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Republican President Vs. Republicans; Trump Threatens Gov't Shutdown To Get Wall Funding; POLITICO: Kelly Trying To Control Info Trump Sees; Navy Releases Name of Missing Sailors In USS McCain Crash. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: -- 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 at the two most powerful Republicans in Congress.

[21:00:3] In Phoenix this week, he slammed both Republican senator from the state of, not mentioning their names, while making a point, of not mentioning their names. He's threatening to shut down the government if Congress doesn't fund the wall on the Mexican border and he's drawing criticism on a number of fronts from his fellow Republicans. Here's perhaps the list Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that more than two weeks ago.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Now, our new president of course has not been in this line of work before and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the Democratic process.


COOPER: Well, things reportedly got less as cordial from there with their last conversation on the 9th of this month, evolving (INAUDIBLE) shouting match. Now here's South Carolina Senator Tim Scott after the president's press conference on Charlottesville.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority and that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens.


COOPER: Well, Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker went further.


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 Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the senators' comments.


SARAH HACKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that's a ridiculous and outrageous claim and doesn't dignify a response from this podium.


COOPER: And so it goes, with the debt ceiling deadline coming, the budget deadline coming, a major legislation the president wants still in limbo. More now on the state to play from CNN's Manu Raju reporting from Capitol Hill.

Manu, what's the mood right now between Capitol Hill Republicans and the president given the criticism he's been leveling at Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Congress is on a recess right now. So a lot of members are avoiding this back and forth that's happening between the president and Republican leadership. But what I can tell you, based from the number of members that I've spoken to on the phone and over text and aides as well, they are, frankly, flabbergasted because they don't understand why the president is directing all of his frustration, his anger on his own party. Essentially passing the blame for their failure to get legislation through on Capitol Hill when a lot of Republicans say one big reason why, for instance, they didn't get health care done, is because the way the president went after members of his own party, singling out people like Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, that they believe did not help their case in getting legislation through.

One Republican that I talked to yesterday said to me, look, if the president wanted to actually get legislation through Congress, he'd be on the phone and talk to these members, understand their state, understand their needs, understand themselves, and then perhaps could help build a better relationship to move forward, that's not what the president has chosen to do. Instead of attacking members by name, including Jeff Flake, a potentially tough Senate race next year. Those things are not going over particularly well at a key time when they'll have to come back and legislate next month, Anderson.

COOPER: What about on the president's threat to -- of a government shutdown if he doesn't get funding for the border wall. Where does that go from here?

RAJU: You know, a lot of Republicans I talked to think that Trump's talk about a shutdown is just talk. They believe it's bluster. They believe at the end of the day the president is going to get -- essentially get rolled by Congress, because Democrats in the Senate are not going to go for money for the border wall. That means that they're not going to be able to get it built out of the Senate most likely.

And a lot of Republicans, frankly, don't support the idea of spending money on the border wall, including the number two Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, is not in favor of that approach.

So the president does not have support to get that through. So the thinking is that on Capitol Hill, they probably going to pass a bill to keep the government opened past September 30th and the president ultimately will be force to sign it perhaps against his will. The question is, Anderson, what if he vetoes it? Then what, then perhaps there's a shutdown and a lot of Republicans just don't think he'll actually do that.

COOPER: All right, Manu, thanks.

RAJU: Thank you.

COOPER: Unfortunately, any infighting with the panel will be purely incident possibly entertaining. Joining us is Kristin Powers, David Gregory, Alice Stewart, Bakari Sellers and Susan Page. Is there a strategy in the president -- you know, Lindsey Graham was on television earlier saying that, you know, it's not that people think he's unhinged. There's a strategy of this. Is there a strategy and is it a smart strategy?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's absolute a strategy. And I think how smart it is, we don't know yet. There's no question that President Trump as a candidate made it very clear that he was going to roll through both the Democrats and the Republicans and, of course, he started with the Republicans saying that establishment Republicans weren't getting the job done, weren't responsive to concerns of too many Americans and I think we have to remember, this is an astute part of how he ran and how he's governing. Where I think it's less smart is what Manu referred to, which is if you're actually going to get the legislation done, you've got to work the process even if you want to play more of an outsider. Right now he's just trashing everybody in the party and running against everybody at the same time.

[21:05:18] ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think what we're seeing, starting yesterday, when he reiterated his commitment to getting the wall built and now saying that it may go through raising the debt ceiling or forcing Americans to pay for it, this shows he's committed to this. Recent poll by CBS came out and says that 22 percent of Republicans want to see the wall built and I think that's something that he's committed to doing.

Yes, throughout the campaign he says we're going to build the wall and who is going to pay for it? Mexico and he's going to get some push back for that, from a lot of people and understandably so.

But, more than anything, this is something that he wants to get done, not just because this is something he campaigned on, but he believes it's something for our national security and it's a big part of his immigration component that he ran and won on.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: This is most definitely not the way to get a wall built, right? This is not the way to actually get money appropriated for the wall if he wants to fulfill this promise. It's a way to shift blame for the failure to build the wall, on to somebody else but on to his fellow Republicans which is quite I think a mystifying strategy.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that most Americans, outside of Donald Trump's base who he spoke to in Arizona, understand that the wall's not going to be built and if the wall is going to be built, then it's coming out of our pockets, not Mexico. The American public is smarter than that.

But the question of whether or not this is a smarter strategy or not I think is the wrong question. I think, you know, what results has this strategy led to? I mean, if we go back to the 44th president of the United States, when he controlled both the House and Senate, they passed The Lilly Ledbetter Act. They extended the chip program. They were able to bail out the auto industry. All of these things were legislative accomplishments that they in the first few months in office.

Donald Trump comes right now at point where he's seven months in and has literally no legislative accomplishments. So, I think that we've had enough time to judge whether or not it's a smart strategy or not. And I think he gets a "D-", I mean, the only reason it's not an "F" is because it's highly entertaining.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, so I think (INAUDIBLE) asking it, is it "A" strategy, right? I mean, it does seem to be "A" strategy. And that I think that, you know, --

COOPER: You're saying, it's not just emotional lashing out, there's a reason he's picking the targets --

POWERS: That's my impression of it. You know, because it's clearly not over the agenda, right, because Jeff Flake supports his agenda. So this is about something more. This is about, you know -- it's not just about people defying him on his agenda. I think it's also about him being upset when people criticize him and he really wants people to get in line behind him, whatever that means to him. Because otherwise it doesn't really make sense what he's doing.

I do think, you know, today when Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to what Corker had said, I mean, they have a right to be mad, you know. That's not really what -- how Senator (INAUDIBLE) talk about the president of their own party.

GREGORY: This president has done things, obviously, that has warranted that kind of criticism and that kind of judgment within his own party, but, I mean, I agree with you, we don't know the (INAUDIBLE) strategy but you made the point I think last hour, which is this may be a bluff, it may be the opening of a negotiation.

There's, obviously, a big negotiation. He went from Mexico's going to pay for this, I'm sure that's not going to happen. I doubt they'll be a wall per se. There may be some barrier. There could be some compromise.

And so Bakari, to your point, I think we don't know in this instance. He is actually forcing a big fight as a total outsider saying, neither party is working for you. Not even my own.

COOPER: Kirsten, finish your thoughts.

POWERS: Just to finish what I was saying, and I actually want to get your thoughts on this, Alice, it seems like what he's trying to do, though, is to scare people into submission. So if he goes after people like Flake and he can defeat them and then that sends a message to everybody else, basically, watch out. If you don't do what I told you to do, if you don't get behind what I want you to do, you vote against my health care bill or criticize me, I'm coming after you and my people care more about me than they care about you --

COOPER: It also bolsters the base doesn't?


COOPER: Because it shows he's not beholden to anybody he's therefore the base.

STEWART: Right, he's doing this for his base. As we said, three- fourths of Republicans want to see this wall built. I truly believe that his talk about I'm going to shut the government down if we don't get funding for this wall, I think that is part of his art of the deal, this is strategy he's going to go for the most extreme option for getting that wall funded and try and hopefully negotiate with members of Congress.

As far as him going after Flake and others, whether on Twitter or directly or at events, they are going to -- as we saw with health care, these members of Congress are going to be beholden to the members of their district and who voted them in the office. They are not beholden to Donald Trump. And that's why we had trouble getting health care.

POWERS: -- lost to Trump, basically, rally people behind somebody against Flake. You don't think that would scare other members of the Senate into maybe --

STEWART: Flake and others, you know, he pressured Heller with regard to health care in Nevada and Heller did what his constituents wanted. I think --

SELLERS: Heller literally did four different things. Let's be clear.


[21:10:02] GREGORY: Flake knows what he's up against. He understands that he was -- he knew he was going to be primary, you know, well earlier this year. He knows what he's up against and what he's doing, you're right. But we've seen him do this. That is the impulsive part to this lash out.

SELLERS: But I think it's also fair to say that -- I think Bob Corker was correct. I think it's also fair to say that an element of this actually it delves off of being a strategy into being unhinged, because I don't know what part of political strategy tells you to go to Arizona and --

GREGORY: You know, talk --

SELLERS: No, but trash a senator and actually give more praise to the dictator of North Korea than you do a POW who is a United States senator who is fighting brain cancer. Like that to me, that delves into unhinged. That is no part of political strategy that I've ever seen or ever think will work.

PAGE: So he bolsters himself with his base perhaps at the cost of a Republican Senate seat, in Nevada, in Arizona. And I just wonder if that looks smart. I wonder if it looks smart in terms of -- you know, he can burnish his credentials. He's an outsider and he's not part of the political system that no one likes, but then does he go to re- election not having achieved anything and at war with his party.

COOPER: Let me ask you. I don't know the answer to this. Does it actually really hurt his agenda if folks on Capitol Hill don't like him or are upset by him or angry at him, I mean, if they are Republicans they probably want most of his agenda to move forward anyway. Does it really matter whether he --

GRGORY: But that's -- I mean, I think we have to pay attention not to what the establishment classes are saying in both parties who will look at that -- it's not that I disagree with you. I just think that using this kind of political calculus, we've been so wrong predicting outcomes until now.

And so we have to give Trump credit for some theory of the case that he's advancing which is, he's willing to take all the criticism in the media, from his own party, from Democrats to say I can still argue for a certain constituency and there are enough conservatives who want a wall in some fashion, whether they literally want the wall, whether they'll settle for something else, he's onto something there. And I --

SELLERS: But David, let me ask you a question. After seven months, name one Trump legislative victory. And the point is, he has none.

COOPER: Neil Gorsuch.

SELLERS: But, well, other than Neil Gorsuch. I mean --

GREGORY: Which is a big deal.

SELLERS: Which is a big deal to conservatives. I was speaking of a piece of legislation.


GREGORY: If he could get rewarded for trying. I mean, you know that. I mean, he could be rewarded for trying.

SELLERS: And I think -- to your point, if he wanted to have a successful piece of legislation, he should have gone to infrastructure. Infrastructure is something very simple to --


PAGE: Voters don't reward you for trying. They reward you for delivering.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. More of the conversation, focusing more on some of the sharp criticism the president, Senator Corker, for one question about as we've been discussing his temperament.

Later, new reporting on the president's Chief of Staff, General Kelly, and whether he can impose a military order on the famous free-willing boss.


[21:16:25] COOPER: President Trump is not the first chief executive to find himself at odds with his own party. Rarely, though, does it get so heated so soon. And on the president's part, the very same traits that seem to be amplifying his differences with GOP lawmakers, the combativeness, the defensiveness, the excessive self-regard, they also drawing the attention of some distinguished former national security professionals including former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who actually questioned the president's fit to serve, and Former CIA Director, Michael Hayden, who commented on those remarks to me earlier tonight.


GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is not reflective anti to the president. It's simply based on performance and great concern.

Look, if you get a fellow like Jim Clapper with all that experience saying what he said, whatever you think of what Jim said, you have to admit that it seems to reflect some genuine concerns among foreign policy professionals so it's not surprising that you're seeing people like Senator Corker kind of say these sorts of things.


COOPER: General Hayden said he would not have used the words that Clapper had used. I mean, have you ever seen a president at this stage show with odds with his own party?

POWERS: NO. And, I mean, and not just these comments. I mean, if you think of, you know, the fight over the Russia sanctions and how the president made it so clear that he did not want these sanctions and we know behind the scenes was even yelling at people about it and that they chose to defy him on it. I mean, that alone is pretty unprecedented in the first, you know, six, seven months of a presidency where, you know, where you get so openly defied by your party where they just -- they're saying like, no, we're just going to defy the judgment.

SELLERS: And who is doing it is actually a little bit more astounding to me, because Senator Corker is a well-mannered reserved individual who is very deliberate in his thought and somebody else who said something. And I don't know -- I can't recall which show it was on but, Senator Tim Scott from my home state of South Carolina, usually refrains from delving into things that would, you know, draw a lot of attention or exacerbate a situation. But he was very poignant in his remarks and said that what Donald Trump was talking about as it related to Charlottesville was not in line with the character of this country.

And so, the people are making very sharp remarks and it's not just the remarks that are being made but it's actually who is making them which I think you should take notice of.

PAGE: I think there have been cases before where presidents have been at odds with their parties on the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement. But what makes this different is this party is at odds over the qualification and the stability and the character and the leadership qualities of the president. It's not over a big policy issue on which you can see a party having a legitimate and difficult debate.

STEWART: Well, here's the thing. Clearly the Charlottesville situation and his response to it has elicited a lot of emotions and criticism and there's still a lot of people who are -- I agree with many people across this country, that his placing a moral equivalency on those who were the white supremacist and neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan, saying that there were some good people there and, you know, placing a moral equivalency on that.

However, many of people forget he did denounce the actions of the hate groups and the racists. He did denounce that and the Republicans across this country, that is all they hear. They only remember the fact that he denounced the bad activity and he denounced the racial actions and the hatred and the Ku Klux Klan activity. That's what they remember.

So when people get up here and act like armchair psychiatrist and say he's unfit and mentally unstable to be president, you have to remember, many people across this country voted for him and they still support him even if --

COOPER: -- he wasn't all that different during the campaign.

[21:20:00] STEWART: Absolutely.

COOPER: It's not as though people voted for him --


STEWART: This is not new behavior. COOPER: But what are the things that General Hayden said in this interview today was that, based off what Clapper was saying that, intelligence chiefs around the world who know Jim Clapper, who have worked with him and know him to be deliberative and stuff, are going to listen to what Clapper said and in the number of things that they are going to task their intelligence services to look at is who really speaks for the United States. Who is really making decisions in the United States and sort of incorporating all of what this discussion is into their intelligence work because I think it is a question of exactly how is policy being made because the president will say one thing, Tillerson will says something different, Mattis will --

GREGORY: -- first of all, they didn't need Jim Clapper to start to get that intelligence work done. I mean, President Trump has been impulsive, destructive, self-destructive. You know, and he lacks coherence on so many different policy areas. And his own supporters thought he was temperamentally unfit for the office during the campaign and he's demonstrated this in the way he speaks, the way he goes after people, how personable he makes it. It's not presidential behavior, if you look in the scope of our history. And that doesn't even say anything about the complete failure of moral authority with regard to Charlottesville.

So these conclusions are not about casting aspersions or, you know, not for me to judge his stability. We can make judgments, though, in the media and so can citizens about whether he appears to be a stable force in terms of how he's governing.

POWERS: But I think we have to also be clear that, you know, there are a lot of people who don't agree with what you just said. He still has approval ratings in the Republican Party that are in the high 70s and they'll probably go back up to the 80s, you know.

And so, what's going on here? You know, they're looking at the exact same thing and I think -- and there certainly are people who even have said that they didn't like how we responded to Charlottesville and found it unpresidential (ph) and yet --

SELLERS: That is the crux of the problem. I think what you're pointing out and what Alice pointed out is the crux of the problem. The people who want to set aside the fact that the president was (INAUDIBLE) of the moral authority or character to lead this country through its first kind of national crisis under his watch in Charlottesville, the people who simply say that they want to hear that he denounced the -- he didn't even say alt right. Let's not get there. But he denounced neo-Nazis, which is a very low bar, but don't want to deal with the fact that he put these people on a false equivalence, on a same moral playing field, that is the problem.

Until individuals, you know, want to step up and say that we cannot normalize this president and the Republican Party, those 79 percent, those good people who we know and throughout this country who still support Donald Trump, they're normalizing this behavior, and just because we saw it 19 months ago and we still see it today, that does not make it right. COOPER: But I think there are plenty of Republicans who -- I believe, have some in the panel, who, you know, may not like his behavior and have spoken out against it but, you know, believe in the agenda and, obviously, want to see the agenda moving forward.

GREGORY: But we're not even clear on what the agenda is and he's, by the way, never been a conservative. He's never truly a Republican. So that means all of those are facts. And what you're saying is right, people may disagree, but it's also not a revelation, right? We know people are going to view him, view facts, view circumstances through the prism of their own beliefs or their own bias. That doesn't change. It doesn't stop other people like Jim Clapper who has such long experience to be able to make a judgment about a president.

COOPER: When we come back, we touched on it a second ago, a White House back flip almost as high as the big beautiful wall to avoid the meeting that the president is reversing himself on who is going to pay for that big, beautiful wall.


[21:27:36] COOPER: We're talking tonight about the tensions between the Republican, the White House, and Republicans on Capitol Hill, and issues that are on paper at least shouldn't be causing such a rift. That said, this president's instincts certainly don't seem to be calming the waters at times, whether it's antagonizing GOP senators, second-guessing House Speaker Ryan, or threatening a government shut down if Congress doesn't fund the wall, the wall that the president used to promise would be financed by Mexico.


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?

Who's going to pay for the wall?


It'll 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 is going to pay for the wall and they understand that.

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


COOPER: Back now with the panel. Believe me, 100 percent. I mean, and there is an irony that he campaigned on Mexico paying for the wall and now not only it seem like tax payers are going to pay for it, but the government may be shut down if Congress doesn't --

GREGORY: Also, they gave him way too much credit. That this is somehow -- I mean, with all due respect, the idea that this is a coherent theory of how to save the American people from all these immigrants streaming across the border, I don't think he's really thought that out. What I think he --

SELLERS: He didn't think something out?

GREGORY: No, no, no. No, I'm not trying to be overly flip, except a little bit. But I do think that there was a theory about American strength, about if you want to put it in a historical context, manifest destiny. And, you know, it's like, you know, when Teddy Roosevelt wanted to invade Cuba to drive out Spain, it was this projection of U.S. powers --

COOPER: -- according to his reporting, this was essentially, I mean, not an exactly new (INAUDIBLE) device, it was a memory aid to help the president remember to talk about immigration. They would say, you know --



STEWART: There was also a sense when this would come up at rallies. He would talk about building the wall and say who's going to pay for it. They would say Mexico. It really ginned up the crowd --

COOPER: Absolutely,

STEWART: -- and keep him going, and he said also that, but, yes, it was a way to remind him like tying a red string on his finger --

COOPER: Wait, no, I mean, but then he tried the first time it works and then it became --

STEWART: Exactly. And going back to those quotes where he just said this repeatedly, today at the press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked numerous times about this and she said, look, he's still not saying that Mexico is not going to pay for it which, you know, we'll take that for what it's worth, and she also says he has not abandoned efforts to get Mexico to pay for it. All that being said, clearly his motivation moving forward and his agenda moving forward is to say, look, we're going to build this wall. This is going to happen. Plain and simple. It's part of our national security and if we have to shut down our government to get that done, I'm willing to take that risk.

[21:30:30] COOPER: You know, I do think the president can get credit and should get credit for, you know, there has been a significant drop of people crossing over illegally, apprehensions on the border are down significantly. I mean, you know, depends what study you look at but anywhere 46 into the 70 percent in various areas and that's really without doing anything differently. I mean, that's -- SELLERS: He's not doing anything differently and part of the problems

that many individuals had, especially in the certain constituency groups as (INAUDIBLE) had with Barack Obama is that he ratcheted up the number of expulsions from the country himself.

But can we really get back to this wall for one moment? Donald Trump -- I cannot fathom and I don't understand how people believed at that point he was going to build a wall and Mexico's going to pay for it. I'm having trouble understanding how people are still sticking with him to this point where they still believe Mexico's going to pay for the wall because we all know and we're talking about voters, many of these voters are in rural America, many of these voters are low income. Many of these voters, it's coming out of their pockets to build this wall. And -- good enough job stepping -- to them the failures of this president, but even more importantly, as David was saying earlier, I mean, assume that the wall is going to be made out of invisible line or fish net or something like that and it's already going to be there, you just don't see it yet. I mean, he's selling a bill of goods that for me I have trouble understanding why people still -- why he still able to use it and why voters still accept it.

GREGORY: Well, we don't know that they do accept it except to your point I think there's enough conservatives who think border security is worth it, whatever form it takes. But look how cynical he was in the conversation that was released with the Mexican president and said, why don't we just agree not to talk about you building the wall.

COOPER: Right --


GRGORY: So, it mean, that part of it goes with the reporting from Josh Green about how cynical all this has been and continues to be. And now it's exposed for -- I mean, if he's going to declare a victory that he gets something and the taxpayers pay for it, that's going to be quite a political exercise.

PAGE: Of course, that's jumping ahead a step, right?


PAGE: Because he's now threatening a government shutdown if he doesn't get the money and the funding bill to keep the government going after October 1st.

This is quite remarkable. This would be the first time in our history that we've had a government shutdown with unified control of the government. And if you'll remember the experiences that Republicans had the last two extended shutdowns we had, the one with Clinton in 1995 and 1996 and the one with President Obama in what, 2013, Republicans really took it on the chin on both of those shutdowns, politically. This time you know Republicans are going to take on the chin you're just not entirely sure whether it's a Republican in the White House or the Republicans in the Congress.

SELLERS: And one of the things that is being associated with Donald Trump especially when you go around and you talk to groups of undocumented immigrants, you're understanding the violent nature by which he's detaching individuals from their families. I mean, this is not just more immigrants are being removed from their households or being removed from the United States and deported to Mexico. I mean, you literally have I.C.E. agents picking up individuals from school while they're dropping off students. I mean, you have an element of brutality and an element of violence that is also going along with these very high numbers that you mentioned earlier, Anderson.

GREGROY: But when you said initially still what I think very important. In the end, Trump has to mean something. His leadership has to mean something. It has to improve the country. If he can't demonstrate that, then he's just going to be a polemicist, he's just going to be screaming from the rafters.

COOPER: But is there a value in just in being, I mean, I don't know, is there a value in just being a disrupter and for people who aren't happy with Washington and don't like everybody in D.C., don't like the media, Trump's a disrupter and isn't that may be enough?


STEWART: No. Clearly he was elected for many reasons, one of which he promised to drain the swamp and do away with business as usual in Washington and that's what a lot of his voters and supporters wanted to see happen.

With regard to this, yes, to your point, since he has come into office and really put pressure on beefing up our immigration and really making commitment to secure the border, illegal immigration into this country has gone down 74 percent. So from that standpoint, I think he can take credit for at least curbing the tide on the front end.

And keep in mind, a big part of this push for securing the border is tied directly to the opioid crisis we have in this country, brining these drugs into this country. So that was a part of why he --


[21:35:00] SELLERS: -- the same thing. I mean, opioid crisis usually starts because they're over prescribed and the pharmaceutical industry --

STEWART: But bringing in illicit drugs to those countries --

SELLERS: -- two different drug crisis he's here.

COOPER: I mean, often, the opioids are expensive and they are controlled and so after someone gets addicted they move to heroin because it's cheaper and more easy to get.

We got to take a quick break. When we come back, the West Wing strategy design to keep President Trump's attention and help him make decisions. Is it working? We'll discuss that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: There's been a lot of questions about where the president gets his information, whether "Fox & Friends" or Twitter accounts or just the last person maybe he's talking to about any given issue. Now we're learning more about the new Chief of Staff John Kelly's attempt to try to streamline the information that actually makes it to the desk of President Trump.

According to POLITICO, Kelly and one other staffer must approve any document before it goes to the president. They also write decision memos that clearly lay out the pros and cons of a given issue and give the president clear options. The outstanding question, of course, is how much of a paperwork system can make a difference if the president doesn't give up his T.V. or reading his Twitter feed. I want to bring back in the panel.

I mean, people may be snarky about this idea of controlling the information to the president, but this is done in very way, I mean, this is the traditional system for how information is put in front of the president.

[21:40:06] POWERS: But did you just say one person has to approve because of the White House --

COOPER: Kelly and one other person --

POWERS: I mean, that would be --

COOPER: -- who has tremendous power.

POWERS: I mean, usually like an army of people are approving things to get to the president. So, you know, I suppose that's better. That just shows you exactly how bad it is.

COOPER: I mean, I was talking to Paul Begala about the Clinton White House, he said essentially it was the same system, I forget, the position it's not the Chief of Staff --

PAGE: Like staff secretary.

COOPER: Staff secretary.

POWERS: I see what you're saying. They're taking something that's already been clear -- put together by other people and then clearing it.

COOPER: That's correct, right. But they have eyes on it to make sure it's not something that like, you know, Jared Kushner read and wants his father-in-law to see.

GREGORY: But in Begala, I mean, you know, President Clinton was someone who was getting information independently, was talking to people. Remember it was a big deal in the Reagan White House when he was getting magazine subscriptions. I think it was human events, a conservative magazine and they were like, why is he getting that because he's making policy after reading some of these things.

I mean, the fact that we have a president who was so tuned in --

COOPER: Right.

GREGORY: -- to social media and media of all kinds is a little bit of sign of the times and it is a sign of his political potency but there's no question that it has to be reined in, particularly the way how chaotic is White House has been.

SELLERS: You have to spoon feed this -- like with a really small spoon feed this president information. I mean, if you look at Barack Obama, he was editor-in-chief at the Harvard Law Review. You got to George W. Bush, I mean, he was a governor in Texas. Bill Clinton was a road scholar. I mean, and so this president does not consume information or analyze information in that fashion.

And I love the timing of this piece because here we are, again, writing these kinds of John Kelly saves the day type pieces and, oh my god, the White House is changing. Well, John Kelly has been there. We had a very poor response from Charlottesville. He's been there. We had the press conference from Charlottesville. He's been there and we had the president today tweeting -- retweeting himself, standing in front of Barack Obama in the fashion of an eclipse.

COOPER: By the way, that off the rail Charlottesville press conference was actually an infrastructure press conference.

POWERS: And that's the problem, you can't control what he says when he goes out on the stump and you can't control what he puts on Twitter. So probably not going to --


PAGE: I don't think that's fair, actually. You know, I think it's a good thing that General Kelly's putting this system in place. It is remarkable that for seven months he's been -- Trump has been president and they haven't had a system like this in place.

COOPER: In previous tried to apparently put a --


PAGE: -- but he didn't really have the stature with Trump to do so. And it's not that he's going to change the essence of Trump. But to have a more orderly process is a good thing for the country.

COOPER: The other point that was made in this article, which I thought was interesting, it made a lot of staffers in the White House appreciate this because it makes them feel like it's a fairer system, that their ideas can be heard. Whereas, you know, if any of us works in the office where boss' kids were working in the office too -- I'm certain, I would always feel like, well, those kids are always going to have the president's ear, whereas this -- at least gives a little more merit-based system.

STEWART: And many of them still realize -- and I think this was one of Kelly's main objectives, to be the gatekeeper for the president and make sure if you visit the president, you have an appointment and it has to have several layers of approval and that helps reduce the flow of bad information to the president and he's also instilled a lot of discipline amongst the staff which is key.

But I think we can all agree that the wildcard is what the president sees on television, what he sees on Twitter, what he retweets and that is going to be one of the most difficult things. But anything you can do, having been on many campaigns where people come in and give -- here the, -- this great theory you need to go with and here's one thing, anything you can do to minimize the incoming information that will get them off track and off message is a good first step. But that's never going to --

SELLERS: Two quick points. One of the things that -- and I'm interested to see how long this last, because one of the things that d we know from watching this president operate not only as a president but as a candidate, as the only thing that's a constant and remains is his family.

And so we all know that General Kelly still has kind of the second place behind Ivanka and Jared and Donald Jr., and Eric, and so, we'll see how long this fit some place.

The other thing, one of the fascinating pieces about that POLITICO article was that he had to stop the president from getting his information from info wars. The president was going to -- the president of the United States, prior to General Kelly becoming chief of staff, was going to info wars to seek out information.

COOPER: Right. I mean, Sandy Hook Truthers.

SELLERS: Think about that. That's dangerous. This is all about the inner agency process working well, flow of information within the White House working well. Isn't the first White House to face this criticism, and we'll have to deal with this but he's in a different category in terms of disciple.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody.

[21:44:54] Up next, a little boy at the center of one of the most gripping political social and human dramas of the Clinton era, Elian Gonzalez. We wanted to know how he's doing now. What he is doing now? He's speaking out exclusively to CNN. We're going to have a a preview of tonight's the incredible documentary, "CNN Films" when we come back.


COOPER: In just a few moments at the top of the hour, "CNN Films" presents a remarkable story of Elian Gonzalez. He was the boy whose mom drowned when they fled Cuba by sea in November of 1999. Elian was six at the time. He was places with the relatives in Miami, but his in a Castro regime demanded that he be returned to Cuba. The Miami family refused. Five months later federal agents stormed their home, took Elian by gun point and returned to Cuba. Elian is now 23 years old speaking exclusively to CNN's Patrick Oppmann for tonight film along with his dad, both of them sharing details of what happened 17 years ago, and how it impacts their lives today. Here's a preview of Elian.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you think your life would have been like if you had stayed in the United States?

ELIAN GONZALES, RETURNED TO CUBA IN 2000 (through translator): I think I would have become the poster boy for that group of Cubans in Miami that tries to destroy the revolution that try to make Cuba look bad. I would have been used in that way. Maybe I would have become an actor on T.V. or maybe I would have more money than I have here with more comforts, but I wouldn't have my family. I wouldn't have the tranquility I have in Cuba.

[21:50:09] OPPMANN: There are a lot of people who argued against sending you back to Cuba because they said you would be brain washed. What do you say to those people now?

E. GONZALES (through translator): Well, if they had brainwashed me I would say they hadn't brainwashed me because I would have been brainwashed. It didn't happen. That's not something my father would have allowed to happen. I think the best way to show they didn't brainwash me and no one influences my decisions is Fidel. Fidel put many things in my hands. Fidel told me if I wanted to be an athlete, he supported that. If I wanted to be a swimmer, he supported that. if I wanted to be an artist, he supported that and he did.

OPPMAN: You're still hopeful that there could be a reconciliation between your family here and your family in Miami?

JUAN MIGUEL GONZALES, FATHER OF ELIAN GONZALES (through translator): I have the best intentions to forgive them so that it can continue to be a relationship of families. They with their ideals and we with ours.

OPPMAN: You watched President Trump's speech about Cuba. What did you think?

E. GONZALES (through translator): It's a pity the latest events that have taken place. In terms of President Trump's pronouncements toward Cuba I only hope that relationship improve until our differences can be cleared up. Everyone can have their differences point of view, have their political differences but I don't think the countries and the families should continue to be separated.

OPPMAN: You feel like you have a foot in both countries?

E. GONZALES (through translator): Both my feet are very much in Cuba, my two feet, my body, my mind are in Cuba. But there are times when I think about the United States. I wouldn't be who I am had I not been in the United States.


COOPER: Patrick Oppmann joins us now from Havana. What is Elian Gonzalez doing now? What does he do, you know, for a living? And is he -- does he have a public role in Cuba?

OPPMANN: You know, Elian Gonzales graduated last year from a military academy. Right now he's working as an engineer for the Cuban government. I went to his house where he still lives with his father, Juan Miguel, in a small -- their small hometown of Cardenas, Cuba. He's studying to learn English. He's engaged to be married to his girlfriend. And everywhere you go with Elian Gonzales people recognize him.

With Fidel Castro's death last year, the Cuban government needs new charismatic figures who can continue to inspire faith in the revolution particularly among young people. So expect to see a lot of more of Elian Gonzalez in the near future, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Patrick, thanks very much. The "CNN Film" presents Elian. That's just in a few minutes here on CNN.

When we come back we're learning the identities of the 10 sailors lost when the USS John McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore. We'll tell you about them in a moment.


[21:57:34] COOPER: Tonight we're learning the identities of the 10 Navy sailors lost this week when the USS John McCain collided with a tanker off the coast of Singapore. The Navy identified one sailor's remains and called off search and rescue for the nine others missing after an 80 hour search effort. They are now presumed dead.

We wanted to take some time tonight to honor each of them and their selfless service to this nation.

Kevin Bushell was just 26-years-old from Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was an Electronics Technician 2nd Class when listen in 2011.

Dustin Doyon from was 26-years-old from Suffield, Connecticut. He was also an Electronics Technician 3rd Class and he served in the Navy for little over two years.

Jacob Drake was just 21-years-old from Cable, Ohio. Also, an Electronics Technician 2nd Class. He joined the Navy in 2013.

Timothy Eckels Jr. was 23-years-old. He's from Manchester, Maryland. An Information Systems Technician 2nd Class, who reported for duty on the McCain last October.

Charles Findley was 31-years-old from Amazonia, Missouri. He was an Electronics Technician 1st Class. Findley leaves behind an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. His sister said that he loved his job in the navy.

John "CJ" Hoagland III was from Killeen, Texas, just 20-years-old. He was an Electronics Technician 3rd Class. His mom said that he wanted to join the military since he was 5-years-old.

Corey Ingram was from Poughkeepsie, New York. He was 28-years-old. And Information Systems Technician 2nd Class who served in the Navy since 2008. We don't yet have a picture for him.

Abraham Lopez was 39 from El Paso, Texas. He list in the Navy December 1997. Serve as an Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class.

Logan Palmer was 23 years old from Decatur, Illinois. He was Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class. Palmer's older brother described him as a determined young man. I wanted to show people that he can do anything he put his mind to.

Kenneth Smith is the one sailor whose remains were found and identified. He was 22 years old from Cherry Hill, New Jersey serving as an Electronics Technician 3rd Class. Smith's mom said that Kenneth was a great young man, son, and sailor who truly loved his family, the Navy and ship mates.

Two of these men were in their 30s but most were in their 20s. They had their whole lives ahead of them. They chose to devote -- of their lives to their country to serving us all, keeping us safe. And we thank them. Thanks for watching 360.

The "CNN Film: Elian" starts now.