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Trump Makes Scripted Call for Unity After Divisive Phoenix Rant. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 23, 2017 - 20:00   ET


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

What a difference a day makes. Well, a day, a speechwriter and a teleprompter.

President Trump today speaking to veterans in Reno, reading from prepared remarks on a teleprompter, calling for national unity.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us.


COOPER: Heal the wounds, seek a new unity, common values that unite us. Normally, strong words that few would take issue with, except when these words are coming from the mouth of President Trump, many Americans wonder what, if anything, do they really mean.

Just last night, the president stood before a crowd of supporters in Phoenix and revealed once again just how far he'll go, how much he'll bend the truth, whose memory he'll sully, whom he'll attack even within his own party. Sometimes, he does this to try to cover up a fact that he made a mistake, which as we all know he never owns up to. Sometimes he does it because he clearly thinks of himself as a victim, a victim of Republicans, reporters, leaking staffers, Democrats and just about everyone else. Donald Trump, the world's biggest victim, trapped inside the body of the world's most powerful man.

And perhaps sometimes he does it because this is what he has done his entire life. Maybe it was entertaining in New York when he was a brash real estate developer exaggerating his wealth, pretending to be other people, calling up tabloid reporters to brag about his prowess with the ladies. But now, he's president of the United States. And while many in that auditorium in Phoenix may have enjoyed his riffs, if you believe the latest polls, many others in this country sure seemed to believe that act is wearing thin.

We want to take a few minutes to go through some of the things the president claimed last night which were misstatements of fact. Or let's be real, outright lies. Last night, the president was supposed to talk about his accomplishments and his agenda. But it became a 77- minute airing of grievances in which the president again went out of his way to make himself the victim in the tragedy of Charlottesville, a tragedy that had many real victims, including Heather Heyer, just 32 years old, struck and killed by a driver on authorities say admission of murder.

Now, last night, the president mentioned Heather's first name in passing but spent most of his time on Charlottesville trying to repeat and rewrite what he said and didn't say immediately after the fact.


TRUMP: I'm really doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are.

So here is my first statement when I heard about Charlottesville, and I have a home in Charlottesville, a lot of people don't know.

Here's the first -- I can't believe they haven't figured that one out yet. Now they know. Now they finally know.

But I just -- I don't want to bore you with this. But it shows you how dishonest they are. And most of you know this anyway.

So here's what I said. Really fast, here's what I said on Saturday.

We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is me speaking. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. That's me speaking on Saturday -- right after the event.


COOPER: All right. So, let's just focus on that for a moment, because the president is right there, attempting -- right there, he's attempting to rewrite history. He's attempting to re-craft what he actually said. Yes, he did speak those words on Saturday after the tragedy, that's true, but he left out the end of the last sentence and the next sentence.

This is the sentence the president actually spoke on Saturday, the day Heather Heyer was killed.


TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides -- on many sides.


TRUMP: On many sides. That is the controversial part. That's the part, by the way, he ad libbed on Saturday. That's the part in which he equated neo-Nazis and Klansmen with the people who turned out to protest them.

By leaving those words out last night in Phoenix, the president lied by omission. Also last night, in all the time that he devoted to his comments about

Charlottesville and how terrific they were, he made no mention that on Tuesday, after the tragedy, he praised, and I quote, very fine people on both sides. He didn't mention that last night. He said there were people quietly protesting the idea of removing a statue of Robert E. Lee in a torch lit march in Charlottesville on Friday night.

What's so stunning about those remarks, about very fine people being in that torch lit march is that it was a well-organized march by neo- Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists and they were chanting Nazi slogans and anti-Jewish slogans, and it's on tape.


DEMONSTRATORS: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!


COOPER: Do you think those were Muslims chanting Jews will not replace us? The president would have spoken about very fine people in their midst?

We spoke to the "Vice" correspondent who was with the Nazi marchers throughout the evening about the people she saw Friday night.


COOPER: When the president says that there were good people at this march, they were quietly there to protest removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, that not all of them were neo-Nazis or white supremacists, what did you -- is that true?

ELLE REEVE, CORRESPONDENT, VICE NEWS TONIGHT: No. Everyone who is there knew what they were doing. They were shouting, Jews will not replace us. It was very well coordinated. They had an order to the chants, like there was no mistaking, there's no innocent person wandering up and accidently getting involved in this.


COOPER: Well, last night, the president did not mention his belief that some of those men were very fine people. Another lie by omission. Last night, the president did, however, lash out at the press coverage and no surprise he wasn't honest about that either. Listen.


TRUMP: Then, I said racism is evil. Did they report that I said that racism is evil? You know why? Because they are very dishonest people.

So, I said, racism is evil. Now, they only choose, you know, like a half sentence here or there, and then they just go on this long rampage or they put on these real lightweights all around the table that nobody ever heard of. And they all say what a bad guy I am.


COOPER: OK. So he's talking about his prepared statement right off a teleprompter on Monday of last week. And again, he's not being honest. Let's take a look at just about every news outlet covered it live.


TRUMP: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.


COOPER: So again, the president claimed it didn't get coverage and the crowd in Phoenix appeared to believe him. Sad.

The president even lied last night about the coverage last night.


TRUMP: Look back there, the live red lights, they're turning those suckers off fast. I'll tell you. They're turning their lights off fast. Like CNN -- CNN does not want its falling viewership to watch what I'm saying tonight, I can tell you.

Oh, boy, those cameras are going off. Oh, wow. Why don't you just fold them up and take them home?

Oh, those cameras are going off. Wow. That's the one thing -- they're very nervous to have me on live television, because this can't happen.


COOPER: Is he talking about his staffers there? You know what that is? That is the sound of the president lying again. In fact, we and others kept the cameras going for each and every one of those 77 minutes that he spoke, including every last attack on the people broadcasting it.


COOPER: And yet the president watches us.

Continuous coverage of every single moment of the president's remarks. He lied, too, about his own record, or exaggerated his accomplishments both big and small.


TRUMP: We've also obtained historic increase in defense spending to prevent and deter conflict. We believe in peace through strength. We're building up our military like never before.


COOPER: Like never before.

The president, by the way, has asked for a $54 billion boost in military spending for the next fiscal year which is big, but it's only a smaller basis than 10 other defense budgets, according to "PolitiFact".

In any event, Congress has yet to either raise spending caps or actually appropriate the money. Asking is one thing, getting it is another.

He also turned down a chance to take any responsibility for the GOP health care bill not passing in the Senate. Now, without naming names, he repeatedly referenced the senator whose vote sealed its fate, Arizona's John McCain, who, of course, happens to be undergoing radiation chemotherapy these days for brain cancer. Oh, and for good measure, the president also slammed not by name, Arizona's junior Republican senator, Jeff Flake.


TRUMP: One vote away. One. One vote. One vote away. We were one vote away.

Think of it. Seven years, the Republicans, and again, you have some great senators. But we were one vote away from repealing it.


[20:10:00] COOPER: But you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good last night, please, please, Mr. President, don't mention any names.

So, I won't. I won't. No, one vote away. I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn't it? Very presidential.

And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won't talk about him.


COOPER: Stay classy, Mr. President.

That promise, by the way, didn't last long. Just as few hours later, the president tweeted about him.

He was asked not to use the event to talk about a pardon for former local sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a court order in a racial profiling case. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president's spokesperson, said there would be no pardon announced in Phoenix. The president was warned that given the controversy surrounding Arpaio, announcing a pardon would be like striking a match in a power keg. But warnings or not, potential consequences or not, the president would not be deterred.


TRUMP: By the way, I'm just curious, do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?



TRUMP: So, was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? That's what -- he should have had a jury, but you know what? I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK?


But I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy. Is that OK? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.


COOPER: Well, today, CNN learned that the pardon paperwork is ready to go whenever the president wants.

The president also said this last night which rings especially hollow, not just tonight, but also in light of what we saw during the campaign.


TRUMP: You always understood what Washington, D.C., did not. Our movement is a movement built on love. It's love for fellow citizens.


COOPER: Movement built on love. Roll that one around in the old brain pan for a moment.

It's gotten to the point that serious people of all political stripes, or even of no political stripes whatsoever, some much them begun to worry out loud about the president's fitness for office. Listen to the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, retired three-star general appointed by Republican president serving under Republicans and Democrats. This is what he said after the speech when he asked if President Trump is a threat to national security.


LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the leverage that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to the nuclear codes. In a fit of peak, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there's actually very little to stop him. The whole system's built to ensure a rapid response if necessary. So there's very little in the way of controls over, you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.


COOPER: And this is what Republican Senator Bob Corker said in wake of the president's comments in Charlottesville.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. I think our president needs to take stock of the role that he plays in our nation, and move beyond himself, move way beyond himself, and move to a place where daily he's waking up thinking about what is best for our nation.


COOPER: Moving beyond himself.

Supporters of the president says his base doesn't care if the president lies or not, and many Republicans believe him over the media reporting it. So be it.

But even those who don't care if he lies have to at some point wonder what drives it. What is it that makes someone so uninhibited, so untethered by facts and truth, not just in random tweets pondered out in the early morning hours while the president is watching the morning news programs, but in settings like last night, lying directly to those who support him the most.

[20:15:12] As one Trump biographer who joins us later tonight said, it might be fruitless to get inside the man's head than are to just look at what he does. And when you do that, a thread becomes clear, whether it's insisting his inauguration crowds were the biggest, even though they weren't, and that he won a historic electoral victory which he didn't, or that he said all the right things about a victim of domestic terrorism when so many Americans clearly believed he did not.

With President Trump there's always one constant, himself. It is always about himself -- about his crowds, about his victory, his strength, his wealth, his intelligence, his speech, his reviews, his coverage, his innocence, him.

Last night first and foremost wasn't about the people in that auditorium as the president claimed it was. Maybe that was the biggest lie of all. Last night, what we saw was all about him. If the president really wanted to make last night about one person, he could have made it about John McCain, a man he disagrees with, but a man who's dedicated his life to serving and sacrificing for this country.

How different would it have been -- how differently we might see the president, even people who disagree with him, had the president taken a moment last night, just a moment, to honor a brave senator from that state, fighting perhaps the most difficult battle of his storied life? How different might it have been had he made the night about Heather Heyer, again, someone who maybe didn't share his beliefs, but who stood up for hers and for others and was struck down doing it? What might we be saying if the most powerful man on earth had taken a moment to truly honor her as he's done for the tragic victims of murderers by people who are undocumented criminals?

Heather Heyer may not have agreed with President Trump, and her mother might have rejected his phone calls, but how much of a bigger man would the president appear today if he praised someone precisely because she didn't agree with him? What might we and the country be saying had he actually lived up to the words on his teleprompter today about healing and understanding and about love?

We've got perspective next from someone who's been in the Oval Office for some pretty big decisions and dig deeper into James Clapper's reactions to last night, namely his concerns about the president's power to order a nuclear strike.

Later, new CNN exclusive details on a previously unreported outreach effort involving the Trump campaign and Russia.


[20:21:06] COOPER: For "The Hill's" White House correspondent Jordan Fabian has perhaps the funniest reaction to President Trump's airing of grievances last night in Phoenix, tweeting, quote, Trump is celebrating Festivus early this year.

Former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, as you saw at the top, had a somewhat darker take.


CLAPPER: I really question his ability to -- his fitness to be in this office. I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes. If he in a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there's actually very little to stop him. The whole system's built to ensure a rapid response if necessary. So there's very little in the way of controls over, you know, exercising nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.


COOPER: Let's get perspective now from "Axe Files" podcast host and former Obama senior White House adviser David Axelrod, CNN's political director David Chalian, and Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio.

David Axelrod, you know, it's pretty extraordinary to hear from DNI, Director Clapper, openly questioning President Trump's fitness to serve after a speech in Phoenix last night. I mean, this is a guy who served both Democrats and Republicans as DNI for seven years and was the head of the DIA.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, look, that was a stunning analysis by Director Clapper, who I've known, I've watched him in government, and he's got a stellar record, not a partisan. And calling into question the president's fitness for office, particularly invoking the nuclear codes, which has been a concern of some for a long time. And I suspect that he was echoing private concerns that he's heard among national security and intelligence people.

The only reservation I have about this, Anderson, is one of my concerns about the president is he's been so reckless about kind of delivering these hammer blows to our democracy, to the legitimacy of the courts, the Congress as a co-equal branch of government, to the news media. I think we have to be very careful when we leave these heavy inferences out there that suggests somehow something should be done.

There may be a time and place for a process that involves the president's tenure, but it ought to be proceeded with great care.

COOPER: Yes, David Chalian, I mean, it's very easy, you know, particularly for Democrats and people who do not like the president to get ahead of themselves and feel like, you know, things are in motion, when in fact that's not the case. I mean, we're, what, just a little more than six months into his administration. And support among Republicans in the latest Quinnipiac poll is at, what, 77 percent.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Seventy-seven percent, which is not great, by the way. I mean, that is a little bit lower than it has been. And it's not a healthy place to be with your own party. But you're right -- this is why, Anderson, I think there's such an extraordinary burden on Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell as the Republican leader in Congress. They need to take on the leadership role of really trying to get this Trump presidency back on course.

This is why I think it's such an explosive story that we've been talking about in the last 24 hours of the McConnell-Trump relationship disintegrating and you're seeing both sides in trying to repair it publicly right now as best they can. But Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have an extraordinary burden right now because Donald Trump is not filling the leadership role that the president normally fills. And they need, as the folks that are of his party and holding both majorities in Congress, they need to get him back on force.

COOPER: Michael, I mean, you know, you profiled Donald Trump, wrote a book when he was a citizen. Does he have -- does he operate with strategy? I mean, is there a lot of strategy? Or is it more just -- I mean, my sense is it is more gut instinct or just shear emotion.

[20:25:06] He's like a live wire of emotion who can't stop himself from reacting.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": I think you're right. I think that he's acting impulsively often. He's restrained at various times when he feels besieged. So, these more measured appearances he's had, whether it's been a script or a teleprompter, that reflects Donald Trump under pressure.

I think one thing we have to really give ourselves is the permission to observe what he's doing, and not decide, well, we have to get inside his head. We have to diagnose him. That's really not necessary. We can just look at how he's behaving, decide for ourselves as citizens and as people concerned about policy and politics, what's going on.

And I think Director Clapper's rightly distressed by what he's observing. I don't think we're at the place that we can say this person is unfit, mentally unstable or even suffering from dementia as some have suggested.

COOPER: David Chalian, how do you see how Republicans in Washington, in the Senate, in the House are dealing with him? And, obviously, there have been questions of fitness coming from the Republicans. I mean, probably most notably, Senator Corker. Obviously, he's a Republican.

But and yet you have a lot of Republicans who even in the wake of Charlottesville are not calling out the president by name.

CHALIAN: Right. You have to remember, Anderson, going back to Election Day, a quarter of Trump's voters didn't think he was fit for office and they voted for him anyway. So, I'm not -- I'm not sure that Bob Corker's going to have some major sway, as David was saying, with that rock-solid core of Trump support. I do think it's instructive, though, to sort of look at, I think there's a difference between the way Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been proceeding here.

Paul Ryan is much more dependent for his own survival in his job, on the House Freedom Caucus, folks who go back home, and their voters, in their districts are all rock solid in their support for Donald Trump. That's a little different political calculus in the Senate. We have seen it play out obviously when three members of his own party bucked him on health care in -- last month.

And so, I think you see Mitch McConnell have a different set of political calculations to make, because he's not catering just to the base of the party, he's got these Republican elected officials who have to run statewide and need more than just the base.

COOPER: It is interesting, Michael, to see the president make the kind of remarks he did, kind of ranting last night for so long, and then to see him on prompter reading somebody else's remarks today. It makes the remarks today, I think, seem hollow, given that it certainly seems like last night that is the real Donald Trump.

D'ANTONIO: Well, precisely. And you were right when you noted earlier that there seems to be this kind of raw nerve approach, where he's delivering to those audiences at the so-called rallies exactly what they came for. They want to be excited. They want to be energized. It's a performance that they know fairly well. Many of them travel the country to attend these rallies.

And for the president, I think this is energizing as well. His ego requires it.

COOPER: Michael D'Antonio, David Axelrod, David Chalian, thanks. Well, just ahead, we have more breaking news. Newly uncovered e-mail

from a top Trump aide about a previously unreported effort to arrange a meeting last year between Trump campaign officials and Vladimir Putin. The CNN explosive report is next.


[20:32:30] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There's breaking news tonight, a CNN exclusive in a Russia White House watch, an e-mail from a top aide to President Trump is under scrutiny tonight by congressional investigators. According to sources, the e-mail detailed an effort to arrange a meeting last summer between Trump campaign officials and Russia's President, Vladamir Putin.

Manu Raju joins us now with more. So what have you learned tonight?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Anderson. Congressional investigators have unearthed this e-mail from that top Trump aide that referenced this previously unreported effort to arrange this meeting between Trump officials and Putin.

Now, the aide is actually Rick Dearborn, who was now President Trump's Deputy Chief of Staff. And he sent a brief e-mail to campaign officials last year, relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump campaign officials with Putin. Now, the person was only identified in the e-mail as being from "W.V." and that's a reference we're told of course to West Virginia. We're not sure who this person was, what he or she exactly was seeking, or even on whether or not Rick Dearborn acted on this request. But one source of this person has some political connections in West Virginia.

Now, that same source told me, Anderson, that Dearborn appeared skeptical of the requested meeting. But interestingly, that meeting -- this e-mail occurred in June of 2016, as around the same time of that Donald Trump, Jr. meeting in Trump Tower with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and campaign operatives.

Now, many details about this Dearborn e-mail are unclear, but its existence alone suggests that Russians may have been looking for another entry point into the Trump campaign to see if there were any partners willing to help their effort to discredit Hillary Clinton but Dearborn did not response to our request for comments, I mean, Anderson, the White House declined to comment.

COOPER: And Dearborn was a long-time aide to Jeff Sessions. What did he do for the Trump campaign?

RAJU: He was his top policy adviser over the campaign. He also served as the executive director of the transition, Trump won the presidency.

The question that investigators have is, what role did he play in potentially arranging two meetings that occurred between ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador and Sessions as well his role of keeping up on April 26 campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel that Kislyak attended and Jeff Sessions attended. The question is whether or not Mr. Dearborn had any role in setting those up as well.

COOPER: And this is obviously not the first campaign e-mail about potential Russian meetings. We've learned about how does it all fit together? I mean, it seems like, as you said, it's around the same time.

[20:34:56] RAJU: Yes, that's right. And intelligence experts say that the request made by this unidentified West Virginia really fits a pattern of Russians trying to gather human intelligence and sometimes seeking these unwilling and unwitting partners as part of this covert operations since we know the Donald Trump Jr. meeting occurred around that timeframe as well as an effort by Trump campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos, who actually had tried in multiple occasion to setup a meeting between top Russian officials, including Vladimir Putin and top Trump campaign officials, but we learn that, that effort didn't go anywhere of the Trump campaign -- Mr. Papadopoulos' request. Papadopoulos has not responded to our requests for a comment. However, it's still unclear about this Dearborn e-mail as well, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks.

Joining me now is Kirsten Powers, Steve Hall, Elana Schor.

Elana, you have some new reporting tonight regarding President Trump reaching out to Republican senators over Russia related issues. Who are we talking about here and what have you learned?

ELANA SCHOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, we're talking about Senate Foreign Relation's Chairman Bob Corker and Senator Thom Tillis.

Now this was on two separate Russia related matters. First, Corker, Trump wanted to talk about the Russia sanctions bill. This was the bill that the President had resisted and dragged his heels on signing and Mr. Tillis -- Senator Tillis got a call about the bill that he's sponsoring to prevent the President from firing Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel investigating him.

COOPER: So, OK. So just -- one of the senators, Tillis, has a bill to protect Special Counsel Mueller. Do we know -- did that come up in a conversation? Do we know anything about the nature of the conservation?

SCHOR: It did. A source told us that the conversation became tense concerning the Mueller bill. Trump expressed unhappiness with the bill and said he didn't want it to pass.

Now, Tillis' office after a story ran, said the conversation touched on many issues and cordial. Of course, cordial is in the eye of the beholder but it is possible that Trump cordially informed the senator of his opinion on the Mueller bill.

COOPER: Steve, when you hear about -- I mean, you spent a lot of time focusing on Russian Intelligence Operations, when you hear about Manu Raju's reporting about this potential other avenue to try to have a meeting or gain information, what do you make of sort of this drip, drip?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Anderson, it is very, very consistent with -- what I've seen from Russian operations over the years. If you're running an operation where you're trying to penetrate, trying to get into candidate Trump's team, then what you're going to do is you're going to cast a wide net and you're going to reel it in and you're going to see what you get, whether it's a Paul Manafort, whether it's a Flynn or whether it's this new person Dearborn. You're going to evaluate each of these individuals for motivations, vulnerabilities. Are they pro Russia, are they interested in making money on the side, are they interested in bending the rules? Is it possible that they could, you know, just maybe cooperate and not really understand what they're doing?

All of those things are in the spectrum of what the Russians could be interested in. So the fact that we have another person who is apparently either interested if having contacts or trying to arrange contacts with Russia is concerning from a counterintelligence perspective, and is he had another data point as you continue to assess data as to, you know, what are the connections exactly between Trump's team and Russia government.

COOPER: There's a lot of -- obviously, we don't know about this e- mail. For you, what would be the important gaps that need to be filled in?

HALL: Well, if you're talking about gaps that the Russians would be interested in trying to get to, to find out, it runs sort of the spectrum. I mean, you're looking for people inside whatever organization you're trying to penetrate, in this case, possibly Trump's campaign. People who are willing to just talk a little off the record about what's going on, all the way up through somebody who is willing to do what's referred to as an agent of influence, somebody who could actually bend the President's ear, and say, hey, we would like to do this and the other, all of course being under the control of the Russian government.

So it's a variety of different things that they might be looking for. But the fact that we continue to see and hear about more e-mails that's comes up from a counterintelligence perspective as concerning, it depends on whether or not it really rises to a legal issue or not. That's something that Mueller and his team and I think others were looking at. But simply from a counterintelligence analysis, it's concerning.

COOPER: Kirsten, it's so interesting that at this stage, given the length of time that's passed by, you know, Trump supporters will say, well, look there's still no "there, there." There may be smoke but there's certainly no evidence of fire, no evidence of collusion. And yet new pieces of information are still coming out based on reporters doing hard work and obviously Mueller has access to a lot more information.

KIRSTEN POWERS, STEVE HALL: Yes. I mean, I think -- you know, the bare minimum -- so what this new information tells us at the minimum is what it looks like the Russians were up to. It's just more evidence supporting that they were clearly trying to figure out a way into the Trump campaign and it fits with all the other reporting that's been done. But what we're not sure about this, what it tells us about the Trump campaign.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: But what's strange about is that they even entertained it. Because presidential campaigns are about getting somebody elected president of the United States. It's very little to do with foreign leaders or other countries, really no reason you would need to meet with, who -- and if you're running for president. Unless you were so far ahead that you thought that you were going to win and that you were now trying to plan for your government. But Trump was never at that point. So was always a very tight election.

[20:40:12] So the question is, why all the meetings with the Russians that happened? They don't make any sense. Why even entertain this? Why even pass this information on? The person who passed the information on worked for Jeff Sessions for a long time. He's also was involved in setting up other meetings. And they're suspicious, because Jeff Sessions didn't normally meet with foreign ambassadors and there's been reporting done on this, that all of the sudden there was this massive uptick and all these meetings that he was doing. And so there's a lot of things that I think just raise a lot of questions about what was happening here.

COOPER: Elana, you know, the conversation with Corker that the President had, do we know much about the nature of that? Because obviously Corker is the one who, after Charlottesville, made some really kind of startling comments about -- I don't want to paraphrase it incorrectly, but I mean kind of raising questions about the President's stability or his ability to kind of think beyond himself.

SCHOR: Certainly. And previous to this point, it's important to remember Bob Corker was considered for Secretary of State. He was a close ally of the President's. But to answer your question, what we do know about the call, is that the President was frustrated about a particular portion of the Russia's sanctions bill that allows Congress to block him from easing sanctions. Now, this hasn't happen yet but now the Trump has signed this bill, the Congress can take a vote and stop him from going easier on Putin and it was this that he was frustrated about.

COOPER: Elana Schor, I appreciate it, Steve Hall, Kirsten Powers as well.

Right now, two protesters with confederate flags are demonstrating shrouded statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. What passersby are doing in response, when we come back.


[20:45:36] COOPER: I want to show you a scene right now in Charlottesville, Virginia. Two men are demonstrating in front of the covert statue of Robert E. Lee with the large confederate flag. Moments ago, folks started to notice and argue with the demonstrators, city officials put up the black shroud today. Another shroud as well as around the Stonewall Jackson statue, two blocks away. This comes obviously a little over a week after the violent protests in Charlottesville that ended with one dead, dozens wounded.

The debate over the future of the statues continues. Protesters took over Monday night Charlottesville city council meeting, demanding the statues to be taking down, blaming council for allowing the alt-right rally to happen. Really the conversation in Charlottesville and around the country is about how to tell the story of history in America and how to handle the painful intertwining of both. These themes are also playing out right now in another debate this time in the NFL.

Today, hundreds of protesters flooded the streets outside the NFL headquarters in New York City in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback is famous for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial oppression. Now no team will sign him and football session is rapidly approaching, leading some to question whether he's being black balled --


COOPER: White balled says Spike Lee, who joins us right now. Thank you so much. I know, you're going to use that term. But I mean, it is amazing, it's been one year -- exactly one year since people noticed what Kaepernick was doing.

LEE: The first couple of preseason games people didn't see it.

COOPER: Right. And I want to play something that President Trump said about this back in March.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know, your San Francisco quarterback, I'm sure nobody ever heard of him. There was an article today that was reported that NFL owners don't want to pick him up because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Can you believe that?


COOPER: So Kaepernick is out of a job.

LEE: Right.

COOPER: What do you make of this? What do think is behind it?

LEE: Well, there are eight owners with direct ties to Trump. Woody Johnson --

COOPER: Who is now the ambassador to --

LEE: Yes, but he owns the jets, he donated millions to Trump's inauguration. Robert Kraft, the head of New England Patriots donated a million to the inauguration. Dan Schneider, the Washington football team donated a million to Trump's inauguration. Shahid Khan, Jacksonville Jaguars donated a million, (INAUDIBLE) Texas, donated a million, Stanley Kroenke of the L.A. Rams donated a million. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys, donated a million. Ed Glazer, a chairman --

COOPER: So you think this is fear of the President or a fear of fan reaction, of losing money?

LEE: All these guys are friends. They're in cahoots. And a lot of these guys are the leaders. I mean, Jerry Jones, Kraft, they are the leaders as far as the NFL goes. I just find it -- there are 32 teams in the league. And he could start for half of the teams.

COOPER: Quarterbacks are in high demand of obviously?

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: And I mean --

LEE: And then, he can be a second-string or third-string quarterback. The Miami Dolphins got a guy that retired. They gave him a $10 million contract. Jay Cutler, now look, no disrespect to him, but come on, he's not better than Kaepernick, in my opinion.

COOPER: Right. So to you, I mean, is this owners getting together into saying look, this guy is a trouble maker, we don't want him --

LEE: I think so. I mean, go in the dictionary, and the word might be collusion. And I like to say this.


LEE: What you're seeing now, we have to study history. This is not the first time this has happened to African-American athletes that have stood up. Jack Johnson, he went champion, he was knocking out everybody else. Didn't like him running around with the white women, boom, out. Six-day Olympics, Mexico --

COOPER: Putting up the --

LEE: John Carlos, Tommie Smith, black raised fist. Muhammad Ali refuses to be inducted. All these are examples where men have stood up, believed in their beliefs, and have been crushed, the biggest thing that kills me.

[20:50:02] We all remember, Muhammad Ali Olympics in Atlanta light of torch, his arms shrink (ph) -- Oh, we love him. Muhammad Ali at one time was a most hated man in America. That changed the whole narrative.

COOPER: I'm reading a Bio of him right now and it's incredible.

LEE: The change is like -- they leave that out like it never happened, when he refused to be inducted, no -- and I'm not going to say a word.

COOPER: New York Times I think refused to call him Muhammad Ali they kept calling Cassius Clay.

LEE: This is history. He was the most hated man. And now I put Kaepernick with these guys. And I believe this. Jack Johnson already, Carlos Smith, Muhammad Ali, it happened -- and history will decide they were on the right side.

COOPER: Talking about history, I mean we see this argument over monuments and what to do with these monuments, many of which -- I was growing up I thought these monuments were built immediately after the civil war. They weren't. A lot of them were built to intimidate African-American way after the civil rights movement of the times. Is it -- to those who say, look, this is rewriting history, if you're taking it down, it's important to know America's painful history and it's not whether it's-- you know, some people may honor it, but to at least know about it. And it's a lot of places it's not taught.

LEE: It's not taught, but here is the thing, though, Anderson, and this is something that -- what gets me mad is when people use this term the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers owned slaves. George Washington owned slaves. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and we don't know how would Sally Hender (ph) was either. So, OK, the founding fathers cannot just negate the fact that they own slaves. And they wrote this great document, but also -- they also put that slaves were three fifths of a human being. Not a full person. So let's teach the history.

COOPER: Do you think --

LEE: You cannot -- I mean, this come out --

COOPER: Do you think the statues should be taken down?

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: Robert E. Lee, I mean, you know, obviously Robert E. Lee --

LEE: To answer your question, are there statues of Hitler --

COOPER: No, they're not allowed in Germany.

LEE: I mean up.


LEE: And what people, I think, have -- African-Americans have a reaction to the confederate battle flag, the stars and bars, the same way my Jewish brothers and sisters view the (INAUDIBLE). It is the same exact thing. And now they just hope and especially after Charlottesville, "The New York Times" this thing about Robert E. Lee, oh, we found this letter and now he wasn't for slavery. Come on, now. He led the confederacy.

COOPER: Right. I mean, the difference, obviously between a George Washington and a Thomas Jefferson is -- and Robert E. Lee, Robert E. Lee was fighting to destroy this country, I mean was fighting to divide -- LEE: Yes. But if you read "The New York Times" they found some

letter way back and said, he had reservation was trying to make him --

COOPER: I'm wondering when you heard the President of the United States in his many comments in the wake of Charlottesville, you know, he said one thing on Saturday about many sides, violence on many sides. Then Monday he gave a teleprompter speech, you know, talking against KKK and neo-Nazis, white supremacists. And then the next day on this kind of rambling, impromptu off-the-cuff said, again that, you know, at the torch lit vigil of hundreds of neo-Nazis chanting Jews will not replace us and other awful things, he said there were fine people there.

LEE: In my opinion, I think that when he's not reading a teleprompter, he reveals his true self.

COOPER: That's who he really is.

LEE: I think so. I mean, and he's here. I mean, I've never taken a full page ad in "The New York Times" offering a $1 million reward for the lady who got raped in central park. And he never apologized.

COOPER: So called, Central Park Five.

LEE: Yes. They were found innocent.

COOPER: Not guilty, right. Yes. And right and he put out a huge ad calling for their death penalty.

LEE: Full page ad in "The New York Times." Another thing, oh we got to run but another thing, I'm still in the file. I love cinema and one of my favorite films is "On the Waterfront," directed by Elia Kazan --


LEE: Excuse me, directed by Kazan, written by our friend, Budd Schulberg. And there's a direct correlation between the hero, Terry Malloy played by Marlon Brando and Kaepernick in this film. Brando -- Terry Malloy makes a decision he has to -- he says I need my rights and he goes down to the dock. I want to work. The hiring boss gives out these tabs and if you get a tab you go work. And Johnny Friendly, the mob boss says you're never going to work any dock, your rule wherever, you're never going to work again. Marlon Brando or Terry Malloy, he stands in line. The hiring boss gives everybody a tab.

[20:55:01] COOPER: Except for Brando.

LEE: Except for Marlon Brando, Terry Malloy. They go to some drunk -- poor drunk out of the mob.

COOPER: Give him one.

LEE: And then Brando left there standing there. That's Kaepernick.

COOPER: Because he spoke out. That's Kaepernick, you're saying. LEE: Yes. And in the last scene everybody goes task -- not the last scene. They go to work as the dock workers go, go past Brando and they stand there. And then after he gets beat up they said they're not working until -- so my question is are NFL players, what are they going to do?

COOPER: We saw some players just talking about sports, was it from Cleveland who set --

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: Yes, from Cleveland. Right.

LEE: In a circle, near in a circle.

COOPER: You hope more players stand with Kaepernick.

LEE: I hope so. The league is 70 percent African-American. Now, we can't get into this thinking like all African-Americans are monolithic, we all think alike. And Kaepernick has told me he's told younger players, look, don't risk your livelihood, especially the guys that are going can be cut in a second. I've got this. I don't want you to be cut, broke ass out. So he understands that. But again, I think that Kaepernick is going to be in the right side of history, the same Muhammad Ali was, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and Jack Johnson.

COOPER: Spike Lee. Thank you.

LEE: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next the President goes for a scripted message in Nevada today that's after his rambling free well and speech in Phoenix last night. And there were also a lot of factory details in his rant. We'll show you when we continue.