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Trump Top Economic Adviser Gary Cohn to Resign; Witness with Ties to Emirates and Trump Team Cooperating with Mueller; George Nader Attend Secret Meeting in Seychelles with Trump Associate; Pres. Trump: North Korea Seems Sincere in Talks with South Korea. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired March 6, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So just so you know, there are ten people waiting to do my job.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

Ten super-talented people for every White House job and no chaos. None. That was the claim from the president today about a White House that, keeping them honest, just about any way you look at it is a picture of turbulence, turmoil, and, yes, chaos. There is new and breaking evidence of it tonight, breaking irony as well.

And OK, I need to take a deep breath here. Gary Cohn, the president's top economic adviser, is resigning over the president's tariff plan which the president rolled out, yes, chaotically with no heads-up to allies, business leaders, lawmakers, anyone, apparently in frustration over a string of other stories centering largely on, you guessed it, chaos at the White House.

And speaking of chaos, we also have new reporting tonight that the president actually green lit the communication director he fired after ten-days on the job, Anthony Scaramucci, the Mooch, he let Anthony Scaramucci go on national television and trash talk his current chief of staff, John Kelly, who replaced the one that he fired, Reince Priebus. The very same John Kelly who's put out three different stories in three weeks on who knew what, when, when about the White House staff secretary Rob Porter who the White House cut loose for allegedly abusing two spouses and a girlfriend.

There's the departure of his communications director Hope Hicks who replaced the Mooch and was dating Rob Porter, she's left for reasons still unclear. And that's on top of reporting that H.R. McMaster, the president's national security adviser, could be leaving by the end of the month. He replaced Michael Flynn, the one who lasted a bit more than three weeks on the job, made a plea deal and is now cooperating with the special counsel.

Are you keeping this all; straight? It's a bit, what's the word here, chaotic, isn't it?

The president, though, sees it differently. He says there are ten people, the ten best people in any field, lining up to work for him. He set the stage for that bold claim with this early morning tweet. The new fake news narrative is that there is chaos, all caps, in the

White House, wrong, exclamation point. People will always come and go. And I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change, always seeking perfection. There is no chaos, only great energy.

Leaving aside for a moment the chill that remark about personnel changes might be causing tonight, listen to what the president said this afternoon at a joint news conference with Sweden's prime minister.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just said that the White House has tremendous energy. It has tremendous spirit. It is a great place to be working.

Many, many people want every single job. I read, oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump. Believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office. They want a piece of the West Wing.

So many people want to come in. I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House and I'll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there.

And they love this White House because we have energy like rarely before. OK?


BERMAN: So, the president sees energy. Not chaos.

Maybe too much energy, apparently, for Gary Cohn, Hope Hicks, perhaps H.R. McMaster, in this large and growing list of ex-senior officials after just a year and two months of the Trump administration. The chief of staff, the chief strategist, the national security adviser, five communications directors, five, too much energy for them.


TRUMP: It's tough. I like conflict, I like having two people with different point of views. I certainly have that. And then I make a decision.

But I like watching it, I like seeing it, I think it's the best way to go. I like different points of view. The White House has a tremendous energy and we have tremendous talent.


BERMAN: Again, whether you consider the talent tremendous, good, bad, or indifferent, a significant chunk of it has been heading out the door, which begs the question, maybe the biggest question. Who is left to give the president the kind of honest input any president needs? They're all leaving, with the possible -- excuse me, with the possible exception of Jared Kushner. Though his security clearance is now lower than the White House calligrapher. Oh, there's all the reporting the last few days that the president wants his chief of staff to help maneuver Kushner and Ivanka Trump out of the White House. That's the chief of staff that we're now reporting the president is asking surrogates to badmouth on national television. And the circle of chaos is complete.

As for the calligrapher, not to worry, there are nine others gunning for the job.

A big night ahead starting with the Gary Cohn departure, and CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House with that.

Jim, what are you learning tonight about the departure of Gary Cohn?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Everything is calm here, John, no chaos whatsoever. I haven't seen any in the last 20 seconds.

But, yes, John, the president was pushing back on this notion that there's chaos inside the White House.

[20:05:04] And he was doing that as the White House communications team was preparing the announcement that Gary Cohn is leaving as the president's top economic adviser. It doesn't get more surreal than that.

I will tell you from talking to a number of sources this evening, I talked to one senior administration official who really lamented Gary Cohn's departure, described Gary Cohn as a moderating influence inside the White House, somebody who could fill up the room with gravitas, that that will be lost now as a result of his departure, and essentially he lost the argument on this tariff decision that the president has apparently made. That this was going on back and forth for the last week or so ever since the president made this surprise announcement to everybody.

And then on the Sunday talk shows, it was not Gary Cohn explaining all of this, it was Peter Navarro, the president's top trade adviser. In the words of this one senior administration official I spoke with earlier this evening, the perception was inside the White House that Peter Navarro was essentially gloating and that Gary Cohn really didn't need to sit around and wait for the writing on the wall.

As I saw in the White House East Room earlier today, the writing was really on the seat. There was a seat marker for Gary Cohn inside the East Room. He was supposed to join the president for that news conference. And then didn't show up. That was one very public sign of trouble.

Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, took his place instead. And so, you know, when the president says there's no chaos inside the White House, you probably could go ahead and bet a lot of money that there is chaos inside the White House. John, we've seen nothing but that over the last several weeks, whether it's Hope Hicks, Rob Porter, so on.

BERMAN: I talked myself hoarse describing what we've seen the last few weeks.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

BERMAN: Do you have any sense what impact the Gary Cohn departure specifically will have in the West Wing?

ACOSTA: Well, I think it is going to be significant. We had one source tell our Erin Burnett this evening this is going to cause trauma inside the White House. I've heard from a number of people in there that Gary Cohn is going to be missed.

But keep in mind, he was advocating an economic viewpoint that really was just counter to the president's. And a lot of people were pushing back on the notion that Gary Cohn would resign because in the words of this one official, how could he not know that the president wanted to do this? He after all campaigned on this throughout the 2016 election cycle.

But at the same time, John, this is going to be a loss. You saw the president tweeting just in the last several minutes that he is working on a replacement. He's trying to at least put the public face forward here that he's on top of all of this. And one name that's been floated so far, John, is Larry Kudlow, the financial analyst over there on CNBC who's a friend of the president.

And now one thing we should point out, Larry Kudlow is also a strong free trader who's been actively saying, Mr. President, don't to this, with respect to tariffs. But I talked to a senior administration official this evening who was floating Larry Kudlow's name who said, you know what, the president likes different points of view, bring on Larry Kudlow.

But make no mistake, Gary Cohn leaving this White House is a big departure for this president. It's another sign that chaos looms over here. It's not the opposite of chaos. It is total chaos almost all the time here.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House tonight, a sea of calm this evening as always. Thanks so much, Jim.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BERMAN: Lots to talk about. Joining me now, Ryan Lizza, Julie Hirschfield Davis, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, and also Jason Miller.

Kaitlan, I want to start with you. It takes a lot to put a pin in the Gary Cohn news for a moment. But you've got a doozy of a scoop involving the president, the chief of staff, John Kelly, and Anthony Scaramucci. What's going on with them?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's certainly right, John. And to give you a little back story, Anthony Scaramucci is that communications director who was at the White House for a short period of time before he was fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly once he came into the West Wing. But now, we are learning that we've seen Anthony Scaramucci go on several cable news channels and trash John Kelly, he's criticized him multiple times, blaming him for the low morale in the West Wing and saying that he needs to apologize for how he handled the fallout from that Rob Porter scandal, and also referring to him as, quote, "general jackass."

And we are now learning the president has actually given Anthony Scaramucci his blessing to continue going on television and trashing the chief of staff, which is certainly something stunning in and of itself. The reason Anthony Scaramucci is doing this, obviously, John Kelly fired him, also he has recently limited his access to the White House.

But what's stunning is while the president is tweeting and bemoaning reports of any kind of chaos in the West Wing, he's in part sowing some of that chaos himself by setting up this argument between his former communications director and his current chief of staff. And instead of being aware of these criticisms and discouraging Anthony from going on and making these criticisms on national television, the president instead seems to be giving it his blessing here, John.

[20:10:00] BERMAN: Yes. You know, every time the name Anthony Scaramucci is mentioned, Ryan Lizza gets his wings.

You know, Ryan, you famously interviewed Anthony Scaramucci during his brief reign as communications director. Does it surprise you that he somehow feels emboldened by the president to publicly go after the chief of staff, or does this feel or -- and does this feel like something bigger?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I guess I'm surprised by his staying power, and to the extent that this White House sometimes feels like a reality show, like "Survivor," or something, Scaramucci is one of the characters that got, you know, voted off the island early but is like circling in a boat, you know, desperately trying to get back on, and waving his hands at the shore saying, pay attention to me.

And so, he -- look, he dislikes the chief of staff because the chief of staff fired him. And it actually does not surprise me that he might have gotten a little bit of a nudge by the president to go after him, because Trump -- nobody stays in Trump's good graces for very long, right?

And John Kelly, the general, as Trump liked to call him for so long, was -- you know, was someone that had sort of unimpeachable credentials in the Trump world. And that's the kind of person that eventually Trump is going to want to knock down a peg or two. And we know that Kelly has been 2fighting with a lot of other people in the White House.

So, it doesn't shock me. You know, the Mooch is sort of all over the media. I noticed today he was even on "Dr. Phil" counseling people on how to repair their marriages. So, the White House story never ceases to amaze me. BERMAN: Jason Miller actually cracked a smile there.

LIZZA: That is a true story. I did not make that up.

BERMAN: You remained stoic for most of this, all this talk about chaos. But the Mooch going on "Dr. Phil" caused Jason to smile.

Jason, the president said today that everybody wants to work in the White House. Well, not apparently Gary Cohn anymore, Hope Hicks anymore, maybe not H.R. McMaster in the future.

You know, these new questions that are also new questions about General Kelly -- you know, who is left to advise the president here?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the one thing I know about President Trump having worked for him for seven months on the campaign and the transition, is he does likes to put folks together with different points of view, and he likes to watch them hash it out. He even referenced that earlier today in the press conference.

But here's the fundamental rule is once the president has made his decision, everybody's expected to fall in line. I think what we've seen so far in this White House in the first year and a quarter, a little more than a year after his inauguration, is too often people have these battles and they'll go back to their camps and they don't fall in line behind the president.

So, whoever the president brings in to replace Gary Cohn, whether it's an internal candidate like a Peter Navarro, someone who's been obviously knows the economy, who is very loyal, whether it's someone on the outside, like Larry Kudlow, who's a strong supporter during the campaign, the fundamental thing the president needs to look at, is this person, number one, going to support his vision for the economy and trade? Number two, be a team player that can fall in line?

And, John, the one final thing that I'd say here too is, I'd really urge the president to take the big picture here with whoever his replacement is for Gary Cohn. The next 50 years is really going to be determined by this competition, this economic competition between the U.S. and China.

If I'm the president, I'm sitting down, whether it's Peter, whether it's Larry, and saying, give us the economic strategy or the implementation to take my ideas and tell us how we're going to actually go and beat China in this economic competition. Think big. We need to set a 50-year path here, and let's really use this opportunity.

BERMAN: Julie, let me ask you, and you cover the White House closely, a source close to the president told Erin Burnett tonight that Gary Cohn was, quote, the only good guy left. And of all the things, this will cause the most trauma. I suppose that goes in the category of there are different camps in general. But does this align with at least what you're hearing from certain camps?

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, there's a lot of concern about his departure. And, you know, we've been speculating over whether he would stay or go for months. And actually in recent weeks, he was floated as a possible replacement for John Kelly if he were going to be cut loose, because let's not forget, it was only a few weeks ago that we were having that discussion every day.

There is a lot of concern. Gary Cohn, as well as Rob Porter, who obviously also left under a very adverse circumstances couple of months ago now, or a month ago now, were the sorts of people who could have a debate inside the Oval Office, who could put forth a point of view, have a policy process, which is pretty rare in this White House. There are not a lot of the people there who can have that give and take. Not a lot of people there who would be listened to the way Gary Cohn was listened to by the president, even though they differed on big agenda items. Obviously, trade chief among them.

But I do think this is going to leave a big void. And if it were on its own, it would be one thing. But in the string of departures that we've seen or announced departures, it's really going to leave this president quite isolated with not a lot of expertise to call on on some of these big topics that he want to tackle. So, if he wants to do what Jason was just saying, he's going to be hard pressed to do that.

Gary Cohn's deputy left back in December.

[20:15:01] And so, it's not your typical White House where you have two or three people who are sort of lined up, ready to go, ready to take this spot. It's going to be a real challenge for them to fill the void.

BURNETT: Look, in turbulent times, you need sober, reasonable voices. And these are the types of voices that are leaving.

We're going to have much more on the Cohn breaking news and other breaking news ahead tonight, including this, a new cooperating witness for Robert Mueller. This could be big, because of the secret meetings he attended between Trump associates and the United Arab Emirates, the same UAE that according to the "Washington Post" talked about ways Jared Kushner could be compromised.


BURNETT: Breaking news, the resignation of another senior White House staffer and the repercussions of it, including the question of who is left to give the president quality advice? As we mentioned, a source close to the president calls departing economic adviser Gary Cohn, quote, the only good guy left, saying of his resignation, of all the things, this will cause the most trauma.

Today, even someone you would think might be inclined to say good riddance at least over policy put out a statement lamenting his departure. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, this is what he tweeted tonight: As right wing conservative and founding member of the Freedom Caucus, I never expected the co-worker I would work closest and best with would be a globalist. That was in quotation marks. That's the pejorative that Steve Bannon

and some at the White House have derided Cohn as.

The tweet continues, Gary Cohn is one of the smartest people I have worked with.

[20:20:02] Having the chance to collaborate with him has been one of the highlights of my career in public service.

Back now with the panel.

Ryan Lizza, can you decipher what Mick Mulvaney is saying there again, because globalist was that label placed on Gary Cohn by Steve Bannon, trying to separate I think, you know, people with this bigger world view from Steve Bannon and nationalists there.


BERMAN: Where does it go now?

LIZZA: Well, first of all, I was confused by that statement, it's not like the Freedom Caucus and the right wing conservatives are considered anti-globalist. They're not nationalists.

BERMAN: Good point. 2

LIZZA: But, anyway, that aside, I think they worked closely on tax reform. I think Cohn will view his legacy as passing the president's tax agenda. I think when people look back on his work in the White House, that will compete with one thing that I think is more important, and that is, you cannot miss the fact that he is resigning in the wake of a loss on tariffs.

Now, tariffs is a very important economic issue, a lot of reasons to be against tariffs. But this is the same person who was about to resign after the president's comments in the wake of Charlottesville, wrote a resignation letter reportedly, and decided not to go ahead with it. I think the question is, how could you be so worked up about a tariff issue that you resign, and yet when the president said what he said about Charlottesville, it pricked your conscience so much, but you couldn't pull the trigger on a resignation then? I think that's the question he'll have to answer when he leaves.

BERMAN: Look, you read my mind. That was my very next point to bring up.

Kaitlan Collins, you know, people will look at this, and critics are saying, you know, this is hardly a profile in courage to quit over a steel and aluminum tariff, when you claimed you were about to quit, you'd written a resignation letter apparently, after the president said there are good people on both sides of the Charlottesville protests.

COLLINS: Yes, that's right, John. It's very interesting to see how Gary Cohn's relationship here in the West Wing has unfolded, because at that point, Gary Cohn was obviously very frustrated with the president's remarks but did not take too kindly to them but it also went the other way. The president was frustrated with Gary Cohn's criticism of him. And whenever he would see him in the weeks following that, he would roll his eyes, if he saw him on television or in person, did not speak to him as much as he had in the weeks prior to that.

So, we saw that relationship really at a low back then, and then it really was boosted, Gary Cohn's standing in the West Wing was boosted after tax reform was passed because those were many players in that game, Gary Cohn was certainly implemental in that, certainly helped a lot and the president definitely recognized that, to where Gary Cohn's name just a few weeks ago was being floated as a potential replacement for John Kelly as chief of staff, something that people inside the West Wing were not denying.

So, it's interesting to see how that relationship has unfolded and then back here to the tariffs, it is once again that Gary Cohn advised the president, do not implement these tariffs, it is not a good idea. He tied it directly to the stock market, something the president often reflected on, saying it is a success -- shows the success of his presidency. He said if he imposed these tariffs, it would certainly affect that.

We saw that. He didn't even formally announce them yet and it started to affect it. We have seen this is where Gary Cohn has drawn the line here, John.

BERMAN: You know, Julie, it is interesting, this came on the same day that the president, to his credit, he did it face to face basically told the prime minister of Sweden and the European Union to buzz off when it comes to trade.

So, you know, is this a seismic shift now in terms of this White House that free trade, globalists just need not apply?

DAVIS: Well, listen, Donald Trump as he noted today and has noted in the past had been talking about this for 25 years. It's the one thing he seems to feel in his core is a really important principle and he used the word protect today. I want to protect. It's a protectionist move and he's owning that.

So, yes, I do think we are seeing him embrace that even more fully than he had in the campaign when it was just a proposal and not an actual policy action like we are about to see him take. I think we are headed in that direction.

But, listen, I think that Gary Cohn did what a lot of frankly Republicans did when they decided to go into this administration, which was to say I don't agree with him on this, I don't agree with him on a lot of things. Maybe I don't even really think that he's that great of a guy, in principle, on things like Charlottesville, but I'm going to put that aside because I think I can do something useful in this administration.

And I think what we saw this week was Gary Cohn seeing this move toward tariffs and saying you know what, I can't even do that. So, why is it worth it to stay if this is going to be how things are going to be? If that is the calculation that is made by others in the West Wing, it's a dwindling group, obviously, that is there to advise the president, but if more people make that calculation that becomes worse and worse for President Trump.

It becomes harder to attract good people because you won't have folks being willing to put aside what may be very real differences with this president and say in the interests of making good policy, I'm going to go work in this White House.

[20:25:06] BERMAN: You are totally right. The president has been talking about this for 25 years. You get the sense that Gary Cohn and Wall Street thought that maybe they could talk him out of it. They were betting on that.

You know, a year and two months in, they are now realizing at least for now, they haven't.

You know, Jason Miller, to you, the name that has been floated in the last hour is Larry Kudlow, you know, CNBC, possibly replacing Gary Cohn. That is something you would support?

MILLER: I very much am a fan of Larry Kudlow. Like I said earlier, I'm very much a fan of Peter Navarro. I think they are two very solid options.

BERMAN: But they are wildly different. But, Jason, what's interesting about that is they're crazily different, right? Larry Kudlow is against tariffs and for free trade. Peter Navarro is, you know, dead set against free trade and for the tariffs.

MILLER: But, ultimately, this is where the president is going to bring in a couple different folks and take a look at them. And, quite frankly, it will be more than just those two. I'm big fans of both Larry and Peter.

The president is going to expand it out, bring in a bunch of folks and it might not be the chasm between, say, Peter Navarro and Gary Cohn, where he's trying to decide where he wants to be on a certain policy. Maybe he wants it more on one end of it. But I think one thing to keep in mind is the only person that anyone voted for in this White House is Donald Trump. I mean, he's the only one anyone voted for.

Yes, the staffing story is important today, Gary Cohn will be completely out of the news tomorrow, we will move on to something else. There are a ton of all-stars within this administration, whether it's Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who led most of the tax cuts. He's probably, other than the president, the person I'd say is probably the MVP of this first year of the administration. You look at Mick Mulvaney, who you talked about earlier, General Mattis.

There are a lot of really, really good people with this administration. And the president is going to put them together and see who really kind of fits the bill.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, everyone, very much. Coming up, late word tonight about another witness who is said to be

cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation. What he may know and what we know about him, next.


[20:30:24] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: More breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation, word that special counsel Robert Mueller is getting cooperation from a Middle East specialist with ties to the Trump team. Two people tell CNN that George Nader went to secret meetings between the United Arab Emirates and Trump associates during the presidential transition.

Joining me now with more, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell.

Shimon, what can you tell me about this, you know, man of mystery, George Nader? Who is he? What does he do? And why has the Mueller team talk with it?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, you know, John, this man has been off -- this man, George Nader, has been off the radar for quite some time and it wasn't until he returned to the United States in January that FBI agents have been waiting for him at Dulles Airport here, close to Washington, D.C.

And he's it's there where they questioned him for hours. They took his cellphones. They had search warrants for his cellphones, the image of cellphones. They served him with a subpoena and he was questioned about his knowledge about meetings in Seychelles, meetings in New York that Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn attended with the head of the UAE and other people associated with the United Arab Emirates. He was also questioned about this meeting in the Seychelles.

He is quite an interesting character kind of a behind the scenes guy who is known to here in the political circles and was working on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, we're told, for sort of like an influence to try and get some policy passed.

BERMAN: Kara, what can you tell us about these meetings that Nader was believed to have been a part of?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, the meeting that Shimon referenced in New York in December of 2016, that was a meeting that was not known to the Obama administration, which kind of breaks traditional practice. So you had the crowned prince of Abu Dhabi here meeting with George Nader in the room with members of the Trump transition.

The other meeting that we learned that Nader attended was the one in the Seychelles in January of 2016, nine days before the inauguration. And in that meeting, there was a -- in the Seychelles, the Emirates met with Erick Prince. And we also know that Erik Prince had a drink at the bar with a Russian investor. George Nader was present in the Seychelles. And, you know, Mueller's team is exploring now the role the Emirates played in this which goes beyond the Russia. And it also we'll see what George Nader is going to provide because he can kind of give a -- set the scene for what was going on here since he was in both meetings and he's working with Mueller's team. He's cooperating and he's providing information to the grand jury.

BERMAN: Shimon, do we know if Nader has remained in contact with any senior administration officials?

PROKUPECZ: Well there were reports that he was maintained contact with Jared Kushner, that he's maintained contact with Steve Bannon. He does have some connection to Steve Bannon. So there have been reports, there was even some reports indicating that he was visiting the White House recently during the -- after the President -- after the inauguration. So he has had some contact at least to some -- according to some of these reports.

BERMAN: All right. Shimon, Kara, thanks so much. Great reporting.

With me now, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, you look at this story, you know, the first thing that jumps out it that George Nader, you know, not Russian, you know --


BERMAN: -- didn't work for the Trump campaign, seems to be a different character with a different set of issues. What is the significance here?

TOOBIN: Well, I don't know. And I -- and the story is suggestive but I think we need to take a deep breath and recognize that there is no proof that any crime took place here or that anyone committed a crime. I mean so we just need to recognize this is suggestive of mysterious activity, but it isn't proof of anything.

BERMAN: When they get intercept you at Dulles Airport and image your cellphones, though, it shows that they're interested in you.

TOOBIN: That they're interested. And, you know, one basic point is important to remember is that it is unlawful for a foreign government to contribute to a political campaign. It is unlawful to solicit the -- a contribution in kind or in cash from a foreign government or a foreign person during a political campaign. The possibility that someone affiliated with the United Arab Emirates or the government of the Emirates itself got involved in the presidential campaign is certainly a possibility raised here.

BERMAN: It's interesting, although the meetings that Nader went to where during the transition --

TOOBIN: Right.

BERMAN: -- you know, that was the timing of it right there --

TOOBIN: Right. BERMAN: -- who knows if there's something going on before that. But again, you know, it does show something about the scope of the Mueller investigation which every day that passes, just seems to be bigger and less close to finish than the day before.

[20:35:05] TOOBIN: Well that's certainly true. I mean, you know, there were people close to the President who were saying, oh they're wrapping up by last thanksgiving.

At the rate we're going, this thanksgiving, they may not be done by. But, you know, it's not like the Mueller office is just spinning its wheels. I mean you think about the magnitude of what they accomplished, you know, the enormous indictment of the 13 individuals associated with social media in Russia.

You know, the guilty plea of Gates, the new indictment of Manafort, the conviction of the lawyer (INAUDIBLE). I mean they are moving forward on a variety of fronts but they have not proven collusion by the government. Anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign yet and they have not proven obstruction of justice but they certainly appear to be looking at it.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, great to have you with us. Thank you very, very much.

President Trump today seemed more determined than ever to impose those tariffs on steel and aluminum downplaying the threat of a trade war even characterizing the enforcement as warm and fuzzy.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to straighten it out. And we'll do it in a loving way.


BERMAN: It's a tender tariff.

Coming up, I'm going to ask the leading congressional Republican about that and about Gary Cohn's departure.


[20:40:00] BERMAN: President Trump stuck to his hard line on steel and aluminum tariffs at the White House today, even as he stood next to his counterpart, the Swedish prime minister who is a member of the European Union could retaliate. The President tried to strike a good- cop/bad-cop tone as he talked about how tough he will be.


TRUMP: You know, when we're behind on every single country, trade wars aren't so bad. You understand what I mean by that? When we're down by 30 billion, 40 billion, 60 billion, 100 billion, the trade war hurts them, doesn't hurt us. We're going to straighten it out. And we'll do it in a loving way. It will be a loving, loving way. They'll like us better and they will respect us much more.


BERMAN: All of this as we have been reporting while the President's chief economic advisor was saying goodbye. Republican Congressman Charlie Dent knows a lot about the give and take in trade negotiations and Washington politics. I spoke with him just before the broadcast.


BERMAN: Congressman Dent, President Trump claims there is no chaos in the White House. Yet tonight, we're reporting that chief economic advisor Gary Cohn is resigning. There's the Rob Porter mess, the problem with the security clearances and then there's a whole way that these tariffs were announced catching the White House staff off guard. Does this seem like no chaos to you?

REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I'll tell you what, there is certainly been a lot -- in my view, a lot of dysfunction in the White House. My view is the term chaos described the activity at the White House for some time.

So yes, there has been unusually high turnover as have been pointed out in many occasions. Now with Gary Cohn leaving who I think in many respects has been a very constructive force within the White House on tax policy and on trade policy. I think it's a big loss for the White House.

So, yes. So I don't think chaos is too strong a word.

BERMAN: Yes. So the Gary Cohn departure would be another sign of what you initially called dysfunction or also chaos?

DENT: Yes. And like I said, Gary Cohn has been a -- I think he's been a very constructive force on a number of issues and I think that's a very big loss.

BERMAN: You think it's a sign that the President is drifting one way or another if he can't keep someone who you clearly respect like Gary Cohn in the White House?

DENT: Well, it appears on the trade battle, Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin lost to Navarro and Secretary Ross which I think is very unfortunate.

I felt that the way these tariffs were rolled out was simply terrible. It was not done properly or -- and apparently took a lot of people by surprise and candidly, we all acknowledge here that the tariff issue is one that -- as it relates to China, we need to deal with China on metals. But this proposal that they put out there really went after our friends and allies in Canada, in Germany, in South Korea and elsewhere.

And so I think we should be working together with our allies on trade and the way that was rolled out was simply terrible and I don't think in the long-term interest of this country. It undermines our efforts on tax reform, on regulatory reform. I could go on about how this represents crony capitalism of the worst type protecting the few at the expense of the many.

BERMAN: Today, the President said the tariffs can be done in a "very loving way." First of all, what is a tender tariff? And do you agree that it can be done in a loving way or do you agree with the statement that maybe a trade war won't be so bad?

DENT: No one wins in trade wars. And sadly, in this world, trade war is often precedes our future (ph) versus the hot war. And I'm not saying that's what going to happen here. But let's get really done to the brass tax. You know, in my own district, in Pennsylvania, Hershey is in my district. Well, a 10% tariff on aluminum is going to affect the production of Hershey, 70 million a day in my district all wrapped in aluminum foil. There was no domestic source for that particular material. They don't use China as I understand it.

So the point is, it's going to have an impact.

BERMAN: Changing subjects here. Republican colleague, Congressman Mike Conaway said yesterday that the House Intelligence Committee is going to wrap up its investigation on Russia soon. Democrats in the committee saying while the probe might be ending, it is far from complete. What comes out of that investigation? Are you going to view it as credible given the in fighting within the committee?

DENT: Well, Mike Conaway, he stepped into a tough situation after Chairman Nunez was forced to recuse himself. So I think Mike Conaway is a very good honorable man, although I've never had a lot of confidence in the ability of the House Intelligence Committee at this point to produce a bipartisan report.

I believe that we're going to have to rely on the Senate for that report. Senators Burr and Warner would able to maintain a better process. And I served as a chairman of the House Ethics Committee, I know what it's like to run sensitive bipartisan investigations. And unfortunately, that hasn't happened on the House side. And at the end of the day though, the real report is going to matter, the one that comes from Director Mueller.

BERMAN: Yes. He is a different level of importance as we look at this.

Lastly, tonight is the first night in some ways of the midterm elections, the primaries tonight in Texas, given what you've seen so far, do you expect Republicans to hold onto the House in 2018?

[20:45:05] DENT: Well, the House is very much in play. At this point, I would have to say it's probably a coin flip.

Look, the map in Pennsylvania was just thrown out but if the new map is imposed, you know, Democrats will pick up seats just in our states. So I guess what I'd say, the House is in play, you know, the Democrats certainly have an advantage in terms of energy and intensity going into the election. Clearly with, you know, history as it is, we know that the party of the President is going to lose seats during the midterm and that's going to be the case this time. The question is how many.

Are we running into a hurricane force wind or are we running into a gentle breeze? I suspect it will be a very strong wind. So right now, you know, we're in a pretty tough spot as House Republicans.

BERMAN: Congressman Charlie Dent, Pennsylvania, thanks so much for being with us.

DENT: Thank you.


BERMAN: So is there actually now breathing room in the North Korean situation? And what about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections? The President today held forth on both. I'm going to ask former CIA Director Michael Hayden about all of it when we continue.


[20:50:18] BERMAN: President Trump once again said that Russia had, in his words, no impact on the 2016 presidential elections. He also said that other countries meddled in the election as well. As for North Korea, the President said he believes the North Korean leadership is, "sincere" as he put it in reaching out to South Korea on possible peace talks. And asked why he believes the North Koreans are talking at all, he had a one-word answer -- me. As always, a great deal to unpack.

Here to help me do that, I'm joined by former CIA and NSA director, Michael Hayden, a CNN national security analyst.

General Hayden, do you believe the North Koreans? Do you think that Kim Jong-un would ever give up his nuclear weapons, and if yes, what do you think he'd have to get in return?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, that's a great question, John. And frankly, no, I don't think he would give up his weapons. But it is a positive development today that he's willing to talk about what the South Koreans described as denuclearization.

Now, keep in mind, John, to the best of my knowledge, we haven't heard the North Koreans say anything. All of this is based upon South Korean reporting about what the North Koreans said.

And I understand totally that the North Koreans may want their southern brothers to communicate a message they'd rather not have to say themselves. But I also suspect the South Koreans may be putting as happy a face on this package as they possibly can.

All that said, I'd rather be talking about talking than talking about the next military action we might have to take. So there is progress today. There's something to modestly celebrate here.

BERMAN: Yes. It's certainly being put through a South Korean filter. Nevertheless, there's a summit between North and South Korea that's planned. HAYDEN: Right.

BERMAN: And according to the South Koreans, you know, the North Koreans are willing to talk under conditions that have been favorable to the United States over the last few months. Now, it was seven months ago that President Trump threatened North Korea with fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen. He got a lot of criticism for it. He got a lot of criticism for the way he talks about North Korea and this unconventional approach. But, you know, was his joke today a little bit true? Does he deserve some of the credit for pushing North Korea to this point?

HAYDEN: Well, I think he does. I think he deserves it less for his language, which frankly I didn't think was all that useful and perhaps not all that impressive to the North Koreans. But he does deserve credit for what he's been able to do with regard to the economic and diplomatic isolation of North Korea. And I do think, John, that is one really powerful element that has pushed the North Koreans into these tentative steps.

Now, John, one note of caution here, though. According to the South Koreans -- and, again, they want to make this as optimistic as possible. What we're talking about here is denuclearization in return for not threatening North Korea and security guarantees. John, this will be our fourth run at the North Koreans on negotiations with that framework. And so far, we haven't been able to make it work.

And you asked me a question earlier. Let me answer it. I don't know that we're capable of giving North Korea the kinds of security guarantees that would convince them that it's a good idea to go to zero in their nuclear program.

COOPER: And that is the condition they set.

Let me shift gears to Russia if I can. The President was asked about Russia interfering in the 2016 election today. This is how he responded.


TRUMP: Well, the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever. But certainly there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But are you worried about Russia trying to meld in the midterm elections?

TRUMP: No, because we'll counteract whatever they do. We'll counteract it very strongly.


BERMAN: First, we don't know for sure whether the Russians had any impact on the vote in 2016. No one has come out with a conclusive finding on that point. And second, given what you've heard from the intelligence chiefs, do you have confidence that everything really is being done to protect the U.S. elections?

HAYDEN: Well, the answer to the second question, no. But let me quickly address the first question when the President said the Russians had no impact on the vote. As you correctly point out, John, there is no evidentiary base for that statement.

Now, we're reluctant to say they had an impact because we can't measure it. But, you know, one of the Russian meddling steps was to steal the e-mails and push them back at us through WikiLeaks. And if they had no impact, candidate Trump referred to WikiLeaks 164 times in the last 30 days of the campaign. So somebody thought they could have an impact on the election.

Now, with regard to our response, John, look, we're doing a lot of good things. We're trying to protect databases. We're trying to protect election machines. I get all of that.

[20:55:05] But this was a very sophisticated new type of attack against us with the Russians not so much manipulating the vote. No evidence of that. But manipulating our minds by interfering in the American information space with fake news in their own effort to divide us. And I don't see a whole of government or a whole of society response to that being developed. And that's not developed as long as the President says they really didn't have any impact.

BERMAN: General Michael Hayden, great to see you tonight. Thanks so much for being with us.

HAYDEN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Coming up, another day, another resignation from what the President insists is not a chaotic White House. The latest on why the chief white house economic adviser is the latest one heading for the door. That is unless someone else announces during the commercial break. Stay with us on that.

And the latest on the porn star, the President, and the President's attorney, a six-figure payment and now a new lawsuit. Breaking news ahead on "360".


BERMAN: Breaking news tonight. Even as the President was saying there is no chaos at the White House, his press office was scrambling to handle the departure of chief check adviser Gary Cohn. The Cohn news was just a beat or two away from breaking when the President was saying this.


TRUMP: I just said that the White House has tremendous energy, has tremendous spirit.