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Two Republican Senators Say Trump is Debasing the Country and Threatening Its Institutions. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 24, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with an extraordinary day in American politics, a day unlike any we've seen in decades. A day in which two Republican senators sounded the alarm that the president's behavior is debasing the country and destabilizing its institutions.

The day began as it often does with a presidential tweet storm. Republican Senator Bob Corker, frequent target of the president's did several interviews this morning and said the president should leave the details of the tax plan to Congress. The president lashed out at Senator Corker on Twitter, complete with nicknames and insults and things that just aren't true.

The senator countered with quote: Same untruth from an utterly untruthful president #alertthedaycarestaff.

CNN's Manu Raju spoke with Senator Corker today.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Nothing what he said in his tweets today were truthful. He knows that, people around him know it. I'd hope that the staff over there would figure out why he's so controlling and know that everything he said today was absolutely untrue.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Is the president of the United States a liar?

CORKER: The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues.


COOPER: Well, let's take two of those issues from the president's tweets today. The first he wrote, quote, Bob Corker who helped President O give us the bad Iran deal and couldn't get elected dogcatcher in Tennessee is now fighting tax cuts.

Keep in mind, we're not privy to Senator Corker's dogcatcher prowess or lack thereof, but the allegation about helping President Obama passed the Iran deal is not true. When the plan was first unveiled, Senator Corker wrote a blistering op-ed in "The Washington Post" opposing it, writing, quote, Congress should reject this deal and send it back to the president. And when it ultimately came up for a vote, Senator Corker voted against it.

Next, the president tweeted, Corker dropped out of the race in Tennessee when I refused to endorse him and now, he's only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record.

Keeping them honest, Manu Raju's reporting is that it's not true either. According to several people, including the senator himself.


CORKER: Four times, he encouraged me to run and told me he would endorse me. So I don't know. It's amazing.

Unfortunately, I think world leaders are very aware of much of what he says is untrue. Certainly people here are because these things are provably untrue. I mean, just -- they're just factually incorrect and people know the difference. So, I don't know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does but he does.


COOPER: The White House would now have you believe the president's tweets are just a great way to communicate directly with the American people. And other Republican leaders would have you believe there's nothing to see here, just another one of the president's Twitter feuds.

Here's what Paul Ryan said today.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So, all this stuff you see on a daily basis on Twitter this and that, forget about it. Let's focus on helping people and improving people's lives and doing the things that we said we would that accomplishes that. That's what we're focused on.


COOPER: But, let's be honest though about what's happening with the president of the United States and what Senator Corker and Senator Flake's warnings about him. This is not just some Twitter this and Twitter that. This is the president of the United States saying untrue things continually, daily untruths, false statements, misstatements of fact, lies, call them whatever you want. It happens so often with such regularity that it starts to seem normal, it's anything but.

The president's words and behavior have consequences. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee now saying publicly that leaders of other countries are well aware the president says things that aren't true. And as if the back-and-forth between the president and Senator Corker weren't stunning enough today, just a few hours ago, Senator Jeff Flake announced he would not be seeking reelection, and in so doing, gave an extraordinary rebuke of the president from the Senate floor saying he can no longer stay silent, no longer be complicit.

Here's some of what he said.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set at the top. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency. Reckless outrageous and undignified behavior has become excuse and countenance as telling it like it is, when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy. I'm aware that there's a segment of my party that believes that anything short, complete and questioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

[20:05:00] If I had been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe it's my obligation to do so. And as a matter and duty of conscience, the notion of one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined, and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters. A notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and I believe profoundly misguided.


COOPER: Well, as for White House reactions, Sarah Sanders was asked if history will most remember this president as Senator Corker said primarily for debasing this country.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I certainly think history is going to look at this president as somebody who helped defeat ISIS, who built an economy that was stronger than it's been in several decades, who brought unemployment to a 16-year-low, who's created over 1.7 million jobs since being elected. I think those are things that people actually care about, not some petty comments from Senator Corker and Senator Flake.


COOPER: Well, petty comments is certainly something this White House is very familiar with.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us now.

Jeff, the White House certainly seems to want to play down what's happening between the senator and the president. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, they do.

And they do not want to suggest this is a groundswell. And it perhaps isn't yet. But there is a gathering storm. And I think it is so important to take note of the full stock of this day as you were just saying.

This was ordinary watching a senator from a sitting party denounce his own president. Now, we are not talking about fights between Democrats and Republicans that have become routine. This is a fight inside a Republican Party. This is a fight as I talked to one Republican senator today, with the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

And the reality is, the White House wants to show that this is just simply a one-off here. But they do realize that, you know, the reality here there is such a narrow room for error here. If the president's agenda wants to get through, they need virtually all of these votes, including the vote of Senator Flake and Senator Bob Corker, as well, if they want to nominate new people.

Senator Corker is presiding over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for another 14 months or so.

So, we sat in the briefing room and Sarah Sanders said again and again, the American people voted for someone -- this president because they liked his strength. But the reality here is no one expected Jeff Flake to do this by the end of the day here. So, there may be some glee in the Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, part of the world, who was going hard after Jeff Flake.

But the question is, who will replace him? Will it be someone who will also vote for the president's agenda or someone even farther to the right? That is the question that worries Republicans in this town. Has the whole agenda been undermined here, Anderson?

COOPER: President Trump's trip to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Republicans, what did the White House say about that visit?

ZELENY: Well, it's largely overshadowed. I mean, the timing of this was by design. I mean, the president was up on Capitol Hill for about an hour and 15 minutes, hour or 20 minutes or so, talking to Senate Republicans. He did not mention at all this sort of a food fight that was going back and forth between him and Senator Corker. They did talk about tax reform.

But the reality here is, this is still a very tough lift and made even harder today, because the White House wonders with every comment from Jeff Flake going out on the Senate floor, will there be other Senate Republicans who also find it within them to speak out against this administration. Of course not many, loyalty is still viewed as a very important characteristic here at the White House. And those people running for office will be loyal. But these votes are so important. So, tax reform is the one thing Republicans are clinging on to tonight. There's still not a -- exact path how that will happen, Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Joining us now is Maggie Haberman, David Gergen, and Mike Rogers.

Maggie, I mean, have you seen a day like this?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Think about how many times we have said that over the course of the last three years.

But this was staggering. Look, I think the -- one of the takeaways for a lot of people after today, you have two senators, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake who are both saying, I am feeling -- I can't take any more of this and I'm not running for re-election. I mean, basically, you have two people who said they are only freed to essentially buck the president as hard as possible in as raw terms as possible because they are not at personal risk anymore. And that is really where this is.

The question becomes, whether there will then be a groundswell of other senators following him, besides John McCain who has been there for a very long time. There's no evidence of that so far.

And Jeff Flake, part of the reason he was imperiled in his own state is that he wrote this anti-Trump book. He has been against Trump for a long time.

Corker has been a much slower and more deliberative burn. Remember, he was actually close with Trump for a while and worked with the White House.

Their language today was very, very different. Corker essentially called the president unfit for office. Flake clearly did. Whether that then leads to new criticism or rising criticism remains to be seen.

What you saw from Paul Ryan does not suggest there are a lot of people who are going to, you know, follow them into the breach.

[20:10:03] COOPER: Yes, David, people may say this on Capitol Hill privately, but to Maggie's point, unless they plan to leave office, it doesn't seem like you're going to hear a lot of people standing up and saying this.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we probably will not hear from a lot of other Republicans, Anderson. But today, a day like no other, does have significant.

We now have two additional Republican senators who have broken sharply with the president, cries from the heart, just a moral indignation of what they've been living with and what they've kept silent about. And what that means is the president now has three people who have broken with him, Corker, Flake, and McCain. And he can't lose more than two on any big vote that's coming up. He also has the Susan Collins thing out there.

So, his coalition to get things passed is now in some jeopardy. He can't -- you know, after giving these very tough speeches, it may be very, very hard for Senator McConnell and others to convince them to go along with policies like Corker is very sensitive about the size of the debt and whether the tax reform bill is going to add a lot of money to debt. And he'll vote against it. He said he won't vote for one more penny than beyond what he's already agreed to, you know?

So, this does jeopardize the president's capacity to get things passed.


GERGEN: And does give more fuel to conservative, conservative columnists, for example, who have been thinking these thoughts for a long time but haven't fully expressed them.

COOPER: David, I just to follow -- you said it's a day like no other. Can you just explain, I mean, explain why you say that?

GERGEN: Well, I can't remember a time in American history when their loyalty to the president is such a premium. Senators have broken away from a party of a president of their own party and placed his agenda in jeopardy, placed his presidency in some jeopardy.

This is -- it's extraordinary. We've just never had anything like this. We've had rumblings before. We've had anger before at presidents.

But to have these kind of open breaks with the inflammatory language they used and just -- its moral language, it is about moral unacceptability of the president. That goes well beyond anything we've seen.

COOPER: Chairman Rogers, do you agree with David that this is something we haven't seen?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, obviously, we had impeachments before where members broke with their party. That's pretty serious stuff. But I think this is very indicative of what's going in politics.

Remember, both of these really started with personal jabs from the president to these members and then this gunfight back-and-forth for both of these members. And it became so personal. If you look at politics across the country, it is mean, it's small, it's petty and it's personal.

And I worry about the health of politics in both parties, by the way. If you look at what happened with the Democrats in Las Vegas, they were fighting amongst themselves with the same kind of fervor, just didn't get any media attention.

That's what worries me most about this. You know -- yes, Trump brings a lot of this on himself. Yes, I think he weakens his position for big -- changing big things in Washington when he starts singling out his own party and goes after them personally.

But if you look at politics at every level in this country, the social media boom has been really, really good for communication for just everybody. But it's also been really, really bad and it gives people permission to be this mean.

And that's why I think people are saying, you know, this is a hard enough job as it is. It's tough. It's almost a way of life. You have to be in two places, away from your family a lot. You cannot have a bigger influence somewhere else.

I know one person that made that decision looking at how mean politics was getting and how little focus starts to go on the things that matter in people's lives. And politics in this town has gotten away from things that matter in people's lives and gotten that personal animus that I hope ends soon.

COOPER: But also, Maggie, I mean, it just -- it also raises questions about where does the Republican Party go? What does the Republican Party look like two, four, six years from now?

HABERMAN: Look, what we've seen over the last couple of years is the party has in its primaries, there have been a number of insurgents who have run increasingly hard right. The president, obviously, you know, he has not been completely committed to that agenda and that is part of the problem for him that he's concerned about his base leaving him.

But he ran a very, very hard right, hard line, anti-immigration campaign in the primaries. That is a lot of what bolted him ahead and as lot of his rhetoric about Muslims in particular. I think the fear that you have among Republican leaders is as the president is, you know, personally pleased at today's events, he's personally pleased that Flake is not running.

COOPER: He sees it as a victory.

[20:15:00] HABERMAN: It's a victory for him. And since everything is zero sum in terms of a referendum on him, that's how he sees it in his mind.

If you're a Republican leader, you're concerned that you are going to get a lot of hard right candidates who either can't win the states in Arizona where there's been a trend in Democrats that had their eye on trying to turn it into at least a purple state over the course of a couple of cycles in the future. They think they may be able to accelerate that, depending on who they get if Kelli Ward ends up becoming the nominee, very conservative, somebody who a lot of establishment GOPers have been against.

The concern is that if someone like Kelli Ward is the nominee, that you end up with a lot of people who basically can't capture their states that could impact the Senate majority. And a map that's pretty good for Republicans next year.

COOPER: David, I mean, there's also a message that Senator Flake is sending, that's essentially saying, you know, history is going to judge people harshly, and when he looks back, he wants -- you know, he asked the question what did I do? Well, a lot of critics say, well, you're stepping aside. You're not actually remaining in the fight.

GERGEN: Sure. Well, listen, Senator Flake is obviously angry about the politics in his own state. His own popularity is down to 18 percent. And there's a very good chance he was the Republican likely to lose re-election. So, he is -- you know, he's obviously caught up in the political side of this.

But, Anderson, in the three cases of McCain and the two -- and Corker and Flake, what we have are three senators who go beyond politics. They're really worried about what's going to happen to the country. You know, they're deeply worried we may lead into war by miscalculation and by recklessness by the president. And they're deeply worried about, you know, what it's going to do to our norms and ideals here at home. That's what Senator Flake spent most of his time on his departure statement today, in his farewell address so to speak.

It was about the legacy that's going to come. And they don't -- they want to get out and away from and not support what they see are really dangerous trends for the country.

COOPER: Chairman Rogers, do you see any other Republicans who plan to run again speaking up if they have these same feelings?

ROGERS: Listen, I think Republicans have been pretty open about talking about the pettiness and sometimes those personal attacks that I just think are absolutely nonsense and not fitting for the office of the presidency. I think I've heard them say that.

But what I think I see Republicans doing -- and remember, you know, standing up and walking away for the whole entire Republican Party is not going to happen, nor are members are going to walk away from things that they've been trying to accomplish as Republicans that they think is good for the country is wrong. They're going to try to continue to work with the administration.

Remember, the administration is bigger than a president. So, they're going to work in the national security circles. I know John McCain is doing certainly a lot of that work, to try to make sure that the administration of this government is well-positioned in case that there is something big happens Asia, let's say. Or that we have to continue this fight against ISIS. We need people of those statures, of that interest, of that knowledge-base continuing to work through that.

What you hope happens is these Republicans in both the House and the Senate start to lead up, so they stay out of the pettiness and start to lead up to the White House about the kinds of things that we can accomplish, Republicans in Congress, to get done. I think that's what you're going to see members doing.

I think you saw -- I know everybody is giving Ryan a hard time for it, but what he was trying to say is, we are rolling up our sleeves every day on this tax bill, and that's what we're going to focus on. We're not going to try to focus all these other things going on because we think it's important for the prosperity of America. That's what I think you're going to see Republicans do in the days and weeks ahead.

COOPER: Right. HABERMAN: The problem with that, though, and I think this goes to your original question about what an extraordinary day this was, is that if everything gets reduced to as Ryan described it, petty bickering, this was not petty bickering. I mean, what we saw today was extremely unusual.

You saw Bob Corker, I mean, the series -- the sequence of events was he went on television to criticize the president. The president was watching television and took to Twitter. Bob Corker then tweeted and then he gave another in a series of extraordinary interviews, that began with my colleague Jonathan Martin a few weeks ago, where he has basically been making clear that he considers the president to be beyond the bounds of normalcy.

That is not a petty dispute and when Ryan describes it that way or when Sarah Sanders describes it that way, it reduces it to, you know, a headline that's essentially two sides are fighting.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: That's not what this is. And it's important to bear that in mind.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, David Gergen, Mike Rogers, thanks very much.

Coming up, how both senators comments are playing out on Capitol Hill, what colleagues are saying next.

And later, Senator Corker says he thinks world leaders are very aware that much of what the president says is untrue and relationships are breaking down. I'll speak with former national intelligence director, James Clapper, about that, ahead.


[20:23:44] COOPER: Extraordinary rebukes today from two Republican senators against the president. Senator Bob Corker said the president is debasing the United States and struggles with the truth. Senator Jeff Flake said for him, it's now a matter of conscience.

I want to get some reaction from Capitol Hill. Phil Mattingly joins us now.

So, Phil, Senator Flake's retirement announcement, what are you hearing about how this came about?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question there were political elements of this. Look, the senator and his campaign aides have told me have been polling down in Arizona for months now. They recognize that his pathway not just against a well- funded and well-liked Democratic challenger but also in his own primary was going to be problematic and difficult. They weren't totally sure there was actually a path forward.

But there was also the personal. And, Anderson, I think anybody's who's been paying attention the last couple of months, almost last year or so have seen the seeds of this sewn from the senator. Week after week, he wrote a book about this, he declined to endorse President Trump. He's spoken about this repeatedly on-air, on the Senate floor that there were significant problems he had with the direction of the Republican Party, problems he laid out very clearly on the Senate floor.

Take a listen.


FLAKE: It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end. In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order -- that phrase being the new normal.

[20:25:07] But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set at the top.


MATTINGLY: Anderson, I know you guys have made this point a lot, but it's worth noting again. The idea that a sitting Republican senator would go onto the Senate floor and make a speech like he did regarding a sitting Republican president is simply unprecedented. A number of senators I spoke with after the speech today called it historic, said they had never expected to see anything like they saw on the Senate floor.

But there was also a somber mood as to how this came about and the recognition that they were losing a colleague they liked.

COOPER: As far as the significance, the impact of what's happening today, both Senator Flake and Senator Corker, as you say, highly respected on the Hill, what are the senators you've been talking to saying about all of this?

MATTINGLY: You know, it's an interesting thing. And it's -- you talk to Republicans, there were many who almost gave a standing ovation on the Senate floor, something you don't see very often. Not a lot, but a handful after the senator finished his remarks.

But it was the Democrats I think were the most jarred by what they'd seen. Take a listen -- I caught with Senator Cory Booker, Democrat from New Jersey, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, not necessarily just about the individual or the man, but about the institution on the whole.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I think this is a sign, a terrible sign, unfortunately, this time, it's a glowing, flashing neon sign that this institution is breaking down, and that a guy like that who is such an honorable man, a truth teller as he sees it is leaving the Senate. And it's -- it's just a bad sign.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: His leaving affirms that working together is not a value for some people and bipartisanship is not a value for some people.


MATTINGLY: Anderson, I think somber again is the best way to put it right now. It's not just for Senator Flake, it's for Senator Corker as well. These are reliable Republican votes, but members of the U.S. Senate, members of both parties felt that they could work with. Actually get things done, something that not just with this administration but past administrations as well, we've seen in such short supply in the U.S. Senate, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

Right after Senator Flake spoke on the Senate floor, he talked with CNN's Jake Tapper and explained in more detail why he felt he had to say the things he did about President Trump.

Jake Tapper joins me tonight with more from his exclusive interview.

You have Senator Corker and Senator Flake, I mean, have you ever seen a day like this?


COOPER: Two sitting senators like this going after the president?

TAPPER: No. I think historically you'd have to go back to the impeachment of Nixon. Not even Clinton because there were Democrats that were criticizing Bill Clinton's behavior but they were not calling for -- they were not going at the core of his character the way we're seeing Flake and Corker and McCain and in some cases Susan Collins and Ben Sasse do as well.

No, it's really -- it's dramatic. It's historic. The question is, is this number going to stay small?

COOPER: Right.

TAPPER: Or other Republicans going to start coming forward.

COOPER: I want to play something that Senator Flake said to you, because you asked him if he thought his colleagues who haven't spoken out against the president are complicit on what Corker said is the debasement of our nation. This is what he said.


FLAKE: I can only speak for myself, and I don't think that we ought to normalize this kind of behavior. The president, you know, tweeting at people and even foreign leaders, opposition figures, calling our Democratic colleagues losers or clowns, these kind of things are things that we shouldn't be OK with. And it happened during the campaign. Some of us spoke out during the campaign. The problem is we keep waiting for a pivot that simply isn't happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Are there actually members of Congress who are still believing there's going to be some sort of a pivot?

TAPPER: No, I don't think so. I mean, maybe hope springs eternal, but I mean, I think maybe the facts are what the facts are. I think that people are hoping that they can muster through with this type of situation.

Look, a lot of Republicans like the energy, like the fact that President Trump brought them the White House, agree with him on a lot of issues.


TAPPER: I'm not -- that's not to say there aren't a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill who think that we're all making too big a deal of this, and we're all liberal media and Jeff Flake and Bob Corker and John McCain and Susan Collins and Ben Sasse and whatever, all squishes and RINOs, of course, there are.

But I think when it comes to like the Republican establishment and Republican leaders throughout the country, there's a recognition that this behavior is not normal and it would be better if he changed it. But they don't expect that he ever will.

COOPER: There has been criticism of Senator Flake today from people who say, well, look, if you really believe what he's saying, is the conclusion -- well, I'm just going to step aside and give up are, or is the conclusion -- should the conclusion be, I'm going to fight, I'm going to try to run and if I go down swinging, I'm going to go down swinging?

TAPPER: Yes, that's -- I mean, I asked him that question, why not just fight for it? He's facing a very conservative Trump-like character name Dr. Kelli Ward who has said a lot of Trump-like untethered things. He has called for McCain to step out that, you know, to retired as soon as he announced his brain cancer diagnosis. She is one of the -- she held help hearing on chemtrails and she is like -- you know, she is not yoke of the party, that went to the party. But I think Jeff Flake said, candidly like my party is fever and I don't think the fever is going to break by next year. So he is just accepting the fact -- I mean, I said, this. I said, it sounds like history is going to judge you well. Do you think? But the voter is -- the Republican voters of Arizona won't and he said basically yes.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's just play that.


SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I think that this fever will break. I don't know that it will break by next year. Right now the vast majority of those who voted Republican primaries seem to be OK with the President's policies and behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Because it seems like message from him stepping down is, you know, good people who do not believe in this President should just give up.

TAPPER: Well, if they are in states that make it difficult -- I'm not going to justify his decision one way or the other. But the fact is that re-election was going to be very, very difficult for him. The heart of the Republican Party in places like Arizona where Flake's from, or Tennessee where Corker's from are with Trump more than they are with Flake or Corker.

I think Sarah Sanders said something like that earlier today except -- here is the thing, she said the voters are with the President and not with Flake or Corker. The Republican voters in those states are, but that's not the population of the nation. And you see this in the polls.

President Trump is focused on the base and that seems to really be his only focus. And that's going to mean that Republicans like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake who are conservative Republicans, but willing to do deals with Democrats and establishment types. They're not going to farewell on this. But generally speaking President Trump is not winning the hearts and minds of most Americans.

COOPER: But it is interest that -- I mean, Flake is not going away for awhile.

TAPPER: Right.

COOPER: Corker as well. So they're going to continue to be the voices out there and -- I mean, to the point earlier, are other people going to be joining them, that's one of things to watch.

TAPPER: Right. I doubt it as I told you. I mean, we'll see how many join. But here's the other thing, President Trump has a legislative agenda. And where are Corker and Flake going to be, if not only are they not with the President but they recent him and they think he is degrading the nation.


TAPPER: Where are they going to be if something happens with the Mueller investigation or the Senate or House Intelligent Committees that require some action on their part. The President is alienating these people that are there to help him and, you know, I don't really -- it's self-distracting for him.

COOPER: Jake Tapper, thanks very much.

TAPPER: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, how Republicans see this remarkable day, are they worried about the better GOP in fighting. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:36:08] COOPER: More now on the stunning day in Washington, two retired Republican senators going after sitting Republican President attacking his moral character. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said President Trump is very difficult with the truth on many issues and Jeff Flake, from Arizona said, he won't be complacent in the Trump White House, as he now he won't seek re-election. He also had this warning for the GOP.


FLAKE: There's an undeniable potency to populous appeal by mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse scapegoat and belittle. The impulse and scapegoat and belittle threatens to turns us into a fearful back ward looking people. And the case of the Republican Party and those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful back ward looking minority party.


COOPER: Joining me now for their take and all of these two Republicans, Amanda Carpenter former Communication Director for Senator Ted Cruz, also Jason Miller, Former Senior communication's Adviser to the Trump Campaign,

Amanda, what does this mean for the Republican Party?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it means that President is remaking the party in his own image. There is been a lot of hand ringing tonight justifiably so but if you look at the people who really support Trump, the Steve Bannon's, the Sean (INAUDIBLE) of the world, they're happy with what's going on.

And if you think about it, they have a reason to be. Essentially they are going to repeal Jeff Flake and Bob Corker and replace them with very ardent Trump supporting Republicans in the form of Marsha Blackburn, who I think is a strong conservative that has positioned herself as a Trump surrogate and Kelli Ward.

I mean, these are Republicans that should be able to win their states in Tennessee and Arizona. Will they have some difficulties, probably, especially Kelly Ward. But Trump is getting Republicans who will support him to the edge of reason rather than Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, which is worrisome but he is driving people who won't go to the limit for him and replacing them with people -- driving those people out of the party and getting people who will. And so, Trump's happy.

COOPER: Jason, the President has reason to be happy, no?

JASON MILLER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Amanda makes some good points, but to I guess put my take on it. I think it was really important to point here is the fact that Senator Flake is down by more than 20 points in a Republican primary in Arizona and he is down by 20 plus points against the Democratic component in the general election for next year. And so for all the lofty rhetoric and the attacking President Trump, Senator Flake was going to lose his own primary. And he even made some comments today aside from his attacks on the President where he essentially admitted his positions on immigration and on trade issues were out of step with the Republican base.

And so I think we need to take a step back and look at kind of the full picture here. And with regard to Senator Corker I think it's also important that we point out really who he let down today.

He let down his constituents in Tennessee who elected him as a conservative to go and fight for tax cuts and this different conservative agenda points, but I think he also let down his fellow colleagues in the U.S. Senate. I mean, this was a lunch today where the President was coming in to try to work with the Republican senator and how to move forward with this agenda and Senator Corker woke up, booked himself on T.V. And essentially went around doing the dirty work on the DNC.

And I think most republicans at this point have now turn the page at this point and people forget who Corker and Flake are and now I think, you know, the breaking news that you'll be talking about later was Secretary Clinton, and the DNC paying for this shady Russian research file. That's what most Republicans will be talking about. And all these talking about a civil war is really out the window. What we want are Republicans who are going to support President Trump's agenda.

COOPER: Amanda, is that what you see Senator Corker doing?

CARPENTER: Well, here's the thing, I see Senator Corker trying to raise all the alarm bells he can on why he thinks Trump is dangerous. And that is it doesn't make him a Democrat, it doesn't make him a member of the DNC.

[20:40:06] But, you know, I think there's been a lot of analyst and people talking about why this is terrible for Corker and Flake. But I do think we should pay attention to why voters are receptive to receptive to these messages that Trump is pushing.

In many ways, the Republican Party is still dealing with the overhang of the Bush administration. I know that's going way back, but if you look at three big issues. You look at amnesty of any form without border control you look at the bail out and you look at this, a war on terror that seems to go on endlessly. You look at these candidates they're on trouble. They have some kind of hang up with these issues.

And so that is why a Steve Bannon and a Trump can go in and pummel these guys again and again because we haven't resolved these problems. This GOP civil was has been going on since the end of the Bush administration. And while we thought that there is going be a new Republican revolution after President Obama's presidency ended repeating a Republican Party dissolution and Donald Trump is breaking it apart and remaking it in his own image where he demand ultimate loyalty from candidate, sitting senators, member of House. And I sincerely worry what happens with good people decide they can't get on that train and leave and all you, a lot of people who are willing to do trump's beating.

COOPER: We going to take a quick break. Amanda Carpenter, thank you, Jason Miller as well.

Senators Corker and Flake today both spoke forcibly on the idea that President Trump is undermining American world stage. We'll talk next with the former Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper.


[20:45:27] COOPER: In sounding the alarm bells against the President today, Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake both voice concerned about Americas on the world stage. As we mentioned earlier Corker warned that the President, "purposely has been having breaking down relationships around the world." Here is more from Corker with CNN'S Manu Raju. And remember, this is the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee or Republican.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Do you trust him with access to nuclear codes?

SENATOR BOB CORKER (R), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I expressed concerns a few weeks ago about his leadership, and his stability, and the lack of desire to be competent on issues, and understand, and nothing has changed.


COOPER: Senator Flake took it a step further saying on the floor of the Senate that President Trump's tweet threatens the, "alliances and agreement that ensure the stability of the entire world."

James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence joins me to weigh in. Thank you so much for being with us. You know, Senator Corker today saying that President Trump could be setting the U.S. on a path to war. Do you believe that's true?

JAMES CLAPPER (RETIRED), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, certainly a possibility, and that's what concerns me about some of the President's intemperate statement in relation to North Korea.

No one knows what the ignition point is for Kim Jung-un. Kim Jong-un is not surrounded by a group of session capable temperate advisers like President Trump is, he's it. And what you see surrounding Kim Jong-un is a bunch of psycho fants, middle generals who follow notably follow Kim Jung-un around with our notebooks open taking notes about his every utterance.

COOPER: Who are probably in fear for their lives? CLAPPER: Well, exactly. That's management technique that Kim Jung-un has used pretty effectively. So there -- he gets very little push back. And I do worry about what his boiling point might be in the face of some of these inflammatory tweets and statements the President makes.

COOPER: And that's an unknown? I mean --

CLAPPER: It is an unknown. No one knows that and by the way, it's worth remembering that to the extent that there is a religion in North Korea, the deity is Kim Jong-un and his predecessors, his grand father and his father. And so when you insult the head of state of North Korea you are also insulting their deity. And of course, the regime plays that to the hill with their domestic audience.

COOPER: The other thing that Senator Flake argued, he said that our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. What does the lack of U.S. leadership in the world look like to you?

CLAPPER: Well, what it looks like to me is I think very small groups of coalition of the willing. I spent a month in Australia in June and got asked a lot of questions about what are we going to do to fill this leadership void that has traditionally been filled by the United States since the end of World War II. And as we vacate the position of leadership that causes great angst among our -- particularly our friends and allies and particularly such a close ally is Australia. That's just one example.

COOPER: One of the few countries that have fought with us during the Vietnam War.

CLAPPER: Actually.

COOPER: General -- retired Four-Star Army General Barry McCaffrey said to the Washington Post, "We're cruising to go to war with North Korea, and for eight days we've watched inane behavior by the President Congressman Wilson and the chattering class in Washington." He went on to say, I'm starting to wonder if the country is losing its moorings. Are the checks and balances that we have relied on through our history, are they strong enough to prevent the country from losing its mooring?

CLAPPER: Well, Anderson, I think you've raised the key question. This is the -- for me, the issue is, is the country sufficiently resilient to withstand of this law enforce on our institutions, both from external source, meaning Russia, and internally from the President? And a lot of other people outside the United States have that same concern. They're very concerned about watching what's going on here, and its divisiveness and polarization that is consuming this country.

COOPER: And -- I mean, do you believe the institutions are strong enough?

CLAPPER: Well, I'd like to think so. I -- they've withstood a lot in our history. We withstood civil war -- [20:50:00] COOPER: They've never been eroded -- well, I don't know if

never but I mean, it does seems this President is eroding trust in a number of institutions and that message is coming from the top.

CLAPPER: It would seem so. And I would tell you, they -- this is very hard for me as somebody who's spent 50 plus years in the intelligence community serving the commander in chief, 34 or so of that was in the military. So I always looked at the office of President in his capacity as Commander in Chief of great reverence and respect. And so it's personally very disturbing for me to be in a position of worrying about the very pillars of this country.

COOPER: General Clapper, I appreciate talking to you. Thank you very much.

CLAPPER: Thank you.

COOPER: When we come back more breaking news, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee help fund research that led to now-infamous dossier that spelled out allegations President Trump had connections to Russia. That's according to a source close to the matter. We'll speak to the "Washington Post" reporter who first broke that story today, next.


[20:55:16] More breaking news tonight, a source confirms to CNN that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research on that now infamous dossier that revealed the allegations about President Trump's connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign in the Kremlin.

The Washington Post broke the story. We've known for some time now that the firm behind the dossier, Fusion GPS was first funded by anti- Trump Republicans and then Democrats. But now for the first time we have an idea who those Democrats were and how far up this reached.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just responded to the story in the Washington Post tweeting, "The real Russia scandal, Clinton campaign paid for the fake Russia dossier then lied about it and covered it up."

By the way, just today in the press briefing room, Sanders berated our CNN Jeff Zeleny, saying she wouldn't use the Washington Post just a source. We like their work.

Adam Entous is part of the team that broke the story for the post. He joins us now, along with CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Jim Sciutto.

So Adam, the Clinton campaign, the DNC both helped fund this dossier. What do we know?

ADAM ENTOUS, STAFF WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, they were working through a lawyer who was helping hire research firms. As all these campaigns are doing, they need research firms. I mean, as all this campaign are doing, they need research firms, they hire research firms to try to dig into their opponents in fact, even to dig into -- you know, find out what is available about their own candidate.

This is a very common practice for them to engage with lawyers to act as middle men who then go out and hire research firms. That's what happened in this case. In March, the discussions begin between this lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC and Fusion GPS. In April 2016 they reach an agreement and the funding starts.

Fusion GPS then goes out and hires Christopher Steele, the British Intelligence Officer, who -- former British Intelligence Officer, excuse me, who is an expert on Russia. He spent a lot of time there and he begins to do these Intel reports or these reports which he sends to his bosses, the people who are paying the bills at Fusion GPS -- Fusion GPS then gives it to the lawyer who's representing the Clinton campaign. That's basically what happened here. Later come January, BuzzFeed publishes the dossier.

COOPER: And you report that the lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, he was the one to -- just to be clear, he was the one to receive the documents. Do we know how much he shared with the campaign and when?

ENTOUS: I mean, just based on my own contacts at the time with members of the Clinton campaign, they clearly were aware that there was -- that there was this issue about these contacts between Trump and some Russians. So they were seemed to be some awareness but the details of how that information was shared, is something we don't have enough information on at this point.

We don't really know obviously -- based on the conversations we had today, it sounds like there was not the sharing of the actual reports that Steele had written. Those, themselves were given to the lawyer. They were not -- it doesn't appear given to the campaign or to the DNC. That's the way these arrangements are structured in order to protect the campaign, to protect the candidate in case something like this in the future comes out so they're not directly involved in the research firm that's doing some of this work.

COOPER: And Jim, why is this information just coming to light now? Because the dossier came to public attention last winter and has been part of the congressional investigation for months.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And to be clear it has been known for some time that Democrats funded this and Republicans prior to that. But the specific information, it's possible there's a court case underway right now in the U.S. District Court were Fusion GPS has asked a federal judge to block efforts by Devin Nunes, Republican congressman to subpoena a bank for bank records that were presumably establish payments and where those payments came from. That court case is under way right now. And in fact, the judge is giving them a deadline of Thursday, 3:00 p.m. on Thursday to come to a settlement in that case. It's possible it's connected to that but it's not clear why the specific information is coming out right now.

COOPER: And Jim, the President spokes to people offering for the dossier is fake, is that what the intelligence community think?

SCIUTTO: Well, in a word, simply, no. In fact, one CNN reported some months ago, the intelligence community has in fact corroborated parts of the dossier, specifically meetings between Trump associates and Russian officials. Russian officials known to U.S. intelligence, some of them connected it's believed to the Russian government, one. Two, you'll remember CNN was first to report that the intelligence community considered the dossier material enough to at least make both then-President Obama and President-elect Trump aware of the existence of the dossier and give furnish President-elect Trump with a summary of the dossier in a briefing in January of this year before the inauguration.