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Manafort, Gates Plead Not Guilty To 12 Counts Including Tax Fraud, Money Laundering, Both Under House Arrest; FBI: Papadopoulos Emailed Top Campaign Officials About Russia Outreach Message Forwarded To Other Trump Aides; Feds Refer Papadopoulos As "Proactive Cooperator"; Sources: Pres. Trump "Seething" As Probe Reaches Former Aides; WH Lawyers Urged Pres. Trump To Avoid Criticizing Mueller Others Including Bannon, Suggested Aggressive Pushback. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 30, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. The Russia story we expected tonight and the Russia story almost no one expected. Two former top members of the Trump campaign now under house arrest. Their passport confiscated. But it's the third man, this man, George Papadopoulos who's looking more and more significant and perhaps more, more dangerous to a president who's claimed as certainly this morning that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

No collusion, he tweeted this morning in all caps, "NO COLLUSSION." And to be sure the charges unsealed today against former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, do not concern the campaign, collusion or not, just millions of dollars in alleged money laundering and tax evasion and deception in connection with prior lobbying work for pro- Russia forces in Ukraine.

As you know, he entered a not guilty plea, so did his business associate and his fellow campaign official, Rick Gates, both surrendering today.

Now as we said, under house arrest. Each has previously denied financial wrong doing. They each now face counts including conspiracy against the United States, and conspiracy to launder money. Manafort's lawyer spoke briefly late today.


KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.


COOPER: And that is precisely what makes today's Papadopoulos revelation so potentially explosive. It opens a window for the very first time onto potential frame work and a time line for special counsel Robert Mueller to try to show collusion. They also reveal more about how Mueller plans to proceed from here on out and the leverage he may have to try and flip Paul Manafort and others.

Federal authorities arrested George Papadopoulos on the 27th of July, pleaded guilty on the fifth of this month of making false statements to the FBI the contacts with Russia. And this was all kept totally under wraps until today. Nothing leaked. I want to talk more in a minute about the significance of court filings to keep it that way.

First of all, what the documents in the case itself actually reveal and what they add to the Trump-Russia time line that we already have reported about? Papadopoulos join the campaign in March of last year.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy.


COOPER: That was the president announcing five members of his foreign policy advisory team in an interview with the "Washington Post" back on March 21st. Carter Page was also mentioned in that group.

Now remember, Mr. Trump had been under pressure to name some foreign policy advisers to add credibility to his campaign. Flash forward, April 2016, on or about the 26th, according to the documents. One foreign contact, a Russian professor, said to have ties to the Kremlin tells Papadopoulos that he, "learned that the Russians had obtained dirt on then-candidate Clinton." Thousands of Clinton e-mails.

Now remember, we already know that Russian hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee twice including in March of last year, just a month before Papadopoulos spoke with this professor.

Now, May, Papadopoulos e-mails a high ranking Trump campaign official who CNN has learned was Paul Manafort. In recent part, "Russia has been earring eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss."

Manafort then forwarded that e-mail to another campaign official who CNN has learned is Rick Gates, writing, "We need someone to commute the DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in campaign so as not to send any signal."

Now we come back to a familiar date which is June 3rd. Publicist Rob Goldstone e-mails Donald Trump Jr., saying the Russian government is working to help his father's campaign, saying a Kremlin connected lawyer can deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton wants to meet. Don Jr., e- mails 17 minutes later, "If what's you say I love it."

Six days later, the Trump Tower meeting, he's there, Jared Kushner is there, so as Paul Manafort. Don Jr., initially describes the meeting as being about adoption which, for the Russian government it really means U.S. sanctions against Moscow.

Don Jr., later admits he went looking for dirt as anyone in his position would. But says he came away empty handed. A month later, July 7th and 8th, Carter Page, that other member of the candidate advisory group, travels to Moscow. That may be significant because remember, that e-mail we talked about a second ago, the one that said, "We need someone to communicate the Donald Trump is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal."

Was the Cater Page trip the Moscow trip? We don't know for sure, but the timing indicates the possibility.

Now, back to the court document unsealed today and the next date on or about the 14th of July of last year, George Papadopoulos writing to the individual known as FC 2, foreign contact 2. Papadopoulos proposing a, "meeting for August or September in the U.K., London, with me and my national chairman and maybe one other policy adviser and you, members of President Putin's office and the MFA, " the Russian Administration Foreign Affairs, "to hold a day of consultations and to meet one another. It has been approved from our side."

Eight days later, the first week of leaked e-mail dumped. Five days after that, this from candidate Trump.


TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


COOPER: The campaign said that was just humor.

[21:04:58] Now, as you know, everyone from the president on down has denied repeatedly and loudly that anyone in the campaign colluded with Russia.

Today, the White House press secretary not only denied that George Papadopoulos acted in any official capacity during the campaign. She kind of denied his existence.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This individual was the member of a volunteered adviser council that met one time over the course of a year. It was volunteer position. Again, somebody on a volunteer committee -- again, and he was volunteer. He was not paid by the campaign. He was a volunteer on a -- again, a council that met once.

He was a volunteer on the campaign and a volunteer member of an advisory council.

I'm telling you that he was a volunteer member of -- an advisory council that literally met one time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Safe to say they are getting to know him now and that's because, not only is he clearly helping Special Counsel Mueller build a collusion case. Today's revelation is also included court filings on keeping the entire Papadopoulos angle under wraps which could become the biggest blockbuster of all.

CNN Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin explains.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The court papers suggest that -- and I think we can put it up on the air, "Defendant has indicated that he's willing to cooperate", and then on the next page, "Public disclosure of the defendant's initial appearance, however, would significantly undermine his ability to serve as a proactive cooperate."

What this says to me is that Papadopoulos between July and October was wearing a wire. He was recording conversations secretly with people who are subjects and targets of this investigation. That's the only reasonable explanation of what's in those court papers. If he was wearing a wire, this summer and fall, think about that, just weeks ago, that is a whole new chapter of possibilities in this investigation and potentially a very, very big deal.

COOPER: So a day that we expected it would -- begin with one or more indictments ended with far more than just that. And the story that we broke in this program Friday night has taken a big leap since then.

Joining us now the correspondents who have been all over this from day one, Jim Sciutto, Pamela Brown, and Evan Perez.

Jim, I mean, any of this evidence of collusion which -- as me talked about in the last hour, is not itself a crime according to Special Counsel Mueller's team?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the special counsel certainly hasn't made any conclusions as to whether there is collusion or coordination, whatever you call it. And it hasn't identified in these court documents -- these conversations or e-mails, specifically in so many words as evidence of collusion.

But keep in mind this. Twice in the court documents made public today, unsealed today, there are direct references to this investigation being one that is looking into, among other things, the possibility of collusion or coordination, one of those references, the January 27th interview of George Papadopoulos, it says, in fact, expressly in the documents at the time that part of the investigation was looking into collusion, cooperation between Trump associates and the Russian campaign. But more recently in a court opinion unsealed today as well dated October 2nd, so this month, 2017, the very first lines to that court opinion which I'm holding right here say expressly, this is a matter of national importance and that the U.S. through the special counsel's office is investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion in those efforts by American citizens. That's a court opinion relating to this case. So that is still very clearly a subject of this investigation regardless of what the president says or what you hear from behind the White House podium.

COOPER: Evan, you've been describing today as down payment on future efforts by Mueller. What do you mean by that?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's clear that the special counsel and his team really are homing in on Manafort, and they think that he has something to give. They are -- what you saw today is an effort to build and to show perhaps how much leverage they believe they have. I think it's no accident that they unveiled or they unsealed the Papadopoulos indictment and plea agreement and gave a list of window into the type of information that he's already provided to the special prosecutor.

So, what I think is happening here is that they clearly believe that Manafort has some information that he can give, he can flip up. And so the question is, you know, who can Manafort provide information against? I mean not many people who are above where Manafort was in the hierarchy of that campaign, we're talking about the president, we're talking about those closest to him.

COOPER: Pamela, can you just kind of explain big picture of the allegations against Manafor and his business associate Rick Gates?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wait, the allegations center on financial wrong doing. The indictment alleges that they made millions of dollars and they are consulting and lobbying work for Ukraine, and they tried to hide that money $75 million allegedly going through these offshore accounts, and the FBI also says that they lied about it, that they were deceitful about the money that they had made from Ukraine. And they were using this money to decorate their homes, to pay for the children's tuition, to take lavish trips.

[21:10:15] And so that is really what it centers on, not particularly to anything that they did during the campaign, though it is in the time frame of when both Manafort and Rick Gates worked for the campaign because it says in the indictment that these alleged activities happened from 2008 through 2017.

We should note, though, Anderson, that both men deny any financial wrong doing. They both pleaded not guilty today. Now they are on house arrest. Manafort is on $10 million bail, Rick Gates on $5 million bail.

COOPER: Jim any -- I mean, there's clarity tonight on who Papadopoulos was communicating with inside the campaign or is there other than Manafort engage? CNN confirmed the e-mails were to Manafort and Gates. But, essentially, who was giving him the OK from the campaign to continue his efforts? Do we know?

SCIUTTO: Listen, these documents, these court filings are rife with evidence of communications that belie Sarah Sanders' statement from behind the White House podium that this was just a low-level guy in the campaign who no one talked to and no one had really any interest in because he has repeated communications with very senior people in the campaign, one of which I reported earlier today, one of these communication is about conversations with the Russians and meetings with Russia, perhaps in Europe as well is with Paul Manafort, then the campaign chairman. Another one of them is with Rick Gates, then Paul Manafort's deputy.

There are other cited in there described in those documents as campaign supervisor, other senior officials who not only are receiving e-mails from George Papadopoulos, but they're answering those e-mails and they're answering requests that are contained in those e-mails. Papadopoulos discussing meetings that he had with Russians who said that they had dirt on Hillary Clinton, that they response to those e- mail discussions of whether he should meet with them. There are instructions from someone described as a campaign supervisor in those documents encouraging him, based on Papadopoulos' testimony, to take a meeting in Russia.

So the idea that he just showed up once as a volunteer at one foreign policy session is belied by repeated communications for months between him and senior campaign officials about meetings and, in fact, getting instructions from those officials to move forward with those meetings.

COOPER: Evan, you've done extensive reporting on the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in Trump Tower, that meeting all started with the same method of proposing dirt on Hillary Clinton allegedly coming, according to Goldstone, from a lawyer connected to the Russian government.

Is it -- I mean, it's kind of interesting that the tactic of promising dirt in the case of Papadopoulos, it was from a professor who had ties to the Kremlin allegedly, which Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about knowing, and then admitted he did know, it was the same kind of direct promise of information from the Russian government in both meetings.

PEREZ: Right. I think it's no accident that the government is showing these communications. And I think what it tells you is really what we've been talking about on this program since this investigation began, which is this is the Russian play book. This is why people in the national security agencies, you know, the CIA, the director of national intelligence and the FBI last year were sort of hair on fire. They were little bit alarmed at the idea that the Russians has seemed to be trying to insinuate themselves through Carter Page, through Papadopoulos, through other people, trying to get away into the campaign to try to get access to the Trump campaign, and seemingly getting encouragement at those efforts, Anderson. So I think what we've heard so much about over the last few months including about that Don Jr. meeting is very much within the playbook that we know the Russians use. They try to use whatever they can to try to insinuate themselves into this campaign and seemingly they were getting responses which is why they kept doing it.

COOPER: Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Pamela Brown, appreciate your reporting.

Coming up next, late word on the president's reaction to all this whether jobs with the "no big deal tone" from this press secretary today.

And later, reaction from GOP lawmakers as well as the conspicuous non reaction from the top Republican in the House.


[21:17:29] COOPER: Calm and cool, or hot and bothered that is the question, how is the president reacting to the breaking news today? If you saw today's press briefing you might say it's first, but a reporting says otherwise. Jim Acosta has that reporting, joins us now from the North Lawn of the White House.

So what do we know about how the president took the news of these indictments?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, from what we understand from talking to various sources here, he was not happy about this news that came out this morning, that as we understood.

Obviously, this Russia investigation is creeping closer to the Oval Office it's creeping closer to the White House. But my understanding from talking to sources over here Anderson is that they're plodding ahead as if this is a, "distraction," is the way one White House source describes to me earlier this evening. They still view this a distraction, even though the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, in this -- once very little known advisor George Papadopoulos, his plea deal coming down, that has not really grabbed a hold of officials here as being any kind of major news over here now.

I will tell you, Anderson, talking to sources this evening, the concern is just how much of this they can take. I talked to one source earlier this evening who said that they're now starting to describe George Papadopoulos as a, "overzealous volunteer." Anderson that, appears to be an indication that they do understand that some of this news that came out today is not good for them or else they would have continued to describe him the way Sarah Sanders was describing him during the briefing today which was just a volunteer with a limited role with the campaign.

COOPER: As far as a White House strategy for dealing with Mueller and the investigation, I mean, do they have one?

ACOSTA: You know, at this point, Anderson, it appears that the strategy is to do no harm, to allow Mueller to continue this investigation. I will tell you, though, Anderson, when you talk to people who are very close to the messaging and strategy inside this White House, they are concerns about the president going ahead sort of half-cocked and deciding all the sudden the way he did with James Comey to go ahead and fire the special counsel. It was interesting to hear the questions come up at the briefing today, Anderson, when Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, was asked about this. She did not close the door on this possibility that t he president might fire Bob Mueller. She said that he has no plan or intent to do that right now, to have any changes in the special counsel's office. But that is no ironclad commitment that Robert Mueller is staying in that position.

Of course, when you talk to people up on Capitol Hill, any kind of move like that to unload the special counsel would really trigger a pretty swift reaction from Congress that this White House would probably not like to see, Anderson.

[21:20:13] COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it tonight. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Yes, sure.

COOPER: Joining us now our panel, Kirsten Powers, Jeffrey Toobin, Kenneth Cuccinelli, Carl Bernstein, Asha Rangappa, and Stephen Moore.

Kirsten, let's start with you. Today, how do you see it?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's -- we all thought -- I think the Manafort news would probably be the biggest news and ended up not being the case. And, you know, I understand the White House's argument that it was an overzealous sort of volunteer person. But if you look at what he talks about, it all seems on the up and up until you get to the fact that he lied about it, right?

So there's actually, you know, there's nothing wrong with him sending e-mails saying I tried to set up a meeting, which they apparently wanted, but the fact that he decided that he need to lie about it, and lie about the fact that the campaign did, in fact, know about it, that he was exchanging e-mails with them, that he had, in fact, met with people who he said he didn't meet -- they claimed that he met them, you know, before he was on the campaign. That sort raises a red flag. So -- why are you lying about it if it is just a basic thing that you would be doing, you know, as a person working on the foreign policy team?

COOPER: Asha, does that raise red flags for you?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, so I would disagree. I would say that this was red flag central. So when, you know, the idea that the Russians were offering -- first you meet a random professor who then has these links to the Kremlin. That's shady. And then who are offering you opposition or e-mails, stolen e- mails. That should raise a red flag. And usually people would call the FBI in that instance.

The other piece is staging these meetings. We have to remember that this was still a campaign. They haven't even won the election. This is in a transition. Private citizens should not be negotiating meetings with foreign governments to discuss policy. Actually, there is a law against that. It's called the Logan Act, it's from 1799. It's only been used twice. But -- it's because you don't want to undermine a sitting administration. So I think this was sketchy from the get-go. And the fact that he lied about it just shows that -- and the fact that -- that's what Mueller's charging him shows that he means business. And I bet that there are some people who are sweating right now who have already been interviewed by the FBI and who may --


KENNETH CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Let's not forget every candidate for president who wants to be taken seriously goes to foreign countries. Look at me. I've got the chops. The considered very successful meeting with the Mexican president by then-candidate Trump, relatively expectations particularly right in the same time frame, middle of August, if I remember correctly, that the only item in the Papadopoulos indictment that suggests anyone other than Papadopoulos was encouraged about him proceeding with Russia, and contrary to what Jim said a few minutes ago, it took five months of Papadopoulos' one-way communication. Jim implied these were conversations. That is not what the indictment says.

TOOBIN: Ken. I have a question for you.

CUCCINELLI: Sure. I'm happy to answer. And so he gets to the middle of August, and the indictment even says after months of doing this. And then the campaign person not named says, well, that sounds great if you can set it up, make it happen. And the next line of the indictment, the meeting never took place.

TOOBIN: Ken, in that very successful meeting with the president of Mexico, did Trump talk about thousands of Hillary Clinton's e-mails that the Mexican government have?

CUCCINELLI: I think that more of a damage control meeting.

TOOBIN: But I'm just saying, it's not just --

CUCCINELLI: -- the meeting isn't about that kind of tactical advantage. It isn't about oppo. That meeting was about something else. My point --

COOPER: But this is the --


COOPER: -- this is the second of two meetings that we know about where the pitch was from the Russian government.



CUCCINELLI: -- earlier from an Intel perspective, this is kind of 101. The Russians accurately identified their soft spot. They want dirt on Hillary, and they're responding to that. Papadopoulos responded it to. Trump junior responded to it. They never got -- never, as far as we can --

TOOBIN: Well, you're assuming the conclusion of the investigation. We don't know that.

CUCCINELLI: Well, that's right --


CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: -- now we're getting out of the weeds and down to what's really important. We have seen in these indictments and we see from what Mueller is now doing and we really have a road map. That we are looking at what he is building a kind of case of a conspiracy to undermine this country's electoral system through communications with a foreign government. It's a conspiracy case about collusion.

[21:25:06] And in this, one of the most fascinating elements to this if there is a sentence in the indictment of Papadopoulos in which it is revealed that in April of 2016 he heard from this Russian London professor that there were thousands of e-mails about or from Hillary. This is months before we had any idea that these were the e-mails that the Trump campaign or Assange or anybody else was -- had an ability to get.

This means that early on, the Trump campaign knew that the Russians supposedly had these e-mails, and what the indictment says is they went after them. And that's what we keep seeing is this. And yes, he might have been a self-starter. It's possible. He might have been low-level, but he talked to Manafort about that. That's what we know from this indictment.

And also, I think it's very likely that he talked to Mr. Flynn about that. So we now have Papadopoulos talking to the top officials, national security officials in the campaign who themselves daily talk to the candidate himself. And the question becomes, and we'll have to find out, did these matters come to the attention of Donald Trump the candidate or --

COOPER: -- which by the way, is also the question from the Donald Trump Jr., meeting --

BERSNTEIN: Of course.

COOPER: -- which is, you know, the candidate's son holds this meeting excited to get information allegedly coming from Russian government. The idea that he never mentioned it to his dad or no one in that meeting ever mentioned it to the candidate --

BERSNTEIN: What we now see that we didn't know about is all of these people salivating early on in the spring about e-mails that the Russians might have. It changes a big perception.

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: I want to get out of the weed and actually look at the big picture here. I mean, this is an incredible demoralizing story. And, you know, what we --

COOPER: Demoralizing in what sense?

MOORE: Demoralizing that now we have, you know, further evidence of potential, you know, administration or campaign relationships with Russia. But look, we learned a week or two ago that the same thing happened with the Hillary Clinton campaign, that they bought, you know, they essentially bought a dossier from the, you know, that John Podesta bought this dossier of, you know, allegations against the Obama administration -- I mean, against Trump.

Now my point here is both parties I think are so disgusting here and the both campaigns that they would deal with the Russians. I'm an old core (ph) called warrior. This isn't Mexico, this is Russia. They are an enemy of the United States, right, I mean --

COOPER: I mean, the idea --


COOPER: I don't know that anybody in the Clinton campaign was told the Russian government is giving you this information.

MOORE: But they bought the dossier --

COOPER: But that's not from -- alleged --

MOORE: -- from the Russians.


BERNSTEIN: They funded opposition research, and indeed --


BERNSTEIN: -- that operation, opposition research was conducted by someone who was indeed was trying to --

COOPER: Let's not go down the road of the dossier.


COOPER: But, I mean, Jeff, for you, is this clear evidence of -- I mean, again, collusion is not a crime, but attempted, you know, attempted collusion, attempted --

TOOBIN: It certainly is suggestive. But also, you know, we have to remember where we are in this investigation.

You know, this morning, how many of us could identify George Papadopoulos. Sorry, I've been saying it all day excellently but --

COOPER: We were all focused on Carter Page of -- the unknown five.

TOOBIN: Right, you know, so, you know, if you look at the e-mails that went with the information to which he pled guilty, there was not a lot of code words. I mean, everybody was talking very openly about these relationships. You have to assume that that was continuing, just as in June they were talking very openly about their relationship with the Russians, the Donald Trump Jr. was, the Trump Tower meeting. So, you know, we are at the beginning stage here.

I think if you had told any of us a week ago, a month ago, that this guilty plea would be coming, I think we would have been astonished. I remain astonished. But it is still very early days in this investigation.

COOPER: All right, we got to take a quick break, a lot more to discuss with the panel when we come back. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:33:03] COOPER: A lot of big story tonight, a milestone day in this presidency, the significance difficult to overstate. We have first indictment in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. I want to go right back to our panel from more reaction.

Jeff, we haven't really addressed the other kind of surprising thing that we learned about Papadopoulos today that he -- has been cooperating for some time now.

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: Do you know the level? Is it clear what the level of cooperation is?

TOOBIN: It's not clear, but it's very clearly suggested. And in the document that the special counsel filed explaining why his guilty plea should have been under seal, he pointed out that he was arrested at the end of July, didn't plead guilty until the beginning of October. And the reason according to Mueller, that the paperwork was sealed is because he was doing what they called proactive cooperation, which suggests strongly to me he was wearing a wire. He was taping telephone calls and taping one-on-one conversations with someone. And I wouldn't speculate about who, but that just suggests how dramatic this could be, because we're talking about cooperation that might have ended two weeks ago.

I mean, that's what an ongoing investigation --

COOPER: But would anybody who was, you know, fearing of what had happened on the campaign be so stupid to communicate with this guy, Papadopoulos, over the last couple months?

TOOBIN: One of the things you always learn -- one of the things as a prosecutor, the defense attorneys always say in closing argument is, of course, he would endorse the check in his own name. No one would be that stupid. People are that stupid all the time. And given just as we were not thinking that Papadopoulos was going to be prosecuted, they probably didn't think so either. So, you know, betting on the stupidity of people as far as I'm concerned is always good money.

[21:35:00] CUCCINELLI: Also, I mean, in the campaign and it's continued into the White House, they have prided themselves on bringing in the whole groups of people who have never been in these circumstances before. So if you're, you know, in your third tour in a White House, and, you know, Fred (INAUDIBLE) who you vaguely remember seeing on some Twitter feed about foreign policy is like, leaning his shoulder at you when he asked you questions, flags are going up, but it's not happening here.

This is all new for most of these folks, newer than it would be for a lot of others. And, look, that's part of what the American people wanted, they wanted to just turn the place over. But part of what you get with that is less experience, and this is one of those elements.

BERNSTEIN: These indictments send a clear signal in a way Mueller has done this and the price that he has asked for in terms of bail for these two suspects, the whole panoply of events today send same message to everybody who has been working in this campaign and around Trump that he is building a case.

Meanwhile, Mueller has 21,000 e-mails that he's obtained from the White House. And they're all potential perjury traps just as we see that Papadopoulos got trapped perhaps into perjury because of what Mueller knew. All of Trump's people have to talk to the FBI and be truthful. And that means everything that they observe from Trump's assistant Hope Hicks, all the way through, even his family, have to be truthful.

COOPER: I was reading today a comparison between this kind of prosecution and the prosecution the Department of Justice would run against a mob figure. Is it -- again, it's an organize crime, is it similar in the way that they build a case?

RANGAPPA: Well, you're going to start from the bottom and work your way up to get the big fish, right? That gives the leverage against the bigger people up the chain to keep flipping until you get the people that you want to get.

COOPER: And sometimes the people you get at the top are not convicted of -- I mean, Al Capone wasn't convicted of, you know, --

RANGAPPA: Al Capone was --

COOPER: -- committed tax evasion.

RANGAPPA: -- for tax evasion. Al Capone's bodyguard was convicted for violating the Migratory Bird Act because he had 563 dead birds in his freezer. So, you know, they're going to get you for whatever they can find. And you don't want to have proverbial dead birds in your freezer. So, you know. And I think Carl is right, the bread and butter of these investigations, particularly when the FBI go out, is 18 U.S.C. 1001, which is lying to federal agents. And every time I interviewed someone, I would let them know lying to a federal official is a felony.

COOPER: They can lie to you. You can't lie to them, right?

RANGAPPA: With that.


COOPER: The police can lie to you.

RANGAPPA: Oh, yes.

BERNSTEIN: And it happens.

RANGAPPA: Yes. You can play --

BERNSTEIN: You can bluff.

COOPER: We got to take a break. We'll continue the conversation. We'll see a more reaction from Capitol Hill what the top Republican is saying and if he's saying anything at all. We'll be right back.


[21:40:00] COOPER: The president and the White House say there is nothing to see here. For the Republican leadership the tactic seems to be there's nothing to say here. Take a look.


PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have nothing to add to these indictments other than this is what Bob Mueller was tasked to do. I haven't read the indictments. I don't know the specific details of the indictments, but that is how the judicial process works.


COOPER: Back with Kirsten Powers, Asha Rangappa. Also joining the conversation, Ryan Lizza, Scott Jennings, Matt Lewis, and Brian Fallon.

Brian, joining us the former campaign press secretary for Hillary Clinton, I'm wondering what you make of today.

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think politically today has a lot of meaning because you saw last week the Trump administration and its allies trying to gather ahead of steam to call Mueller's integrity into question, suggesting maybe he should step down. "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page was calling for that. Fox News was getting a steady drum beat.

I think after a day like today where Bob Mueller essentially dropped the mic and showed what a serious prosecutor really does and how he goes about mounting a serious investigation, you know, the campaign's former chairman under house arrest, bails at $10 million, staring at charges that could deliver 10 to 15 years in prison, which could be a life sentence given his age, another guilty plea from another advisor. He's playing for keeps. It sends a message to all the other White House staff officials. I think at this point it becomes much harder for the president to entertain any notion of firing Bob Mueller. It becomes a lot harder for Republicans to look the other way. If he even press entertain that idea.

COOPER: Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think they should seriously entertain firing Bob Mueller or taking any action that would stop this investigation because it is clear the Russians tried to meddle in the election. And I'm not yet convinced that there was high-level collusion. They did clearly try to cultivate people. We need to find out what happened and the president, I think, should seriously consider starting a task force to make sure this doesn't happen in the future. Because you had the attempt to infiltrate the campaign, but then we've also got all this digital advertising stuff going on, on the periphery.

I were the Trump White House, today, I'd be looking at this through this lens. What can I control and what can I not control?

The investigation dye is cast. They can't control what happens at this point. The FBI is interviewing people. Some have already lied. We don't know who else might have lie, I mean -- dye is cast. What they can control is policy and governing. So they need to control their impulses, focus on tax reform, focus on judges, focus on the crisis at hand in North Korea, try to get that stuff right. Because there's very little, "no tweet, no statement," can really change the course of the investigation at this point.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know if there's any "there" there. We don't know if there's any collusion. Maybe that there's not, but, you know, other people are going to down for other things. But if there is a "there" there, they're going to find it.

COOPER: There sure seems to be an effort at it, at least on the part of some people. I mean, --

LEWIS: And when you've had no-knock raids executed, you had people's, you know, storage facilities rated, you've had a guy wearing, probably, we think wearing a wire for at least a month, maybe months. If there's something to be found, they're going to find it.

COOPER: I mean, at this point, can we really say with a straight face there's no evidence of, you know, efforts at collusion, whether it's Donald Trump Jr. saying, you know, believing information is coming from the Russian government and saying great, let's take a look at it or this guy, Papadopoulos as well? He may -- you know, as low level as he may be.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLTICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one thing we know is the Russians were pushing on an open door in their attempts to find people in the Trump campaign who were interested and essentially --

COOPER: It seemed like multiple doors?

LIZZA: Multiple doors. From the Trump Tower meeting we know that, obviously, Don Jr. and Manafort and the whole senior campaign leadership was very excited to take that meeting and maybe a little disappointed when the meeting -- if it didn't bear fruit. We know that Papadopoulos was telling everyone in the campaign he could, that he wanted to set up meetings between, you know, between Trump and Putin, campaign officials and other Russian officials.

[21:44:57] And the plea agreement ends with this kind of cliff hanger, right? The agents say that not all the facts that they know about are in that plea agreement. And it ends with this very tantalizing, oh, someone told me about the thousands of e-mails that have dirt on Hillary Clinton. We don't know what happened next. The whole sort of (INAUDIBLE) sort of dies there. And, -- me and Brian are talking about this before. Is that Mueller's way of showing everyone, I know a whole lot more than any of you people thought I knew. And that's why he did that big reveal today with the --

COOPER: Yes. Asha, I want to ask you about the strategy of how that was worded and why not give up, why not announce everything that they have? But let's just take a quick break. We'll continue the conversation next.


COOPER: Back with the panel and a very unusual day in American politics, it's also the lowest point in the Trump presidency according to the latest NBC Wall Street Journal polls. Just 38 percent said they approve the job the president is doing, down five points since December. The previous low for this poll is 39 percent approval in May. Polling was taken before the news of the upcoming indictments.

Meanwhile, the latest Gallup tracking poll has him at 33 percent job approval. That's from yesterday. That poll was based on a three-day rolling average.

Asha, before the break, we were talking about the wording of the information that was released and the FBI basically saying that they haven't put out all the information of Papadopoulos. Why would they hold stuff back?

RANGAPPA: They want to make people nervous. Because when you don't know what Mueller knows, you get kind of scared. And when he comes knocking, you may be more willing to cough up some information. So I think --

COOPER: So they didn't have to put out the information they did? It wasn't some sort of requirement. They could have held everything back?

RANGAPPA: We'll, he's pleading guilty, so they're laying out enough to show that it substantiate the charge for which he is pleading guilty as legal matter, you know, he committed the crime. But, you know, it's not like Manafort where they have to lay out all the allegations against him because they're going to go and prove that in court. So it's a slightly different kind of document.

[21:50:06] The other thing that's really important to understand is that Mueller has other information from sensitive sources. So there may be things that he may not be ready to put out there yet or that he's waiting to corroborate from other -- by other means. And I think this is especially relevant with the Manafort indictment because, you know, Trump has mentioned that this is all stuff that happened before the campaign.

Remember that those two FISA warrants started in 2014 or so and continued all the way up until January of this year. So there -- and a FISA would mean that he was demonstrably and knowingly acting along with a foreign intelligence service. So there may be additional information that Mueller has that he either wants other people to corroborate in order to build a larger collusion case and he may supersede this indictment against Manafort as it grows.

POWERS: Does that mean that they might know that he actually talked to other people on the campaign about what he was told about the Hillary Clinton e-mails and they just left that out? Is that possible?

RANGAPPA: You mean Papadopoulos?


RANGAPPA: I think that's entirely possible.

FALLON: It seems quite likely. I mean, they're basically telling us (INAUDIBLE) who stood up at that hearing where Papadopoulos entered his guilty plea on October 5th, said this is just a small part of a larger investigation. So anybody thought that Bob Mueller's team was just going to settle for getting these old charges against Manafort for work that (INAUDIBLE) a campaign is fooling themselves.

You now have two instances, Papadopoulos and Donald Trump Jr. in June expressing their intent, their eagerness to obtain whatever the Russians were advertising as having had. It seems impossible to believe that after the Russians twice indicated to these representatives from the Trump campaign that they had the dirt on Hillary Clinton and wanted to help collude with Donald Trump's campaign that the Trump campaign just dropped it. What we are getting at, we know that they have the intent. What we don't know if they had the opportunity. Was there a follow-up meeting where the Russians actually came with the e-mails or started to plot out the dissemination plan for the e-mails?

COOPER: Or were there more e-mails from Donald Trump Jr. to, you know, Hope Hicks and other people in the campaign saying, wow, can you believe the Russians, you know, are backing dad's campaign? I mean, the only e-mails we've seen from Donald Trump Jr., are e-mails that he himself released, that e-mail chain.

LEWIS: This is why Donald Trump was so upset about a special prosecutor because if this just, you know, congressional inquiries you're not going to have the ability to subpoena --

COOPER: Thousands and thousands --

LEWIS: -- if you lie to the FBI, that's a crime. You can't even lie to them. I mean -- but, they can lie to you, you can't lie to them. Come on. We don't know. I mean, we just found out that Papadopoulos was, you know, arrested or whatever months ago. Is there anybody else? They're squeezing people who would know things. I mean, you know, Paul Manafort, does he cut a deal? Does he want to spend the rest of his life in jail? If anybody would know something it might be him. What about Michael Flynn that we never even talk about --

COOPER: Michael Flynn and his son. I mean, will Michael Flynn allow his, you know, if they are in fact indicted and does Michael Flynn then want to try to protect his son? I mean, there's so many unknowns in this. Just the sheer volume of information that Mueller has access to that, you know, has not leaked out.

LIZZA: You get the sense from reading all of the documents that are released today that the one person who is convinced there is collusion is Bob Mueller. I mean, you just get the sense that this is the very, very beginning of a massive investigation from the transcript of the plea agreement to where the lawyer that Brian referred to says this is just a tiny part of this larger investigation to just the way he seemed frustrated with Manafort and Gates and threw everything at them. To the way he did this sort of dramatic reveal with the information that none of us knew about with Papadopoulos.

FALLON: And even the timing of the unsealing of the guilty plea by Papadopoulos today is probably not a coincidence. If you go back and look at the transcript from the October 5th hearing, they had 30 days to keep it under seal if they wanted. It's not 30 days yet. So they decided they were ready to put it out today. I think it's a warning sign to everybody within the White House that, hey, we know about this and you'll get treated this way if you cooperate and you'll get treated this way if you don't. I also think it's a signal to Manafort, hey, we know about the collusion aspect of this. So if you want to lessen your sentence potentially on the FIRRHEA (ph) violations come (INAUDIBLE) argument that tells us some information about collusion.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody in the panel. When we come back, the people behind the massive investigation Ryan just mentioned. We'll dig into Mueller's investigative team ahead.


[21:57:19] COOPER: Amid the revelation of these indictments and a guilt plea today on Robert Mueller's investigation. We are learning more about his team's methods and as the probe continues with more indictments it's very possible this group of prosecutors is becoming even more important to understanding the overall investigation. Tom Former joins us now with a closer look. So what have you learned Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Robert Mueller's team here is absolutely a who's who of some of the top attorneys in this country. Let's take Andrew Weissmann, for example. He's headed up the Justice Department's criminal fraud units. He's a leading figure in prosecuting white collar and organized crime figures.

Michael Dreeben, over here, has argued more than a hundred cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. A very few lawyers ever get to say anything like that. He's also considered one of the top criminal law experts in this country.

Jeannie Rhee is a former deputy assistant attorney general. She came from the esteemed firm where Mueller is in private practice, as did James Quarles over here. He's considered to be the point person in terms of reaching out to the White House when they have to have direct contact.

And Aaron Zebley, he spent years with the FBI studying counter terrorism until he rose to the point of becoming the chief of staff for Mueller over here.

So just look, this is just the front row of his team here, and this is a true dream team of prosecutors. People who not only know how to collect evidence but how to present it, how to turn it into a winning case, how to defend it in court, and ultimately to produce not just indictments but convictions and convictions that will stick, Anderson. COOPER: Yes. I mean, certainly, some Trump supporters have complained that a few of these people have Democratic leanings and history of supporting Democratic causes or campaigns and that feeds the president's claim which is that this is a witch-hunt.

FOREMAN: Yes. There is some of that in the sense that some of these people have donated to Democratic causes. They've had ties to the Obama administration. For example, Rhee over here, she actually worked for the Obama administration and she represented Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation in some lawsuits. But that's a relatively small part of this.

And the real worry for the White House over here is less the partisanship than the sheer depth of expertise. Not just here but the bench behind all -- other attorneys back there, because they've handled so many cases of fraud and corruption and criminal conduct. And these people have honed their chops on cases like Watergate and Enron and many, many more in the Justice Department.

The bottom line is these are people who really know what they are doing and when the White House looks across the street at what they're facing, what they're seeing, Anderson, is a very tough army of attorneys who are headed up by a man who is known for being relentless and following the clues relentlessly to the end. Anderson.

COOPER: Tom Foreman, appreciate it. Thanks.

Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.