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White House Stands by Porter Timeline Despite FBI Contradictions; Sanders Tells Press: I Give the Best Information I Have; FBI Chief: Pres. Trump Hasn't Directed Us on Russian Meddling; NY Times: Trump's Longtime Lawyer Says He Paid Stormy Daniels Out of His Own Pocket. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 13, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:04] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us in the second hour of "360".

On the table tonight, day eight of the White House cover-up of the Rob Porter scandal. The White House changes its story and tries to blame a new office. Russia threat ignored. The country's intelligence chiefs agree Russia is targeting this year's elections as well. Is the White House turning a blind eye?

The President said he hires the best people, so why one out of three of them left in the first year? A lot to get to in the hour ahead. We begin at the White House with CNN's Jim Acosta.

So, Jim, explain what Sarah Sanders said today about what the White House knew and when about Rob Porter.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there have been shifting explanations as you know, Anderson, for the past week and today was a new one. We had not heard the words White House personnel security office before today, but we heard it in the White House briefing. The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about some of these conflicting stories. Why the FBI director was up on Capitol Hill testifying that his agents had completed their investigation last July when we were told by Raj Shah, the Deputy White House Spokesman and Sarah Sanders that that process was on going and her explanation was, well, the office of personnel security had this matter and that they were still looking at it and that process had not been completed.

And so, Anderson, by my count, that is the fourth or fifth different explanation officially that we've heard from the White House as to why this information about Rob Porter's past was not being shared publicly.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting because it's just yesterday, she was pointing, saying it, it was law enforcement intelligence communities who hadn't finished the review process, which is -- I mean after Chris Wray said what he said, it was very clear the FBI had completed the background check. ACOSTA: That's right. And one of the things that we're hearing, Anderson, is that there are some growing frustration behind the scenes among White House officials as to what two of the principals who have been involved in all this have been doing and what they've been saying. The White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, as we've been reporting over the last week, has been called to the carpet a number of times by White House officials to ask privately saying, you know, what is John Kelly talking about in terms of his handling of all of this.

And then this evening, Anderson, I talked to a White House official who is raising questions about the White House counsel Don McGahn, who we understand was pretty aware of the situation last year, heard about these allegations on the background check last July. And according to this White House official, was not sharing enough of that information behind the scenes with White House officials.

Now, you talk to other White House officials who say, no, no, no, both Kelly and McGahn have been doing everything possible. But, Anderson, I think the one thing that is constant in all of this is what we heard today from the FBI director, who really without being prompted had this answer ready to go to say, listen, we completed this investigation last July. Anderson, that just does not explain -- does not fully explain what the White House has been telling us over the last week.

Apparently this information went to the White House office of personnel security, as Sarah Sanders said, but we don't have an explanation as to what they did with that information after that. And of course the ongoing problem in all of this is that the President, time and again, is asked about all of this and the only thing he really has said publicly is that Rob Porter says he's innocent and that we wish him well. But the President has had multiple opportunities to correct that statement and he hasn't taken hat opportunity. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, appreciate that from the White House. Thanks.

Very few Americans have ever heard of the White House personnel security office, but it does exist. For some guidance, we're turning to Chris Lu, who in 2008, ran the presidential transition for Barack Obama and worked as a White House Cabinet Secretary and is familiar with that office.

Chris, how does this White House personnel security office actually work? I mean do they conduct investigations into staffers and issue recommendations to the White House on clearances?

CHRIS LU, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE CABINET SECRETARY: This is an important office. It provides an administrative function in helping to facilitate those investigations. But to be clear, they're not conducting the background investigations nor are they the final decision makers. They're the conduit of information from the FBI to the West Wing and back. And so what Sarah Sanders here has tried to lay out really doesn't make sense and is not consistent with the function of the office when we were there in the Obama administration.

COOPER: So they wouldn't get the finished background investigation from the FBI and then sit on it for months and months and conduct their own investigation, you're saying?

LU: You know, look, it's conceivable that there's additional paperwork that needs to be done. But what's important to understand is that Rob Porter wasn't just the typical White House staffer. He was one of no more than 25 assistants to the President. He was the gatekeeper of all paperwork that went to the President. So whatever they got from the FBI should have been moved along very, very quickly.

And let's be clear, there also -- this is not an issue that needed much analysis. You know, there were abuse allegations against him from two ex-wives. I'm frankly not sure what additional analysis would have needed to be done in this case.

[21:05:06] COOPER: Sarah Sanders also said they, "Had not finished their process." If this office is mainly sending information from the FBI to the White House, what process exactly would they be finishing over the course of several months?

LU: I'll be honest, I don't get it either. There's not additional process. Look, I can understand if, you know, this was a case where a staffer had a lot of foreign contacts, foreign relatives. You might have to dig through that a little bit to make some sense. This is pretty cut and dried abuse allegations. And so if you're going to have a zero tolerance policy about this, as General Kelly said, that should have been a pretty easy determination after they got this information from the FBI.

COOPER: The White House now says that they have about 100 to 200 people working in this office. Does that make any sense to you?

LU: That makes no sense at all. My understanding is both during the Clinton administration and the Obama administration, there were probably no more than a half dozen people that worked in this office. So I don't really know where they're getting that. There are only total in the whole White House complex several hundred people, maybe 500, 600 people. It's inconceivable that there would be this many people in one office.

COOPER: I read that this is an office that basically hands out badges, is that right?

LU: Well, they have many functions. Yes, they're in charge of the badging system at the White House. They're ensure -- they're in charge of ensuring that when a White House official is traveling, that we understand what security procedures we're supposed to be taking. So they do provide an important function. There are, as I understand it, former law enforcement people that are there. But they're not in the business of doing background investigations. The FBI does that.

COOPER: Chris Lu, appreciate your expertise. Thanks so much.

LU: Thank you. COOPER: Let's talk about with the panel. Joining me now is Ryan Lizza, Jason Miller, Maria Cardona, Mike Shields, Asha Rangappa, and Paul Begala.

Ryan, you heard what Mr. Lu said. I mean, certainly seems like the White House's argument has shifted yet again from yesterday, pointing the finger at the FBI and intelligence agencies as not completing their background check. Now, it's this relatively obscure office which doesn't actually do investigations.

RYAN LIZZA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And what changed is the FBI came out and said, hey, we investigated this. We sent it to the White House. It was their ball from there, their responsibility to do what they should have done with this information. One of the things this points to is perhaps as president you don't want to be at war with your own FBI. In a normal administration, you might have some coordination with the FBI about how to handle the sort of public relations on something like this.

But handing off the responsibility to an obscure bureaucratic office at the White House, which does not have nearly the responsibility from all the experts that have talked about this today that the White House is claiming they have, seems like just passing the buck.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Paul you worked at the White House, how does the process work within the White House personnel security office as you understand it?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. Back in my day, my recollection is like two to four people. And they are -- the were fine people that they gave you your pass, the FBI, so this person clears, you go over there and on your last day is the next time you see them when you turn in your gun and your badge and you head out, you know. It's inconceivable they would be doing investigations. We have the FBI, the world's greatest investigative agency.

And here's the problem with this, shifting the blame and passing the buck. There was a national security risk every minute that Rob Porter was handling classified information. He may be fully innocent, but he was susceptible to blackmail. And if the Daily Mail or Mirror or whatever they are of England could find the ex-wives and girlfriends he allegedly beat and the temporary emergency protective order from the city of Arlington, Virginia, which might be a public document, the North Koreans could have found it, but maybe they didn't but the Chinese or the Iranians or the Russians. And that's the problem here.

If you can possibly set aside the alleged manifestly evil conduct and criminal conduct if true, you still have this national security risk. And that's why the notion that it would languish in Room 86 at the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office building is nuts. It's unimaginable.

COOPER: Well, Asha, I mean, it is also interesting, according to reporting, that is -- there are dozens of people in the White House who do not have or, you know, have not passed their background checks? ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It's astonishing. So it's been over a year now, and the whole point of conducting these background checks is to determine whether the people who have access to the most sensitive information are trustworthy, have good judgment, have good moral character. You go through training as an FBI agent on how to ask the right questions to suss these things out. This is clearly something that would have come to the surface in a background check.

But, Anderson, remember that this is an administration that hasn't been hypervigilant about security issues. They kept on Michael Flynn for two weeks after Sally Yates came and told them he was a national security risk. They've been cavalier about filling out their SF 86. They don't seem to think that it's a big problem to omit things. So I think that they believe that this process is an annoyance and not something that's actually there to protect the country.

[21:10:07] COOPER: Jason, just from a communication standpoint, I mean we are now in week two of this story. Had they handled this directly in forthrightly early on? I don't know that we that we would still be here talking about this. And Chris Wray coming forward and basically saying actually, no, what they've been saying, this is what happened.

JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, the number one rule of crisis communications is when you're in a hole quit digging and don't go and give new variables for your opponents to go and chew up. I mean the messages are real simple here. Rob Porter is a bad guy. Domestic violence is a crime. We have zero tolerance. If there's even a hint of anything about this, then you're out of here.

I completely agree with both what Paul and Asha were saying with regard to the fact that someone like this shouldn't have been this close to the president. This person shouldn't have been a chief of staff on Capitol Hill. They shouldn't have gotten into the transition office. They shouldn't have been a part of the administration at the very beginning here.

And so what people want to see going forward, supporters of the president and I think most Americans, they want to know the vetting system has been fixed. They want to make sure that no one else who could be blackmailed or anything like that is anywhere near the president. And they want to see strong leadership from that side. But the other thing too is that if the administration is looking in the rearview mirror, if they're going back and talking about time lines and process and things like that, I mean that's just not going to be a winning message.

I mean, people voted for President Trump because they believe in his agenda, and they want to see what he can go and do. Put the president out there going and doing that as opposed to having other people talking about time lines and things like that. That's just going to get him jammed up, and it's not going to get him out of this.

COOPER: But it doesn't help, Maria, when, you know, Sarah Sanders refuses, you know, the obvious question is point blank when did General Kelly know about this information, and she says, well, I'm not going to get into the details of this, but we all knew, you know, shortly after it was published, we being everyone in the White House, which is just avoiding the question. It just sort of drags it on.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's exactly right. And that's where I think what Jason laid out, while, yes, that would be the ideal, that would never happen in this White House. First of all, because in order for this to be really cleaned up, you have to have somebody that actually admit that there was something wrong and that there actually needs to be something cleaned up.

Trump on down refuses to ever say that anything was wrong. John Kelly himself said, "The Wall Street Journal" asked him today or yesterday, do you think that this was handled, you know, in a wrong manner and would you do it again differently? He said one word answer. He said, no. That doesn't point to an administration who understands that there is something wrong here.

And as much as they want to blame it on the vetting process, to me right here, the vetting process works. The FBI told them the information. The vetting process was not what was wrong here. The vetting process was not what failed. What failed was the moral character and the understanding that having a wife beater in the White House is not something that you should have in the White House, in the Oval Office, having to do with national security, but also because it's not the right thing to do.

COOPER: Mike, I mean, does it seem to you -- I guess there's one alternative explanation, which is they, you know, it was sort of held up in this White House, obscure White House personnel office just to string this along, just to kind of delay answering something which they either didn't know how to deal with or didn't want to deal with, which is neither, which is appropriate?

MIKE SHIELDS, FORMER RNC CHIEF OF STAFF: Right. I mean I agree with Jason and they're trying to figure out what happened. It seems to me that there's some people in there that don't actually know what happened. And so I think that both Sarah Sanders is sort of being hung out to dry because I don't know that she's getting the whole story. I don't believe the president knows the whole story. They're trying to figure it out. I think they are trying to get to the bottom of it. And eventually we are going to figure this out. This is going to be and we are talking about these things will be made public. We'll find out exactly when did somebody know about this and what should they have done about it.

And so, you know, Rob Porter apparently, his former wife that came on with you said that he had contacted them saying, quit saying this. You're stopping me from getting my background check. So he knew that this was a problem for him. So that means that somebody sort of knew in the White House and they should have done something about this.

COOPER: Do you think the White House has been honest about all that went on?

SHIELDS: Well, when you say the White House, I mean --

COOPER: There's Sarah Sanders, the public --


SHIELDS: Yes. This is what -- there's multiple things to say when you say "the White House." I mean, I believe that the president is not being served by some of his staff here, and I believe that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is sort of having to go out and do something when she -- and she said today many times, this is the best information that I have.

COOPER: Right.

SHIELDS: That sounds to me like people that are trying to get to the bottom of this and fix the problem. They're not going to come out and tell us that's what happening. Eventually something will be fixed and they'll come out and tell us when they the problem.

MILLER: And that's Sarah's job. And that's in, you know, quite frankly anyone else even on the communications team. I mean, they have people in place that are supposed to be doing that and that's I completely agree with what Mike was saying, is that the President has been let down here. And that we cannot have people -- if there was anyone, and, again, we don't know exactly what piece of paper went in front of what staffer at what point, or if it ever did.

[21:15:01] But if it were to come out that someone knew in absolutely undeniable terms that this was a wife beater that was this close to the President, I think that's a real problem. I think they're probably --


COOPER: You pull that thought, we're going to continue the discussion after a quick break.

Also ahead, the FBI Chief says President Trump has not directed him to stop Russian meddling and the Russians are at it again, already targeting this year's midterm elections.


COOPER: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has had her hands full fencing with reporters over the Rob Porter resignation and an ever changing administration narrative. Today she said essentially she's doing the best she can with what is in front of her.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the White House still maintaining that John Kelly really had no idea about these allegations of domestic abuse until this story broke?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can only give you the best information that I have, and that's my understanding. But we're simply stating that we're giving you the best information that we're going to have. Obviously, the press team is not going to be as read in as maybe some other elements at a given moment on a variety of topics, but we relay the best and most accurate information that we have, and we get those from those individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talked multiple times about wanting to give us the best information that you have. This scandal has been going on for a week now, and we still don't have answers to the basic questions of sort of who knew what, when, whether General Kelly --

SANDERS: I've done the best I can to walk you through that process, as has Raj. We've done that pretty extensively, and I'd refer you back to all of the statements we've given on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to ask you whether you've spoken specifically to General John Kelly and to the White House counsel to ask them these questions because you said, I'm not aware or I'm not sure.

SANDERS: I have, and this is the information that was given to me by those individuals.


COOPER: And back with our panel. I mean, it is interesting because in the past days last week, she -- when asked pointblank about when Kelly knew and what he knew, she would say, I'm just not going to get into the details of that, sounding as if she did know what the details were but she just didn't want to get into a tick tack on it.

RANGAPPA: Here's the big picture, Anderson. You can't let the President off the hook or the Chief of Staff. These are people -- this is -- not just one person, multiple people who are operating on interim clearances.

[21:20:04] That means they are not completely cleared this was since, you know, over a year. Anybody who's worked in any agency where they get top secret clearance, there was a, you know, max nine months maybe if there's something. He's got to know that something is holding it up. And one would think that as the commander in chief and head of state, he would actually wonder what it is about multiple staff members that they're not complete.

COOPER: Or at least Kelly with a military background.

SHIELDS: No. That -- right. I mean, this is -- the President gets criticized for not reading every single brief. And, you know, he doesn't delve as far into things these people want. Do you think he's asking --


SHIELDS: He has a whole staff to take care of this, a chief of staff and people on down. They are to bring to him a problem.

COOPER: But you would think Kelly as a former military guy and who's head of the staff, and this guy is closest to him, would be investigating -- would at least want to know what's wrong with this guy.

SHIELDS: Yes. You would think, and if nothing else, even outside of the moral implications of having someone like this in the White House, which they should be nowhere near the White House. But, you know, the political implications, I mean, look what's happening, I mean, there's this incredibly damaging political story so they even get away with this like almost naively.

It's hard for me to believe that these people knew this and just said, oh, let's just continue because it would be so absurd to consider that someone would do that. And it's -- they're going to have to come and prove that that's not what happened.

COOPER: Why -- Paul?

BEGALA: The FBI knew.


BEGALA: There are allegations. And I bet you a beer they didn't just sit on it and give it to some bureaucrat in the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office. This is such a high ranking person. The job is so sensitive that they took it to somebody.

And my guess is it was the chief of staff or the general counsel, the White House counsel. And this President, and I'm perfectly willing to believe he didn't know, I really am, the President didn't know. But someone very senior, for a case like this, for a job like that, for allegations like these, that went to a very high level, and that's who we want to know who didn't protect our country.

CARDONA: That's exactly right.

LIZZA: Can I just go back to the clip that we showed of Sarah because I think Sarah did something, Sarah Sanders did something that no White House press secretary wants to do, which is basically to say, look, guys, I don't know, I'm out of the loop, right? You never want to do that because then the people in the room say, what's the point of you being up there?

But I supposed if it's true, it's the honest thing to do here. And it gets to the point that Mike was making before the break, that this White House, when you say what does the White House think, it's factionalized. There are different camps, and she's basically saying either I was lied to previously. I didn't get the right story, and I don't know what the story is now. And it's sort of -- there's a question of what's the point of those briefings are if she's still out of loop.

COOPER: The President had two opportunities today to say something about domestic violence. And, you know, clearly it seems like this is going to be an issue until he does say something about it. Why not just get ahead of that, I mean, you know, if he believes as the White House says, that domestic violence is a terrible thing and he believes in due process, you can hold both those ideas in your head at the same time, why not say it?

SHIELDS: And Jason made this point before. And I wish he would because I believe that he feels this way. Feel -- I think he has two daughters, he has granddaughters, and private people will tell you how much this is something he won't tolerate. I mean we heard in private as he called Porter a sick puppy. That's actually where his -- what his beliefs are.

And so he would do himself a huge service to come out and show that side of himself and tell people I won't tolerate this. If there's anyone else in my administration, they're going to get thrown out too. And from this point forward, I'm going to pay, you know, closer attention to this thing and get rid of people like this. I wish he would do that. It would help him, politically.

CARDONA: I think he would have real difficulty doing it. I hope he does it too. That is what the country needs. That is what little girls need. That is what women coming of age need, for the President of the United States, to make a statement to say, yes, your truth matters. I think he would have real difficulty doing that because this President doesn't know how to separate issues, the same way that he doesn't believe in Russian meddling because he thinks it would make him an illegitimate president. He's not going to give a speech on this about how the White House doesn't tolerate domestic abuse because he thinks people will link it to the 16-plus women who have accused him of sexual harassment.

COOPER: Talking the Russia thing, actually, let's just stand by because ahead there is unanimous agreement from the nation's intelligence community about the Russians, they intend to meddle in this year's midterm elections. What the President is doing or not doing about it. Details ahead.


[21:27:42] COOPER: When the country's intelligence chief gathered in the Senate today, they were all of one mind on a single topic. No question, the Russians will meddle in this year's midterm elections. Take a look what they say.


MIKE POMPEO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Yes, we have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on t next election cycle here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with Director Pompeo's assessment about the likelihood of the 2018 occurrence as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I agree with Director Pompeo, this is not going to change or stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It is not going to change nor is it going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have not seen any evidence of any significant change from last year.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. You know, Chris Wray of the FBI, was asked or said that the steps the intelligence agencies are taking are currently not, "Not specifically directed by the President." I'm wondering what you made of that.

LIZZA: Well, I think he's trying to say -- maybe he's trying to straddle this line of thinking that the public doesn't believe that Trump is interfering with -- in any way with the Russia investigation, or he's just outright saying the President doesn't care about Russian meddling.

And it is sort of jarring to see that lineup when every senior member of the intelligence community is at odds with the public statements of the President on Russian meddling.


LIZZA: I mean these guys are up there saying that it's happening now, and it hasn't changed when their commander in chief has repeatedly said that it never happened and that it's a hoax.

COOPER: Now, I want to play something that Senator Angus King said at the hearing.


SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There's no doubt, as you all have testified today, and it would -- we cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, with a whole of government response when the leader of the government continues to deny that it exists.


COOPER: Jason --

MILLER: Yes. So, Anderson, I mean this gets back to the crux of the problem is that I think everybody across the board acknowledges that there was an attempt by the Russians to have some influence in the 2016 election.

CARDONA: Except Trump.

MILLER: Hold on. But here's the fact, and respectfully speaking, you're kind of making my point for me, is that my left of center friends immediately jump to 2016 and start trying to blame the Russians for why Trump is in the White House and why Hillary lost even though sometimes they blame Comey and then they're back to the Russians and they're all over the map that this is the problem is the Democrats can't get out of their own way, and they keep trying to bring up 2016.

[21:30:03] CARDONA: That's not true. MILLER: The President has acknowledged that there was -- that the Russians attempted to have some involvement, but tell me one single vote that they changed.

CARDONA: But that's not what they're saying. Jason, that's not what they're saying.


MILLER: -- that's where it just my left of center friends, they get so triggered on this.

CARDONA: No. So you have completely drunk the Trump Kool-Aid because that's exactly what he wants people to think. That every time we talk about Russian meddling, it means that, oh, the left and Democrats are saying that Trump is an illegitimate president.

While some may say that, and I actually do believe that the Russian meddling had something to do with him winning, that is a completely separate issue from the fact that we as a country, the United States of America, not Republicans, not Democrats, have to be concerned that a foreign adversary, a foreign power is meddling in our elections and is trying to change the outcome or to direct the outcome in however they want to do it, period.

MILLER: That's why --

CARDONA: That is completely different from the other thing you're talking about. But they can't be on top of it if the President of the United States doesn't tell them. This has to be a priority.

MILLER: Here's why I disagree. Because if the President was giving them specific instructions on this, then you'd be jumping out saying now the President is trying to meddle in this investigation.



RANGGAPA: You're conflating two things. And as Maria just said, there's investigation to what happened. There's what are we going to do to protect ourselves --

MILLER: Angus King just conflated all together.

CARDONA: No, he didn't.

RANGGAPA: I'm telling you, you're conflating it together. And in order for the intelligence agencies to take action, they need direction from the President. The CIA takes orders, the CIA does not engage in covert operations on its own with out the President.

MILLER: Do you think Mike Pompeo sits around on his hands and just like, you know, thought bubble, I'm waiting for someone to tell me how to do my job.

RANGAPA: Yes, actually, that's the law. The President has to authorize --

CARDONA: Wray actually said actually said it. Wray just said that there was no directive on how to deal with it. He just said that in the hearing today.

COOPER: Hasn't there been a lot of reporting about how President and that people don't brief the President on Russia stuff because they are afraid he will interpret it in the wrong way.

SHIELDS: He has also said on the record that I trust these guys and I believe them on this. He has -- you know, there's a lot of things off the record. That's an on the record statement of the President.

Look, I'm sort of in the middle here. Russia is an enemy of this country and they're trying to infiltrate our elections and something has to be done about it. That's a really serious issue. But the idea for Democrats to act like they don't try to make this a partisan issue, which just pushes everyone into different corners, is a joke. I mean, they -- just watch what's going to happen. They make this a massively partisan issue. The Russia investigation, they conflate those things all the time. They try to make connections to them. And investigation that has shown no collusion whatsoever had been a complete waste of time up until now. And -- but, yet here we are talking about their partisan way.


COOPER: It's not just about trying to maybe manipulate elections. It's also about sowing discord in this country and raising doubts, and that they seem to have been very successful at that.

BEGALA: They have and they've done that in other countries. And I had to say, this is me as a wordsmith, I hate calling it meddling. John McCain called it an act of war.



BEGALA: This was an attack on the United States of America. Not on just the Democrats, that was this time, it could be you the next time. They attacked our country. And not just the Democrats, 419 members of Congress, the majority of whom are Republicans, voted to sanction Russia, to punish them for that. Ninety eight senators, the majority of whom are Republicans, voted to sanction or punish. They instructed the President of the United States to do so. He swore an oath to faithfully execute the laws. He will not faithfully execute that law.

Why? Jason, that's so off brand for him because he's a tough guy. If somebody hits me I hit back a thousand times harder. He's tougher on Gold Star families. He's tougher on Rosie O'Donnell. Why is he such a wuss on Russia?

MILLER: Well, Paul, the thing you seem to forget here is, who was President when all of this was supposedly going on? Democrat, Barack Obama. BEGALA: Well, he was not tough enough at all, but he's not there now. I'd be complaining about him if --

MILLER: Exactly. We're playing a very complex --

BEGALA: He should be punishing --

MILLER: -- public game when it comes to the Russians, when it comes to North Korea, when it comes to Syria and number of things. Who I want on top of this one, Mike Pompeo, Chris Wray. I want folks like that who are doing it. I don't need the President out there making a whole bunch of public statements on this. I want our law enforcement and our national security people --


MILLER: You guys -- if you guys are sleeping on the North Korea threat and you guys are sleeping on what's going on in Syria, then you guys --

CARDONA: We're talking about Russia. We're talking about Russia.


SHIELDS: He's given aid to the Ukraine's. The absolute number one thing Russia does not want to see happen is us giving aid to Ukrainians. He has reaffirmed NATO. The second thing that Russia does not want to see is us reaffirming NATO. He negotiated a peace in Syria, completely controverting what the wishes of the Russians were in Syria. So when it comes to -- I'm guessing that -- clearly the policy is to be tough with Russia. So for not doing it there must be some other reason --

CARDONA: He also had secret conversations with --

RANGGAPA: Yes, there is another reason.


[21:35:01] COOPER: Another quick break. We'll have more of the conversation in just a moment.


COOPER: Back to our conversation about Russia and what U.S. intelligence chief say is a firm plan to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections.

Asha, as somebody who used to work at the FBI, I'm wondering, does it have, in your opinion, a chilling effect in the CIA, in the FBI, and other intelligence agencies if people in those agencies, a, hear the President going after their agencies, going after the FBI, going after the intelligence community. And also call the Russia story fake news, a hoax? Does that have a kind of a ripple down effect, do you think?

RANGGAPA: I don't think it's going to have an effect on what they do day to day. They're going to keep their heads down. I mean, the FBI is going to monitor spies, neutralize them. The CIA is going to gather intelligence.

But in terms of coordinating it into a comprehensive strategy to present to the President, feel that they are going to get an ear and someone who is going to be thoughtful and come up with a response, I don't think they're doing that for the reasons that Maria has mentioned.

Clearly we've already had reporting that they're afraid to mention Russia because it makes him upset. And there is here, as Paul mentioned, appears to be a very strong reluctance to stand up to Putin, whether it's sanctions, whether it's using the money that's been allocated to the state department to counter propaganda, whether it's to direct the CIA --

COOPER: But what the White House says is just the threat of the sanctions were enough to have an impact already. That's -- I mean that was the line.

BEGALA: That's not what our intel chiefs said today.


SHIELDS: -- three concrete ways that he has stood up to Putin and then you just said the White House is reluctant to stand up to Putin. What about those -- do we not think that Vladimir Putin wants the U.S. to give aid to Ukraine where they have troops or by the way Vice President Biden said, go ahead and invade Crimea, hate the Ukraine's, don't fight them, this will cause a war. Which then told Putin, you know what, we shouldn't invade the Donbass as well.

[21:40:02] We have now given aid to the Ukrainians. Is that not standing up to Vladimir Putin?

RANGGAPA: I'm talking about the homeland and our electoral processes and he is giving Putin the green light that go ahead and do what he's done before.

SHIELDS: Four Congress has given his leverage to negotiate on other things like aides to Iran, like aides to North Korea that we have direct --

RANGAPPA: How do you negotiate on a covert operation?

MILLER: It's not as if our intelligence directors are going to come out and put out a memo and say here are all the specific things where we've caught on what they're doing. Of course, they're still working through it and making sure that it doesn't happen. I mean, we can't have any foreign interference in the 2018 elections, I mean, period, pointblank. I don't think anyone disagrees with that.

But I don't want our intelligence chiefs to go out and telegraph every single thing. The last administration would telegraph all of their moves. This administration they shouldn't do that. I think folks like Pompeo and Wray, smart cookies. I have a lot of confidence. COOPER: Hey, there's some breaking news tonight about that reported hush money paid to porn star -- I don't know if she's a star, but porn actress, I don't know whether she is an actress, anyway, Stormy Daniels, over her alleged affair with the President years ago. "The New York Times" is now reporting that Michael Cohen, the President's lawyer, says he paid the $130,000 out of his own pocket.

Maggie Haberman joins me now on the phone.

Maggie, explain what this story is.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Sure, Anderson. Michael Cohen told me that he had paid that $130,000 payment that "The Wall Street Journal" first reported on last month as coming from an unknown LLC that he had set-up, but he had not answered any questions about it. He now confirms that he paid it. He says it was money out of his own pocket, that it was not money from the campaign or money that was routed through him in some other fashion. He said this because it's essentially what he said in response to a complaint the common cause filed, the good government group with the FCC and the DOJ about the nature of that payment. They allege it was an in kind contribution. There was widespread speculation that it was.

Look, we obviously have not seen bank records, but Cohen has been Trump's lawyer and working at the Trump organization for roughly a decade in the time that I've known him, and he was, you know, among the most vocal attack dogs on behalf of Trump last year. And he would often chase down information even if it was later deemed false because he kept saying to people that, you know, even false information could be damaging to him. He would not answer a number of additional questions, though, including why he did this, whether the President knew, you know, when exactly this took place, and so forth and so on. So this will go on, but this is the first time he's talked about it.

COOPER: Let me ask you, Maggie was there a reason why he spoke now about it, because obviously, this was a story that broke several weeks ago. Questions were raised. Questions were asked about him. He could have said very well right then, that was my money. I gave it personally. Was there some sort of a filing from this --


COOPER: -- lawsuit?

HABERMAN: He had a window with which to respond to the FEC and this was right within that window, so he addressed it publicly.

COOPER: So he addressed it publicly, but didn't answer any further questions that you had?

HABERMAN: Correct. Correct. And there are a number of remaining questions.

COOPER: What questions would you ask, I mean, would you like to get answers on? HABERMAN: Well, I mean the questions that I did ask were, you know, why then? Did the President know? You know, is there any -- essentially is there any record of this transaction in terms of his personal money? Were there any other similar circumstances? You know, remember Cohen has said that Trump has denied a relationship with I think her real name is Stephanie Clifford, with the woman whose stage name is Stormy Daniels. Then that raises the question were there other similar instances where money could have been paid.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, from "The New York Times". I appreciate it. Maggie, thanks very much.

Up next, we'll take a break. Our panel weighs in on the breaking news on the pay out given to Stormy Daniels and more ahead.


[21:48:10] COOPER: Last we heard of Stormy Daniels she was on "Make America Horny Again" tour, I believe in South Carolina was her appearance. There's breaking news tonight. President Trump's personal lawyer confirming to Maggie Haberman at "The New York Times" that he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to Ms. Daniels, the porn actress who allegedly had an affair, I guess, or an encounter with President Trump. That's reporting tonight from "The New York Times".

Stormy Daniels was on Jimmy Kimmel show, was asked if she had a nondisclosure agreement that was stopping her from talking about the alleged encounter. Here's what she said.


JIMMY KIMMEL, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE" HOST: Do you have a nondisclosure agreement?


KIMMEL: You can't say whether you have a nondisclosure agreement, but if you didn't have a nondisclosure agreement, you most certainly could say, I don't have a non-disclosure agreement. Yes?

DANIELS: You're so smart, Jimmy.

KIMMEL: Thank you very much. OK, is any of that true?

DANIELS: Define "true."


COOPER: And I -- just getting breaking news not clear if the "Make America Horny" tour is continuing. So don't have any more information. We'll try to figure that out.

Does it make sense that Michael Cohen would pay out of his own pocket?

LIZZA: Well, the reason he's coming forward and saying this is because there was an allegation that perhaps the campaign made the payment.

COOPER: And thereby violating campaign --

LIZZA: You're not -- apparently, you're not allowed to use campaign funds for -- it's a non-standard use of campaign funds.

COOPER: Right.

LIZZA: So that's what this is in response to. I imagine if the litigation goes forward, he is going to have to go beyond making a statement. He's going to have to show some documentation that it was indeed his personal funds.

COOPER: Right.

LIZZA: That it wasn't reimbursed by the Trump organization or the campaign.

COOPER: But do you would think there would be obviously documentation --

LIZZA: It has to be, yes.

COOPER: -- of --

LIZZA: Well, they probably set-up an LLC to make the payments.

COOPER: Right.

CARDONA: But why would he do that if he didn't need to? Clearly, he needed to and I guess that's a big question unless he hired her for some work that he owed her money for? I have no idea.

[21:50:08] LIZZA: Well, he's obviously tacitly conceding that this happened and there was a payment.

CARDONA: Well, of course. But the question is, what was the payment for? I mean, this is all sorts of disgusting and bizarre.

LIZZA: Well, I think --


CARDONA: Right. But they haven't said it. And so that I think is sort of the next round of questions. Obviously, that was the one thing that Maggie asked that she refused -- or that he refused to talk about it.

COOPER: It is interesting when -- I mean this story did break, I guess it was in the "Wall Street Journal" and we had the reporter on and there were numerous questions asked of Michael Cohen and he could have answered them back then. But it's not until this lawsuit, I guess, and --

BEGALA: But first, can I just say that this is the best infrastructure week ever. I'm just so glad we're focused on rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges. I tend to believe him, because this is going into a legal proceeding. FCC is not actually court, but could be in court, soon enough. And Cohen is a good lawyer. My god, he's a loyal friend, though. I mean, my lawyer wasn't going to do -- but there was a similar situation.

Remember, John Edwards, the senator from North Carolina, ran for president. He was a lawyer friend of his who spent probably even more than that, trying to hide the Senator Edwards affair that came out. So it's not crazy in the context of a campaign and deep loyalty like that. So I mean, maybe -- I'm always too credulous.

CARDONA: It worked really well for John Edwards.

BEGALA: It did not work out very well.

CARDONA: That they stayed hidden, right?

BEGALA: Well, and that attorney passed away before it could be litigated out.

RANGAPPA: Just to bring this full circle. Again, you just don't want these, you know, things that are hidden out there to be, like, coming up, you know, that can be used against people in the administration. This is not good, this pattern. This is not a one-off again. We're seeing this in the course of multiple people associated with this campaign. And it's a big problem. And you have to wonder, you know, what else is there?

COOPER: You're saying in relation to not everybody having a security clearance?

RANGAPPA: Security clearance, blackmail, exactly. You don't want -- and you know, and these are some of the issues that have been raised, that are -- is there leverage over some of the people in -- that worked in this campaign, that could have been manipulated?

CARDONA: That might know some of those things.

SHIELDS: This is really similar to all the criticism Democrats gave Bill Clinton when he had an affair in the Oval Office. Oh, that's right, they didn't bring up blackmail back in those days, because it wasn't as big of a deal for the president of the United States to put themselves in a position to be compromised by trying to hide something lying about it and then eventually admitting it later on.

BEGALA: Well, and nobody paid him --


CARDONA: Yes, exactly.

RANGAPPA: I mean, was he like traveling to Russia.

SHIELDS: Yes, I just want hear the Democrats to make the case for it.

CARDONA: Was there a payment by the lawyer -- BEGALA: Who knows?

CADONA: I mean, I don't remember that, Paul.

BEGALA: Well, but this doesn't make my top 1000 scummy things Trump has done. OK, I'm sorry, it's just doesn't. There's no allegation that this was not consensual. There's no allegation of force to the kind of animalistic behavior that Mr. Porter is accused of. So, I don't know why they wanted to cover it up, but Cohen is going to have to prove this in a court of law (INAUDIBLE) aware to assert that knowing that he's going to have to prove this.

MILLER: Well, and he has a book coming out.

BEGALA: Does he really?

MILLER: Yes, apparently, that's what the --

BEGALA: Could that be why --

MILLER: I'll buy it. I think it will be interesting.


COOPER: Please tell me it's called "Stormy Weather."

SHIELDS: I hope there's -- I think common cause would have to sue the FEC over some decision for to actually get into litigation, all right. This was an -- when you say it's an allegation, common cause filed a complaint with the FEC, which you can do very easily. People do it all the time to cause this sort of thing. He's now responded to the FEC. That's what the story.

BEGALA: I'm sure there are sanctions for lying to the FEC especially for --

SHIELDS: Oh, you can sue them actually if they don't sanction for something, then someone can bring a suit against the FEC who made the wrong decision.


BEGALA: If the filing to the Federal Election Commission is false and fraudulent, I don't believe it is, then he's in a lot of trouble, that's why --

CARDONA: I agree with you, Paul. In terms of the things that Trump has done, you know, this doesn't get to the top 1,000 in terms of danger to the national security unfitness for office, all of that. But what always strikes me of the hypocrisy of the issue. Can you imagine, and in fact, it happened with Bill Clinton -- can you imagine though if this happened to a Democrat -- Democratic president, the evangelicals, the family values, you know, the Republicans who are focused on, oh, my god, you know, that's so immoral, they would be there with pitchforks.

SHIELDS: Yes, they were, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones. They were there with pitchforks.

CARDONA: Where are the voices --


CARDONA: -- for President Trump right now? Where are the Republicans who are saying, that's not appropriate behavior for a president of the United States?

SHIELDS: So the hypocrisy switch places, because, there were the Democrats criticizing President Clinton?

CARDONA: There were plenty of Democrats that criticized President Clinton.

SHIELDS: They had a rally at the White House so they impeached.

CARDONA: Plenty of them. There were plenty of them out there.


COOPER: But it is interesting, I mean, the extent to which evangelical voters and Evangelical leaders, you know, in terms of one of them, have given him a mulligan on this stuff.

CARDONA: Exactly.

COOPER: And you hear for time and time again, people saying, look, he's not our moral leader, that's not were not electing him to be the pastor in chief or electing to be, you know, the commander in chief. Does that seem like some sort of sea change to you?

[21:55:04] BEGALA: Yes, I just think some, some Evangelical leaders are just disgracing themselves.

CARDONA: Agreed.

BEGALA: And I think that is different, because they are pastors and religious leaders and they claim a moral high ground, that they have completely ceded when they side with Donald Trump. But that's their problem. And that's their business.

I will say despite all of that, President Trump cleaned up with Evangelical voters. And what my evangelical friends tell me is, we know, we know that he doesn't live the sort of life that we want him to live. But he put Justin Gorsuch on the court, who is I believe is committed to overturning Roe versus Wade now on abortion on a small cases. And he's putting judges up and down the federal judiciary that will do that and to them they say, you know, it's worth it.

SHIELDS: Which again is like feminists supporting Bill Clinton --


BEGALA: Why you keep going Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, can we just talk about the president of the United States? SHIELDS: Because we're talking about hypocrisy.


BEGALA: All you guys do is whataboutism.

SHIELDS: Whataboutism, hypocrisy.

LIZZA: In both cases, it's a somewhat rational decision by political actors, right? If the Evangelical's choice was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the election knowing the judges that they were going to choose, it's not crazy, just as many feminists supported Bill Clinton because of the policies and particularly because of the courts. That's the way the elections happen sometimes. You make sacrifices --

COOPER: I mean --

LIZZA: -- absolutely.

COOPER: That's right.

LIZZA: Yes, I think we can all --

COOPER: Yes. I want to thank everybody for being on the panel tonight, took an odd turn there at the end with the breaking news.

CARDONA: Stormy.

COOPER: Yes. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Quite a night. We began with the gaslighting America and ended with stormy weather. Hope you all had a great Tuesday. There's much more ahead. Thanks for watching "360".

It is time now to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.

[21:59:52] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is "CNN TONIGHT." I'm Don Lemon.

The cover-up is unraveling and the White House is still unable or unwilling tell the truth about Rob Porter. A man who despite the lack of full security clearance, may have had access to this nation's top secrets. A man who despite accusations that he had abused both of his ex-wives was not only still working in the White House, he was up for promotion.