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Trump Threatens Government Shutdown to Get Wall Funding; Republican President Versus Republican Senator; Weeping White Nationalist Denied Bond. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:03] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Today, the White House showed itself once again unable or unwilling to admit that the president is reversing himself on a key campaign promise, a promise spoken on debate stages, shouted from podiums, and chanted by adoring crowds of supporters at nearly every stop Mr. Trump made as a candidate.

The promise was about that wall. That big beautiful border wall which wouldn't cost taxpayers a thing because the president insisted Mexico would pay for it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will build the wall 100 percent. I promise, we will build the wall.

And who's going to pay for the wall?


TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?




TRUMP: It will be a great wall. Mexico's going to pay for the wall.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

Mexico will pay for the wall.

And Mexico's going to pay for the wall, and they understand that.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall, believe me, 100 percent.


COOPER: One hundred percent, he said.

Well, now, it's American taxpayers being told to pay for the wall. Though the president still claims Mexico will pay for it, some day, somehow. In fact, the president wants taxpayers to pay for the wall so badly, he's threatening to shut down the government if Congress doesn't agree.


TRUMP: We are building a wall on the southern border which is absolutely necessary.


Build that wall. Now, the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall.


COOPER: Building a wall, taxpayer money, not Mexico's government or shut down the government.

Now, he may just be bluffing. It may just be a negotiating tactic, but lawmakers have only a few weeks before the government both runs out of money and hits the debt ceiling. Not addressing either could put the country's credit rating at risk. It could affect the stock market or spook consumers.

Today, the White House was repeatedly asked why the president is willing to jeopardize the U.S. economy for something he once promised Mexico would pay for. The questions were asked a number of ways by a number of reporters to spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but time and again, she basically swatted them away.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president has talked pretty extensively about this. He campaigned on the wall. He won on talking about building a wall. And he's going to make sure that that gets done.

We know that the wall and other security measures at the border work. We've seen that take place over the last decade and we're committed to making sure the American people are protected.

Once again, the president is committed to making sure this happens and we're going to push forward. I certainly don't think any efforts have been abandoned.

Again, this is something the president's committed to. He's committed to protecting American lives. And doing that for the border wall is something that's important. It's a priority and we're moving forward with it.

Look, I think the president has been clear this is a priority, protecting American citizens is a priority, something he's committed to. As I've said multiple times today, he's committed to seeing that through. REPORTER: Will it force a government shutdown to get the wall built?

SANDERS: I think I've answered this question several times.


COOPER: Well, what's so interesting about this wall is that we have now reporting on how the idea apparently began. It comes from Josh Green's remarkable book about Steve Bannon called "Devil's Bargain". He writes, quote: Inside Trump's circle, the power of illegal immigration to manipulate popular sentiment is readily apparent, and his advisers brainstormed methods of keeping their attention-addled boss on message.

They're talking about candidate Trump.

Former campaign aide Sam Nunberg telling Green, quote: Roger Stone and I came up with the idea of the wall. We talked to Steve, meaning Steve Bannon, about it. Nunberg went on to say it was to make sure he talked about immigration.

Green writes that candidate Trump had first seemed indifferent but changed his mind when he tried it out in a speech in January of 2015 and as Nunberg recalls, the place just went nuts. Now, if Josh Green's account is right, the U.S. economy may hinge now on a throwaway catch phrase, a catch phrase that just happened to catch on.

More from CNN's Sara Murray who joins us now.

Has the White House offered any more information following the president's threat about shutting down the government?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, aside from what you saw from Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, they really haven't given us an indication of why suddenly the president has decided this is something he would be willing to shut down the government over. They also didn't offer any real explanation as to how he squares and acts like this with what you showed was a regular campaign promise -- a notion that this wall was going to be built and American taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for.

Of course, we know that as a candidate and since he became president, the president of Mexico has made one thing very clear to President Trump. They're not paying for that wall.

COOPER: And the last time the government shut down was 2013. What happens if the administration follows through with this?

MURRAY: Anderson, Republicans are urging the president not to move forward with a plan like that and there's a reason for that. They paid the political price for doing this in 2013. They led to this government shutdown and the headlines were brutal and they came out every single day, stories about preschools that were closed, kids that couldn't go to preschool, programs that doled out formula for infants for low-income mothers that were being pitched. [20:05:10] There were soldiers were killed in Afghanistan who would

come back to the United States and their families couldn't get death benefits and couldn't get the government to pay for their funeral costs. That is the tiny sample of what happens when you shut down the government. That's the reason they're telling the president, this is not a cliff you want to go over.

COOPER: Yes. Sara Murray, thanks very much. Joining us to talk about the wall, and Mexico not paying for it, is Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.


COOPER: Jorge, for this president who ran on the whole idea that Mexico was going to pay for the wall, to now be talking -- you know, threatening to shut down the U.S. government, should Congress not provide funding for the wall, I mean, that is a huge flip-flop?

JORGE RAMOS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: It's a big change. But I think President Trump hasn't told the truth to the American people. He has to tell the people that on January 27th, according to the "Washington Post," he had a conversation with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

And President Pena Nieto told him many times that Mexico was not going to pay for the wall. For Mexico, it's a matter of dignity. That's what President Pena Nieto told him.

And then President Trump said, according to the transcripts, that he preferred that this was not going to be discussed in public. Unfortunately, Pena Nieto agreed to that and he hasn't confronted Trump. But right from the beginning, Mexico said they were not going to pay for the wall. That's where we are right now.

And on the other hand, the wall is really a stupid idea because there's no invasion coming from Mexico. The undocumented population has remained stable for over a decade. And almost over 45 percent of undocumented immigrants come by plane or with a visa. So, even if you have a big, beautiful $20 billion wall, it's going to serve no purpose.

COOPER: It is interesting that in that call with the Mexican president, that the president had, as you said, leaked to "The Washington Post," the transcript of it, President Trump seemed more concerned about the Mexico president just publicly talking about Mexico not paying for the wall, saying that it would look bad for President Trump. He seemed almost more concerned about the optics of it, and sort of the political ramifications for him.

RAMOS: Exactly. It was a matter of perception. And then he thought President Pena Nieto was going to agree to that. And he then threatened President Pena Nieto. He said, well, if you talk about it, then there's going to be problems with the free trade agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the United States. That's where they are right now. They're negotiating the deal. But the fact is that Mexico from the beginning, everybody knew, I

knew, that Mexico was not going to pay for the wall. That was done during the campaign. And now, President Trump has to tell the truth.

COOPER: I mean, to -- you know, the president's supporters will point out that crossings across the southern border have dropped dramatically, apprehensions have dropped dramatically since President Trump took office. You and I have talked about this before. I think in the past you said, you know, fear works to stop people from coming across.


COOPER: But doesn't the president deserve some credit for using the bully pulpit even before he's really done anything on the wall to reduce people crossing over?

RAMOS: I would say two things.

First of all, fear works, yes. I think President Trump is incredibly unpopular in Latin America. Among probably some of the most hated people in Latin America or in Mexico might be President Trump and Sheriff Arpaio.

On the other hand, it was before President Trump arrived to the White House when we saw a declining in the number of Mexicans coming to this country. So much, that right now, more Mexicans are leaving the United States than coming to this country.

So, it is not entirely because of Donald Trump, but yes, I have to admit that the number of immigrants trying to cross illegally from Mexico to the United States has been reduced, of course.

COOPER: In the president's speech, you mentioned Joe Arpaio, he talked about Joe Arpaio in his speech in Phoenix, strongly suggesting that he will pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, or the former sheriff, who we should point out -- I mean, his immigration crackdowns led to a federal conviction for federal contempt of court. If the president does pardon Sheriff Arpaio, it certainly played well in the crowd in Phoenix.

I'm wondering what it says to Latinos across the United States who many of whom see Arpaio as a lightning rod in immigration issues.

RAMOS: Just think of Charlottesville all over again. First, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not another fine person. Sheriff Arpaio violated the Constitution. Sheriff Arpaio discriminated against Latinos. Sheriff Arpaio has been accused and proven guilty of racial profiling. In other words, he's been accused and proven guilty of racist behavior.

[20:10:01] COOPER: It's also startling, I think, to many people that he's talking about pardoning Joe Arpaio just days after drawing a moral equivalence between, you know, neo-Nazis and those who were protesting against them. I mean, how much moral capital has he lost, do you think, in the recent days?

RAMOS: Well, a lot. You know, we are not the problem. It is not the press -- it is not us that we are making up things.

Here we have a precedent when the past has made racist, sexist and xenophobic remarks. This is a president who equated white supremacists to those protesting racism. This is a president who described as very fine people those marching with neo-Nazis. So, clearly, the problem is not with us, it is with President Trump.

You know, I've been hearing people saying that he's unfit to be president and that he shouldn't be in the White House. Well, in a democracy like ours, the one who wins the election stays in the White House, and he won the election.

But I'm getting ready for four years or maybe eight years with Donald Trump. But this means also that we as journalists, we have the responsibility to call him out if he lies. And he lies a lot, according to the "Washington Post," more than 1,000 times since last January.

We have to say he's lying. If he makes racist statements, we have to say he's making racist statements. The deal is this, when in doubt, more journalism. And if he attacks us, then more journalism. That's what we should do.

COOPE: Jorge Ramos, appreciate your time. Thank you.

RAMOS: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, call it Republican warfare, civil and otherwise, Trump versus McConnell, Corker versus Trump, McCain and Flake versus Trump. Sound and fury and what it signifies when we comes back.

And later, an update on the white nationalist who talked tough when he was armed to the teeth, but then -- well, cried a lot when facing the consequences for his hateful acts.


[20:15:47] COOPER: In addition to taking another poke at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today in his ongoing feud with both Republican senators from Arizona and his unsolicited advise for House Speaker Paul Ryan, the White House is also trading shots with Bob Corker, the Republican senator from Tennessee, also known as the guy who was on the very short list to be the president's secretary of state.

So, it was no small thing when Senator Corker recently had this to say about President Trump, and the head -- you know, the head of his own party.


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. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation.


COOPER: Well, today, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Senator Corker's critique.


SANDERS: I think that's a ridiculous and outrageous claim and it doesn't dignify a response from this podium.


COOPER: No shortage of intraparty tension. Plenty of complaints that the president is alienating some of the people he may need to make his presidency a success.

I want to talk to former Obama senior adviser Van Jones and former senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller.

So, Jason, you heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying, you know, Corker questioning the president's, quote, stability and confidence was ridiculous and outrageous. How does that government fly given the comments came from a sitting Republican senator who's been an ally of the White House?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I wish Sarah had picked a little bit of a bigger fight here today because it's really a fight worth having. I mean, this really goes to the culture war that I think helps sweep President Trump into office, where you have the Washington elites on one side and you have the rest of the country on the other side.

Look, in Washington, if they don't like the way that you talk or they don't like the way that you act, or they think that you don't sit around all day studying Roberts rule handbook of order, then they start launching these vicious attacks against you.

I'm not saying that President Trump is immune from criticism, not at all. But these attacks where they're attacking the stability or competence, or as we saw from Clapper, comments like fitness, this is really going and making it a personal attack well above and beyond. And I think these -- it's important to keep in mind that President Trump, not only defeated the Democratic establishment in the general election, he also beat the Republican establishment in the primary.

And so, this really sets up what's going on here. Now, we do have to bring it together because we do have Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. And I think this is pivotal as we head into the fall. The folks on the Hill need to get with the program and get behind our president.

COOPER: Van, is this just a problem of Washington elites? VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I -- it's kind of sad to

hear him say that because somebody's got to be able to give the president real feedback here. I think the problem you have now is that anybody who gives critical feedback automatically becomes a part of the establishment and therefore, you don't have to listen.

Bob Corker is not a part of any establishment that you would be against. He is a -- I'm from Tennessee. He is a strong down the line conservative, but he's also a no-nonsense common-sense kind of conservative which we used to celebrate in America. He's basically trying to give the president some honest feedback.

You have somebody trying to give president some feedback and say, listen, you're not meeting the criteria yet. There's the standard, we want you to meet it. This guy now gets thrown under the bus, Corker? If Corker is not conservative enough and doesn't have the heartland credentials to critique the president, that means nobody does.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Jason, it wasn't like he was -- I mean, Bob Corker wasn't insulting, going out of his way to insult the president, I don't think. Do you think he was? I mean, do you think his critique was that harsh? Because he was essentially saying, you know, that -- it was kind of a gentle critique, if anything, saying the president, you know, hasn't yet done this.

JONES: And more in sorrow than in anger, and in grief than attack.

COOPER: Jason?

MILLER: Well, Anderson, I think I viewed it a bit differently and I think a lot of Trump supporters did as well. It didn't seem to be, say, a criticism of a specific issue or maybe criticism of particular remarks.

COOPER: Well, I think it was in the wake of Charlottesville. I mean, I think that's what the general time frame was.

MILLER: But the way that the remarks were delivered seemed to be an overall rebuke of President Trump's character. That's the way that it came across to me.

Now, if Senator Corker didn't mean it that way, then I think he should clarify that because that is definitely the way it came across.

[20:20:00] But here's -- but putting all that aside for a moment, I mean, here's the bottom line. For the past eight years or so, ever since President Obama came into office, and the Democrats were in control and Republicans got both chambers back, we've been wanting to pass tax reform. We've been wanting to repeal and replace Obamacare.

We now have a president in the White House who will sign all of those. So, Republicans need to pass these bills, they need to get it done, get it to the president so he can sign it. These are all things as Republicans we've been running on for years. Now we've got to go do what we've been promising to do.

COOPER: Van? I mean, has the president helped that effort to get those things done by going after certain senators?

JONES: I don't under -- listen, well, what he said makes perfectly good sense. The president has been doing everything but focusing on tax reform and focusing on actual problems for real people. He's been tweeting. He's been kind of like apologizing for, you know, weird Nazi stuff.

The president has not done himself a good service. I think that's what -- you've got people like Corker -- listen, I still live in Tennessee, I would vote against Corker 12 times a day if I could. I'm no fan of Corker. But when you have people like Corker saying, you are letting us down, that -- his surrogates should be amplifying that, not then doing character assassinations against Corker because Corker is solid.

One more thing to say is simply this: if the president were as focused on this tax stuff as we're talking about, the new cycle would be totally different. And Corker would be applauding him. Corker would be the main one saying, yes, sir, thank you very much. And you basically just validated Corker's concerns.

COOPER: Van Jones, thank you. Jason Miller as well.

An update now on America's most famous weeping white nationalist. Perhaps you remember Christopher Cantwell when he was talking tough for "Vice News" in Charlottesville right after the melee that killed Heather Heyer.


CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL, WHITE NATIONALIST: If I'd say it was worth it, we knew that we were going to meet a lot of resistance. The fact that nobody on our side died, I'd go ahead and call that points for us. The fact that none of our people killed anybody unjustly I think is a plus for us. And I think that we showed our rivals that we won't be cowed.


COOPER: Well, it's easy to talk tough about not being cowed when you're surrounded by your fellow fans of fascism. The racist words just come out easily. Not so easy to talk tough when a few days later, you're back at your home, wanted on several felony charges, you're scared and you're lonely. That's when Christopher Cantwell turned on the camera and began sniveling about his fate.


CANTWELL: I want to be peaceful, I want to be law-abiding, OK? That was the whole entire point of this. And I'm watching CNN talk about this as violent white nationalist protests. We have done everything in our power to keep this peaceful, you know?

What options do we have left? If somebody would like to inform me of that, then I will be grateful to you. I really will.


COOPER: Well, Christopher Cantwell turned himself in last night. Today was arraigned on two counts of illegal use of tear gas and one of causing militias bodily injury with a caustic substance. Bond was denied and a preliminary hearing set in mid-October.

A lot more ahead tonight. The president also went after former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper today who questioned his fitness for the job, as Jason Miller was referring to. In a moment, I'll ask former CIA and NSA director, General Michael Hayden, what he thinks of all this. Did Clapper go too far or is he spot-on?

Also ahead, Hurricane Harvey building strength, heading toward the Texas Gulf Coast. The latest on when it may hit, where, and how hard, when we continue.


[20:27:29] COOPER: As we've been discussing, the president did what he thought should be done which is attack on Twitter. In addition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the president also went after former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who criticized him for his rant in Phoenix on Tuesday night.

Here's what Clapper said on CNN that got under the president's skin.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I really question his ability to -- his fitness to be in this office. I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes.


COOPER: Well, joining me tonight is retired General Michael Hayden who served as CIA director and NSA director, and as you might expect, knows Clapper well.

General Hayden, first, I'm wondering what you make of former DNI Clapper publicly questioning President Trump's fitness after his speech in Phoenix. General Clapper, as you know, said the event was downright scary and disturbing.

GEN. MICHAL HAYDEN (RET), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, I actually saw Jim's comments live during your coverage after the speech in Phoenix, Anderson. I probably wouldn't have gone there, certainly with the language that Jim used. But, you know, truth in lending here, I signed a letter about a year ago along with about 50 other people like me questioning the competence and stability of then-candidate Trump to do the kinds of things we expect a president to do.

So, I understand the concerns that Jim raised there.

COOPER: As president, has your concern increased, does it remain the same? Has it decreased? HAYDEN: We were concerned going in. And I have to say, Anderson, in

all honesty, the performance of the first seven months, particularly when the president's a bit on his own, and not relying on the structures of government, really hasn't done much to make me feel better about the decision-making process, the experience, the appreciation for both history and consequences, that you'd expect a president to have.

COOPER: As someone who worked in intelligence throughout their entire career, and has studied the unraveling of government, the unraveling of societies, how countries fall apart, how they rebuild, I'm wondering what was going through your mind in the last week and a half or so in the wake of Charlottesville?

And I'm not just talking about the president's --

HAYDEN: Right.

COOPER: -- you know, comments about it, or lack of comments about it, but just about the fact that there is, you know, there was a torch-lit march of hundreds of what appeared to be young American men chanting, Jews will not replace us, and other, you know, literally Nazi slogans. What -- and the response to it.

HAYDEN: So, most of the countries in the world, Anderson, that we care about also have those kinds of fringe elements. So I think they recognize that. More importantly, I think they're looking more broadly at the response of our government and society.

You know, Intelligence folks, Anderson, respond to the priority intelligence requirements of their presidents and prime ministers. And I'm saying this without exaggeration. I can imagine in both adversary and even in some friendly countries now, intelligence chiefs are being given new priorities by their political masters. What are your thoughts on the stability of the current administration? Who in the American government speaks authoritatively for the American government? What are the possibilities of political violence in the United States? And Anderson, those aren't predictions. What I'm simply saying is, is that the range of possible outcomes for these foreign intelligence services, the ones they have to look for, the range of possible outcomes has shifted. And these are now included in them. And those are the kinds of questions that other intelligence services are now looking at us to determine answers.

COOPER: That's really extraordinary. Because that's the kind of thing the U.S. Intelligence services would look at for, you know, I don't know, Muammar Gaddafi would look at -- at any foreign government that had internal strife, internal issues.


COOPER: The idea that now -- that is on the table as something that foreign governments would want to examine in the United States, who really speaks for the U.S. government. That's a stunning idea that -- and I understand why it would be a question. Because the President says one thing in a tweet, and then the Secretary of State says something else, and then you have General Mattis having to travel around and say other things to other countries.

HAYDEN: Sure. Yes. And Anderson, again, I wasn't trying to be predictive here.

COOPER: Right.

HAYDEN: I wasn't even suggesting they were trying to be predictive. But you know, intelligence services are inherently pessimistic. They always look to the dark side, because that's where they get their questions. And so I'm telling you, my judgment is, other services are beginning to kind of go through their files and try to draw judgments on those kinds of issues here in the United States. And Anderson, we've had this conversation before. The veneer of civilization can be pretty thin from time to time. We are not immune from the kinds of things you suggested we look at in other countries.

COOPER: General Hayden, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

COOPER: A lot has been made over where President Trump gets his information whether that's from fringe conspiracy theories, watching television or just the last thing someone whispered in his ear before speaking out in public. Thanks to new reporting from Politico, we learning more about how new Chief of Staff General John Kelly is trying to control that information flow to the President. Details on how he's doing that, next.


[20:37:22] COOPER: The new White House Chief of Staff is attempting to control what information gets into the hands of the President. It's a move designed to eliminate internal competition and help the President make decisions. That's all according to a new reporting from Politico. General John Kelly is reportedly instituted a system in which only he and one other staffer must review all memos and reports before they sent to the President. Of the course the question remains how much impact the new system can really have if the President still wants to access his Smartphone, and his Twitter feed T.V. news reports.

Joining me now is Nancy Cook, a Politico White House Reporter who wrote the story. So Nancy, what are learning, is General Kelly's new system a way to get the President to conform to tradition or the staff to conform to tradition, or both?

NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, really, it's both. I mean, this idea of having a clear policy-making process is not new. It really dates back to both democratic and republican administrations. The thing is, it's just taken the Trump administration seven months to get to this point of setting up a process to get all the ideas to the President, to make all the -- sure all the stakeholders are heard. And that wasn't something that Kelly's predecessor Reince Priebus was able to do.

COOPER: It was something Reince Priebus tried to do, but didn't have the power, right? I mean, it seems like General Kelly commands more, you know, respect or just in the White House?

COOK: I think General Kelly commands a lot of respect, I think that he is also instituted some things that Priebus wasn't able to institute, like access to the Oval Office, who's going to vet the information. And so far, the entire West Wing staff, including the President's children, are really listening to him and following his orders. It remains to be seen if this process will stick. But it seems like it's much more disciplined right now. And some people in the White House, particularly policy experts, are feeling much more optimistic that their ideas will be heard and that personality won't necessarily Trump these decisions that real policy could filter into the decision-making of the President.

COOPER: Kelly can't control all information of the President, particularly for this President who clearly reads his Twitter feed, because he's retweeting random strangers, he watches a lot of T.V. news, a lot of cable news at all hours of the day it seems like.

COOK: You're right. I mean, no one can control what the President decides to tweet, what kind of television he watches, which advisers he calls late at night and on the weekends. But what can Kelly can control are the people around the President and that hasn't been done before. And if you can control sort of 99 percent of the White House, that's a victory in this particular White House, to have information go through him. And at least for him to feel like he's in the loop and that he's vetted what's reached the President's desk.

COOPER: Nancy, stay with us. I want to bring in David Gergen and Paul Begala. Paul, I mean, you worked in the Clinton White House. This is not revolutionary. This is the way most White Houses work.

[20:40:01] PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, it's regular order probably takes at least to President Eisenhower , came out of the military, he had the first Chief of Staff, which have been a military position. And process matters a lot. And this President seems to have very little regard for process. I think what General Kelly is doing is very important. It's very important because the most important square foot of real estate on the planet is this, between the President's ears, what goes into that head, the most important person in the world, the most powerful person in the world. The problem is you raised, though, even if she was still -- even if people and paper are controlled by General Kelly, which they must be, and I hope they will be, information coming from Twitter, from cable news, from the guys at the locker room at the country club, that's still going to be impossible to get your arms around.

COOPER: And David, I mean, all presidents absorb information differently. Some like more images, more data, long essays. Clearly the way this President seems to absorb information, I mean, a lot of it is from television, is stuff from Twitter. So even if the -- if General Kelly is controlling the position papers that are going in to the President or what lands on the President's desk, there are all these other things he can't control.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, Peter Drucker is the management several longtime ago, that you have to learn how you learn. And that people either learn by reading or they will learn by essentially talking and watching. And President Trump is clearly in the latter category. He does not read very much at all. Everything is distilled down. But I do think whether or not you are for Trump, this is an important step forward to get more order in the White House.

Paul is absolutely right. This would -- the White House is still the most important, powerful office on the earth. And you want it to be as well organized as possible. Will this system work? Let's wait and see. It was tested last week, frankly, when this system produced the statement that the President read on Monday after Charlottesville. And then he broke loose on Tuesday. And it destroyed everything he said on Monday.

I do think that -- if I might say one more thing -- that the system of General Kelly, the person he's appointed to really run this system is Rob Porter. And Rob Porter is a first-class guy. I've known him for a long time. I've known his family, just a fascinating father/son story. Rob Porter now does the domestic and will be doing all the vetting for President Trump. His father did the same thing basically for President Bush Sr. Rob Porter was a Rhodes Scholar. His father, Roger Porter, is a good friend and professor at Harvard was a Rhodes Scholar. They're the only two father/son combination in history to be Rhodes Scholars. And Rob Porter is part (Inaudible). So I think this is a good person to be doing it.


BEGALA: But David, can I ask you, can he tell the President no? I think General Kelly probably can't. They have to go to him. I remember this -- David, probably even before you even joined the Clinton White House, in the first couple of months, President Clinton wanted to get ahead of the policy process. You want to call the deputy assistant secretary and John Podesta was his secretary, awesomely powerful job. He controls the information.

GERGEN: Right.

BEGALA: And he stood face to face with President Clinton and said, no, sir, no, you're not allowed to call that guy. We're working through a process and then it will come to you when it's ready. But it's not your job to circumvent that process, which was terrific. And I really I hope Mr. Porter and General Kelly will do that with this President.

GERGEN: I do think that General Kelly has more leverage than anybody else who's been around. You know, if he walks, it will be so destructive of the Trump presidency. And everybody knows that.

COOPER: Yes. Nancy, I mean, you talked about this a little bit. How is the rest of the White House staff -- I mean, if you know through your reporting -- reacting to the system that Kelly's put in place? I mean, you're saying that like Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, they now -- what, do they make appointments through Kelly to see the President?

COOK: Well, I've talked to a bunch of White House officials in the last few weeks about the changes that Kelly has put in place in the policy process and, you know, the process. And you know, the President's children are behind this. There's really the sense broadly in the White House, and not just with Ivanka Trump or Jared Kushner, but broadly throughout the White House with Gary Cohen, with national security people, with policy experts, that they are honestly a little bit tired of the chaos. And they want to see ideas presented in a more coherent way. They want to feel like their ideas are heard, that they have a chance to make their case as well as other people. And I feel like people are looking for a change. And so far they're willing to respect Kelly, because they're tired of it, too.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, that was always one of the concerns about having Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, family members in the White House, be like in an office setting, if the boss' kids were there. You wonder, are my ideas going to be heard because the kids have much more direct access. And we'll see how this works out. Nancy, thanks very much.

COOK: Thanks.

COOPER: David Gergen, Paul Begala as well.

Coming up, I want to tell you about Hurricane Harvey bearing down on the coast of Texas. People already obviously preparing for the worst. We'll tell you, which cities could be hit hardest and when.

[20:44:58] Also, the latest questions about that trip to Kentucky for the Secretary of the Treasury and his #Meson #Valintino #TomFord #Hermes, #Roulandmouret, I don't know how to pronounce that, loving wife. Now, one watchdog group is asking whether the whole trip on a government plane, allegedly on government business was actually just a cover for something else entirely.


COOPER: Potentially devastating hurricane is gaining strength and heading for Texas with a possibility of swabbing 30 inches of rain along the coast. The national weather service now says the storm could create life-threatening conditions starting tomorrow. Already people are preparing for the worst, boarding up windows, stocking up on water, and food, gasoline, mandatory evacuations are starting to be issued for the areas most likely to be hit hardest. President Trump of course has been briefed.

Tom Sater joins us now from the CNN Weather Center with more details and how the was developing. So where is the storm headed and how strong is it going to be?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center that came out at the top of the hour puts it about 270 miles Southeast of Corpus Christi. The winds have remained steady. So still category one, but the pressure is dropping which means it's healthy and it's getting stronger. Our concern is here. If you look at the gusts at 105 miles per hour, this will reach category three status, which means wind gusts at landfall could be around 140, 150 miles per hour. 16 million are under warnings right now. In blue it's a tropical storm but it's where Inland, from Houston and Austin and San Antonio but this gives authorities to better idea of where ground zero will be.

[20:50:13] We think after the midnight hour of Friday night and to the dark hours of Saturday morning, just north of Corpus Christi in a category three, this will be the first major hurricane to make landfall anywhere in the U.S. in the last 12 years. The problem is not so much landfall like we typically focus on, on most hurricanes, it's what happens afterwards.

Notice we got a little kink here. This is concerning and it has been a concern the last couple of days. All the models are in good agreement and that's great. Where do we evacuate people? But we have lost a dominant steering current. Watch what happens to the computer models. They meander around in this (INAUDIBLE). The last things you want to see if have a hurricane of this magnitude stall for days. If it makes landfall Friday night, Anderson, it's possible we may still be talking about this Tuesday and Wednesday.

So instead of just going south or north, some models bring it back offshore to regain strength and then make another landfall but everything you see here in purple is over 10 inches and white that's 20 maybe 25 or 30.


SATER: That's significant.

COOPER: We're obviously going to be following it very closely, Tom. I appreciate it. It's not a hurricane, perhaps an eclipse, at the center of this next story, the story of Louise Linton Instagram post that's started as an example of what not to do on social media. It's probably better not to post the picture yourself in a $10 purse and luxury sunglasses when you're visiting one of the poorest states in the country. Also probably better not to then attack a mom from Oregon who left a negative comment. All of that free advice holds by the way even if you're not the wife of the Secretary of the Treasury. But now, they're even more question namely whether that whole trip was some sort of a rouse to get a good view of the solar eclipse? CNN's Randi Kaye has more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was billed as a trip to Kentucky for a luncheon and a tour Fort Knox. On board the government plane, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton. They were joining Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I will be only the third Secretary of the Treasury that's ever actually gone inside Fort Knox.

KAYE: As exciting as that sounds, the whole trip, government plane included, may have been a rouse so the Mnuchins could view the eclipse, all compliments of U.S. taxpayers. KAYE (on camera): After all, this was the first solar eclipse in a contiguous path since 1979. Fort Knox had 100 percent totality. Now, it's being investigated by a government watchdog group. Citizens for the responsibility and ethics in Washington is requesting all records concerning that plane ride.

KAYE (voice-over): The group suggests the government plane was used for a trip that quote, "seems to have been planned around the solar eclipse and to enable the Secretary to secure a viewpoint in the path of the eclipse's totality." Worth noting, this Instagram post from Mitch McConnell's press team showing the two men at Forth Knox before viewing the solar eclipse from the rooftop. Look closely, notice the pair of special viewing glasses in McConnell's hand. The watchdog group is digging to find out how often Secretary Mnuchin has used government planes for travel in lieu of commercial planes and the justification for that use.

This marks the second time this week that Mnuchin and his wife are taking heat for this very trip. Upon landing in Kentucky, Louise Linton had posted this photo on Instagram, flaunting her wealth and tagging a series of luxury designers. That led to an Instagram spat with an Oregon mom who was offended by Linton's post writing in response, "glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable."

JENNI MILLER, COMMENTED ON LOUISE LINTON'S INSTAGRAM PHOTO: Just seemed ridiculous and, quite frankly, offended me as someone who paid for part of their trip.

KAYE: Instead of letting it go, Louise Linton ripped into Jenni Miller, the Oregon mother of three with a long condescending rant calling her adorably out of touch, suggesting she go chill out and watch the new "Game of Thrones."

MILLER: There are probably a better ways to spend her time and money than make trying to make me feel bad about my simple, cure life.

KAYE: Louise Linton, a former actress from Scotland has long touted her wealth and Hollywood lifestyle. Of all things she once played Marie Antoinette in this costume party seen on an episode of CSI.

Linton who was since changed her Instagram page setting to private later apologized. In a statement, she said, "I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response. It was inappropriate and highly insensitive."


COOPER: Randi, I'm wondering, has the Treasury Department said anything to defend this trip to Kentucky and the eclipse viewing?

KAYE: We checked in with them, Anderson, and the spokesperson for the Treasury Department told us that this was official business to discuss tax reform and that later in the day, the Majority Leader, Secretary Mnuchin, Kentucky's governor and a few others visited the Gold Depository at Fort Knox. [20:55:12] Now, we're told, Anderson, that this was a planned trip that had actually been previously scheduled for August but was postponed to accommodate the congressional calendar. There was no mention in the Treasury Department statement to us of this eclipse viewing and also the treasury did tell us, Anderson, that Secretary Mnuchin is reimbursing the government for his wife's travel, which apparently is a long-standing policy when civilians travel on military aircraft, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Randi, thank you very much.

Later tonight, CNN Films Presents the really incredible story of Elian Gonzalez, who -- as you remember at the age of six was at the center of one the most famous custody battles when he represented Cuban U.S. relations for -- or effective Cuban's U.S. relations for years, 17- year-old Elian is speaking out now. And you may be surprised at what he has to say. That's going to be at 10:00 p.m. tonight on CNN.

Coming up next on 360, the GOP infighting, the President firing back at Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.


[20:59:57] COOPER: Top of this hour, fighting within the GOP and growing questions about whether President Trump is turning with might ordinarily be minor differences and style and substance into some sort of Republican civil war. This morning, the President fired off a string of tweets of the two most powerful Republicans in Congress in Phoenix this week.