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Scaramucci: Priebus "Is A Fu***ing Paranoid Schizophrenic"; Senators Demand Assurances House Won't Pass "Skinny" Repeal Bill; Scaramucci Threatens To Fire Entire WH Communications Team; Sessions: Trump Attacks "Kind of Hurtful". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 27, 2017 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: -- made and the policy itself?

[21:00:03] LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: 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. The fact that we allow everyone to serve our country, we have opened the doors to people that want to be good soldiers and serve this country, regardless of race, regardless of color or creed, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation. If they can be a good soldier, then they ought to be given the opportunity to serve.

COOPER: Secretary Panetta, appreciate your time. Thanks.

PANETTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Lawmakers right now are soldiering on in the battle over health care. There are phrases like "skinny repeal" and "vote-a- rama," being thrown around. The Democrat reflect the urgency of the situation. Obamacare is hanging in the balance, for some, health care itself may be and for something so important. And there still a lot of mystery about what is going on tonight. Let's get the latest. Ryan Nobles joins me from the Hill. So let's talk about this so- called "vote-a-rama." Where do things stand right now? How long is expected to go tonight?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRSPONDENT: Anderson, we're still waiting for the 20 hours of debate to conclude before we get to that stage of "vote-a-rama" which is essentially an opportunity for members to offer up a variety of amendments having to do with this health care bill. Most of them, we should point out, will likely get voted down. Once "vote-a-rama" starts, and it could start here in the next hour, there's no telling how long it will go. Essentially as long as these senators have in them to continue offering up amendments and keep in mind that each one these amendment requires a full roll call vote. So, if they offer up 50 amendments, it could take at least 10 minutes per amendment for them to all get push through, so we could easily be here until, well, into tonight and into tomorrow morning.

COOPER: And Paul Ryan, seeming to make some assurances to Senate Republicans. The question I guess is, is it enough for the Senate Republicans? NOBLES: Well, assurance, it seems to be the key word as we get into the late night hours here tonight. And I want to play for you a bit of a press conference that was held earlier today where Senator Lindsey Graham and a few other senators talked about this assurance that they need from Speaker Paul Ryan that if they pass this bill, it will go to conference. Listen to what Lindsey Graham had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it blood oath? I'm serious.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR: We don't have it. It's like pornography. You'll know it when you see it.


NOBLES: And so, has he seen it yet? Well, we know that Paul Ryan put out a lengthy statement about an hour ago where he said that he is willing for this bill to go to conference if the Senate passed it, but yet, assurance at this point is not enough for many of the senators. In fact, we talked to quite a few of them in just the last hour. Graham said he's still undecided despite Paul Ryan's statement. He wants to talk to the speaker on the phone himself. John McCain, who was also at the press conference, said, "That it's not sufficient." And Ron Johnson said that he appreciates the statement but he's still undecided.

So Anderson, this is very much a fluid situation. It is up in the air. We still don't know if there are enough votes to pass this so- called "skinny repeal."

COOPER: Now, we're going to be covering this all night long. The word came out in the "New Yorker," just a few hours ago, a phone call from the new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci to "New Yorker" reporter and CNN Political Analyst Ryan Lizza. Scaramucci was upset because Lizza have tweeted that Scaramucci was having dinner with the president, Sean Hannity, and a former Fox News executive based on (INAUDIBLE) two sources. And Scaramucci wanted to know who leaked that information. The phone call that followed is a rare moment in American politics. Not the fact that it was filled with curse words, and one White House staff are throwing others to the wolves, but the fact that it wasn't off the record and the fact that this whole staffing drama is playing out almost in realtime on television and in print. Here's what Ryan Lizza had to say when I talked to him a short time ago.


COOPER: I want to read part of what Scaramucci said to you, "Reince is a," blanking, "paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac," he said. "He channeled Priebus as he spoke: "Oh, Bill shine is coming in. Let me leak the," blanking, "thing and see if I can," blank, "blocked these people the way I," blank, "blocked Scaramucci for six months." Didn't Scaramucci say that they were actually dear friend just last week of the press briefing? RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He did. He did. He said there was no friction between and they fight like brothers, but at the end of the day, they're brother. 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. And the first part of the conversation 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, you know, I tweeted that -- it wasn't a significant enough scoop to write a story about it. You know, it's interesting who the president is having dinner with, but I didn't think it was a big deal but he did.

[21:05:09] COOPER: I want to read another part of the conversation that you wrote up in the "New Yorker." "I asked these guys not to leak anything and they can't help themselves. You're an American citizen," he was 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, you know, 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, you know, sell him out and tell and reveal that he was the source for something.

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 what he said.

LIZZA: You're going to make me read this one.

COOPER: Use your judgment on this one.

LIZZA: Yes. Yes. You got to be careful with some of these. They're pretty salty. So, yes, we were talking about, you know, I was talking to Anthony about, you know, our coverage and profiles about him and, you know, whether he would cooperate or not and he compared himself to Bannon and he 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," blank, "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, creating the media spotlight and that he, Anthony Scaramumucci, was going to try and stay more behind the scenes. You know, leave it to viewers to decide if that's what's happened over the past week.


COOPER: And Jeff Zeleny joins me now from the White House. Jeff, it's interesting, Anthony Scaramucci just tweeted about Ryan Lizza. What did he say? Because previously he had put out a tweet which was sort of funny and sort of saying, look, you know, I used this kind of language and clearly I won in this arena again, but I'm focused on the president's agenda. What's he now saying?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's clear that there's still cleanup going here with Anthony Scaramucci. As you said, just about five minutes or so ago, he did send a new tweet and he said this directly directed at Ryan Lizza there. He said, "I made a mistake in trusting a reporter. It won't happen again." Of course, there's no apology in that tweet. He simply is saying, you know, not denying that he said any of those things. He said I made a mistake in trusting a reporter. But as you said, different language that he tweeted, a couple hours or so ago, earlier this evening when he directly addressed that vulgar language he used. This is what he said then, Anderson. He said, "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for Donald Trump's agenda. #makeAmericagreatagain."

Again, no apologies for insults to the top high command of this White House, chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus. No apology.

COOPER: What I don't understand, Jeff, what he's mad at Ryan Lizza about, he called up Ryan Lizza, never asked for this to be off the record which any adult who's in the communications business knows to do if they want somebody to be off the record and then went on to try to get Ryan Lizza to reveal his sources which in the other thing -- like anybody who's in the communications business knows, that's a nonstarter. And then went on to call the chief of staff a -- all sorts of things and say other things about, you know, gymnastics with Steve Bannon. What does he expect? I'm not sure why he would be angry at a reporter for reporting something which was fully on the record.

ZELENY: Well, look, reporters are easy to be angry at, right? I mean, if you're him, you certainly can't -- I mean, I guess one option to be angry at yourself for saying this but, look, I mean, this is a growing pain, I guess, I would say, or a lesson being learned here by Anthony Scaramucci to this new position. It's, you know, worth pointing out. He's been in this job less than a week. He actually hasn't even officially started. That comes next week. But boy, what a lesson he is getting in how this actually works.

I mean, Anthony Scaramucci is someone who is used to talking to reporters a lot as an outside adviser. Well now he speaks for the government of United States, he speaks for the president of the United States. And, of course, when he called up Ryan Lizza and had that, you know, very colorful conversation after his dinner, it was recorded and the reality here is now the White House is left with a mess to clean up. They would -- should be talking about, if you talk to Republicans in this town, about health care. The president should be making calls at this hour trying to get people -- you know, senators to vote for this. Instead, they're talking about all of this.


ZELENY: And, Anderson, tonight, we're still left with an uncertainty. Does the president have confidence in his chief of staff? Sarah huckabee Sanders, the new Press Secretary, essentially didn't answer that and I caught up with her just a short time ago this evening outside of the White House here, Anderson, and she defended Anthony Scaramucci. She said, look, he used a colorful language. He's passionate. He won't do it again.

[21:10:18] But Anderson, as we end this week here at the White House, or begin to end this week, internal feuding and fighting is the story of the day, certainly overtaking their agenda.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff, thanks very much.

I want to go -- bring back Ryan Lizza from "The New Yorker." So Ryan, the new tweet from Anthony Scaramucci was, "I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again", what's your response?

LIZZA: Well, I guess, I just think he's taking the wrong lesson away from this. Remember, he's the Communications Director. And actually, this exactly what I told him today, when I was -- when I called him and walked him through the piece and told him it would be hosting.

And, you know, I said, look, you're the Communications Director for the most powerful institution in the world. When you call a reporter and you talk to them on the record about something that is newsworthy and then indeed, you know, when you talk about that same conversation this morning on the record, you know, there's no -- it's important that the public understands who the people at the White House are.

And, you know, it's not a matter of trust. It's a matter of we as reporters and journalists, trying to explain who these people are to the American people. And when you do it on-the-record interview with someone, it's standard operating procedure that those -- that interview, then, gets reported.

COOPER: Right. If he had said to you that just for --

LIZZA: So to me it's not, yes.

COOPER: -- people who are watching at home and may not follow the ins and outs of Reporting 101, but if he had said to you, look, I want to talk to you off the record, then you would not have reported this.


COOPER: Correct?

LIZZA: That would be a very, very different. And one of the things we talked about last night, now, this conversation started because he wanted me to reveal anonymously sourced conversations. And so the whole beginning of my conversation with him was, Anthony, I can't do that. These are people that trusted me with information. I agreed not to tell the public who they are and I agreed not to tell other White House officials who they are. So I sort of walked him through sort of how, you know, Reporting 101 in Washington.

So I think that his lesson from this is that, you know, it's a trust issue. I think he's taking the wrong lesson from this. And, you know, he's a big boy in a big job and when you have it on the record conversation with a reporter about something newsworthy, you should expect that it's going to be reported. Just like when goes on CNN's air and speaks publicly, it's no different though when he's talking to a print reporter over the phone.

COOPER: Right. If he wants something to be off the record and not reported, you can arrange that with the reporter.

LIZZA: Yes. And I've had these cases with maybe people in the public at a rally, who don't understand the rules of journalism, and they start talking and then say, "Oh, I really -- I don't want to be recorded on that." And you can kind of understand a sort of civilian, you know, not wanting that.

But when the Communications Director for the president of the United States calls you and you do an interview with them, you report what that person said if it's newsworthy and that's what happened in this case.

COOPER: All right. Ryan Lizza, appreciate you coming back. Thank you.

I want to bring in Josh Green, Abby Philip, Jeffrey Lord, Maria Cardona, and Errol Lewis.

Jeffrey, just for me, you know, reporting standpoint, is there -- Ryan Lizza didn't do anything wrong from the rule of journalism?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, he didn't. And then I think that Anthony Scaramucci just learned a lesson here. I mean, look, it's his -- what -- he's not even officially on the job.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: He's a smart guy. He'll be fine here. One thing that I would want to flag, Anderson, all of the attention, this is typical of all of the stories that get focused on us sort of inside baseball (ph) thing. Our CNN colleague Salena Zito, went to Youngstown the other night with, you know, we had Gary Tuchman there, et cetera.

She interviewed a lot of people. And at the close of her piece when she was talking about the enthusiasm, she talk about a woman that came up toward and said, look, what I love about him is he is not the traditional politician. He doesn't do things this way. I don't like the people that are there. He does it in a whole different way. They don't like it. That's why I sent him there.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: So I just think that as we go through this kind of a story, we need to remember that the audience out there, there's a lot of these people who think, yes --

COOPER: You know, I don't think the story is that he used salty language. I mean, I think, you know --

LORD: Right.

COOPER: -- everybody is an adult we've all used --

LORD: Washington manner wise.

COOPER: It's more about what it says about, you know, potential or possible dysfunction inside the White House. To me that's what the story is, I mean, yes, the language, you know, may be getting more people's attention, but that's the story --


COOPER: -- that somebody is going on the record talking about the chief of staff.

LORD: Yes.

CARDONA: Exactly, and not just somebody, Anderson, the Communications Director of the president of the United States. I'm sorry. Yes, he might just have gotten on the job, but he is the Communications Director of the president of the United States.

LORD: I think he communicated --

CARDONA: He clearly does not have the qualifications for this job, because the first rule of communications is you have to know when you're speaking to a reporter if it's on the record, off the record, on background, what the rules are. And he clearly was either clueless about it, or didn't care or thought maybe Ryan --

COOPER: But I also think in this White House, I don't think he's probably in trouble, do you? I mean, this is probably something the president -- to your point, there's a lot of people listening it was like, yes, he talks like me.


COOPER: I would say the same thing. And more power to him.

JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOLBERG BUSINESSWEEK: And I would assumed that, you know, I've made a lot of calls to none Scaramucci advisers today and got mostly silence. And it's clear that people want him to hang himself by his own rope, that there aren't other factions coming out and really trying to inject their viewpoints into the story.

COOPER: And you were saying, while he was talking to CNN this morning, you were there and you were getting actually messages?

GREEN: In realtime texts peoples, you know, minds being blown and that certainly, after the fact you didn't see a lot of people coming out and leaking and trying to make themselves part of the story. I think the Bannons and Priebuses kind of fail back and they're going to let Scaramucci clean up his own mess.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, even among people who are defenders of Scaramucci, there was a kind of a sense that this had really gotten a way out of hand, that that it had fallen off a cliff here.

COOPER: But didn't somebody -- one person who would e-mail and call it a car crash?

GREEN: Yes. This is a car crash. Another person has said it's probably actually extended Priebuse's tenure. But I think what this was a clumsy attempt by Scaramucci to try and show that he's cracking the whip and trying to impose some kind of order. I do think he was trying to communicate a message.

I think he just did a hand handedly.

PHILLIP: I think it's also worth noting that these people are being paid by the United States government, by the American people to do a job. And what they've been doing for six months is fighting with each other essentially.

You know, I think, Jeffrey, you're right. There are a lot of Americans out there in Youngstown who like Donald Trump, who want him to be an unusual vehicle for change. But he has to actually also change things and right now, that's the the big problem, in fact the personality is there. The change is not there.

And Anthony Scaramucci is feeding into that but he's also not facilitating this White House actually accomplishing their agenda.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, everybody is going to focus on the obscenities and so forth and how a lot of control when he was there, but if you go back to the tweet that he deleted last night, and, you know, when he's saying publicly he's going to sick the FBI on the White House Chief of Staff, that's serious stuff. That's not --

CARDONA: Isn't that illegal?

LOUIE: Well, you know, and --

CARDONA: They're certainly not possible (ph).

LOUIS: -- if the first rule is to know when you're on the record as a Communications Director, the second rule has got to be, you know, get your facts right. You know, he was going crazy and alleging a felony against the Chief of Staff over what was in the end public information. He's got to get up to speed very, very quickly.

COOPER: We're going to have more with the panel ahead. We'll also hear more on Scaramucci's long and interesting interview on the CNN's "New Day" this morning hours, after he called Ryan Lizza.

Also breaking news this hour, the health care so-called 'vote-a-rama" that I don't really know who name that, because things a rama, and that really seem to work after a while like, rides.

Anyway, it's expected to begin in about 15 minutes. We'll get the latest on that.


[21:22:12] COOPER: Well, hours after White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci called Ryan Lizza and unloaded on Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, he made another call to CNN's "NEW DAY" while they are live on the air. The (INAUDIBLE) bombs were missing but the metaphors were flying. Here are some of the highlights.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: The president brought me in. He knows I'm his friend first, Chris. You're from New York, I'm from New York. The president is from New York.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN NEW DAY HOST: This White House leaks more than any I have ever been in contact with. And I think that they're--

SCARAMUCCI: It's ridiculous.

CUOMO: But I don't know if I'd use the word ridiculous because I think that a lot of the leaks --

SCARAMUCCI: OK, let me put it this way, How's this, Chris? Unprofessional? You became a verbal proofreader overnight.

CUOMO: -- he wanted to focus on the leaks instead of the substance and I'm saying journalistically that is a concern. Politically, I get why you want a police message within your house. I get it.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. Well, let me push back on that because -- I didn't study that like Quincy. I wasn't a coroner studying that. Remember the Jack Klugman show?

CUOMO: He was a medical examiner, not a coroner. But continue.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. I told the president this morning, when the iceberg hits the boat, the rats start flying up from steerage, right? Because the water comes in steerage, OK? So, when you mention the FBI and the Department of Justice, you watch how the rats lift in the boat.

CUOMO: Yes, I understand. But you know what the problem is, is that you're putting -- the boat gets put into the iceberg. The iceberg does not hit the boat. And my point of the analogy correction is --

SCARAMUCCI: OK, that's really cute. You're doing a good job this morning --

CUOMO: If you bring in the FBI--

SCARAMUCCI: That's really cute way to spin my metaphor, but you get the point that I'm making. I told Tapper, I'll send him a box of Kleenex. CUOMO: Yes. I don't know why you said that, by the way.

SCARAMUCCI: I'll send him a box of Kleenex when he wins the election in 2020.

CUOMO: Jake Tapper is one of the most straight down-the-middle guys. It's insulting when you say that. It's insulting when you say that.

SCARAMUCCI: Removed. What's that?

CUOMO: It's insulting when you say something like that to Jake Tapper, by the way.

SCARAMUCCI: All right. I'm teasing him.

CUOMO: But that's not a nice thing to tease a journalist about.

SCARAMUCCI: In many times you're unbelievable. You're allowed to hit me with a battle axe.

CUOMO: It's like teasing us about being Italian, it's not nice, it's offensive. When you say to a journalist I'll bring you Kleenex because you'll be upset if the President gets reelected, you're suggesting that they're biased. It's not nice.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, OK, Chris, I'll tell you what. You'll send me a toilet paper if he losses, how's that? I'll send you Kleenex. I'm making a joke. What I love about you guys, you hit me three times hard. I say something teasing, you guys get upset.

CUOMO: You think this is hard?


CUOMO: I'm giving you pats on the head like you're a puppy. These are just regular questions.


COOPER: It was quite a morning. Back now with the panel. I mean, you were there. I mean --

GREEN: Yes. What Chris Cuomo did to Anthony Scaramucci that I think is what the kids call getting owned. I mean he just keep coming after and then after and Scaramucci was so uncomfortable and seemed to pivot between being aggressive and teasing. This kind of jocular towel snapping, we'll also trying to clearly ingratiate himself to Trump. And also, what seems to me to be menacing his own people on the press staff saying, I'm going to stop these leaks if I have to fire everybody, I'm going to get rid of them. So, it wasn't clear exactly what direction he was trying to take.

[21:25:17] COOPER: It is interesting. I mean it's got to be a difficult thing to go from, you know, he's a business person, successful, put it on air, and then to suddenly be in this other role. And, obviously, look, it's a choice he made. I mean and he's a smart guy and he'll, you know, he made the choice.

But making that transition where suddenly you're in the past or jocular way with --

LORD: It's easier and I think you might agree with this, it's easier to go from the government and the White House to the media --

LORD: Yes.


LORD: -- than it is to go in the reverse.

CARDONA: Well, except for it wouldn't be that hard if, actually, when you went into the White House as Communications Director you had the qualifications to be the White House Communications Director which Scaramucci --

LORD: But that is subjective.

CARDONA: No, it's not subjective. As a Communication Director, this why I feel so strongly about this, I've been a Communications Director for my whole political life, right? That was my career.

You get trained for it. You work for it. You understand the circumstances under which you can talk to reporters and it takes practice.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: Let me ask this, because, you know, they were having discussion there about leaks and Chris was saying how much this White House leaks. Isn't a lot of that about sort of allegiance and loyalty and respect? I mean, if, you know, Donald Trump likes to make a big deal about how loyal he is.

You know, I don't think Reince Priebus feels that or I'm not sure Sean Spicer feels that or Attorney General Sessions feels that and a number of other people. And if you treat people in a certain way or make them feel a certain way, they're not going to be loyal to you. You're not going to get the loyalty that you expect.

CARDONA: And in fact he said something astounding this morning, which was that he said that there are people in the White House who believe they have to protect the country from President Trump. That is astounding to hear from somebody who is supposedly a Trump supporter appointees, most everybody in the White House is a political appointee who is supposed to underscore his agenda and be for it.

PHILLIP: To give you a sense of as a reporter working with this White House, it has been notable that in this White House, you are much more likely to get an answer when you are writing a story about Reince Priebus or Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway than if you're writing a story about President Trump. That's true. It is true that there are a lot of people within this White House who have allegiances to each other and not as many who have allegiances to the president. Some of that Trump loyalist blame on this idea that he brought in a lot of RNC people when he came into the White House. The White House is not a sort of Trump camp. Some of those people were kept out.

But what I'm saying is, we've got to listen to what Anthony Scaramucci is saying because he's not making this up out of thin air. This is in part the view of the president and the people closest to him and he's not surrounded by loyalists in this White House and --

COOPER: That's clearly something that they seem to want to surround him with or get back to, they feel they come with that.

GREEN: And I think one thing Scaramucci did do well was convey Donald Trump's wishes and concerns.

LORD: Yes.

GREEN: I mean, there's one thing that came through in that conversation.

LORD: Yes.

GREEN: This is what the president -- he did communicate and I think one of the difficulties was the media. I mean he's a very polished, smooth cable news pundit by all accounts and talking to reporters.


GREEN: And a very personable guy, you know, in person. I think calling into a cable show and not really understanding the medium, the venue and context in which it would be taken as White House Communications Director rather than Anthony Scaramucci, friend of the president and outside adviser one of the things that tripped him up.

CARDONA: So clearly, he was not hired to be White House Communications Director. He was hired to be President Trump's political hedge man. Because the way that he's talking about, you know, threatening people because of these leaks, talking about how -- there are people in the White House who aren't serving the president. The people in the White House, yes, they serve the president, but ultimately they serve the country and the United States. And if they believe what Trump is doing is being harmful to the country, you're going to get leaks no matter who is there.

LORD: But what's happening here is there is this never Trump syndrome in Washington. Lots of people -- it's bipartisan. I'm not shocked that some of this made its way into the White House.

So what he's saying here is absolutely correct. There are a whole lot of people when you listen to the conservative talk radio, they talk about a silent coup and insiders versus outsiders. This is really pretty fierce and the fact that you were getting these kinds of phone calls while he is on the air says everything you need to know about the depth of that kind of problem that is in Washington.

PHILLIPS: But I think even -- I think most observers looking at this interview this morning would agree that it didn't exactly go well. Even Anthony Scaramucci agreed in the interview that he felt that he was being hit too hard. So it wasn't like he came out of this thinking that it was some sort of home run for him.

[21:30:06] COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We've got more ahead with the panel.

The Senate is trying to repeal parts of Obamacare tonight but it may not be so easy. The voting is expected to start any minute. We'll take you to the Capitol Hill for an update.


COOPER: Well, back to our health care breaking news tonight. The Senate is about to start its so-called "vote-a-rama" any minute on a partial repeal of Obamacare. But the question is will Republicans actually go for it?

Ryan Nobles joins us from Capitol Hill. So where are things -- or what's happening right now?

NOBLES: Well, we are still waiting for them to close off the 20 hours of debate. There is an activity now on the Senate floor. They are currently voting on an amendment that would permanently repeal the so- called Cadillac health insurance plans, a tax on those health insurance plans.

This is not part of the "vote-a-rama." This is still part of the debate process.

At any moment, this portion of the process should end and then we'll get to that "vote-a-rama." But what we're really waiting to see here, Anderson, is whether or not this group of senators and these Republican senators are prepared to vote for this scaled down version of Obamacare repeal. There are still many senators that remain undecided.

And Anderson, in just the last hour, as many of these senators were walking onto the floor, our team of reporters, that's scattered throughout by the chamber, were asking these senators, "Have you made a decision?" A couple of them said yes, they had made a decision but they didn't want to reveal that decision until the vote went down. Kind of a peculiar stance to take, but this whole process has been pretty peculiar.

COOPER: And, you know, everyone knows it's called a "skinny repeal." Just explain what is being repealed.

NOBLES: So the main crux of the "skinny repeal" is that it gets rid of some of these big-ticket items that are a part of Obamacare. The big thing is that it would get rid of the individual mandate. That's the mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health care.

It also repeals the employer mandate, which is an important aspect of Obamacare. And it also gives states more flexibility over how they implement health care decisions, including whether or not they have to make coverage for pre-existing conditions a requirement.

One thing it does not do, one of the reasons it's considered a "skinny repeal," is that it doesn't deal with Medicaid at all, including the Medicaid expansion which was in a very important part of the original Affordable Care Act, Affordable Health Care Act. So this is what they're talking about right now.

[21:35:13] But Anderson, the particulars of the "skinny repeal" are really not that important because there are very few people who want this to become law. And what Mitch McConnell is trying to do tonight is convince at least 50 senators to pass something they don't ever want to see make it to President Trump's desk.


NOBLES: And that's part of the reason he's having such a difficult time.

COOPER: Yes, comes too real. Ryan, thanks very much.

I mean it is just a hard concept to wrap one's mind around. They are voting for something they don't actually want to come into law.

GREEN: It's mind boggling. And if they're seeking assurances from the House Speaker promising that he won't take it up if they pass it and surprise passing of self and move it into law. I think the problem --

COOPER: Well, for the folks who are watching at home, they're afraid that the House is just going to take the "skinny repeal" --

GREEN: Right.

COOPER: -- vote on it, pass it, and then it'll go to the president's desk and it become law.

GREEN: So they're on the verge of passing something that they don't dare want to become law. I mean, it's just -- it's hard -- we've never seen anything like this that I'm aware of.

PHILLIP: I think this is something that impacts so many Americans, such a huge portion of the economy. It's actually really unbelievable that they would do this because, you know, I think Ryan made the point that this "skinny repeal" is not what the final product is likely to be.

But people need to know what is in the bill and the fact that they don't know what's in it now and they don't know how that's going to unfold over the next couple of days or weeks is, I think pretty much unacceptable. I mean, I think people who are waiting at home to find out what happened to their health insurance ought to know.

LORD: Lindsey Graham, I think, got it exactly right. The point of this is to put pressure on both Republicans and Democrats to finally do something. And in that sense, I think he is absolutely right. I mean if they did pass this and it got to the House and they passed it and the president signed it, the heat would be on both parties to get their act together.


CARDONA: The heat would be on Republicans because you can't say that Democrats aren't ready to do something when Chuck Schumer is ready for when Republicans want to fix the Obamacare, not repeal and replace it, because they can't come up with a plan, they haven't been able to in seven years --

LORD: Well, I've heard about that --

CARDONA: -- that would actually work.

LORD: -- amazingly enough.

CARDONA: So I have an idea. If they're so afraid of voting for something because they are might be afraid it'll become law, then don't vote for it, right?

Try to figure out exactly what this will mean for the American people. This is too important to be play a gain, a political gain or so.

COOPER: The danger of not vote -- I mean for Republicans, the danger of, you know, going back to your district and not having fulfilled the promise to pass some sort of repeal and replace.

LORD: That's right. I mean this is a big deal.

And, you know, just for a second, this dinner that Ryan, you know, wrote about, included Sean Hannity up and, you know, fair and full disclosure, he's a friend of mine. So I don't know. I haven't talked to him about this.

But I can tell you that on his radio show, I mean he has just been relentless pebbling Republicans on this health care situation. And it is not at all hard to believe that, you know, whether it's last night at the dinner or over there right this minute, there are Republicans saying, if we don't do something, we are going to be done in by our old ways.

COOPER: Errol though, for people who are opposed to this, I mean there's no guarantee that it goes to conference at -- in, you know, for the House and Senate with their staffers and senators and Congress people, there's no guarantee that they will be able to come up with something.

LOUIS: Well, that's exactly right. And in fact, all of the evidence is to the contrary, right?

If they were able to sit down and have a conference, they would have done it by now. If they were able to arrive even, you know -- and this is a Republican-only process at this point.

If they were able to arrive on anything, I mean, you know, you have differences and inability to get to even 50 votes up until now for wildly different reasons where there are people like Rand Paul, who are kind of coming from one place, and you got people like Susan Collins, who are going in a different direction. And they don't have, I think, any reason to think that they're going to fix it now.

It could very speedily, if they were to vote for this. It goes to the House, it gets voted in, it gets signed, and then you have catastrophe and then perhaps something if that was that.

GREEN: And that's how you wind up with a situation where Republicans are both terrified to pass the bill and terrified not to.

LORD: Right.

CARDONA: But here's what I don't understand. They're so terrified to do nothing and for their constituents to pummel them for not repealing Obamacare when Obamacare is more popular than any of them are and including the president and when most people in this country don't want Obamacare to be repealed --

GREEN: It's not popular for Republicans, though.

CARDONA: -- they want it to be fixed. They want it to be fixed.

Well, guess what, the president is not just president of Republicans. He's president of the whole country.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: All right, we've got to take a quick break. More breaking news, Attorney General Sessions responding to the president's continued attacks on him. What he has to say when we come back.


[21:42:58] COOPER: More breaking news tonight, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is responding to President Trump's attacks. You likely to remember their one-sided feud started when the president said he's disappointed with Session's decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions was asked about that on Fox News. Listen.


TUCKER CARLSON, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT HOST: He has said again and again in many different forms throughout this mirage that you should've acted differently, you should've not have recused yourself from oversight of the Russia investigation. Do you agree with that?

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, you know, I understand his feelings about it because this has been a big distraction for him. But Tucker, I've talked to experts in the Department of Justice, people who are trained in that.

I'm confident that I made the right decision. The decision is consistent from the rule of law. And an attorney general who doesn't follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice. So I think as, what, 15 years in the department, having served in that great department, knowing that integrity that's required of the attorney general, I believe I made the right decision.


COOPER: Earlier, I spoke with House Intelligence Committee Member Congressman Peter King, for his take on all of this. But first, we discussed the new West Wing drama that Anthony Scaramucci phone called and basting Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.


COOPER: Congressman, I just want to start by getting your thoughts about Anthony Acaramucci calling the White House chief of staff, paranoid, schizophrenic and then suggesting Steve Bannon perform an act on himself. I mean are you concerned about how the White House is run, being organized?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Again, it all depends on how it plays out. I mean I don't know Anthony Scaramucci personally.

I've met him a couple of times. He's from Queens County. I've known a lot of guys like him who talk that way. He's very smart. He's very tough.

And I think if there was a tape recorder around when politicians certainly in New York, talk after hours, you'd hear that type of talk. Obviously, it can't go on forever but he was angry about something. So, listen, if I were on the receiving end of that, I probably would take a shot back but I'd try to forget it by the next day.

COOPER: I mean, this kind of thing usual here and, you know, the LBJ tapes, the Nixon tapes 40 years after administration is gone, you hear it in kind of realtime talking to a reporter on -- not on background even. Is it just wise for a communications director to say these things to a reporter to send them publicly?

[21:45:08] KING: Anthony Scaramucci is a tough, smart guy. He has his own style of doing things. He's come to the White House with a purpose in mind.

We'll see how it works out. I mean it -- this is an unorthodox administration, it was unorthodox campaign. President Trump was elected and he's -- the White House is being run in an unorthodox way.

We'll have to see. I mean, Scaramucci is a tough guy. And I think Reince Priebus and Bannon are pretty tough too. So we'll see how this works out. Maybe it will be like a cage match or something.

COOPER: What about for Attorney General Sessions? I'm wondering where you stand on how he's being treated. Does it make sense to you what the president is doing, the way he's publicly going after the attorney general or criticizing the attorney general? Should he just fire him if he's not happy with him? KING: You know, let me say I have a great regard for Jeff Sessions. I like Jeff Sessions. You put in very basic terms, my dealing with him, he's been the ultimate professional and certainly in dealing as attorney general -- as a Senator he was always the ultimate pro and nice guy. As attorney general I dealt with him on the issue of MS-13. He came into my district. He spent a good four, five hours meeting with the families of victims, meeting with the prosecutors, meeting with the FBI, meeting with Homeland Security, meeting with the local police and law enforcement officials. He's a perfect gentleman. And so I think he deserves to be treated well.

COOPER: You would like to see him stick around?

KING: I would, I think -- again, I can't speak for the president and he maybe has a different view of this. I don't know of anyone in the administration, certainly anyone in the cabinet who can be more of a Donald Trump supporter than Jeff Sessions. He was the only guy that was out there and during the campaign I would see him and be with him on election night and he's calm, he's reflective and he is really -- he is a solid Donald Trump Republican.

COOPER: Was it appropriate that he recused himself from the Russia investigation? Because that seems to be what initially has brought the ire of the president on it?

KING: Yes, I think he had to. I know Rudy Giuliani was asked that the other night. And he thought that Jeff Sessions did the right thing. I did also, I understand why the president feels that he's being trapped in a way and I am not a fan of independent counsel or special prosecutors, but I think at that moment in time that Jeff Sessions did what he had to do.

COOPER: Scaramucci also said today the president might veto the Russia sanctions bill saying the want or they may want something tougher. You voted for this bill, it was overwhelmingly passed.

KING: Yes.

COOPER: Does it make sense that the president would veto it, because if he wants something tougher you can always add more sanctions afterwards?

KING: I did vote for the bill. I was proud to vote for the bill. I would hope the resident signs it. And --

COOPER: Would you try to override a veto?

KING: If it came to a vote, I would have to because I support it so strongly, unless the president will have another alternative that would be worked on at the same time. I will put it this way, I want this to be the law.

COOPER: Congressman King, appreciate your time. Thank you.

KING: Anderson, thank you.


COOPER: Well, up next, an update on the Senate's health care efforts, have some movement to report to you. We'll be right back.


[21:51:00] COOPER: I want to give you a quick update on the health care battle in Congress tonight. Senator Ron Johnson says House Speaker Paul Ryan gave him, Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham, assurance over the phone that he'd go to conference if the Senate passes the bill to repeal parts of Obamacare.

Senator Graham says after that call, he will vote yes on the so-called "skinny repeal." There're so a lot of mystery surrounding the votes tonight though, obviously, a lot of controversy. Protesters have gathered outside the capitol, with the so-called "vote-a-rama" is expected to begin at any moment. Back now with the panel. I mean, does anybody have a sense of really what is going to happen at this point?

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, I only have one -- my perception of this whole situation, the reason why we are here, is because there is a way for Republicans to go back a little bit, take a step back. As McCain has said what he wants to do, work with Democrats, craft the bill that resolves some -- that resolves whatever problems they perceive there to be in the -- with the current law and move forward with that. They don't want to do that.

And so, they are going with what is essentially a high wire act. They're basically saying, let's pass this skinny thing that no one thinks is good policy -- politics or policy, and then let's hope that we go to conference, agree on something, and then pass that. But there's not any reason to believe that in Washington that sort of ultimatum-like procedure is going to actually be effective. And that's why this is so dangerous. I mean, I think that, you know, that's why there are senators out there who are saying there's absolutely no way I'm going to put my eggs in that basket because there's not a guarantee that they will come up with something in conference that all Republicans can agree on that will get this whole thing to work.

GREEN: And here's what's really happening.


GREEN: Republicans don't want to make a decision and by passing the "skinny bill," it pushes off the day of reckoning to a future point, to a theoretical conference committee and allows them to maintain the high wire act that Abby is talking about.

COOPER: And also allows them to say, well, look, we're moving this forward. We've passed this. We're doing in the best we can.

LORD: And this has been I have to say -- I mean, I'm embarrassed for these people. I mean this has been --

CARDONA: You should be.

LORD: -- absolutely abysmal performance here. Seven years of saying they were going to do this.


LORD: Just give us the House. They get the House. Just give us the Senate. They got the Senate. Gave us the White House. They got them all now and this is what's going on. I mean this is atrocious political behavior here. And I just think they've lost their backbone here.

CARDONA: And if the "skinny bill" does become law which we talked about how there is definitely a possibility that becomes law, there are so many awful quotes from today's press conference, Democratic ad makers are already writing these ads. And they're going to urge if Republicans pass this bill or anything else that repeals and replaces Obamacare that has millions of people losing their health care coverage. They're going to urge voters to go to the polls in November in 2018 and repeal and replace Republicans.

LOUIS: And the unwinding of it, the shuttering of the mandate, which is really the sort of the core of any insurance scheme, making sure anybody who's needs to be in the poll is in the poll. Once you do away with that, it will be so horrendously unpopular to fry and sort of painstakingly put that back together again. There's no guarantee they'll be done anytime soon working that for the time for the 2018.

COOPER: But all the talk of working with Democrats. I mean, there's fundamental differences in, you know, whether it's the individual from mandate or, you know --

LORD: They'd have to feel forced. Both sides would have to feel forced.

PHILLIPS: And I think that there is an incentive to do it because there are problems with -- there are problems with the marketplace as it currently exists. That needs to be resolved.

COOPER: But if you campaign for years on repealing, replacing Obamacare, fixing Obamacare --

PHILLIPS: Sure, is not going to be --

COOPER: It's a hard sell.


GREEN: It ultimately going to get there anyway and there really are things that Democrats could grant more flexibility to states to move away from a hard mandate. There is room for compromise if Republicans can accept the idea that Obamacare isn't going to be fully repealed.

CARDONA: This is where it comes to true leadership.

GREEN: And there's the problem. CARDONA: This is where it comes to true leadership from Republicans. If they can take -- tell their voters. We're going to repeal parts of it but we're going to really come together, work with Democrats, and fix the pieces of Obamacare that we know there are issues with. And Democrats agree with that. Let's try to focus on that and maybe, you know, when they go to the polls in 2018, I still think it will be bad but maybe not as bad.

[21:55:19] LORD: Yes. Ronald Reagan used to talk about Republicans, the difference between the bold colors and the pale pastels. At this point I think most of these Republicans have no color. I mean, they just -- they have no idea why they're there. They get pushed, you know, when the breeze this way, pushed in the breeze this way. Some of them don't like the president. I mean, it makes no political sense and they're going to pay a price for it.

COOPER: Does the difficulties that are going on in the White House now, I mean, we don't know if the president has been making calls tonight or what really what he's been doing. Are the White House's problems having an affect on this?

LORD: I would not think so for this reason for this -- some of the same reason. They've got to get this done. So everybody there it has an incentive to put aside for the moment their, whatever, internal problems they are and focus on this because this is the president's major --

COOPER: This is a president who on the one hand, you know, had a celebration in the -- I think it was in the Rose Garden about when the --

LORD: Right.

COOPER: -- House passed and then later on said it was me.

PHILLIPS: Well, I mean, you know, I think this White House is not necessarily an added value on this bill right now. I think that they're sort of standing back and allowing the Senate and the House to do what they need to do and that's fine with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan for now. But there isn't that kind of leadership to say, OK, this is the directions that we're going to go as a party. The president of the United States is the leader of the United States, but he's also the leader of the Republican Party.

LORD: Republican Party.

PHILLIPS: And there has not been a sense that --


PHILLIPS: -- he is driving the train here and it's allowed the kind of horse trading to --

CARDONA: He's clueless about the bill. So he can't lead on it.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. See you tomorrow.