Return to Transcripts main page


Scaramucci Out at White House After Only 11 Days, Breaking Record; Washington Post: Trump Dictated Son's Misleading Statement on Meeting with Russian Lawyer. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 20:00   ET


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

We begin tonight, keeping them honest, with another claim by the president of the United States and the White House that it's simply hard to believe -- hard to believe because it stands in stark contrast to what all of us can see with our own eyes. On this day which Anthony Scaramucci, the newly appointed White House communications director who called himself the Mooch, was escorted off White House property after being let go just 11 days after he started, the president tweeted to take credit for the stock market and other things, insisting that there is, quote, no White House chaos. No chaos whatsoever. Nothing to see here, folks.

And that is the message that Sarah Huckabee Sanders continued to parrot this afternoon.


REPORTER: The president announced on Twitter that there's no chaos at the White House. How would you describe what has happened over the course of the past 10 days? Obviously, you will agree with your boss, the president, that there's no chaos. But how do you explain that not to be the case?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's simple. I've said it before. If you want to see chaos, come to my house with three preschoolers. This doesn't hold a candle to that.


COOPER: Clearly, that was meant to be a charming deflection, but it is a deflection nonetheless. The only thing you can compare the White House to make it seemed unchaotic is a house full of preschoolers, it's not a great comparison.

Granted every White House staff changes, every president goes through a period of adjustment, but not every president publicly undercuts his own spokesman, his own chief of staff, not to mention his own attorney general and hires a communications director with no communications experience, who then threatens to fire everyone, and calls the chief of staff an F-ing paranoid schizophrenic, and says one of the president's own advisers is trying to blank his own blank, all of which he said to a reporter. Then calls in to CNN a few hours later, lies about what he said to the reporter the night before, says he and the president are best bros, and he and the guy who he just called an F-ing paranoid schizophrenic are also bros in a biblical sense.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: As you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. But 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 their fellow colleagues in the West Wing.

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


COOPER: That was Thursday. Today is Monday. And as Peter Baker of "The New York Times" points out, turns out neither Cain nor Abel made it. Scaramucci is just the latest from this administration who's out: Sally Yates fired, Michael Flynn forced to resigned, James fired, Mike Dubke resigned, Sean Spicer resigned in opposition to Scaramucci's appointment, Reince Priebus resigned, and now, Scaramucci resigned the same day the president's new chief of staff, John Kelly, was sworn in.

But the president says none of that is chaotic. In just 11 days, Spicer, Priebus and Scaramucci are out. That's even quicker that it happened on "The Apprentice" and that show was chaotic. If you're inclined to ignore the facts and take the president's word on Twitter that the chaos isn't chaos, and you have to take his Twitter word on everything.

In February of 2016, quote, Ted Cruz does not have the right temperament to be president. Look at the way he totally panicked and firing his director of comm, communications. Bad.

And from January 2012, three chiefs of staff in less than three years of being president, part of the reason why Barack Obama can't manage to pass his agenda.

Old Trump tweets are like greeting cards. There's one for every occasion, an indication of another day of disorder and confusion at the White House, another word for which is chaos.

Let's get more now from Jim Acosta at the White House with new details on the end of the era of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director.

Jim, I'm not sure you can say 11 days is an era. But the idea that there's no White House chaos, that's what the president tweeted. But the events of the last couple of weeks seem to tell a different story. What is the mood in the White House tonight? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as

it turns out, the Mooch might have been a bit too much. You could say. And as for the president's tweet that there's no chaos going on here at the White House, this White House is the picture of chaos. That is where things stand right now.

To have a communications director who is supposed to be in charge of messaging for the administration out after only ten days on the job, that breaks some speed records that have never been seen here in Washington before for a position of that type. And so, clearly, this is a problem for this White House, and that is why he was very eager to bring in John Kelly, the retired general, as his new chief of staff.

We were told time again not only by Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the podium today, but confidentially through White House sources that Kelly intends to bring order to this very disorderly situation inside the White House. First and foremost, people are not going to be able to walk into the West Wing we're told and just talking to the president. They're going to have to go through John Kelly.

That is a privilege that Reince Priebus did not have. He could not keep the voices from coming into the White House and whispering into the president's ear from all sorts of different directions. And that certainly undermined Reince Priebus.

Whether John Kelly can keep that kind of order and maintain that type of order, I think that is going to be a very tall ask, even for a general.

[20:05:04] COOPER: There are also new details emerging about how the Scaramucci dismissal transpired. What do we know at this point?

ACOSTA: Well, from what we understand last week, you know, we were hearing from sources that the president was almost giving Scaramucci an attaboy. You know, people were calling Scaramucci the mini me, or the mini Mooch for President Trump, because of the way he was dressing down Reince Priebus, Somebody that the president has obviously lost confidence in, lost patience with.

But slowly but surely from what we understand from talking to sources, the president viewed these headlining about Scaramucci as being very negative, because not only were they overshadowing things going on here at the White House, they were overshadowing the president of the United States himself. And from what we understand from talking to sources, Scaramucci talked to John Kelly about this yesterday. But it wasn't until after John Kelly was sworn in at the White House that the news was given to Scaramucci that he was out and that he had to essentially leave immediately.

This was an immediate termination of his job over here at the White House. And when you talk to people close to Scaramucci, they say he's going show up at the Export/Import Bank tomorrow. That's another job he was with the administration. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders says, no, no, he's leaving the administration.

So, we're hearing two different stories here in terms of just how out Scaramucci is tonight.

COOPER: And for a person who also talks a lot about loyalty, this is an extraordinary development. You know, Scaramucci gave up, sold his company and thought he was going to get a job in the White House a long time ago, was held off, finally got this job, and to be out after so long, when last week, I mean, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, from the podium was saying the president likes, you know, I can't remember the exact phrase, an active dialogue, or basically seemed to praise Scaramucci for going after Priebus in such a public way.

ACOSTA: That's right. And that's why this is going to be such a huge test, Anderson, for John Kelly. You know, this is supposed to be somebody who is going to come in and put discipline in a system that's been very undisciplined. But that is a very un-Trump-like scenario, that John Kelly is trying to bring to this White House.

Remember, and you know this all too well, Anderson. Donald Trump seizes -- he seems to revel in this sort of disorganized chaos, he feels like at the end of the day, it results in better decision making on his part, whereas much of the rest of the world just sees a White House in chaos and doesn't believe that to be the case at all.

The other question is whether or not, you know, so much of the problems that are generated by this White House are generated by the president's smartphone, when he's tapping out these tweets that just sort of send Washington into a tailspin from time to time, almost on a daily basis. So, the question is for John Kelly, not only can he get the White House under control and bring order to a very disorderly situation. Can he get his hands on that phone? That might be another key to his future here as a chief of staff, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta -- Jim, thanks.

Joining me now is Ryan Lizza, CNN political commentator and "New Yorker" reporter and once referred late night Scaramucci phone call recipient.

Ryan, to the extent that anything about Scaramucci could surprise you at this point, did this surprise you?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It surprised me a little bit, because I thought we had the answer to -- you know, when people were asking me, what did you think was going to happen after that interview when it was published, is Scaramucci going to be fired? And I would say, he's either going to be fired or promoted. You just never know with Donald Trump.

We -- I thought we had the answer when Priebus was forced out, which seems like last month, but I guess it was just last week. I thought that was Trump saying I have no problem with what Scaramucci said. And it's the chief of staff that needs to change, and I want to keep him in this position.

What obviously changed is that John Kelly knows a thing or two about how to be an effective chief of staff, and it does not take a rocket scientist to know that if you want to be an effective chief of staff at the White House, you can't have super empowered freelance senior aides who report to the president and not to you running one of the most important offices in the White House, the communications office. So, it shows that Trump is giving John Kelly enormous latitude.

I think Trump likes Scaramucci. I think they had a real relationship. So I bet this was not an easy decision for Trump to do this.

But it's -- for Kelly, it's a pretty important sign that he was able to exercise control, and it's a betrayal of Scaramucci, to be honest, right? Trump told him he could report to the president. The new guy comes in and says, no, that's not good, and he got rid of the old guy.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it's also going to be interesting to see whether Scaramucci stays in President Trump's orbit, whether officially or unofficially, whether he's made himself persona non grata. I mean, the whole notion that it wasn't what he said but that he was getting so much attention as we know from the past, you know, when President Trump said to Comey, you know, you're getting more famous or you're more famous than I am right now.

[20:10:06] LIZZA: Yes.

COOPER: You know, that was not a good sign for the future of Jim Comey.

LIZZA: I reported this in a piece tonight in Even before I published my article, I had it on very good authority that there was tension between Scaramucci and Trump, and he was on a little bit of thin ice even before that because of the last -- because of his first week, even absent the comments to me, he was pretty out there.

So, there were a lot of moving parts in the last week, right? The first priority for Trump was finding a new chief of staff. But I think he realized when he had the new chief of staff that the move he made with Scaramucci didn't make sense in the new order.

And to answer that question, which is a good question, Anderson, about whether he sticks around, you know, Trump advisers have a history of -- even after they leave the official capacity, official, you know, working relationship of remaining loyal, working for Trump, speaking on his behalf, going to bat for him, sometimes stirring the pot. Think of people like Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone --

COOPER: Corey Lewandowski.

LIZZA: And even Scaramucci. What's that?

COOPER: Corey Lewandowski. I mean --

LIZZA: Corey Lewandowski, and even Scaramucci, who remember, look, this guy, you know, he was in a very strange position where he sold a pretty expensive company, and then was denied the job. So, he was really left out to hang for a while. And yet was at least loyal to Trump through that whole period, you know?

So, it's funny, these former Trump advisers tend to stick around and look for that second shot at serving Trump.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan, stay with us.

I want to bring in the rest of my panel: Gloria Borger, Jeffrey Lord, Bakari Sellers, David Chalian.

Gloria, I mean, if this is not chaos in the West Wing, what is?


COOPER: It may not -- to me, I'm wondering if it may not feel like chaos for President Trump, because he -- I think this is how he operates. He's used to it. But I'm sure for everybody else around, he's like the eye of the hurricane.

BORGER: And I think to General Kelly, it probably felt like chaos. And I'd like to have been privy to the conversation that the general had with the president before he decided to take this job, because when you wear four stars on your shoulder, you're used to chain of command.

And I think that Kelly saw what Scaramucci -- let's put the vulgarity and all that with Ryan Lizza aside. Let's just talk about what Scaramucci said. He threatened to fire people, and he talked about a direct line to the president. And I think that was pretty much untenable.

And I was told by a source today who spoke with the president that he believed Scaramucci was grandstanding. That was the word that was used to me. Remember, Trump called Comey a showboat. He doesn't like that. He doesn't like that.

And this source said to me, who spoke with the president, with this president, you end up in the cheap seats in center field when that happens. And so, I think that was one strike against him. And then Kelly comes in and says, look, this is untenable, and we can't operate this way. And this source also said that Kelly told him he had to go.

COOPER: David Chalian, I mean, there could be multiple things that are true, that it's a situation where General Kelly didn't think Scaramucci was right for the job or appropriate, and President Trump was thinking Scaramucci was getting too much attention.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Without a doubt. I think both things are probably true here. And we know that the president, while he may not have found the comments to Ryan in "The New Yorker" completely outrageous, he may have actually thought that they were accomplishing the goal of getting Reince sort of needled out of there. We know that the president doesn't like it with the blowback. It's the blowback that he no longer thought was appropriate, right?

Once he saw the way those comments were playing over the weekend, even if it wasn't a John Kelly White House, it was very possible that the president did not like that Scaramucci ended up with all this blowback that did not reflect well on the president. At the end of the day, if Donald Trump thought Anthony Scaramucci was doing good for his image right now, Scaramucci would still be there, even with wanting to give John Kelly this latitude to set the discipline. That is -- Scaramucci lost the confidence of the president.

COOPER: Jeffrey, can one still argue -- I mean, you know, the whole thing about Donald Trump during the election was that he hires the best people and he knows how to run organizations and he's a great manager. I mean, is any of that believable still?


COOPER: I mean, clearly, to his base, I guess it is.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: But do the events of the last six months with all the people that have come and gone, you really still argue he's a great, great manager?

LORD: Anderson, I just think that these chaos stories, and we've talked about this before., and I've looked and there's all these stories about everybody from Obama back to Reagan, about how their administration at some point is in chaos?

COOPER: Do you know of any administration in which the attorney general has been ridiculed and mocked by the president and criticized by the president, not fired but still at the same time that Sean Spicer is gone.

[20:15:021] Sally Yates is gone. General Flynn is gone. Scaramucci is gone.


COOPER: Yes, I mean --

LORD: I mean, every president is different. I mean, Donald Trump is Donald Trump. This is why people put him there in the first place. And I --

COOPER: People put him there to be a great manager and hire great people.

LORD: Yesterday, I had a conversation with someone in Pennsylvania at the summit diner who said, speaking of media and all this kind of thing, I don't care about this stuff. I care about North Korea. This is a media fixation. For heaven's sakes, move on.

There are people out there, you know, in a serious situation in North Korea, there's Obamacare, et cetera, et cetera, that's what we should be focused about.

COOPER: It's a serious situation in North Korea, in which the president is tweeting about attacking - - saying, being critical of China in a tweet. Is that responsible? I mean, is that how foreign policy is done now?

LORD: Well, I think in the modern world, presidents are going to be tweeting. He's the first. He won't be the last.

COOPER: Bakari?

BORGER: But the question is -- well --


BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I know -- I think what we're looking at, and this is what Jeb Bush said, this is what Hillary Clinton said, this is what Mitt Romney said, all of the people that Donald Trump dispatched of, give him credit for that, but they all questioned his temperament. Because what we're seeing is basically "The Apprentice", with the democracy at stake.

I mean, this is not -- he's treating Reince Priebus, he's treating Sean Spicer like they're Gary Busey or Lil' John, and you just simply cannot do that, because we do have real life issues. We do North Korea. We do have to wonder what is China going to do in our efforts to help curtail North Korea getting a nuclear weapon. We have these real life issues.

But when you're looking at this White House, this is more than chaos. And for me, sometimes on Twitter and social media, you get a good chuckle out of it. You see the irony in Scaramucci talking big one day and then 11 days later being fired. I don't even think you can get a severance in 11 days. We see all of these things.

But when you take a step back, it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing to everyone who looks at us as a global leader. It lowers our global standing.

And I think that someone needs to -- and hopefully is General Kelly, I don't think it can be, but this is the way Donald Trump operates, but hopefully someone can rein him in. One of the things that General Kelly will not be able to do is he is not going to be able to control this out of control temperament that the 45th president has.

No one has been able to do it. The only people who can talk to him are his family. General Kelly is not that. So Godspeed, but we need --

BORGER: But maybe he can get the White House staff on one page, because if he can do that and get them all on one page, there will be less leaking, they'll be more organization, and I think the president will be a lot happier.

CHALIAN: But, Jeffrey, don't you think a well-oiled, well-run West Wing is better prepared to deal with North Korea and other challenges?

LORD: Sure, sure. All I'm trying to say, Jack Koehler. I don't know how many people here remember Jack Koehler, White House communications director for Ronald Reagan for one week and out. I mean --

SELLERS: He was a Nazi though. That's why he was out because he got out that he is Nazi as a child.

LORD: He was 10 years old. He was 10 years old.

COOPER: I know you can point to one or two people here, but --


LORD: In terms of the larger Reagan administration, that's not part of the legacy, right?

COOPER: But this is a lot of people who have been filtering through. I mean, it's like there's a revolving door.

We've got to take a quick break. We'll continue the discussion after the break.

We have to remind you of what the White House said about Scaramucci's profane phone calls last week versus today. This story has shifted.

And later, new reporting about new Chief of Staff John Kelly's reaction to the firing of James Comey. Kelly was firmly on Comey's side apparently. Details on that ahead.


[20:22:08] COOPER: We're going to have more on the leaving of Anthony Scaramucci. But we have new breaking news tonight about who is behind Donald Trump Donald Trump Jr.'s evolving story about that meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.

"The Washington Post" tonight is reporting that when the story broke, the story about the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had with the Russian attorney, the president's advisers talked about how Trump Jr. should respond. And the strategy was to be truthful so the account couldn't be criticized if and when the full details come out.

According to "The Washington Post," that plan changed because, according to "The Post", the president himself personally dictated the statement claiming that the meeting was about the adoption of Russian children. As we know, that statement turned out to be false.

As e-mails released by Trump Jr. showed, released only because that story was about to break, the meeting actually was an offer to give the Trump team damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.

Back now with the panel.

So, David, I mean, this is pretty significant. "The New York Times" had previously reported that Trump advisers were meeting on their way back, I believe it was on Air Force One, sort of put their heads together to craft a statement and the president signed off about it. Well, "The Washington Post," based on their source, saying is that the president himself dictated what the response was. And the response, what was so inadequate about it is it had to be corrected then in subsequent days.

CHALIAN: Right. I mean, it's what prompted Donald Trump, Jr. to release the e-mails and he -- remember, he told like three different versions of the story, all because the initial response wasn't properly explaining everything that occurred in that meeting. So, it raised all these questions. And the difference between signing off on something that's handed to you and something you dictated, inserted yourself in and directed how this was going to be responded to, that seems to be a significant --

BORGER: Well, I think you put yourself in legal jeopardy by doing that, because if you really knew what occurred and then you sign off on a statement that is incomplete at best, lawyers can start asking the question, what were you trying to cover up? Why were you -- you know, why weren't you completely forthcoming about this meeting? And so, to allow the president to do that is a bad decision.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan Lizza, there's a quote in this "Washington Post" article from one of the president's advisers, doesn't say who, saying, quote, this was unnecessary, said one of the president's advisers who like most of the other people interviewed for the story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations.

Quote, now, someone can claim he, meaning the president, he's the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn't want you to say the whole truth.

And in the days after all of this developed, there was, I think, reporting, I think it was from "The New York Times," basically saying that Donald Trump, Jr.'s attorneys or maybe it was our Pamela Brown was reporting that Donald Trump, Jr.'s attorneys had told her that they wanted initially -- they were ready -- that Donald Trump, Jr. was ready to come with a much more forthcoming statement in that initial statement, but that is not what ended up happening.

[20:25:08] They didn't point the finger at the president or his advisers. But that seems to be now the implication.

LIZZA: I mean, it seems like this is the same issue we've been discussing in the earlier part of the show, is you have the staff with the White House that doesn't always actually have the president's interests in mind. In other words, any other White House, the first thing they would do in a situation like this came up is basically insulate the president from it, right? In this White House, you have the president micromanaging the place, literally dictating the statements, and as Gloria pointed out, now perhaps opening himself up to legal jeopardy.

A professional White House staff, whether this is -- not ethically dubious or not, I don't think it is, would keep the president out of any kind of legal jeopardy like that. But as we've seen, the staff doesn't really -- they're not able to because Trump doesn't want them to. Again, he's running things the way he ran the Trump Organization, which is, you know, reaching down into whatever issue he wants, and micromanaging it. Up until this point, Trump has basically been his own chief of staff. So, I think, you know, the staff problems we're talking about are related to what's going on here.

COOPER: I mean, Jeffrey, it's one thing for Donald Trump as a civilian to use a fake name and call up gossip reporters, pretending to be a spokesperson for Donald Trump and giving stories about women he's dating and stuff and make -- and puffing him up. It's one thing for him to do that as a civilian. It's another thing as president of the United States to -- if this is true, according to the president's adviser here who spoke to "The Post" -- to actually dictate a misleading statement for his son and his attorneys to give out. That's just not a wise -- I mean, to Ryan's point, shouldn't the president's people protect him from that?

LORD: Well, number one, the president's people should protect the president, any president. Number two, the very fact that this is being leaked by some anonymous adviser goes to General Kelly's problem exactly. I mean, this is one of the things that he's got to put a stop to, because who knows whether this is accurate or not, and who knows who's talking? Certainly, this is part of the problem.

SELLERS: With all due respect to this conversation about leaking, I mean, we're talking about the people who are leaking the information but nobody criticizes the person from which that information was created. I mean, it's a calamity of errors. I mean, Donald Trump's legal team is failing him. Donald Trump's staff is failing him.

Why on earth would you dictate a statement, not coordinate what you're going to dictate with your son's attorneys, and your son, so that you know that when they put out the e-mails, at least what they put out matches your statements?

COOPER: We should point out that Donald Trump's legal team previously had denied that the president or his staff had anything to do with the initial statement by Donald Trump, Jr.

BORGER: That's right.

COOPER: They had said that it was Donald Trump, Jr.'s -- with his attorneys.

BORGER: Attorneys. And don't forget who was on this plane, Anderson. You know, Jared Kushner was on the plane, Ivanka, I believe was on the plane.

So, you know, this notion that the president dictated is interesting to me, because it sounds like a group -- you know, it sounds like a group effort, people huddling in the plane and figuring out, OK, what are we going to do with this problem? And don't forget, the president's lawyer, who was his lawyer at the time, Marc Kasowitz, was not on this flight. And he might have advised the president to stay away from this.

COOPER: And it wasn't just on the plane. According to "The Washington Post", the article starts out by saying on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Germany last month, President Trump's advisers discussed how to respond to new revelation about this meeting.

CHALIAN: They had the right instincts, I would say. The staff had, if bearing that reporting out, if that's true, had the right instincts, which is let's put everything out so nothing is contradicted --

COOPER: Right. Which is public relations 101.


CHALIAN: Exactly. Of course, public relations 101. And that they report that it was Donald Trump that completely flip that on its head. So, I don't know how you can blame staff --


BORGER: That's right.

SELLERS: But it highlights -- but it highlights General Kelly's problem, because you have all of these people, all of these proverbial cooks that are in the kitchen. I mean, it's hard to kind of make sure that your staff is in order when you have people like Jared Kushner or Ivanka or whomever else able to circumvent that and get the president's ear, and say something that apparently is contradictory --

LORD: Jared and Ivanka are not going to leak to "The Washington Post", I assure you.

COOPER: What, really?

LORD: Something like this --

COOPER: I mean, I don't know for a fact, but there's a lot of stories that always appear that Jared or Ivanka is trying to save the president from himself. And I don't know anybody else who would be leaking those other than -- usually when there's a story out, you can sort of see who does this story benefit? And then you work backward who may have leaked. I don't know if they're leakers, but --

LORD: Or who does this story trash? And if you're telling me that you think Ivanka and Jared would be trashing their father and father in law respectively, I simply don't believe it.

COOPER: Yes, I have no idea. But I mean, somebody, you know --

SELLERS: The leaking is -- the problem is the president of the United States. And it gets all cool to get caught up in the leaking and no one should say this and no one should say that. That happens in every single White House. The problem now, is the behavior of senior leadership and the behavior of the president. If you're dictating a statement that you know is false, you have -- there are moral issues --


LORD: If you want your doctor, you can keep your doctor.

SELLERS: Let me tell you something, that illegal?

LORD: It's not true. It was used to pass major legislation.

SELLERS: Is that illegal?

LORD: It's not true. It was a lie. A deliberate lie.

SELLERS: You go back to this all the time, if you want your doctor you can keep your doctor.

LORD: Because it's a lie.

SELLERS: A certain circumstances, that actually bared out to have some validity. You know what's not true? You know what's not true, what we know to be false, the fact that this meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. had with Paul Manafort and other senior leaders was not about Russian adoption. The only person who truly believes that I guess is Donald Trump.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the special counsel is going to get to the bottom of it. That's what we know. Because now that this story is here --

COOPER: And by the way, this idea that it was about adoption is something that Donald Trump -- that President Trump repeated later on at a open press conference as being -- and Sean -- it was something like also that Sean Spicer that repeated that there's no evidence or no indication believed.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: After the e-mail was already we have.

COOPER: It was anything but I mean by adoption. Anyway we got to take a break. We'll have more in this breaking story from the "Washington Post" and others when we come back.


[20:35:00] COOPER: Following the story that just broke tonight from "The Washington Post" saying that the president himself dictated Donald Trump, Jr.'s misleading statement about that meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. This was the initial statement that came out from Donald Trump Jr. "The Washington Post" says the initial strategy from the president's advisers was to tell the truth, to be very forthcoming. Instead, according to "The Washington Post," the president reportedly intervened and dictated the statement himself, claiming the meeting was about Russian adoption.

Back with the panel. Joining us on the phone is also CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, just from a legal stand point, is there anything that should concern the president about this story?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, it's been clear for some time that the Mueller investigations looking at the issue of obstruction of justice. And if, in fact, the president put out an intentionally false story about his relationship with Russia, you know, broadly defined in terms of his son's activity, that would be a piece of evidence that could support a charge of obstruction of justice. That alone is not enough to make a case. But if you were to combine it with firing James Comey and the other parts of the investigation, it certainly would be a relevant piece of evidence. As I say, it's not enough on its own. It's certainly not a crime on its own. But it is evidence that will be of great interest to Robert Mueller.

COOPER: Jeff, I want to pursue that with you more, but right now in the phone is the Washington -- one of the reporters who broke this story for "The Washington Post" reporter Tom Hamburger. So Jeff, you could stick around, we'll talk to you right as soon as we're done with Tom.

Tom, thanks very much for joining us. If you could just explain what you have learned, what the report in "The Washington Post" says tonight.

TOM HAMBURGER, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Anderson, what we learned is that the president played a deeper and more complete role than we understood previously in crafting the response that was issued, the initial response that was issued after "The New York Times" reported on that June 9th meeting in Trump Tower, where Donald Trump, Jr. basically organized a meeting that included Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and some others, that we later learn had been set up at the request by an e-mail of the -- someone connected possibly to the Russian government. The first explanation you'll recall was that the meeting was largely about adoption. An initial statement considered quite misleading. And what we're reporting tonight in "The Washington Post" is that initial response was effectively dictated by the president over the objection or over warnings of some of his advisers.

COOPER: Which is really remarkable and because in your report, it says basically on the sidelines of the group of 20 summit in Germany, the president's advisers were wrestling with what kind of statement to draft. And that according to your reporting, they actually wanted to be forthcoming.

HAMBURGER: That's what we learned from talking with multiple people involved in the process. In the early going, there were suggestions from lawyers and some others who were close to the president that -- more of what they described is a more fulsome statement would be appropriate. Hardly thinking, because some had seen these documents, the e-mails already, thinking that being transparent, more transparent at the outset, would avoid embarrassment later.

COOPER: Would it was actually the correct decision to make he would have avoided the president's son having to reissue statements and then release the e-mails once they were about to be released by "The New York Times." So the president himself, do you know the scene of how it was? Was it on Air Force One? And to what extent, when you say the president dictated the statement, how that -- all right he literarily word for word -- he sort of had somebody write down his remarks as what the statement should be?

HAMBURGER: Also the phrase "dictate" is one that my colleagues, Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker, who as you know, cover the White House full time, picked up from their sources. What we understand is that this was really a decision led by the president and that the statement that was ultimately issued is one that he decided and is often his way, if you know he's not an e-mailler. He suggested the language in the statement that was ultimately used and released to "The New York Times." And to a certain extent, had to be walked back or amplified upon in the coming days.

COOPER: It's interesting, I mean it's not clear to me, you know, the president's attorneys I believe had previously said it was Donald Trump, Jr. and Donald Trump Jr.'s attorneys who had been the ones craft thing statement, that the president had nothing to do with it, and that they denied the initial "The New York Times" story which said that on Air Force One this had been discussed amongst his advisers and the president had signed off on it.

[20:40:06] So the idea that the president was even more involved in that that something that run counter to what the president's own attorneys have said. Are there any -- did you get any responses from the president's attorneys about the discrepancy between your reporting and what their past statements?

HAMBURGER: We did, you know. We sent quite a lengthy list -- long list of questions to Jay Sekulow, who is as, you know, as one of the president's attorneys and is perhaps the most outspoken. And he didn't answer our specific questions, but did issue one statement sentence to us, which reads Anderson, the president's attorney said, "Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate and not pertinent." We went back and asked again for specifics, but didn't receive anything, any guidance beyond that statement that I just read.

COOPER: It's also, I mean I guess the other question is, when did the president, at the time the president was crafting this statement or dictating this statement, did he actually know what the real reason for the meeting was, had he had a conversation with Donald Trump, Jr.? Had Donald Trump, Jr. been forth coming? Or did the president know from way back, you know, that Donald Trump Jr., has said, that the president, he never or said anything, the president about there's -- at that the president -- or that the candidate, he never told his father about this meeting or the purpose of the meeting or that he learned that Russia, according to the e-mail from Goldstone, that Russia was backing his father's campaign. The president Donald Trump was unaware of that according to Donald Trump, Jr.

But it sounds like, I guess the question is, did Donald Trump know about the meeting, the real reason for the meeting when he was helping craft the statement?

HAMBURGER: So Anderson, that's of course a key question and it's not one that we can answer with confidence. As you point out, the president and Donald Trump, Jr. have indicated that the president was not fully informed. What our story tonight points out is that the question of how to respond to this report that was coming in "The New York Times" last July was discussed on the sidelines of the G20 by top presidential aides and advisers. And as you recall, Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were at the g20.

COOPER: Right. HAMBURGER: So there were discussions about how to respond on the sidelines. And what we hear from our sources is that the initial discussion was one of recommending openness and a full response, knowing that these e-mails, that there were documents in a sense that lurked in the background that would tell a more -- or potentially more troublesome story.

The conversation then moves on to Air Force One as the president and his party depart from Hamburg, Germany, the site of the G20. And the discussion continues and from Air Force One, a decision is made that a much more limited statement about this meet will occur, one that discusses it as a really a brief and not consequential discussion about adoption of Russian children in the United States was issued. And that's issued in the afternoon, that Saturday. And what we learned from our sources is that statement was dictated from the president and the story, the statement itself goes to "The New York Times" and then is published that afternoon while Air Force One is still in the air on the way back to Andrews's Air Force Base.


HAMBURGER: There it go (ph).

COOPER: It's a fascinating and eye opening reports from "The Washington Post" right now. Tom Hamburger, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.

Up next, we're going to have more on this. New also reporting, CNN reporting on now Chief of Staff John Kelly and what he did when President Trump fired then FBI Director James Comey.


[20:46:49] COOPER: We're learning new information tonight about now Chief of Staff John Kelly's reaction when President Trump fired then FBI Director James Comey. CNN's Pamela Brown joins us with those details. Pam, what have you learned?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, we've learned that incoming White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was so upset with the way President Donald Trump handled the firing of FBI Director James Comey that he called Comey shortly after he was terminated to say how angry he was, to express that to him over the phone, this is according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the conversation between Kelly and Comey.

And at the time, Anderson, this was -- this past may as you recall, Kelly was Secretary of Homeland Security, and the sources say that he was particularly upset by the way Comey was treated, how it all went down by the fact that he learned -- that he had been fired on the news rather than being told or informed by the president. Now, the call took place while Comey was traveling back from Los Angeles to Washington on May 9th as they pointed out after learning the news, Comey declined to comment to us about the story. The White House and DHS did not comment either, Anderson.

COOPER: I also understand that General Kelly was actually prepared to resign over it?

BROWN: We're told there are sources -- and somebody contemplate it and he expresses over the phone, he was still angry that he considered or contemplated resigning from his position, as secretary of Homeland Security, in a showing of solidarity with Comey. Now, we're told that Comey responded telling him not to resign, not to anything. And both sources we spoke with caution that it was unclear how serious Kelly really was about resigning. And of course, as we know, that never happened and fast forward a few months later now he's White House Chief of Staff.

But for context here Anderson, the sources said that Comey and Kelly are not particularly close friends, but they had a professional relationship and a deep mutual respect for each other. And in this case, Kelly was just simply upset, as one source put it, disgusted about way Comey have been treated by the president. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, fascinating details. Pamela Brown, thanks very much. Joining me now for more on the handling of Comey's resignation, a breaking "Washington Post" reporting is CNN national security analyst General Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA and the NSA. General Hayden, thanks for being with us.


COOPER: A lot had asked you about -- first of all, your reaction to this reporting that General Kelly was upset about the way that Director Comey was fired?

HAYDEN: Yes, I know John Kelly. That sounds exactly how I would think John Kelly would respond to this. No, I don't know any of the fine print. I'm learning about this the same way you are, Anderson. But it's very consistent with the character of the man that I know.

COOPER: The reporting tonight from "The Washington Post" that was just breaking that President Trump actually dictated Don Jr.'s misleading statement on his meeting with the Russian lawyers. I'm wondering if true and again this is not a CNN reporting, this is "The Washington Post" reporting based on what they or multiple sources. How damning is it for the president? Because this is certainly something that special counsel Bob Mueller would be looking into.

HAYDEN: Well sure. I'll leave your legal experts to go ahead and comment on what that might mean to former Director Mueller's investigation. But Anderson, I was watching the breaking news in the green room here. And the thought occurred to me, when I was military attache in a communist country, during the war, I saw a pack of People's Republic of Bulgaria, I got into a long discussion with one of my Bulgarian counterpart, and he was saying things that so frustrated me. But I actually said to him. What is truth to you? He looked me right in the eye and said, truth? Truth is what serves the party.

[20:50:07] Now, look I know we're imperfect -- or, you know, sometimes we stray into gray areas in our political system. But I think most people like me, Anderson, think a statement like that, truth is what serves the party belongs to that system, not to our system. And so the news that you reported if true, is very disturbing.

COOPER: I want to ask you about relations with Russia, President Trump expected to sign the sanctions bill approved by Congress, hasn't signed it. In retaliation, Valdimir Putin ordered the U.S. to cut 765 diplomatic staff in Russia, which is the most aggressive move against Russia and since the final years of the Cold War, if I'm not mistaken. How significant is this?

HAYDEN: I think it's a big deal, but it leaves an awful lot of questions unanswered, Anderson. So number one, Putin decides to go ahead and respond, and by the way, that response some sort of response should have already have been baked into the Obama administration's decision to go with sanctions. In the first place and the Congress's decision to go with sanctions. But I find it interesting, that Putin decided to move after Congress had acted, but before Trump had acted -- before the president had signed the sanctions bill, you know, in a way perhaps not setting up a direct confrontation between President Putin and President Trump. I found that a very interesting statement.

COOPER: So that's interesting, in a way sort of giving, what, some wiggle room?

HAYDEN: I think so. It allows him to come -- look, if he waited until after President Trump signed the bill, and by the way, Anderson, let me give you an interesting question here, what will President Trump's signing statement look like when it comes to signing these sanctions? Now, I think President Putin deflected that question by going ahead and acting before that took place.

And Anderson, let me give you just one additional thought. I don't know within what strategic context this is all happening, within the point of view of the United States, you know what I would love to see, is someone in authority, the president, the vice president, whomever, from the White House, to simply say the Russian-American relationship will be governed by the following, three, four, two, principles. I don't know what those are.

COOPER: Which is kind of a frightening thought or -- I mean the fact that you can't -- don't know what they are is --

HAYDEN: Look at the specific actions, Anderson, I try to create a parallax --

COOPER: Right.

HAYDEN: -- to get them to come back to a common point, and I don't have that yet.

COOPER: Wow, General Hayden, appreciate you'd been on, thank you very much.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, back to the fall of Anthony Scaramucci force out White House Communications Director, after just 11 days in the west wing, while it was a short tenure, and he leaves us with some memorable moments. We'll show you those ahead and more on the breaking news that we just learned about President Trump in that early statement from Donald Trump Jr.


COOPER: Got a lot of breaking news tonight, one of the big ones is of course Anthony Scaramucci out of the White House Communication Director officials on the job for five days, the shortest tenure for anyone in that role. According to CNN's camp, but he was in the West Wing for a total of 11 days, 11 very memorable days. Here's Randi Kaye.


[20:55:10] ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FMR COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE: The Navy SEALS will tell that if you when you want to eat an elephant, you got to eat it one bite at a time.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was bizarre from the beginning, with a hint of what was to come.

SCARAMUCCI: There's been some speculation in the press about me and Reince, so I just want to talk about that very quickly.

KAYE (voice-over): From day one, Anthony Scaramucci addressing what was about to become a very public battle between him and then White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

SCARAMUCCI: Reince and I have been personal friends for six years. We're a little bit like brothers, where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers.

KAYE (voice-over): By before today (ph), Scaramucci was making changes. Allowing cameras back into the press briefings, announcing it with this tweet that read simply, "TV cameras are back on." Then things got, well, weird.

After the "New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza broke the news last week that Scaramucci and others were dining at the White House with the president and first lady, the newly installed communications director unleashed the profanity lays at rant at Lizza, about some of the president's key advisers. On Reince Priebus, "Reince is a black paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac." On White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own blank."

Scaramucci also suggested that Preibus was leaking confidential White House information, which Priebus later denied to CNN. Scaramucci finally telling Lizza, he had to go so he could start tweeting some blank to make this guy crazy, meaning Priebus.

(on-camera): The vulgar tirade made headlines everywhere. On Thursday, Scaramucci seventh day on the job, he was trying to turn the page on CNN's "New Day." telling Ryan Lizza he was just teasing him on the phone. SCARAMUCCI: I want reset (ph) with you, I just spent about 15 minutes on the phone talking with the president of the United States who has given me his full support and his full blessing.

KAYE (voice-over): Scaramucci still trying to play tough with the leakers.

SCARAMUCCI: As you know from the Italian expressions, the fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don't stink, OK? And that's me and the president. So if Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that.

KAYE (voice-over): The very next day, on Friday, Priebus was out of a job, it was also the day that the "New York Post" reported, Scaramucci's wife had recently filed for divorce, something her lawyer confirmed to the "The New York Times". Scaramucci then kept a low profile over the weekend, seemingly unaware he was on the chopping block. On day 11, Scaramucci showed up for work. He even attended this morning's swearing in of the chief of staff, the same chief of staff demanding his ouster.

Randy Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: In a moment, we'll have the latest from the White House and how Scaramucci removal as Communication Director actually happened today who called for and told him -- who told him about it. Also the breaking news from "The Washington Post," it's reporting that the president himself dictated Donald Trump Jr.'s misleading statement about that meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.


[20:59:59] COOPER: Well another chaotic day at the White House, breaking news on two fronts tonight, Anthony Scaramucci of course out as White House Communications Director, we'll get to that in this hour.