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Reports: New Explosion in Austin; Austin Police: No Package Explosion, Inside the Package Was an Incendiary Device; Judge Rejects Bid by Trump Lawyers to Dismiss Defamation Case; Porn Star, Playmate and Reality Star All in Legal Action Over Trump; The Washington Post: President Trump Ignored Warnings Not to Congratulate Putin. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired March 20, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news coverage out of Austin, Texas, where just a short time ago, police responded to reports of another explosion now. If confirmed, it would be the sixth such explosion in recent days, the seventh bomb, seven devices in all, possibly the work of a serial bomber.

We should point out that Austin Travis County, EMS has said that at least one person was injured in this reported explosion in South Austin.

CNN's Nick Watt and Ed Lavandera are in Austin are in Austin for us tonight. I want to start with our Nick Watt.

Nick, what do we know about this latest location? Again, these are early reports. We want to be cautious until this is absolutely confirmed to be another explosive device?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the call came in at shortly after 7:00 p.m. local time of a reported explosion here on Brodie Lane. Now, there is a large Goodwill Center on this road about 300 feet behind me.

We do not know yet if that is the location. But in terms of the location within Austin, this could be significant. We're in South Austin right now, Brodie Lane was already featured in the investigation here because those two package bombs that were found at FedEx facilities down near San Antonio and near the airport here in Austin, those two packages were both mailed at a FedEx drop off facility on this same road a couple of miles further down.

Also this is quite near the location of that trip wire detonation Sunday night. In fact, we were just in that neighborhood now when the call came in. It took us about ten minutes to drive here. As you can possibly see a huge police response to this bombing, we are told one male in his 30s has been taken to the hospital. His injuries not thought at this time to be life-threatening. Anderson?

COOPER: And Nick, is there any sense of, you know, we've now seen bombs in packages on porches, three of those. We've seen a trip wire device, and obviously the two devices in FedEx facilities today. Is there any indication of -- if this was a device, what the delivery mechanism of it was?

WATT: This one, we do not have that information yet. But as you said, there are three methods that this supposed bomber, alleged bomber, has been using. First of all, those packages dropped on porches. Then the trip wire. And then these packages sent through the mail. People we were talking to in Austin tonight said, you know, what's next? We don't want to go to malls. What if he changes his M.O. again and starts hitting crowds. People here are scared.

COOPER: All right, Nick Watt. Understand what that, I appreciate your reporting. We'll continue checking in with you.

I want to go to Ed Lavandera who is where that single unexploded bomb was found at a FedEx facility. Ed, just explain where this facility is in Austin and what you know about the device that was found?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are in Southeast Austin in a FedEx Delivery Dispatch Center. You can see the large complex behind me. This is where trucks come, pick up packages, and then fan out throughout the city. We are near the international airport here, and just after 6:00 this morning, investigators from the police department and FBI and ATF showed up here after employees discovered a suspicious package.

They spent much of the day here, and this was also just hours after another package exploded at another FedEx distribution center about 65 miles away in the town of Schertz, which is a suburb of northern San Antonio.

The package there detonated, causing minor injuries to an employee who worked there. I spoke with one employee here who said that all the employees were called to the front of the store and then quickly told to evacuate. They said everything occurred rather quickly. But investigators brought out the bomb squad. They spent much of the day here and then just within the last hour or so, ATF officials and the FBI confirmed that both of the packages found at these two different locations were confirmed to be connected to the four other explosions that had already happened here in Austin over the last couple of weeks.

So we are here in southeast Austin. That other package that exploded in the overnight hours is about 65 miles away and, and as Nick Watt reported there at the scene of that developing situation here tonight in Austin, not too far away where investigators suspect these two packages were eventually dropped off.

And all of this seems to kind of suggest that whoever is moving these packages along is out and about, you know, making moves throughout the city even as everyone is frantically looking for them, for whoever might be responsible, and also this occurring not too far tonight from where the Sunday night explosion occurred as well. So I would imagine that investigators kind of feel whoever is behind this right now is making some rather brazen moves. [21:05:08] COOPER: Do we know if authorities have been able to track the routing of those two FedEx devices or packages? Do they know, you know, was it a drop-off facility, the same drop-off facility?

LAVANDERA: Well, FedEx officials told us they've released a brief statement earlier today, and they said that they were able to provide investigators with a great deal of information about the packages that were discovered at these two different distribution centers as well.

And we do know that they were -- that the device that was found at this particular location where we are in southeast Austin did not explode on its own, that the bomb squad was able to dismantle it. So whether or not how much of that boxing and packaging is still intact and just how much detail they're able to garner from what was in that package and what kind of condition it was left in, we have not been told. What is interesting as well, Anderson, is that just prior to the breaking news here tonight of this latest development in south Austin and a possible explosion there, if that's indeed what it turns out to be connected to, that ATF officials and spokespeople for the Austin police department had gone kind of quiet for several hours and said that there would be no more interviews today, that there was -- they need to stop talking because of, "operational needs."

So it seems like there's a lot of moving parts, an investigation that is quickly developing here. You definitely had a sense throughout the day that whatever was developing was developing in a rather frantic pace and various locations and in many locations across the city.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, I appreciate the reporting. We'll continue checking in with you.

I want to bring in our law enforcement team, James Gagliano, Tom Fuentes, joining me on the phone, as well as Josh Campbell and Bob Baer.

Josh, I mean, based on your experience with the FBI, what do you make of, A, this pattern and sort of the uptick in the number of blasts that we have been seeing?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Well, it's a very tough scenario when -- you know, each new day seems to bring some new dangerous development. I talked earlier with a law enforcement who has been briefed on the ongoing investigation, and he opined that, you know, the fact that we have moved from a victim- initiated device to a trip wire shows that this is someone who is playing around with different packaging, different initiators, and this type of sophistication and knowing we're dealing with someone who can move across these explosive platforms shows just how deadly the situation is and how difficult the ongoing investigation is.

I think it's important, Anderson, to focus now on opening that dialogue with the person or the persons that are doing this with law enforcement. And you know, we have to understand that there was a reason that this individual is doing this. And authorities want to know what that reason is. I've listened to some law enforcement folks talk about these bombers, the sociopaths and psychopaths. I don't think that's particularly helpful right now. I think what's important is this. If you look at some of the past profiles of bombers, these are typically people who are injustice collectors. What I mean by that is they have some type of grievance. I think it's important that they reach out to law enforcement through whatever secure means they deem necessary so law enforcement can open that dialogue and understand what is happening here. There is absolutely nothing that authorities can do to allay these grievances if they don't know what they are.

COOPER: Obviously and that's one of the things -- sorry. We're joined on the phone right now by Roberto Villalpando. He was an eyewitness and reporter of the Austin American-Statesman. If you can just tell us where you are and what you have learned?

ROBERTO VILLALPANDO, REPORTER, MOBILE BREAKING NEWS EDITOR (via telephone): I'm sorry. Could you repeat? I've got a police helicopter circling right above me.

COOPER: OK. If you could tell us exactly where you are and what you have learned so far. What you have seen.

VILLALPANDO: Yes. I'm actually at my house, which is about 600 or 700 feet away from the Goodwill store where the explosion took place.

COOPER: So you're confirming that there was an explosion at the Goodwill store? Was it inside the store, outside? Do you know?

VILLALPANDO: I'm not sure if inside or outside. What I'm referring to are the -- is the information we've been getting from authorities, local authorities via Twitter.


VILLALPANDO: Usually our first indication of information.

COOPER: So local authorities --


COOPER: Go ahead.

VILLALPANDO: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

COOPER: Local authorities are saying there was an explosion at the Goodwill store?

VILLALPANDO: That's what they had tweeted earlier. That's what we've been reporting.

COOPER: Did you, yourself, hear anything?

VILLALPANDO: Yes. It was around 7:00 in my house. As I said, we're only about 650 feet away from the Goodwill store itself. So we're separated by a Greenbelt, my sub division and the shopping center where the Goodwill store is.

[21:10:01] And my son and I were downstairs in the living room, and we could hear it pretty loud. And we typically can hear loud noises from the shopping center. For instance, you know, dumpsters getting dumped out late at night. But this was much louder than that, and it was a singular boom.

COOPER: This may sound like a dump question. Did you actually feel the blast itself? I'm just trying to get a sense of how powerful it may have been. Hearing it is one thing. Did you actually feel anything in the house?

VILLALPANDO: We couldn't actually feel anything in the house, but it was loud enough where we had the TV on fairly loud, and we could hear it distinctly, almost as if it was a voice in the room. That's how loud it was.

COOPER: And then after that, were there -- what happened? Did you look out the window? What did you hear or see?

VILLALPANDO: Sure. I went outside with my dog actually to go to the entrance of the Greenbelt, and there's a trail that leads from our house actually to the shopping center, through the Greenbelt. And I took my dog to the entrance there actually just to see if anybody was going to come out, out of the end of the Greenbelt there.

You know, I've been reporting the story with my colleagues at the American-Statesman, and we've heard all kinds of theories. We've heard all kinds of speculation about how this person is planting bombs or setting up escape routes. So frankly I was just trying to see if maybe somebody was going to come out through that pathway.

COOPER: Roberto, I should say we've just gotten the following tweet from the police department. It reads there was no package explosion. Items inside the package was not a bomb, rather an incendiary device. At this time we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs. So that's -- they're saying it's an incendiary device. And again, I just want to read that. "There was no package explosion in the 9800 block of Brodie Lane. Items inside package was not a bomb, rather an incendiary device. At this time, we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs. #Breaking #packagebombmurders."

So that's the latest we're getting right now from the police. You were saying though, did you see any damage in the store?

VILLALPANDO: I was able to get close enough with our photographer, Nick Wagner, coming in behind the building through the Greenbelt trail I mentioned. We didn't see any visible damage. We were also turned away by police pretty quickly. But we couldn't discern any visible damage on the outside.

COOPER: Roberto, I appreciate talking to you. Again, we're going to take a short break. We're going to continue to bring you the latest information from Austin. We'll be right back.


[21:16:15] COOPER: -- Austin, Texas, and as we've been cautioning all along since we first started covering this story about 30 minutes ago, again, these are very early reports. As you know, with early reports in a situation like this, sometimes the information is accurate. Sometimes it is not. So we just want to caution as much as we can.

Again, these are very early reports. Now the latest is from police who tweeted out saying apparently this is not the work of the suspected serial bomber. Just moments ago, Austin police tweeted this. I want to put it on the screen. "There was no package explosion. Items inside the package was not a bomb, rather an incendiary device. At this time we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs."

Congressman Roger Williams is on the phone. He represents the district. Congressman, thanks for being with us. I'm sorry in these circumstances. Have you heard anything about this latest incident anymore and what this incendiary device was?

REP. ROGER WILLIAMS (R), TEXAS (via telephone): No, of course, it was in Goodwill. We had one person injured. And it's all up in the air right now. I must tell you the local law enforcement, FBI, ATF, are doing a wonderful job. Everyone is working together. But it's a serious issue there, and people must be very, very careful as they begin to move around the city. It's one of those things, Anderson, you don't think it's going to happen in your city.


WILLIAMS: And here it is now. But I think every responding and people are certainly aware of what's out there.

COOPER: You said this incendiary device was in the Goodwill. Do you know for a fact that it was inside the Goodwill?

WILLIAMS: No, and I don't want to say things I'm not sure of.

COOPER: OK. That's why I'm asking.

WILLIAMS: Yes, our report was that it was in a Goodwill store.

COOPER: OK. But let me ask you just the idea that what we do know, what we have seen over, now, since this began are three devices left on porches, then a trip wire device, and then obviously two devices in FedEx facilities today, one which detonated, one which did not. Does it concern you that the methodology of this person or persons seems to be changing as law enforcement gets used to one thing? They seem to change to something else?

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't think you're dealing with a rookie here or rookies. And I think that it's certainly that this perpetrator/perpetrators is trying to send a message, and frankly most of us don't think like they do. So I think that they're trying to send a message. It does concern me that it seems to be, i.e., an upgrade if you want to call it that. So it just gets back to everybody being aware, supporting law enforcement, they're doing a great job, and find this person or persons as quick as we can.

COOPER: I talked to the chief of police in Austin last night on the broadcast, who said that a number of the components in the earlier devices -- and this is, again, before today's devices. But a number of components in the earlier devices were similar, and that's why they're so confident that it was the work of the same person or persons?

WILLIAMS: Well, I also had a great visit with the chief. I think it was -- I'm not sure if was today or yesterday to be honest with you, but we had a great visit. And he indicated the same thing. So, you know, it's a serious issue, and we're thankful we got everybody involved. Like I say, I've heard from a lot of -- we've heard from a lot of folks. They're very aware what's going on, and they need to continue to be careful and be aware. And if they see anything that's out of the ordinary, report it.

COOPER: Yes, Congressman Williams, I do appreciate your time. Again, I'm so sorry it's under these circumstances.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Back now with the panel. James Gagliano, Tom Fuentes, and on the phone Josh Campbell, and Bob Baer.

Bob, we haven't heard from you. Just in terms of the sophistication of something like this, what do you make of what you have seen?

[21:20:00] BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Well, what concerns me is the trip wire. We've got a guy that probably used a pressure switch or mercury switch in the first packages, and now he's switching tactics, letting us know that he knows his way around explosives.

And he possibly, possibly has the ability to hide his signature, keep his DNA off this stuff. As been said, he's been playing cat and mouse with the police. What's going to make it particularly difficult at this point to track him down is there's no obvious political motivation. He's not a neo-Nazi. He's not a terrorist that we can tell because these targets seem random at this point.

And, you know, are they all connected? Two of them are connected, but the rest I don't think so. The other thing we don't know is what kind of explosives and what the initiator was. Are we talking about military explosives, or are we just talking about somebody who fabricated a detonator. That's going to be telling the police a lot, you know, just how dangerous the situation is. But they can't tell us what they've collected because it would, you know, misdirect the investigation.

COOPER: James, the trip wire, that concerned you as well. I mean, obviously it's all concerning, but in terms of an evolution of tactics.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure. Absolutely. And we talked in the early segment about how this is not the Unabomber 2.0. This appears much more like the D.C. sniper case, Anderson, in 2002, in the month of October for three weeks. Two snipers paralyzed parts of Maryland and Virginia.

This seems similar in this instance. If -- there's a big if, these seven devices can be linked together, and that link analysis is critical here, if even the fact that this last device was an incendiary device, let's not make that out to be something benign. We haven't seen it. We don't have details yet. But incendiary device is combustible. It is flammable. It's something designed to cause fire.

There are three ways that cause fatalities in bombings. The most onerous one is the over pressure, meaning that the pressure that comes out that basically crushes organs and soft tissue. The second is the fragmentation. The third is the thermal effect, meaning the fires that get started or somebody becomes injured. They're inside their home or a building and end up succumbing to the inhalation of smoke.

This is a very serious, serious -- and I'm going to disagree with some of my colleagues here. This is somebody that meets the definition of a depraved sociopath, someone that is looking to target individuals to create fear. We spoke early, we can't define this as terrorism because to Bob's point, there's not a political or a social goal yet determined. But make no doubt about it. Trying to sow terror and put people on edge and in fear.

COOPER: And Tom Fuentes, just in terms of the -- again, the evolution and the methodology and the motivation of somebody for doing this, one of the things the police are trying to do, and they've been doing this now for days, is make public appeals to this person or persons to reach out to them and explain what their gripe is or why they're doing this.

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that may work, Anderson. You know, one of the things they're trying for here is that a person with extreme sociopathy is usually an extreme narcissist, and they're doing this to be grandiose, to have the attention, to have everybody knowing what they're doing and seeing -- even if their identity isn't put on the news, at least their activity is, and everybody is learning all about it. And they like that. They like the attention even if it's indirect.

So by trying to appeal to somebody to take it to the next level and make contact with the police, it's just that much more likely that it will give the police more clues or the person will make a mistake.

You know, and I think that there's so many things you start to think about here in terms of, you know, whether there's a grievance, whether there's some issue that the person has against society or even against law enforcement, who have to deal with these bombs if they find them, is that in the past we've seen even explosives experts themselves develop mental problems and initiate these kind of -- not at this level, but at least initiate some type of attack strategy. What strikes me as different in this case is just the number of these in a short period of time.

COOPER: Yes. FUENTES: You know, the Unabomber was over 20 years for the 17 devices. Here we've got seven devices at least, and there could be more in the system that have not been identified yet, and it's been two weeks.


FUENTES: So I think that's what making this so unusual, the volume and the short period of time and in a pretty central location. They're not being mailed all over the country at this point.

COOPER: I've got to get a break in. I appreciate everybody. Again, the headline right now, police saying no package explosion, in an incendiary device. We're going to continue to follow this.

[21:24:49] There's other breaking news tonight focusing on three women who have legal action against the President. As you know they are not the only women who have come forward with allegations. We'll talk about that next. And all the other day's news.


COOPER: More breaking news tonight. New developments in the stories of three women who have alleged connections to the President in the past. The former playboy playmate, Karen McDougal squaring off in court against the tabloid media company that bought her story then spiked it.

The adult film star Stormy Daniels whose attorney released the results of a polygraph exam she took back in 2011. The report stating she was truthful when saying she had sex with citizen Donald Trump. Polygraph evidence as you know is not generally admissible in court.

There's also Summer Zervos, who was on the apprentice, who is accusing the President of sexual assault. Today a judge in New York allowed her defamation lawsuit to go forward. In the last hour we spoke with Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti. And David Schwartz who represents his friend and President Trump's Michael Cohen in another matter. Here's a small sample of that conversation.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Why is it so important to your friend and the President of the United States to keep this woman under wraps, to keep her under the thumb, to shut her up? Why is it so important?

DAVID SCHWARTZ, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: I can tell you why it's important.

AVENATTI: Let me finish. Why is that so important.

SCHWARTZ: Well, let's answer that question first.

AVENATTI: Why not let her come forward --

SCHWARTZ: Let me answer your question. It's important to every single person --

AVENATTI: Why gag her?

SCHWARTZ: -- that enters into a nondisclosure agreement. People do this in order to avoid litigation and avoid the embarrassment to family, to business, to reputation. That's why people enter into -- you know why people enter into these contracts. They're entered into all the time.

AVENATTI: If Michael Cohen is such a stand-up guy, where is he? No, no. Where is this guy? Why won't he come and --

SCHWARTZ: Oh, he'll come.

AVENATTI: Why won't he come and --

SCHWARTZ: Because obviously --

AVENATTI: Let me finish.

SCHWARTZ: No. I want to answer that question.

AVENATTI: Because he's been invited numerous times.


AVENATTI: He won't come on the show. He's dodging the questions.

SCHWARTZ: He is not dodging the questions.

[21:30:00] AVENATTI: Where is this guy? Where is this guy?

SCHWARTZ: There are other investigations going on. I was wondering what was in that brown envelope.

AVENATTI: Where is he? Where is he?

SCHWARTZ: Believe me, he can't wait to come here and sit with you.

AVENATTI: I can't wait?

SCHWARTZ: And talk about this.


COOPER: It went on from there. A lot to discuss.

Joining us, Republican Strategist Amanda Carpenter as well as Paul Callan, Jackie Kucinich, Michael Caputo, Jennifer Granholm, Steve Cortes, and Paul Begala.

Amanda Carpenter, first of all, there's legal, political implications perhaps for the President in this. Just in terms of this whether it's Stormy Daniels or McDougal or Zervos, do you think the president -- this actually impacts the President with his base? AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, not if people just follow the day to day fights and the dueling lawyers, which was fascinating television. But here is the threat that I think nobody is really zoning in on, especially the Democrats, which could really make a compelling political argument. It's that there are two examples of the President's close allies in Michael Cohen and the "National Enquirer" paying hush money to women to deprive voters of having significant information before the election.

If any of that behavior continued after Trump became President, you could be talking about abuse of power. But no one's really making that argument. And right now Michael Cohen wants people to believe unbelievable things, that somehow he paid this money without the President knowing, that the affair never took place, that he never threatened the woman.

Knowing his record, these things defy logic. But the first point I made was that Michael Cohen is telling people that the President didn't know, and this is a thread that I think connects a lot of the other lies that come out of this White House. There's simply no way that the President's close allies carry out these kind of actions without his knowledge, encouragement, and endorsement.

We know he's a micro manager. We know he gets rid of people. He knows he calls them names when they do things that he doesn't like. These things just are not believable, and yet I'm stunned that no Democrat is standing up to make a solid political argument that ties all this up.

COOPER: Paul Callan, I mean, you heard the two attorneys. Who do you think has a stronger case here?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in this case I think that David Schwartz defending has probably the stronger case, and I only say that because when Stormy Daniels takes the money, the $130,000, a lot of people are going to say, why did she take the money if she wasn't agreeing to a contract? She could have given the money back and said Donald Trump didn't sign the contract. Remember, she's represented by a lawyer in this transaction. He hasn't signed the contract, or put the money in escrow. I'm note going to put it in my bank account.

But once you take the money in a contractual agreement, a lot of judges will look at that and say you're stuck with the contract.

COOPER: Michael Avenatti's point tonight on that, was that it wasn't just money that there were other requirements in this contract, some of which were things that Donald Trump was supposed to do, which he says did not happen.

CALLAN: I heard that. And it was a great debate by the way. And I might -- by the way, if I was judging the debate, I might have said Avenatti made a better presentation. But I'm talking about how I think a court would rule in this. And the reason I don't buy that Avenatti argument about the other things, a lot of those other things would only come into play if there was a lawsuit and a violation that occurred. Remember, one of them was I think that Donald Trump wouldn't threaten her family. That Donald Trump would sign --

COOPER: Or would stay away from --

CALLAN: And he would sign certain settlement papers. But if I could give an analogy because people were throwing out this third-party beneficiary thing. That's what David Schwartz kept saying. And I think a lot of people are confused by that. But let's say you had a grandmother who knew that you were really good in construction work, and she was having something built. So she built into the contract that you would have the right of approval on certain things because you're a carpenter and you know you're way around. You wouldn't be in the contract but she would specify that you would supervise certain aspects of it or approve certainly aspects of it. You could also do a contract where it puts --

COOPER: I going to say, I wouldn't be very happy if my grandmother was signing a contract that obligates me to supervise or -- you know, certain aspects of something without asking me.

CALLAN: Well, you know, you're focusing I think on Avenatti's strongest argument, which is --

COOPER: I just say my grandmother. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. My grandparents are dead. I didn't know them so.


CALLAN: What? Too soon?

CALLAN: She is going to back you up after Sunday, when they come up to you after this interview in a "60 Minutes."

But no, the point is that you can enter into a contract to protect another person or to use another person's services. But Avenatti made this point, and I think this is a very strong point. You have an obligation under the lawyer's code of professional responsibility to confer with your client about anything important in the case.

[21:35:03] COOPER: OK.

CALLAN: Now, Trump was his client. Who is going to believe that Trump wouldn't be consulted about this contract?

COOPER: The other argument that Michael Cohen made is that this has nothing to do with the election. Though this was signed, you know, within two weeks of the election. Paul, does that hold water for you?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I mean Michael was helping the President get through an election. It was a reasonably intense election, reasonably important. I imagine it took a bit of his attention.

The notion that he would within days of an election take five minutes out of his day to do anything except like Donald Trump is just not plausible. Whether it's a legal violation, I have no idea. We'll let the employee lawyers play that out. But I think politically where this is problematic is there's a new pew research poll today. Remarkable poll, really looking at all the demographics. Republicans are facing a meltdown among women. They're trailing among all women by 56 to 37. This is the weakest they've been in 25 years among women.

My guess -- and it's only a guess because I'm a guy, I refer to Jennifer and Jackie. My guess is probably doesn't help the President or his party. The party is on the ballot, not the President, going into midterm elections with women voters if in fact the President and his friends are being accused of being really mean to a bunch of people.


COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We're going to continue this when we come back. We'll be right back.


[21:40:13] COOPER: Back with the panel, talking with the three legal tributaries of river Trump, Summer Zervos, Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal. Michael, I mean, do you think this impacts the President politically at all?

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I don't think. I think this kind of fact that the President was a playboy was all baked into his candidacy.

Any by the way, if I knew we were allowed to bring, you know, props, I would have brought a picture of Michael Cohen never being on the floor where the campaign was held. He was not involved in the campaign. He was speaking on behalf of the President sometimes, but he was walled off campaign.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But you're not saying that he was totally disconnected from his main client. I mean, he was doing this for the purpose of getting Donald Trump elected. Both of these women signs NDAs, Non-Disclosure Agreements right before the election. The timing of it is critical. Yes, everybody knew he was a playboy, but not everybody knew that he was trying to cover it up, and that these women subsequently have been bullied or have felt bullied by him in an era with Me Too and --


GRANHOLM: Yes. Well --

CORTES: We'll find out in a court of law. Agreeing by your own will to accept $130,000 is not being bullied.

CAPUTO: Right.

CORTES: That's a legal --

(CROSSTALK) CAPUTO: That's being enriched.

GRANHOLM: You're not listening to what she's saying. She was bullied afterward. He has been bullied recently since he's been president. He apparently has been bullied. We'll see, Anderson Cooper, maybe knows this better than any of us.

CORTES: Outside of the Trump's marriage, why does this matter to the American people? It only matters if the American people thought it was relevant.

GRANHOLM: No, no. Here's why. Because he is a -- because people see him as a con man. Many people -- I'll say this in my party, see him as a con man and this is further proof that he's trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. He's not honest.

CORTES: OK. Except Jennifer --

GRANHOLM: And then he's talking about women.

CORTES: Hold on. Except that allegations of misconduct were widespread, OK? This is not new news.

GRANHOLM: But this is a cover-up. This is hush money.

CORTES: They were widespread and the American people decided that they were either not true or not relevant or some combination of the two.

GRANHOLM: But he -- Steve, he stood --

CORTES: And they decided to elect a man who had a colorful past. OK.

GRANHOLM: I got that, but listen, he stood in front of people. He stood in front of the American people and said this did not happen. And then we find out he paid these women off so that they would keep it under wraps.

CORTES: He didn't pay --

COOPER: Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Speaking of women, Paul mentioned that Republicans are losing women in droves. I don't know that this story is the one that is making them walk away from candidates. But there is the culmination. When I -- you know, back home in Ohio when you talk to people who voted for Donald Trump, it's the chaos. It's Russia. It's things that he -- it's the tweets. It's a culmination of things. And this just adds on to it, particularly with women, but I think with some of these voters that may have given him a chance. And at this point may have a little bit of buyer's remorse.

CORTES: I agree that the cable news crowd thinks there's chaos. You know, there's that chaos, it's in American because wages are growing.

KUCINICH: Ohio is in America. I know where New York, but it is like --

CORTES: Small business optimism is surging, OK? There's not chaos in the country. As a matter of fact, there's prosperity in the country. ISIS is gone and growth is back, right? That's the real story.


CORTES: Yes, ISIS is gone or virtually gone.

BEGALA: So is Rex Tillerson and a couple of --


BEGALA: You can argue it.

CORTES: And the palace intrigue. You know -- I want to set that aside because America is growing and confident and prosperous, and America knew he was not Mother Teresa, and it didn't matter.

CAPUTO: The panic is in the T.V. studio. That's where it is. It's not in buffalo. It's not in Columbus. It's just not there.

BEGALA: We need to be taking more seriously is Summer Zervos' lawsuit. At bottom, to the extent I stand, Stormy Daniels and Ms. McDougal are alleging consensual affairs between consenting adults.

CAPUTO: A lot like the Clinton administration.

BEGALA: None of my beeswax. Assault is different. The President was taped bragging that he committed sexual assault. Now we have Ms. Zervos, who is alleging sexual assault. He has a right to answer, and I'm sure he will. That is a very different case. I know we're saying it's all one big mess of chaos, but if the President has to go under oath and defend that suit, that is very different than allegations of consensual affairs.

GRANHOLM: Tonight in Illinois, there are a whole series of primaries. All of this -- a lot of these women are running for Congress and for seats in Illinois who are Emily's list endorsed and who are apparently doing very well. You're seeing a surge of women candidates across the country because they feel like they've had enough. This is just another brick in the wall of evidence that Donald Trump has not had just a history but currently, if you just look even at his cabinet, women are not included. Women are not --

CORTES: Hold on. How can you say that, Jennifer? I mean -- by the way, Kirstjen Nielsen, who I think is one of the most impressive members of his cabinet, in charge of Homeland Security Department --

[21:45:02] GRANHOLM: OK, you think --


COOPER: We have to wrap it up.

CORTES: It's not fair for you to say that. It just isn't. GRANHOLM: I'm just saying -- look at the number -- I'm talking about percentages.

CORTES: If there's any department that matters to him, it's homeland security.

COOPER: Let's take a quick break. One quick programming note, Karen McDougal has agreed to join us. You can see the exclusive interview right here Thursday night. That would be here on 360.

Coming up next tonight, more breaking news. New reporting that the President did the one thing he was warned not to do in his conversation with Vladimir Putin. He did. We'll tell you what he did and why or why it could matter. We'll be right back.


COOPER: On a night dominated by breaking news, this almost got lost in the coverage. It would be on any other night surprising, though "The Washington Post" I would point out, reporting that President Trump was briefed before his phone call today with Vladimir Putin.

According to the reporting by the Post, the briefing material made one things clear in capital letters, in fact, do no congratulate Putin on his victory in an election that's widely believed to be a sham.

In fact, according to the Post, that's the very first thing the President did do to Vladimir Putin, congratulating him. Unclear whether he saw the material and ignored it or simply didn't read it or disagreed with it.

Back with the panel, joining us is David Axelrod. You know, the President's supporters should say, well, every President gets to deal with the leader the way they want to deal with it and I get that the briefers said, don't congratulate Putin, but does this matter?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's so many reasons why it raises eyebrows, not the least of which that he was apparently advised not to do it. This fits into the pattern of what we've seen over the last few weeks where he ignored the advice on North Korea and ignored some other major advice on some major -- on tariffs. But the fact is that the Russians attacked our elections, continued to do that. Continue to hack into us. That we know that they're doing that.

[21:50:08] Putin just authorized the attempted murder with a nerve agent in London of one of his opponents. So to just treat --

COOPER: Which the President also did not mention.

AXELROD: And the election itself was clearly rigged. And so for all of those reasons you would think that he would be a little reticent. If he called he would raise these things. I found it interesting, Sarah Sanders said today, we don't get to dictate how other countries operate, we can only focus on the freeness and fairness out of our elections. OK, let's start there. How about the freeness and fairness of our election?

COOPER: Did President Obama congratulate Putin?

AXELROD: He did. Yes, he did. And I don't think it's unusual for a President to do that. Now, Putin was just coming back. We had had a fairly productive relationship with Medvedev during those years and he was hoping for some continuation there. There were other leaders who called Putin today, but no other leaders who were involved in the situation that we've been involved in, without raising the kinds of issues that should have been raised.

COOPER: Michael?

CAPUTO: The Presidents and France and Germany also congratulated him on his victory.

Now, look, the President could have congratulated him on his victory on January 15th. He was always going to win this thing, there wasn't any competition. That's kind of the way it's designed in Russia. I was on the original team that drafted the general election law in Russia. Doesn't resemble anything that we drafted back then, but the way the wall runs there, it guaranteed the President a re-election.

Now that's not free and fair by anyone's imagination, but the Presidents of Germany and France congratulated him on his victory. Let me tell you what really matters to me here. Who leaked this thing? It's time to figure out who's leaking from the national security team in the White House. That's a crime. And it's time to catch that person and prosecute it.

COOPER: It is pretty amazing how quickly this leaked out. I mean --

CAPUTO: They're going to find them.

GRANHOLM: How quickly the call leaked out or that he was told not to congratulate him.

COOPER: That he was told not to, that it was in Capital from --

CORTES: And not just figuratively a crime, an actual crime. By the way, I thought it was ironic today that he was asked about President Trump was while he was sitting next to the crowned prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who I think -- by the way, is doing great things in his kingdom. But it's ironic that man, that leader was -- he didn't even have to fake an election, because there is no election in Saudi Arabia, yet that's not questioned, right? Why is the President meeting -- well, why, because we don't get to choose how every country on earth elects their leaders. We don't choose the hierarchy Of Saudi Arabia --

KUCINICH: But this is also the day after -- this is the day after the President advocated to kill drug dealers, after praising leaders from countries where they have extra judicial killings. So it's just --

CORTES: A similar --

KUCINICH: It's a pattern that the President has an affinity for strongmen and dictators.

COOPER: But the U.S. does spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year trying to promote democracy abroad.

BEGALA: Yes --

CAPUTO: And in Russia as well.

BEGALA: And when the Venezuelans had a sham election last summer, the United States of America, our President, criticized them and said it was a sham, it was a fraud, because it was. And I was proud that he did that. That's what I want the leader of the free world to do. He doesn't ever criticize Mr. Putin. It's not just for the sham election. And by the way, David, I'm sorry to split hairs, but Admiral John Kirby, who was with President Obama when he made that call to Putin, says the President did not congratulate Putin, he congratulated Russia for getting this behind you and then laid out --

AXELROD: Tomato, Tomato (ph).

BEGALA: But my point is, our President has an obligation to defend America. And our elections were attacked and they're being attacked. Our own administration, not the President, the Treasury Department says Russian government cyber actors have targeted U.S. government and multiple critical infrastructures. Our energy section, nuclear sector, commercial facilities, water, aviation, why the hell isn't he protecting America today from ongoing attacks from Russia?

CORTES: He is. And you know how he's doing it?

BEGALA: By sucking up to Putin.

CORTES: He's doing in word and did. And in did, he is arming the Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, and in word, went over to Moscow and gave --

GRANHOLM: Steve, Steve, come on!

CAPUTO: -- those sanctions against Russia --


COOPER: One at a time.

GRANHOLM: -- poisoned spies. It's just so frustrating to me is that --

CORTES: That's theatrics. His representative to the U.N., Nikki Haley --

GRANHOLM: OK, but that's not him. That's the whole point. That's the whole point. It is not him.

AXELROD: She's his representative.

(CROSSTALK) AXELROD: -- politics at the university of Chicago, and I said, why doesn't the President speak as forcefully as you do about Putin. And you know what she said? She said, you'll have to ask him that.


CORTES: Look, but she is his representative.


GRANHOLM: But he contradicts it --

CORTES: She absolutely is.

AXELROD: Come on, Michael.

COOPER: David, you make --

AXELROD: The President of the United States speaks for the country. He is the commander in chief. When time and time and time again he refuses to rebuke Putin, it sends a very clear message. And it leaves people bewildered and wondering why.

[21:55:00] CORTES: Why do you think he won't rebuke him then? Tell me.

AXELROD: I honestly --


CORTES: Do you really believe that? That is --


COOPER: We've got to leave it there. We'll keep going through the commercial break. Coming up, an update on what turned out not to be another bomb in Austin. They say it's an incendiary device. Also, the 2latest on a shooting at a high school in Maryland today.


COOPER: The breaking news from Austin tonight. One person was injured in an incident involving an incendiary device. The ATF says it was not a package bomb and the agency doesn't think it's related to string bombings in the city.

Other news today, in Maryland, for the 17th time since January 1st, there is a school shooting to report. This was at Great Mills High School, about 70 miles southeast of Washington, where police say 17- year-old male student shot two other students this morning before he was stopped by a school resource officer, who fired one round at him.

The shooter was later pronounced dead. The two students who were shot are a 16-year-old girl who's in critical condition with life- threatening injuries and a 14-year-old boy who's in stable condition. The shooter and the female victim had some type of relationship, according to the sheriff, but the extent of that relationship isn't clear. The motive for the shooting also unclear. The sheriff also said today that the notion of "It can't happen here" is no longer a notion.

Thanks very much for watching "360." Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.


President Trump facing lawsuits tonight from three women. A porn star, a playboy model, and a reality TV star. Three different cases over his alleged relationship with three different women. I mean, this is where we are right now.

So I want you to take a look at this. The picture of the porn actress who says she had an affair with Trump.