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Mueller Charges 13 Russians with Interfering in 2016 Election; Pres. Trump Slams "False Allegations Far-Fetched Theories"; Mueller Charges 13 Russians with Interfering In 2016 Election; FBI Admits It Failed To Act On Tip in January on Killer; Another Alleged Affair and Cover-Up; Report: Former Playmate Claims She Had an Affair with Trump Years Ago. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:09] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

For more than a year, the president of the United States has claimed the Russia story is hoax. Now, a stunning indictment says it is not. No matter what the president has been saying again and again and again.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.

This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.

The entire thing has been a witch hunt. How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is ruse.

I've been in office now for 11 months. For 11 months they've had this 2phony cloud over this administration, over our government. It's a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election that, frankly, the Democrats should have won because they have such a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College. So, it was brought up for that reason.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest the president's case that this is a witch hunt, a ruse, or a hoax just got weaker. A new string of indictments from Russia's special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury sees to that.

Now, we should say that indictments are not convictions and allegations are not proof. That said, they do pack quite a punch. They hit on a day that saw another alleged Trump mistress and mistress payoff scheme come to light, a day that also saw the FBI admit to fumbling a tip that might have prevented the Parkland school shooting, a day that ends with the president 2visiting survivors and first responders there tonight.

It's been quite another Friday news day, dominated now by the indictment and the president's less than honest reaction to it. The indictment names 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 presidential to help make Donald Trump president, alleging they communicated with unwitting people tied to the Trump campaign. According to the Department of Justice, not a hoax.

And although Jessica Schneider will get into more detail shortly and so will our panel, here's the nub of it. It alleges that these 13 Russians, including a tycoon known as Putin's chef, using an online organization operating out of St. Petersburg, Russia, conspired to illegally disrupt the very thing that makes a democracy a democracy.

Reading from the bill, quote, defendant organization had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendant posted derogatory information about a number of candidates and by early to mid-2016, defendant's operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then- candidate Donald J. Trump, Trump campaign, and disparaging Hillary Clinton. According to the Justice Department, not a hoax.

Here's Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announcing the charges.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, making it appear that those accounts were controlled by persons located in the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts and false identification documents.

The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media networks.

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activity, promote political campaigns and stage political rallies.


COOPER: In other words, not a hoax.

A short time later, the president tweeted, and after the tweet the White House then issued a statement. But first the tweet. Quote: Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced I would announce for president. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong, no collusion.

Ten minutes later, a statement from the White House, unlike the tweet, one portion of it does make mention of the country not just the Trump campaign or his victory or himself.

Quote: We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections, says the president in the statement. The rest, though, is along these lines. Quote: It's time we stop the

outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations and farfetched theories which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors like Russia and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions.

In other words, Russian meddling isn't the problem. Calling light to the meddling is, investigating it is in their opinion.

Going by the president's statement, it seems even saying that it happened damages the very institutions we should be protecting against a threat that has certainly not gone away. And keeping them honest actually stopping the next attack does not seem to be a priority.

Listen to FBI Director Christopher Wray before the Senate just three days ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the president directed you and your agency to take specific actions to confront and blunt Russian influence activities that are ongoing?

[20:05:09] CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We're taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt Russian --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they directed by the president?

WRAY: Not specifically directed by the president.


COOPER: So, according to President Trump's handpicked FBI director, the president has issued no specific orders to confront another attack on the democratic process. It would almost seem as though the president were focused on something far bigger and far more important, himself perhaps. Take a look again at the tweet that the president first sent and decide for yourself.

Russia started the campaign in 2014 long before I announced I would run for president. The results of the election were not impacted, the Trump campaign did nothing wrong. No collusion.

Keeping them honest, only the first part is factually correct and only partially. The indictment itself on page four says the strategic goal was to sow discord in the U.S. political system not just help candidate Trump. So, when it began doesn't prove anything.

As for the president's claim that the indictment says the election's outcome was not impacted, that is completely false as Rod Rosenstein pointed out.


ROSENSTEIN: There's no allegation in the indictment of any effect on the outcome of the election.


COOPER: Or nor does the indictment speak at all one way or another to collusion.


ROSENSTEIN: There's no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge.


COOPER: No allegation in this indictment.

The deputy attorney general used that phrase or variations of it a number of times suggesting perhaps there may be other indictments of other people in this matter or beyond, something the indictment itself suggests.

I'm quoting from page two. From in or around from 2014 to the present, defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other and with persons known and unknown to the grand jury to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.

With persons known and unknown to the grand jury, we'll ask our legal experts more about that, but perhaps that most damning indictment to borrow a word of the president's claim of vindication is plain to see to anyone who follows the news and we know this president does obsessively. This indictment only addresses one aspect of the Russia affair, the social media influence operation, not the hacking of the DNC nor the leaking of dirt about John Podesta and Hillary Clinton. Nor Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians promising such dirt nor his excitement about it, nor Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort's role in it, nor Manafort's money ties to Russian-linked organizations, nor anything a former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos might be saying to special counsel Mueller now that he's a cooperating witness, nor what Manafort deputy Rick Gates may say if, as we're now reporting, he consummates a deal with the special counsel.

Today's indictments, which are significant in their own right, say nothing about that. They only add to a body of evidence that whatever else this investigation adds up to, it's certainly not over. It certainly clears no one, at least of all the president, and it certainly is no hoax.

Joining us now with more of all this is CNN's Jessica Schneider.

So, Jessica, just walk us through exactly what is in this indictment.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is 37- page exhaustive examination of how 13 Russian nationals orchestrated what this indictment calls quote, information warfare against the United States. And really the goal here was simple, damage Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump. And these Russians allegedly went to great lengths. They started this

operation back in 2014, and several of them at that point even traveled here to the United States. They posed as Americans as well as U.S. social activists, and they talked to people here and they learned from that they should focus their efforts in those so-called purple states like Colorado, Virginia, Florida.

And even the Russians operating abroad, they also faked American identities and launched social media events and hashtags and they even wired money on several occasions to several grassroots political groups here in the U.S.

You know, this operation, it spanned years. It also had hundreds of employees in Russia. They even worked shifts that coordinated with U.S. time zones to send out their messaging, and the budget for this organization allegedly totaled millions of dollars each year. And, you know, Anderson, the indictment even says that they reached out to Trump campaign officials via e-mail on at least three occasions.

But we did hear from the deputy attorney general today. He made a point to say, of course, that there's no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participate in any of this alleged illegal activity. That presumably, of course, include the Trump campaign -- Anderson.

COOPER: Right, in this particular indictment.


COOPER: What does this mean for Mueller's larger investigation?

SCHNEIDER: Well, this is really the first time that the special counsel has laid all this out in detail, how the Russians interfered in this 2016 election.

[20:10:02] Of course, that was part of the special counsel's probe, to look into Russian meddling in addition to any possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

So, up to this point, and Robert Mueller's team, they have been very systematic in how they presented their case, their indictments, arranged their guilty pleas. And really, this indictment, Anderson, as I said, it was 37 pages.

It shows just how intricate their work has been, how wide ranging it where is and how many detailed facts they have already uncovered here. So it does remain to be seen and it begs the question how much more of this is yet to come? Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. I mean, for all that talk about this being close to the end of the Mueller investigation, you know, we were told that around Thanksgiving, maybe around New Year's, it seems like there's more to come.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, there was a lot of detail in here, a lot of detail about how these Russians were so intricately involved in this election campaign. It was interesting how they disclosed they did reach out to campaign officials. Again, the indictment saying nothing about Americans knowing about any of this, knowing that they were targeted. But Robert Mueller has been very systematic about this. And it will -- you know, we've been surprised really at every turn here, and there could be a lot more here -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

Let's go next to CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny who's standing by.

I understand the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein briefed the president on this today before he made the announcement, is that correct?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, he did indeed. And this is -- when you take stock of everything that happened this week, this meeting is really unlike any other. The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who's been in the crosshairs of this president because he oversees this investigation, for all intents and purposes, he is the attorney general in this case. He's the leader of the special counsel investigating this whole Russian meddling case.

So, he was side by side, face-to-face with the president in the Oval Office today, giving him a briefing about these indictments before they came down. Now, of course, we saw the president interpret this as he would like. We saw the president saying, look, there's no collusion here. He said that on social media and the statement from the White House.

The president has not yet talked about this. He ignored questions as he left the White House and he flew down here to Florida where he's spending a three-day holiday weekend and also visiting some victims of that shooting earlier this week.

But, Anderson, that meeting still leaves questions open. Does the president still want to dismiss Rod Rosenstein? Does he still want to get rid of him? That has been one of the most tense relationships in Washington here.

And even though the briefing happened at the White House, there's no sense of what is next here because this is just the beginning of this, the beginning of the public indictments here far from the end, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, also, Jeff, let's be real about this. I mean the president's reaction was that it's all about him. The reality is, according to these indictments, this was an act of war, essentially. Informational warfare launched against the United States starting in 2014 incredibly successfully and according to all accounts will continue in the next election.

And we heard nothing from the president of the United States today about what the heck he is actually doing about it. It was all just about him and no collusion. It said nothing about how America is going to defend itself and what he is doing.

ZELENY: It didn't, Anderson. And it's also striking the president said, look, this started in 2014. So, he acknowledged for the first time this is problem, which is something the president has rarely done. He has placed blame on hacking and meddling on a variety of places, rarely talking specifically about Russia. I remember being in Vietnam last November when the president met with Vladimir Putin, and he said he believed in his denials that he was not involved in Russian meddling.

Well, now we know that his Justice Department, the United States Department of Justice issuing these 13 indictments believe they can stand trial on, that they do not believe what the president is saying. But you are absolutely right, Anderson, the president did not talk about the greater American election system here, did not talk about the integrity of that nearly as much as his own case.

But since he did talk about his case, let's point out what he did not say he said no collusion. Of course, no mention of obstruction of justice. That is central part of this investigation going forward here. Did the president of the United States, Donald Trump obstruct justice in the firing of FBI Director James Comey?

That, of course, has yet to be determined by the special counsel. The president would like to sort of wipe this aside and essentially say this was over. That is not the case, of course.

So, this is the first of many here. The White House, you know, again hoping that this goes away. It won't go away. So, this coming on the same week, Anderson, that all the members of the intelligence community, all the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community sat in a row and said, yes, we believe Russia meddled in the U.S. election.

Still tonight, the president is one of the only leading politicians in Washington who has yet to acknowledge that -- Anderson.

[20:15:00] COOPER: Yes. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

We should point out after that Vietnam trip that Jeff reference in which the president did say, you know, he'd asked Vladimir Putin and Putin had repeatedly said, you know, that he did not meddle and the president did, in fact, say that he believed him. He later backtracked on that because there was such an uproar about it, saying, well, I believe -- he believed he was saying that or he believed his words to that effect, and he said I go along with our intelligence community.

I want to bring in the legal and political experts. Matthew Rojansky, Carrie Cordero, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, who has done a much reporting on all things Russia for us, also CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Before we kind of delve in to a lot of the details of which we want to, I just want to quickly go around and for each of you to say what you think the headlines are, and really stands out -- Shimon. SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So, for me, certainly, as someone who's been covering this story and covering this case is the work that went into this and the penetration that the FBI and our intelligence partners were able to -- they successfully penetrated this entire operation. They knew everything they were doing, and it's so detailed and so specific in this indictment.

And it takes a lot for the FBI and the department of justice to reveal these kinds of details because it essential gives away what they know.

COOPER: It sounds like intercepts, cyber communications, they were in there.

PROKUPECZ: They were in there. They were reading their emails. They knew where they were located in this town in St. Petersburg. They knew everything. They knew when they were traveling.

There were two individuals who were part of this operation that traveled to the United States. They knew when they came here, perhaps granting them visas, knowing they were coming here for the reasons they were coming here. It is stunning and level of detail that went into this piece of document, this is rare. And it's rare if the U.S. government to allow this kind of information to be made public.

COOPER: Carrie Cordero, for you?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERLA FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: I think the key of this indictment is the word conspiracy. What the indictment lays out is that there was an organized conspiracy of amongst an organization with the knowledge of the Russian government because this could have never happened without their knowledge that was organized, it was funded, it was strategic. It involved identity fraud, it involved financial fraud, identity theft. This was organized and it was strategic effort to influence the U.S. democratic process.

And I think what the American people need to take away from this is that this was a national security threat that was directed at the American people, and it is ongoing, as we've learned from the other intelligence threat briefing recently.

COOPER: And from the Russian perspective, cheap and successful.


MATTHEW ROJANSKY, DIRECTOR, KENNAN INSTITUTE AT THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Yes, so the genius of this type of operation, Anderson, which is not unlike what the Russians are doing now in Syria, what they're doing in Eastern Ukraine, is that it doesn't have the external markers of a government operation. There are no patches on arms, there are no official uniforms, there are no acknowledgements by governmental officials, even today, the foreign ministry spokesman repeated the word absurd. It's absurd. It's absurd to accuse the Russians of meddling in this way.

And yet, it has all the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation whose mission and purpose we can speculate about, but certainly it was to cause chaos, to stir up problems for the United States at a sensitive moment. Maybe it was some of this idea of sort of this revenge for what they believe the United States has tried to do them in their elections. So, it has all the hallmarks of the Russian government trying to act and yet it still maintains this veneer of deniability so that domestically and internationally, Putin can go around and say, this is absurd. It never happened.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, what stands out to you?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think -- I agree with everything that's been said, particularly Shimon's point about the level of detail which I think is really striking and indeed very rare for this kind of an indictment.

I'm struck by the fact this is reminder once again how much we really can't see into what Robert Mueller's team is doing. I mean, this came out of the blue for a lot of people. Certainly did for the White House, certainly did for the president's lawyers.

And so, this is a reminder that while they feel, you know, at the moment or at least you're saying that they feel indicated that this bolsters their argument that there was no collusion, we don't know what is yet to come. We have no idea how many other pieces there are of this.

The other aspect of this indictment that really struck me is the degree to which the messaging that this Russian allegedly -- you know, Russian funded operation engaged in terms of its political tactics, in terms of its targets, trying to bolster people like Jill Stein, a third party candidate, really, really paralleled what the Trump campaign was doing. It was really striking to read it.

COOPER: Even Bernie Sanders which was also something we heard the Trump campaign talking about, Donald Trump talking about.


COOPER: Maggie, I mean, you saw -- you know the president's tweet very well. You interviewed him a lot. You saw the president's tweet today. He's pinning his pushback on the fact the indictment refers to Russian activity as far back as 2014 before he was a candidate. But again, maybe you've seen that tweet seems normal to people at this point, but in any other administration --


COOPER: -- in which the Department of Justice had just announced this detailed massive attack on U.S. democracy, that the president made it all about himself and nothing about defending the country seems -- I mean, in a normal administration that would be extraordinary.

[20:20:13] HABERMAN: Well, this is not normal, and this is not a normal statement. And what he is doing again is conflating himself with the institutions he represents and serves. He doesn't see it as serving. He sees this all as constantly, at least in part, at least the public facing aspect of what he says is about, you know, this is trying to undermine my win, this is all trying to undermine my win.

And as we know, he has a habit of stretching the truth. He has a habit of telling falsehoods. He has a habit of lying. He has a habit of saying statements of people that say other than what they say. You saw it and you ran portions of Rod Rosenstein's remarks. They don't say what the president said they said.

And frankly, the fact that this operation began in 2014 when the president wasn't running yet, I would say two things to that: one, he was publicly 2flirting with running at that point. People knew it. But we know that a lot of this was about disruption and frankly about being against Hillary Clinton in large measure.

It's short of a straw man, either there was collusion or there wasn't. And either his campaign officials were involved in this or they weren't. And this has nothing to do with it whether it was pre-2014 or not.

COOPER: And there's nobody in the White House who says, you know, Mr. President, it's not about you, for god sake's, it's about the country.

HABERMAN: I think that there are people who have articulated that point, but frankly, I think at this point, people in the White House consider it a victory if they can keep him from attacking Robert Mueller, and this is yet another day where they managed to do that despite this indictment.

COOPER: Carrie, I mean, the deputy attorney general was very careful to only refer to this indictment today. Leaving open the possibility of more to come, leaving the possibility of collusion, leaving open many possibilities.

CORDERO: I do. I think we're midgame. I don't think we're even -- you know, near the seventh inning stretch yet of the baseball game. I mean, there's more to come, and I think when the deputy attorney general did today was really quite remarkable.

He's taken a lot of criticism for his role to writing the memo to fire Director Comey. But what he did there was stood there alone at a podium. And normally, you'd have the big national security case with an indictment, you'd have the attorney general, you'd have some of the FBI people, members of other agencies and they all get together and they sort of -- it's a big deal in that kind of press conference.

And Rod Rosenstein standing there alone so that he would take the political cover so that the prosecutor, the special counsel on his team can continue to do their work behind the scenes I really think was a notable achievement for him today.

COOPER: It's interesting, Shimon, a number of Donald Trump supporters have been out saying, look, they did things against President Trump once he was elected. They encouraged anti-Trump demonstrations.

Once he was elected, it was about sowing more discord and disorganization. But a lot of support during the campaign was for the Trump campaign. There was a pro-Hillary Clinton rally. It was sort of American-Muslims in which American-Muslims for Hillary Clinton signed saying with fake quotes from her about Sharia law being sort of possibly good thing for the United States and support for Jill Stein and even pushing Bernie Sanders.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, this is what -- they were successful here. I think if you talk to anyone, the Russians were successful in what they were trying to do. You know, the former head of the National Intelligence Agency, James Clapper said so. The former CIA director said so. They were very successful.

And just another thing on this indictment, I think part of why this is out now, there's a lot of concern within the intelligence community that this is going to continue. And this sends a message to Russians with this level of detail, that we're onto you and we're going to know what you're doing and when you're doing it and how you're doing it. And that is sort of the reason why it is my belief why this has come out the way it is.

And the other issue and I think you've raised this in the open here, about how we have heard nothing about this in terms of the president defending us, our country. In other situations like this, when we have the North Korea hack, the Sony hack, President Obama, there were sanctions and there weren't even charges related to that. The Department of Justice never announced any charges.

There were Chinese hackers that there were sanctions as a result. We have -- when these kind of nation state indictments, when charges are brought against people believed to be acting against our interest of people associated with that, or directed by a nation or a state, you usually see something from the White House.

COOPER: And not only that, I mean, you know, Congress overwhelmingly passed more sanctions against Russia. That's something that the president has not actually followed through on.

And their excuse has been -- well, just the threat of it has had an impact. It's hard to imagine there can't be -- won't be some action from the White House now based on what his own Department of Justice is saying.

ROJANSKY: So, the link that's missing in this whole story.

[20:25:01] And I want to be clear here there's sort of plenty of blame to go around, it is true pre-2016 election that the link was missing between we clearly had eyes on what the Russians are doing. We understood both in intelligence and potentially in a law enforcement sense that bad stuff was being done in the United States that might rise and ultimately I think did rise to maybe a hostile act and maybe an act of war.

The break down is how do you conduct relations with the world's other major nuclear powers in order to manage that threat by deterrence, by negotiations or do you do some kind of agreement that says, we're not going to do certain things, you're not going to do certain things, we know what you're up to? Or do you sort of say, if you do this, this will happy to you and it's scary enough that they're actually deterred from doing it?

But we cannot forget that if this is hostile act directed by the Russian government, which it really smells like in every way and this indictment is crystal clear about that without saying it, then it exists on a spectrum of conflict with Russia and that spectrum includes kinetic conflict and nuclear conflict.

COOPER: And, Carrie, again, this indictment really only focuses on one aspect of meddling. It doesn't focus on the hack e-mails of the DNC or John Podesta or the other potential aspects.

CORDERO: It doesn't cover those. But what's interesting is it isn't only limited to social media aspect. That's most of it, but what I think people need to understand is that it also covers physical interaction, human interaction that took place between these Russian online personas which were fake personas and real Americans here in the United States who thought that they were dealing with other Americans. In other words, this Russia propaganda unit was contacting actual Americans to set up protests, to set up rallies.

COOPER: Hiring people.

CORDERO: Actually setting up. They were in states in the United States setting up real live events.

COOPER: Suppress African-American turnout during the election.

CORDERO: So there was an online component but they also, they translated it into actual physical activity and affecting human behavior here in the United States.

COOPER: Maggie, I mean, the question of whether we'll hear more from the president on Twitter over the weekend about these indictments, I mean, obviously, there's no way to tell or if there will be some sort of more organized response from the White House.

HABERMAN: I don't think there will be a more organized response from the White House. I think whether the president responds candidly is going to depend on what the weather is like in Florida over the next two days. And if he's able to go out and go golfing or if he's sitting at Mar-a-Lago watching the news, I mean, again, to your point, his tweet was very, very self-directed.

It was not about -- and inwardly directed and about him and had nothing to do with democracy, preventing elections. We have had every warning sign from the intelligence community over the last week and prior to that that this is going to be yet another year where Russia is trying to interfere. You had Vladimir Putin the other day say to a Palestinian leader that he had Trump's proxy to speak on a particular issue.

That -- that provoked almost no response from the White House. I mean, you are going to keep seeing these kinds of things, and if the White House does not respond, they will only increase, I suspect. And so, I do not think the White House is going to change its course. Again, I think so much of what you saw in response was about keeping

the president from attacking the special counsel. So, talk about how great this is because it says that, you know, we had nothing to do with this, and I think you'll see more of that if you see anything at all.

COOPER: By the way, sunny, no chance of rain. That's the forecast around Mar-a-Lago, I'm told.

HABERMAN: We'll see what happens.

COOPER: Everyone, thanks very much.

Coming up next, and Shimon was kind enough to tease it for us. We'll talk to former director of national intelligence James Clapper who watched the entire Russia operation unfold in real-time. We'll get his take on these indictments, the president's claim of vindication.

And later, is the a chill between the president and first lady now that word of another alleged affair has surfaced, along with details of how he allegedly kept it quiet for years. We'll talk to the reporter who broke that story, Ronan Farrow, also tonight.


[20:31:42] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More now with breaking news that special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russia nationals and three Russian entities for meddling on the 2016 election. It was last May that all of the nation intelligence shifts told the Senate Committee, they have zero doubt, the Russia played a role in that election.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that the January 2017 intelligence community assessment accurately characterized the extent of Russian activities in the 2016 election. And its conclusion that Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation in order to influence our election? Simple yes or no would suvise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do, yes, sir.







COOPER: Well, James Clapper was the director of National Intelligence throughout all at 2016 campaign, he joins us now.

Director Clapper, I know you read this indictment. Just generally speaking what struck you?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first, it was a very compelling reinforcing validation of the intelligence community assessment that we published and briefed President Trump in January of '17. And it followed exactly the themes that we outlined and what the Russian objections were at first to so doubt discord, undermine our system, undermine the faith and trust of the American people in our political system. Secondly, do whatever they could to hurt Hillary Clinton and thirdly, help Donald Trump.

And of course that as we saw it, it kind of evolved over time. And so which you see in the indictment in my view is a validation of that. I should point out, of courses we had -- that was an intelligence assessment. We had very high confidence in our findings. This actually is even a higher evidentiary bar.

COOPER: Because it's legal, it's actually indictment.

CLAPPER: Exactly, its probable cause which we don't, you know, that's a pretty high bar in intelligence. But, the fact that the findings were the same, I thought was quite striking. the other thing of course is the trade craft sophistication that the Russians which we had seen and how it is spelled out for all to see, so I thought it was a very, very damning and compelling document.

COOPER: What is stunning to me about what you just said is that essentially, you're saying you and the other members of the intelligence committee briefed the President on a year ago on this.


COOPER: In the broad strokes about this. So he has known about this for the past year, yet has continued to call it a hoax, has continued to say it's a ruse. And according to -- I think was other "Washington Post" or "New York Times" has not held a cabinet level meeting about what to do about Russia interference. If this was a past administration, a Republican or Democratic, you would think the President immediately upon his Justice Department laying out these incredibly serious.

CLAPPER: Oh absolutely.

COOPER: Informational warfare is probably just to come would talk about how we're manning the barricades? What we are going to do?

CLAPPER: Well that's what's so disturbing about this is the threat that is the Russians are posing and which they're going to continue to pose to our basic system.

[20:35:01] And the President is singular indifference to this is a peril to the country. And to me that transcends, whether there's collusion or not, all that that is significant, sure, if that is proven to be the case. But what's a greater danger to the country is a lack of response to this. We haven't punished the Russians and we don't have a government approach to defending ourselves against further such attacks. And the Russians are going to keep coming at us.

COOPER: I don't want to get too personal, but for a President who likes to call himself strong and whose supporters say, well he's all about strong, he's strong, he has a weakness which is, he is not a very good poker player. Any foreign leader knows that his weakness on this is that any talk about Russia, he views as an attack on his legitimacy. It's a huge glaring weakness.


COOPER: That he cannot separate himself from what is needed for the good of the country.

CLAPPER: And this came up, when we -- the four of us briefed then president-elect Trump on the 6th of January last year. And the way he took this, and the way he interprets this is questioning the veracity or validity of this election.

COOPER: And did his -- to you're, like in that meeting that how he took it.

CLAPPER: Well, I mean that's that came up then.

COOPER: Right.

CLAPPER: And that's really what -- and I think that's what occasion the attacks on us has not seized and all that sort of thing for trying to advise him as the oncoming President a profound threat of this country. And he really hasn't change his tune. You know, his tweet today was about him. Didn't say anything about -- this was a threat to the country and we need to do something about it. It's whether, you know, there was collusion or not. And I actually as a result of reading this damning indictment, I think there may be other shoes to drop there, too I don't know.

COOPER: Because this indictment was so specific in the language it used, saying you know, in this indictment.

CLAPPER: Exactly. And what you see here is another manifestation of a very methodical systematic disciplined approach that Special Counsel Mueller, Bob Mueller and his team are taking. And I think there are other shoes to drop here. Notably finances, I think that's going to be another profound thing that's going to come out about this. What were the financial relationships between the Trump organization before the election and the Trump campaign?

COOPER: Well, that's one of the fascinating things about this indictment today and to your point is you start to understand why he selected the attorneys, the law enforcement the intelligence special, all that he did, people who are experts in money laundering, people who are experts in cyber activities, intelligence activities.

CLAPPER: Right. COOPER: They were selected for a reason and it's more than just what was in this indict.

CLAPPER: Oh absolutely. And of course, as we've often said, Bob Mueller and his team know a lot more about all this than is out there than we know and I think there's much more to come. I didn't see any announcement of closing down the investigation after this indictment.

COOPER: Yes, so no more talk about over by Thanksgiving, over by New Year's --


COOPER: It's going to go on. Director Clapper, thank you. Appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Just ahead the FBI failed to act on a tip about the young men who had go on to be the Parkland, Florida gunmen, we'll have. How that happened, how it can be corrected.

Also the President gets hit with news of another affair he allegedly had after Melania Trump gave birth to their son. This time with Playboy model, every detail report on effort to keep her quiet, Ronan Farrow joins me to break down his reporting, next.


[20:41:43] COOPER: Well, the first public story, it was the President and the porn actress, now it is the President and the playboy model. And "The New Yorker" Rona Farrow, reports of a nine-month affair that Donald Trump allegedly had starting in 2006 just a few months after Melania Trump gave birth to their son with the Playboy model named Karen McDougal. I'm going to speak with Ronan in a just a moment for more details on that alleged affair and his reporting and also accusations of a subsequent effort to keep Ms. McDougal silent. The news that has broke today, the President and the First Lady did appear together arriving in Florida, he did take a separate car on the way to that flight instead of getting in the helicopter with the President.

CNN's Kate Bennett joins me now. Do you we know when the First Lady actually decided to head to Andrew's Air Force base separately from the President by car as oppose to chopper there which doesn't seem to make too much sense just in terms of trying to get there?

KATE BENNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was an unusual decision and we heard very late the guidance that the White House put out has suggested that the two would be leaving from the White House together. We learned CNN shortly before that she would be taking a car due to her schedule being an easier trip to drive there. There is nothing public on her schedule today however.

We're certainly used to seeing the first couple walk across the south lawn to Marine One before they leave on these trips to Mar-a-Lago. So a certainly a last minute and somewhat as you said unusual decision. COOPER: It's also comes on the Hills of course the First Lady arriving separately to the State of the Union address just a couple weeks ago.

BENNETT: That's right. This is a first lady who sort of charting her own rules here, we don't hear from her a lot, we certainly haven't heard from her about these scandalous headlines that have been in the news in the past month or so. However, she's indicated some bursts of independence like riding to the State of the Union by herself, another break in tradition, typically the First Lady and the President ride together from the White House to the Capitol. She traveled to Cincinnati but instead of going to the President's speech, she went on her own tour of the Cincinnati Hospital. Again, this is a first lady who is certainly through her nonverbal cues expressing she and the President are not joined at the hip. We did not hear any Valentines Day, social media in which is either between the two. Although they are at Mar-a-Lago this weekend together.

COOPER: Yes, do we know what the First Lady's schedule is this weekend? I mean do we have any idea when they'll make their next appearance together. They were both at a hospital this evening.

BENNETT: Correct. We don't really. Typically when the First Lady heads to Mar-a-Lago, it's private time, it's family time, she doesn't do public appearances. I am hearing that she's gearing up for a very busy March at the White House and April which will include likely her first official hosting of the White House State Dinner. But for now, there's nothing on the schedule for the President and the First Lady officially.

COOPER: OK, Kate Bennett, appreciate it.

That as I mentioned reporter this alleged nine-month affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal broke in "The New Yorker" today. Ronan Farrow's report details how the President and his allies allegedly used secret hotel room meetings, payoffs and legal agreements to keep this and in fact multiple affairs out of the news.

In McDougal case, four days before the Presidential election, the "Wall Street Journal" reporter that the publisher of the "National Enquirer" led by a personal friend to the President, paid $150,000 for the rights of the story and then buried it. The story never appeared.

In statement, a White House spokesperson called this, "Just more fake news". And said "The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal".

[20:45:04] Ronan Farrow joins me now. Interesting Ronan that the White House now saying, well the President says, he didn't have an affair as opposed to just saying point blank the President did not have an affair. You actually received notes that were handwritten by McDougal about her alleged affairs with then citizen Trump, can you tell us about when they were written and why?

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORKER: So those notes they were written in the course of the selling of the story. And McDougal I should make clear, says that she is so reluctantly was cornered into selling it that there were various individuals around through her who urged her that she would lose the opportunity to tell her version of it and she didn't sell it.

And she readily admits that she voluntarily signed these contracts again giving up her life right story to talk about affairs with any then married man. We have other documents suggesting that that was clearly Donald Trump.

But she also says that the end result was exploitative and onerous for her that she has regrets about staying silent. And I think that is the important system that this story illustrates. That there was a machine setup to quite women with stories of this type. We now know of multiple instances. 2 COOPER: There's actually a term that I think the "National Enquirer" parents company uses, I think there's catch and release. Is that right?

FARROW: Catch and kill is the term that he used in the tabloid business. And what it means is this, when a company acquires the rights to story with the intention of burying it not running it. And, you know, A.M.I., the media company in this case is very clear in saying, we didn't run this because it wasn't credible to us. You know, again, this is the company that owns the "National Enquirer".

However, we talked to six former A.M.I. employees who told the different story, who said that this company routinely engaged in this kind of so-called catch and kill. And that they did so to gain leverage and influence over powerful or high profile individuals, in this case, the President within the company has a close relationship.

COOPER: And I mean, some of the details of this are reminiscence of details, you know, locations, I think that the Beverly Hills Hotel Bungalow, you write that the President -- citizen Trump then actually introduced her to members of his family, actually she came to Trump Tower to the apartment.

FARROW: What's striking about this narrative, Anderson is that we now have multiple claims of either consensual affairs or nonconsensual advances as someone and alleged. And many of them have striking commonalities.

McDougal story, she talks about being offered money for sex, which she -- as she declined. And she talks about being offered, you know, a purchase of property, about tours of Trump's own properties. These are common threads between the stories. And yes, she does say as several of the women who have come forward with the stories and allegations against Trump do that she met and interacted with the family at one point being shown for instance Melania Trump's separate bedroom in Trump Tower when she visited there.

COOPER: And I think according to your reporting, one -- she -- according to your reporting, was often invited to events that Donald Trump was holding for various vodka launch and the like, you know, golf tournaments. And in one point was actually seated at a table with one of the President's children.

FARROW: You know, the story suggests that as you say, these infidelities and the efforts subsequently to conceal the infidelities were very much entwined in Donald Trump's business operations, his professional events and his professional contacts like his close relationship with this company A.M.I., which the company and it's head David Pecker have acknowledged on the record that that is not a matter that's been hidden in anyway.

COOPER: It was also an interesting detail that according to your reporting McDougal was always asked to pay her own way and then she said she would be reimbursed by Donald Trump so that there wasn't, you know, a corporate assistant helping with travel and the like.

FARROW: This story suggests a concerted effort and indeed a well- oiled machine designed to conceal this, both during and after the fact and that does include she claims that she was secretly reimbursed for travel throughout the affair. You know, she talks about clandestine meetings in hotels, again, phenomenon that very closely resembles what Stormy Daniels talks about in her story. And these legal facts after the fact which, you know, we now know about Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal signed different variations. In McDougal's case, this was not directly to Trump's lawyers. This was with this media company.

COOPER: And explain to us how McDougal met Donald Trump in the first place.

FARROW: McDougal and Trump met at a party at the Playboy mansion. In 2006, there was a taping of an episode of the "The Apprentice" you can actually go and watch footage from that episode in which McDougal appears in various scenes. And, you know, she talks about being impressed with his politeness, being charmed by him, impressed by his intelligence she also says. You know, mostly, she describes a relationship in which she was not mistreated in any way. She's very clear that it was consensual.

You know, but as I said, her story corroborates multiple other accounts in various specific ways. And that includes some other women's accounts that involved non-consensual activity allegedly.

[20:49:59] COOPER: Ronan Farrow, I appreciate talking the stories in "The New Yorker". I encourage people to look at if they're interested. Thanks so much, Ronan.

Coming up on a more (INAUDIBLE) from the FBI that it was told in early January of suspicious activity by the high school shooter in Parkland, Florida and somehow, failed to pass on the information. Details ahead.


COOPER: Well, tonight the funerals have begun the survivors of Wednesday's tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are obviously still wrestling with what happened and will for a long time to come. Today came news that if possible is making the suffering even harder to bear. CNN's Chief Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin tonight has more.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight a startling admission from the nation's top law enforcement agency. Just six weeks ago, a tipster called the FBI tip line and warned them about the possible school shooter. The caller provided information, the FBI statement reads, about the shooter's gun ownership desire to kill people, erratic behavior, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.

What did the FBI do? Apparently nothing. In the statement released hours ago, the FBI admits it did not follow protocol. The tip never made it to the Miami Field Office, never made it to the agents who could have possibly followed up.

ROBERT LASKY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, MIAMI DIVISION: On behalf of myself and over 1,000 employees of the Miami Field Office, we truly regret any additional pain that this has caused.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The attorney general now demanding an investigation. It is just one more warning sign missed on the path the confessed killer was taking that led him to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this past Wednesday. Newly obtained records by CNN show the Broward County sheriff's office was called to the shooter's home more than 30 times since 2010.

In 2016, during one of those calls, an incident report shows deputies and mental health professionals wrote the suspect suffers from mental illness, was seeing a therapist, and according to the report, he has mentioned in the past that he would like to purchase a firearm. Despite reports from his mother that he was cutting his arm, a therapist on the scene deemed him to be no threat to anyone or himself at the present time.

Fellow students tell CNN the shooter was strange, constantly acting up in school, getting in fights and eventually expelled. Joshua Charo says he and others felt the danger had passed.

[20:55:08] (on camera) You thought he would never come back to the school?

JOSHUA CHARIO, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I think no one knew he would come back to the school.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Charo, 16 years old, spent a year in ROTC class with the shooter. A student he says that was quiet except when it came to talking about guns.

CHARO: He always liked to talk about guns. He was always asking people what kind of guns were better, if they knew which model worked best for certain hunting activities.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Did he ever talk about hunting? CHARO: Oh, yes, a lot. He talked about hunting a lot. That and guns were usually the only two things he would talk about when we ever spoke.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Charo says he lost touch with the shooter. Then out of the blue, a message.

CHARO: He requested to follow me on his new Instagram before everything happened, like two or three weeks ago.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): That shooter's Instagram account, like his social media postings, in hindsight, all additional possible warnings. Now in the wake of the mass shooting, police, the FBI, school officials and students wonder what could have been done.


COOPER: And, Drew joins me now with more. I understand you're getting some new information just now?

GRIFFIN: Yes. We just found out the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee, Anderson, asking for the FBI to come in and brief them how this tip that came in on January 5th could have been overlooked, why nobody followed up on that. We're also reporting tonight -- CNN reporting that despite this now well documented history of mental illness, this shooter, Anderson, bought not just one, but five guns in the past year. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Drew Griffin, thanks for the reporting.

Much more to come on this Friday night with so much breaking news. What President Trump is and is not saying about the 13 Russians indicted for meddling in the elections, when we continue.


COOPER: Another big hour ahead starting with this. The President claiming that the indictment of 13 Russians for allegedly attempting to influence the outcome of the 2016 election somehow clears him of any and all wrongdoing in connection with Russians helping him win the election. Keeping him honest, as you'll see, the indictment though quite a document for a lot of reasons we'll go over, does nothing of the sort, nothing at all. Nor does it even address the Russian hacking of the DNC nor efforts by members of his campaign, including his campaign chairman, son and son-in-law to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

[21:00:08] It says nothing about whether or not the President obstructed justice and he certainly doesn't not suggest the investigation is over enough by a long shot, in fact, just the opposite --