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Trump Makes Up Phone Calls from Mexico, Boy Scouts; Trump Backs Merit-Based Legal Immigration Plan. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 2, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight keeping them honest with yet another instance of the president making a claim that turns out not to be true, and then the White House not acknowledging the false claim, but basically pretending it just never happened. Actually, there are to claims the president recently made, two phone calls that the president said he took from people who wanted to praise him, phone calls it turns out that never actually happened.

Let's start with the phone call the president talked about Monday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even the president of Mexico called me, they said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get thaw o they aren't going to get through our border which is the ultimate compliment.


COOPER: That same day, the office of the president of Mexico issued this statement saying, quote: President Enrique Pena Nieto has not been in recent communication via telephone with President Donald Trump.

Today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about this discrepancy at the White House, why the president said the Mexican president called him when he didn't.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On Mexico, he was referencing the conversation they had at the G20 Summit where they specifically talked about the issues that he referenced.


COOPER: The other fake phone call was made, according to the president, by the head of the Boy Scouts. You'll remember the president spoke at the Boy Scouts Jamboree, where he gave a speech that the Boy Scouts later apologized for in case anyone was offended by how political and partisan the speech got.

Last week, the president gave an interview to the "Wall Street Journal." "Politico" published the full transcript. And in it, "The Wall Street Journal" mentions that reactions to the speech from former scouts is mixed, at which point the president said there was a standing ovation from the time he walked out until five minutes after he'd already gone, that he would be the first to admit mixed, and there was no mix.

Also, he said and I quote: I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them and they were very thankful.

Today, an official with the Boy Scouts said they were not aware of phone calls between the group's leadership and the president, and their apology from last week stands.

The White House press secretary was asked about that as well today and admitted the Boy Scout call, that didn't happen, either.


SANDERS: Multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership following his speech there that day congratulated him, praised him and offered quite -- I'm looking for the word, quite powerful compliments following his speech, what those references were about.


COOPER: When she was pressed on this, Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted it was just a matter of semantics.


SANDERS: They were actually -- they were direct conversations, not actually phone calls.

REPORTER: So he lied, he didn't receive --

SANDERS: I wouldn't say it's a lie, it's a pretty bold accusation. The conversations took place, they just simply didn't take place over a phone call, but he had them in person.


COOPER: Whether it was a lie, an embellishment, a simple mistake, wouldn't it be refreshing in the White House acknowledged the president was wrong, saying, yes, the president was mistaken, he's human, we all make mistakes? But everyone who works for this president knows never, ever admit the boss was wrong.

And you might say these are minor things, two non-existent phone calls, which adoring people heap -- in which adoring people heaped praise on the president. And you would be right, these are minor things, but that's sort of the point. If the president casually says things that aren't true about minor phone calls, if he makes up stuff so easily, especially stuff involving the president of another country, why should anyone believe him on the big stuff, the things that really do matter? And these calls are the latest example. I mean, remember those

extremely credible sources who told President Obama wasn't born in the United States. Remember the investigators he supposedly sent to Hawaii who, quote, couldn't believe what they were finding. Remember the bragging about the size of his inaugural crowd. Remember the millions of people who supposedly voted illegally. Remember his friend, Jim, who won't go to Paris because it's not Paris anymore?

There's simply no evidence that any of that is actually real. None. There is evidence Donald Trump likes to make things up. He has in the past admitted to using a pseudonym to pose as his own publicist.

A little over a year ago the "Washington Post" reported Trump routinely called reporters in the 1970s, 1980s, into the 1990s under the name of John Miller or John Baron. This is some of the video that surfaced of so-called John Miller talking to a "People" magazine reporter to Trump in the early '90s around the time he's getting his first divorce.


JOHN MILLER": He's coming out of a, you know, a marriage that -- and he's starting to do tremendously well financially. There's a real estate depression in the United Stats and he's probably doing as well as anybody there is. And but he treated his wife well and he treated -- he will treat Marla well. You know, he's somebody who has a lot of options and, frankly, he gets called by everybody. He gets called by everybody in the book, in terms of women.


COOPER: He goes on to brag about Madonna wanted to go out with him, excuse me, wanted to go out with Donald Trump.

Last May when confronted with the recordings, Mr. Trump told the "Today" show he didn't think it sounded like that was him. It sounded like that was him.

Maybe his base doesn't believe he makes up things all the time. Maybe they to and just don't care. But at some point, there's going to be a real crisis involving this country as a lot of people pointed out and the president will have to look into the camera and speak to all Americans.

Let's hope in that moment, he chooses his words carefully so that all of us can in that moment at least believe what's coming out of his mouth.

Lot's to talk about. Joining me now here, not on the phone, but here in person, S.E. Cupp, Gloria Borger, Kirsten Powers, Timothy O'Brien, and Michael D'Antonio.

I don't understand why the people, the podium at the White House can't just say, yes, it was a mistake and move on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Because the president would disapprove of that. I mean, you know, the president doesn't admit mistakes. It would be very easy and smart for somebody to say, come out and say the president misspoke, he misremembered. These were conversations, these were not phone calls. It would be the end of the story.

But the president, himself, I believe, and you have biographers here who will be able to tell you more, but the president, I believe, believes this after a while, and that he says it because he believes it, so when you confront him with it, he'll say, oh, yes, they did say that to me, maybe not in a phone call, but we said that. We don't know the second half of this. We don't know whether, in fact, any of these exchanges ever took place.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: And that's the next part of the story that we have to --

COOPER: Has he always -- I mean, you've been interviewing him for a long time. Is he always been like this?

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION: THE ART OF BEING THE DONALD": Donald Trump is 71 years old, and I think he's been on the public stage for 50 or so of those years, and I probably watched him closely as a New Yorker and a journalist 25 of those years. And he's been a prevaricator, fabulous, liar, whatever word you want to use, flagrantly, and frequently, and often sort of almost pathologically for a good portion of that time.

COOPER: I mean, it's about such small, ridiculous stuff sometimes.

O'BRIEN: But, you know, his self-aggrandizement is who he is. I think, you know, Gloria mentioned it before that he believes some of this is true. I think that's spot-on. I think he lives in his own private Idaho and has a constant narrative going on in his head about who he is, and what he's accomplished. And if reality or the world doesn't correspond with that, he will force it to be thus.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": I talked to a fellow, Sandy McIntosh (ph), who went to New York military Academy with Donald. So, at 13, Donald hits a bloop single, everybody comes home, Donald finishes the game, goes to Sandy and says, I hit it out of the park, didn't I? He said, well, no, you didn't. He said, no, I hit it out of the park.

So, way back then, he's 14 years old, he's not only lying reflexively and impulsively, but he's forcing someone to swear to it. I think that's what he's doing with the staff in the White House now. He's lying because he can't help but lie and the reality in his head is more valuable and important to him than what is real factually and he's forcing all these people to sacrifice their credibility, their life's work, really, in building up their reputations in order to back up his lies.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, you think Sean Spicer coming out the first time as the spokesperson of the White House and, you know, blasting about the crowd size at the -- KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but the question -- the

real question is to who you said, is it lying or is it a distorted reality? For me, it's always seemed it's been a distorted reality.

COOPER: Which, by the way, I'm not sure which is worse.

POWERS: I find it much more troubling actually. And I think -- and my first experience was during the campaign when I'd interviewed him and he said to somebody else afterwards after I wrote my story, why did she say that I said x, y and z? I never said that.

He wasn't angry. He was mystified. I had it on tape, a couple times, what I quoted him saying. He really, really seemed to believe he hadn't said it. That was the first time I thought there's something going on here where he really doesn't believe that he said it but he did actually say it.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, there's a difference between the Kim Jong Il 13 holes in 1 story.

COOPER: Right, Kim Jong Il has golfed the perfect golf game, according to --

CUPP: Hits a hole in 1 every time. And the sort of it's not a lie if you believe it.

And there might be some of that going on with Trump, but what strikes me is that it's just an incredible waste of time and talent and resources that the White House press shop probably on a daily basis has to go back and try to forensically put whatever he has said together so that it makes sense. So, you can imagine Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or people in her office today, saying, gosh, can we find a time where he would have been with Pena Nieto or with the Boy Scout leaders that we could plausibly make this true somehow.

And it's just this is not the way to use your press shop. I mean, these are people who are meant to be staffing the president, prepping the president, spreading the president's message on policy. And instead, they're having to figure out how to make what he just said somehow sort of true.

O'BRIEN: And they have to do it on a daily basis. You know, yesterday in the middle of a routine White House meeting on entrepreneurialism and American economical growth, he drops in this little note that the CEO of Foxconn committed $30 billion, not $10 billion to Wisconsin. That was off the record. He says it in a public forum. So, it's now on the record.

And I have to believe it's probably not true, but he's put it out there.

[20:10:02] And I'm sure everyone in the White House had to get on the phone today with the CEO of Foxconn to say, can you support us in this?

BORGER: Well, you know, he used to do this all the time in business, right? Tony Schwartz when he wrote "The Art of the Deal" for, or with, or for Donald Trump, invented the phrase, truthful hyperbole because he had to come up with a way to talk about how Donald Trump lies without saying he lies in business. And so, he came up with this meaningless phrase which how now admits is meaningless, and he presented it to Donald Trump in a way saying, look, I have to come up with some way. Trump looked at it and said, oh, great idea, I love it. I think it's fabulous.

COOPER: One thing as a citizen, a businessperson, as a -- you know, if you're tabloid fodder to be spinning a yarn to be pretending your own P.R. person.

CUPP: Yes, exaggerating, right.

COOPER: It's another thing as president of the United States when all of this stuff is checkable. The president of Mexico is going to come out and say --

CUPP: Refute this.

COOPER: Right, yes.

CUPP: I think it's important that we determine whether the president of the United States is to be believed or not. And I think it's fair to say he is not to be believed. But if you're looking at his voters, his base, I'm just not sure this is the metric by which they are judging him.

BORGER: Right.

CUPP: And, you know, we've learned a lot of lessons from Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas" where he basically told half the country voting based on their economic interests was stupid. I don't think we should judge his base for maybe judging Trump differently on some different set of values than whether he's --

COOPER: Or the thought that all politicians lie and, you know --

CUPP: Maybe they -- that's not about him.

COOPER: On the big issues, you know, they agree with him, people agree with him and that's fine.

CUPP: Maybe they want him to do what he says is just less important.

COOPER: Because if all of this was revealed during the campaign, it's not as if it's new information. It's just interesting that it continues in the Oval Office.

BORGER: But it is affecting him because if members of Congress believe that you're not telling them the truth, if you say to a member of Congress, you vote this way, I'll have your back, don't worry about it, I gotcha. And then they don't believe him, they're not going to be with him. And I think it --

O'BRIEN: It's already starting to -- BORGER: By the way, the whole Don Jr. thing, while he wasn't involved

in the Don Jr. press release that kept changing every day, well, now we know that he was, and so eventually, I think, you reach a --

CUPP: You'll have fewer establishment going to bat for him. I don't know that this erodes his base.

O'BRIEN: But let's not forget, Robert Mueller has an active investigation going on around Russian collusion, whatever form it might take. And Trump has prevaricated around that issue. So, there are going to be consequences to his lying that -- and I imagine Robert Mueller's sitting there each night with a little notebook just checking off boxes. Whatever the White House press corps is doing, whatever the White House spokespeople are doing, the reality is he has misled investigators.

COOPER: We got to take a break.

Coming up, the White House backs a plan to cut back on legal immigration. A senior White House policy adviser went after CNN's Jim Acosta about a poem inscribed on the statue of liberty. We'll play that for you.

And later, I'll speak with Republican Senator Jeff Blake who is so anti-Trump in some regards, he wrote a book about it.


[20:17:01] COOPER: The president is pushing a plan aimed at reducing legal immigration to the United States, giving priority to highly skilled immigrants who speak English. The president's senior adviser Stephen Miller spoke about the plan today at the White House and got into it with CNN's Jim Acosta who joins us now.

First of all, Jim, what is this new plan that the president is endorsing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very sweeping plan, Anderson. It would totally remake the American immigration system in many ways and it would put in a merit-based or points-based system for people who are emigrating to the country legally, which runs contrary to everything we've thought about when it comes to our immigration system in the country, what it means to be an American.

Basically what they would do is award points to people as they're applying to become a U.S. citizen and applying for legal immigration status into this country, a green card to get status in this country.

And we can show you some of the things they're talking about in terms of what this point system would be like. For example, your age, your education, your English ability. Anderson, for example, if you're over the age of 50, you get zero points, whereas if you're in your 20s, you get anywhere between six to 10 points. If your English proficiency is below 60 percent, you get zero points. And so, what they're essentially trying to do here is come up with a

points system for people coming into this country. And as you and I know, Anderson, over the years people coming into the United States whether it was through Ellis Island or, you know, coming across the straits of Florida from Cuba to Miami or across the southern border from Mexico and Latin America, not everybody obviously coming into the United States in those situations have that kind of, you know, points system working to their advantage.

There have been lots of people coming into this country who did not speak English very well, who may have been older or younger. And they have gone on to lead very productive lives in this country and have children who have been highly successful in this country. And so, that's why this points system is something they're going to have a very tough time pushing through Congress.

COOPER: You tried to push back with Stephen Miller, sort of had a back and forth. What happened?

ACOSTA: Right. I essentially just asked, you know, what about the Statue of Liberty? And I read to him what is inscribed on the statue of liberty. And essentially, here's how it played out.


ACOSTA: What you're proposing here or what the president here does not sound like it's in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration. The Statue of Liberty says, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It doesn't say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer.

Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you're telling them you have to speak English? Can't people learn how to speech English when they get here?

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR: Well, first of all, right now, it's a requirement that to be naturalized, you had to speak English. So, the notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of immigration systems would be actually very ahistorical.

Secondly, I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world.

[20:20:06] It's a symbol of American liberty lighting the world.

The poem that you are referring to was added later. It's not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty. But more fundamentally, the history, but more fundamentally, the history --


ACOSTA: You're saying that that does not represent what the country has always thought of as immigration coming into this country?

MILLER: I'm saying the notion -- Jim, let me ask you a question.


ACOSTA: Stephen, I'm sorry, that sounds like some national park revisionism. The Statute of Liberty has always been a beacon of hope to the world, for people to send their people to this country.

MILLER: Jim, do you believe --

ACOSTA: And they're not always going to speak English, Stephen.

MILLER: Jim, do you believe --

ACOSTA: They're not always going to be highly skilled. They're not always going to be --

MILLER: Jim, I appreciate your speech. Jim, I appreciate your speech. So, let's talk about this. Let's talk about this.

In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? In the 1990s, when it was half a million a year, was it violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land?


MILLER: No, tell me what years -- tell me what years -- tell me what years meet Jim Acosta's definition of the Statue of Liberty home law of the land? So, you're saying a million a year is the Statue of Liberty number, 900,000 violates it, 800,000 violates it.

ACOSTA: I'm saying you're sort of bringing a press one for English philosophy here to immigration, and that's never what the United States has been about.


MILLER: But your statement's also shockingly ahistorical in another respect too. Which is, if you look at the history of immigration, it's actually ebbed and flowed. We've had periods of very large waves, followed by periods of less immigration and more immigration. And during the --

ACOSTA: We're in a period of immigration right now that the president wants to build walls. You want to bring about a sweeping change to --

MILLER: Surely, Jim, you don't actually think that a wall affects green card policy. You couldn't possibly believe that, do you? Actually -- the notion that you actually think immigration is at a historic lull, the foreign-born population of the United States today -- Jim, Jim --

ACOSTA: With the new chief of staff on Monday talking about how border crossings were -- MILLER: I want to be serious, Jim, do you really at CNN not know the

difference between green card policy and illegal immigration? I mean, you really don't know that?

ACOSTA: Sir, my father was a Cuban immigrant. He came to this country in 1962 right before the Cuban missile crisis and obtained a green card. Yes, people who immigrate to this county --


MILLER: Jim -- Jim, this is a factual question, Jim. Jim, as a factual question --

ACOSTA: -- do obtain a green card at some point. They do it through a lot of hard work. And yes, they may learn English, as a second language, later on in life, but this whole notion of well, they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?

MILLER: Jim, actually, I can honestly say, I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It's actually -- it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that in your mind -- no, this is an amazing -- this is an amazing moment, this is an amazing moment, that you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants, who do speak English, from all over the world.

But, honestly, Jim, have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia? Is that your personal experience?

ACOSTA: Of course, there are people who come --

MILLER: But that's not what you said, and it shows -- it shows your cosmopolitan bias. And I just want to say --

ACOSTA: It sounds like you're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.

MILLER: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you've ever said. And for you, that's still a really -- the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong.

ACOSTA: I didn't say --


ACOSTA: And just a point of clarification, Anderson, we should point out I'm on the government's immigration page on my smartphone right now, it says that you do take an English and civics test but there are exemptions for people, they don't have to pass that English test. There are certain situations where people don't have to pass that test. They can learn English later on.

But, Anderson, obviously as you could tell from that exchange, the White House still has more explaining to do on this issue.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it.

With me now, Charles Blow, Jeffrey Lord, Ana Navarro, and Matthew Whittaker.

Charles, you know, Stephen Miller said this bill is designed to help African-American workers, Hispanic workers, unemployed workers of all backgrounds. Do you buy that?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, that part is a problematic part for me. Just because, you know, they pitched Barack Obama as a racial divider and, in fact, what Trump has done again and again and again has tried to pit one minority group against the other.

He told LGBT people that I'm going to keep you safe because I'm going to keep the Muslims out. We're going to have a Muslim ban. He kept telling African-Americans you're going to get more employment because I'm going to keep the Hispanic immigrants out.

[20:25:05] That is really problematic for me, because, in fact, what you should be saying is not necessarily that we're pitting one against the other but we're growing the pie rather than trying to kind of narrow it and divide it. So, that part of it is problematic.

I do believe, I'm a big proponent of kind of highly skilled immigration to this country. I do believe for us to be competitive, we have to increase that. But what this bill -- what this proposal does does not increase it at all. It's just cutting down on the other parts of legal immigration and there was no talk that I saw about increasing the pool of highly skilled people. So, I want to see more people coming in because actually we need it, I mean, to be competitive in the world.

COOPER: Jeff, it's interesting because the president gave an interview to "The Economist" in May and he was asked, do you want to curb legal immigration? He said, quote, oh, sure, you know, I want to stop illegal immigration.

He was then asked -- clearly he didn't understand, what about legal immigration? Do you want to cut the number of immigrants to which he replied, oh, legal, no, no, no, I want people to come to the country legally. No, legally? No. I want people to come in legally. But I want people to come in on merit. I want to go on a merit-based system.

This certainly seems to be a merit-based system --


COOPER: -- but it does seem to be cutting the number of people coming in legally.

LORD: Yes, I think what this is doing, Anderson, is opening an overdue debate on legal immigration. One of the things that I worry in listening to that conversation with Jim Acosta and Stephen Miller, is that we moved from a country, we're assimilating to a country that is, you know, almost the fulfillment of George Wallace's old thing about segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever, and that you get people that come in here and immediately decide to self-segregate and it's more tribalism than folks that want to --

COOPER: What do you base that on? I mean, where are you seeing that? Because actually, I mean, immigrants traditionally in the United States --

LORD: Well, you listened to Jorge Ramos. He makes a -- I've read some of his stuff. He makes it abundantly plain, he wants a, quote/unquote, you know, Latino section of this country, as opposed to an American --


BLOW: I'm always curious about this when people say assimilate. Assimilate to what? A set of belief.

LORD: American culture.

BLOW: Well, that's very interesting terminology, right, American culture, because there's a lot of different American cultures. So, I'm always curious when people say assimilate. If you want to assimilate to a set of beliefs and ideals, I understand that part of it. But when people say assimilate, it always rings to me as if people are saying that you need to abandon your ethnicity and become more like, you know, the kind of the white America that I'm envision -- just explain to me what it is. I'm very confused by that always.

LORD: What does white America mean? America, period.

BLOW: Yes, but you said, because -- so if someone --


LORD: Charles, Charles, let's talk music for a second.

BLOW: I don't want to.


LORD: Is Motown about just black music or is it about America?

BLOW: Let me just say this. I'm not opposed to, you know, the idea that people will enjoy their own cultures in America and I think that actually makes America strong. So I'm trying to figure out if people want to enjoy a culture that is native to wherever they're from, and they bring that to America, that makes America more dynamic and diverse, to me, so when people say I need you to be willing to assimilate, the word, assimilate, is really problematic for me. I don't know what it means.

COOPER: I want to bring in Ana. What do you make of this proposal and discussion about assimilation? ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think this is yet one

more wedge issue that's being fabricated by the Trump administration for the purpose of keeping his base happy. It is absolutely racist to award a point system.

I'd like to award points to people that don't lie. I'd like to award points to people that don't wedge and pit Americans against each other. And, you know, I live in a community which is full of people who came here without speaking English, including myself, including Marco Rubio's parents and grandparents, including people like Emilio and Gloria Estefan.

This is a community that has been built by people that came here, many seeking political asylum, seeking refuge, seeking freedom, seeking a better opportunity for their children. They now own businesses. They own banks.

They contribute. They are university presidents. They are brilliant doctors and surgeons in our hospitals.

So, this idea that you give a point system, that this White House would be giving a points system and giving -- you know, not allowing folks in who don't speak English and giving them the opportunity to learn English is absolutely racist and more than racist, it is un- American. It is not what we have done for 241 years.

And it is unrealistic because I can think of at least three U.S. senators who have parents that didn't speak English. Two of them being Republicans, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I know that there is no way in the world this proposal will see the light of day in the U.S. Senate. It will not pass. It is nothing but another red herring by the Trump administration.

COOPER: Matt, you said the devil's in the details on this.

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. As someone that's enforced the immigration laws, I know how difficult these choices are. And we elect our politicians in the folks in the House and the Senate and the President to make these difficult choices. There's no doubt in my mind having enforced these laws both for illegal and legal including things like going after people that commit marriage fraud that these rules need to be updated, these laws need to be updated and somebody has to make these choices as to who does or doesn't come in our country. And that's what we elect these folks to do.

But I will agree with Ana on one regard, and that is that immigrants, recent immigrants and long-term immigrants have made this country great.

COOPER: All right, everyone, we're going to continue this discussion.

Up next, what President Trump said today about this new immigration plan and I'll get everyone's take on it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: We're now in the immigration plan getting support from the President. He is backing a bill, by two GOP senators, that proposes cutting illegal immigration into the United States by half over 10 years. Here's what President Trump said about it this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The RAISE Act ends chain migration, and replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card. This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy


COOPER: I'm back now with the panel. Jeffrey, I just want you to be able to respond to Ana who said that this is un-American, that there are plenty of people who come to this country not speaking English.

[20:35:05] JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I totally disagree. One of the things and I want to address as well to my friend, Charles, here, on what is assimilation.

My mother is Irish on her side of the family. So, you know, what, on St. Patrick's Day, I have corn beef and cabbage and maybe a green beer. Trust me, I'm not Irish. I'm an American. That's the point. There is no one in America who's an American citizen. Donald Trump --

COOPER: Right, but the Irish came here, they weren't viewed as American. In fact, the racism against Irish people was overwhelming.

LORD: Right. I understand which is why we have to move past this and not do a thing where we're in essence resegregating the country. That's a bad thing.

COOPER: Ana, is this resegregation?

NAVARRO: No, Jeff -- No, you know, Jeff, it must be so nice to be a white male.

LORD: What does that have to do with, Ana?

NAVARRO: -- in America and be able to -- I think you just completely missed the point of what makes us wonderful here in America is that I can go celebrate St. Patrick's Day and that you can celebrate Cinco De Mayo.

LORD: Yes.

NAVARRO: Or you can celebrate the 15th of September. And that does not define being American.

LORD: Agree.

NAVARRO: Go to the Vietnam wall. Go to any of the memorials. Go to Arlington and take a look at all of the Polish, Italians, Hispanic names --

LORD: Correct.

NAVARRO: -- that you will see on those. They bled and they died.

LORD: Right.

NAVARRO: For this country. But many of them are the children or they, themselves, came here without speaking English and became American. So there is no such -- you know what's beautiful about America? That there is not one single label of Americanism. America means loving your country. America means sacrificing for your country. America means putting your country first. It does not mean what language you came here speaking. It does not mean what holiday you celebrate. It means patriotism, love of country, and shared values. It has nothing to do with culture.

LORD: Right. Well, I more or less 100 percent agree with everything you just said. I'm not disagreeing with that. My concern is, is that we have, with all this business of identifying communities, you know, this community, that community, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, with all the emphasis on that that it keeps people from assimilating into the larger American culture.

NAVARRO: Nobody does more -- nobody does more identity politics than Donald Trump. The guy who came down, announced he was running for president and called Mexicans rapists. Nobody does more identity politics than guy who called for the Muslim ban. Nobody does more identity politics than the guy who tweets out against transgenders. So if you want there to be no identity politics --

LORD: I do.

NAVARRO: -- my request to you is to start by telling the president you support regardless of what he does to stop doing it, himself.

COOPER: Charles?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I just -- I love the convenience of the flip-flopping though, the historical flip-flopping, not the contemporaneous flip-flopping. The, you know, white people literally invented racial catechism in this country. I mean, look at the American Anthropological Association. They've -- their whole statement about this, literally invented it in order to advantage themselves and disadvantage others.

LORD: And then, they became Democrats.

BLOW: OK, you can go with that if you want to, but I'm going to finish this point. Right? And it succeeds so well that people were isolated and were forced to create -- to enjoy and luxuriate in their own cultures, right? And now all of a sudden as America browns and there are now more brown babies being born in America than there are white babies, and all of a sudden then it becomes, you know, we now need to look at, you know, discrimination against white kids in college, now we need to have everybody assimilating when they -- now we need everybody to speak English.

You know, Jason Miller stood at that stand today and kind of talked down the poem that's on the statue of liberty because it's added later which is not a white nationalist talking point. We're not against for that but the idea it's added later and all that. But when it was actually -- when it was more white faces showing up on these shores --

LORD: So, in other words --

BLOW: -- huddled masses, we were embracing that. It's just -- the historical flip-flopping is really fascinating to me. You know, when crack was ravaging the ghettos as they put it, we couldn't wait to have stronger laws and lock them up and they're making bad decision and they're horrible people and now that it's a bunch of white kids in the suburbs, you know, hung out on painkillers, not -- they're all sick. And we need to put billions of dollars into budgets in order to fix their sickness because they're not bad people, they're just sick. Do you not see this kind of historical flip-flopping and how problematic it is?

LORD: I do see the historical flip-flopping. And what I see is when Dr. King said that he wanted America where his children were judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. We now have liberals saying, in essence, that's racist and that's wrong.

[20:40:01] BLOW: We have liberals saying what?

LORD: That that is racist. That that sentiment to judge people in a colorblind society that that is now racist. We all have to identify by race.

BLOW: No, no. I don't think that's what people are saying. In fact, what -- I think people actually saying is, the structures of racism were in place for so many -- so long, so many centuries.

LORD: I agree.

BLOW: One second, so many centuries that the benefit of that system, that catechism of oppression redounded to people today. And once you get stuck in one part of society, whether you're wealthy or poor or whatever, is so sticky. And how do we fix the system that we created? We create, you know, this -- the system is the designed system. It is not a fluke. We created this system, so how do we fix it? What are our best mechanisms to try to undo the doing?

LORD: The law has to be colorblind.

BLOW: No, no. Your skull is cute. Not that you say this, and you be colorblind but it wasn't me to be colorblind when it was helping people to oppress other people. So, I'm just saying, what people are trying to do is to figure out, is there something we can do to rectify a historical imbalance? And I think the idea of asking that question and attempting to answer is actually a noble thing to do.

LORD: Well, I agree with that. So --

BLOW: Very interesting.

WHITAKER: None of this is going to be resolved by this bill. I mean, that's -- in all the -- these issues you're all talking about have been through decades of American history and fundamentally, this immigration bill is just changing who can legally get in our country and on what basis. And it's not going to solve any of these challenges.

LORD: It opens to debate.

COOPER: It is a drastic reduction of the number of people. I mean correct me if I'm wrong, of the number of people who could come in legally.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: Which real over the --

WHITAKER: Yes, that's from last year but not from the '90s, not from the -- I mean, you know, at some point in time, somebody has to be deciding how to balance the needs of our economy together with, you know, the -- what we have available. We can't just keep forcing people into the workforce if there aren't jobs and if the economy is not, you know, dramatically improve and chugging along at three plus percent GDP.

COOPER: Ana, I mean, do you think this thing is not going to go anywhere?

NAVARRO: I think it's not going to go everywhere.

COOPER: And that you think is more about dividing people at this point, about creating wages to appeal to a base?

NAVARRO: Absolutely, look, if ever -- if Donald Trump wants to start cutting down on legal immigration and having a point system, I think he could start by setting the example himself, maybe he stops employing foreign workers for his resorts because they are cheaper than American workers.

COOPER: Right. Stephen Miller was asked about that today and then --


NAVARRO: He needs to start by living as the example. Right. Look, he's right. We need to revamp the immigration system. The immigration system should be revamp every now and then because it needs to be modernized. It needs to meet the requirements of America's modern economy today. But you don't do it in a piecemeal system, where all you do is address cutting down legal immigration, putting in all these other requirements and you don't address things like the DREAM Act children, who are making incredible contributions to America. You don't address things like family immigration. That's just never going to fly in Congress.

And I am telling you, my senator, Marco Rubio, his father was a bartender who came here without speaking English. His mother was a maid, a housekeeper, who came here without speaking English. His grandfather was a reader in that cigar company, a tobacco factory in Cuba, who spoke no English. So there's just no way that Marco Rubio, among others, in the Republican Party could look at themselves in the mirror and vote for something like this. It is going at nowhere and it's nothing but another propaganda wedge issue by the Trump administration.

COOPER: We're going to leave there. Thanks everyone. When we come back, we going to speak to Republican Senator Jeff Flake about his book which criticize President Trump and hear how the White House has responded.


[20:47:31] COOPER: With the growing number of GOP Senators breaking ranks with President Trump on policy issues such as healthcare and the transgender service member ban, one senator kicking off his re- election campaign with the book that includes criticism of the President. Senator Jeff Flake is the author of the new book "Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle."

When asked about the book today at the White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But I think that Senator Flake would serve his constituents much better if he was much less focused on writing the book and attacking the President in passing legislation.


COOPER: And Senator Flake joins me now. First of all, just those comments from the White House, I just wanted to give you a chance to respond to that because it's a -- I mean, it's a tough thing you've done to write this book before a re-election.

JEFF FLAKE (R), SENATOR, ARIZONA: Well, yes. You know, Senator Goldwater in his time, in 1960 felt that the Republican Party had been compromise by the new deal. And I think today we have different things that are the concern to Republicans and Conservatives. Populism and nationalism, protectionism, and those things, I think are a danger to the party and that really, I think, don't bode well for the future if we stick to them.

COOPER: Yes. I mean you write in the book, you said that -- excuse me, let me find this. You talked about the sugar high of populism and that the crash is going to be severe.

FLAKE: Right. You know, this didn't start with this administration. Most of the book is about the time period before. I was in the Congress and the House at 2001 to 2012. And around 2000, you know, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, we Republicans didn't comport ourselves very well. We spent far too much and I think because we couldn't brag about being the party of limited government anymore, then we start to talk about things like flag burning and got off our message. And we were drummed out of the majority in 2006 in the House and the Senate and then lost the White House in 2008. And I have the similar concerns now.

Populism is just not a governing philosophy. It is popular. And you can't win a few elections here or there, but it's not a governing philosophy.

COOPER: You've got some tough words for President Trump in the book. You call his tweeting, all noise, no signal, you talked about his embrace of fake news, which you criticized. You condemn with what you call his simple answers to complex issues. Are you the only Republican in Congress who believes this? Because it does seem like you're just about the only one who's speaking out so forcefully on it.

[20:50:00] FLAKE: Well, I do think there are two parts of being a Conservative. One to believe in limited government, economic freedom, free trade, those kinds of policies, but the other part is in your demeanor. Conservative is not and if it's not particularly with foreign policy, if not measured and sober and deliberate and predictable. I think our allies need that, certainly our adversaries need to hear that, and I'm concerned that whether we don't have that out of the White House right now.

COOPER: Predictable and incredible. I mean, how big do you think the credibility problem in this White House is?

FLAKE: Well, I am concerned. I have a whole chapter in the book on kind of the information and fake news and how we deal with it. And it is a big problem. That's been exacerbated by obviously, the social media and, you know, just 24-hour news out there. And it's tough to believe some of what we see. And, you know, it used to be that there were truths that were self-evident that we all believed in and now that seems to be fleeting and that's dangerous in a democracy.

COOPER: I'm wondering the White House's immigration plan that they announced today --

FLAKE: Right.

COOPER: What you think about it. Because in your book, you also try to expanding the Republic content which is something the Republican can talk to that frankly for a long time. I remember going back to the convention, I think it was in '96 and the Republicans would walk around with, you know, said big tent.

FLAKE: Right.

COOPER: You talked about how the party needs to appeal to non-white voters. Do you think this immigration policy expands the tent?

FLAKE: No. You know, I do believe that we can do a merit-based system somewhat. The SB-744, the last bipartisan immigration bill that I was a part of, we moved on legal immigration partly to a merit- based system. There was still a family-based side but there was a merit-based system. But we didn't cut the number of immigrants in half. I don't think that we should do that. I think we need to look out for the needs of the economy and I don't think the economy will be well served by cutting the number of immigrants in half.

COOPER: You know, Senator Lindsey Graham spoke about President Trump and his reaction to the Russia sanctions bill. I just want to play that.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It makes one wonder why the Trump administration is so different than everybody else on Russia.


COOPER: I'm wondering what you make of the President's statements on the Russia sanctions. You wrote in your book that any president will grab any authority they're given, but it's Congress' job to push back. Do you think the President understands respects in the separation of powers?

FLAKE: Well, I was glad to see the President signed the Russia bill today. I think he was kind of pushed into it but I was glad to see him sign it. And it is, for those of us who were raised, you know, during the cold war where the Soviet Union was the existential threat and now, you know, the successor Russia, I think it is a little jarring sometimes to see the attitude toward Russia.

So it is tough to understand. And I'm glad that the President signed the bill.

COOPER: What about the-- any bipartisan effort in the Senate to work on healthcare. The plan is to hold hearings and how to repair the individual market. In theory, is this something that you could support as a conservative?

FLAKE: You bet, you bet. I think that we've reached the limits of what we can do as Republicans. We tried. We obviously need to reform and repeal whatever Obamacare. It's not working in Arizona on the exchange, I can tell you that. Two hundred thousand Arizonans will wake up tomorrow without insurance. It's too expensive. They're paying the fine, but they don't have insurance. That so, it desperately needs reform. I would have liked to have kept that reform alive. But now we're going to move in the committee process and do a bipartisan bill. That's the choice that we have now.

COOPER: You, I mean, I asked you about this a little bit before, but you are going to be running for re-election. This was a book you could have written -- I mean, you could have run, won and then written this book and not taken the heat from the White House, but you chose not to do that.

FLAKE: You know, I would have probably been politically safer to wait. But, you know, once you wait, then you find an excuse not to. And for me, I think it means more because I have something at risk. I think this book needed to be written. I think we are facing a crisis of conservatism. We've got to get back to the principles of limited government, economic freedom, free trade, if we want to be a governing party. And I think I just felt compelled to do it. I didn't tell my staff, I didn't tell my political advisers, I didn't want to be talked out of it. But I felt that was important.

COOPER: I talked to General Michael Hayden a while back and he talked about the thin veneer of civilization and that we all think it's sort of thicker than it actually is. Do you worry about that, given the assault on truth, the assault on facts, you know, the lack of credibility that we talked about coming out of the White House?

FLAKE: Yes. I'm concerned overall about that. And the information that people are exposed to and you hear some of the things that people believe.

[20:55:02] You know, they all -- during the campaign or well, going back eight years, this absurd theory that Barack Obama wasn't born in the country, the currency that that received and the people who believed it for that long.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, then Donald Trump was a big proponent of that, obviously.

FLAKE: Yes, and I mean, that was just wrong and just hurtful and terrible. But people still clung to it. And so -- yes, I am concerned. That's just one, you know, conspiracy theory out there. There are many. And I talk about it in the book. I hope that there's a marked response. We certainly don't want to, you know, move in and try to censor what is printed or what is broadcast, that's not who we are, but I hope that we can be more discerning. I think it's our responsibility as elected officials when we see things that are simply erroneous to call it out and not to let it go simply because it might benefit us politically.

COOPER: Senator Flake, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

FLAKE: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Up next, more questions about the credibility of the White House. If the President talks about two calls he received, one from the president of the Mexico the other from the boy scouts calls that the White House now admits never happened.


[21:00:05] COOPER: Well, the President of the United States has reached new lows in both approval and credibility. On credibility, today the White House admitted the two phone calls the President said he took accepting glowing praise from the President of Mexico in the head of Boy Scouts never happened.