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President Fumbles on NFL Claim; Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll Weights in on Protests; Inside the President's Decision to Speak Out. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 26, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

A very full program tonight, including new reporting from Puerto Rico where the human need is so great in scope and so urgent, it is written on the street in bold letters, SOS. Today, both the president and FEMA administrator answered tough questions about conditions on the ground. We'll have more in that shortly.

Also, exclusive CNN reporting on the Russian probe. New word of cooperation between the special counsel Robert Mueller and the IRS, and how it could bring Mueller closer to that red line the president drew about looking into his personal finances.

We begin, though, tonight, "Keeping Them Honest", with the president's latest take on the wave of protests sweeping NFL, with his attempt in football terms to claim credit for moving the ball when, in fact, he was on the opposite side of the play, specifically this moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Cowboys players wanted to show unity but they were very adamant about wanting to separate that message from the national anthem -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Lisa, as they take a knee collectively, boos can be heard from this sell-out crowd in Arizona.


COOPER: The Dallas Cowboys last night, owner Jerry Jones included, linking arms taking a knee before the playing of the national anthem.

The president tweeted about it today. Quote: The booing of the NFL game last night when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees was loudest I have ever heard. Great anger.

So far, pretty standard stuff.

Then, the president went on. Quote: While Dallas dropped to its knees as a team, they stood up for the national anthem. Big progress being made. We all love our country.

They all stood up for the national anthem. Big progress, says the president. Keeping them honest. The Cowboys always stood while the "Star-

Spangled Banner" is played. And until last night, no Cowboy has ever taken a knee at any point. Jerry Jones might have found a way to split the difference between protesting injustice and being seen, rightly or wrongly, as unpatriotic.

However, for the president to call it progress, it ignores a key fact. He ignores what sparked it in the first place.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out. He's fired. He's fired!


COOPER: The president, in front of an overwhelmingly white crowd in Alabama, calling football players protesting what they see as racial injustice sons of bitches, who should be fired. That's what it took for a protest movement that certainly have been simmering for months to boil over, the president's own words.

That's what it took to make an owner and a team of a long tradition of not protesting anything to protest this, the president's own words.

Now, you can agree or disagree with how or why or what the players are protesting and we're having a town hall on that subject tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. But for the president to claim big progress for being made, lately what's happened is progress is like cheering on the bomb squad after lighting the fuse.

CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now, because the president did more than just tweet on the issue.

Jim, the president addressed this today during his press conference with the Spanish prime minister. What did he say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's right, Anderson, he denied whether he's obsessed with this issue of NFL players and patriotism. He was asked whether he's been pre-occupied with the issue since Friday night. Keep in mind, the president has tweeted about this some 24 times, compare that with his five tweets on Puerto Rico since Friday night.

Here's more of what the president had to say earlier today.


TRUMP: I wasn't pre-occupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place because to me that was a very important moment. I don't think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem. To me, the NFL situation is a very important situation. I've heard that before about was I pre-occupied? Not at all. Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, we should point out after the president made those remarks, the White House became pre-occupied with something else, Anderson, and that is the devastation in Puerto Rico. Not only did the White House issue several pictures of the president talking to officials on the ground in Puerto Rico, they also sent the FEMA administrator and the acting Department of Homeland Security secretary out to the cameras to talk to reporters about what the administration is doing.

And then, just in the last several minutes, the White House has issued a statement, a readout of the president's call with the governor of Puerto Rico, saying that the governor there has, quote, repeatedly thanked the president for the federal response there.

COOPER: The president is at a fundraising dinner tonight in New York. Has he said anything about this at all, Jim?

ACOSTA: We don't have a readout just yet of what the president said at this fundraiser in Manhattan. He's on his way back to the White House later on this evening. We should know more later on tonight.

But what we can tell you is that last night, Anderson, he did have a dinner with leaders of the conservative movement over here at the White House and it was during that meeting I'm told by one of the attendees in the room that the president said a couple of times, this is really caught on, this has really caught on in reference to his comments on NFL players and patriotism. He went on the say that he's essentially saying what a lot of Americans are thinking.

[20:05:05] According to this person in the room who was at this dinner last night with the president, he seemed pretty pleased with this uproar that he's ignited over the last several days -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, appreciate that.

Wherever you stand on the issue surrounding it, both the protests and reaction to it, including the president's views, are deeply rooted. It's hard to forget the photo of two American medalists raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics in a black power salute, or images like the one congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis tweeted out protesters led by Andrew Young taking a knee. Nor is refusing to the stand for the national anthem actually anything knew.

Listen to what Jackie Robinson, the first African-American Major Leaguer wrote after retiring: I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I'm a black man in a white world.

There's a long tradition of counter-protest, all of it setting the stage for what we're seeing today.

Joining me now to talk about it is Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

Coach Carroll, President Trump today in the Rose Garden said that the protest in the NFL were disgraceful, saying, quote, I don't think you can disrespect our flag, our country or our national anthem.

Do you feel that's what's going on here?

PETE CARROLL, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS HEAD COACH: Absolutely not. I don't see it anywhere pointed in that direction. What's happening is players are rallying to protest and send out a message that they want to send out. It has nothing to do against the flag or against the country or any of that. It's the opposite.

I think they are talking on behalf of freedom of speech and the constitution and having a message that they want to impart on the rest of the people in the country.

COOPER: What your team did on Sunday in Nashville deciding not to go out on the field during the national anthem, I know you said it was the right statement for that moment. Can you explain what you meant by that?

CARROLL: Yes. Well, we had to figure out what we wanted to do and we wanted to do something and make sure it was unified and really wanted to try to dignify the moment, as best they could. There's so much here to say.

And that was the way that they decided to do it. They felt collectively about that. And, you know, so that was the way we went about it. I know other teams, other organizations did things differently. That's the way our guys thought best to do.

COOPER: The coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin, said about his team, we're a group not interested in making statements. We're a group that's interested in making impacts.

I'm wondering what you thought of that. Does that apply to the Seahawks as well?

CARROLL: Well, I think it's a very good statement that Mike makes there. Our guys in all of their efforts, whether it's seen on the field or off the field, our guys are so active in their community and they're so driven.

The last thing they want to do is be offensive to the country, the flag, the military. They stand absolutely in total support. They understand that. They know what they are doing.

And they wanted to make sure and start the dialogue, start the messaging and then work to a greater opportunity that's coming because of the protests that have taken place.

COOPER: Do you think the president understands that?

CARROLL: I don't think so. I think it gets put back into other references. I don't think at all.

I think if we had the opportunity to share this new dialogue and this new conversation about freedom and about inequality and about freedom of speech and he could see and feel what our players feel, I think it would make all the difference in the world. Could he? I don't know. That's up to him.

But I know that our guys are willing to try and share the message.

There's an empathy here that needs to be understood if we're going to make any move forward and make progress, and our guys are really tuned into that and do whatever it takes to get that done in the most peaceful and proper manner possible.

COOPER: How do you see this playing out in the weeks and months ahead? I mean, do you see players and teams continuing to protest like this during the national anthem or before the game and would you continue to support your players if they wanted to?

CARROLL: First off, this is an opportunity for us to create a new dialogue. You know, Anderson, there's so much here. There's so much that needs to be talked about, it's been a dialogue that's been uncomfortable and one that people don't know how to venture into.

Our players clearly understand inequality. They clearly understand what it is to be marginalized, and they know that when they are not football players but off the field in their every day lives and with their children, how they have to prepare their children to act properly and be safe because of things they are up against.

This is a dialogue that's so important that whatever we have to go to the next steps our guys are willing to do that.

COOPER: You know, the president, obviously, as you know, watches a lot of TV, a lot of cable news. I'm wondering, if you could just say something, what would you say to him?

CARROLL: I wish I had a chance to sit down and talk with him. I would love to do that.

But basically, right now, I just wish that he would understand that this is a moment to be empathetic and to listen, and to listen to what everybody is saying and have a chance to feel what that's all about without passing judgment. That's what needs to happen.

I see it as a new empathy. People from all different walks and all different opinions, we need to give ourselves the opportunity to hear the other side.

[20:10:06] That's the first step in us creating change. And this is about change. I'm hoping so desperately that we're able to make progress and whatever it takes to get that done, you know, from the president on down, we're all ready to work at it.

COOPER: Just finally, we had somebody on the program last night who supported the president who said they believe the protests that we saw this weekend were more about -- were more protests against President Trump than they were protests against racial discrimination or, you know, allegations of police brutality or racial inequality in this country. Do you believe that it was about the president, or was it about the issues this all started with? CARROLL: No. The issues have been here for a long, long time. The

opportunity was presented. I think that's what you've seen happen, because of the statements that are made, the opportunity to go ahead and OK, let's go for it right now. This is the time that maybe we can make a change and make a difference.

This discussion has been coming for a long time. But right now is maybe the best opportunity we've ever seen for really accelerating the discussion and accelerating the openness and creating a new dialogue to create changes that are so necessary.

COOPER: Coach Carroll, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

CARROLL: Thank you. Thanks for having us on.

COOPER: Well, a quick reminder. We're going to be devoting an hour to the subject tomorrow night, talking to some of the best and brightest in all sides of the issue, and taking your questions. It's a CNN special town hall event, "Patriotism, The Players and the President". That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, right here.

Just ahead tonight, the back story behind the president's decision to spotlight the issue. Maggie Haberman has got new reporting on that. She joins us next.

And later, CNN exclusive new details from the Russian investigation. A development that could take it exactly where the president least wants it to go.


[20:l5:32] COOPER: We have new insight this evening on the president's decision to weigh in on protests in the NFL, NBA and elsewhere. Namely, his motivation. Very few reporters have a better read on such things.

And CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, she joins us now.

So, just a fascinating article. Take us back to Air Force One on the ride back from his speech in Alabama, which is where he ad libbed this whole thing about the NFL.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. So, this is colleague Glenn Thrush and I, and what we learned in the course of reporting is, you know, the president literally did just throw this in at the rally.

COOPER: He wasn't planned out in advance.


COOPER: With a -- it wasn't on the teleprompter.

HABERMAN: Not planned with aides. Not done in advance. He was -- he threw it out there, as w saw him do throughout the campaign. He likes the way it sounded. He likes the way the crowd responded. And so, on the plane back, he was talking about how well it did. And

basically the idea that he was going t stick with this.

Throughout the weekend, he talked to a couple of people. He had dinner with a small group of advisers at Bedminster, his private club in New Jersey. And he asked a few members, you know, what do you think of this NFL issue? And he got pretty muted responses from people who didn't think it's the winner he did.

And every single time, it was nope, this is great with my base. I think this is a good thing. I'm going to keep doing it.

He did that again at a White House dinner last night with attendees. He said this had caught on. He feels very good about it.

COOPER: So, also in the article, you reported on other details. He was talking about everything at the event about crowd size, about even the color of his tie.

HABERMAN: Yes. Sorry, excuse me, yes. He was reliving the sort of physical attributes related to both himself and the rally. Of course, he was speaking very little about Luther Strange, who is the candidate he was there to actually support. It was sort of an appearance occasionally at this rally but it was mostly about Trump.

Trump was talking about the crowds were. The crowd was not as big as he hoped to be. He had questioned whether his pink tie was going to play well in Alabama with this crowd. He was sort of reliving all of these greatest hit moments before this Southern audience.

Remember, he also, one very important context note here. We actually didn't get into this. In Alabama that was where he saw his first big outside of the East Coast rally, outside of Iowa rally during the campaign. So, in his mind, he had some special connection to the place.

COOPER: And so, is it fair to say that he felt like his NFL comments were the highlight of the evening?

HABERMAN: Oh, yes. Oh, no, no, he thought that it was -- I mean, for him. I don't -- I don't know that it was the stand out on its own if you had to take it down piece by piece, but it was the thing he felt played the best with the crowd. So, he was excited by it.

COOPER: Do people you talk to the White House or around the president, I mean, do they talk about as the president kind of pushing culture wars? The president kind of igniting his base?

HABERMAN: They do, and pretty bluntly. I mean, people both inside and outside of the White House who are either in contact with the president or know him very well or are in contact with their aides all put it pretty simply that this is somebody who is focused on stirring up his working class white base and he thinks this is the way to do it.

He did this once before in the campaign, in at least once, in January 2016, during the height of the primary season, right, when the votes were about to begin. And he made some reference to this issue. It sort of died down, but he has decided this is a way to stir people.

And it's interesting because you see him do this time and again where he rebels against the norms that are being put in place around him. So, John Kelly, his new chief of staff, has put in some semblance of order in the White House. He had gotten the president towards, you know, some semblance of normalcy on certain aspects of the presidency. Not many. Couldn't control the tweeting.

But the president took a very baby and not permanent step towards bipartisanship and he is now rebelling against that because he's getting concerned. And, frankly, even if he hadn't done this NFL thing, which is the clearest indicator, during that rally, he was very equivocal about Luther Strange. I mean, pretty clear it's not sure he's going to win.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: Not sure this was a good bet. Basically said a bunch of nice things, undid it very quickly. So, the headlines in Alabama were, you know, Trump hedges on Strange. You could see the president beginning to doubt his own choice and what it meant for him, and that is part of why he's doubling down.

COOPER: But it's just fascinating to me that the people you talked to are very open and this is about appealing to white working class base and getting people riled up.

HABERMAN: There is not a lot of veneer in this White House about what exactly they're up to and the president is up to and what his thinking is, is one of the areas where they are -- for better or worse -- the most candid.

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

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

[20:20:00] Joining us now is CNN political commentator Paris Dennard, who served as White House director of black outreach in the George W. Bush administration. Also, Cornel West, professor of philosophy at Harvard's Divinity School and professor emeritus at Princeton.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Dr. West, the president says his comments had nothing to do with race. You hear Maggie Haberman's reporting that the president used his comments about the NFL as part of a culture war he's waging to shore up his base. How do you see it?

CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL: Well, no, I think the president needs to get off the symbolic crack pipe and have a sense of reality. The reason why these courageous young people are standing up is

because they have a love for black people, a love of justice and a love of fairness, and they are concerned about a racist criminal justice system. And it's a beautiful thing to see this kind of moral, spiritual awakening taking place among the athletes. So, they represent not just athletic excellence, but they're now aspiring to spiritual and moral excellence.

Excellence is about unarmed truth, unapologetic love. You step down in order to let the world know you have a love for these people not being treated right. You have a love for these people being treated unfairly.

As you know, I'm a Christian brother. So, every flag is under the cross for me, and the cross signifies unarmed truth, unapologetic love. Patriotism is fine, but when it scapegoats Mexicans and Arabs and Jews and gays and lesbians, and trans, when it scapegoats black people and brown people, then there's a critique to be brought to be bear.

And in the name of truth, in the name of love, it's fairly clear that President Trump has a disrespect for the American people. He has a disrespect for the flag when he scapegoats American people and when he lies to the American people. Mendacity is a form of violation in patriotism. It's a form of violation in the face of truth and in the face of love.

So, the question becomes how wonderful to see the white brothers and sisters, all different colors standing up out of a love for black people who are being victimized too often by a racist criminal justice system. It's a beautiful thing to behold.

COOPER: Paris, I want to be able to respond to what Dr. West said. I mean, do you see this as standing up against racism?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, Anderson, because a year ago and I said it before -- a year ago, I didn't see Pete Carroll on your program talk about this issue as it relates to racial injustice, criminal acts or the brutality by police departments or white supremacy or things of that nature. I didn't see the Steelers or the Dallas Cowboys taking a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. They were silent. The NFL was mute on it.

Now, what you see is President Donald Trump at a rally in Alabama raise this issue. And there are certain things called unintended consequences.

And so, as Dr. West just pointed out, now, the beauty and unity that he's articulating, that white brothers and sisters are joining hands, locking arms and doing this all in the name of what Colin Kaepernick was originally doing is because I believe the president is challenging the norms. He's challenging -- he's actually become a catalyst for this conversation. So, it actually is to Dr. West's point an unintended consequence of his statement, which I still believe to be factual. I have no problem with Colin Kaepernick or the rest of the people that

are protesting wanting to protest and wanting to stand in solidarity with those people who have been victimized repeatedly by the system. That's why a lot of Republicans and conservatives have joined hands to talk about criminal justice reform because it's an important bipartisan issue.

That said, I don't see how their response a year ago matches what the response is today because it wasn't there.

COOPER: Dr. West, what about that? Colin Kaepernick was the only one doing it for a long period of time and by the way --

WEST: No --

COOPER: Well, a football player, I should say, and didn't get rehired.

WEST: And that's unfair to Brother Colin.

But, now, Brother Paris has a point. There's no doubt that an awakening has taken place in the last 12 to 18 months, just because people are in solidarity now in an explicit way and weren't before doesn't mean it's still wrong, still unjust and still requires somebody to stand up. At that time, we had a voice in the wilderness, Brother Colin.

We read Brother Eric Reed (ph) a magnificent op-ed piece. He's a truth teller. He stood there with Colin. Sometimes, it's just a few who are speaking the truth. Sometimes, the truth catches fire and that's what's happening now.

So, Brother Paris, you're right, a year ago they didn't. They were still sleep-walking. Now, I'll say to you, Brother Paris, are you sleep-walking? Are you going to deny that the victims of a racist criminal justice system are not part and parcel of the reasons why these brothers are kneeling down?

[20:25:05] You know that racial injustice is an integral part of why they are expressing their love the way they are.

DENNARD: And, Dr. West, I've never denied that. All I said was I question and have issue with the manner in which they are protesting because I think they have done it in a way that, in my opinion, and millions of Americans feel is disrespectful to the flag, to people who the national anthem and things like that, it is a distraction.

So, I don't -- I do not deny that these injustices happen. They happened to me. I just don't like the tactic.

WEST: No, but, my dear brother, all I'm saying your president that you have this liking for, he denies it and if you defend him then you're defending the denial. You and I know that it happens all the time. You and I know these brothers are standing up as they kneel in order to put on a spotlight on this issue. That means race is very much, not just race, justice, fairness. Race

is too abstract. Justice, fairness, treating black people with dignity and decency. That's a fundamental issue as to why they are doing what they are doing.

The president denies it. You support the president, therefore, you support the denial as I understand it, unless you are breaking with the president publicly at this moment. That would be a beautiful thing too, my Brother.

COOPER: Paris, you got a respond?

DENNARD: No, I'm not breaking with the president on this because I agree with him.

WEST: Time to break, time to break.

DENNARD: It's not time to break with him. I think he's right. They are disrespecting the flag.

They have a right to protest. They have a right to be upset with the justice system, be upset with things that they see happening to people that look just like me and you, but I think they are going about it the wrong way. The examples that Anderson put out on the videos that he played before this, a couple of segments ago, none of those incidents involve people disrespecting the flag.

COOPER: But wait a minute, Paris, at the time, I mean --

DENNARD: They could have.

COOPER: Players all the time get accused of being unpatriotic and accused in their time, it's often only in retrospect that people look back and say, oh, yes, I would have done the same thing. I mean, when those athletes held up a gloved fist at the Olympics, they were pilloried for that. So, you're saying they weren't disrespecting the flag. But it was viewed at the time as hugely disrespectful.

DENNARD: And all I'm saying is the actions that we're seeing right now of NFL teams -- look, I think the Dallas Cowboys -- Jerry Jones is a smart man. They had it right. They took a knee because that's what they wanted to protest before the national anthem. And then they stood for the national anthem.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. I want to continue this conversation because it's important when we'll be right back.


[20:31:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A few moments ago we showed you a photo that John Lewis tweeted. A civil rights leader, taking knee in prayer in protest, someone reply with the phrase, here's the moment, it reads, if you ever wonder what it would be like to live in civil rights movement and what role you would play you're in it right now." I'm back with Dr. Cornel West and Paris Dennard. Dr. West, I'm wondering to Paris' point that this is disrespectful to the flag that it's unpatriotic to do this during the national anthem what do you say?

CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL: Well, I mean, important thing -- brother Cooper is that you got two claims being made by the President. One, is race has nothing to do with it, that's a lie. Second, is disrespectful. No, my father served in the U.S. Army with dignity and a Jim Crow Army but he served in the name of truth and freedom so that, that flag signifies at its best a freedom for people to descent if they can do so with a love and with the concern with the least of these.

So there's many people in the army in no way feel disrespected if people are fighting for justice because the flag is not the monopoly of one group, it's for the expression of those who are fighting for truth liberty and freedom across the board. So this idea that somehow disrespect is a motivation for stepping -- for kneeling, good, I mean, God in the 1960s we had a whole host of folks who turned their backs on the flag because for them it signified criminality. Vietnam, is signified the whole host of things that were violation of humanity.

And so in this sense, the idea of disrespect especially coming from Donald Trump. He is the disrespecter (INAUDIBLE). So by what moral authority, what spiritual authority does he have to talk about disrespect? He's been disrespecting American people and the flag ever since he won in many ways when it comes to our precious Mexican, Arabs, and Palestinians and Jews and black people, gays and lesbians and trans and bisexuals and others. So in that sense, let's just be honest Mr. Paris.

COOPER: Paris, you heard Maggie Haberman reporting that people around the President are saying to her, look, this is very clearly about appealing to white working class base and getting them raled up. Is that respectful to the flag, I mean, do you use patriotism to use the flag, if that's what the President is doing to rile up supporters?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that politicians of both sides go to -- I remember when Secretary Clinton would go to predominantly black churches and Bill Clinton, but President Trump can do too. And all of a sudden get to southern drawl and they have to change their cadence and they bring that issues that were particular to that crowd because they knew their base. They could talk about -- that's what politicians do. And I think what you saw what President Trump did is he knew that in Alabama at a state that takes football very seriously, and a campaign rally, that was going to be a sound bite that was really going to gain transaction because he knew the base at that time in that place really took the issue of American patriotism very seriously and the flag very seriously. And so, he was playing to his base --

COOPER: Do you think there was a racial component by saying, "those people," "our anthem" calling them sons of bitches in front an overwhelmingly white crowd in Alabama? DENNARD: I think for now until the end of the year if the President has a political rally the majority of the people are going to be white. So we just have to get used to the fact that only eight percent of African-American voted for him. So most times when there is a rally it's going to be white. We have to take that off the table.

[20:35:05] COOPER: So you're saying race had nothing to do with it?

DENNARD: I don't think race had anything to do with him calling out the fact that they were kneeling and being disrespect to the flag. Because I believe if they had been white athletes doing it and being disrespectful to the flag, it would still be wrong. It would still be disrespectful. And Dr. West with all due respect, my grandfather from Georgia served in the military. And when he died honorably -- when he died and was -- the flag was put across his casket because he was discharged from the military honorably. He taught me and many in our family when you walk into a restaurant you take off your hat. When a women gets up from the table you stand up, when the flag is thrown, you put your hand over your heart, you show respect. And also when the black national anthem is sung, you stand up and you respect that.

I was at an event with the President when I used to work for President George W. Bush for African-American history month, he did not know at the time that when the black national anthem play, you stand up, you lift over at Secretary Rice and she nodded at him and he stood up out of respect because everybody in the room is doing it and he did it because it was the respectful right thing to do. And I think that what we have with this conversation has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the people that are doing the act, it is the act of itself which I find to be disrespectful.

COOPER: Dr. West.

WEST: Yes, but the idea that it doesn't have anything to do with race, my brother, that's what we're talking about. God bless your beloved grandfather, though. I know he live with dignity in his own way. But you and I know when it comes to the great black national anthem, written by Rosamond and James Weldon Johnson. If that anthem was associated with a black supremacy that mistreated white brothers and sisters that had police that had economic, civic, educational expressions that somehow was subordinating other folks many black people wouldn't stand at that anthem either.

So it's not a question of just, one anthem versus another, it's any flag, any anthem if it stands in the way of truth, stand in a way of love it ought to be criticized. So it's a question of morality and spirituality, the problem is President Trump he is all spectacle, no moral substance, he is cold hearted, he is mean spirited, he is involved in scapegoating as a way of manipulating and dividing American people in order for him to keep his feasibility. The Frankenstein created men and women by mass media and now he's locked into it. And there are no grounds my dear brother, Paris, for any kind of serious offense of such behavior. And I think 10 years from now when you watch yourself on television, God bless you, you go to say, oh my God, I defending this kind of behavior of this kind of President, this kind of xenophobic President, this kind of president stirring such contempt toward the weak, such contempt toward the vulnerable that has no spiritual and moral grounds whatsoever.

I don't care what color of the President is, I don't care, who the president is, it just have to be President Trump.

COOPER: Dr. West I appreciate you being on the program, Paris Dennard as well. Good discussion. Thank you very much.

Up next, there's breaking news about the Russian investigation, new details about what information Robert Mueller may be getting from the IRS. Plus new detail from POLITICO about the extend of the private jet trip that Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, like he may have chosen spent hundreds of thousand of dollars in taxpayer money on the trips, when we come back.


[20:40:24] COOPER: Breaking news tonight, POLITICO is reporting some stunning new details tonight on the extent of Secretary Tom Price's private jet travel according to POLITICO, Price arrived for speeches and other events days early to combine work trips with personal visits with friends and family. POLITICO says, Price took at least two dozen work related private jet trip just since May, that caused tax payers around $300,000, most routes, easily serviceable by commercial flight.

The Politico reporter who broke these stories, Dan Diamond joins me now. So, Dan, Secretary Price, he not only took a private jets to these places but he was also doing both government and personal business there?

DAN DIAMOND, HEALTHCARE REPORTER, POLITICO: There was blending of the two, Anderson. Price took a trip to Georgia, a result that he and his wife had gone to every year in August, except this time, he went on the taxpayer dime.

He also took a trip to Nashville, an $18,000 round trip for just six hours on the ground and notably he also had lunch with his son, despite only having 80 minutes or so of meetings schedule of the folks around Nashville. So we drilled in, my partner (INAUDIBLE) attract more than two dozen of those flights and we drilled in specifically and found his blending is more common than we've seen with any other secretaries.

COOPER: The idea that Secretary Price would use a private jet, I mean, to travel to St. Simon's island in Georgia on Friday when his official business was not until Sunday, it does seem to find the phase of your earlier reporting for Price spokesperson, who had suggested his use of private planes is based on how unreliable he feels commercial flights are.

DIAMOND: That's right. We found connecting flights that would have taken him through Atlanta that would have gotten him there in plenty of time. Obviously it's nice to be at a resort a few days early but if we're talking about tax payer trips that where we funded trips, it's very hard to justifies, ethics experts have told us. COOPER: It's important to point out, I men Price's use of private jets isn't illegal but it's ethically questioned, right?

DIAMOND: Well, once upon a time that used to be enough for a scandal in Washington, D.C. I think we've seen a shifting of what is considered out of bound, not just with Price but with his overall administration as one ethic expert told us, President Donald Trump does a fair amount of shifting between personal and professional business when he is traveling too.

I think what's important with Tom Price in HHS is that the story had shifted. First, he was only traveling for the emergencies for the hurricane and for the opioid crisis. And we have increasingly been able to fine these trips that are not emergencies' masters and emergency at the result that he had to get through early.

COOPER: And Secretary Price over the weekend admitted that, "the optics of some of this doesn't look good." He went on to say, he doesn't thing he'll be taking any more charter trips until the inspector general's investigation is completed borrowing emergencies, is that good enough, do you think?

DIAMOND: OK, I think, Anderson, first, we had asked Price, we had ask HHS about these chartered trips and before our story came out he then took another charter flight and took another one after that. So, even though they were aware that this was under some scrutiny, Price has still been flying on charters. I don't know what's good or not good I'm just the reporter here, but I do know that the investigators from the OIG and also the White House had said that they are looking into it too. So I have a feeling that there will be more to come over what Price did, who pay for it and how much this is been going on.

COOPER: It's fascinating reporting, Dan Diamond from POLITICO, thanks so much, I appreciate it.

DIAMOND: Thank you.

COOPER: Breaking news now on the Russians investigation to CNN exclusive. We've learned that the IRS is now sharing information with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now, that includes tax return related information on former Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.

This comes after the IRS and Special Counsel Team clashed this summer over the scope of the investigation on ride on Manafort's home. Of course, these details also raise question about whether the IRS would turn over the President's tax returns from Mueller's investigation.

Joining me now is CNN's Pamela Brown, so. So what have you learned exactly?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've learned that the IRS is sharing information with investigators working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And this comes after the two sides were at odds for months. They went back and forth over the scope of Mueller's investigation into Russia meddling. Mueller's investigators, one of information we're told on several people associated with the Trump campaign including former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, the Former National Security Adviser and we're told by sources, Anderson, that the IRS had concerns, reservation initially because of what they saw as far-reaching and broad request for information for Mueller's investigators. And the case of Manafort, the scoop includes possible (ph) tax and financial crimes that date all the way back to January of 2006, 10 years before the Russian meddling in the presidential election last fall, Anderson.

COOPER: Your reporting indicates the dispute also centers on the July raiding Manafort's home?

[20:45:06] BROWN: That's right. There were also some tensions between the IRS and special counsel behind the scenes of that FBI ride of Manafort's home in Alexandria, Virginia. You'll recall that happened last -- in late July, multiple sources tell us that the IRS didn't participate in that July raid because of IRS observations that the search would interfere with a separate IRS investigation and Manafort that have been going on, even before the election were told that the IRS and FBI initially were cooperating in their own Manafort probe and this was of course before Mueller was appointed to Special Counsel's Office and they went ahead, Anderson, we're told with the search on Manafort's home, despite the objections, but only the FBI carrying this raid out.

And that is unusual for the IRS to sit out a search and an investigation that centers on tax and Financials matters Anderson.

COOPER: Does Mueller -- do Mueller investigators now have access to tax returns including possibly the President's tax returns, do we know?

BROWN: That's what everyone's asking. It's not entirely clear whether the special counsel is asked for or obtained the President's tax returns. Sources say, if Mueller's officer does have those returns then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversees the probe are likely would need to sign off on that given all the sensitivity surrounding the matter.

As for Manafort and Flynn are given the scoop of those investigations, it's more than likely that Mueller has obtained those tax records.

I spoke to a former high-ranking justice department official today, who told me that tax returns are so highly guarded. The informant shared about this would require a lot of work normally a subpoena would have to happen for the IRS attorney over. And some of the information that could be shared right now, our real estate, banking records, metadata, anything having to do with tax returns. Specifically, that has to do with Manafort and Flynn but of course we still don't know whether Mueller has obtained the President's tax returns, Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Pamela Brown, I appreciate it. When we come back, the growing humanitarian crises in Puerto Rico and many parts of the island, people only have enough food, water and fuel to survive a few more days. Bill Weir is there shows us life and death stays. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Trump has been facing criticism of the amount of time he's been spent tweeting about the NFL compared to what he said about the growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. The President announced today that he will travel to the island next week. That was an announcement that came as a surprise to some aides. Sources tell CNN.

[20:50:05] President Trump also spoke about Puerto Rico at a press conference with the Prime Minister of Spain this afternoon.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The governor of Puerto Rico is so thankful for the great job that we're doing. We did a great job in Texas, a great job in Florida, a great job in Louisiana. We hit little pieces of Georgia and Alabama. And, frankly, we're doing -- and it's the most difficult job because it's on the island. It's on an island in the middle of the ocean. It's out in the ocean. You can't just drive your truck there from other states. And the governor said we're doing a great job. In fact, he thanked me specifically for FEMA and all of the first responders in Puerto Rico.


COOPER: Even with FEMA and first responders on the island, many parts of the island, the conditions are dire. CNN's Bill weir has more from Puerto Rico.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Besides a highway this is the most dependable utility in rural Puerto Rico these days. A pipe, packed into a mountain string is now the watering hole for a community of over 30,000.

WEIR (on camera): It's a natural spring.

NICASIO, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: It's a natural spring. It's always here.

WEIR: And are you boiling it or you're drinking it straight?

NICASIO: You can drink it straight. This is cleaner than the water you get from department of water resource.

WEIR: OK. Well, that's good, if you got that.

NICASIO: This is cleaner than that.

WEIR: How is everything else in life? How would -- you got enough food, awful?

NICASIO: Awful. Awful, there is people that have a shortage of food. The National Guard is not working out the way it should be. They are all just standing there doing nothing. No electricity, no water for the city. It's going to take like about maybe six or seven months for anything to happen here.

WEIR: While safe from coastal storm surges, Maria brought hellish mud slides to the mountain towns like this, cutting off families for days and forcing desperate decision making. Do you burn precious fuel searching for supplies or stay put and pray for help?

Lydia has two cars with no gas, two grand kids to keep alive on a ration of crackers with no way to reach that highway pipe they drink rain water.


WEIR (voice-over): No water, no food she tells me. It's nobody's fault. It's the weather. You have to go on.

WEIR (on camera): So the anxiety and concern. My heart breaks for you.

WEIR (voice-over): What worries me the most is my family doesn't know how we're doing, she says. We don't have cell phone connection.

WEIR: On a scale of one to 10, 10 being horrible desperate, where are you?


WEIR: You're in eight.

IRIZARRY: Eight, yes.


WEIR (voice-over): Eight and getting better, the young mayor tells me. If the gasoline arrives it will fix our problems because people are starting to get desperate. Gas is more precious than water up here. National Guard vehicles can't move. Worthless ambulances sit idle. The hospital has one day's worth of generator fuel left and one volunteer doctor because the rest of the staff has no way to get to work.

WEIR (on camera): Are people starting to turn on each?

WEIR (voice-over): Yes, he says. There is been situations where people are stressed out crying, folks with dialysis, patients with cancer, bedridden patients who need ventilators.

IRIZARRY: Everything, you can help with the boys in the outside because I need gasoline and diesel.

WEIR: I would tell. I will tell the world.

WEIR (voice-over): The fuel shortage is even more evident in San Juan where lines are miles long. WEIR (on camera): They opened this particular service station at 6:00 in the morning. They run out of gas by 3:00 p.m. So some people at the end of this line may not get the fuel they need. The folks here are telling me that a local ring of gangsters called Titaday (ph) drug dealers actually come and dire the gas station, took over two lanes just so their guys could get the fuel.

How would you describe the level of desperation?

JANICE TORRES, PUERTO RECO RESIDENT: Oh, to the highest level. And not only here in the metropolitan area but in the center of the island, (INAUDIBLE) is very, very bad. And they are suffering. Everybody's suffering. And let's see how we can work it out and begin again.

WEIR: You're putting a big smile on this.

TORRES: I will always do that, of course.

WEIR (voice-over): And someday after the most primal needs are met, parents will have to figure out how to send their kids back to school and at Wesleyan Academy, this is what awaits, there is so much to rebuild and so many now considering leaving this island for good.

WEIR (on camera): What message would you have for folks back on the mainland?

HARRY TORRES, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: Well, we have to keep calm. That's all I can say. Just keep calm because -- like I said this week, we -- I told my family if this week we don't see anything getting better, I'm going to have to leave the island. I've been here already like 20 years and I'm going to have to leave the island. I don't have any other choice.


[20:55:02] COOPER: And Bill joins me now from San Juan. What do you hearing about gas coming to the island, gas stations opening up?

WEIR: We're getting such sort of conflicting reports, Anderson. The governor down here said that there were 185 actually open yesterday, but 450 today. But that's grossly inflated compared to the reporting of our colleagues over at CNN Espanol, Rafael Romo is been making calls said, a 108 gas station operational today.

But beyond the fuel, which a lot of is already on the island just needs to be distributed, it's more about security. A lot of the drivers either can't report to work because they don't get there or they don't want to go out unless they have someone riding shotgun. A police officer.

The good news is 90 percent of Puerto Rico's cops are reported for duty, although five of the usually 13 command centers are operational. But that's a police force that's probably taxed on a good day. I can't overstate the level of need on this island. I know you've covered a lot of these over the years, and this one is -- just in terms of pure logistical nightmares, scope, unlike any many of CNN including the FEMA guys who are staying here in this hotel, they say, they're here, they want to help, but they're still working on search and rescue while others are hoping to file for claims and get their life back in order. This is a months and months-long recovery process on the horizon for a really hearty people, but increasingly desperate people.

COOPER: Yes, Bill Weir, I appreciate you being there. When we come back, President Trump rejecting criticism, it's preoccupied with the NFL despite some evidence that come true.