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Monster Hurricane Devastates Islands: U.S. East Coast Threatened; Hurricane Maria Devastates St. Croix After Being Spared By Irma; At Least 230 Dead In Mexico Quake Urgent Search For Survivors; Mueller Asks White House For Documents Related To Flynn, Comey Firing; Wash Post: Manafort Offered "Private Briefings" On Trump Campaign To Russian Billionaire Close To Kremlin. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:33] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Two natural disasters topped the hour. Two ongoing still unfolding, rolling horror stories playing out right now. Plenty of people are hurting tonight just as many are rising to the occasion. Saving lives or simply making the best they can of the worst they have ever seen, the earthquake and the hurricane. We have the latest on both tonight.

First, Hurricane Maria which devastated Puerto Rico is still on the move. Tom Sater joins us now with the very latest storm track. So do we know, is Maria on track to hit the east coast of the United States?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, yes and no. Let's put it that way. Typically, Anderson, it's easier for us to plot the track than it is the intensity. This time around it's a little different. We've been good up to here, but of course going that much further out, day five, day six, seven, and eight, well, look at the models, you'll get an idea why and it has to do with the lost of (INAUDIBLE) like we saw with Harvey when it moved in to Texas.

But last night we saw a considerable pressure drop. We saw the winds increase to 175 miles an hour which places Maria now cracking the top 10 of the strongest hurricanes ever for the Atlantic basin just at number 10. Think about how significant that is. I mean, think of all the names. Andrew, Katrina, Hugo, I mean, this is in with the biggest now.

Making landfall, of course, after scratching the surface of St. Croix, they take a pretty good hit, and then moving into about 6:15 in the morning. But by then it dropped to 155 miles per hour. Thank goodness because we didn't think there was enough space and time for that to happen, only 2 miles per hour often category 5 status. But anyway you look at it, the U.S. territory, and that makes it the third category 4 landfall this year. That's unprecedented has never happened before.

But now that we can see the trajectory, where it came from, and now leaving the coast. I want to bring up to something that you had with your interview with Richard Henning. He has seen from above what we just talked about in the last hour that we're starting to see this rapid development off the coast. Now, where does it go from here? Spaghetti plots are in great agreement. We like to see tight consistency here that gives you confidence. I believe it's going to stay away from Turks and Caicos. But then where will it go? You expect to see some (INAUDIBLE) of this, of course, someone certainty for so many days out.

The National Hurricane Forecast keeps it as a category 3. They believe by day four or five this will run into some sheer. Those are winds that will help rip the system apart. Because we're seeing this eye develop quickly and that convective activity, I think we could see a category 4 somewhere in here, but I do concur that I do believe and eventually it will lose some of its strength, not just from the sheer. Notice, Sunday 2:00 p.m. category 2, or even a category 1 by Monday. But also because it's also getting into the cooler waters. Leaving the surface temperature is in the upper 80s and the mid 80s, getting into the low 80s and even upper 70s which would be great. But you've got to understand, to understand what this one is doing, let's go back and look at Irma.

Irma, one of the longest lived tropical systems in our history. I mean, this is the longest lived we have since 1980 and it still churning off the northeastern coast. Why is this happening? And it's still a tropical storm. High pressure is off to the west and high pressures to the east, so it's kind of squeezing the system, almost like what we saw with Harvey as it moved into Texas. Of course, it dropped record rainfall. This is dropping heavy rain, but at least over waters.

Now we had significant flight delays and some beach erosion, beach flooding. But when you look at that system and know you're losing steering currents, what is out there Anderson that can help us out? High pressure being so close to the eastern seaboard with this clockwise motion could push the system in toward the coast. If it loses its grip, it slides away. That's what we want to see.

But now let's break it down even more. We can look at the European model and the U.S. model. And this is one of the best that we've been using lately. This European has nailed these storms. That's in blue. Red is the GFS, that's the U.S. model. Brings it up Monday off the Carolina coast. Tuesday, Wednesday, this is eight days out. European still wants to hug that northeastern coastline. What you're seeing now are 21 models that help make up the GFS. Just an hour ago, Anderson, a number of these were heading into the coastline. So this is an update and it want to slide it away.

So again, it's all about the steering currents. There's no great confidence right now that this is going to affect the U.S., but again, it is blowing up rapidly as we speak.

COOPER: All right, Tom Sater, appreciate that update.

I want to get the latest now from Puerto Rico, Nick Paton Walsh who rode out the storm in the islands east coast who was forced to flee by a gas leak. He joins us from San Juan. So we're hearing reports of extensive damage. What have you been seeing?

[21:04:57] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, It's extraordinary just 24 hours ago we were speaking, seeing the beginning of that storm and we saw this morning how it made landfall the eye passing, right pass about 6:00 o'clock this morning. But as we drove away from that area Riley points out, a gas leak and a diesel leak, in fact, making it unsafe to stay in that hotel.

We saw really -- the exact tough of Hurricane Maria through Puerto Rico. Now it seems to be more as followed a highway 3, we can pretty much make out and that's the same route we took. And you see, basically, -- we were unbelievable damage to the vegetation around there. Trees strewn across all of the roads, back on the highways, you're seeing electric cables strewn across the tarmac itself, the asphalt, cables, the pillars themselves brought to the ground shattered, and even wind turbines, design overseas (INAUDIBLE) to energy source, the propellers snapped clean by the force of this absolutely extraordinary devastation for an entire two-hour journey that we saw many periods we were simply driving through rivers because the highways themselves had been quite so heavily submerged.

We're seeing (INAUDIBLE) possibly can here, but very little. There was a moment when we made that drive that you didn't see some element of devastation. And it is extraordinary to see how the storm we saw was initial landfall continued straight across towards the capital, San Juan here, to rate (ph) some extraordinary devastation, Anderson.

COOPER: Any idea when electricity might be back?

WALSH: Well, they're saying that the entire country is without. There are some -- obviously, except for generators but it could be weeks, could be months possibly.

Remember, about 20 years ago they were out electricity for seven months during the last substantial hurricane. And there are 46,000 without power because of Hurricane Irma. As you point out, you know, we saw ourselves in the hotel we were staying at the restaurant's ceiling was about to collapse after Irma. It almost did this morning because of the damage sustained by Hurricane Maria. This as you say, you've got to be 90 years old or so to have seen anything quite as bad as this. It was extraordinary to see this (INAUDIBLE) as it made landfall. And frankly, even through the day we saw tropic rains that were horizontal, continually blowing around the hotel where we try to ride it our, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, it's just incredible, the images, and thinking that you had to get out because of that gas leak. And you see those images, just rivers of water cascading through the streets. And the strength of this storm as Tom Sater was saying, now that it's left the area of Puerto Rico. And Nick Paton Walsh, thanks very much.

Phone communications are spotty (ph) from the Island, and that said, we have Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello on the line. Governor, how is the island tonight? How extensive is the damage?

GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO (via telephone): Well, Anderson, the damage is very extensive. It is nothing short of a major disaster. We have a lot of flooding, a lot of infrastructure damage. Our telecommunications system is partially down. Our energy infrastructure is completely down.

I tried to go around to certain critical areas, the hospitals, police force, the first respondents to make sure that things were moving correctly, but certainly we still have a ways to go. And although the tougher part of the winds have left, we still have some heavy rains coming our way, which, as you know, represent the biggest dangerous in thi sort of situation.

COOPER: Now, I understand the whole island is without power. Any idea of how long is it going to take to get back power?

ROSSELLO: Well, it depends on the damage to the infrastructure. I'm afraid it's probably going to be severe. If it is, it's likely to get -- no, the island full power probably going to -- we're looking at on the magnitude of months as opposed to weeks or days.

COOPER: What is so difficult about bringing back power to the island? I mean, when people hear months, obviously that's, you know, that's going to be really difficult for people on the island.

ROSSELLO: So our energy infrastructure, first of all, it's a little bit old, mishandled, and weak. So it has some transmission lines, main transmission lines. Those are sort of the biggest batteries in the system. And if we have major towers that go down, that certainly takes some time to get them back up. We won't know the answer to that until we can fly over. I have, you know, the national guard ready as soon as we are given the OK to fly over those transmission lines, then we will get a better assessment.

Personally, some of the stations at least the information that we're getting are not badly damaged, and then there's the distribution system which is what actually gets it to your home which has suffered major damage. But if we at least have the major transmission lines, you know, let's say OK situation, then we could be looking at a lower order magnitude so that would more in the order magnitude of weeks.

COOPER: Have you gotten any reports of fatalities or injuries at this point?

[21:10:02] ROSSELLO: Right now we've gotten only one report of a fatality in one of the municipalities. Essentially one of the boards that was used to prevent, you know, the winds from affecting a home flew out and hit a gentleman. But, you know, I must say, Anderson, we still don't have a lot of information. We're virtually disconnected in terms of communications with the southeast part of the island. That's the part of the island that received the heaviest and earliest hit of the hurricane. So we're working diligently. You know, we have a plan B on getting up radio comms with a different police departments so that we can get some assessment onto what's going on in the municipalities.

Tomorrow morning we're clearing roads. We have first responders already saving people. So things are moving along, but as I stated yesterday, this is a long process, particularly because even though the heavy winds have gone down, we still expected a lot of rain and --


ROSSELLO: It's still dangerous out there.

COOPER: Well, Governor, we wish you and the people the best. Thank you Governor Rossello. Tim Duncan is probably known as one of the greatest power forwards who ever played basketball. He's also is a native of St. Croix who's first brushed with hurricane, came when Hugo struck the island back in 1989. He's been doing relief work in the wake of hurricane Irma and now this.

Tim, have you been able to speak to anyone on St. Croix getting some sense of how much damage was done to the island?

TIM DUNCAN, RETIRED NBA PLAYER: Not on St. Croix. I have friends in St. Thomas that I've been in touch with, and they have heard from a couple people. The last I heard was last night late when the storm was really hitting the island. I heard from a couple of people who would lost their roofs on their house, and they had moved from upstairs to downstairs and then they started losing rooms on their house from their, that's the last I heard.

COOPER: You actually as a kid lived through a hurricane that hit St. Croix. Can you just tell me about what that experience was like for you?

DUNCAN: I lived through Hurricane Hugo. It was a cat 5 hurricane, same as the last two that have gone through the Virgin Islands. It came at night. Kind of like Maria did last night. So for the most part we had everybody inside.

COOPER: How old were you?

DUNCAN: I was 13.

COOPER: And that experience is kind of one of your motivations for what you're doing right now?

DUNCAN: Having been through it, absolutely.

COOPER: You and I spoke last week about your work raising money for relief efforts. Where does that stand right now? Do you know how much you've been able to raise so far?

DUNCAN: Yes, so far we've raised $3.2 million.


DUNCAN: And in the last couple days we've already gotten four charter planes down there, we delivered 170,000 pounds of food and we handed it out. So far, so good. We found out that getting the items from here to there has been the toughest part possible knowing that people need food and supplies now and not having to wait the 10 days or the 12 days that it takes to get there by ship. We've had to charter planes to get there as soon as possible as people get some relief. COOPER: Well, I keep thinking also about all those people who, you know, were able to leave St. Thomas, were able to leave St. John and ended up going to Puerto Rico and have now had to endure yet another hurricane in Puerto Rico.

DUNCAN: Yes. Those people left St. John and St. Thomas and some went to Puerto Rico and some went to St. Croix and now they have to deal with (INAUDIBLE) St. Croix as well.

COOPER: You know, what's your message to people who \either haven't been to the islands or don't have a sense of what it's like to live through one of these storms and have to literally pick up the pieces of your home, of your life?

DUNCAN: Yes. It's all about starting over. And I was able to be down there and go around and see the kind of destruction that was going on in St. Thomas and St. John. People were very upbeat, but they are fighting hard to try and rebuild their lives. So people are resilient, but they're going to need our help. As remote as it is down there, it's hard to get relief supplies down there, medicine down there. So we're going to keep trying hard and keep trying to raise some money because it's going to use up a lot of money to get stuff down there in a timely fashion.

COOPER: Yes, and it's not just need in the next couple days, we're talking weeks and months and years for some people. Tim, I really appreciate talking about to you. Thank you.

[21:15:01] DUNCAN: I appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

COOPER: Well, if you want to contribute to Tim Duncan's relief effort for the U.S. Virgin Islands, you can go to his website, Again, that's

Coming up next a live report from Mexico City where so much attention right now is focused on the rubble of an elementary school as rescuers search for possible survivors.

Now later, weeks worth the developments in the Russia investigation just one night and the growing focus on the actions of the president himself.


COOPER: No overstating what's going on right in Mexico City when the quake hit yesterday among the dozens of buildings that came down or partially collapsed were schools. And among upwards of 230 people who died in the destruction, at least four adults and 21 kids lost their lives at a single elementary school in the Mexican capital. There may be survivors in the rubble including a young girl. Just moments we learned that search and rescue teams have indeed made contact with her. CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the scene. He joins us now by phone. What are you seeing, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi, Anderson. Well, these rescue workers are working under horrible conditions tonight. Downpours and lightning strikes in the area as they continue to search through that rubble of that elementary school where much of the city is really pinning their hopes on some thread of good news emerging from this rubble.

As you mentioned, we heard from a Mexican government official saying that there has been contact made with a young girl inside that rubble. We have been watching throughout the evening and throughout the day. Rescue teams working inside this build. A number of times throughout the day we've heard the rescue workers and everyone around the building erupt into a round of applause. It has never been exactly clear why that is happening or any kind of real explanation what they were cheering. We suspect they had to be some sort of good news. But as far as we know, no one has emerged alive from this rubble here at the school today despite all of the effort.

I was inside the school grounds a few hours ago, Anderson, where there were hundreds of people trying to clear out debris. And you could also hear, they would have ask the crowd to be silent and there would just be total silence among the crowd and you could hear the muffled sounds of the rescue workers crawling through the pancaked buildings, three or four stories in all that collapsed one on top of the other. And the sheer magnitude of the weight of all that is really hard to kind of grasp and understand until you're standing right next to this building and that's when it really hits you, the force it must have been taken to bring down this building. And what a horrific scene it must be inside for those rescue workers crawling through there trying to pull anyone out alive. But the number of people alive in there is just not exactly clear at this point. The best we can tell you at this point is that they appear to be in touch with a young girl. But those rescue efforts to pull her out alive continue tonight.

[21:20:58] COOPER: And Ed, I mean, is it clear if they have enough rescue personnel? Obviously there's a lot of volunteers out there moving rubble and things like that, but just in terms of trained personnel who have, you know, the equipment, you know, who have microphones or listening devices that they can drop through the rubble, even cameras that they can insert into the rubble to try to see something deep down below.

LAVANDERA: When I was inside earlier today, Anderson, I did hear some of the rescue workers close to the scene talking about a camera and microphones. So, from that one moment, it seemed clear they had some sort of that equipment, but they also a various times in the streets around the area, you've also seen kind of frantic calls for different types of equipment. At one point earlier today we saw a collection of head lamps being rushed into the school building that were -- people were just giving away their head lamps, giving them to these workers. So it wasn't exactly clear if that's because batteries had ran out and the workers inside needed more. And then people also come out asking for different types of supplies to be rushed into the scene. And there's kind of a network of human chains in the streets around the school building trying to bring in supplies into this area as well as needed.

So it's definitely a part-controlled operation, but there's also very much a makeshift element where the volunteers who come here are improvising and doing the best they can in the situation.

COOPER: Yes, Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. Thanks very much. It is sadly, not the only sad scene unfolding there tonight. (INAUDIBLE) also not the only place where every single person who can help save lives is now lending a hand one way or another. Just before air time I spoke with freelance journalist Emily Green at another rescue site.


COOPER: Emily, if you could just tell me what you've been seeing. Because I understand you're at a location where people have gathered to volunteer.

EMILY GREEN, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Right. There are hundreds of volunteers. It's quite impressive just how many people have come out to help. I think they feel a sense of solidarity. What I've seen is, people are forming lines, single-file lines in which they're passing things like huge wooden rods that are supposed to support buildings. They ever also passing wheelbarrows and water. So, the idea is to get these supplies and this aid to as many people as possible and as quickly as possible.

COOPER: And, I mean, have authorities asked for volunteers or is this something that's just kind of growing on its own?

GREEN: As far as I know, it's something that's growing on its own. Even yesterday right after the earthquake I saw people running out with a desire to help. And I think that's only grown with time now that they've checked to make sure their house is OK, that their family is OK, they want to be out there and helping others.

COOPER: Are there enough rescue personnel, I mean, that the government has?

GREEN: That's a good question. So I was down by the school today where at least 21 students were killed. And one of the rescue workers told me there's a lot of people there removing rubble. The problem is that they need more med evacs essentially, and there's not enough them. So I think, yes, there's a lot of people helping, whether or not they are the exact right people is another question.

COOPER: Right, because specialized search and rescue teams, they'll have microphones that they can drop into the rubble to hear if there's anybody still alive down there, and obviously dogs that can smell somebody who's alive or even somebody who's dead. From what you can tell, are there still a lot of people missing or searching for relatives?

GREEN: I think the difficult part right now is we don't know how many people are missing. So in a building behind me, there were 26 people rescued between yesterday and today. And I asked the civil engineer who's leading a rescue team tonight starting at 6:00 p.m. and for the next six hours. I said how many people are still missing? He said the difficult thing is we don't know. So I wish I could tell you the answer to that, but I simply don't know and I'm not sure that people here know. [21:25:10] COOPER: I talked to an earthquake expert who said that there are actually have been aftershocks to this quake but they've been relatively mild and so a lot of people might not notice. I'm wondering, have you noticed any aftershocks today?

GREEN: I personally haven't -- not noticed the aftershocks. But I will tell you, I'm scared of aftershocks. I was on the eighth floor of my apartment building when the earthquake hit, and it was extremely scary. And the whole building was rocking back and forth and I could hardly stand.

And last night I did not sleep in my apartment building for fear of aftershocks and I don't think I'm going to sleep there again tonight.

COOPER: So, I mean, for people who don't, you know, who can't go back to their homes or scared about being in their homes, are there shelters that have been set up for them to sleep?

GREEN: There are shelters, I believe. I can't talk to you in detail about this because I simply don't know. What I do know is a lot of friends and family are saying you can come stay with me if you don't have a place to stay. As far as government shelters, I simply am not certain.

COOPER: Emily, I really appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

GREEN: Thanks so much.


COOPER: Well, there's breaking news here at home as well. Coming up next, the Russia investigation, the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe now extending to President Trump since he's been in office, not just the campaign. Details on what Mueller's looking for now when we come back.


COOPER: We have two breaking news stories tonight on the Russia investigation. First, sources tell CNN that Special Counsel Robert Mueller requested documents from the White House centering on President Trump's actions while in office. "The Washington Post," "The New York Times" first reported that story.

Also tonight, there's more from the "Post" they're reporting that Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort offered private briefings to a Russian billionaire with ties to Kremlin.

Earlier I spoke with Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the intelligence committee for his take on these developments.


COOPER: Sir, the reporting that Special Counsel Mueller is seeking these documents from the White House about President Trump's own actions, do you believe that indicates Mueller is now investigating the president himself?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VICE CHAIR. INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You know, Anderson, I'm not going to comment on Special Prosecutor Mueller's investigating or not. He has a different standard. I will say that I think as an American I am interested in what was the motivation -- behind the president's comments to the Russian ambassador saying that somehow firing Comey took the pressure off and calling Director Comey names, I think that was inappropriate. And, but in terms of specifics of what he's searching for, I can't comment.

[21:30:31] COOPER: So Mueller's also reportedly seeking document about statement drafting aboard Air Force One for Donald Trump Jr. about his meeting with Russia lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Can you say, have you, in your investigation, have gotten any satisfactory answer on the extent to what the president was or was not involved with that statement?

WARNER: I'm very interested and I think the committee is very interested in finding out whether that alleged involvement of the president was true or not because, you know, that meeting where there's still a lot of questions to be answered is, you know, we're going to want to bring Donald Trump Jr. back in before the senators. He's appeared before our staff, but those are some of the series of questions that still remain unanswered.

COOPER: I want to ask you about the extent which the pressure is increasing on Paul Manafort, "The Washington Post" is reporting that Manafort offered to provide private briefings on the campaign to a Russian billionaire who has close ties to Kremlin. How unusual would that be?

WARNER: Well, to me it seems very unusual. Clearly Mr. Manafort had a series of relationships with folks in Ukraine and in Russia. And we've seen, I think this is part of the public record that there are a number of these oligarchs in Russia, extraordinarily wealthy individuals who are quite connected with Putin and the Kremlin. It's, again, one of the reasons why Mr. Manafort also falls into that category of someone who has come in and had a staff interview, but at some appropriate point during the investigation we're going to want to bring him in as well and appear before the senators to answer as many questions as possible. And the more information, the more documents we have before we bring him on that meeting, the more fruitful that session would be.

COOPER: Right, because that's what's interesting. "The Washington Post" their reporting is focusing on e-mails with the Russian billionaire, Deripaska. His name keeps coming up in all of this. Is he someone you're looking at as well?

WARNER: Anderson, I'm not going to be able to comment on specific individuals that we're looking into.

COOPER: Your committee was supposed to hear in private yesterday from Michael Cohen, the long time Trump organization attorney. That interview was canceled. Can you just explain why it was canceled and what's next? WARNER: Mr. Cohen who appears a number of times in the dossier, who appears in terms of Trump Tower, in Moscow who appears in a variety of other areas, I think I don't know whether he or his lawyers were trying to pull a fast one but by trying to put on a public statement in violation of our rules, we said that interview is off, we want you to come back in public. And my hope is he will be back in public before the whole committee.

COOPER: And just final, I know your committee intends to hold public hearings next month on Facebook and other social media influenced the U.S. election. You said this is the tip of the iceberg. Do you want to hear from Mark Zuckerberg directly since he's the head of Facebook?

WARNER: I think it's still a debate about who is the appropriate person in Facebook to talk to us. But, you know, we've been raising these issues since last winter. At first Faicebook said there's no the "there" there. And increasingly resourcing paid advertising, fake accounts. We're seeing efforts to try to drive people to rallies. I wish that Facebook would be more transparent and more forthcoming.

COOPER: Why do you think they're not being as transparent as you want them to be?

WARNER: Well, I don't know the answer to that. I mean, Facebook is a great company, it's an iconic company. More than half of America use Facebook on a daily basis. And I think, you know, this is an area that is a new area. It's kind of wild, wild west. And there are areas where there's still legal ambiguity. But I think, you know, most Americans are going to want to know if foreign-based paid advertising is coming in to our elections and I think most Americans they're going to want to know if fake accounts by foreigners are driving content and that we ought to be able to look at that content.

COOPER: Senator Warner, appreciate your time. Thank you.

WARNER: Thank you Anderson.


COOPER: Up next, our panel weighs in on these developments and "The Ridiculist" is back.


[21:37:07] COOPER: Again, our breaking news, sources tell CNN that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is asking for documents specifically related to President Trump and this Oval Office meeting with Russian officials back in May. Mueller's team also wants White House documents related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Plus "The Washington Post" is reporting that Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort offered to give private briefings to a Russian billionaire tied to the Kremlin during the presidential campaign.

A lot to discuss with our panel, Kirsten Powers, Jason Miller, Paul Begala, Ed Martin, Bianna Golodryga.

Kirsten, I mean, any notion that the president is not under investigation if this story turns out to be accurate and all sources say it is, it appears he's under investigation.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's very specific to see what he was doing in terms of whether or not he was trying to obstruct any investigations, whether there was investigations by the FBI into Flynn or whether it was the investigation being done by Comey. So, yes, it's pretty clear that they want to know the back story on -- and get documents about what was going on with Donald Trump specifically not just being concern about the staff around him.

COOPER: And Jason, according to "The Washington Post," they requested 13 investigative categories, information on 13 investigative categories. That's a pretty broad investigation.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is. But I think that we also have to be smart consumer of news here. I mean, for all the breaking news (INAUDIBLE) hubbub of developments from today, I mean, look, there's still nothing at this point that says President Trump did anything wrong. There's still nothing that says that the campaign coordinated with some foreign entity, and there's nothing that says that any problems that, say, Paul Manafort or General Flynn may have had any connection to President Trump.

COOPER: Right, but when the president has repeatedly said I'm not under investigation and I was told that three times, does that still seem to be the case to you that he's not under investigation?

MILLER: But if you look at the specific things that the stories today were mentioning they seem to be follow-ups from other things that have already previously been out there. In fact, I think probably the most notable thing that came out from any of the stories today. There was a paragraph, I believe, it was in "The New York Times" story that said there was nothing from Mueller or from his team that was going after the finances or business dealings of the president. And so it seems to actually be staying focused on what the task at hand was.

COOPER: Right, but you still you didn't answer question which is, it does seem like the president is being investigated. I mean, you can't say that the president is not being investigated.

MILLER: But you can't say that the president is being investigated, that I think what they are looking as clearly they're following up. There have been separate stories out there about General Flynn and about Paul Manafort and they seem to be essentially doing their due diligence in following up on some of these other stories, the meeting from back in June, but nothing about President Trump and I think that's a very important disintegrate distinction that we have to make here.


POWERS: -- questions about Donald Trump. I mean, --

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The president is clearly under investigation.


BEGALA: The investigation has now entered the White House, and it's entered the Oval Office, it cannot be more central to Donald Trump than that.

[21:40:02] COOPER: I mean they want that Russian meeting in the Oval Office.

POWERS: Right.

COOPER: It was President Trump and a bunch of Russians. And so who in that room is --

POWERS: And its specific comments that they're concern about.

COOPER: Right.


MILLER: And one of the articles it said that that Russia meeting could have been tied back into, say, General Flynn, for example. And so, again, for all this talk here, there's nothing that's saying that they're going after President Trump. I think that's a very --


BEGALA: In the Oval Office and the president of the United States, it's only 126 days since Mr. Mueller was named. Only 126 days. And I haven't seen one story yet, one piece of information, one fact that's come out that's exculpatory. Usually these things, right, nobody is a 100 percent guilty or 100 percent innocent. If you see something go, well, that explains that piece of this innocently. Nothing we have learned so far points to innocence. Mueller has two jobs. Was there a Russian involvement in the election? Did the Trump campaign collude? That's what the Manafort piece apparently seems to be about, right? I mean, Manafort offering briefings to Russian oligarchs, Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Jr. and to Jared Kushner and Mr. Manafort, that piece. Now the other piece is did the president obstruct justice? He fire James Comey to stop the Russia investigation. He told Lester Holt he did.

MILLER: There's not one shred of anything out there saying the president --

POWERS: But the president in many ways is making it very easy --


MILLER: You have to go and find yourself innocent when you're not guilty of anything.

BEGALA: He's being investigated in part because he fired the FBI director and he said, God bless him, he certainly fast up, he told NBC News I fired him because of this Russia thing after he sent his aides out to lie and come up with some (INAUDIBLE) story that they fired him because he's too rough on Hillary, which of course Trump is that close --


BEGALA: Not if he's obstructing justice.

MARTIN: Paul has proved the point I'm about to make. I think beyond anything -- this investigation it's like "The Walking Dead". He's like a zombie lawyer. Mueller is going beyond the scope of what he was supposed to do. He's going to keep looking and keep searching to devour someone or something.

COOPER: But the he scope is actually quite broad.

MARTIN: No, and the scope is about collusion with the Russians. It's not so it's all -- and now he's in the White House and now he's in business. If you guys want to set loose special counsels like this, it's the end of our democracy and our elections because it's a coup to take down Trump.

BEGALA: -- Russia hacking the election to elect Trump is the end of our democracy Ed.

MARTIN: Everyone establishes that that didn't happened.


MARTIN: Everyone says that no votes were affected.

BEGALA: -- everyone, and I'm saying votes were definitely effected. Russia hacked the election to tilt it to Mr. Trump, the question is, did Mr. Trump cooperate? We don't have proof yet. And then did he obstruct justice to stop --


MARTIN: -- a zombie lawyer out there.


COOPER: And the idea that Paul Manafort is reaching out to, you know, this Russian connected to the Kremlin saying he will give, you know, back channel information about what's ongoing in the campaign, that seem appropriate to you?

MARTIN: Well, let's see what we get. And we have a source, right, maybe it is two anonymous sources telling us those facts.

COOPER: If it is true. That does seem appropriate to you?

MARTIN: We want to know who he's talking to and what he's talking about.

COOPER: We'll, he's reached out to Oleg Deripaska. MARTIN: You're certainly, you're going to find I think if you talk to the Hillary Clinton campaign or any campaign you're going to be talking to a lot of people, whether there's an offer to brief someone on a campaign --


MILLER: But we're missing the obvious here that Manafort problems are not Donald Trump problems. I mean, these are two completely different things.

COOPER: Right, but he's the guy who is heading the campaign.

MILLER: Look, he was there for a couple months. He clearly had his own --


COOPER: -- when you guys were putting him out for interviews and he was representing himself as running the campaign, no one was saying you can have an interview with the guy but he's not really with the campaign.


MILLER: -- but those aren't the president's issues.

MARTIN: You've now shifted from we're going to find out what the president did in the White House back to Manaforts supposedly might have talked to --

COOPER: -- but they're both pretty fascinating.

MARTIN: And they are unsourced. We have anonymous sources leaking. Let's find out what Manafort did.

BEGALA: Let's all swear under oath and the more --

MARTIN: And that's the end of elections. Because if they -- I can tell you they'll do it to the next Democrat elected -- the Democrat who's elected will take him out by the same --

BEGALA: -- you don't seem to care that our sovereignty which our president spoke about so passionately yesterday, our sovereignty was invaded.

MILLER: It was not invaded.

BEGALA: Yes, why did they success this time, Jason? They try every time and they never succeeded, because they had help on the inside. That's one theory.


BEGALA: Hillary got more votes than your guy.


COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to continue this discussion after the break and probably even during the commercial break. More ahead.


[21:47:25] COOPER: As promise, we're back talk about new development to Russia probe and what it means for the president. Let's pick it up.

First of all, Ed, before you talked about the mission of what Special Counsel Mueller was tasked with. I just want to read the official thing from Rod Rosenstein about what he's tasked with. "Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then- FBI Director James Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. One, any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. Two, any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. And three, any other matters within the scope of CFR." It's pretty broad.

MARTIN: Well, look, I know what the scope is. But what I'm describing is the conduct, what's happening. We have a -- Mueller is now going to go until he justifies what he's doing. He's going to go into everybody's -- I'm describing what you're seeing. You may not like Trump, you may wish that the election went different, but we had an election. There was a success. At experience point, Mueller is chasing down and he would be, like I said, he devour something. This is what happens. It's a problem.

COOPER: So, Bianna, we haven't heard from you. I'm wondering, --


COOPER: I mean, do you believe the president is under -- that the president cannot deny that he's under investigation at this point?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I sure think all the evidence suggests it's becoming closer and closer to the obvious, because he probably is. I mean, he said so as much himself that he's not tied with Russians and yet he tells Lester Holt that the reason he fired Comey was because of Russia. He tells Sergey Lavrov in his Oval Office that Comey was a nut job, right?

I mean, now we're hearing about Manafort having these conversations and e-mail exchanges with Oleg Deripaska, not just a typical rich Russian, someone who, by definition, an oligarch, someone who is protected by the Kremlin.

COOPER: A guy he wants money from.


MARTIN: But we heard it from Comey under oath that he wasn't under investigation. Now we hear it from a "New York Times" reporter or "The Washington Post" reporter --

COOPER: Right, but that was then --

BEGALA: That was May.

MARTIN: Right, but the difference, the quality of the reporting is different. One is a guy under oath, Comey saying I did tell him he's not under investigation, he's not. Now we're saying some source says there is a request for some documents --

POWERS: But Ed he just -- they just asked for this information. I mean, you're talking about something that happened in the past and now this is new information.

MARTIN: I'm talking about one thing that's a fact established.

POWERS: No, but they've asked for answers to these 13 different areas.

MARTIN: That's what the leak, the source.

POWERS: Right. So that could have happened --


POWERS: But when the reference that you're making happened before this, so.

MARTIN: No, but one is an allegation by a leak to "The New York Times," and other is under oath in front of the Senate. If Mueller has confirmed --

POWERS: So now you're saying it didn't happened. You're saying this actually hasn't happened.

MARTIN: No, I'm saying the quality of the response we're having to something that is a fact under oath and other is "The New York Times" reporter saying.

GOLODRYGA: Just put politics aside. I know it's a --

[21:50:01] MARTIN: I'm putting the truth. Let's not put truth aside.

GOLODRYGA: Put politics aside right now.


GOLODRYGA: Given everything that we had seen over the past nine months, given everything that's happened from Michael Flynn, now to Manafort, none of this would strike you as a bit odd and worthy of an investigating and drip, drip, drip every single day or you're just dismissing that --

MARTIN: No, --

GOLODRYGA: -- leaking. MARTIN: Yes, I think it's leaking and I think it's a concerted effort by people who wish the election was based on the popular vote not on the Electoral College to take down the president, to take the president out. I really do. I think that it's that simple, that clear for those -- again, "The New York Times" has a source that claims documents were requested about something --

POWERS: So you're saying it didn't happen.


MARTIN: I don't know but --

BEGALA: I do. I don't know, but --


MARTIN: -- that person should be indicted --

BEGALA: -- your left arm, not mine that it's somebody inside the White House. Those people have never leaked. They do this all the time.

MARTIN: Wait, Mueller's people never leaked. Comey's people leaked.


COOPER: -- Ed -- just assume it is true-- just assume, I know what you're trying to take issue with is the reporting and the anonymous sources.

MARTIN: Right.

COOPER: Assuming it is true and this information has been requested and the special counsel is looking for 13 separate tracks on this, does that not indicate to you that the president is under investigation?

MARTIN: Anderson, I know this too. How about we do this one, assuming it's true that Trump won the election and --

COOPER: What you're talking about is gobbledygook. You're not answering the question.

MARTIN: No, what you're talking about is gobbledygook.

COOPER: I know. What I'm saying is assuming this is true, what does it indicate to you?

MARTIN: I won't assume it's true. Why would I assume it's true --


MARTIN: -- and the president in a position if you --

COOPER: Because many of the things that the White House has denied have turned out to be absolutely true that have been reported. So I'm just asking you to just be honest and if you can admit that just assuming that it is true, you can't admit that it --

MARTIN: Once the Mueller or the general counsel confirms that there's a request for documents like that.

COOPER: Then you'll comment --

MARTIN: Then we'll have a conversation about it. Until that --

COOPER: Until you hear from the White House on everything, you don't feel free or brave enough to actually comment on anything.

MARTIN: Oh, come on. Brave enough. Anderson --

COOPER: -- reported on, you don't want to comment on just stuff that comes from Donald Trump or the White House? Is that right?

MARTIN: Let's establish that we've had about six or eight months of general leaking and to put the president in a bad light by the people in the White House. I'm not saying --

COOPER: There's a huge leaking, absolutely.

MARTIN: That's huge leaking. And it puts the president -- wouldn't it be helpful to stop responding to the leaks and take up the actual facts of the matter, to take up the fact -- let's ask Mueller or Rosenstein to comment on the scope of the investigation.

MILLER: It's the point. Everything has leaked over this past eight month stretch and even going back into last year. I mean, it seems like everything leaks down to the smallest detail. Then why hasn't there been anything that is leaked out there saying that President Trump did something wrong or that the campaign coordinated with some foreign entity to magically swing the election as Paul would like blame it on, because it didn't happen.

COOPER: Well, I mean, there's a leak that Donald Trump Jr. you know, received an e-mail from a Russian attorney -- from a guy he knew saying this Russian government attorney wants to give you dirt on Hillary Clinton and he, you know, said that's great. And then --

MILLER: He took a meeting he shouldn't have.

GOLODRYGA: And said it was about adoption.

MILLER: He took a meeting he shouldn't have. He's even said as much. But that's not coordinating with some foreign --

COOPER: But we have no idea really what happened in that meeting. We have no idea what other e-mails are associated with meeting. That's obviously something that's going to come out in the investigation. The only thing we know is Donald Trump Jr. said he was being transparent --


MARTIN: When does it stop? When does it stop? POWERS: But the other thing that we know is that every --

MARTIN: Where?

POWERS: All of these 13 things that we've been told we do know happened, --

MARTIN: Right.

POWERS: Right? It's not --

COOPER: We've got to go.


MARTIN: I don't think we do.

COOPER: There's clearly a lot of heavy stuff going on in the world, so up next I'm going to make you smile as you end your day. The Ridiculous is back.


[21:57:49] COOPER: Time now for The Ridiculous. It's been a while, but it's back and tonight we're traveling to a magical land far, far away. A place so special it's almost like it doesn't even exist. Allow me to explain. Today the president of the United States of America was at a meeting with African leaders at the United Nations when he straight up made up a country.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm greatly honored to host this lunch to be joined by the leaders of Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Namibia, --


COOPER: Yes. He said Nambia. Now, I know what you're thinking. He obviously meant Namibia. It's just a slip of the tongue. It can happen to anyone, right? No. Listen.


TRUMP: In Guinea and Nigeria you fought a horrifying Ebola outbreak. Namibia's health system is increasingly self-sufficient.


COOPER: You he thinks there's a place called Nambia. Maybe it's a combination of Namibia, which is a real place and actually it's lovely. I went there for Christmas for one year and Narnia, which is not, though, I wish it were. And I would love to go there if I could only fit through that wardrobe.

Here's a map. Right there, take a look, you see Namibia. And right near it are Angola, Zimbabwe, there's Botswana in there. Or I guess if you are the president you can just say them however you want, Nambia and Angogo, Zimbube, Butswalawala, for instance.

I just want to remind you he was speaking to African leaders. And oh, and by the way, the president might want to consider taking a little break from checking his favorite app tonight because the Twitter people, they're on this.

Just a few of our favorites, Nambia, the world's top producer of Go Faye Faye. They've got a bumper crop of Go Faye Faye this year. By tomorrow, Kellyanne Conway will insist Nambia is real, by November it will be in Texas social studies textbooks.

Another one. Why did Barack Obama never visit #nambia. Hashtag Nambia is truly beautiful this time of year. Everyone should visit at least once in their lives. Just say take psilocybi to get there. I'm told, psilocybi is the fancy way of saying magic mushrooms.

And if I can learn to pronounce psilocybi for a freaking Ridiculist I think the president of the United States can take the time to learn how to pronounce the names of other countries or at least the ones that exist.

Thanks for watching 360. It's time to turn things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. that's