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Book: Bannon Calls Trump Tower Russia Meeting "Treasonous". Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with a bombshell. A bombshell book by Michael Wolff which paints a stunning figure of dysfunction in the Trump campaign and White House and contains stunning quotes from Steve Bannon who is, let's remember, the president's former top political adviser, his campaign mastermind, the one who stood by him when no one else would, even when the "Access Hollywood" tape hit.

Now, it seems Bannon has turned on his old boss. Bannon on the record saying things implicating him in the Russia probe and that suggests Trump's oldest son and son-in-law committed treason.

And yet for all that, Bannon told Michael Wolff for the new book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House", it's only part of the picture will paint of the president, how he operates in a White House under fire.

Wolff says he based the book on conversations and interviews with most members of President Trump's senior staff, even the president himself. According to Wolff's book, here's what Steve Bannon said about the June 2016 meeting between Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jr., son in law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Quote: The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers. They didn't have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous or unpatriotic or bad s -- expletive, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.

Bannon said more on that subject, and we'll go to that. But first, though, keeping them honest, the White House disputes much of the book. But what's really interesting is the White House line of attack on Steve Bannon now which seems to be exactly what they've done time after time, insisting that the person in question never really was much of a player after all. They did it with Paul Manafort. They did it with George Papadopoulos. They did it with Michael Flynn. They did it with Carter Page.

And now, listen to what they're saying about Steve Bannon. The president said, in part, Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Sara Sanders was asked about that today.


REPORTER: The president's statement suggests that Steve Bannon had very little influence in the White House, but the president himself elevated him in the same level as the chief of staff and put him on National Security Council. How do you reconcile that?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I wouldn't say that he elevated him to the same level of the chief of staff and I think that in the actions that Steve took, the president was clear that it didn't have a lot of influence on him or the decision-making process throughout his time here at the White House.


COOPER: OK. So, Sarah Sanders saying that the president's former campaign CEO and then chief White House political strategist did not have a lot of influence. Let's just look at some pictures to begin.

Look, there is Steve Bannon one on one with the president. Take another look, there's Steve Bannon exercising his walk in privileges at a meeting in the Oval Office. Oh, look, there's Steve Bannon with members of the president's national security team. And even after he left the White House, Steve Bannon continued to speak with the president.


REPORTER: A very quick one. I don't understand the timing of something. Steve Bannon left in the summer, late summer. If the president said he lost his mind in -- when left, why did he continue to talk to him for so many months?


COOPER: That's a good question. Press Secretary Sara Sanders answered by suggesting there was nothing irreconcilable, about those two irreconcilable notions.


SANDERS: Look, the president continues to have conversations with him often asked for by Mr. Bannon, the president spoke with him but that doesn't mean that he can't hold that position.


COOPER: So, she's saying that the president of the United States is having conversation with someone that he believes has lost his mind. Let that sink in.

And while you do that, as for Sander's claim that Bannon and chief of staff Reince Priebus were not on equal footing, which is what Sarah Sanders said today, here is the press release naming them to their jobs. Listen to the wording, please.

President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that Trump for president CEO, Stephen K. Bannon will serve as chief strategist and senior counsel to the president and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House e chief of staff. Bannon and Priebus will continue the effective leadership team they formed during the campaign working as equal partners to transform the federal government.

Equal partners, Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, transforming the federal government together as equal partners. Despite what Sara Sanders said today.

Again, the White House disputes what came out in excerpts in this new book by Michael Wolff. Sarah Sanders today.


SANDERS: We're certainly happy for people that had different opinions. But there is a difference between a different opinion and different facts. And people are entitled to an opinion but they are not entitled to their own facts and we have a big problem with people putting out misleading information. Those are very different things.


COOPER: Sarah Sanders talking about people putting out misleading information. Let that one sink in for a moment.

As we said, the White House line on this is downplaying Steve Bannon's role in the White House and outside the White House, and it comes straight from the top.

[20:05:02] CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House with the president's remark with a reaction.

Jim, we -- I read just a line of what the president said. But the president issued a statement in response to the quotes from Bannon. As I said, I mentioned just a line of it, explain the whole quote, what he said.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think we could retire the term dumpster fire because the bomb cyclone hit Washington a day early. We saw that here at the White House with the reaction of Steve Bannon.

I've never seen a statement from the president like this aimed at somebody who works so closely with him and so high up in his administration. But let's put this up there. We could read it to you. It's pretty remarkable.

It says Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had to fool a few people with no access and no clue whom he helped write phony books.

A couple of things, Anderson. One is the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did say today that the president is furious about all of this. And that is why we saw this statement from the president today.

But keep in mind, and one thing we haven't mentioned is that despite the fact that the president feels Steve Bannon lost his mind when he was fired last summer, he continued to take his advice right up until the Alabama Senate race. Remember, much of this town, much of the Republican Party was saying stay away from Roy Moore in Alabama. Whose advice did the president follow? Steve Bannon's.

COOPER: Do we know -- I mean, was there something in particular that made the president respond as strongly as he did with that incredible statement?

ACOSTA: Well, I talked to a source close to the White House earlier this evening who said that Steve Bannon basically crossed a line when he went after the first family, when he went after Don Jr., when he went after Melania Trump, saying according to one Michael Wolff excerpt that was put in the "New York Magazine" today that she was distraught and in tears on election night.

That going after the president's family was basically crossing a line and going too far. And in the words of this one source close to the White House, that meant the gloves had to come off and at this point, they are not holding back. That's suggesting Anderson pretty strongly that this war on Steve Bannon over here at the White House may continue for days if not weeks.

COOPER: Right. We should point out, the Michael Wolff's book is saying that the first lady was distraught on election night because he won, she didn't expect him to win, didn't want him to win --

ACOSTA: That's right.

COOPER: -- and it seemed to indicate that many people in the Trump orbit did not expect him to win at all and maybe even thought it wasn't a good idea if he did win.

ACOSTA: And a rare -- that's right, Anderson. And a rare statement from the first lady's office that we don't hear very much from, the first lady office put out a statement saying that Steve -- this book that was largely based on this interview with Steve Bannon, these conversations with Steve Bannon, Michael Wolff's book, belongs in the bargain fiction section of the book store.

So, it is pretty remarkable to see this kind of statement not only coming from the president but also the first lady's office as well.

COOPER: Yes. More to come, no doubt. Jim Acosta, appreciate that.

As we said, Michael Wolff's book has more from Steve Bannon and the Trump Tower meeting, including this, which again, if true, contradicts all the denials that the candidate knew anything about it. Quote: The chance to Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father's office on the 26th floor is zero. Talking about walking the Russians up. And yes, we reported the president was in the building at time of the meeting.

As for his son, Bannon suggests he will not stand a chance against investigators, telling Wolff, and I quote, they're going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV.

Perspective now from three seasoned Trump watchers, Josh Green, author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency", Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth about Trump", also CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

I don't know where to begin, Maggie. But what do you make of -- did you ever think that there could be a day where President Trump calls Steve Bannon -- you know, that he's lost his mind and that he didn't really have much to do at all with the campaign?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We should -- that was the most predictable of all of this, was that he was going to say that the -- that Steve Bannon had nothing to do with the campaign or his presidency, because as pointed out at the beginning of this segment, that is their go-to.


COOPER: Papadopoulos saying he is the coffee boy, or Carter Page, he didn't have a meeting with them.

HABERMAN: Look, but he's done a version of this before. Remember, he delivered a brush back to Bannon earlier in 2017, which was, essentially, Steve is a guy who works for me. And this is when Jared Kushner and Ivanka were complaining about Bannon.

However, I did not think we would see the fireworks that we saw today. Normally, we see fireworks on New Year's, not right after, and this has been extremely unusual.

Saying that Steve Bannon had nothing to do with the campaign or had nothing to do with the White House would be like saying David Axelrod had nothing to do with the White House. David Axelrod literally was there at the beginning of the Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Steve Bannon was not. That is not the same.

The stuff that Bannon --

COOPER: But Steve Bannon was there when that "Access Hollywood" tape came up and a lot of folks, Reince Priebus was, you know, getting off the train.

HABERMAN: He was brought in to fix things when Manafort was fired. He was seen as the solution and to be fair to him, the reality is if they had not made the change, almost all of Trump's advisers agree, that Trump probably would have not won.

[20:10:03] He was very comfortable with Bannon. That was a real relationship. He liked Bannon.

That obviously has dissolved into something else, and the comments that Bannon made about Trump's son -- Don Jr. -- were seen as crossing the line. Remember, "Breitbart", Bannon's Website, has been attacking Jared Kushner, his son in law, even attacking Ivanka Trump, for a while now.

But this isn't Bannon's own voice, attacking his son, accusing him of treason, saying that he must have know -- essentially saying there is a there there --

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: -- that's being investigated in the Russia probe. That's counter the party line. That's counter the White House line. It's really stunning.


Josh, I mean, the sources of some of the quotes we should say is opaque. It's not always clear who is recounting these stories. At one point, Wolff writes about an idea Kushner credited to Bannon. Wolff reports, quote, Bannon said the president, jumping on his son- in-law, that wasn't Bannon's idea, that was my idea. It's the Trump way, not the Bannon way.

How much -- how much of this -- I mean, how much of this about Bannon finally exerting that -- I mean, can we -- that it could be the Bannon way? What do you make of these quotes?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I don't know what to make. I don't know who Wolff's sources were. I think it's pretty clear that Bannon talked to him a great length.

But at the same time, Wolff was parked in the West Wing of the White House for a good deal of the early portion of the Trump administration. And also, it's clear talk to all sorts of other senior advisers.

COOPER: He was parked there. He was there in the White House.


GREEN: Yes, literally in the White House. And that he was also talking to other adviser, too. So, while I have no doubt that Bannon's responsible for the color -- colorful language and saying Ivanka Trump is dumb as a brick, I don't think we could automatically conclude that, you know, every negative scene about Trump or so on came directly from Bannon.

You know, the other factor here, I've been talking to some people around the White House and around Trump, is Michael Wolff was the author of a Rupert Murdoch biography and Trump has long worshipped Rupert Murdoch. It was suggested to me, too, that was one of the reasons why Wolff was able to get the face time and the access he apparently for the book. COOPER: And, Maggie, you agree with that, that just in terms of the

quotes? What do you make of some of the --

HABERMAN: So I think there are some things in the book that are true and some things in the book that are not true. I've read the book and I'm pretty familiar with the material.

I think that Josh is right, that this is not just coming from Bannon. There were multiple aides who spoke to him.

What Josh seems to be suggesting is that he had access to the president, and that as far as I understand is not true. What he -- he had a phone call that he doesn't describe in the book as Trump calling him. He described it as Trump calling a New York media associate and the basic substance of the call was the president was angry about a story that Glenn Thrush and I had written very early on, he was angry about this, he was angry about that.

And that appears to be the extent of the time that Michael Wolff with Trump, and maybe I'm wrong and Michael Wolff should obviously say that if that's the case. But it's left vague and it seems intentionally so. A lot of this appears to be concluding what Trump was thinking based on what various advisers would say.

GREEN: Yes. And I should say, I have no firsthand knowledge that Wolff did or didn't have any interview with Trump.

COOPER: Right.

GREEN: It was made to appear so in the excerpts of the book that I read, but I have no idea what the sourcing or editing was like in that book. So, I couldn't say for sure.

COOPER: Michael, I mean, someone who has profiled Donald Trump over the years, you know, I think back when Steve Bannon was on the cover of "TIME" magazine and that is something Trump doesn't like, particularly if it's an underling, or, you know, even a very top underling.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": Well, that's absolutely true. And I think if we recall how Jeff Sessions has faired, the president hasn't let go of his annoyance with Jeff Sessions. So, I think we're beginning what is going to be a battle royale. This is going to be a fight between Trump and Bannon.

Bannon actually is a very savvy, very intelligent player of the media. He's every bit as good at it as Donald Trump is. So, there is also going to be the author of the book brought into the mix.

So, his method and practices aren't exactly mine. I wouldn't use 500 words of supposed conversations that I didn't witness in a book and portray it as a quote.

So, there is a lot for the president and his folks to attack and that makes it trouble some for the rest of us and the press because we're going to have to talk about what the media does to Donald Trump and he'll make a big issue of that.

COOPER: Maggie, I mean, does it -- does it -- do you think the president has any idea that this was coming? Because, I mean, Michael Wolff had made earlier -- some public statements which were positive toward the Trump White House and I always thought, oh, was he is trying to curry favor in some way or get access? I didn't realize he was already in the White House.

HABERMAN: Yes. So, I mean, two things. I mean, what Josh said that he was parked -- that Michael Wolff was parked in the West Wing literally, and I saw him in the lobby of the West Wing at least once waiting to go see Steve Bannon.

[20:15:08] So, that is definitely true that he was there.

I believe the president did know about the book. His aides certainly knew about it. They did not expect it to be as controversial and as kind of slice -- you know, knife cuts as it is and I think they were caught off guard by that.

Michael said something that made me think of what you just mentioned about the media coverage and they are going to be a focus on how the media covers Trump. Michael Wolff was indeed very critical of how almost everybody else covered Donald Trump very early on in the administration when that was the president's perspective as well. His words lined up pretty closely with the president --

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: -- at a point when he was trying to get an interview with the president. He then has offered a book -- nearly 300 pages of which basically portray much of what everyone else in the media would who covers the White House or covers the investigation into Russia has been portraying for quite sometime.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: So some of this is affirming of reporting that's taking place and some of it is shedding or alleges to shed new light on other aspects of what has taken place.

D'ANTONIO: Well, the president's going to feel very betrayed --

HABERMAN: Absolutely. That's what I'm trying to say.

GREEN: He should.

D'ANTONIO: This plays right into his anger and rage at the media, into his life long narrative that everybody is a bad guy and everybody can be purchased and everybody is going to be betray him, everyone is dishonest. And so when he lies, and distorts, he's going to say, well, I'm just doing what everybody does. Everybody lies and distorts. Look at the dishonest media.

COOPER: Josh, you were going to say something?

GREEN: Yes. You know, Anderson, Maggie is too polite to say this, but one of the things that Wolff was also --


HABERMAN: Yes, I'm often accused of that.

GREEN: He was -- I'm standing up for you here. He was attacking I think Maggie's specific reporting during the time he was trying to get access to these people and he did. I mean, he manipulated the egos of the people in the White House to get this kind of access, to get up close and then turned around and wrote the kind of book they weren't expecting.

But I think it's also important to be clear that this was something -- this type of book was precisely the type of coverage that Wolff himself was criticizing to ingratiate himself with Bannon, with Kellyanne Conway, with a lot of senior White House officials and it worked. But he should be called out for that I think and people should be clear about how it was that he wound up in a situation where he could write this kind of book.

COOPER: Right. We've got to take a quick break. Coming up next, more from this book. Much more on how the president operates and how allegedly little he's been learning on the job, the very serious allegations about the Russia investigation contained in the book.

And later, reaction from a leading Russia ambassador on Capitol Hill, Senate Intelligence Committee vice chair, Mark Warner.


[20:20:22] COOPER: We're talking about the Michael Wolff bombshell of a book, what Steve Bannon said to him and what the others say about the president and how he works. And we should underscore, because this is already raising questions that some of the juiciest excerpts do not come in the form of direct quotes.

Here is Wolff characterizing the impressions of deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, that she had of the president allegedly in her early days on the job.

Quote: He didn't process information in any conventional sense, he didn't read, he didn't really even skim. Some believe that for all practical purposes, he was no more than semi-literate.

He trusted his own expertise, no matter how paltry or irrelevant more than anyone else's. It was, said Walsh, quote, like trying to figure out what a child wants.

Now, that last part is a direct quote. The other stuff is just from Michael Wolff.

Now, we called Katie Walsh and she referred us to what she told reporter Jonathan Swan of "Axios" which was that she never said the things attributed to her. That said, the passage does jive with how one other adviser, Sam Nunberg, described the candidate's attention span. Quote: Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the

Constitution to the candidate, quote, I got as far as the Fourth Amendment, Nunberg recalled, quote, before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back into his head.

You know, does that --

HABERMAN: That is very understated, this whole thing.

COOPER: There has been a lot out about how the president doesn't read and how he processes information. So, it's not really --

HABERMAN: No. I mean, look, that -- first of all, I think that Nunberg is on the record on that anecdote, at least in some fashion. So that doesn't seem completely out of line. I think that there are several areas where there is something that notionally accurate but the facts are not quite right.

I mean, he got -- and I hate to take it back to this, just standing on my head, he got minor things -- shots he took at other media outlets, he just got basic details wrong about stories, about things. And, you know, I worked with a lot of journalists early in my career who could talk about dealing in larger truths.

The actual details do matter especially if you are going to report that these are quotes from people and he claims as Michael said to have -- he paints these scenes of 500-word exchanges of dialogue.

COOPER: Right. But let's talk about -- with Steve Bannon, why would Steve Bannon go after -- say these things about the president. I mean, he was -- you know, so close to him all during this campaign. What is going on? What's the strategy?

HABERMAN: I think a couple of things. I don't know how much of it is a strategy per se. I think Bannon had genuine frustration about the way the White House was run. I think he and Jared Kushner butted heads. We saw that throughout 2017 and there was really nobody to kind of orbit the Wild West that was the West Wing.

John Kelly made a huge difference once he came in as chief of staff. In terms of how the staff function, he obviously has not changed the behavior of the president. You can just look at Twitter for that.

But it became a different place and the one thing that I do think became a unifying factor for White House staff members in 2017, was they all became unified against Steve Bannon. You saw that today in their statements, too. I think Bannon feels like he has nothing left to lose and also I think he is aware, A, that they are watching him very warily about how he's going to try to run the slate of candidates in 2018, outsider candidates and insurgents in the midterms.

And then he is going to paint himself as the king maker and the counter balance and perhaps rightful inheritor of the Trump movement. I think they are trying to get that done and I think he feels, knowing that's coming, he doesn't really have a whole lot to lose. COOPER: But, Josh, you know, for those interested in the Russia

investigation, I mean, the allegations that Bannon is saying that -- you know, that he can't imagine that Donald Trump Jr. didn't bring these people up to meet the president, to meet the president-elect which -- or to meet the candidate at that point -- I mean, that hadn't even been much in consideration. I always thought, well maybe -- there is a high potential that Donald Trump Jr. told his father about the meeting or what he felt about the meeting.

But it is pretty stunning -- you know, what Steve Bannon is saying about Donald Trump Jr., he is going to crack like an egg on national television, that it was treasonous.

GREEN: Well, it's certainly been an open question, did Don Jr. tell his father about. That's one of the questions we don't have answers to yet.

But I think it's important to stipulate, that Bannon himself, I don't believe was in a position to know. This meeting took place in June. Bannon didn't join the campaign until mid-August.

So, the way I read that excerpt was Bannon was asserting or speculating or positing that this happened, but I don't think we have any way of knowing. I'm not sure Bannon has any way of knowing what was said in the meeting, what Don Jr. did afterward and whether or not Trump was ever told about it.

COOPER: And it is interesting, but just the -- Michael, now that the White House is basically trying to diminish Steve Bannon's role.

D'ANTONIO: Sure. And there is a lot of surmisal in what's been written and what's been suggested by Bannon.

[20:25:03] I think one of the dynamics that Maggie might be able to speak to well is that Steve Bannon, his agenda I think is different from the mainstream Republican agenda and President Trump seemed to gravitate toward that mainstream agenda as the first year of his presidency evolved.

So, you wind up with this tax bill that the Bannon base doesn't like. There is nothing populist in this tax bill. In fact, Trump abandoned the promises he made about taxes and about other things, that the "Breitbart" alt right crowd really hung their hats on. And so, maybe Bannon is exacting some revenge for the loss of his agenda as well.

COOPER: Josh, I mean, another excerpt from the Wolff book about the president, quote, when he got on the phone after dinner, he'd speculate on the flaws and weaknesses of each member of his staff. Bannon was disloyal, not to mention he always looks like an expletive. Priebus was weak, not to mentioned he was short, a midget.

Kushner was a suck-up. Sean Spicer was stupid and looked terrible. Conway was a cry baby. Jared and Ivanka should never have come to Washington.

I mean, it sounds like stuff I guess he might say. We know he likes to poll friends about figurers in his administration, but again, the White House is calling this tabloid trash.

GREEN: Well, look, a lot of these charges or assertions do have the ring of truth. I mean, Trump is well-known for polling people about how they think his staff is doing, being very critical of the people who work for him. So, there is nothing to say that that isn't true.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: Right, he polls number of his staff on one another. That he definitely does and then he vents to each of them.


GREEN: And I think --

COOPER: I'm sorry. What, Josh?

GREEN: I said part of this -- I'm not sure that the White House anger is so much driven by Wolff's characterization of staffers as so much as it is that the idea that Trump is an idiot or is stupid and isn't -- isn't -- doesn't deserve the credit for his own victory.

I mean, the thing that Trump objected to by my book I'm told is that my thesis was that he wouldn't have been elected president without Steve Bannon. The parts of Wolff's book that I read certainly seemed to share that subtext. That is what is so angered Trump and caused him to go after Bannon in the personal nature that he did in the statements today.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie, Michael, Josh, thank you.

Up next, Paul Manafort is suing the Justice Department, saying Robert Mueller has overstepped his authority. Well we'll take a look at whether that lawsuit has any merit. We'll talk about it with Carl Bernstein, Jeffrey Toobin, and we'll get thoughts obviously on this new Wolff book as well.


[20:31:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is suing the Justice Department saying the special counsel Robert Mueller overstepped his authority in charging him with crimes that aren't related to the campaign. Manafort has been indicted on money laundering and other chargers. In a statement, a Justice Department spokesman says the lawsuit is frivolous but "The defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants."

Joining me now is CNN political analyst, author and legendary journalist, Carl Bernstein and CNN's chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And not so legendary journalist.


TOOBIN: Absolutely accurate.

COOPER: Is there any merit to Manafort's suit?

TOOBIN: I think it's very unlikely to succeed. It's not a crazy idea. You know, in 1987 when I was one of the junior members of the team that defended -- that prosecuted Oliver North, North filed a very similar lawsuit trying to get the case -- you know, the Walsh appointment, Lawrence Walsh who is the independent counsel, trying to get him disqualified.

I think this is even less likely to succeed as North's suit did not succeed. It might have a somewhat better chance as a motion to dismiss the indictment once he gets to trial as opposed to an entirely separate lawsuit. But I think, you know, politically it is just another example of how every tool is being used to try to discredit Mueller. Now it's his -- now he doesn't have the right to do what he's doing. His staff is biased. You just see day after day this is going on.

COOPER: Does it tell you, Carl, about where the investigation is?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: A lot. This is a -- part of a concerted effort by people around Donald Trump to make this investigation go away. And what we have seen in the past 24 hours with these tweets, my button is bigger than your button and I stopped airplane crashes and now this extraordinary book that goes to the same picture that all of us have known about Donald Trump, and have talked about -- for months. This is about a toxic president and a toxic presidency and a dangerous presidency.

And meanwhile in the midst of this, we have a criminal investigation that is now moving closer to Donald Trump's children. And particularly one of the things that has got Donald Trump very rattled is this Trump Tower meeting. And the fact that Donald Trump came up with the cover story that is part of the cover-up of what actually occurred, the story was concocted on the plane. That that meeting had nothing to do with those Russians there, it had to do with orphan children, et cetera, et cetera.

Donald Trump dictated that account. And he knows that Mueller has now pieced together exactly what happened on that airplane and that's one of the things -- just one indicative aspect of what's happening here. But really, it's about the toxicity of a president of the United States, his actions, his fitness, both in terms of possible criminality and his stability. That's really what this book is about.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, politically, could it be good for Mueller that, you know, a federal judge will rule on Manafort's suit?

TOOBIN: Well, I -- you know --

COOPER: With all of the attacks going --

TOOBIN: The thing about Mueller is, I don't think he cares about his political posture. He cares about bringing his case. I mean this is someone unique in Washington recent history who has no public relations apparatus at all. He's going to want to win this lawsuit because it means he could proceed. But I don't think he, you know, gets up in the morning and thinks, you know, how is my political positioning different than it was yesterday? He's got cases to investigate. He's got a trial to proceed to in May. That's what he's worried about and I don't think he's worried about, you know, how he's perceived.

COOPER: Carl, I mean you know better than anybody. You've seen a White House under investigation by yourself and others. How do you see how this White House is responding to all of these investigations?

[20:35:04] BERNSTEIN: It's responding as if it is part of a train wreck and is a cause of a train wreck and it doesn't know what to do, partly because of the president of the United States is himself calling the shots here, not listening to legal advice. But the facts are the problem here. It is the facts of the way this President conducts himself that are now mixed up with the response to the Mueller inquiry. That the President in his response to this investigation has shown his instability and the two things are now wrapped up together. And that's the train wreck. And that is the difference between Watergate.

The essential difference is the response of Republicans. Republicans were the heroes in Watergate. They said, we -- this is not about our party. This is about a criminal president of the United States.

TOOBIN: And it took a while.

BERNSTEIN: Of course. Well, it started in the hearings, in the Senate Watergate -- it started -- they were determined to get -- that's nice.

COOPER: Well your phone is on.


COOPER: Let me just switch. The -- I want to read a quote from this -- from the new book about Michael Wolff regarding Mueller's investigation. "This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose senior prosecutor Andrew Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f---ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. It's as plain as a hair on your face." This is allegedly according to Michael Wolff, a quote from Steve Bannon.

TOOBIN: That is devastating. I think accurate and even more devastating is another passage from the book where Bannon talks about Deutsche Bank.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: Deutsche Bank I think is the thing that Donald Trump and Jared Kushner want least to go into, because, you know, back in the '80s and '90s, none of the big New York banks would deal with Donald Trump. So he used Deutsche Bank exclusively. That's where all of his financial transactions go through as far as we know. And if in fact Mueller is going through Deutsche Bank for both Kushner and Trump, that's got to be very scary because that's where all the -- where all of the money goes. And, you know, if there's anything untoward to find, Mueller is going to find it.

COOPER: Carl, what do you think of the excerpts we've seen of the Wolff book?

BERNSTEIN: I think that it paints a picture that is very consistent with what all of us have been reporting. Maggie Habberman said it herself, it's -- we've seen it in "The New York Times", We've seen it on CNN, we've seen it in "The Washington Post", we've seen it in Michael D'Antonio's book, on and on and on. This is the real Donald Trump. And why I talk about this toxicity, because we have never had a president of the United States who reacts to events such as we've seen in the last three days.

We have never seen -- you know, these tweets are a roadmap of Donald Trump's mind. It's rather ugly twisted road.

TOOBIN: And --

BERNSTEIN: And we keep seeing one indication after another of why it is that in private, as I've been saying here on this air for a long time, that Republicans to each other are saying, we doubt this President's stability and yet they won't say it in public.


TOOBIN: Well, you know, the tweet yesterday that I found so unbelievably unprecedented and offensive was the one where he basically said, why isn't the Justice Department putting Huma Abedin in jail. I mean think about that. Think about the President of the United States targeting an individual who is not even under investigation as far as I know, and saying to the Justice Department that he controls that he wants to see this woman in jail.

We have never seen that in American history, except perhaps in the Alien and Sedition Acts under John Adams. I mean that's how far back you have to go back to see a president, you know, abusing his power over the criminal justice system. And, you know, I -- you know, Carl goes a little farther than I do in terms of how, you know, how bad Donald Trump is. But I think that indicates a level of panic that is really extraordinary.

BERNSTEIN: Well, one thing Donald Trump has had a real sense of where a big part of this country is. So I don't denigrate him in that sense. He's had a better sense of where part of the country is especially in terms of his base than his opponents have. But I'm talking about his conduct.

COOPER: Let's take a break.

BERNSTEIN: That's really what this is about.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein, I appreciate, Jeffrey Toobin as well.

Coming up, why today's book excerpts have put Steve Bannon on the list of people the Senate intelligence committee would like to have a word with? We'll hear from the vice chairman of that committee next.


[20:43:32] COOPER: Vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee agrees with Steve Bannon on at least one issue that the Trump campaign should have told the FBI about that Trump Tower meeting. As we've reported, Bannon, according to a new book by Michael Wolff went so far, to call that meeting treasonous. I spoke with the Senator Mark Warner just before air.


COOPER: Senator Warner, according to this new book, Steve Bannon said the meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton was treasonous, unpatriotic and should have been reported to the FBI immediately. Do you agree with that?

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VICE CHAIRMAN INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I think it's pretty amazing that the President's most senior political adviser through the end of the campaign and then for the first few months of his administration made these kind of allegations.

The one thing I absolutely agree with Mr. Bannon, I don't usually soar him as a source is that any reasonable persons, when Russians come over and offer dirt during the middle of the campaign on your opponent should have reported that to law enforcement.

Clearly, even the Australians understood that because "The New York Times" recently reported that Mr. Papadopoulos, another Trump campaign affiliates who got offered the same kind of dirt, told the Australians and when the Australian's ambassador saw that the e-mails started to get released, they were smart enough to go to the FBI. So I do agree with at least Mr. Bannon on the fact that the participants of that meeting should have revealed that to law enforcement in our country.

COOPER: I mean Bannon has also quoted saying that the chances that Donald Trump Jr. didn't bring the Russians "Up to his father's office on the 26th floor is zero."

[20:45:01] Is there anything you've seen corroborating that contention or the notion that Donald Trump Jr. may have talked to his father about the content of that meeting?

WARNER: Listen, Mr. Bannon makes that allegation, whether it's Mueller effort or whether it's our congressional investigation. I'd like to get to the bottom of that and find out why he made that allegations and if it's true or not.

COOPER: Do you want him to testify? Bannon?

WARNER: I think Mr. Bannon should testify before us or before Mr. Mueller. Clearly, if he's going to make these kind of allegations, I'd like to know under what basis.

COOPER: Bannon also, according to book, contends that the Mueller investigation of folks on money launder saying, "Their path to f---ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner." Went on to reference a report that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank regarding Kushner's family -- company saying, "It goes through Deutsche Bank and all of the Kushner expletive -- the Kushner expletive is greasy. They're going to roll these two guys up and say play me or trade me." Is money laundering something your committee is looking at?

WARNER: Money laundering falls more into the criminal investigation. That's more the purview of special prosecutor Mueller. We're more looking at collaboration and collusion and what could arise out of that. But let's make clear, Mr. Bannon's comments about at least Deutsche Bank and others isn't the first time. We've heard allegations similar to that coming out of the dossier and there have been other rumors. But again, I'm not going to be comment on those until we finish our investigation.

COOPER: The founders of Fusion GPS, you know, wrote an op-ed and it read in part, "A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate Committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections." Went on to say that that is happening again today by the President and his alleys focusing on the dossier and who paid for rather than the Russia meddling in our election. I'm wondering if you agree with what they say there.

WARNER: Well, I agree that there does seem to be a lot of smoke screens in terms of certain members of the House and others attacking the integrity of Bob Mueller or attacking for that matter the FBI and the Justice Department. I don't think that does our county long-term good in terms of the faith in our institutions.

But I think that the underlying basis of the dossier is what's the substance of this -- is that dossier true or not, and I know MR. Mueller is look at it and I think we're trying to sort through that as well because clearly there are very, very serious allegations. And one of the things with the GPS Fusion individuals, I'd like to have them back in to testify but I'd also like to have back into testify before the committee members because people like Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump's lawyer, they have testified before my staff, our staff but not before the members, and for that matter, not before the public.

COOPER: You say you want the GPS founders back to testify publicly. They say that, you know, they've -- there's hours of testimony, 21 hours in total and that they would like the transcripts of that released. Is that something you would support?

WARNER: Listen, I think what we've got to do is get their story out. That will be something we'll wok through, whether it's -- we don't normally release prior testimony because it's a -- it might impugn further witnesses from coming forward. But if they've got additional story to tell, I think they ought to have a chance to tell it. COOPER: Lastly, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Chris Wray met with Speaker Paul Ryan tonight about the House Intelligence Committee's Russian investigation. Could you tell us anything about that, Senator? Do you know anything about that?

WARNER: I -- you know, it's been -- the House Intelligence Committee is taking a very different path from the Senate Committee and the Senate Committee I'm proud of the fact we've had some bumps but we're still at this in a bipartisan way. We're till committed to getting all of the facts, doing it as quickly as possible but doing it in a way that's thorough and complete so that we can then present our case and more importantly or findings to the American people so they could draw their own conclusions but also so we can make sure it never happens again.

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

WARNER: Thank you.


COOPER: Up next, our Dana Bash has new reporting on what's fuelling the President's last two days of fury ever since he returned to Washington.


[20:52:51] COOPER: More breaking news tonight. We've got new details on what has fueled President Trump's last two days of erratic behavior or tweets, all those explosive tweets on everything from North Korea and a nuclear button, the Russia investigation as well as his heated reaction to the Steve Bannon allegations in this new book that we've been talking about tonight. CNN's Dana Bash has new details and she joins us now.

So what have you been hearing from your reporting? What does it tell you about the President's mind-set as he launched these tweets?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the tweets were so over the top and so disruptive on several sensitive national security fronts that I and my colleagues here in Washington, including and especially White House producer Kevin Liptak set out to find out whether or not there was something that specifically set the President off.

And what sources familiar with the President's thinking told us is that it was largely driven by the idea -- his behavior was driven by the idea that he is just furious about the Russia investigation. Specifically, the fact that the legal team around him has been telling him that the special counsel investigation was going to be over. Well, here he is, starting 2018, back at the White House and the Russia cloud is still very much hanging over him.

And that, of course, was exacerbated by the fact that he was coming back off a trip to Florida over the holidays where, by all accounts, he was really relaxed golfing and really in his happy place with his family, Anderson.

COOPER: Do we know if the President's frustration was also connected to what Bannon said in this book? Was that advance knowledge of it?

BASH: Well, the White House was obviously well aware that this book was coming. My understanding though, Anderson, is that they didn't know about the salacious details in it or the things that Bannon is quoted as saying on the record, especially about the Russia investigation. That, of course, hit a very raw nerve for the President. As I mentioned, he was already -- and still has already very upset about it.

COOPER: Obviously publicly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know, backs up the President's tweets in briefings. Is -- I mean is his team trying to manage at all his tweets?

BASH: Some are. Or at least tried to get the message to the President that some of the things that he's tweeted over the past 24 to 48 hours are not good for American policy, national security in particular, things about North Korea and the leader there that he said.

[20:55:08] That -- and there has been a bit of an attempt to talk to people who may have some influence with the President, on the President, especially on national security to convince him that this kind of thing should not be done, that they crossed the line that kind of make him look unstable across the world.

Now, unclear if those messages were actually delivered to the president today. But I should note that there is no sense of anybody that we talked to that the President is going to convince -- to be convinced not to tweet anymore, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. All right, Dana Bash. Dana, thanks very much.

Coming up, we're going to have more stunning details from the new book on the Trump White House. The explosive reaction from the President, how he's firing back at Steve Bannon, next.


COOPER: We begin this hour with this. Imagine for a moment Karl Rove kneecapping President George W. Bush or David Axelrod turning on President Obama. Neither of those things happened but this has. Steve Bannon, the President's former chief White House strategist and campaign CEO lashing out in a new book by Michael Wolff. The President hitting back, essentially calling him a nobody who had little to do with either his administration or his election victory.

The book is called "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House". The White House disputes much of it. Some of the sourcing, it seemed opaque, however, Steve Bannon, who may certainly have motives of his own and asses to grind, he seems to be fully on the record in this book.

[21:00:96] Here's what he said about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians, promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law, Jared Kushner and campaign chair, Chairman Paul Manafort.