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Source: Special Counsel's Team Interviewed Sean Spicer; Trump Uses Military Deaths to Pat Himself on the Back, Criticize Obama. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 17, 2017 - 20:00   ET


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

We begin tonight with breaking news in the Russia investigation. Special counsel investigators have interviewed former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. That according to a source close to the matter.

Spicer's meeting follows former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus who talked to investigators just last week.

CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us now with more.

So, what are you learning about this meeting?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, learning that Spicer was interviewed yesterday, Monday, by special counsel Robert Mueller's team. What topics they would be likely interested in, one is the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Keep in mind that Spicer had a very close relationship with the president. He's also known, and this is important, could be important to the investigation, for having taken copious notes in many of these meetings.

You might expect the investigators looking into the president's decision-making and discussion, regarding for instance the firing of the FBI director, would be interested in seeing or having those notes described to him as well.

In addition to Reince Priebus, which you mentioned, Anderson, we also know earlier, Keith Kellogg, who briefly served as the national security adviser when Michael Flynn was fired, he's also been interviewed now by the special counsel's team.

COOPER: There are also developments in the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation involving Carter Page.

SCIUTTO: That's right. Carter Page is now been subpoenaed by the committee. Carter Page, he's been sort of the public face early on of this investigation because he was very willing to speak publicly about his role here. It's now clear how central Carter Page's role was in the campaign. President Trump early in the campaign did name him as an adviser, a foreign policy adviser of his campaign although later said he was not as close to the center as he described him. And it's not clear that he was very close to the center of the Trump campaign.

But he did make many trips to Moscow. He spoke in Moscow during the campaign, very critical of U.S. policy, praising Russian policy there. Certainly questions to ask him during the campaign about any communications he may have been aware of particularly between the Trump team and Russian officials, which we know is the subject of Mueller's investigation as well.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, besides comments he made in Russia to Russian media about, you know, being in meetings with the president or the president-elect, there's no evidence he actually even met president Trump. In fact on this show he actually admitted he's never met.

SCIUTTO: That's exactly right.

COOPER: Yes. All right. Jim, stay with us.

I want to bring in the rest of our panel. Annie Karni, "Politico's" White House reporter who broke the story about Sean Spicer's interview with Mueller's team. Also, constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley, and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.

Annie, let me start with you. You broke the story for "Politico". You have some reporting on what Spicer was asked.

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, he was asked about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. And he was also asked about meetings that Trump had with Russian officials like Lavrov in the Oval Office. And the significance of him being asked about these things is that it's a sign that Mueller's investigation is expanding beyond what he originally sought out to look at, which was, did the Russians influence the 2016 election.

Spicer's role is much more interesting once you get into the White House than it was on the campaign. And these topics show that this goes directly to the question, is Mueller looking at obstruction of justice?

COOPER: Yes. And, Annie, I read your article. I think they were also looking at sort of the time line after Michael Flynn was removed or even before that because it's still not known really, between the time the White House was informed about concerns that law enforcement officials had about Michael Flynn and conversations he may have had and him actually being fired.

KARNI: That time line is fuzzy. And I think that's one reason why Keith Kellogg's name showed up as someone they've already interviewed. He was the interim national security adviser after Flynn left. So, he's likely there to answer questions about that piece of it.

COOPER: Professor Turley, I mean, Sean Spicer as Jim Sciutto was talking about, kept notebooks especially filled with specifics about his work in the White House. Does he have to turn all those over to Mueller?

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: He does. They're not protected by attorney/client privilege or really executive privilege, which has largely been weighed, even if it could be claimed.

But even when an executive privilege argument is made, it generally yields to criminal investigations. And so, the odds are that those notes will or already are in the hands of the investigators.

And he obviously is the type of person that investigators look for. Copious note takers are a gift to prosecutors. They tend to be something of a curse for people in Washington. But he is someone who is ubiquitous, who was always present at key moments. And so, he can fill in a lot of gaps.

So, at the very least this was due diligence by Mueller and could be something more.

COOPER: Paul, what does it tell you about the pace of the investigation? That Sean Spicer has been interviewed and we know Reince Priebus.

[20:05:01] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think moving very, very quickly. You have to remember that Mueller is somebody who comes in with a detailed knowledge of the operation of the FBI and he knows how to get information. He's not learning on the job. And the pace of this investigation has picked up.

He's circling the White House now, getting closer to the president. And he started interestingly, now, with figures who are no longer employed by the White House, and it's harder for them to assert executive privilege like Reince Priebus and like Sean Spicer.

So, I think it's an indication this investigation is moving quickly and may wrap up not in the immediate weeks to come but certainly in the immediate months to come.

COOPER: Professor Turley, in a meeting like this, I think it was Jeffrey Toobin, who was on this program, maybe last night or a couple of nights ago who are saying often in this kind of meeting, the investigators want to show documents, and they already have documents in their possession that they want to show the person and get information about.

Do you think that's the case here?

TURLEY: Yes, these usually follow the same course of depositions on the civil side. Documents are brought to the witness, the witness can look at them, they'll ask what he has reviewed himself, they'll ask for copies of those. These can be really grueling and quite tiresome events.

Where I would possibly disagree slightly with Paul is I'm not too sure the circle is tightening in a legal sense around President Trump. I still don't see a particularly powerful case for a criminal prosecution here. They may have something I don't know about. But obstruction of justice still seems a bit of a hope and prayer from what we know at this time. CALLAN: Well, I'm not saying that they're making -- they've made

their case yet. But what I'm saying is when I say it's getting in closer, it's getting in closer to finishing because ultimately, he's looking at the president's involvement, whether criminal or noncriminal, whether innocent or guilty. And, you know, I do think that he's getting focus now in the final months of this investigation.

COOPER: Annie, basically in your reporting, do you know how long this meeting lasts? I mean, was this like a one or two-hour thing?

KARNI: It was all day. It was like seven hours from what I was told.

And there are a lot more interviews to go. Hope Hicks is expected to talk to Mueller's team. Don McGahn, the White House counsel, is expected to talk to Mueller's team.

And I think those will actually mean more interesting. I want to push back on one thing that was said. Spicer is not -- might be one of the less interesting people that Mueller gets to talk to. He wasn't always in the room. Hope Hicks is someone who's always in the room.

Spicer for the same reason that he's no longer at the White House now, never managed to be a complete central player in Trump's West Wing. So, he -- to me, he's not something who's witnessed as much as some of the other people.

TURLEY: I think that's a fair point. The reason I think Spicer's sort of interesting is precisely that. He tends to blend into the background. That's the guy you worry about as a criminal defense attorney. It's a guy people don't particularly notice because he's --

COOPER: You're saying he's like Zelig (ph).

TURLEY: Well, you know, it's basically that. You don't notice the ficus plant, you don't notice Sean Spicer. And you -- people don't --

COOPER: Especially when he's behind the ficus plant as I think may have happened once.


TURLEY: Exactly.

COOPER: Or bush I think it was.

Jim Sciutto, do you agree with that, though, in terms of the pace of this investigation or -- I mean, it's clearly, there's still a long way to go.

SCIUTTO: We don't know. I mean, the thing about the Mueller investigation is it is such a tight black box, right? I mean, a lot of you learn about the investigation is coming from the lawyers not Mueller himself. I think the seniority of the people he's talking to, granted Spicer is not as close to him as others, but he's clearly going down paths other than election meddling, at least whether he's going to find anything there, we don't know, but he's going down those paths.

One note about Spicer as well, just to add to Annie's comment, I would say, is that remember, he was not with Trump during the campaign. So if you're going back to issues of collusion, communications with Russians during the campaign, which we know is another subject of investigation, that's not something you would go to him for.

COOPER: And, Annie, that gets to your point about Hope Hicks, because she's been there for a very long time.

KARNI: Yes, I think that she -- I mean, she's been at Trump's side before he declared he was running for president.

CALLAN: I think --

KARNI: Sean Spicer with the RNC for most of the campaign, came to the Trump Tower mostly, during the transition in August of 2016. Not the central player that some of these other people have been the whole way through.

COOPER: And is it Hope Hicks who receives a lot of the e-mails for President Trump. There was someone else to be the person you wanted to go through if you want to get to President Trump kind of the round circle.

KARNI: There's also Rhona Graff, he's former assistant, who still back at Trump work in New York. I don't know what the status is, but she was certainly be someone that Mueller's team would be interested in if they're circling the president.

SCIUTTO: She would print out the e-mails and he would give his answers in written form so that he would not e-mail back. But that is definitely, I've heard her as a possible interest of some of the Hill committees in term of their own investigation.

COOPER: And obviously, Jim, anybody who is on that plane when -- you know, as "The New York Times" broke, I think it was Maggie Haberman, when they were turning I think from Europe, where they were crafting a response for Donald Trump, Jr.

[20:10:12] Later, I believe Trump's attorneys claimed no, it was Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyers doing that. But it seems like all the reporting is that it was actually, the president actually was involved, and this was being discussed on the plane.

SCIUTTO: And that's why you can expect that he would be interested, the special counsel, in speaking to those who are present there. And keep in mind again, this is a reminder that initial statement was proven to be at best misleading, at worst just factually incorrect because that statement said that that Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 was all about adoptions, when, in fact, we later learned and there's an electronic record of this, that Donald Trump Jr. was told before the meeting there was the possibility of damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

CALLAN: You know, yes, I just want to add. You know, another thing about not taking Spicer too seriously, when I was being called to come in on this tonight, somebody said to me, it's like questioning him is like asking Clara Bell about what was going on in the circus. And that's just sort of an indication a lot of people don't take him seriously.

But remember, when he was getting beat up at those press conferences, he would go back and talk to the president about it. So, it may -- and he took detailed notes about it. So he could be a surprise witness for Mueller that's got a lot of detailed background information that would lead to other witnesses and expand the scope of the investigation.

COOPER: Jim, just finally, on another front of the investigation to Russian interference into the election, the use of social media by Russian hackers, you have some new exclusive reporting around that I understand.

SCIUTTO: That's right. And it draws a directly line between the fake news that popped here via Facebook and other outlets, divisive news about Black Lives Matter, et cetera, a direct line to someone extremely close to Vladimir Putin, his name is Yevgeny Prigozhin. He's known as the chef to the Kremlin, but in fact, he's much more. He's an oligarch. He has many businesses, including a catering business.

But he was sanctioned by the Treasury Department for among other things funding the separatists in Ukraine. So, the military -- funding support for the military intervention in Ukraine.

In this case, though, he ran what was called the Internet Research Agency, a sort of nondescript building in St. Petersburg. It was churning out all this fake news. And we and my colleagues have reviewed documents that detail exactly what their intention was. They say very explicitly, there was even a department in that building and it sounds straight out Orwell's 1984, called the department of provocations, with the expressed goal of sowing discord here in the U.S. and spreading news here in the U.S.

And just one more detail from reviewing the documents, in 2013, the budget of this organization, Anderson, was $1 million a month. So, significant funding behind this. Very close ties to Vladimir Putin and a direct tie between all that fake news that showed up in those key districts during the presidential election here.

COOPER: And his -- I mean, he -- there's a direct line between him and Vladimir Putin?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. I mean, to the point where Vladimir Putin had him cater birthday parties and cater two dinners for President George W. Bush when he visited Russia. There are photographs of him with Bush and Putin when he did. So, a friend, a chef they say but certainly a business associate as well of Vladimir Putin.

COOPER: Yes, I don't know of too will to mean chefs who are given a million dollars a month to run an Internet company.

SCIUTO: Yes, well, his food must be very good. It was truffles and other things on the menu for the Bush/Putin dinner.

COOPER: All right. Everyone, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Coming up next, in case you're wondering just how far the president will go to say he's mistaken about President Obama and America's fallen troops, we have a new answer today and it's triggered another discussion.

Later, only on 360, with everyone from the president on down arguing over what Colin Kaepernick, well, I talked to his attorney, Mark Geragos, about taking on the NFL.


[20:17:34] COOPER: Even though this next story tonight concerns the latest outrage over the last thing that President Trump said, it would only compound that outrage by beginning the story with his words or even characterizing them. You'll hear them soon enough and you can decide for yourself what to make of them.

We're going to begin instead with the words of a Marine Corps general, back then a three-star general that would go onto serve as secretary of homeland security and now as the president's chief of staff. Back in November of 2010, General Kelly about to address the Semper Fi Society in St. Louis had only request for the Marine introducing him, just a few simple words, please, he said, don't mention my son. The marine did not, and General Kelly took the podium.

He talked passionately about the sacrifices that families of service men and women make. He told the story of two marines who gave their lives in Iraq while saving hundreds more. He did not, not even once, mention his son, Marine Second Lieutenant Robert Kelly, who had been killed in Afghanistan just four days earlier.

He did not speak of how proud he was that Robert had enlisted, had risen through the ranks, and seeing combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. He did not mention the unit he commanded nor the losses they took. And he's only rarely spoken of him since.

A few moments after that speech in St. Louis, he told "The Washington Post," which was doing a profile of him, quote: We're only one of 5,500 American families who suffered a loss of a child in this war. The death of boy simply cannot be made to seem any more tragic than the others. In everything he said and did not say back then, and everything he said and done since then, General Kelly has refused to make the shared sacrifice of so many about his personal loss.

Well, this morning, President Trump took General Kelly's deeply private, searing and eternal loss and made it about his own gain momentary personal gain. Just a few days after falsely claiming that past presidents, specifically President Obama, did not call the families of fallen troops, he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, you could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? You could ask other people. I don't know what Obama's policy was.


COOPER: Well, keeping him honest, in the narrowest possible sense, it is true. President Obama did not call the Kellys. He did however invite them for breakfast at the White House for Gold Star families. The Kellys were scheduled to sit at the fist lady's table.

It's not clear if they actually attended. The White House declined to make General Kelly available for comment.

President Obama, like Presidents Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan and others before them honored the fallen in many ways -- phone calls, letters, witnessing caskets coming home visiting the wounded. They did so frequently, often without bringing reporters along.

[20:20:04] None of them, Republicans and Democrats alike, wanted it to be about themselves until now.

Yesterday, the president was asked why, nearly two weeks after four American soldiers lost their lives in Niger he yet to mention the simple fact of their passing. He was asked why the families of these four men had yet to hear from their commander-in-chief. He responded with this.


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: Now, the part about President Obama was false. And just moments later, when confronted with that falsehood, the president said in so many words, I don't know, I was told, maybe he did, maybe he didn't, oh, and maybe other presidents didn't call. And that, too, was false.

Yet as we've seen so many times before, this president in his mind simply cannot be wrong. And that gives some silence it seems for a lie. It allows him to stand in front of the CIA's wall of the fallen, to re-litigate inauguration crowd size. It lets him insult a Gold Star family, the Khans, who's lost their son, killed in Iraq.

It allows him to say John McCain's not a hero because he was captured, never mind that after he was captured, John McCain was held captive and tortured for six years and can barely raise his arms because of it.

And now, the president who avoided serving in Vietnam multiple times, he says his wartime experience dodging DD (ph), was just like combat, has brought his chief of staff's profoundest personal loss into the public realm because he simply cannot be wrong. It would be one thing if he'd been the one to lose his son in combat, it's other when he's not.

On another note, the White House says the president called the families of all four soldiers killed in Niger.

More now from two former White House advisers, David Axelrod and David Gergen.

David Gergen, can you recall any other instance when a president has invoked fallen U.S. servicemen in a swipe against his predecessor at the same time while patting himself on the back?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I can remember none of that. It's -- and, Anderson, typically, the relationship between a Gold Star family and the president, especially when a president is trying to console the family, that's kept very private by the White House out of respect for their families. And it's certainly, you try to keep it out of politics.

So, this was a most unfortunate set of remarks over the last few days. I can just tell you, we all know President Obama deeply grieved for the people killed in his administration. He showed up regularly. George W. Bush having sent so many troops into combat went frequently to Walter Reed, talked to the families.

This is a longstanding tradition, but they do it in private to protect the families.

COOPER: Yes, David Axelrod. I mean, frankly, the implication that any former president doesn't feel deeply of the loss of service members that very possibly they have sent into the field or kept in the field, it just seems -- to suggest that just seems deeply insulting to, you know, any former president.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is. Look, this is the most profound, sobering responsibility a president has. I remember when President Obama returned after an overnight trip to Dover to welcome 18 bodies of servicemen and DEA agents who had been killed in Afghanistan. And he spent several hours over that night meeting with families.

And I saw him the next morning. And I have rarely seen him in a more sober, reflective mood because he understood that it's on his order that these young men and women are sent to battle. And every president feels that. And somehow this president has the unerring capacity to turn moments

that should be sacred into moments that are profane, that are blasphemied by politics, and it's really shame.

You know, the thing about Donald Trump is that we've learned in the last nine months if not before is that it's always about him and he can never be wrong. And those two qualities ultimately will defeat him. But in the meantime, it's a shame for the country, it's a shame for these families, and it's a shame that he would sully his predecessors this way.

[20:25:05] COOPER: And yet, David Gergen -- I mean, David Axelrod said it's a shame for the country. It's a shame -- you know, the president himself is without shame. I mean, he does -- I think the other thing we have learned is there's really nothing off-limits when it comes to he feels he's been attacked or he's asked the question -- I guess in this case, he felt the question about why he hadn't spoken publicly about the four U.S. service members who were killed in Niger for 12 days, and he turned it into an attack on his predecessors about how they dealt with the fallen.

I mean, what does it mean for the presidency as an institution?

GERGEN: That's right. He has -- I don't know why this inner compulsion comes from. It must be a place of deep insecurity on his part. But he has this compulsion.

When he's facing criticism and must be feeling embarrassed about it to lash out at others and to blame others and frankly lie about it. And I just can't -- David and I have both been there. I just can't tell you that how within the White House, these are solemn responsibilities, solemn moments.

There's an important norm about the presidency and about the way we act with each other in politics that this president seems to want to destroy. And it cheapens our politics, frankly. It cheapens the way we treat each other.

COOPER: It is interesting, David Axelrod, because -- I mean, there's this whole idea that the Oval Office changes its inhabitant for the better or that they rise to the grander, the history of the office, of the responsibilities that are somehow remove the instinct for cheap, political shots particularly on military matters. That just doesn't seem to be the case here.

AXELROD: Yes. I mean, there was this hope that the gravity of the office would change Donald Trump, that he would show that capacity for growth that we've seen in all presidents when faced with these kinds of grave responsibilities. But as I said earlier, he's so consumed by himself or with himself I should say, that he seems unable to view things in the way people normally would, that fundamental sense of empathy.

Imagine if he had taken that question yesterday and said my heart goes out to those families, my heart goes out to those young men who gave their life for this country, and I will -- I will express that in my own way to those families. You know, and just leave it. Just leave it at that, which is how most people would respond.

I know President Obama is someone who values his own children more than he values anything in life. He almost told me if something happened to one of his children, he couldn't get out of bed. And so, he always looked at these families in that way, as someone who -- and, you know, he put himself in their shoes.

I don't see that capacity in this president. That's why he can go to Puerto Rico, for example, and use it as an occasion to claim credit for the good job that he and his team had done even as the island was in utter catastrophe. And we're still seeing that catastrophe unfold. That lack of empathy is just stunning and we certainly saw it here.

COOPER: David Axelrod and David Gergen, thank you both.

Before we go to break, I want to tell you a little bit about the four soldiers who lost their lives in Niger. All were members of the Army's Third Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright of Lyons, Georgia, came from a long line of military tradition. His brother telling CNN affiliate WRAL that the Wrights have been serving since the war of 1812 but have never suffered a loss until now.

I know my brother didn't want accolades, he says. He did the job not for the president to say good job, but he did it because that's what he loved, and that's what he was born to do.

Staff Sergeant Bryan Black was from a town outside Seattle, Washington. He enlisted in 2009, served as Special Forces medical sergeant. A neighbor says tells Seattle local station KOMO he wants to personally tell Sergeant Black and his family for giving his life to keep Americans safe.

Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson was a chemical, biological, and radiological and nuclear specialist. A ten-year veteran, he was from Springboro, Ohio. The mayor of that town saying he was all about country, family, moral fiber. He was someone if you met him, you liked him immediately.

And Sergeant La David Johnson was from Miami Gardens in Florida. He worked at Walmart before signing up. He leaves a wife and two young children, a son and a daughter ages 2 and 6. His third child is on the way.

We'll be right back.


[20:32:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We learn today that appropriating someone else deepest personal loss to try to win an argument is not beyond this president. We also learned that he's not beyond threatening a possibly (INAUDIBLE) 81-year old war hero and former Republican presidential candidate was some kind of payback because his feelings are hurt. Here's what the president told radio host Chris Plante about Senator John McCain. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People have to be careful because at some point I fight back. I'm being very nice. I'm being very, very nice. Bu at some point I fight back, and it won't be pretty.


COOPER: And the president this morning talking about the speech that Senator McCain gave last night which did not mention the president by name but was clearly an attack on his political movement.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a 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.


COOPER: So, today the most powerful man in the world told the man who's dedicated his life to service, to watch out it's about to get rough, and it won't get pretty. It's hard to say whether the president is punching up or punching down at this point. What's not hard to conclude this is not the first time he's taken a swing.


TRUMP: I don't like the job that John McCain is doing in the Senate.

You know, John McCain who has probably the dirtiest mouth in all the Senate.

Senator McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare.

John McCain has not helped a lot of people like he should.

He's graduated last in his class at Annapolis.

He's totally about open borders.

He's been horrible to the veterans.

He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you.

I used to like him a lot.

I raised a million dollars for him, it's a lot of money. I supported him. He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost. So I never liked him as much after that because I don't like losers.


COOPER: Well, as for this latest presidential text, Senator McCain says he's faced greater challenges than this and elaborated a little about his remarks last night.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you addressing the president or Bannon or the group in total?

[20:34:58] MCCAIN: I think that it's clear is what I was talking about is an environment here of non-productivity, of a reversion to the attitude of the 30's, which was one of the major reasons why we fought World War II.


COOPER: Let's get some perspective now from Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth About Trump", and CNN Presidential Historian, Douglas Brinkley, who has interviewed every senator who served in Vietnam including John McCain.

Doug, I mean, the fact the president of the United States continues to attack and today from the, you know, John McCain who is an American hero whether you agree with his politics or not, what does this do to the office of the presidency? I mean, has this happened before?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's another time of Donald Trump making the White House look very small. I mean, Harry Truman had the buck stop here on and this is sort of like scapegoat hatchery should be the sign on Trump's desk. I mean, this picking on John McCain every time McCain wants to come out and talk about what's bothersome, but Donald Trump seems to be mean and cruel. And now the fact that McCain having a struggle with his health, and Donald Trump trying to do a bullying and threatens somebody like -- it's just unbelievable.

John McCain one of the great war hero in American history, period.

Donald Trump was somebody who has a chicken hawk in Vietnam and look for different (ph) ways out and I don't think he even has the right to challenge McCain on issues of patriotism, and love of country and just common decency.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Michael, for guy who did speak out, you know, multiple deferments and avoided service in Vietnam. The president likes to portray himself as this tough guy. What is it about him? I mean, from, you know, the years you were following him before he was president that makes him do this, that makes him -- and never admit to any mistake and launch attack. It's basically just like Roy Cone 101?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, DONALD TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: Well it is. Roy Cone taught you never apologize, you never accuse yourself and you move on. Attack, Attack, Attack. But, you know, I'm also struck by how often what the president was saying in that clip of yours contrasted with John McCain's actual courage.

Donald Trump is essentially a frightened man. And when John McCain was in the Hanoi, Hilton, Donald Trump, as he explained to me was focused on making money, learning how to make more money and watching Johnny Carson. This is a completely different set of values.

He also talked about how McCain was less in his class in Annapolis. Well, McCain was in a real military academy, Trump was in a pretend academy at exactly the same time playing soldier. So there is this -- disconnect between the courageous John McCain who demonstrated physical courage, political courage, and spiritual courage to stand up there, and a president who wants to threaten a guy with cancer. I mean, it's shocking.

COOPER: I mean, Doug, is there a precedent for a sitting president to be going after an elder says of his own party like this? I mean, I guess obviously he was annoyed about the vote on healthcare, but, you know, he's still in his own party and he still could use as much support as he can get on in the Senate.

BRINKLEY: Look, it is understandable Donald Trump's disappointed in John McCain. He didn't like the big thumbs down, that he makes an occasional political barb, but the very fact is that he had said that John McCain is not a war hero, I don't like people captured. Trying to destroy McCain's heroism and, you know, John McCain is a real Theodore Roosevelt like figure in our country. Somebody really is about duty honor and country.

So, no we've never had anything like this. And you're seeing -- I think McCain now a little bit like Ted Kennedy before he, you know, his last great year in the Senate time of taking a moral high ground. If Donald Trump thinks he's going to be able to smear John McCain he's sadly mistaken because anybody with decency in America is going to back John McCain if it becomes a reel feud between those two.

COOPER: Michael has Donald Trump as a civilian ever shone a sense of -- I mean, --

D'ANTONIO: Well, I can see you struggling.

COOPER: It's a shame or -- I mean, it seem shameless.

D'ANTONIO: He is shameless. This is true in his business life where he's claimed triple the wealth than he's ever actually possessed. And he's shameless in his personal life. John McCain has been married to the same person since 1980. During that time period Donald Trump has gone through three marriages, and one really horrible scandal that was on the front page of the tabloids and he was happy for it.

So there's really not anything that's beneath him and that's the thing that I think is troubling the rest of us.

[20:40:01] COOPER: Michael D'Antonio, Doug Brinkley, thanks very much.

When we comeback a 360 exclusive. I'll talk to Mark Geragos, the attorney representing Colin Kaepernick in his collusion case against the NFL. This is Mark Geragos' first interview since filing this multimillion dollars agreement that points the finger of blame at the president. That's next.


COOPER: In just a few moments you're going to hear from Colin Kaepernick's attorney speaking out for the first time since filling a collusion case against the NFL. That attorney, Mark Geragos, specifically sites the president in a grievance blaming him for provoking the national anthem controversy.

Today the NFL owners and players association met in New York City made the growing feud between the president and the league.

Philadelphia Eagles player, Malcolm Jenkins, said this after the meeting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the owners (INAUDIBLE) some mutual player's best interest?

MALCOLM JENKINS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES SAFETY: What I think we all have mutual interests, you know. I think players are part of this league and so, we want to make sure the equality of product that we put out on the field is great, but at the same time we have responsibilities to the communities that we live in, the communities that we come from. And so, I think we all share that interest and really talk more in collaboration than in us against you type of deal.


COOPER: OK, Mark Geragos joins us now on a CNN exclusive interview. The first time he's speaking out.

So Mark, you released a statement regarding this grievance. It reads in part, "Athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the executive branch of the government." What exactly are you alleging that the President Trump pressured owners not to sign your client?

[20:45:13] MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, yes. I think that he's -- I don't have to use more than -- a couple of his campaign rally tapes showing where he is saying that tweeted because he tweeted the owner is scared by angry tweets. Ironically, we filed this on Sunday and just about an half hour ago the owner of San Francisco 49ers came out, Jed York, and said just that very thing, he confirmed it. The NFL owners shouldn't be intimidated by tweets from the president.

So, I think it's fairly obvious, anybody who follows NFL football will tell you that it's beyond any doubt, not just a clear preponderance that beyond any doubt that he should be playing in the league and that's all he really wants.

COOPER: I mean, we know that President Trump called the Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones because he tweeted about it. Saying, "I Spoke to Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. Jerry is a winner who knows how to get things done. Players will stand for country!" Do you believe that the president spoke about Kaepernick in that phone call?

GERAGOS: I have no doubt about it and I think that will be something that's going to come to the front very quickly. I think that clearly, the NFL -- I was told today when Colin Kaepernick was brought up in the meetings today that the owners immediately called for a bathroom break. Nobody even wanted to talk about it in front of the players who were there.

And by the way, I saw that little piece and there's been talk about whether he was invited or wasn't invited. I can tell you categorically that my office specifically asked if he was invited and we were definitely told "he was not invited and that "he had no role."

And so we had offered to have him come there and discuss the very social movement that he created and was told that he had no role. So, anything else is just a disinformation or propaganda.

COOPER: It was reported that the players had invited him but that Colin Kaepernick turned it down. You're saying that's not true?

GERAGOS: There. That's absolutely incorrect. That's not true. In fact, the players, I think, were given some disinformation because specifically I had two independent witnesses who also heard the conversation in which he was told he had no role. He wanted, we anticipated. He's right down the street. He could have been there less than a $10 cab ride.

COOPER: Your statement about the grievance also includes the phrase "collusive conduct." According to the legal experts, collusion is a tough thing to actually prove. Can you give a sense on how you intend to do that and exactly what is the collusion -- did that team owners all got together that -- with the president or -- what's the allegation?

GERAGOS: The collusion, all you've got to show -- I mean, I know -- I've read a lot of this about what an uphill battle it is and things of that nature. Every day in America there are prosecutors who prove conspiracies which are a kin to collusion and they do it at a standard beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal courtroom whether federal or state. And they do it without any kind of smoking gun.

I am going to predict right now that we will have a smoking gun. I am not going to alert who it will be or what it will be. But, we have a high degree of confidence that this will be able to be proved and that there are people who are not going to get into a arbitration proceeding and they're not going to lie, they're not going to lie, they're going to tell the truth and they're going to say what happens is that they were told no, it's not -- you're not going to hire him. Fact, I would call on the players to say stop using us as window dressing for this and having these meetings where they don't do anything. I think the players should demand that Colin gets a fair shake on the field. Don't talk to me about this, that or the other thing which -- like I say looks like nothing more than a dog and pony show. You know, have somebody stand up and do the right thing. I can give you five examples of teams that should have been able to -- or should have signed him, because, clearly, Colin is -- if not one of the 20 top guys walking the earth who can play quarterback. He certainly top 30.


GERAGOS: And there's nobody who will tell you he's not in the top 65.

COOPER: So, what's the ultimate goal of the grievance for him to play in the NFL again, for him to get a monetary reward or something else?

GERAGOS: No, I made a decision and I counseled Colin, because I listen to clients and I talk to him extensively beforehand. What is your number one goal? Colin said my number one goal is I'm 29 years old I want to play. I still have the ability to play I want to play. And so, I said if that's the case then we're going to go under the collect bargaining agreement. We're not going to sue in federal court and get tied up there even though we get a jury and -- if you had a jury and the right jury and the right location, I think they would hammer the NFL and I explained that to him. I said you've got that decision to make and he's unequivocally said, "I want to play football."

[20:50:16] COOPER: All right, Mark Geragos, appreciate you being on. Thanks very much.

The situation in Puerto Rico for many is still dire. And in many places there's little indication things are getting much better. The latest from the ground when we comeback.


COOPER: There's a slow rolling American disaster that's happening in plain sight. An American disaster that if it were happening in Texas or Florida, two states hit by hurricane, you would surely be hearing a lot more about it, a lot more in the news media, and a lot more from the government that American disaster is happening in Puerto Rico, an island with nearly three and a 3.5 million Americans that exactly one month ago was devastated my Hurricane Maria.

Today, about 86 percent of the island still has no power and most likely won't until the New Year. Drinking water is also scarce so many places with some residents so desperate they're even tapping to potentially hazardous waste water.

Here's part of what the president said about Puerto Rico yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- drinking water.

TRUMP: Well, we've delivered tremendous amounts of water. Then what you have to do is you have to have distribution of the water by the people on the island. So we have massive amounts of water. We have massive amounts of food. But they have to distribute the food and they have to do this. They have to distribute the food to the people of the island. So what we've done is we now actually have military distributing food, something that really they shouldn't have to be doing.


COOPER: The military is in Puerto Rico to help distribute food and water that is literally part of why they're there. Our Ed Lavandera is in Puerto Rico reporting on why people still one month on are struggling to get what they need.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As local legend has it. The town of Villalba was the first city in Puerto Rico to get electrical light more than 100 years ago. But now people wonder if this might be one of the last places to get the lights turned back on.

To understand what they're struggling with, Mayor Luis Javier Hernandez tells us to jump into his police Humvee for a ride. We drive deep through the mountain valley.

(on camera): He says things are improving so slowly that it's like the hurricane just struck here yesterday.

Villalba is a city that sits high in the mountains of central Puerto Rico. It's home to about 27,000 people. The nightmare and the logistical nightmare that Hurricane Maria left behind is everywhere. It took three weeks just to clear some of the major roads.

[20:55:09] (voice-over): There is no electricity anywhere in the city. The mayor says it's taken weeks for state and federal officials to understand how desperate the situation is here. He's asked federal authorities for industrial generators. They haven't come. He struggled to get helicopters to evacuate people who needed kidney dialysis and oxygen. They along with one other person died.


LAVANDERA (on camera): He says that evacuation helicopters didn't arrive in time to get the people out of here to save their lives they ended up dying.

(voice-over): Local crews deliver meals and water to 1,500 families, but that's still not enough and he's not convinced all the relief supplies are reaching the residents here.

(on camera): The mayor says that he's worried and that he's heard there's food and water that has been sent for this town, Villalba, and I believe it's just sitting in San Juan and not -- right here.

(voice-over): The mayor says major help has only started to arrive in the last two days. FEMA officials are processing disaster claims, and he's getting some logistical help from the military.

(on camera): Is it too slow?

HERNANDEZ: [Foreign Language].

LAVANDERA (on camera): Yes, he says it's too slow because the line between life and death is very thin here.


COOPER: Ed, do they have an idea when they may be getting power?

LAVANDERA: Well, they have one last-ditch effort. They have been kind of scraping together all sorts of ideas to help themselves out there in Villalba, high in the mountains there. They have one last option that could possibly bring partial power over the next couple of weeks, but that's a long shot. And the mayor is saying after that if that doesn't work out, they're looking as long as six months. The governor here in Puerto Rico was hoping to have 95 percent of the power back on by mid December, the six-month time line that this particular mayor is looking at as well beyond that.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Up next, the latest high ranking White House staffer interviewed by Robert Mueller's team, Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, what that means for the Russia Probe when we continue.


COOPER: We begin this hour of breaking news. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has talked to another former White House insider. According to the source, close to the matter, it is Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer. As the president's top spokesman, Spicer was intimately involved in many high-level decisions especially in crafting a message surrounding them. CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto tonight joins us with more.

So what do we know about this meeting?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this shows that the special counsel's investigation is clearly moving beyond Russian meddling in the election. Sean Spicer was not involved during the trump campaign. Came on board after his election.