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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks Resigns; Interview with Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas; Washington Post: Mueller Investigating President Trump's Apparent Effort to Oust Sessions in July. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired February 28, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Washington.
What a day. A lot of breaking news tonight and that's on top of even more big developments all day long.
In just the last hour or so, new reporting on the president and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who he publicly shamed yet again today. According to "The Washington Post," Russia's special counsel Mueller is focusing on the first time the president did that, if you remember, back last summer, and whether it was or is part of an attempt to obstruct justice.
Also, the sudden departure of White House communications director Hope Hicks, and late word on a presidential berating she got in the run-up to it. A source telling CNN that he's furious Hicks told the House Intelligence Committee that she's lied on his behalf, white lies she's called them, whatever that is.
In addition tonight, in an exclusive conversation with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about what they are seeing in this White House and the inevitable comparisons with Watergate and the Nixon administration. They don't talk about it often. Tonight they will in depth.
We begin, though, with CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House.
Jim, I understand you have some new reporting about Hope Hicks and Mueller's investigation as well.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. A former Trump campaign official told me earlier today that during this ex-aide's sessions with Robert Mueller's team over the special counsel's office, that comments made previously by Hope Hicks, the White House communications director who is now the outgoing communications director, came up during these meetings with Mueller's team as well as with investigators in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Now, Anderson, this former Trump campaign official says what is at issue here is what Hicks told "The New York Times" in November of 2016. That was just two days after the election when Hope Hicks was asked by "The New York Times" about Trump campaign contacts with the Russians. In "The New York Times", Hope Hicks is quoted as saying we are not aware of any campaign representatives that were in touch with any foreign entities before yesterday.
When Mr. Trump spoke with many world leaders, those discussions were congratulatory and forward looking according to this official who has spoken with Mueller's team, Anderson, the investigators with the special counsel's office have asked whether or not Hicks' comment was accurate and whether she, in fact, knew whether there were Trump campaign contacts with the Russians, given the fact we have seen many of those contacts have come to light in recent months.
Now, we should point out, you know, this is obviously just one part of the investigation, and according to this former Trump campaign official, not only is Robert Mueller's team interested in all of this, but so is the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
COOPER: Do we know why she resigned or if she resigned? Was she fired? If the president was berating her, and, obviously, she said the things about telling white lies yesterday on Capitol Hill, what do we know about what actually happened?
ACOSTA: Well, according to a White House official I spoke with earlier today, there was nothing nefarious, quote/unquote, about Hicks' departure, that there was some movement towards this in recent weeks. According to this White House official, this had nothing to do with Rob Porter. This had nothing to do with the comments that she made yesterday to the House Intelligence Committee, when she said that from time to time she has to tell little white lies on behalf of the president.
What this official did not say to me was that this did not have anything to do with the Mueller investigation. Obviously, we'll have to see if that comes to light later on. But according to this White House official, this is something that has been building up for some time. It's something she wanted to do. As you saw, the White House put out glowing statements from the president and the chief of staff praising Hope Hicks.
And the president, in fact, in one of -- in his statement, Anderson, left the door open to working with Hope Hicks in the future. Keep in mind, the president just announced his new campaign manager this week for the 2020 election. He may have a communications director in mind for that campaign.
COOPER: It does seem weird, though, that today of all days, suddenly it's the decision to announce she's going to go pursue other opportunities. I mean, the president had this big bipartisan meeting on guns, which I assume the White House would want to have a lot of focus on. And it was shortly after that meeting the Hope Hicks news broke and has basically sort of dwarfed that meeting.
ACOSTA: I think it goes to show the White House needs a new communications director. If you were the communications director, you would not schedule these things in this fashion. Obviously, you don't want the sudden departure of a key White House official -- and nobody was closer to President Trump than Hope Hicks, and that includes the president's own family. She was frequently -- and she probably still is and will be over the
coming weeks frequently in the residence here at the White House with the president early in the morning, late at night, dealing with him on all sorts of issues, in particular dealing with the news media. We know that all too well, dealing with Hope behind the scenes.
But, Anderson, obviously this stepped all over the president's message today on gun control. Here we thought the most remarkable thing that happened today would be that gun control meeting at the White House when in fact it was the departure of his communications director.
[20:05:07] COOPER: Yes. Or take your pick, or going after his attorney general yet again.
ACOSTA: Or any of those things, yes, exactly.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks for reporting.
With me here is Jen Psaki, David Chalian, and Gloria Borger.
I mean, Gloria, it is hard to overstate the importance of Hope Hicks. I mean, people at home, maybe they've seen pictures of her. During the campaign, I remember doing interviews with then candidate Trump and it seemed like the whole campaign for a while was just Trump, Corey Lewandowski, and Hope Hicks.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Totally. She's always been around. She's the Trump whisperer. She is completely, 100 percent loyal. She's young, and she is, as one source said to me, is very close to Trump. He said, she is his emotional support, period. That's what he has.
And he predicted to me with some trepidation that without her there, the president would go into what he called a tailspin.
COOPER: Because it's not only that she's gone. His, you know, former body man, security guard who has been with him forever, Keith Schiller, he's also left.
BORGER: He's also gone. So, when you look at the people he was close to originally, you had Corey Lewandowski, he was close to, Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, and he's got problems with Jared now, which means he probably has problems with Ivanka. And Melania hasn't been happy with him because of the Stormy Daniels story.
So, this is a president who is more and more isolated, sort of on the personal side really. Kelly, General Kelly is cutting off his phone conversations with all of his old friends. So, he's kind of alone.
COOPER: David, I mean a source told CNN -- a source close to the White House told CNN that the president berated Hope Hicks about the statement that she had made yesterday.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, we know that this president responds to the headlines on the news coverage that he consumes, and it was a terrible day of news coverage for Hope Hicks between her testimony last night and, you know, I mean everywhere this morning it was like Hope Hicks, White House communications director, speaks on behalf of the United States. White lies, you know? I mean, it was just everywhere.
So, it does not surprise me that he would have some concern about how bad the news coverage was over that. I'm sure that's not the reason as our reporting indicates, you know, the Rob Porter situation was obviously not easy for Hope Hicks to go through as she was in a relationship with him. This has been building. But you were talking about the emotional crutch that she is for the president.
She is so also -- I don't know how to convey, but she is so close to the president. I mean, no communication staffer in any White House that I know of, Jen could correct me if I'm wrong, would spend as much time in the Oval Office with the president, at the president's side as Hope Hicks did. She also was so emotionally invested in this, which is why I think we hear of this being a rather sort of emotional, tearful good-bye that she was giving today because she is a pure loyalist to the president.
COOPER: Jen, I mean you were White House communications director. You know the job. What do you make of this departure and the role?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one, I think there's no question Hope, by all accounts, played a very important role in this White House. But it wasn't as the communications director. She really was the tamer of the savage beast that is Donald Trump. That's a very important role because she protected many people on the staff from his whims and his mood swings.
But, you know, the communications director and the role of the communications director is not to print off cable coverage or print off tweets. That's not entirely her fault. In large part, I think it's because Donald Trump is the communications director, and he's not going to allow somebody to serve in that role.
So, her departure is significant because as we've all touched on in this panel, it leaves a major emotional gap in the White House for Trump, but also, I think, for a lot of his staff. And when people like that leave, you can start to see things come apart at the seams.
BORGER: You know, you always need somebody with the president, you can go to and say, what's his mood today? What's he feeling like?
PSAKI: Or we need to get this done.
BORGER: We need to get this -- a lot of people know because they read his tweets in the morning before they get in, and they know his mood. But you need somebody who kind of gets it. And she's that person.
COOPER: So again, the president publicly shaming his attorney general. I mean, this is so, I mean, bizarre. I mean, it's happened before, but it seems like now it's happening again. I mean, it's got to be embarrassing for Jeff Sessions. It's got to be humiliating for Jeff Sessions, yet he continues to hang in. CHALIAN: He does hang in and he issued this statement today that he
was defending the Constitution. But I think he has become sort of the Kate McKinnon version on "SNL" of him. I mean, it is -- I cannot think of a cabinet member or a senior member of an administration to have to suffer this kind of public humiliation for an entire year now, Anderson.
This is his hand-picked attorney general. Jeff Sessions was one of the first statewide elected officials who was on board with Trump in the primaries and really went out there for him, campaigned all across the country. So, again, I think it's a lesson about the one-way street of loyalty in the Trump White House.
COOPER: But it also comes on a day "The Washington Post" has been reporting -- and we're going to talk to one of the reporters on that story -- that Mueller is actually looking into the past comments, the public shaming that President Trump did of his attorney general, to see if it's part of an obstruction of justice to basically get rid of him and put in somebody more compliant to oversee the Russia investigation.
PSAKI: Which you have to imagine there's sort of an emotional switching going on in Donald Trump's head. Do I keep him? I sort of control him. I've made him the incredible shrinking Jeff Sessions. Do I try to get somebody else?
If you're Jeff Sessions, you're at the end of the your career and you're thinking I want to leave on my terms, which is probably what's going on with Rex Tillerson, what's going on with Jared Kushner, a number of people in that White House. But what he has allowed Trump to do is minimize him and make him look like a --
COOPER: But he's also, I mean of all the people that the president has around him, in terms of somebody who is actually executing conservative agenda, he's actually doing it. He doesn't get a lot of news coverage, but I mean, he's actually doing it.
BORGER: But even when he does it, sort of saying we're going to crack down on leaks, people are reporting as if, oh, he's just trying to get in with the president again. He's trying to get on his good side when, in fact, Jeff Sessions is a real conservative.
But I'll tell you what. Today, Jeff Sessions did, for the first time, come out punching a little bit. I mean, I'm not sure it's going to do him that much good, but he did defend the Department of Justice. He did release a statement saying, we're doing the right thing by sending this to the -- you know, to the inspector general. The inspector general can clearly refer things for criminal prosecution, and he publicly said something, which he hasn't done in the past.
CHALIAN: That's true.
BORGER: So maybe he's making progress.
COOPER: All right. As I said, we're going to talk to "The Washington Post" reporter, one of them who broke this story coming up.
Our breaking coverage continues from Washington tonight. Hope Hicks' rise from "Hope who?" to a key position in the Trump campaign and the Trump administration.
Later, my exclusive conversation with two individuals who have seen and reported on so many pivotal stories here. Perspective on all of this from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
[20:15:04] COOPER: We get more now on something Gloria Borger mentioned a moment ago, an apparent show of solidarity between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This is video of them leaving the Department of Justice together. "Axios" is reporting they dined together again as a show of solidarity.
That's on top of all the rest. Hope Hicks joining a long list of former people who have done the job or been named to it, it's just the latest chapter in a story we've never seen in Washington before. She's never held a job like this before, never worked in the White House before, never worked in Washington, never been questioned by a special counsel nor a congressional committee. She's at the center of a scandal over security clearances that led to the departure of a top White House staffer whom she was dating at the time.
All in all, Hope Hicks, her story is quite a story and it's not over yet. More now from Randi Kaye.
HOPE HICKS, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I'm 28 years old, and I am the press secretary for the Donald J. Trump for president campaign.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a swift rise for Hope Hicks, who went from modeling and acting early on to handling P.R. for Ivanka Trump's fashion line after college. By 2014, Hicks was managing communications for the Trump organization, and soon her job would change again.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She used to be in my real estate company. I said, what do you know about politics? She said, absolutely nothing. I say, congratulations. You're into the world of politics, right?
KAYE: Hicks told "New York Magazine", Mr. Trump looked at me and said, I'm thinking about running for president, and you're going to be my press secretary. During the campaign, Hicks reportedly had a note from candidate Trump above her desk that read simply, Hopie, you're the greatest.
TRUMP: Hope, get up here. She's always on the phone talking to the reporters, trying to get the reporters to straighten out their dishonest stories. KAYE: Hicks had zero political experience, yet she was almost always
by Donald Trump's side. Through it all, her voice rarely heard in public. She didn't even release a statement after a very public screaming match with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
And at this campaign event in Alabama, she seemed hesitant even to just say a few words.
HICKS: Hi. Merry Christmas, everyone. And thank you, Donald Trump.
KAYE: With her position in the White House, Hicks gained access to the world stage, taking part in this intimate gathering with the pope and also the Japanese prime minister's state banquet where Hicks stole the spotlight in her black tuxedo.
(on camera): Her access to the president put her at the center of several key investigations too. On Russia, she's been interviewed by special prosecutor Robert Mueller's team multiple times. Just yesterday, she was in front of the House Intelligence Committee answering questions for about eight hours, admitting that sometimes she was required to tell white lies in the Trump administration, but insisting she never lied about substantive matters.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, ROBERT MUELLER'S FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT AT DOJ: So much stuff goes through her as the conduit between outsiders and the president that she really sits in a particularly important seat for Mueller.
KAYE (voice-over): And Hicks was also involved in the aftermath of Don Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last year. Onboard Air Force One, helping craft the now infamous press release, claiming the meeting was about adoption. We've since learned it was really about dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Hope Hicks also helped craft the initial White House response to allegations of domestic abuse by now former top aide Rob Porter, with whom she was romantically involved. Porter denied the allegations and resigned.
Now, the woman who rarely says a word in public will be taking her silence with her as she departs the White House.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: More now on her departure which follows her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.
Joining us now, a Democratic member of that committee, Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas.
Thanks so much for being with us.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Thanks for having me here. COOPER: CNN is reporting tonight that Hope Hicks said that the kind of white lies that she was talking about were things like telling people that Trump was in a meeting when he wasn't or spinning news favorably for her boss. Can you say anything more about what she meant by white lies?
CASTRO: No, and the indication was basically it was small stuff, that it wasn't substantive stuff. And actually because I heard Congressman Rooney about 30 minutes ago describe the question. The question was, has the president ever asked you to lie? It was not whether you've ever lied for the president. What we're trying to get at is, is the president's actions and behavior in that question.
COOPER: I mean, her resignation does come a day after testifying before the committee that you're on. Do you think the two are related?
CASTRO: Quite possibly. Also with the president may have berated her for being honest really. But, you know, I told a few people yesterday because they asked me what was your impression of her and there was a point there when she was going through that series of questions that her face almost looked as if she was saying, you know, why did I ever get involved with these people, with Donald Trump?
COOPER: That was the sense you got.
CASTRO: That was my sense when I was looking at her as she was struggling to answer these questions. Why did I ever get involved in this?
[20:20:01] And remember, she was not involved in politics before the president asked her to become part of a very consequential, the biggest campaign you can join, a presidential campaign.
COOPER: And as the president said, she said she knew nothing about politics --
COOPER: -- before he decided to make her the press secretary and now, obviously, communications director.
Do you believe the committee should subpoena her? I mean because she basically did not answer, as many people have before this committee, she refused to answer questions basically citing executive privilege, as I understand.
CASTRO: Yes, she did cite executive privilege, but it went beyond that. Even when there was a question that it was clear that the answer would not be covered by executive privilege, I saw something yesterday that I hadn't seen before, which is for her lawyer to say, we'll take that under advisement, or we're just not going to answer that question. That was the first time that somebody came in, an attorney, and was that arrogant about flouting the jurisdiction of the committee.
COOPER: The only way to actually subpoena her is if the Republicans on the committee agreed to it.
CASTRO: That's right.
COOPER: And that seems unlikely. I mea, they don't seem to show any willingness.
CASTRO: Yes. I mean, you asked me what I think we should do. I think if we're doing a fair job and a thorough job, we ought to subpoena her. If she comes in on subpoena and doesn't answer those questions still, then you would hold her in contempt. Then at that point you go in front of a court, and a judge decides what happens.
COOPER: Because, I mean, in a White House where -- I mean, I don't think the departure of a communications, you know, director like this or somebody as close as this to the president would be such a big story if this White House wasn't organized in the disorganized way that it is, where people -- there aren't necessarily clear lanes -- or I mean, there at least initially there weren't.
CASTRO: And she admitted as much. You know, she mentioned when you work for Donald Trump, you work for Donald Trump, that he has the final say about the campaign manager, above the chief of staff, above everybody else.
COOPER: It's fascinating. Congressman Castro, thank you very much.
CASTRO: Thank you.
COOPER: When we continue, breaking news from "The Washington Post." Robert Mueller looking into the circumstances last summer when President Trump seemed determined to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Also later, a special conversation with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of Watergate renown. Their reporting for "The Washington Post", of course, played a key role in the unraveling of a president. We'll get their take on what's happening now.
[20:25:00] COOPER: Well, it's another one of those nights. More breaking news. "The Washington Post" reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is taking a look at the time last summer when President Trump seemed determine to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, publicly humiliating him as he did today. Did that amount to a potential obstruction of justice?
I've spoken to a "Washington Post" reporter Josh Dawsey right before we went on air.
COOPER: Josh, what can you tell us about Mueller's interest regarding Attorney General Sessions and President Trump?
JOSH DAWSEY, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. So special counsel Mueller has shown intense interest in a period this summer in late July where President Trump was publicly shaming Jeff Sessions, saying that he was disappointing him. He was calling him beleaguered on Twitter, and behind the scenes he was frequently fuming about the Russia investigation and the attorney general.
What special counsel Mueller's investigation is trying to discern is whether in those conversations he was trying to fire Jeff Sessions or push Jeff Sessions out so he could exert more control over the investigation. As we've reported and others have countless times, the president is very upset that Jeff Sessions recused himself. He wanted an attorney general who was more loyal, to not think he should have recused himself. And in these efforts, the special counsel wants to know, was he trying to fire Jeff Sessions so he could put someone in who would handle the investigation differently?
COOPER: So, essentially, Mueller is looking at was this part of an attempt to obstruct justice, to get somebody who is more pliable, more to -- more an ally of the president in that position?
DAWSEY: Right. I think that's an accurate distillation, Anderson. Our reporting indicates that, you know, over many months, there are a number of instances, occasions, the firing of James Comey being one, the statement on Air Force One that aides crafted that was misleading about a meeting at Trump Tower, where the special counsel wants to know was there an effort to obstruct justice or obstruct this probe.
As was reported last month, there was even an effort at one point the president was thinking about firing Mueller. So, there are a number of instances, including this attempt to oust Jeff Sessions or to shame Jeff Sessions in the summer that fit into a broader narrative of was there any obstruction here by the president or his people.
COOPER: And, of course, the story comes on a day when the president is continuing to publicly go after his attorney general in rather extraordinary ways. I mean, the period of time that Mueller is looking at, according to your reporting, there was a remarkable amount of public vitriol coming from the president and aimed at Sessions.
DAWSEY: Right. There were several days of relentless tweets, relentless public comments. Trump's aides in the media anonymously asking for Jeff Sessions to essentially quit. One of the things we reported tonight in our story, Anderson, is that the pressure has been so hot on Jeff Sessions and the criticism so sharp that his aides actually last month pitched in and bought him a bulletproof vest and put his name on it because of the first year he's had with President Trump and jokingly suggested he might should wear it to work.
COOPER: You're also learning about the kinds of things that the president says to others about the attorney general.
DAWSEY: Right. He's very derisive about Attorney General Sessions. One of the comments he likes to make is referring to him as Mr. Magoo, the 1950s era comic character that was short sighted and bumbling and was not seen as particularly intelligent. He likes to refer to him as Mr. Magoo. And that's caught several advisers of his by surprise. You know, to
have conversations with him where he's referring to his attorney general as Mr. Magoo.
COOPER: I always thought Mr. Magoo was kind of sweet. Anyway, that's just my personal remembrance of him.
DAWSEY: I don't think President Trump thinks Jeff Sessions is very sweet, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. I guess he doesn't like Mr. Magoo either.
Josh Dawsey, thanks very much. Fascinating reporting. Appreciate it.
DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Well, when it comes to political investigative reporting, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, of course, set the standard. Their work for "The Washington Post" during the Watergate scandal played a huge role in the downfall of President Nixon. Their reporting won the Pulitzer Prize for public service. And their landmark book "All the President's Men" became an equally landmark movie.
Today, Bob and Carl are acclaimed authors. Bob is also an associate editor of "The Washington Post". And Carl is a CNN political analyst.
On this night of a great deal of breaking news, I'm very happy to have both of them with me here in Washington.
Thanks so much for being with us.
BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here.
COOPER: First of all, what do you make of the "Washington Post" report that the special counsel is now looking at president -- or asking questions at least about President Trump's beratement of his own attorney general last summer?
WOODWARD: Well, it would be logical that they would. And if you talk to people who go and they're interviewed by Mueller's people, lots of FBI agents, sometimes the interviews run 10, 12 hours. So they're going to ask every question. I don't think you can draw a conclusion from it.
COOPER: Someone just checking off -- I mean it would be remiss if they didn't ask.
WOODWARD: Yes, and somebody may because, you know, they're in a position where they have to tell the truth, that they're going to be, you know, careful, or they may be forthcoming with some leads. So, I think it's part of the puzzle and the matrix we're seeing in all of this.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And then, I mean, again, on a day -- normally that would probably be the lead story on this day that we have had this meeting on gun control, and Hope Hicks stepping down. When you both look at this White House, just in terms of the way it's organized, the way it is run, have you ever seen a White House like this?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. And I think what's going on now, there are two stories that are coming together. There is the Mueller investigation, there's the Russian story and the possibility of collusion and the possibility of obstruction of justice. But there is now a sub text that people in the White House will say to you, it is unclear to them whether Donald Trump can effectively govern. Whether he is capable of it in terms of his own abilities, conduct and whether or not things have gotten to the point where the wheels are coming off of this presidency.
We don't know that. But certainly people in the White House are openly with each other and with journalist raising those kinds of questions.
WOODWARD: It is not clear who has authority or what authority. And there's --
COOPER: And it's been their way from the beginning.
WOODWARD: Indeed, but, you know, as people disappear like Hope Hicks was, you know, one of the sidekicks and I remember talking to her about what job she was going to take after the election. And she said, I just don't want to be involved in the hand to hand combat of the daily coverage. And she did step back from that. And now you know, off she goes. So lots of people are going or have gone or may go.
COOPER: I was been just re-reading The Final Days, what an amazing book you guys wrote about the last year of the Nixon administration. Obviously, we have been careful about comparisons to Watergate obviously as both of you have. But, just in terms of -- did President Nixon have anybody who was as close to him as Hope Hicks, as Jared Kushner, as Ivanka Trump, I mean in that sort of inner circle?
WOODWARD: Well, I think one of the realities of all presidents is they have the disease of isolation, that there is not that kind of, where people come in and actually tell the full story. And so presidents become protected and disconnected and I think that's happening.
BERNSTEIN: One of the other things that is similar, there are many similarities with Watergate and there are also a truck load of things that are very different. But one of the similarities are people around the President of the United States who try to restrain the worst instincts of the president in both Nixon's case and in Trump's case.
So, there was more egregious, I think, even in Trump's case. But we now have in the White House, Kelly, over at the Defense Department, Mattis. We have a group of people around the President of the United States whose almost primary function is to keep him in line. To keep him from doing things that might be dangerous in their eyes.
It's an extraordinary and you go to the final days, wherein the last year of the Nixon presidency, there were concerns along those lines. But it's also for early and again in a new administration that this could be happening now.
COOPER: Don't forget -- General, I mean he had a chief of staff who was a general who was relatively new in the administration.
WOODWARD: General Haig.
COOPER: General Haig.
COOPER: Relatively new in the administration. Was Haig's role similar to the role that Kelly has been put with?
WOODWARD: Well, we're seeing that. I remember the month after Nixon resigned, we, Carl and I went to Haig's house. And the old knocking on the door at night.
COOPER: You just showed up.
WOODWARD: We just showed up.
WOODWARD: His son let us in. And then he came back from the British Embassy in his tuxedo.
COOPER: I'm sure he was thrilled when he saw --
BERNSTEIN: He was a happy guy.
WOODWARD: His son lost the four weeks of allowance or something. But, then Haig told us, it was astonishing interview. He said, he was so worried about Nixon that Nixon might take his life, that he took away Nixon's pills. That at one point Nixon said, in your business, Al, and in the army, they leave a revolver in a drawer. And so, it got to -- now, I don't think we would suggest at all in anyway that getting the --
BERNSTEIN: Probably different --
WOODWARD: But the emotional stress and toll that a president under investigation, where our continuous stories, I think by and large the stories are really well done, but how do you think Trump looks at this? It is piling on. It's unfair. [20:35:08] BERNSTEIN: It's a witch hunt.
WOODWARD: How come they are doing this? It is a witch hunt by Mueller, it's a witch hunt by the press and so we got to be careful about being as accurate and adopting a tone that of this repertorial rather than adverse (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) But it's interesting though, you talk about the emotional tool that takes on a president and the isolation, in some ways, well, let me ask, comparing the stress that Nixon was under and the complexity of the Watergate investigation, would this investigation was actually involve, potentially involves his children, you know, his closes friends, his finances, his past business dealings, is this more complex for this president and perhaps even closer to home?
BERNSTEIN: Well, they are both very emotional events for each president of the United States. And one reacts one way and other in Nixon. Nixon reacted, he was presiding over a criminal coverup.
COOPER: Nixon wasn't --
COOPER: -- involved in Trump (INAUDIBLE).
BERNSTEIN: But that what most of his efforts, I think went into, whereas Trump, we see Trump's reactions everyday. And yes, he is under siege and he thinks and feels and believes he is unfairly under siege.
COOPER: Do you wish Nixon had Twitter back then? Because in terms of a real time Rorschach test, what is happening to President's mind. I mean that for they allow --
WOODWARD: No. If that's really a full picture of what's going on in Trump's mind, I don't think it is. And thank God, Nixon didn't have Twitter.
BERNSTEIN: But he had the tapes.
WOODWARD: Yes. He had the tapes, which was would always be secret. And then there's thousands of hours and if you listen to these things, and Carl and I do this, you know, somewhat obsessively for the historical lesson, it's appalling what Nixon used the presidency as an instrument of personal raven.
And as Carl says the criminality was staggering. We don't know where this investigation goes and in the final days, we wrote about the firing of Archibald Cox who was a special prosecutor.
COOPER: I want to ask you about that next. I going to take quick break and we'll have more from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
[20:40:37] COOPER: We are joined again by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who broke the story of Watergate story wide open back in the '70s.
I just want to play a clip from the movie made from you guys book All the Presidents Men. You probably seen this, I've watch it plenty -- several 100 times. It became catch phrase for investigators worldwide. Take look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tell me what you know and I will confirm. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can. But that's all. Just follow the money.
COOPER: Hal Holbrook I think playing the character.
WOODWARD: This is Deep Throat who was Mark Felt (INAUDIBLE)
COOPER: -- from the FBI. Do you, I mean this is a kind of dumb question, but do you miss the days when you were talking to sources in dark garages? Or maybe you still --
BERNSTEIN: We still love, we both do. Of course.
WOODWARD: I will go out and move a forward, partner.
COOPER: But in "All the President's Men", you write extensively about, I want to use that from term it was rat efing. It was a term that the Nixon team had for base and missing around with election campaigns.
It is amazing when you think about that compared to the Russia's efforts, I mean, which is rat efing on a major scale.
BERNSTEIN: Both of these events, Watergate was about Richard Nixon's attempt to undermine the electoral system of the United States, the most basic element of American democracy.
He under right the right to vote, because what the object of all that political espionage and sabotage was, was Nixon wanted to run against George McGovern, the weakest candidate the Democrats could put up. He did not want to run against the strongest candidate Edmund Muskie. And he and his aides set out to devise this vast campaign of political espionage and sabotage to undercut and destroy the Muskie campaign and they succeeded.
And of course, the alligations, of quote, collusion.
COOPER: Right. BERNSTEIN: And what the Russians try do was to determine the outcome of an American election. To affect an American election. So, in both cases, ironically enough you are dealing with the same allegations in some way.
WOODWARD: Well, Nixon succeeded as Carl pointed out. But we don't know the impact of the Russian meddling. And that's a big issue and maybe we'll never know. And we don't know that there is so much noise out there. And there is so much, you know, all they have determined the election, no they didn't or half these ads that are being questioned actually ran after the election and so could not effect the election. So, it's a lot of work.
And I think one of the points we agree on is that there is a lot of work that Mueller and the House and the Senate investigations need to do. But so does the media. And not just a reaction to the daily event, but doing the four-hour interviews, going and knocking on the door at night, meeting people and really establishing a relationship of trust so you can find out what they really know what's on the phone.
BERNSTEIN: One other aspect though, of this story that is very different, and that is whatever the Russians did and we might not ever find out what the effects was in terms of the election itself, they have destabilized us and continue to buy this whole investigation. And in the fact that we are in this paroxysm of trying to deal with what they have done and the Presidents reaction to it, that the destabilization that has taken place through Russian's efforts is extraordinary.
COOPER: Did Watergate, you know, part of people in the Clinton White House, you said that President Clinton was able to compartmentalize the investigations that were going on in to him and governing with, I guess, it's an arguable point. But, was Nixon able to do that? Because that's the, you know, the criticism that's been made against President Trump is that essentially there has been reporting, I think which is in the "Washington Post" and "New York Times" that briefers are loath to bring up Russia to him because he takes it personally as delegitimizing and attempted delegitimizing.
[20:45:03] WOODWARD: Well, it all -- your point, it takes a toll. And you can't kind of, you know, in particularly when you got emotional people like Nixon was, like Trump is, and you -- the idea that you can shut your -- shut it down and say "Oh yes, now, let's talk about the budget, let's do this, I mean some of that is going on." I, you know, you really wonder and then something that were, you know, everyone needs to think about, what is the governing impact. Are we being governed?
I've been all this discussion, we'll do this legislation, oh, we can't do that. We can't, I mean, maybe they are going to do none.
COOPER: I also want to put up a headline, one of your headlines from July 1973, Nixon Sees Witch-Hunt Insiders Say. Which is that, I mean, to it's the exact term.
WOODWARD: How did you find that?
COOPER: You know, hardworking producers. Thank you.
But, I mean, it's -- the clearly that push back was not effective for Nixon. But --
BERNSTEIN: -- to make the conduct to the press the issue in Watergate at the beginning of not to the extent this --
COOPER: In fact, I also want to play a clip of Nixon talking to his press secretary, Ron Ziegler, on the phone, this is from December of '72. Let's quickly play that, about the press.
RICHARD NIXON, 37th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want it clearly understood that from now on ever, no reporter from the "Washington Post" is ever to be in the White House, is that clear?
RON ZIEGLER, PRESS SECRETARY OF PRES. NIXON: Absolutely.
NIXON: Unless it is press conference.
ZIEGLER: Yes sir. Just the briefings here --
NIXON: But never in the White House, no church service, nothing that Mrs. Nixon tell you, you tell Connie, don't tell Mrs. Nixon, because she'll approve it. No reporter from the "Washington Post" is ever to be in the White House again, and no photographer, either. No photographer. Is that clear?
ZIEGLER: Yes sir.
NIXON: None ever to be in. Now that is a total order. And if necessary, I'll fire you. Do you understand?
ZIEGLER: I do understand.
BERNSTEIN: It's about the wedding.
WOODWARD: Yes. But it's also about a mind set, right? And that is -- this shows again that Nixon didn't understand the press. The answers to Watergate questions weren't in the White House. Not going to walk in and talk to those people. You have to go see them at night and you have to develop a method and technique of just saying, you know, we are not going to stop. We had editors and owners at the "Post" who said don't stop.
COOPER: But so much of the language used they use by that as Ron Ziegler, in 19 -- October '72 said of your reporting, quote, "I personally feel that this is shabby journalism by the "Washington Post." This is totally non hearsay in any window, a blade and effort to character assassination". We hear this time and time again about unnamed sources from this administration talking.
BERNSTEIN: But Richard Nixon always had an adversarial relationship with the press, going back to when he was a congressman, going back to when he was senator and vice president.
What you have with Trump though, Trump's career was built on manipulating the press, on having a great relationship with the "New York Post" and the "New York Daily News". And you -- Even to the point were we know that Donald Trump impersonating someone who called himself John Barren. Would call him gossip stories about the beautiful blonds that he was going out with the Studio 54.
He has been accustomed to having a fawning press. And now he has come to Washington, he has gotten caught up in his own conduct which is there for all to see. The question of whether it is criminal or not, we'll find out.
But today the question about his stability, Republicans in Congress have asked, it's all out there. And he cannot believe that the press which he once so controlled will go with these stories and he just goes and says they are the enemy of the people because he can't do anything.
WOODWARD: But he takes them seriously and he believes lots of those stories that are critical because they're coming from people who work with him.
COOPER: Right. We got to take another quick break. More with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
The Trump President sees surprise to some people, not to President Nixon. He and his white coming decades ago. President has the letter to prove it. More from both men, next.
[20:53:03] COOPER: Back now with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
You wrote in a piece in the "Washington Post" a couple weeks ago about the conflict -- the growing conflict between President Trump and the Department of Justice. You said -- your article began with, "we're here again", and it's interesting because President Nixon thought that his Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, who was sort of from the Eastern WASP establishment, which Nixon didn't necessarily like, but he need Richardson, but he sort of thought Richardson was going to be an ally of his.
WOODWARD: We tried to make him one, and also this is an interesting contrast. That Nixon wanted to bring Richardson in, kind of Mr. Straight arrow, because he could redeem the Justice Department as attorney general.
WOODWARD: And of course that was all part of trying to suck Richardson into the cover-up, which he wouldn't --
COOPER: But Nixon, when he brought Richardson to Camp David, if my memory serves me correct.
COOPER: He had this talk with Richardson in which he said, a, don't take the job unless you think I'm innocent. But you have to protect the presidency from the president. So on the one hand, he gave Richardson hope that this investigation would be legit and independent, and at the same time, he was sort of asking for a loyalty test, it seems.
WOODWARD: Yes. But it really was part of the cover-up.
WOODWARD: It was to bring Richardson in and we know from the tapes and the things during this period, it was all a front.
COOPER: From the beginning?
WOODWARD: Well, yes.
BERNSTEIN: And now of course --
WOODWARD: From the beginning of Nixon's presidency. And this is the point that -- you know, we've written about this. There were all kinds of wiretaps on reporters.
WOODWARD: Yes, break-ins that, you know, did --
BERNSTEIN: Ordered by Nixon.
WOODWARD: Ordered by Nixon and this kind of whole idea of, ah, I won. Democrats, you get the IRS, the FBI, the CIA. It was an assault on democracy in a fundamental way.
[20:55:07] COOPER: Is it true, I mean, it's hard to imagine even in this day the criminality that was involved.
BERNSTEIN: It is, but what's so interesting to watch the Trump situation is another president assert that he has these extraordinary powers and has an authoritarian bent, certainly in his words that are suggestive of being willing to do all kinds of things. He might pull back from an illegal act, but the words are really dangerous in terms of what he advocates and what he --
WOODWARD: But he does have that authority. I mean presidents -- BERNSTEIN: What he could -- yes. He can fire --
WOODWARD: All these people. He got Mueller, he got --
BERNSTEIN: Sessions in a minute.
WOODWARD: Yes. Yes.
BERNSTEIN: That's his --
WOOWARD: And you've see this buildup of hostility toward his own Justice Department, his own attorney general. And, you know, at some point that's going to stop. That's going to go off.
COOPER: Do you think that's because, I mean, Sessions was one of his earliest supporters out on the campaign trail that he believed Sessions would be more of an ally just as Nixon hoped Richardson would?
BERNSTEIN: In part, but he has said aloud, and he says through the White House, walking the halls and complaining to people about Sessions, that Sessions will not do his bidding. And Sessions appointed Rosenstein, and who appointed Mueller simply because he fired the -- the president fired Comey and now --
WOODWARD: It's an explosive situation and at the same time -- the mid some part of the remedy, if we can talk about remedy, some transparency. I mean let's kind of come clean and answer some questions about that. Yes, probably it won't happen, but I think we have to be there asking those questions.
COOPER: Yes. We could talk for hours. It's just really fascinating. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.
COOPER: Really appreciate it, it's an honor.
Up next, the new bombshell exit from the White House. Hope Hicks stepping down as one President closest longest serving adviser, a reporting in the possible connection to her mission. She told white lies on behalf of the President and what the President -- what her -- his response was to that admission. Coming up.