't know what's happening with tax reform. When you're the communications director, you're supposed to be mapping out the strategy for that and telling the story of the President's agenda to the public. And clearly he isn't doing that. I'm not convinced he wasn't hired to be the communications director in the traditional sense of that. So that may be a separate issue.

COOPER: Yes. Thanks everybody. Up next, more on that perspective from the former chief of staff Leon Panetta on what some are calling a White House in chaos.


COOPER: The President's new communications direction for Anthony Scaramucci went off on Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in a profanity field phone call with New Yorker reporter and CNN Political Commentator Ryan Lizza. Before the interview was published, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the status of Priebus. Let's listen.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Does the President have confidence in his Chief of Staff?

[20:54:59] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think I've addressed this question when it comes to staffing and personnel many times, that if the President doesn't, then he'll make that decision. We all serve at the pleasure of the President, and if he gets to a place where that isn't the case, he'll let you know.

KARL: So you can't say right now if the President has full confidence in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus?

SANDERS: I think I just answered that. Look, I think what we have -- this is a White House that has a lot of different perspectives, because the President hires the very best people.


COOPER: That's pretty much a non-answer to the question and in this case a non-answer about whether the President has confidence in his chief of staff is actually kind of an answer, ironically.

Joining me tonight for his take on all of this Leon Panetta, former Chief of Staff to President Clinton, he's also former CIA director and former Defense Secretary. Secretary Panetta, I wonder, when you were the White House Chief of Staff, did the communications director of the White House accused you have leaking, referred to as a thing paranoid schizophrenic to a reporter, what would you have done and what would you expect the president do?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Number one, you can't run a White House where you have members publicly shooting at one another while the president needs the support of a strong staff in order to be able to conduct policy. You just can't do that. And as chief of staff, if the communications director publicly said something like that, then I would have a very serious talk with the communications director and with the president to make sure it never happens again.

He's just gotten into this job and he's probably trying to learn the ropes of how you operate in Washington but there is no excuse for having one staff member going public and attacking another. That just doesn't make good sense.

COOPER: You know, Sarah Huckabee Sanders today said this is just helping competition, whether it's, you know, the comments by Mr. Scaramucci, the sort of the treatment of Reince Priebus, the treatment of the attorney general, treatment of Sean Spicer. Does looking from the outside, how do you explain what the President is doing? Is there a strategy there, do you think?

PANETTA: I have no idea what the method is here. The way you're supposed to do this, frankly, is that if you -- sure, you should have good competition. Sure, you should have individuals in the staff who are strong-minded, strong-willed and have opinions. But that should take place inside the White House. Not out in the public.

Look, most Presidents exert power in their position because they are able to earn the trust and respect of the people who work for them, of members in the Congress and of the American people. And if you develop that trust and respect that can give you a lot of leverage to be able to get things done.

But when you have chaos, when you have people fighting with each other on the staff, when you have a president who's tweeting every day, either undermining and demeaning his attorney general or talking politics to the boy scouts or saying we ought to prosecute the person he defeated in November, if he keeps doing that and if his staff members keep shooting at one another, then the bottom line is that he is not going to be able to be effective as president of the United States.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, this morning Anthony Scaramucci in an interview to CNN said something which got a lot of attention. I just want to play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCARAMUCCI: As you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. Well, I can tell you two fish that don't stink, OK? And that's me and the President.


COOPER: I wonder why when you make it, it's obviously the whole idea of the fish, you know, running from the head down, I mean the head of the fish is the President.

PANETTA: Well, you know, I think he's been watching a lot of "The godfather" and I think he's got to recognize that regardless of his background where he comes from New York, he's now in Washington. He's now in the White House and he's got to learn be able to devote himself to ensuring that the President's agenda is accomplished. This is not about Scaramucci. When he becomes the issue, then that's a trouble. Staff members ought to be in the headlines. They ought to be quiet and they ought to be doing their job. And that's what he's got to learn to do.

COOPER: You talked about the President's tweets. Just last, I want to ask about the ban on transgender people in the military. President Trump announced via Twitter yesterday, you were the Secretary of Defense that oversaw the repeal, don't ask, don't tell in 2011. Does yesterday's announcement make sense to you both how it was made and the policy itself?

[21:00:04] PANETTA: No, not at all. I think it frankly undermines something that has made the United States, the strongest military power on the face of the earth.