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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump: I'm Cleared, Clinton Colluded!; Conservative Website Washington Free Beacon Funded Anti-Trump Research That Produced Dossier; First Charges Filed in Mueller Investigation. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 27, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We have breaking news just ahead. A new push by the president himself to speed up the release of unpublished Hillary Clinton State Department e-mails. It caps a week of what appeared to be efforts at shifting focus from investigations into President Trump's campaign onto the woman they defeated and the administration they succeeded.
Today, the president started with a tweet making this claim: It is now commonly agreed after many months of costly looking that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC. Hillary Clinton.
This afternoon, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders picked up on the president's theme.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that our position hasn't changed since day one, and I think we are seeing now that if there was any collusion with Russia, it was between the DNC and the Clintons and certainly not our campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Sarah Sanders is referring to the DNC and lawyers for the Clinton campaign hiring Fusion GPS to do opposition research on then candidate Trump, which led to the now infamous dossier. As for the collusion with Russia she's alleging there, that's anyone's guess.
But keeping them honest, when it comes to the president's claim that it is, quote, now commonly agreed there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, that, to put it charitably, is a matter of opinion. However, it's definitely the line that's been coming from Team Trump for quite a while.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication.
INTERVIEWER: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, of course not.
TRUMP: So there has been absolutely no collusion. It's been stated that they have no collusion.
INTERVIEWER: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, there are not. It's absurd.
TRUMP: There was no collusion between us and Russia.
INTERVIEWER: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Absolutely not.
TRUMP: In the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, current and former members of Team Trump have long agreed there's nothing to see here and to that point they may be right. It is entirely possible that none of what they or we or anyone else has learned so far will add up to the campaign and Russia working together to put Donald Trump in the White House or to him and anyone else obstructing justice.
Keeping them honest, though, the person who counts, special counsel Mueller has not yet said that or anything for that matter. Nor has the Senate Intelligence Committee and that's from the Republican co- chair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion. Now, I'm not going to even discuss initial findings because we haven't any.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, they have no findings. The Senate Judiciary Committee has no findings. The House Judiciary Committee has no findings, nor does Robert Mueller. Those are facts.
CNN's Jim Acosta has more on the story. He joins us now from the White House.
So, I know you asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders about all of this today in the briefing. Has the White House given any evidence to back up these claims?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They have not, Anderson. And keep in mind, the president has repeatedly called the Russia investigation fake news. But now that I suppose it involves or they believe it involves the Clinton campaign and the DNC, they think it's very much real news. But during the briefing today, I asked the White House press secretary where was the evidence that the president tweeted about earlier in the day that Hillary Clinton had colluded with the Russians and here is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: How about evidence of collusion by -- Sarah, the president made a charge that Hillary Clinton --
SANDERS: I think I've addressed that pretty thoroughly. Mike, go ahead.
ACOSTA: So, you're saying that Hillary Clinton --
SANDERS: I'm saying that I'm calling on your colleague.
ACOSTA: OK. Well, then will you address that question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, we saw a pattern throughout the briefing today, Anderson, and that is every time that the question came up of the Russia investigation, Sarah Sanders from the White House podium said, well, if there's any collusion going on, it's with the Clinton campaign, the DNC and the Russians. And she basically never really backed that up throughout the entire course of that briefing.
But, of course, they are talking about -- they are talking about the fact that it was reported earlier this week that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had hired that firm that led to the so-called Russian dossier.
But, Anderson, even that is less evidence than the president's own son meeting with the Russian attorney. We all recall this last summer promising information from the Kremlin that would incriminate Hillary Clinton and her campaign. That is obviously more evidence than what the White House has offered so far.
COOPER: And, Jim, just in the last hour, I know we've learned who originally hired the firm Fusion GPS to do anti-Trump research.
ACOSTA: That's right. And that was one of the shoes that we are expecting to drop, that yes, we did learn earlier this week that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had reached out to this firm to develop this dossier that allegedly said all these sorts of things about then- candidate Trump.
But as it turns out late tonight, the conservative Website, "The Washington Free Beacon" has come out with a statement saying that, yes, they hired this firm, Fusion to do some, I guess, digging, some opposition research on what they say were various Republican candidates in the field in the 2016 race. [20:05:10] And I guess the acknowledgment here is that Donald Trump
was one of those candidates. They say they did not hire Christopher Steele as part of that investigation, that it only involved Fusion. But, of course, this is only going to lead to more questions because the owner of "The Washington Free Beacon," one of the major funders is Paul Singer, who is a big GOP fund-raiser who was backing some of the candidates in the 2016 field.
And, so, this is obviously one of those shoes that dropped, but may lead to other shoes dropping in the days to come, Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks.
Perspective now from Karen Finney, former senior Clinton campaign spokesperson, also of former Trump campaign, senior advisor Jack Kingston, and "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza.
Ryan, I mean, for the president to say it's commonly agreed no collusion between Russia and Trump, may be commonly agreed in the White House, but this is still an active investigation and there's been no conclusion.
RYAN LIZZA, REPORTER, THE NEW YORKER: The whole point is that this is being investigated, right? So when he says that the subject that is being investigated has concluded and pronounces some conclusion about it, that's just wrong. We wouldn't -- there wouldn't be a serious investigation by the special counsel if that conclusion had been reached.
But then he goes even farther and says that there is this evidence of Hillary Clinton's collusion with Russia. I assume he's talking about a couple of things. He's probably talking these allegations between this uranium concern that was granted permission to acquire these uranium mining rights in the United States back in 2010 when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. That's been debunked by every fact checking organization that I've read, at least the idea that there was some kind of pay for play between Clinton and the Russians.
And second thing he's obviously referring to is this dossier that we now know which certainly should have been disclosed by the Democrats previously that the Clinton campaign paid for opposition research --
LIZZA: -- that eventually produced this dossier.
Neither of those things amount to the kind of collusion that everyone has in general referred to.
COOPER: Congressman, I mean, with a straight face can the White House really say on the one hand no collusion -- commonly agreed no collusion between Trump and Russia but there is collusion between the Clinton campaign and Russia? I mean, I get why -- can you have --
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what we can say, those of us who are more supportive of this administration is that after ten months of being hit with the absolute hardest evidence or whatever allegations there are, the Trump administration is still standing and there is no evidence of collusion. There's a lot of hearsay. But people from Clapper, people like Feinstein and Manchin have all said repeatedly on this network, there's no evidence of collusion. But on the other hand --
KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: That's just not true.
COOPER: Hold on. Let him finish.
KINGSTON: I think that this story about the uranium sales to Russia and the potential payoffs almost at the same time to the Clinton Foundation, I think that's scary as heck, and the fact that the Clintons have run from this dossier and now it appears that they absolutely were involved in it and did pay $9 million for this oppo research and possibly used Russian sources and perhaps the FBI did. I think there's a whole lot of stuff out there.
Karen, I yield to you.
COOPER: You worked --
FINNEY: You know, you can't -- well, but also, I mean, that's just a pack of lies. I mean, let's actually talk in facts, because there are actual facts here. And the actual fact, number one, is this investigation has not concluded. So, we don't know what the findings have been. We know what people are saying what the president wants us to believe in progress, but that's not the same thing as a final conclusion of this investigation.
We also know that the more this investigation goes on, the closer it gets to Donald Trump. We know that Paul Manafort, we learned just this week, very close ties to the president, is basically on the verge of being indicted. We continue to learn things about conversations or contacts between Carter Page and Michael Flynn on this previously undisclosed with the Russians. We now just tonight, there was a story in "The New York Times" that says that that meeting in Trump Tower in June that was attended by Don Jr. and others, that there was a document that had been signed off on or had included talking points that had been seen by the Kremlin.
So, I think to try to say there's no there there is absolutely ludicrous. And what's happened is that the more this investigation goes on, the deeper it goes. And until we have the final results from Bob Mueller, we won't know what the final result is.
KINGSTON: Karen, to use a --
FINNEY: Hold on, that being said --
KINGSTON: That's old news, man, quoting the Russians. Who did not know that?
COOPER: Let her finish.
FINNEY: Hold on. That's one of the other -- well, two more points that I'll make.
[20:10:02] Also, with regard to the dossier, I mean, our -- remember that it started with Republicans and it is a very normal practice as a campaign, we paid an American-based company to do opposition research.
And you're so right. I'm going to use your words, Jack. We, of course, knew about Paul Manafort's contacts and ties with the Russians. We also knew about the Trump ties with the Russians, which suggests that it would have been criminal, negligence on our part of the campaign to not have thought that there might -- to have that looked into. Again, it was an American-based opposition research firm that was investigating that.
COOPER: What I don't understand is no one from the DNC, no one from the Clinton campaign has actually stood up and said, oh, yes, I knew about this, I actually authorized these payments, I actually was getting the memos, because right now, nobody seems to be saying that they actually received any of this opposition research or even knew it was being done. And how is that possible?
FINNEY: Well, look, it's my understanding -- look, I just assumed, frankly, when it was reported back in October that this dossier was out there and it said -- it was being paid for by Democrats that it was somewhere in the Democratic universe. I mea, that's pretty common practice. And again, it was an American-based company --
COOPER: Right. But I'm just wondering, why is no DNC person or Clinton person standing up and saying, oh, we paid for this, this is how it was done and I knew this?
FINNEY: Well, I don't know the answer to that because I mean, I was not one -- I was busy doing other work when this -- at this point in the campaign like a lot of people and I think as others have said, it was clearly a very small group of people who at that point were involved in how, you know, money was being spent with regard to opposition research.
But even if you were saying -- you were paying for opposition research, that doesn't necessarily mean you know specifically what projects it was going to. I guess the question that I have is, I mean, why does it matter when we know that the money was spent? And again --
COOPER: Well, OK. Well, if you make the argument that the Russians may have wanted to try to influence the information that was being given to Christopher Steele and was giving disinformation through that as part of a disinformation campaign, again, there's no evidence of any of this. It hasn't been investigated. And I don't know why the White House is saying there's collusion there because there's no evidence of that.
Just as there's no evidence at this point conclusively and there's an investigation so the White House can stay that the president has been cleared on all this.
I mean, Ryan?
LIZZA: Karen, I think it matters for this reason. There is a huge amount of fog about what happened in the election last year.
LIZZA: And we were attacked. And I don't know, it bothers me quite a bit about the Democrats decided just not to reveal -- during all this debate about Fusion and the dossier, that no one decided to step forward and sort of lay out the story of why that happened. And now, it happens this just processed through everyone's partisan lens, conservatives will come on and say, aha, this is evidence of collusion and a lot of Democrats will get their back up and be defensive about it.
And the American public does not have one comprehensive timeline and place to go to understand about what Russia did in the election last year.
COOPER: Let's end it on that note. We're not going to resolve this. Let's just end it on that.
Ryan Lizza, appreciate it. Karen Finney, Congressman Kingston, as well, thanks for your time.
A lot more ahead tonight including the breaking news at the top. The president's new focus on a vintage subject for him, Hillary Clinton e- mails.
And later, from Oswald, to Castro, the CIA to Marilyn Monroe, the amazing cast of characters and untold stories we're get from the Kennedy assassination files that have just been released when we continue.
[20:16:54] COOPER: Our breaking news tonight, President Trump's push to get more Clinton e-mails out there can be read two ways, I suppose, as the president calling for greater transparency at the State Department or the president using the guys of transparency to shift focus away from his own problems on to a convenient advisory, Hillary Clinton.
On the campaign trail, certainly candidate Trump never tired of bringing up her e-mails, now he's doing it again. Sources familiar with the president's thinking telling CNN's Gloria Borger that he has made it clear to the State Department he wants to accelerate the release of any remaining Hillary Clinton e-mails in his possession as soon as possible.
Joining us now, legendary investigative reporter and CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein, also the author of "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton". Also with us, former Clinton 2008 senior campaign adviser, Maria Cardona, and former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston is back as well.
Carl, is this just a distraction by the president?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, there is one issue that is paramount. What the Russians did in our election and how it relates to Donald Trump, his family and associates in his campaign and businesses and what their relationship, financial and otherwise and political, has been through ethno Russians and Russians seeking to influence our politics. That's the issue.
Yes, Hillary Clinton is a very convenient foil and often enables Donald Trump to make her the issue, as she has done by not getting up and saying, OK, we financed part of this so-called dossier. Here is when I came on board and knew something about it. She should have done it. She still should do it. But it has nothing to do with trying to muddying the waters.
We have a sprawling investigation by a very qualified special counsel looking into all aspects of the Trump family, business organization, finances, how they relate to Russia or don't. He ought to be able to have the luxury and decency by Republicans giving him free rein to conduct a full investigation that gets the facts, period.
COOPER: Jack, is this just a distraction by the president?
KINGSTON: Well, first of all, I want to say to Carl I think he does get free rein. Most Republicans are appalled about how much free rein he has particularly given his involvement, perhaps, in the Uranium One during his watch when $2.35 million was donated to the Clinton Foundation in exchange for a Uranium One getting assets for America approving the sale.
I think there's a lot of reason for concern. Here is what I want to say about the dossier. Why are the Clintons, even for the Clintons going to an extreme to deny that they had a part of it? Nine million dollars was spent but not one person at the DNC seems to know anything about it. If $9 million was spent, it you have been reported. And it doesn't seem to have been reported properly.
BERNSTEIN: You're absolutely right, Jack. It should have been and she ought to say now when she came on board knowing about it, if she did.
But I want to ask you a question. As a Republican, isn't it time for the Republicans to say we need to know everything there is about what the Russians did and whether the Trump family business, president of the United States had interactions that we should be concerned about?
[20:20:04] Why not call for that? Why doesn't the president of the United States get up and say, Mr. Mueller, I'm here to talk to you, I'm sending my family in, my associates in, let's clean this up?
KINGSTON: As you know, Republicans are in the majority in the House and Senate. They could shut down these investigations anytime they want. But instead these investigations having going on --
BERNSTEIN: They can't shut down --
KINGSTON: The Senate investigation.
BERNSTEIN: I'm talking about --
BERNSTEIN: It is not a legislative function to shut down an inquiry by the special counsel at all.
KINGSTON: First of all, they allowed the special counsel to go forward. They could have shut that down.
Number two, House and Senate investigations have been going on vigorously and if they were trying to hide something or shut it down, they would not.
What I would like to know also, though, about the dossier is, did the FBI use it and did they use it to unmask American citizens? Did they use it to call for an investigation of the Trump campaign? How much Russian influence was in this dossier?
COOPER: I want to bring in Maria.
Maria, you see this as a distraction.
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is a total distraction, Anderson. But I think it's also more than that. I think it shows two things --
COOPER: Let me just jump in. If the Russians were using disinformation through Christopher Steele, shouldn't that be investigated? Wouldn't that be part of Russian somehow trying to impact the election?
CARDONA: Look, and if there is something there, then yes, let's look into it. But the fact of the matter is that this dossier was opposition research. And as you noted and CNN has noted, started by the Republicans, paid for by a right leaning investigative entity. It doesn't matter who paid for it. Opposition research happens in all campaigns. In fact, I would say the Clinton campaign, the DNC would have been negligent not to follow through with the information that was in that dossier. I am glad they did it. And so, the question is, though, the big issue is what is in that
dossier? Perhaps what is in there is more true than what we know. I think that is what -- that's what Trump --
COOPER: I get you're saying this is great -- you're saying this is great opposition research. If the people at the DNC and the Clinton campaign really believed that, why doesn't somebody stand up and say, oh, yes, I was the person on this --
CARDONA: OK. Let me answer that. It's my understanding that the person who knew about it hasn't been asked yet. And I don't know if at this point they're going to come out --
BERNSTEIN: There's so much subterfuge here by the Democrats and it's time for them to come forward. Come on.
CARDONA: Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been asked. She said she doesn't know. I believe that. John Podesta was asked --
COOPER: They could call anybody and say they did it.
CARDONA: Sure, they could. Sure, they could. But again, that's not the issue.
COOPER: But you say they haven't been asked. I mean, that's --
CARDONA: Have you asked them? Have you asked them? Then ask them.
BERNSTEIN: They have been asked and it's a legitimate question to ask, why do the Democrats who do know about this and the chain of events continue to enable Donald Trump to muddy the waters? It's quite astonishing.
KINGSTON: And let me jump in also. Fusion GPS --
COOPER: One at a time. One at a time.
KINGSTON: But if it is just plain old normal opposition research, why have the principles of Fusion GPS pled the Fifth and why haven't they closed their bank accounts?
CARDONA: I have no idea. I don't know who the principles --
KINGSTON: But as a good -- CARDONA: Here is the thing, Jack. You are so obsessed with this
dossier and with Fusion GPS and to me that is you wanting to obfuscate with the clear connection --
KINGSTON: It's because you don't want to --
CARDONA: Hang on, about the Trump campaign and they're getting into -- wanting to go to WikiLeaks and asking them to release --
KINGSTON: Let me say this --
COOPER: Jack, just as you are interested in the spending of the $9 million or however much it is to Fusion GPS, are you interested in the spending of $5 million or $6 million --
KINGSTON: Yes. I think that's legitimate.
CARDONA: Yes, Jack.
KINGSTON: I really do. I don't have any problems with that because what's good for the goose good for the gander.
The problems here on the day of the Kennedy files being released is that the American people just really don't trust any of us. And you can't really blame them.
CARDONA: Especially Trump.
KINGSTON: Well, but they --
CARDONA: Polls show it.
KINGSTON: Hillary is the standard --
CARDONA: Hillary lost, OK. Trump is the president of the United States. Why is he so obsessed with her?
KINGSTON: Let me just say this. Four Republicans to say you know what? Here is what we know about the WikiLeaks release, fine. We should do it.
In turn Democrats should say here is what we know about Fusion GPS and about Christopher Steele --
CARDONA: Yes. I am all for it.
BERNSTEIN: And we're all saying that --
KINGSTON: And letting us look at their bank accounts and who ordered those --
CARDONA: It doesn't change in the dossier. And that's what you guys don't want to talk about.
BERNSTEIN: First of all, I would have trouble believing that there haven't been bank accounts subpoenaed. I don't know that for a fact.
But I think we've got to go back to the basic question, Jack, especially during the week that Republicans out loud finally started saying what they're saying, been saying for months about they're doubting the president's stability, ability, competent, fitness in office.
[20:25:14] And now we see --
COOPER: We've got to take a break. We have a big story coming up. You want to stay tuned. When we come back, what could be the biggest development yet in the Russia story.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
COOPER: We have breaking news tonight. It is a landmark in the Russia investigation. Let's go right to CNN's Evan Perez and Pamela Brown.
Pam, what have you learned?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we've learned that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. This is according to sources briefed on the matter. The charges are still sealed, under orders from a federal judge at this hour.
And, Anderson, we're told that plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody possibly as soon as Monday, these sources said. It's unclear exactly what these charges are. Again, the indictment is under seal.
A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment on this story. And, as you know, Anderson, Mueller was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. And he was given broad authority under the mandate given to him by Rod Rosenstein. So this is a significant development in the investigation.
Top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller firm, the probe we should say, including veteran prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann were seen today entering the courtroom at the D.C. Federal Court, where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.
And reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room but the officials made no announcement. But we are learning today, Anderson, that the grand jury approved the first charges in the Mueller investigation.
COOPER: So just to be clear, Pam, we don't know what the charges are at this point and we don't know who has been charged?
BROWN: That's correct. We have ideas of who has been charged but we are not naming those people. We don't believe that they have actually been notified yet. Typically what happens is the grand jury will approve an indictment, it will stand or seal. And then they will go through a certain process that takes a few days or a couple of days to get the arrest warrant and so forth before perhaps the attorney is called asking for that person for the attorney to have their clients turn themselves in.
So we believe that may be at play because we are told again, as early as Monday, possibly Monday or perhaps beyond that is when we may see some law enforcement activity related to this indictment under seal, Anderson.
COOPER: Evan, do we -- can you say or do we know if it's more than one person?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we believe it's more than one person but again, the -- they have not been notified. And that's one of the things we were trying to do today. We were working on this story for several hours as we were trying to contact some of the lawyers of the people involved. Some of them did not get back to us.
So we'll be continuing to work on that over the weekend. But, you know, it is something that obviously, because it's under seal, it's actually one of the most -- more difficult parts of this story to cover.
COOPER: So, Evan, to bring charges like this, who would have to approve them?
PEREZ: Well, Rod Rosenstein is the attorney general here who's handling this -- who's overseeing this investigation. He's the deputy attorney general, but for this case, because the Attorney General Jeff Sessions is recused, he is acting as the attorney general. And so he oversees this and he has the right to review the charges. And if he thinks that they are not appropriate, he can tell Robert Mueller that he doesn't approve of them. He can reject them.
So at this stage, Anderson, we don't know exactly what interaction there was, but we do believe, that given the regulations that govern, what Mueller is doing that he would have had to give Rod Rosenstein notice about this. And at least, you know, told him what he was preparing to do and giving Rosenstein the chance to say, you can't do this if he believed it was not appropriate.
COOPER: Would that information be given to the White House as well or be given to Attorney General Jeff Sessions since he'd recused himself?
PEREZ: No, not under this circumstance. Under this circumstance, it would be something that Rosenstein who is, you know, for all intensive purposes the attorney general for this case. He is the one, the ultimate authority, to oversee this and it would not under these circumstances be notified to the White House. Simply because, Anderson, this is a case that involves so many people at the White House, of course, including the president.
COOPER: So, Pam, how significant -- I mean let's put this in perspective, and again, we don't know what the charges are or who has been charged, or haven't confirmed it, or were not saying it. How significant of development is this in the Russian investigation?
BROWN: It's a landmark development. I mean this is what, in a sense, we've been waiting to see if this will happen if Robert Mueller's team will bring any indictment related to the Russia probe. This is an investigation that's been going on for all over the year. It started in the 2016 campaign. The FBI opened it. And then, as you know, Robert Mueller took over in May. And it had groups of investigators looking at possible collusion, looking at Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, Flynn -- Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor, and also, looking at obstruction of justice with the president's firing of James Comey and the circumstances surrounding that.
And so, this is certainly a big significant step and an acceleration and indication that the investigation has accelerated to a point where they believe they have the case, it's probable cause. You have to show probable cause when you go before a grand jury. So they believe they have enough to at least show probable cause for at least one person who has been under investigation in this probe.
And we should also mention that it will be interesting to see what the charges are because if they have nothing to do with the campaign or Russia, you can expect Mueller's shock to draw a lot of heat, especially from the White House. You heard the president say that this is a waste of tax payer dollars.
[20:35:05] And so, if this has nothing to do with that, that will be really, really interesting to see. But Mueller has brought authorities and the regulations to investigate anything that may arise from the Russia probe, Anderson.
COOPER: Evan, do you have a sense what the process for what this is? You said, you know, arrest could be made Monday or Tuesday or in that timeframe.
COOPER: But in terms of what the charges are, is that announced at some point? Does the Department of Justice announce who is going to be arrested? Or --
PEREZ: Understanding -- our understanding, Anderson, is that they -- that is the plan. Is that once these people have been arrested, then the Special Counsel would make a public announcement about what these charges are and the people who are affected. Again, part of the issue here is making sure you know where these people are, making sure that you contact the lawyers. I mean in this case, they would probably call the lawyers perhaps in Sunday or Monday and tell them you have until a certain hour to have your client turn themselves in. And obviously, if they don't do that then the U.S. Marshalls and the FBI would try to figure out how to put them -- bring them under arrest. And then the procedure would be then to bring them to court here at -- in D.C., in Washington, and then take them to get the charges read to them for the first time in federal court.
I just want to add real quick to what Pamela was just saying. I mean one of the things -- and look this is not -- I don't think this is affecting how Robert Mueller's handling this case. But you got to think, right, if you're running an investigation like this and you're starting to hear Republicans are now starting to say that it's -- the time is ticking away and that it's time to try to end this, and you hear the president now sending out tweets about the costliness of this investigation.
Look, they do have to do something to show what it is they're coming up with. And I think what -- that's partly what's happening here, is that I think they believe that they have enough evidence to be able to bring charges against at least a couple of individuals or at least one individual here in this case. And that's what's happening here, Anderson.
COOPER: Evan Perez, Pamela Brown, appreciate it. I know you're continuing to work your sources.
I want to bring in the panel, Carl Bernstein, David Gergen, Paul Callan, Laura Coates, Michael Zeldin, John Dean and Jeff Toobin.
Michael, let's put this into perspective first. What is this mean for the Mueller investigation?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what it means is that he's indicted somebody. We don't know whether it's to the court charge of collusion or whether to the collateral charge of money laundering or tax evasion. But we can surmise from Pamela's reporting it was Andrew Wiseman who is at the courthouse who was returning the indictment.
Wiseman has been on the Manafort case and that at therefore might be logical to include that it is Manafort. Manafort has been under scrutiny for both collusion and also for his real estate dealings and for tax and money laundering investigation. So you could have investigation of Manafort separate from the collusion at which implicates his dealings with the monies that he earned in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, what's your take on this from a legal standpoint?
JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGALANALYST: Well, it's a peculiar situation because indictments are really announced without knowing who the defendant is or what charges are. But it is certainly a major landmark in the course of this investigation. The other point to make is that -- there's two points. One in white collar investigations, usually the first indictments are against individuals that you hope will plead guilty and cooperate against others. You don't indict the big fish first. You indict smaller fishes in hope of getting the big fish.
And the other point to make is that these white collar cases take a long time. And it's a very unlikely that this case would even get to trial for six months to a year. So, if anybody thinks the Mueller investigation is going to be wrapping up in the next couple of months, this decision today pretty much guarantees that the Mueller office will be up and running well into 2018, if not, through the whole year and beyond.
COOPER: Michael, do you back up with what Jeff is saying that you go after the smaller fish first in the hopes that they will essentially flip or succumb to pressure?
ZELDIN: Well, typically that's the case. But it's not necessary that this is a typical case. If you look back at Whitewater, for example, they indicted several people for bank fraud. None of them were really small fish, none of them really had anything to say about the president's corruption. But they were significant financial transactions that were alleged and were indicted and were proved and these guys went to jail.
[20:40:00] So it could well be that Manafort or Flynn or somebody who has dealings on the outside of the collusion gets indicted for that activity. It's been five months, Weissmann up at his case is a fast moving prosecutor and it well then could be, as Jeffrey says, that if it is one of those guys and they are found guilty or they plead guilty that then they have something more to sell with respect to the collusion inquiry. Because you have to remember, it's collusion and then other things that may arise out in the investigations. This may be the arise out part which leads back into the collusion if there's a story to tell there.
COOPER: Carl, stunning night.
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, Jeffrey Toobin's got it exactly right. That I've talked to some of the lawyers who knew this was coming. They believe that the intent is to get one or more of these people to cooperate and turn over some more facts about what the prosecutors think may be a conspiracy, whether or not these charges go directly to "collusion." And one of the lawyers, correct me if I'm wrong, I don't think collusion in itself is a crime. I think it would have to be part of a conspiracy.
But this all goes really to a larger question of possible disloyalty to the United States by helping a foreign power undermine our elections. So there's all kinds of larger ethical, moral and legal questions raised. And now, what we're trying to see -- Mueller is trying to do is to move this investigation to determine what happened in terms of whether there was a conspiracy to undermine our democratic system.
PAUL CALLAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: You know, Anderson, in the United States criminal indictments are usually public things. We keep our criminal proceedings public in the United States. When you see a sealed indictment like this it almost always happens for one reason, there's a fear that the defendant is going to flea the jurisdiction. Occasionally in big organized crime-type cases you might be worried about a threat to a witness's name is revealed in the indictment. But I don't think we're going to see this in this case.
So, this suggest whoever they're indicting, they're afraid he's going to flea.
COOPER: Laura Coates, how do you see this?
LAURA COATES, SIRIUSXM HOST, "THE LAURA COATES SHOW": Well, you know, the irony here is quite thick, that the focus of the day has been on the dossier as if that was the only basis for Robert Mueller's collusion investigation, which of course has many, many arms, including Michael Flynn, including Paul Manafort, including Jared Kushner's security forms, including Roger Stone boasting of WikiLeaks. The list goes on and on about all the people who potentially implicated by this indictment.
And so, it's a reminder that Robert Mueller is running quite the tight shift. And you have weeks after or months after different investigations are concluded by his team. And you're hearing information even leading up to today when you got the sealed indictment. What is indicating to me is one that they are trying to encourage cooperation. But also that their investigation has taken on many different incantations.
And one of them being the fact that this may be tangentially related notion to the overall collusion claim. But that is exactly the precise reason why Robert Mueller has the direct that he does. Whatever can come from the initial collusion investigation, he is entitled to work with. And this may be an indication that he's not trying to show his hand because he doesn't want people to be able to either conceal evidence, destroy evidence. It may be the reason that he was able to do a surprise, certain no -- no knock announce -- no- knock and announce warn on Paul Manafort's home.
There is an urgency that Robert Mueller is seeing, and it may be a flight risk. It may also be because there are some missing pieces that he's hoping to encourage to come together in this case.
COOPER: All right. For you who are just joining us, first charges filed in the Mueller investigation, the story just breaking just a short time ago. We don't know exactly who those charges have been filed against or the nature of those charges. We expect to hear that, obviously, in the coming days. Arrest could be made as early as Monday. Lawyers will be notified on Sunday, according to our reporters or over the weekend at some point.
David Gergen, I mean, from what we know at this point, how serious is this for the Trump administration? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly looks like the damage is starting to break now, Anderson, after a long while. I think we're going to be in suspense over the next couple of days until we know exactly what the charges are. If the charges relate to collusion or conspiracy against the United States as, you know, Carl just pointed out, or if they're about money laundering, that's going to send a shutter through the White House. Because what that would suggest is two things, first of all, the president has been wrong that there's nothing to this.
There are actually -- there's probable cause to believe in Mueller's mind that in fact criminal -- crimes were committed. And in that zone -- and there's much better chance of flipping somebody if that's -- that that's the area that the -- where the evidence has taken them.
On the other hand, if you say it's a Manafort and he is indicted for some sort of illegal money transaction he had personally some what time ago, and that doesn't -- you know, that suggests they've got very little on the question of collusion and on money laundering.
[20:45:14] So I think a lot depends on what the charges are, as an addition to -- if it's money laundering or if it's collusion, I think that Jeffrey and Carl are absolutely right. There's going to be a big effort to flip whoever it is who's indicted.
COOPER: But, Jeff Toobin, I mean, if it is, you know, some past crime, financial crime from some years ago, is it -- you know, David saying, you know, shouldn't the White House will say, well, look, that's nothing about collusion. This is reaching back in history years. Is it possible those kind of charges are brought to your point in order to get them to flip and kind of a smaller fish charge them with something from the past to get them to flip on what they may know?
TOOBIN: Right. People flip because they know they're going to be convicted and looking at serious jail time. It doesn't necessarily mean they have to flip on precisely the issue that they will testify against higher up. I mean, I know we are in a position here of speculating and that's not ideal. But, you know, I think the precise nature of the charges against whoever this is, one or more persons, doesn't necessarily tell you about the future investigation, the future course of the investigation.
All it means is that the Mueller team has found probable cause against somebody or some person. And they are going to try to win that case or get a guilty plea and a conviction or -- and testimony. I think the precise nature of the charges will tell you something about the direction of the investigation, but it won't necessarily tell you everything that Mueller has learned at this point.
BERNSTAIN: There's one other aspect of this and that is that it's very possible, and it's been suggested to me by some of the lawyers involved, that Mueller wants to send a signal to other perspective defendants. If this person who has been indicted or persons are facing 20 to 40 to 50 years for whatever these crimes are related to collusion or not, there are other who may be subject to similar charges who have further knowledge about dealings with Russia.
And so, it may be aimed at these perspective inductees as well not simply this person or persons who they want to flip. So there are a lot of intentions that the Special Counsel is trying to convey here, I suspect.
COATES: And --
COOPER: John Dean, we haven't heard from you.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, it was not the intent of the special prosecutor here to tease. This is one of the largest independent special prosecutor teases of all time. I think the consensus that is merging from the conversation is this is an effort to flip somebody. This certainly seems to be the way to do it. We're left speculating right now. And we'll get a lot more information when we know the nature of the charges.
It will tell us both the status and direction of the Mueller investigation. It will tell us what the White House jeopardy may or may not be. But it's awfully early still. And Mueller has held his cards very close. So this is very interesting move.
COOPER: Michael, Pam Brown, talked about this. I'm sorry, Laura, you wanted to say something?
COATES: OK. Thank you. To be clear, the idea that the Special Counsel is simply holding one card to hedge his way into a prosecution is not the issue here. It's not what he's ultimately trying to do. When you charge someone with and you have an indictment, your intention is possibly to convict not simply to flip. That may be an aspiration of the -- or, you know, a secondary issue there but it's not the ultimate goal.
But it's very important to consider that even though this is the speculation aspect of it, one charge today in a separate case does not fore close or preclude the person who is indicted right now from being charged in other future cases involving other collusion related things or perhaps money laundering. So we're not talking about a closed universe of prosecutions right now. So we have to be very cautious about speculating that this would be the end for that particular person. They may be included in many others.
COOPER: Michael, from your experience and for our viewers who are just been joining us who didn't hear Pam and Evan's reporting on sort of the timeline of what the next several days holds, can you give a sense of when are lawyers notified that their clients, you know, have been indicted? Are the lawyers -- I assume the lawyers are told the charges directly at that point. And when are arrests -- how are arrests actually carried out?
ZELDIN: Well, typically the arrest should be voluntary surrender in a case like this, unless, as Jeffry said, there's a risk of flight and then they'll be arrested and handcuffed.
[20:50:00] Some prosecutors used to like to handcuff and arrest people in public. They call them perp walks where they display them. Rudy Giuliani did that a lot. I personally don't like that. I think that if a person is not flight risk, they should voluntarily turn themselves in.
But in this case, they will notify the counsel that their client has been indicted and that will be over the weekend. They will tell the client -- the lawyer what they expect of their client, whether it's a -- to be arrested or to be turned in.
The indictments will be unsealed so that the lawyers have a clear knowledge of what their client is being charged with. Then the person will be brought to court and they'll be presented to the charges and they'll have to enter a plea in the future after that. And then the case goes forward.
COOPER: And, Michael, we know obviously grand jury -- this is the result of a grand jury. Can you just explain how that process works for those who, you know, aren't familiar with the grand jury system? You know, how law -- we know the grand jury -- I think there's two grand juries going on. How exactly does a grand jury bring about charges?
ZELDIN: Well, the grand jury is made up of a group of citizens who are brought in generally for about an 18-month period. The prosecutor only is the person that presents evidence to the grand jury. They meet in the courthouse and they often meet like once or twice a week. Evidence is put forth by the prosecutor as they build the blocks of the case.
And then once the prosecutor has enough information that they think is sufficient to allow the grand jury to indict, they present a grand jury indictment -- draft indictment, they say we ask you to return charges as set forth here. And the grand jury then votes, yea or nay. And if they vote yea, the indictment is perfected, if you will, and the charges are joined.
CALLAN: You know, and I was going to say, also, the thing you have to remember with the information that we have here now, is, it's possible, yes, that pressure is being used through these indictments to flip lower level people in the case. But it's also quite possible that on Monday or Tuesday of next week, someone like Manafort or somebody else who's been publicly identified in this case will voluntarily surrender with his lawyer, and that a deal may already have been made. And that the indictment is simply going to be handled in a lenient way in exchange for testimony going down the road.
So there are enormous number of possibilities here. We only know that a grand jury has found probable cause that a crime has been committed and sufficient to warrant and indictment and that somebody is going to be brought in. We really -- we're really doing a lot of speculation, I think.
COOPER: But, Jeff Toobin, in front of a grand jury, there's no defense, correct? It's just the prosecutor? TOOBIN: Right. It doesn't even look like a courtroom. A grand jury room tends to look like a classroom, where there is a witness stand but the prosecutor runs the show. And the jurors sit classroom style and are allowed to ask questions often, sometimes directly, sometimes through the prosecutor. It is something that is very much controlled by the prosecution. There is no defense attorney. The witnesses are not allowed to have a defense attorney in the room. And a grand jury does not have to be unanimous to issue an indictment the way a jury has to be unanimous to reach a conviction. They need only to have a majority.
The -- so, an indictment is not, you know, tantamount to conviction. I think people should be very much aware of that, just because someone is indicted doesn't mean they're guilty of anything. But obviously, it is not a step that responsible prosecutors take unless they feel like the case ultimately will end in a conviction. And certainly, the very experienced group that Robert Mueller has surrounded him with is well aware of that, and they would not bringing this case unless they thought they could present it in front of a trial jury.
COOPER: Laura Coates, would the attorney, or attorneys for one person or two people, however many have been indicted? Would they -- I know they haven't been notified, but would they have a sense that this was going to be happening? I mean would they have -- would they have a sense of the information that had been presented to the grand jury since they're not in the grand jury room?
COATES: Only if the people who were actually witnesses before the grand jury somehow indicated, or told them they were. The whole premise of the grand jury is to operate in secret, which, of course, is very different than what happens in a trial, where you don't want the notion that people are able to be convicted behind closed doors, and not in the public eye. You want the protections of a judge who's not present in the grand jury scenario.
So if the witnesses themselves, somehow, were able to disclose, or chose to disclose information, then they would have an inkling into whether or not their client was going to be indicted or what information they would have.
[20:55:03] But the whole premise is to operate in secrecy in order to have the subpoena power be most effective, because the most important notion, or role of the grand jury is to have subpoena power over documents, over people, to be able to come in and testify. So without that secrecy, you do not have the ability to have as much access to everyone else. So it would not be in the interests of the prosecuting team to have it disclosed. But a witness is able to disclose information if they choose.
CALLAN: You know, I do think that --
CALLAN: The attorneys will see this coming. Because when you're under investigation, subpoenas are issued for your bank records. And it's your friends who are being subpoenaed to the grand jury. And prosecutors may even have told you, the attorney, that your client is a target in the investigation. So I think most certainly, whoever is the attorney for the client in this case, saw the indictment come.
COOPER: Michael, I think was that you saying you we wanted to say something?
ZELDIN: I just going to add what Paul added which was that normally you'll get a target letter. If you're the target of a grand jury meaning, you have the likelihood of being indicted, you will get that notification. And I don't think that anybody who has received the target letter would be into assumption that Bob Mueller is sending that to them just for the fun of it.
COOPER: David Gergen, from a political standpoint, how -- I mean, again, a lot of this will depend on actually what the charges are that have been field and against to those who are just joining. We do not know what the charges are that has not been announced. Nor do we know, or I think are saying who are the -- who charges have been filed against.
But how does the White House play this? I mean, if it is not, you know, something to do directly with Russia, if it is a past allegation of a crime, if it is a past charge for money laundering or some sort of tax fraud or financial impropriety, what does the White House do from a political standpoint? Do they attack this?
GERGEN: Well, Anderson, again, it goes to the nature of the charges. If the charge comes back against Manafort for his personal unrelated to the White House financial transactions in the past, that somehow, you know, violated some federal laws, I think the White House is then going to go on the attack.
You know, they will treat this as a weak opening move by Mueller. You know, if the first thing he brings in is something that's unrelated to the president, none related to the collusion in Russia charge, you know, that makes it easy for them to say, we told you, it wasn't much here. And look what he's come up with, you know, he had a massive investigation and come up with a mouse.
On the other hand, if he comes in with something about collusion, that's much more serious. And if he finds something, frankly, about money laundering by the Trump team, it's and -- put aside Manafort. If the Trump team has been in money laundering, you know, there have been a lot of rumors among people in New York and the investment community that at the end of the day, that's what this is going to come down to. This can be much more about money laundering.
Those two things should put a scare into the White House, because that means he's building a case that could be very much go a land on their doorstep and indeed come inside the doors of the White House.
COOPER: Michael --
GERGEN: So I think in that situation, I would assume they will try to discredit Mueller in a variety of ways, they'll find friends to do that. I would assume they have had some kind of game plan to do that, if something serious comes down.
GERGEN: But they're going to treat it in different ways. It's going to -- will require a much more imaginative communications plan, frankly.
COOPER: Well, Michael, let me ask you. If you are on Mueller's team or if you are Robert Mueller and you are aware of that, you know, I mean there's the legal case you want to make, and then there's also obviously this politicized environment. How much do you -- how much does that seep into things? How much do you take that into account?
ZELDIN: I don't think Mueller will take much of the politics of this into account. Bob is a pretty serious guy who faces facts as he sees them and then makes decisions about those facts. I think that if he's indicted somebody on a collateral matter, let's say, hypothetically, it's a Manafort for his personal business dealings with Ukraine, and that's what he's indicting him on now.
Well, that sends a message to Flynn, because Flynn is also alleged to have had financial dealings with Turkey. That sends messages to others that maybe Flynn and Manafort will talk about the Jared Kushner meeting, or the president's efforts to obstruct the Justice Department investigation of Flynn.
So there are lots of ripple effects that these indictments have. But in Mueller's case, I think really all he's doing is looking at evidence, making determinations, bringing charges, and then the collateral consequences of those charges will be determined down the line.
COOPER: Everybody, just hold on. We're just at the top of the hour.
And for our viewers, who were just joining us, there is breaking news tonight and it is big.
[21:00:01] The first indictment in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's wide ranging Russia investigation. Now, whatever you may think of the underlying allegations, this is a landmark. CNN's Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz joining us now with the exclusive.
Pam, what have you learned?