Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Defends His "Congrats" to Putin; Special Counsel Wants to Question President Trump About Trump Tower Meeting with Russians, Trump Jr.'s Statement & Comey, Flynn Firings. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 21, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
In a startling reversal from just 24 hours ago the president of the United States got on the phone today and really spoke his mind about Russia. He said what a terrible thing it was that Russia, likely with Vladimir Putin's say so, poisoned a Putin opponent, his daughter a police officer and others with a highly toxic weapon of mass destruction on the soil of a NATO member country which also happens to be this country's oldest and closest ally.
He said Russia needs to be held accountable and promised action to do it. The only problem was he wasn't speaking to Vladimir Putin on the phone. He was talking to the president of France. That's right. He really gave the president of France a piece of his mind today.
Yesterday, this is what he said about his call with Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He congratulated him, which according to "The Washington Post", as you probably know by now, his briefers, in capital letters warned him not to do. He failed to mention the whole poisoning on the soil of a NATO ally thing, which the same briefers urged him to do, again, according to "The Washington Post".
Now, there is no law that says the president has to take their advice. He is the president. He gets the final say. What he does not get, however, is a pass.
Keeping him honest, the president is a grown up, making grown up decisions perhaps about the fate of all of us and those decisions deserve scrutiny. That would be insulting to treat him otherwise, especially when his discussions on Russia have serious people raising serious questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think he's afraid of the president of Russia.
WILLIE GEIST, MNSBC HOST: Why?
BRENNAN: Well, I think one can speculate as to why, that the Russians may have something on him personally, that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.
The Russians I think have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things that they could expose.
GEIST: Something personal perhaps?
BRENNAN: Perhaps, perhaps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's John Brennan, former CIA director. He's by and large an Obama appointee who recently lashed out on Twitter at the president over the firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
In a moment, though, we'll be joined by someone who has served Democrats and Republicans alike, former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who also has questions.
The president who calls General Clapper a hack, by the way, is on the defensive, tweeting this afternoon, quote: I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory. In the past, Obama called him also. The fake news media is crazed because they want me to excoriate him. They are wrong. Getting along with Russia and others is a good thing, not a bad thing.
The president went on to say they can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran, and even the coming arms race. Bush tried to get along but didn't have the smarts. Obama and Clinton tried, but didn't have the energy or chemistry. Remember reset. Peace through strength.
But remember back in the campaign trail, back then, the president claimed that strength starts with naming your adversary. At least he said that it when it was radical Islam and he was attacking President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: To solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name.
We have a president that refuses to use the term.
Another event happens, I keep saying, I wonder if he's going to say it this time and he doesn't say it. He won't say it. He won't say it.
He doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't want to mention the term. He doesn't want to use the term. We have a leader that doesn't even want to discuss the name of the problem.
And you can't solve a problem if you refuse to talk about what the problem is.
Anyone who will not name our enemy is not fit to lead our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Naming your enemy. But when it comes to Putin, not so much. In fact, it does seem like this president has always gone out of his way to say nice things about Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.
He is really very much of a leader.
He said nice things about me.
I have nothing to do with Putin. I've never spoken to him. I know nothing about him other than he will respect me.
If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him.
It would be nice if we get along, if we don't, we don't. But it would be nice.
He could not have been nicer. He was so nice.
If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that's called an asset, not a liability.
I hope we have a fantastic relationship.
I don't love, I don't hate. We'll see how it works. We'll see.
I like him because he called me a genius.
Putin did call me a genius and he said I'm the future of the Republican Party, so. He's off to a good start.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president on Vladimir Putin. Some of which he said after he became president, meaning after he was briefed on the extent of Russian interference in the election, but perhaps his reluctance to speak ill of Putin is just a function of his natural reticence, his reserve, certain inability to speak ill of anyone. And, yes, I'm kidding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Crooked Hillary Clinton. Little Marco. Lying Ted Cruz. Lying Ted.
I don't know what I said. I don't remember. Rosie O'Donnell is disgusting. I mean, both inside and out. You take
a look at her, she's a slob.
[20:05:00] He's a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK, I hate to tell you.
Rocket man should have been handled a long time ago.
Jeb Bush is a low energy person. For him to get things done is hard.
Maxine Waters is a very low I.Q. individual.
We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Vladimir Putin gets no nickname, even though as you know, those clips barely scratch the surface of all the people that President or candidate Trump has slammed over the years, nor all the disparaging nicknames and nasty adjectives he's thrown around during executive time. There are some of them, just a partial list. Again, nothing for Putin, not bad Vlad, poisoning Putin, or Botox Boris.
In fact, according to our friends on "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER", the president has written more negative tweets about the cast of the musical Hamilton than he has about Vladimir Putin. Yet so far, the president has responded to Russia in a way he responds to no one else and is not like his top advisors aren't speaking out. Some of them are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.
REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia has often employed malicious tactics against the U.S. and Europe to drive us apart, and serially harassing and intimidating diplomats are not the behaviors of a responsible nation.
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I'm surprised there are any Russian cyber experts available based on how active most of them have been against and undermining our democracies in the West.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, those Russia critics, Secretary of State Tillerson, of course, is gone, a day after criticizing Russia for the last time. The president, of course, is also said to be unhappy with H.R. McMaster who you saw right there at the end.
Let's get more now from White House and CNN's Pamela Brown.
So, the White House -- is the White House explaining the president is essentially playing nice with Vladimir Putin? Why when he's so rough on so many other people? Do they have an explanation?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House is saying, Anderson, that it believes that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing essentially, and that the president believes that he can change the course with Russia, unlike his predecessors by this direct personal relationship with its leader, even if that leader is an adversary like Vladimir Putin.
Now, the White House argues, Anderson, it has been tough on Russia, closing the consulate in San Francisco, arming rebels in the Ukraine, imposing sanctions just recently. But the argument could be made that the administration has been tougher on Russia than the president himself who has been reluctant to directly confront Vladimir Putin, as you pointed out, despite several opportunities to do so, despite the next his intelligence community has said that it meddled in the 2016 election, is doing so in the 2018 election. The poisoning of the ex- Russian spy, and the U.K. just last week, the administration came out and said Russia had hacked the U.S. power grid.
But despite this, you are not seeing the president coming out and directly confronting Vladimir Putin. Just yesterday, for example, with the phone call congratulating him, Sarah Sanders was then asked after if he brought up the poisoning in the U.K. as his advisors had reportedly told him to do. He didn't bring that up. And he also didn't bring up Russian election meddling.
So, it certainly raises questions why the president is reluctant to go after Vladimir Putin himself, Anderson.
COOPER: Has there been any fall out since the leak last night of the warning the president reportedly got in writing from government officials to not congratulate Putin?
BROWN: Well, there has here at the White House, I can tell you many White House aides, officials are rattled by this leak. And the president himself has been seething. Only a select number of people, very few people would actually have been privy to that information in his briefing materials, instructing the president, advising him, I should say, to not congratulate in bold letters Vladimir Putin, which the president did anyway, as we know.
One White House official says leaking materials from -- leaking contents of the president's briefing materials could be a fireable offense. And so now, John Kelly, the chief of staff, Anderson, is saying he is going to launch an investigation, particularly targeting those in the national security team who may be trying to undermine the president.
For many here, Anderson, this is reminiscent of the early days in this administration where you saw several leaks that were seen as trying to embarrass the president, such as you'll recall when the contents of the president's contentious conversation with the Australian prime minister were leaked, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Pam Brown from the White House -- Pam, thanks.
Joining us now is former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.
Director Clapper, I mean, this president has no problem criticizing foreign leaders, we've seen that. Members of Congress, of course, fellow Republicans and former intelligence officials, people at the FBI, the CIA, elsewhere, the Department of Justice. The fact he's taking this softer approach with Putin, does it make sense to you?
LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: No, Anderson, it doesn't. I think that this has been a mystery about why -- and I'm speaking of the president personally here -- why the singular, almost aggressive indifference to the threat that Putin represents, who is bent on undermining this country and undermining our very political fabric.
[20:10:22] So, you know, John Brennan, of course, speculated about why that's so. That's potentially one reason. The Russians have something on him. We don't know that for a fact.
The term they use is kompromat. Or if there's some financial entanglement that he doesn't want revealed, I don't know what it is.
But what's required here, particularly with respect to this information warfare campaign that the Russians are waging against us right now, very aggressively, is leadership. And that leadership can only come from the president.
COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that, because Chris Wray when he was testifying, he said, look, the FBI is, you know, taking a number of measures to try to prevent interference from Russia in the next election, as are other agencies of the U.S. government. But the testimony has always been that the president himself has not directed specific actions.
Why is that so critical? If individual agencies are acting on their own, why does it matter if the president has never held a cabinet level meeting to oversee a -- kind of a -- you know, overall strategy from all the agencies?
CLAPPER: Well, exactly. I mean, as Director Wray testified, director of NSA testified, and today they -- or yesterday, I guess, whenever the secretary of homeland security testified, and they're all apparently working things in their own lane. What's needed, though, is across the government approach and some leadership and direction, and importantly a sense of urgency across the entire government, and for that matter, across society.
I mean, the president, you know, his word carries huge weight. So, if he is the leader in terms of educating the public about what the Russians are doing, that carries a lot of weight. And so, good on each of the parts of the government that are doing things in their own lane, but what's required here is leadership and direction overall.
COOPER: Well, if one uses that benchmark, then, I mean, he's educating or trying to lead the public to follow his beliefs about, you know, corruption at the highest levels of the FBI or problems with the Department of Justice or whatever it may be. He's tweeting very little about Russian interference in the past election or concerns about in the future.
CLAPPER: Well, exactly. I mean, there's a lot of distractions here, some of which I think are his own making. And as a consequence of that, we are losing sight of what is a fundamental threat to this country, and that's what's wrong with it. All these other distractions which are, you know, for various motivations don't get to that. They don't -- they don't -- they detract from what the focus should be, which is the threat posed by Russia.
COOPER: What do you make of the White House's focus apparently on the actual leak of this memo to "The Washington Post", the memo in which he was told by briefers, you know, don't congratulate Putin and, you know, do speak out about the poisoning on, you know, NATO soil? A, what's worse to you, the leak or the substance itself of the call?
CLAPPER: Well, something we have learned in the intelligence community the hard way, that one man's leaker is another man's whistleblower. And I do think that a president, this one or any other, is entitled to confidentiality, particularly with respect to dialogue between him and his advisors. But apparently someone or some people in the White House felt strongly about just what we were talking about, the president's reluctance to call out, dime out the Russians and Putin specifically that they saw fit to expose it to the media.
And so, it's regrettable. And even the state -- you know, his congratulating Putin, in and of itself in isolation is not very particularly a bad thing. I certainly don't agree with it. It's kind of ironic after his complaints about rigged elections during the campaign.
But it's the context in light of everything that's happened since he's become president and, again, his disregard for the threat posed by Russia, which in that context, you know, recent events in the U.K. --
CLAPPER: -- I thought made it particularly inappropriate.
COOPER: General Clapper, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up next, breaking news and what Robert Mueller wants to zero in on with the president, possible new reporting on his prosecutorial playbook. Harvard's Alan Dershowitz joins us for that, so does Jeff Toobin.
Also tonight, what appears to be the Texas serial bomber's cell phone confession, some of his last words before taking his life. Late details on 360.
[20:18:59] COOPER: There is breaking news in the Russia probe. CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller's team is talking
with attorneys for the president about four specific areas of interest if and when they question him. According to two sources, those categories or the president's role in crafting a statement aboard Air Force One that miscast Donald Trump, Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower, also the circumstances surrounding the meeting, as well as the firings of FBI Director James Comey and national security advisor Michael Flynn. There may be more as well.
Meantime more presidential tweets, in addition to defending his phone call with Putin, the president enlisted some Ivy League help in his defense. The president citing Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz, quote, special counsel is told to find crimes whether a crime exists or not. I was opposed to the selection of Mueller to be special counsel. I'm still opposed to it. I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a special counsel appointed because there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice. So stated by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
We happen to have Professor Dershowitz with us tonight, which we are always pleased about.
[20:20:02] And we should mention, he's got a new book out, "The Case Against BDS: Why Singling Out Israel for Boycott is Anti-Semitic and Anti-Peace". With us as well is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
So, Professor Dershowitz, you say that President Trump is right to say that the special counsel should never have been appointed. Can you explain that? Because he is very publicly echoing your argument.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, he paraphrased. What I said, I wrote it in an article on "The Hill", and as long as ten months ago, I wrote an op-ed entitled "Special counsel is the wrong way to uncover the truth". I've always believed that.
I think the issue here is Russia's involvement in the American election is a systemic issue. We should have appointed a bipartisan, nonpartisan commission like they do in England and in Israel, to do an open investigation which the public could see about Russia's involvement in elections and how to stop it.
Instead of doing that, we appointed a special counsel whose job was to find crimes. Whether they were crimes or not, we still don't know. Collusion is not a crime. Obstruction of justice may not be a crime if the president engages in it as part of his constitutional authority.
So, I still take the position that it was a mistake to appoint a special counsel, that an investigation committee would have been better. The fact the president quotes me is not something I control.
COOPER: So, Professor Dershowitz, do you want to see the president order Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller? DERSHOWIZ: Oh, no, no. I think that would be a mistake to fire the
special counsel. There is a difference between making a mistake, appointing one and then firing one who is very much in the process of conducting an investigation. That would be a terrible, terrible mistake. And I think it would raise very serious constitutional and other ethical questions.
COOPER: Jeff, was it a mistake to have Mueller in the first place?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Not only wasn't it a mistake, it was required. It was mandatory, if we want to have a legal system that deserves any respect.
Let's think about what Robert Mueller has done. On January 24th, Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, as he admitted. He pleaded guilty. Could we have had Jeff Sessions prosecute Michael Flynn? They campaigned together for Donald Trump. That's why we needed a special counsel.
George Papadopoulos, same thing. He worked for Jeff Sessions in the Trump campaign. Could Jeff Sessions have prosecuted him? Of course not.
Alan, I don't know what is going on with you, but this is so obviously a conflict of interest and this was the only way to resolve it.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, there is another way to resolve it. You have the Justice Department with a recused attorney general, do a standard investigation. The deputy attorney general is not recused. He could have conducted the investigation. Career people in the Justice Department could conduct the investigation.
The big difference is when you appoint a special counsel, you put a target on the back of individuals. He had better find crimes or else he's wasted the taxpayer's money. That's not true of the Justice Department. The Justice Department does an investigation and finds no crimes, that's a ho-hum story.
But if the special counsel does an investigation and doesn't find crimes, that's a big deal. That's why he has to go after the low- hanging fruit. He has to go after friends, associates.
That's what happened with Clinton. They couldn't find anything with Whitewater, so they went after him for an affair in the Oval Office and perjury during a deposition. That's the problem with a special counsel. It's not a good thing.
That's not me speaking. Half the academic world has been opposed to the special counsel. Half the judiciary has been opposed to the special counsel.
TOOBIN: So, your position is there should never be a special counsel ever for any case?
DERSHOWITZ: Almost never. In fact, what I'd like to do is see the Justice Department have a special unit that is separate from the attorney general's office.
Most countries don't need special counsel because they have a director of public prosecution that is apolitical. We have a situation where the attorney general is both an advisor to the president and the chief prosecution officer. That's the only reason we need special counsel.
We're the only democracy in the world --
TOOBIN: Alan --
DERSHOWITZ: -- that has special counsel and it's a bad --
TOOBIN: How has this come about that in every situation over the past year you have been carrying water for Donald Trump? This is not who you used to be and you are doing this over and over again in situations that are just obviously ripe with conflict of interest and it's just -- what's happened with you?
DERSHOWITZ: What conflict of interest? I attacked President Trump --
TOOBIN: Not you, not your conflict of interest. His conflicts of interest.
DERSHOWITZ: I attacked president Trump for banning of Muslims. I attacked President Trump for leaking material about -- to Russia. I have attacked President Trump for many, many things.
I'm not carrying his water. I'm saying exactly the same thing I've said for 50 years. And, Jeffrey, you ought to know that. You were my student.
I have never deviated from this. I have never deviated from this point.
TOOBIN: But, you know --
DERSHOWITZ: Now, the fact that it applies to Trump now, rather than applying to Bill Clinton, is why people like you have turned against me.
Don't you understand the principle requires bipartisanship than nonpartisanship, and that's who I am and I've always been.
[20:25:05] TOOBIN: I understand.
But we have -- we have a system in place where, you know, you don't like grand juries, you don't like special counsels. But that's the law.
DERSHOWITZ: I'm a civil libertarian. Civil libertarians criticize the law.
(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: But you are criticizing it in the context of, you know,
position after position that is in support of exoneration of Donald Trump.
DERSHOWITZ: It is not in support -- look, I have no interest in whether Donald Trump is exonerated or not. If the evidence is against him, I will be the first person to call him out on it. I am asking for non-criminalization of political differences, narrow construction of the criminal law, civil liberties to apply equally to Democrats and Republicans.
What you accuse me of is not being partisan. You want me to have a different standard against Donald Trump than I did in relation to the Clintons and with everybody else.
COOPER: Let me just ask --
DERSHOWITZ: I have said the same thing about Bob Menendez. I said the same thing about everybody who has been prosecuted.
I'm saying the same thing about Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. I think there's criminalization of political differences there. I am utterly and completely consistent and nonpartisan and, Jeffrey, you haven't.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, you talk about having a nonpartisan permanent office in the Department of Justice, not going outside with the special prosecutor. But given all the attacks by this president on the Department of Justice, on the FBI, all the criticisms of a deep state -- allegations of a deep state, if there is a permanent bureaucratic class within the Department of Justice which is doing these investigations, that seems like it's a ripe target for those who, you know, want to make accusations about a deep state.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, the president's wrong about that. I wish -- I have to tell you, I wish John Brennan who is the former director of the FBI and who I have a lot of respect for, I wish he hadn't come out and suggested that maybe --
DERSHOWITZ: CIA -- maybe they have something on President Trump. If a media person does that, that's fine.
But the former head of the CIA who knows all the secrets and has access to all the wiretaps, when he says maybe it's possible they have something on him, he damn well better be right --
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz --
DERSHOWITZ: -- because if he's not right, he's creating an impression that because of what position he held, he really knows what he's talking about.
Now, I'm not in favor of all this conspiracy talk about the deep state. I want to see a system where everybody is treated exactly the same, whether they are a Democrat or a Republican. I want so see a nonpartisan --
TOOBIN: That's the system we have with independent counsels or special counsels. I mean, look at -- you know, it's fine to talk about Robert Mueller in the abstract, the risks --
DERSHOWITZ: I like him as a person. I think he's a very good person.
TOOBIN: But let me finish, Alan. Alan, let me finish.
TOOBIN: Look at the record of what he's compiled. Cases for making false statements, cases for conspiracy to defraud the United States under 18 USC Section 371. These are routine statutes used by prosecutors.
DERSHOWITZ: Exactly my point.
TOOBIN: That's right. And because he is applying the legitimate -- let me finish, Alan.
DERSHOWITZ: Any Justice Department official could have done that. You don't need a special counsel to go after low-hanging fruit like that.
TOOBIN: You are saying -- Rod Rosenstein you are suggesting could have supervised this. Rod Rosenstein was the person who said I can't supervise this. I need to appoint an outsider.
Rod Rosenstein who is a professional prosecutor, career person, he understood that even though Sessions was allegedly recused, although he seems awfully involved in these cases for someone who is recused. But he understood that for the integrity of the justice system, for the perception of fairness, there had to be a special counsel, an outsider and that was right.
DERSHOWITZ: It was wrong.
COOPER: I have to jump in and end this. I'm sorry. It's like a master class of Harvard. You don't need to pay Harvard school salary -- tuition for Harvard. You can just --
DERSHOWITZ: Jeffrey still gets an A-plus.
TOOBIN: Well, I appreciate that.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Professor Dershowitz, thank you very much.
Coming up, just after he was elected, the president decided he would make White House staff to sign nondisclosure agreements, just like he did at the Trump Organization, according to a source. The NDAs as they're called were signed may not be enforceable. The latest on why, and what the administration is actually saying about them.
Also ahead, we'll hear from the attorney representing Karen McDougal, the woman who said she had 10-month affair with then-citizen Trump. What her attorney told me about what he says was a coordinated effort to keep the story from coming out.
[20:33:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In a further sign that the President is trying to run the United States government the same way he ran his business, we're learning that he made his White House staff sign non-disclosure agreements. There is a catch, these NDAs were drafted by White House counsel Don McGahn and were described to CNN as watered down unenforceable agreements.
The President accord to a source was told early on that it wasn't a workable idea for federal government employees, but he wouldn't let it go as leaks started coming fast and furious as soon as he took office.
Now when the story first broke in the Washington Post a few days ago the White House called it "Completely false". Well today "The New York Times" publishing more detailed account of the non-disclosure agreements.
CNN Political Analyst and New York Times White House Correspondent Julie Hirschfeld Davis worked on that reporting. She joins me now along with CNN Contributor and former White House Ethics Czar Norm Eisen.
So Julie, this -- I mean it doesn't seem like a complicated answer for the White House to provide either staffers were asked to sign these NDAs or they weren't, right?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right. So far, the White House is not willing to acknowledge on the record that these things exist. I asked for a copy to be able to review a copy and they wouldn't provide one. But several current and former officials who either signed copies or saw copies of the agreement clearly described something that was very broad, had a lot of caveats in it because there are a loot of statutes that protect federal employee's ability to speak, basically to exercise their first amendment rights.
There are whistleblower protections. There are oversight statutes and disclosure laws that all federal government employees are subject to. And so those caveats are all in this non-disclosure agreements.
And as you said, Don McGahn, the White House Counsel explained to the President that it wasn't like the real estate world. It wasn't like the entertainment world where you can bind someone by one of these agreements and hold them to a very steep financial penalty if they violate it in the government. It's not that simple.
But the President was determined to impose something on his staff that he thought might deter them from either submitting to interviews or writing tell-all books that would be embarrassing to him. And so this is what they came up with.
[20:35:10]COOPER: I mean do you know more about the details of the documents and were there financial penalties associated? I mean can somebody, you know, Kellyanne Conway leaves, can she write a book if she's one of the people who signed this thing?
DAVIS: Well, from what -- everything I've heard from the people who saw it and who signed it, there were no actual penalties that were specified within the document itself. Again, it was very basic sort of general document and there are no penalties specified.
And we already know that the former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has given lots and lots of interviews to a person who is writing a book about chiefs of staff, about detailing in specific terms his first six months and Donald Trump's first six months in the White House. As far as I know he's not facing any charges. So it doesn't -- it seems like Don McGahn was right, that it's not enforceable and they are not intending to enforce it, but it does exist and they had people sign it.
COOPER: Investor Eisen, I mean is this even legal, is there a compelling government purpose for the White House staff to sign a non- disclosure agreements? Or is this -- I mean it sounds like maybe these were more for to just make the President feel better?
NORMAN EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Anderson, they're not legal. Unlike when Mr. Trump was occupying Trump Tower, in the Oval Office, the United States constitution applies to agreements that he compels his employees to sign.
And under the First Amendment, there is an exception for classified information, attorney/client privilege information, but beyond that, the first amendment protects White House employee's ability to speak when they leave the White House. So it is a First Amendment problem. And I think it's a problem that they wouldn't give Julie and "The New York Times" a copy of the thing. If it's so benign and unenforceable, why won't they share a copy so we can all see whether it's enforceable or not? It doesn't sound enforceable to me.
COOPER: Julie, I wonder what this says about how the President views his presidency and how his staff deals with him and how he views his staff?
DAVIS: Well, it's interesting because I think it's one of the reminders that we have that this President really views his role in the White House as not that different from being an executive in private business. This is about his personal reputation, this is about him wanting to impose secrecy and use pressure to bind his employees to basically protect him and his reputation.
And so he felt that it was very important to give people a disincentive essentially to make him look bad. And that's not a way that most presidents view their role. It is not a way most White Houses operate. But clearly it is the way that this President views it. And it's also another example of the ways in which the White House staff really tries to manage the President and sort of present to him the ways in which his job is different than a corporate executive, and gets pushed, you know, in various ways by Mr. Trump to do things that really aren't in the tradition of the White House and have very little to do with the conventions of the presidency.
COOPER: I mean investor Eisen, all does sort of, you know, it's sort of part and parcel of the larger reality the President seems to have struggled with, which is the federal government does not operate like a private business.
EISEN: Well, Anderson, his contempt, apparent contempt for the First Amendment here is of a piece with the larger pattern that you point out, starting with the first unconstitutional Muslim ban. His engagement with former FBI Director Jim Comey that, for heaven sake, has landed him under investigation for obstruction of justice, a long pattern of official action that's been enjoined by the court.
His private business was the same, Anderson. He pushed the law. But when you're the chief law enforcement officer, you're going to get in a lot of trouble if you do that. And his staff is not tough enough on him.
When I was in the White House, if President Obama told me, this is a spurious agreement, it constricts the First Amendment, now go get people to sign it, I would have told him, respectfully, sir, sign it yourself. I'm out of here. The staff are enablers. And there is some point which they have to leave. And above all, the White House Counsel, Don McGahn, his fingerprints are on every scandal in this White House, and he is not doing any good for his client or for the United States.
COOPER: Norman Eisen, appreciate your being here, Julie Hirschfeld Davis as well thank you so much.
Coming up in the next hour of 360, an exclusive interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, what he has to say about reports that data firm used by the Trump campaign access information from about 50 million Facebook users allegedly without their knowledge.
[20:39:48] But first breaking news in the Texas serial bomber case, the suspect dead, but police say he left behind a 25-minute recorded confession, details of that in a moment.
COOPER: There is breaking news from Austin, Texas. Police say they have discovered a 25-minute confession recorded on a cell phone by the serial bomber where he describes the bombs that he constructed. Authorities say the 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt killed himself by exploding one of his bombs as police closed in on him.
We are using his name and photos of him only because police are asking if you knew this young man, to please call them and share what you know. You know, we wouldn't normally do that. Investigators say he was responsible for five homemade pipe bombs that exploded in and around Austin in the last three weeks, killing two people, injuring four others.
Now, law enforcement sources say a key break in the case was this surveillance video of the bomber at a FedEx location days ago wearing a hat, a blonde wig and gloves and mailing two packages. Then early this morning police surrounded the suspect. The nightmare came to a deadly conclusion. Randi Kaye has details.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before dawn in Round Rock, Texas, about 20 miles outside Austin, authorities are closing in. This is where the string of bombings began. And soon this is where it will end. Investigators are working on a tip they received about a person who by now had officially become a suspect.
CHIEF BRIAN MANLEY, AUSTIN POLICE: We ultimately located the vehicle that this suspect was known to be driving. We found that at a hotel right up the road here in Round Rock.
KAYE: Law enforcement surrounds the hotel while they wait for back-up from ballistics and tactical units. They don't contact the suspect, but suddenly around 4:00 a.m., he drives away. Though it's unclear if he'd noticed he was being watched. Police follow him. His car goes into a ditch.
[20:45:12] MANLEY: The vehicle ended up stopping in the bar ditch on the side of the road behind us.
KAYE: At about 4:45 a.m., a showdown is underway.
MANLEY: As members of the Austin Police Department SWAT team approached the vehicle, the suspect detonated a bomb inside the vehicle.
KAYE: A bomb inside his own vehicle, taking his life. During the confrontation with the suspect, a SWAT officer was knocked back from the blast, and another fired on the suspect. By 6:00 a.m., the official announcement, the suspect is dead. Authorities later identified the suspect as Mark Anthony Conditt, a 23-year-old white male from Pflugerville, Texas, just outside Austin.
They believe he is responsible for all the bombings in the area since March 2nd. Still, whatever motivated the suspect to terrorize his community is still a mystery.
MANLEY: That's the one thing we don't have right now, is a motive behind this.
KAYE: Police are trying to figure out if he was working alone, interviewing his family and roommates. The suspect was home schooled and briefly attended Austin community college, but did not graduate. His grandmother described him to CNN as very quiet, low-key, and peaceful. On his record, a single traffic violation, nothing that ever would have indicated something as terrifying as this.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: So Randi, I understand the bomber had an online blog. What do we know about that?
KAYE: Anderson, we got access to that blog from Austin community college. It was part of a U.S. government class project. He attended that college until 2012. And the blog is on a range of topics. He blogs against the idea of free abortions, suggesting women shouldn't have sex if they don't want to have a baby.
In another blog post he suggests doing away with the sex offender registration, arguing that all it does is cause people to shun that person and keep them from getting a job. And in another blog, he actually argued against same-sex marriage saying if that is protected by law, then bestiality and pedophilia should be protected as well, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Randi, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Up next the three current cases involving the President and women one involves a former playboy model, an alleged ten-month affair, and an accusation that a tabloid bought her story just to bury it in order to protect the President. Tomorrow on the program I'll speak with Karen McDougal.
Up next we'll hear from her attorney about what's at stake.
[20:50:14] COOPER: Tomorrow night on the program, I'm going to be speaking in an exclusive interview with one of the women who says, she and Donald Trump had an affair. Former playboy model Karen McDougal is suing the company that owns the "National Enquirer" which bought the rights to her story just so it could kill it apparently to protect the President according to the lawsuit.
The publisher of the Enquirer's parent company is David Pecker, a longtime friend of President Trump. Peter Stris is Karen McDougal's attorney and I spoke to him just before air time tonight.
COOPER: Can you explain the deal that Karen McDougal signed with AMI, which is the parent company of the "National Enquirer" and a lot of other magazines because it's not a hush agreement like some others have signed.
PETER STRIS, KAREN MCDOUGAL'S ATTORNEY: No, it's not a hush agreement. So it's a good question because, you know, what is the deal or what are people saying the deal is? So the deal was amended right after the election to allow Karen to respond to any legitimate media requests.
STRIS: So in that respect, it's not a hush agreement at all.
STRIS: Before that, the deal was a modeling and writing contract where she would write columns. She would be on two covers, and she would be paid. And she would sell the limited rights to her story.
COOPER: To her life story?
COOPER: So essentially AMI was buying the rights to her life story, so she couldn't tell her life story or sell her life story to anybody else, and they would also give her a number of columns, and she could appear on the cover of the magazine a couple of times?
STRIS: That's right. But the way it unfolded is extraordinary because it shows how this was a coordinated effort to catch and kill negative stories about the President.
COOPER: Well that's what interested, this term catch and kill, which a lot of people maybe don't know about, that's based, so the allegation is that AMI, one of their magazines is the "National Enquirer," that the man who owns it is friends with the President. And they would buy the rights to people's stories that were going to say something unflattering about the President, perhaps, they would buy the rights but never write the story, they were never publish the story, they would kill the story. That's where the term catch and kill comes from?
STRIS: That's right. But let me tell you how this unfolded. So Karen hired a lawyer in 2016 because her story was starting to leak. And the lawyer was supposed to be representing her. Now, it turns out that he has a relationship with Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's fixer, where he negotiates hush deals. He was Stormy Daniels' lawyer for --
COOPER: This is Keith Davidson.
STRIS: Keith Davidson, that's right. Karen had no idea about this.
COOPER: She didn't know that he was representing Stormy Daniels and others?
STRIS: Didn't know he was representing Stormy Daniels, didn't know if -- that there was the idea that he was coordinating with someone associated with Trump. No clue. He also has a relationship with AMI, and so when she retained him and thought he was representing her, he took her to ABC, and that was not to be paid. In other words, she was going to go and do a legitimate journalistic piece where she would tell her story.
He also took her to AMI. He told her that AMI was going to pay her millions of dollars for this story. They sat down. She said everything that, you know, she had to say, and they said her story was worthless. When she got close to actually going on with ABC, all of a sudden, AMI resurfaced.
COOPER: AMI has put out a statement, and I want to read what they said. They said, Karen has been free, has spoken freely and remains free to speak regarding her story since the amendment made to her contract in 2016. The only thing she's limited from doing under her contract with American media is selling her story rights to another publisher or media outlet. That is not silencing Karen.
So they're saying, yes, her contract was amended to allow her to respond to legitimate media inquiries through another attorney in 2016, and since then she's been able to speak. It's just they own the -- they still own the rights to her life story.
STRIS: And it sounds terrific. It's just not how they've behaved in private. And Ronan Farrow did a story about AMI catching and killing that prominently featured Karen, and she was terrified. She didn't sit down for an interview. She just answered some questions. She verified some things. And in the wake of that, they made clear -- they said further disclosures would breach her contract and cause considerable monetary damages.
I mean there's no mistaking it. We have plenty of evidence to back up the fact that there was a year of intimidation, not physical intimidation, but giving Karen the impression that if she did what the contract, we believe, says she could do, that there would be economic or reputational consequences.
COOPER: So that's why you're sure and you say you want her just out of this contract because they're saying she's free to talk now, but you're saying, you know, that's what they're saying publicly, we're afraid two years from now when there's not attention on this, they're going to say something different.
[20:55:02] STRIS: That's exactly right. And Karen's willing to put her money where her mouth is. She will give the money back if that's the issue. If they're worried that at some point someone's going to do a story and there's going to be money, she will assign it to a nonprofit. She does not want AMI to profit from or control her through this contract. It's an illegal contract. It was obtained through fraud. It should be unwound. And if anyone's worried about her motives, we will address that. We will make it perfectly clear that her motive is to be free from this company.
COOPER: Peter Stris, appreciate talking to you. Thank you.
STRIS: Thank you.
COOPER: Out of fairness, we've asked for a non-camera interview from AMI CEO David Pecker, have not gotten a response yet. CNN also obtained a statement from Karen McDougal's former attorney Keith Davidson which said he can't discuss the matter due to attorney-client privilege but he added that he doesn't believe the assertions within the complaint are a fair and accurate description of the situation.
You can tune in tomorrow to 360 for my exclusive interview with Karen McDougal, that's tomorrow at 8:00p.m. Eastern, right here. Just ahead, a CNN exclusive, Mark Zuckerberg speaking out in the middle of the storm of questions about the role Facebook played in the election and how it deals with users' data and privacy. The CEO tells his side of the story, next.
[21:00:04] COPPER: Tonight we have an exclusive interview. Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking out for the first time with his company under fire and it'll be uncomfortable in resection of big business in political controversy.