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Trump, McConnell Play Nice Amid GOP Civil War; Trump: Other Presidents Didn't Call Gold Star Families (They Did); Trump's Approval Rating for Hurricane Response Drops 20 Points After Maria Hits Puerto Rico. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 16, 2017 - 20:00   ET


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

We begin tonight with new claims by the president, claims that don't stand up to the light of day. Today, the president claimed, and these are his exact words that, quote, President Obama and other presidents, most of them, didn't make calls to families of fallen American troops. They did.

He claimed that President Clinton's FEMA director gave him an A-plus grade on his handling of the aftermath of hurricanes, including Puerto Rico. He didn't.

We're keeping him honest tonight on both fronts.

We begin with the president's lunch with a Republican he loves to needle but needs on board to get anything done, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The same Mitch McConnell he's been feuding with in private and openly for months.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are probably now, despite what we read, we're probably now, I think, at least as far as I'm concerned, closer than ever before. And the relationship is very good. We're fighting for the same thing.


COOPER: Well, that was today. Again, this is the same Mitch McConnell he's been slamming who leads the very same GOP lawmakers he was criticizing just two hours earlier today.


TRUMP: And I'm not going to blame myself, I'll be honest. They are not getting the job done. We've had health care approved, and then you had a surprise vote by John McCain. We've had other things happen, and they're not getting the job done.


COOPER: That criticism came in reaction to his former chief strategist's recent shot at the GOP establishment and his pledge to primary Republican incumbents next year.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Yes, Mitch, the donors are not happy. They've all left you. We've cut your oxygen off, Mitch, OK?


COOPER: Yet even as the president echoed Bannon's insurgent critique of Republican lawmakers, he also seemed to be looking ahead to his lunch with the establishment majority leader. He seems to be trying to have it both ways.


TRUMP: There are some Republicans, frankly, that should be ashamed of themselves, but most of them -- I tell you what, I know the Republican senators. Most of them are really, really great people that want to work hard and they want to do a great thing for the American public. But you had a few people that really disappointed us. They really, really disappointed us. So I can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels.


COOPER: He knows how Steve Bannon feels.

Well, despite today's positive talk about McConnell, slamming the Republican establishment, especially McConnell, it's been a presidential favorite. Just about nine weeks ago, "The New York Times" reporting that a phone call between the president and McConnell degenerated into a profane shooting match. In the past, he's also spoken publicly about his problems with McConnell.


REPORTER: Can you talk about your relationship with senator McConnell?

TRUMP: I just want him to get repeal and replace done. I've been hearing repeal and replace now for seven years, but I've only been doing this for two years. And I've really only been doing this for six months, but I've been running.

So, now, it's almost two years and all I hear is repeal and replace, and then I get there and I said, where is the bill? I want to sign it. Fist day. And they don't have it.


COOPER: And when the president isn't talking, he's tweeting. Mitch, get back to work. Put repeal and replace, tax reform and cuts and a great infrastructure bill on my desk for signing. You can do it.

I requested that Mitch M and Paul R tied the debt ceiling legislation to the popular VA bill which has passed for easy approval. They didn't do it, so now, we have a big deal with Dems holding them up as usual on debt ceiling approval. Could have been so easy. Now a mess.

Majority Leader McConnell for his part has suggested that the president was too green to understand the ways of Washington.


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


COOPER: Well, to that one, the president tweeted: Senator Mitch McConnell said I had excessive expectations, but I don't think so. After seven years of hearing repeal and replace, why not done?

Well, today, the president seems to be singing a different tune. We'll see how long this lasts.


TRUMP: We are probably now despite what we read, we're probably now, I think, at least as far as I'm concerned, closer than ever before, and the relationship is very good.


COOPER: Well, joining us now two conservatives and one Gloria Borger. The two are Amanda Carpenter and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

So, Gloria, the idea that President Trump and McConnell are suddenly brothers in arms, they're -- you know, together, they're going to save the president's agenda and Republican control of Congress -- I mean, it's not that simple.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's not that simple and it's really not real either, Anderson. This is all the warmth of an arranged marriage here. And neither one of them really likes each other.

I mean, Mitch McConnell won't even talk about the president's tweets. The president, as you point out, has tweeted incessantly about Mitch McConnell. But I think that during this meeting, McConnell made it very clear that he was not pleased with what the president said in the morning, in which he said, well, I understand Steve Bannon.

[20:05:01] You know, there are a couple of -- there are some Republican senators I don't like. Mitch McConnell wants to retain the majority in the Senate. He is no fan of Steve Bannon's, and I'm sure that he went in there saying, look, we have to stand together because your guy wants to defeat all the people that are going to keep our Senate majority, and we need to provide a united front. So, the president said we're close. We're very, very unified in the

Republican Party. And, of course, none of that is true.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, is that true?

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR, PENNSYLVANIA: Look, you know, Donald Trump needs Mitch McConnell to be an effective leader, and Mitch McConnell needs Donald Trump to keep people energized and engaged out there in the public for what he wants to do, and to put pressure on his members. So, whether they like it or not, they need each other in order to get things done. And right now, you've got actually tax reform and, you know, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have to put together a good package.


SANTORUM: And because Donald Trump is not doing it. I mean, that's really the missing thing here is that no one really talks about. Donald Trump is right, Republicans ran for seven years on repeal and replace.

But let's just be honest -- I mean, Donald Trump didn't come with a package. Usually, Congress is not really used to being in the role of being the initiator of these ideas. They usually try to take whatever the president sends them and then works with things.

So, it's just a very odd relationship. Things are sort of upside down. It hasn't worked very well. The Republican leadership, I agree with Donald Trump, has not done a good job in this new area of trying to be the leader on policy. And maybe we'll see whether this go around with tax reform will change. I don't know.

COOPER: Amanda, I mean, how do you see this?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I watched this Rose Garden press conference and honestly, I just had to laugh. Donald Trump talked a lot about unity, but Donald Trump is only about Donald Trump. What I see him doing right now is playing Mitch McConnell and Steve Bannon against each other perfectly to President Trump's advantage.

Here is what's going to happen. Either Mitch McConnell is going to pass tax reform, he's going to repeal Obamacare, he's going to do something on immigration by primary time next year or Donald Trump is going to get Steve Bannon to sick the dogs on Mitch McConnell's men through the primary season.

This works out perfectly for Donald Trump, because if we get around to the midterms in 2018 and if nothing is done, Donald Trump would be well within his right to see clean them out and send me some strong conservative who are going to get the job done.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, you've got some new reporting on the strategy behind Steve Bannon maybe up to. Kind of a high profile Senate primary -- BORGER: Well, since his candidate won in Alabama, he's been spending

a lot of time out West, because he's trying to recruit candidates there. He's going to appear tomorrow night for Kelly Ward, who is challenging Senator Flake. No favorite of Donald Trump's, I might add. He's going to go out there to her first campaign rally.

And he is continuing to say that he's going to challenge people like Barrasso and Hatch and Flake and Heller out west and Fisher in Nebraska. And, you know, Barrasso, for example, is somebody who the president might consider a friend.

So, maybe the president will get him to back off a little bit, although, you know, Bannon sounds like this is his job right now, which is to repeal and replace the Republicans who are in the Senate --


BORGER: -- who are the establishment.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, having been in the Senate and knowing it as well as you do, how much does personality matter? How much does it matter the personal relationship or lack thereof between the president and Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan in terms of actually getting stuff done?

SANTORUM: Look, these folks are pros. You know, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have been around -- particularly McConnell has been around a long time. He's put up with different personalities. Obviously, the president is a unique one. No doubt about that. But he's going to be focused as the speaker on trying to get the agenda passed.

And, look, I agree with Amanda. I think the president is in a great position right now. I think he is trying to stress to the leader that there is -- you better feel a sense of urgency in getting these things done. You know, I've got my attack dog out here, and he's going to destroy your leadership if you don't deliver for me.

I know that -- I'm sure Mitch McConnell doesn't want to hear that, but the reality is it's going to happen whether Donald Trump has Steve Bannon as an attack dog or not. The Republican leadership better start delivering on these two big things, both tax reform and repeal and replace Obamacare or this leadership team and certainly in the Senate and probably in the House are going to be in big trouble come next election.

COOPER: Amanda, does any of this blow back -- I mean, to your point earlier about 2018, if nothing gets done, does none of it blow back on the president himself?

[20:10:03] CARPENTER: I mean, sure, but he'll have two more additional years before the re-election campaign to figure that out. I mean, Donald Trump has never shown himself loyal or beholden to a previous position. I mean, he will change it on a dime.

And if he can play this right, if he doesn't get anything done by the midterms, he's going to need a scapegoat. And Anderson, I have to tell you after being a top staffer to Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz, I know how deep the Republican base anger is against Mitch McConnell. And I promise you, he knows it too.

His aides put out a memo earlier saying that they have -- the Republican Congress has a big target against them. No, it's not the Republican Congress. It's not Paul Ryan. It is Mitch McConnell.

Steve Bannon is endorsing all kinds of candidates. People may look at them and say, well, gee, what positions do they share between a person, say, like Roy Moore and Michael Grimm in New York. It's probably one thing. They probably pledged to Steve Bannon that they will be a royal pain to Mitch McConnell and will do anything to oust him. That is the ideological test for Steve Bannon. There's nothing else.

SANTORUM: I would say in an odd way, Anderson, that what Steve Bannon is doing is actually helping Mitch McConnell.


SANTORUM: Because it actually creates a sense of urgency among Republicans, even moderate Republicans who like maybe the leadership style of both Ryan and McConnell see that that is threatened. Their ability to be able to influence legislation is going to be threatened if we see a wholesale replacement of a lot of more, quote, mainstream Republicans that more conservatives.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: But Bannon helps Trump. Bannon helps Donald Trump as well --

SANTORUM: He does.

BORGER: -- because Donald Trump can thread the needle when he needs to and he can sit back now and watch this all play out.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Santorum, Gloria Borger, Amanda Carpenter, thanks. Interesting discussion.

Coming up next, the president breaks his 12-day silence on four American troops killed in Niger and he breaks it by making false statements. We're keeping him honest on that.

And later, the president's claim he's getting an A-plus from President Clinton's FEMA director. We're in Puerto Rico, keeping them honest. And voters are keeping them as well in a new CNN poll.


[20:15:50] COOPER: Twelve days since the deadliest combat incident since taking office, President Trump broke his silence about it, four soldiers, two of them green berets, killed during an ambush in Niger. Today in the Rose Garden, again, 12 days after the fact the president said he'll shortly be sending them letters to their families and said he planned to call them later this week. He also ignited a controversy by taking the opportunity to diss the

commander in chief in both parties who came before him.

Now, we're playing an extended clip. So, you can watch the president get to that point and you got the full context to it. Take a look.


TRUMP: I've written them personal letters. They've been sent or they're going out tonight, but they were during the weekend. I will at some point during the period of time call the parents and the families, because I have done that traditionally.

I felt very, very badly about that. I always feel badly. It's the toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers are killed. It's a very difficult thing.

Now, it gets to a point where, you know, you make four or five of them in one day, it's a very, very tough day. For me that's by far the toughest.

So, the traditional way if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it.


COOPER: President Obama and other presidents most didn't make calls. Keeping them honest, they did. And they sent letters and met with Gold Star families.

Late today, former Obama and Reagan White House photographer Pete Souza posted this on his Instagram page, the president and first lady comforting the parents of Army Sergeant First Class Jared Monte, who had just been posthumously been awarded the Medal of Honor.

Now, that rebuttal and plenty more came after the president's Rose Garden talk. However, it did not even take that long for the president to try and back away from he had said. He did not however say he was mistaken, or even that he misspoke. Instead, he shifted the blame.


REPORTER: Earlier, you said that President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?

TRUMP: I don't know if he did. No, no, no. I was told that he didn't often. And a lot of presidents don't. They write letters.

I do -- excuse me, Peter. I do a combination of both. Sometimes, it's a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both.

President Obama, I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told. All I can do -- all I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call. They'd write letters. And some presidents didn't do anything.

But I like the combination of -- I like -- when I can the combination of a call and also a letter.


COOPER: So, let's just remember the president, who after Charlottesville tragedy said he waited two days to condemn neo-Nazis because -- well, let him explain why.


TRUMP: It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. I couldn't have made it sooner because I didn't know all of the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts.

I had to see the facts. I want to know the facts. I want the facts. I wanted to see the facts.

Before I make a statement, I need the facts. You don't make statements that direct unless you know the fact. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts. OK?


That was the president after Charlottesville talking about how he wants to know the facts. Now, when it comes to his criticisms of former presidents, making false statements about former presidents, essentially, the president of the United States is saying, maybe, they didn't make the calls, maybe they didn't. I don't know, somebody told me.

Leo Panetta knows firsthand how past presidents cope with military casualties and families of the fallen. He served in the Clinton White House and the secretary of defense of the Obama administration.

Secretary Panetta, when you hear President Trump criticizing President Obama's treatment of the families of service men and women who gave their lives to their county, I'm wondering what your reaction is and can you explain how President Obama handled military deaths?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, you know, Anderson, look, every president -- and I've served in public life under nine presidents. Every one of them had their own approach to condolences for the loved ones of those who lost in duty -- either on in the military side or in the diplomatic side.

[20:20:09] President Clinton who I worked for wrote notes and also visited with families of those that lost loved ones. President Obama I know wrote letters, also made some calls as I recall, but more importantly, actually visited with the family. When we lost a group of SEALs, large group of SEALs with a helicopter lost in Afghanistan, he came to Dover and we greeted not only the bodies as they arrived, but he met with each of the families at the time.

So, each president has their own approach. I think it would be well for President Trump now ten months into his administration, that rather than seeking some kind of scapegoats in the past with President Obama or other presidents that he now accept responsibility for what he does and le can figure out his own approach to how he deal with loved ones who have been lost in the field of battle.

I can tell you this, as secretary of defense, it was the toughest job I had. I used to write -- written notes to the loved ones of those that lost someone dear in battle. And it is one of the toughest jobs I've ever had. So, it's something that every president has to deal with.

COOPER: You know, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders sort of continued this today. In a statement, she said, quote: Individuals claiming former president such as their bosses called each family of the fallen are mistaken.

I mean, I guess the issue here is, is President Trump using, you know, this most sensitive of subjects to both criticize his predecessors and essentially pat himself on the back?

PANETTA: Well, you know, it just -- it bothers me that a president of the United States, instead of accepting responsibility for what he does and what his administration does, constantly looks for other scapegoats, whether it's Congress, whether it's past presidents, whether it's somebody else. He is never responsible for anything that goes wrong.

And the reality is the American people understand that presidents make mistakes, that presidents make misjudgments. And it would be far better for him to just be honest with the American people.

COOPER: I was going to ask you about comments Senator Corker, who is the Republican chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, made recently -- comparing the White House to an adult daycare, suggesting that President Trump is putting America on a path to World War III.

Do you share those same concerns?

PANETTA: You know, not being in the middle of the White House, it's a little tough to tell just exactly how matters are being dealt with. Obviously, it seems chaotic. It doesn't seem that, you know, there's -- I think that John Kelly has done a great job in putting a chain of command in place and better discipline within the White House. He's still dealing with a president who doesn't accept discipline very easily.

And when that president goes out of his way to tweet and say things that are not -- are not really scrubbed by the staff and policy makers, it just makes it very difficult to try to have the appearance that this president really has a strategy behind everything he says and does. I think it is what it appears to be, which is that oftentimes, it's very half-hazard, and oftentimes, he's reacting to his emotions in the moment. And, unfortunately, I think if this president is ever going to get a handle on the job and issues that he's dealing with, very frankly, they have got to be better disciplined in the way they operate. COOPER: Secretary Panetta, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

PANETTA: Good to be with you.

COOPER: Well, new polling shows most Americans approved of how the president was handling hurricane response until Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and his approval rating dropped by 20 points. That story is next.

Plus, what the president said about Puerto Rico today. And we'll give you an update from Puerto Rico on the desperate lengths some people are going to get water, including collecting it from places that are contaminated with industrial chemicals.


[20:27:28] COOPER: It has been almost a month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. About 86 percent of the island still has no electricity. Twenty-eight percent do not have access to drinking water. And there's breaking news, some brand-new numbers tonight show how people think the president is handling the crisis that's happening to their fellow Americans.

New CNN polling shows 44 percent approve of how the president is handling hurricane response. That's a 20-point drop from just a few weeks ago after Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. mainland.

At the White House today, the president again praised his own response to Puerto Rico, the same time blaming both geography and local services for the continuing hardship.


TRUMP: Puerto Rico is very tough because of the fact that it's an island, but it's also tough because as you know it was in very poor shape before the hurricanes ever hit. We have done -- I will say this. We have done --

REPORTER: People don't have drinking water.

TRUMP: Well, we've delivered tremendous amounts of water. Then, what you have to do is you have distribution of the water by people on the island.


COOPER: The president also repeated his claim that he's getting praise from all kinds of people for the tremendous job he's doing in Puerto Rico.


TRUMP: I was very honored to see a man that I've had a lot of respect for, James Lee Witt of the Clinton administration, the head of FEMA. He gave us an A plus. I just see it just came out. And I've always had respect for him. He gave us -- he's the FEMA

director of the Clinton administration, gave us an A-plus for how we responded to the hurricane aftermath, all of the hurricanes, and that includes Puerto Rico.


COOPER: Well, keeping him honest, that is just not true. Our colleagues over at "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon called Mr. Witt to see if that's what he said and he said it was A-plus was based on the handling of Harvey and Irma, not Maria. That, in fact, Maria had not happened yet when he said it.

The truth, again, the truth, 28 percent of Puerto Rico still has no access to drinking water.

With no other choice, some people are resorting to desperate and potentially dangerous measures, collecting water from parts of the island that are polluted with industrial chemicals.

Ed Lavandera has that.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPODENT (voice-over): Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria hit, residents around the town of Dorado keep tapping into this water faucet behind a chain linked fence with the sign that reads danger, do not enter.

And despite the warnings from a police officer, they come here to fill containers of water. But few of them know this well sits in area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a superfund site there are at least six wells that residences have reportedly tapped into for water. One of the wells is accessed in a shopping center parking lot, and there have been long lines of residence waiting to fill up what they can. The governor of Puerto Rico insists that the water is safe, he says the territories Department of Health has tested it.

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR, PUERTO RICO: So obviously if it's non- drinking water, we're not going to be severing it. But if it complies with the clean water act then it is going to happen.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But it's not clear if the other wells are safe. In an Environmental Protection Agency team spent the weekend gathering water samples for further testing.

GARY LIPTON, INCIDENT COMMANDER, EPA: We're not saying that is somebody is in immediate danger by drinking this water, this all -- we are consider it a long-term risk.

LAVANDEA (voice-over): Gary Lipton is the EPA incident commander in Puerto Rico. He says they're looking for signs of industrial toxins often linked to serious health problems including cancer. An EPA document show that is late as last year, Dangerous levels of those industrial toxins were found in the ground. (on-camera): How concerned are you about what might happen to them?

LIPTON: We're concerned because it's not absolutely clean, you know, pure water. There are some contaminates.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Right after the EPA team left and lock the site. Juan Carlos Oquendo and his brother showed up, peeled back the fence and filled up dozens of containers with water.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): Are you're going to drink this water?


LAVANDERA (on-camera): You're going to drink it? You're willing to take the chance of


LAVANDERA (on-camera): So, this is it, another water, we'll take the chance.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): If I don't drink water I'm going to die (INAUDIBLE)

(voice-over): Juan Carlos brought us to his home where he lives with his family. The top floor was destroyed by the hurricane. His mother says they only received two packages of water since the storm. And she's been drinking the water from that potentially contaminated well for two weeks and now she says she now has stomach pains.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): She says, the stomach pains started about two weeks ago and she's trying to ignore them.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): Would you think it has something to do with the water?


LAVANDERA (on-camera): She doesn't know for sure, but she thinks it might have something to do with the water she's been drinking.

(voice-over): It's impossible to know for sure if the stomach pains are related. But when we went back to the water wells today, a different scene. Puerto Rican officials had stationed guards at these well sites preventing more people from accessing these potential contaminated water wells.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Just not unbelievable. Ed Lavandera joins us now from San Juan. What do we know about the EPA testing time line?

LAVANDERA: But we were told by EPA officials that the water samples that were taken from those wells in question, that the biological test on those, those results could come back as early as Tuesday, tomorrow. But the more serious and troublesome aspects of that water testing for those chemicals compound which could induce -- include some cancer causing industrial toxins, that those results won't probably be back until early next week. Anderson.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much. Coming up John McCain just finished his speech and he has strong words about what he sees as the direction of the country and the man leading it, we play the sound for you right, when we come back.


[20:36:42] COOPER: We started off the broadcast tonight talking about the split between the president of the establishment GOP. Moments ago, Senator John McCain had words ceremony took what some are saying as a direct shot at the Trump and string of politics and now railing (ph) in Washington. Joining me now CNN chief political analyst, Dana Bash live from that event.

So what did Senator McCain said?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well this was a very emotional very raw event. He was receiving the liberty medal here in Philadelphia, got it from the former Vice President Joe Biden. And much of his speech was about the honor that he had and serving in the navy, in the Senate, some jokes. But there was one particular part where he stopped and he was incredibly emphatic, maybe the most of the entire speech. Listen to why.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: To fear the world we have organized, and led the three quarters of the century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems. Is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.


BASH: Now, John McCain didn't say Donald Trump, he didn't say Steve Bannon, he didn't mention any names at all, but there was no question about what he was talking about. He was talking about Trumpism, maybe Bannonism, but he was talking about his fears, Anderson of what is going forward, particularly coming from a man who has traveled about 75,000 miles between the first of the year, release right around inauguration when Donald Trump wen into the White House, to when he got his diagnosis this summer.

Almost at a feverish pace trying to go from country to country, world leader to world leader to try to reassure them about America's leadership place in the world and it's something that clearly he cares more about than just anybody else, especially at this place and time.

COOPER: Yes. Dana stick around. I want to bring in back in Senator Rick Santorum and CNN chide political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria office of the president as Dana said didn't mention President Trump but little doubt about addressing Trumpism I guess. I mean he called "half bake spurious nationalism."

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean it was directly aimed at Donald Trump, there's no question about it, he didn't have to mention his name. And as you saw in the clip you just showed, he was interrupted by applause there. He also wen on to say that the United States is not going to thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. And I think that was another swipe at Donald Trump.

He's made no secret of his disdain for this president and made no secret of the fact that he disagrees with him on occasion and is, you know, happy to say so. And I think the -- it's returned by the president who always talks about John McCain is the man who thwarted healthcare.

[20:40:15] So I think, you know, you have to understand that McCain has always been kind of an honest and forthright guy and I think now even more so.

COOPER: Yes, Senator Santorum, I mean certainly McCain's view of the world and America's role in it very different than Donald Trump's?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No I would agree, there's no question, that was a swipe that certainly elements of Donald Trump's national security team, I wouldn't say that it was a show -- a complete swipe at the Trump administration, there is certainly a lot of folks in that administration.

BORGER: Right.

SANTORUM: They're very much aligned with John McCain and I think his trying to, you know, way down on their side. And in fact a lot of what Donald Trump has done has been consistent with that line. I would note that he also talked about the ideology of America's leadership being, you know, in the past, in the ash heap of history. That is very clearly directed at Barack Obama. And the, you know, he was John McCain is very tough and you heard it on Donald Trump. He was equally as tough --


SANTORUM: -- on Barack Obama, and the sequestration, the gutting of the Defense Department, the leadership leading from behind. You know, John McCain is sort of man without a country in some respects. I mean if the left and sort as a the nationalist writer are not where -- not where traditional Republican politic and I don't ever argue sort of the Scoop Jackson Democrats where and I think he's attacking both ends.


BASH: Well I think -- I think Senator, you certainly were serving in the Senate when you were around more Republicans who were like John McCain is now, very internationalist. And clearly what he has been saying since Donald Trump became the Republican nominee and even more so since he's become president, is he's very concerned that his party, that the Republican Party is becoming much more inward looking, much more nationalist take. And obviously led by the person in the White House. You're absolutely right that McCain and other Republicans and this came out in the open a couple of weeks ago when the foreign relations chair, Bob Corker said what he said about the national security team being kind of a steady enforced.

McCain agrees with that, he is a very much a big fan of the Defense Secretary General Mattis of the national security adviser McMaster and others, it is just the president and the rhetoric that he uses that is very concerning to somebody like McCain whose number one life's mission is to keep America's leadership role in the world.

BORGER: You know --

COOPER: Yes I mean, Senator McCain -- Senator Santorum, you know, the notion of, you know America's a shining city on a hill, and something that the rest of the world, you know, that we're involved in the rest of the world, that is something that President Trump doesn't really ascribe to.

SANTORUM: He doesn't from a rhetorical point of view clearly and -- but if you look at his actions, I mean I -- I think, you know, the fact that he is, you know, trying to increase money from the Defense Department, that's very much in line with what John McCain wants to do. I think he say, you know, the approach is taking on North Korea. Again, I'm not talking about the words that he uses, but the fact that he's, you know, drawing more of a line there, his engagement in the Middle East.

I mean there's a lot of areas that the president has done things that aren't necessarily consistent with, you know, with the rhetoric. So I understand what John McCain is doing and I actually agree with what his doing. But I think you have to look at the Trump administration from the standpoint of what actually he's done as more of a mix bag than just, you know, pure nationalist.

BORGER: Well, and I think John McCain's whole career in public service, and, you know, Dana I covered him for years and he's said this over and over again, particularly when he ran for president, that you have to be devoted to something greater than yourself. And I think that his beef with Donald Trump is that he believes that Donald Trump doesn't believe there's anything greater than himself.

And I think that John McCain believers in order to be a true leader, you have to be unselfish.


BORGER: And that's how he define his patriotism.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Santorum, Gloria Borger --

BASH: And Anderson --

COOPER: Dana Bash, I'm sorry we got to get this break in.

When we come back --

BASH: No problem.

COOPER: -- the president's nominee to be the nation's drug czar Congressman Tom Marino is under fire tonight after an explosive report, the alleged connection between drug lobbying money and Congressman Marino support for law that would make it nearly impossible for the DEA to go after opioid drug manufacturer, is all of that is ahead.


[20:48:49] COOPER: Today President Trump told reporters that he would officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency next week. If that sounds familiar it's because he said he would do the exact same thing back in August but never did. His comments today came a response reporters questions about a "Washington Post" in 60 Minutes report released yesterday. The report alleging the drug companies poured million dollars in lobbying money into Congress to push a law that would enormously weaken the DEA stability to go after opioid drug distributors. That's of tens of thousands Americans are dying from opioid overdoses every year.

Tom Foreman tonight has more. So exactly what did this law do that's generating attention?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The main accusation in these articles is that a new law passed in 2016 effectively striped the drug enforcement administration of a key tool in combatting the opioid epidemic which is centered for a least control, say killed 91 Americans everyday.

Specifically, these articles in the "Washington Post" and on 60 minutes say, that law made it very difficult to stop large suspicious shipments of opioids from drug companies to areas where agents had reason to believe they were being sold to addicts. The problem for the Trump administration, those news outlet say a chief proponent of that legislation was Republican Congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, who is the president's nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to be the drug czar.

[20:50:10] And who the report say has receive substantial donations from pharmaceutical companies that are making a great deal of money from the sale of opioids. Anderson. COOPER: There was very little Congressional opposition to this law at the time. I mean some by President Obama, how did that happen if it contained such an enforcement loophole?

FOREMAN: Well it's not entirely clear, but the investigation suggests the legislation was ran through under a protective cover of Congress members who promoted the idea there was nothing controversial in it and why did they do that? Because these investigators found the pharmaceutical industry made generous donations to a good many campaigns while the law was being developed and passed Anderson. But we just received a statement that we also have a report here from the pharmaceutical research and manufacturers of America Pharma, and what they have said, is with regard, the reason "Washington Post" and 60 Minute stories, we want to be clear that Pharma did not support or lobby in favor of the insuring access and effective drug enforcement act, that's what we're talking about here.

And reports that Pharma spent $40 million lobbying this bill are unequivocally false. And they're saying it's been contacted by this news outlets, they would explain that they are backing the DEA, they want to make sure they have sufficient controls and want independent investigation to approve that Anderson.

COOPER: What's the rational (ph) in Washington against their reporting?

FOREMAN: Well the biggest and most important reaction came from the man who is pushing Marino for this new job, President Trump, who was asked about the reports and she said he's aware of this issue.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We're going to have a major announcement probably next week on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem. And I want to get that absolutely right. This country and, frankly, the world has a drug problem. The world has a drug problem. But we have it and we're going to do something about it. So I'm going to have a major announcement on that problem next week. We're going to be looking into Tom.


FOREMAN: Going to be looking into Tom. The president hinted he might make a change in that front and several Democrats are urging just that. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said confirming Representative Marino as our nation's drug czar is like putting a wolf in charge of the hen house. And Democrats have now introduced legislation to repeal that controversial opioid law. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Tom, thanks very much.

Just before air, I spoke to Senator Claire McCaskill who's Tom mentioned is introducing legislation to repeal the law, the senator of that investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Senator McCaskill, before last night 60 Minute story, did you have any idea about just what kind of impact this law was having?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI: I didn't realize a couple things before we began visiting with some of the investigators on this report in the last few weeks. I didn't realize that these distributors were getting this ability to submit a plan before they were going to be punished. And I certainly didn't understand the full impact of the different standards that has been change. And so that's why I want to get this repealed as quickly as possible. We need to give the DEA every tool possible not make it harder for them to do their job.

COOPER: I mean how does a bill like this get passed? Because we mean, red flags seem to have been raised by the DEA, by Attorney General Eric Holder yet it passed both the House and Senate unanimously?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think the drug company is -- the distributors particularly didn't want to give up. They had some good expert help and as they hired people out of the DEA to go to work for them. They kept wearing down the folks at the DEA with, you know, they need to work with industry and I think Congressman Marino even in a caring, that you need to work with industry.

Well, no not so much. If industry is sending nine million pills, opioid pills into a community of fewer than a thousand people, then they need to be held accountable, we don't need to change the standards to work with them more closely. So it's unfortunate that the DEA eventually backed down and kind of said OK this is better than what you originally proposed. And that's actually what happened unfortunately. And I -- I wish it hadn't, but we have a chance to fix it.

COOPER: Would it be unreasonable though for somebody sitting at home to think that this is not an isolated incident to worry the big business essentially is getting laws pass in Congress at the expense of average Americans.

MCCASKILL: Well, I don't think there's any question they should worried about it. You know, there are unanimous consent bills to get through, but typically they have been vetted pretty thoroughly. So I would say this is in some ways is now outlier, but Pharma is a big player Anderson. They are one of the biggest on Capitol Hill. You know, I believe that if you just look at the Medicare Part D program, the notion that Congress would pass a bill that they are not allowed to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices on prescription drugs? That's outrageous.

Well that was Pharma. That was Pharma doing really hard work on Capitol Hill to have their way. This is another good example.

COOPER: Do you degree with your colleagues Senator Joe Manchin that the president should withdraw his nomination of Tom right now to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy?

[20:55:06] MCCASKILL: I could never support Tom Marino after this and I consciously optimistic that most of my colleagues would agree. So I was worried when the president originally cut the budget of the office that Tom Marino has been nominated to hold to nothing. Now they since reversed that slightly, but the bottom line is we need a strong leader there that understands that the opioid is the public health crisis our country faces right now. It is as big as any public health crisis we've had in our lifetimes and now it's all hands on deck to help the DEA make sure that we got treatment beds available, make sure we're helping law enforcement.

COOPER: You're calling for repeal, but how much support do you actually expect that call to get. I mean the grip, the drug industry has in Congress doesn't seem any less now than when the law passed a year ago?

MCCASKILL: Well that's going to be a good test. I think frankly, everyone is feeling pressure about the opioid crisis and we have done a lot here on Capitol Hill trying to address it. So because this is impacting so many families across our country, every single senator and every single member of Congress has tragedies they can speak of that they know about in their state. And so I do think that this is one of these times where you're going to have to be a collision between doing what's right and, frankly, what the big drug companies want you to do. And I have a feeling that we're going to prevail on this and get this repealed.

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

MCCASKILL: Thank you.


COOPER: When we come back, the man who criticized him, the chief Republican, he needs to get anything done. President Trump today said he and Senator Mitch McConnell are closure than ever. How long will that last? We'll talk about that ahead.