Return to Transcripts main page


Sources: Trump Considering Firing Rosenstein to Check Mueller; NYT: Trump Wanted Mueller Fired in December; FBI Raid Targeted Records of Payments to Porn Star and Playboy Playmate; Zuckerberg: Facebook is Working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 10, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:22] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The President tonight merely spent the day grumbling about the official, who okayed the searches targeting his personal attorney.

CNN has learned that he's been busy laying the ground work for firing Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein. CNN Senior White House Correspondent Pamela Brown has the latest. So what have you learned about the President's thoughts on firing Rosenstein or the statements about it?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, our team has learned that the President's consideration of firing Rod Rosenstein has gained urgency following the raid of the office of the President's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Sources familiar with this matter say this is one of several options on the table right now, including going so far as to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions as well. All of this is what the President is weighing.

Now officials say if Trump's acts, Rosenstein is the most likely target because installing a new deputy attorney general could provide the check on Mueller that Trump has been seeking for quite sometime.

Now we should note, Anderson, that not all of Trump's legal advisers are on board with this but others are telling him that they now believe they have a stronger case against Rosenstein and they believe he has crossed the line in what he can and cannot pursue and they consider him conflicted since he is a potential witness in the special counsel investigation because he wrote that memo that justified the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

So even though Trump has considered firing him in the past, Anderson, this possibility has taken on a more serious tone in recent days, according to sources we have spoken with.

COOPER: And what about the meeting between Mueller's team and the President's lawyers yesterday. What you have learned about that?

BROWN: So the timing of the raid made for a very awkward meeting between Mueller's team and President's lawyers yesterday. Sources familiar with the meeting said that had been previously scheduled as part of the preparations for a possible interview between the President and Mueller's team.

But a source close to the President said there had been these ongoing negotiations between the two and the Mueller team and President's legal team for a potential interview but the raid on the President's potential attorney has upended the discussions. The President's anger over the raid and a new assessment of what the implications of the raid could be for Cohen most prominent client, Trump or factors that the President's legal team are now taking into account.

We should note the President's Attorney Jay Sekulow declined to discuss this meeting, saying we do not discuss conversations we have had or not had with the special counsel, Anderson.

COOPER: And just lastly, so I understand we're learning more about what the FBI was seeking in the searches yesterday?

BROWN: That is right. We have learned that the search warrant carried out by the public corruption unit of the FBI, the Manhattan Federal Attorney's Office sought information about Karen McDougal, an ex-playboy model who claims she carried on a nearly year-long affair with Mr. Trump shortly after the birth of his son in 2006.

Now McDougal, as you know, was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., the Inquirer parent company whose chief executive is a friend of Mr. Trump.

Now, agents were also searching Cohen's office for information related to Stephanie Clifford better known as Stormy Daniels who said she also had sex with Mr. Trump while was married. As you know, Trump has denied these allegations, the White House has denied. But Mr. Cohen has acknowledged that he paid Mr. Clifford $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to secure her silence just days before the 2016 Presidential election. Anderson.

COOPER: Pam Brown, thanks very much.

There's news that broke just a few minutes ago concerning the possible firing of Robert Mueller. New details on the President's thinking on that subject. Jim Acosta joins us with more.

So it seems at least based on what Sarah Sanders said today the White House feels pretty confident that the President at least believes that he has the right to fire Mueller if he so chooses.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Anderson. And I'm told by a source familiar with the discussions that the President and his top aides have been discussing the possibility and the legality of firing the Special Counsel Robert Mueller for months and you heard Sarah Sanders saying this earlier today that the President believes he has the power to do this.

It is not clear whether or not they had this discussion about the legality of it but I'm told by sources familiar with this matter that not only has it been discussed as to whether or not the President has the authority to do this, but that the prevailing legal interpretation inside of the administration is that, yes, the President has the authority to do this.

The question is of course, whether the President will ultimately fire Robert Mueller. But it seems, Anderson that they've been talking about this for sometime. I talked to one source earlier today who said that this is been a subject of conversation since the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the former Trump Campaign Aide. So the discussions have been going on for a long time. Anderson.

COOPER: I understand the President is also been talking directly to members of Congress about firing Mueller?

ACOSTA: Right. That is something else that we're hearing from our sources that the President has been talking to members of Congress about this. Obviously, it hasn't been a great number of members of Congress. But he has been bouncing this idea off of those lawmakers and what I'm told by a source familiar with these conversations is that essentially these lawmakers have been counseling the President, don't do this, urging him some caution and that the advice has been described to be as "more level-headed" than what he is hearing from legal advisers, who have been saying, you know what, the President may need to get tough and getting tough means firing Robert Mueller.

[21:05:29] But he's been told by lawmakers, Anderson, that could be devastating, it could be disastrous for the upcoming November midterms the Democrats would obviously use that as a campaign wedge issue to try to pull some of those Trump voters in their column come November. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

There's breaking news as well from CNN Political Analyst and "New York Times" White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman. She is reporting on specific incident in which the President wanted to fire the special counsel back in December. He was angry, she reports that erroneous reporting that Mr. Mueller was seeking his personal financial records from Deutsche Bank. We'll get perspective now from CNN Senior Legal Analyst Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney from the southern district of New York.

What do you make of this new "New York Times" reporting that as early as in early December the President was wanting to fire Robert Mueller because of a report about subpoenaed he intellectually made to Deutsche Bank?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is consistent with everything we understand about Donald Trump. He doesn't like the investigation. He says quite clearly in all caps with multiple exclamation marks in his Twitter account if he thinks it is a witch hunt and that he has previously tried to fire Mueller through his White House Counsel, Don McGahn. So that's another occasion was raids by specificity that the New York Times reports that he wants to --

COOPER: And he had drawn a red line with the New York Times in a previous interview saying essentially -- BHARARA: Correct.

COOPER: -- don't look at my past financial records?

BHARARA: Yes, although, you know, the authorization for Bob Mueller is -- he is allowed to -- very, specifically investigate things that he comes across and the course of doing other things.

Now if you are investigating someone for narcotics and you come across a dead body in their home, you don't -- you can't draw a red line around that. It is not a great analogy but the point remains. And so I think Donald Trump based on that reporting, and other things we've talked about, he wants Robert Mueller gone and he's trying to figure out the way to do it that will minimize the impact on him and politically with the Congress whether so -- you know, rescinding the regulations or having someone who is more pliable as a deputy attorney general do it. He wants Bob Mueller gone and the question will be -- is he going to succeed in being able to do it on his own terms.

COOPER: According to CNN's reporting, Trump's legal advisers think he has a better case of firing Rosenstein than Mueller because Rosenstein is a 2potential witness in the counsel investigation.

BHARARA: Well, the main reason is -- there is nothing that protects anyone -- essentially anyone else in the Department of Justice from being fired for any reason at all. I was the person who knows that firsthand.

Jeff Sessions could be fired at any moment. But there is a particular regulation that's designed to protect some independents and ongoing work of the special counsel and so that is why they are probably engaging in all sort of hypothetical maneuvering to figure out the appropriate way with the less possible blowback to get rid of Bob Mueller.

COOPER: And Sarah Sanders said today that the President does have the right to fire Mueller. Is she right?

BHARARA: Yes. So it's turns out what she said was the President believes he has the right. Sarah Sanders says a lot of things that are demonstrably false and the President also believes a lot of things that are demonstrably false and I brought my handy cheat sheet that the regulation is clear with respect to the special counsel. It said, the special counsel may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the attorney general.

And he may remove the special counsel for a number of enumerated reasons including misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity and some other things and has to provide reasons in the writing. So it is very clear that if the President of the United States under the current circumstances and as long as the regulations are in effect, called up Bob Mueller and said I'm firing you, Bob Mueller, I would expect we're not heed that. And of course, you could rescind the regulations but that would involve a process and would look terrible also.

COOPER: Neal Katyal is one of the people who drafted the regulations regarding what you can and can't do with the special counsel, he said the President can fire Mueller and all he has to do is repeal the regulation publicly?

BHARARA: Yes, as I say -- so you can repeal the regulation but you have to take that act and that also carries with a political consequence, in effect on the minds and the ears of people in Congress so at least have so far through what they are saying, not to what they're doing, but through what they're saying, says it will be hell to pay, it will be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency if he did it and so I think it matters a little bit, how you go about doing it.

COOPER: But that would really be a direct line from the President to firing -- I mean, it would be a very obvious move by the President publicly firing the special counsel which would, as you said, raise all sorts of political problems.

BHARARA: Yes. I mean, look, I don't know how much camouflage the President gets by firing Rod Rosenstein given what he said, given how angry he is and getting what his ultimately goal maybe and getting rid of Robert Mueller. But, yes, it provides a much more direct line as you say.

COOPER: Finally, it is easy to get in the weeds on all of this stuff and start to think, this seems -- this isn't that unusual. Just big picture, how weird is what is happening right now? I know that is not a legal term, but just how -- in your experience, how unusual, bizarre, out of the ordinary thing?

[21:10:16] BHARARA: It is really weird. It is weird that you have, A, a President who has decided to have a lawyer who has acted like Michael Cohen has who himself has a lawyer. Who is having his home and his hotel and his office searched. But, you know, from time to time, you get search warrants to look at lawyers offices. It is a big deal. And the regulations that say is requires a personal approval of the United States attorney and consultation with folks in Washington.

We did it from time to time but you have to believe that particularly in this sensitivity that -- the sensitivity that is present here, if I were still the United States attorney no matter who the President was and I was being asked to personally approve as someone had to have been in the southern district of New York, a search of someone's home and office who was counsel to the President, I would want a lot more than the bear minimum proof of probable cause. So I predict as we saw with Paul Manafort, that if they decided they have enough evidence to engage in a very aggressive move, that the likelihood that Michael Cohen is going to be charged is high.

COOPER: Fascinating. Preet Bharara, thank you.

BHARARA: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, the panel joins us next. No shortage of things to talk about certainly. And later the CEO of Facebook, senators had no shortage of questions for him today about the social media he founded. The impact it has on American democracy and what it does with all the data users reveal online.


[21:15:11] COOPER: Looking there at the White House right, a very busy but not especially pleasant place to be, according to our reporting, the President said to be conferring about firing deputy attorney general, possibly also the Russia special counsel.

Harvard's Alan Dershowitz came for dinner tonight. He is on the broadcast tomorrow night and as all of the Russia news is breaking, the President is also considering new strikes on Syria.

I want to bring in the panel. Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, Mark Geragos, Kirsten Powers, Rich Lowry, Steve Cortes.

I'm not even sure where to begin because frankly there is so much moving parts right now. Asha, just -- I mean, if the President did in fact fire Rosenstein, what if any domino effect would that have on the Mueller investigation?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So firing Rosenstein does have I think more repercussions potentially on the investigation than actually firing Mueller himself. That's because as we've seen from this raid, Mueller is required right now to get the approval of the deputy attorney general to take significant steps in his investigation, like executing a search warrant.

So what you could start -- what could start happening if Trump gets a lackey in there, that person could be behind the scenes essentially not approving things, slow rolling it, not approving funding, things like that that would allow that to be shielded because it looks like Mueller is still able to do his investigation.

COOPER: But the solicitor general as I understand it would take the place of Rod Rosenstein right now temporarily, correct?

RANGAPPA: I think -- based on the way that this investigation has gone, and the fact that judges have approved things there are clearly evidence of criminal violations that any lawyer who is following the professional duty is going to have an obligation to continue. So -- but I think we always have -- looking at some of the other appointments, we don't know who could eventually come into that role.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I don't know that people understand just how amazing a situation we are in.

COOPER: Yes, explain because it is easy to kind of start to think this is just normal.

GERAGOS: People are watching over this, if you are in the criminal justice system right now and you understand that the FBI just executed a search warrant in the -- both the home and office, whether it is the hotel or not, of the lawyer for the President of the United States, that is stunning. I don't know that there is any precedent for that. And the President and all of the talk about firing Mueller gets him nowhere. Firing Mueller is a useless act. It might be symbolic politically, it maybe feeding to somebody else. But that doesn't keep him out of harm's way.

Pardoning -- doing a preemptive pardon of his lawyer Michael Cohen does nothing for him because Michael Cohen has no ability to assert any privileges and then has to cooperate and unless he wants to pull some of a Susan McDougal. So the only person that makes any sense for him in this death struggle -- because this is clearly a death struggle at this. There is somebody has authorized and it is obviously Rod Rosenstein this, so this came over and I'm not so sure what's been speculated that this is -- it was lateral over to the southern district for a separate investigation. I frankly think and Preet had indicated this. This was a taint team as what they call it.

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Mark, I agree, by the way. It is absolutely stunning. It is stunning in its audacity that the Department of Justice is trying to usurp the power of the presidency. It is stunning that right now in American --

COOPER: How are they doing that?

CORTES: Because the American people have been promised since the beginning of this investigation this was about Russia, right? And what do we see now? It is not about Russia. It is about sex, it's a one-night stand allegedly 12 years ago.

COOPER: Well, we don't know.

CORTES: To add something to that --


CORTES: Where this is going -- it is not a crime. There is no crime. Where this is going is impeachment. And that has been the base case --

GERAGOS: No, let me --

CORTES: Since the beginning, this sham investigation --

COOPER: So you think the FBI raided the home, the office and the hotel room where Michael Cohen was staying --

CORTES: With judicial approval.

COOPER: With judicial approval not because there is any criminality at all, but just because they are interested --

CORTES: No criminality related to the President, and by the way --

COOPER: How do you know that?

CORTES: Because he's been investigated now for also two solid years --


CORTES: This is Mueller's attempt at a Hail Mary pass. COOPER: OK.

CORTES: We have nothing on Russia, but look over here. Look at this shining --

GERAGOS: That is not the --

RANGAPPA: He's indicted 13 Russians. I mean, how much more Russia can you get.

COOPER: One at a time. Josh --


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: If during the course of the investigation, first of all the American people weren't promised anything. The special counsel was put in place to determine were there ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. There was also that second corollary -- or during the cause of the investigation additional crimes were unearthed, they would go after that. They would prosecute -- Asha knows, if during the course of an investigation you uncover something that's criminal activity, you don't simply ignore it. So if anything this is a service to the American people to say we're going to ferret out criminal activity.


[21:20:07] COOPER: Let him finish. Let him finish.

CAMPBELL: On your second point. If you are Robert Mueller, you come across criminal activity and you don't just sit on that because it doesn't impact what you are doing. You farm that out to whichever the attorney's office going to be impacted, in this case it is the southern district and that is where we're seeing taking place here. Although but it is not related to Russia, it is something that investigators can't ignore.

GERAGOS: That is why I don't think it is correct. I don't think that he farmed it out because it was separate criminal activity. I think he used the southern district as what they call a taint team because they are going into a lawyer's office. And they want to have a -- they don't want to have --

RANGAPPA: A buffer.

GERAGOS: Right, they have to have a wall. They don't have a special --

COOPER: Everybody who would have approved this is a Republican.


COOPER: Appointed by the President.

CORTES: And I hear that constantly, Anderson.

COOPER: It's true.

CORTES: That is an illogical cover. The Republicans in D.C. have been every bit as obstructionist toward --

COOPER: But the President appointed these people -- the President was fool into appointing to people who were secretly against him.

CORTES: Listen, I think he himself has told us that he made bad appointments in the Justice Department starting with Attorney General Sessions. He did and that was a mistake. But this isn't a Republican/Democrat issue, this is the swamp protecting itself and trying once again to nullify --

RANGAPPA: Who is involved in this --

COOPER: You don't know that. You are just saying that but you don't know any of that. You don't know Rod Rosenstein --

CORTES: Here is why --

COOPER: You don't know the guy who approved this raid, do you?

CORTES: We know it was Rod Rosenstein.

COOPER: Do you know Chris Wray?

RANGAPPA: Do you know who the judge is?

COOPER: I mean, do you know any of these of people?

CORTES: We know that it was Rod Rosenstein who needs to be fired --

COOPER: But do you know any of these people?

CORTES: -- yesterday.

COOPER: And you are saying all the swamp.


CORTES: I know he is been a United States attorney for I think 20 years.

GERAGOS: He started his career as the -- in the independent counsel's office pursuing Bill Clinton. I mean that's where I first met Rod Rosenstein was down in Little Rock, Arkansas when he was an independent counsel --

COOPER: Rich, how do you see this?

RICH LOWRY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I would say, we have to acknowledge that any President of the United States would be extremely upset if what was originally supposed to by counter intelligence investigation into Russian meddling into the election has somehow morphed into a personal raid -- raid of his personal lawyer's office partly at least over a tawdry payoff to a porn star. There is no President that, oh, that's a natural progression, oh that is great. I'm going to be fine with that. So it is natural that he's very upset about this. He's angry about it. I just don't think there is any way he's going to fire his way out of it. I don't think firing Rosenstein gets him anything, I don't think firing Mueller gets him anything, I don't think pardoning Cohen at the moment gets him anything. I think the best policy baton down the hatches and sit tight and wait to see, whatever the conclusions are and then litigate them very aggressively in public and maybe if the Democrats take the House, in an impeachment hearing.

COOPER: Kirsten, is this the swamp just rearing its --

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I don't think so. And I think if you take in a very practical terms and ask why did Donald Trump say there was a red line, which first of all he doesn't even get to say. It is like a 14-year-old telling your parents you can search my room for pot but I draw the line at the closet.


POWERS: I will never do such a thing. But it's like -- A, you don't get to make the red line and B, we're going to look in the closet. You know, so he doesn't get to say the red line and it seems like why is he still obsessed with his personal finances. If I was under investigation and they said they would look at my personal finances I would be like, OK, there is nothing there. It is not a big deal. So why did he highlight that as something that you can't do. As for everything you are saying, we just don't know. We don't know why it was referred, right?

CORTES: He draws a red line. You know why? Because this isn't the Congress investigating, he can't draw a red line with them, (inaudible) the government. This is his own Department of Justice. Mueller answers to him. He is not an independent counsel. This is not Ken Starr.

POWERS: It is not a real investigation --

GERAGOS: Right. And Rosenstein not to the President, that's why --

CORTES: But Rosenstein answers to the President.

POWERS: It is not a real investigation --

CAMPBELL: He does not have American --


CAMPBELL: And importantly we're blasting through norms because they no longer matter anymore but in the United States of America there is a norm that the Department of Justice, that the FBI and they are independent. And they can investigate all of the way up to the top of the country. That is how this country exists. No one is above the law. To say because they work for him they can't be investigated is simply false. CORTES: And Mueller shouldn't be above the law and he has been above the law.


GERAGOS: Mueller answered --

CORTES: Everything he wants to do.

GERAGOS: Mueller answered to Rosenstein. Firing Mueller is going to have absolutely no effect from a legal jeopardy stand point. That does nothing for them.

CORTES: And then fire Rosenstein.

GERAGOS: Rosenstein, if he's going to try to get out of this, number one, he's got to get the heck out of -- I said this for weeks, I don't understand the end game of them filing the lawsuit in California to get relief which is why he's in this mess today. I mean, that makes absolutely no sense. I don't know what advice he's getting or who is telling him to do this because there is no end game that makes any sense except he's going to get -- he's going to find himself in the predicament he's in. If he's going to get out and he is going to fire Rosenstein, he is going to have somebody who will come up and tell him kind of along the lines of what Asha is saying, OK, I'm going to rein this in.

[21:25:19] If I'm willing to take this job, I know what is spelled out for me, what is spelled out for me is to protect the President.

COOPER: And if that person if they're not already somebody who is in the department whose passed review by Congress, that person has to appear before Congress and get approved, right?

GERAGOS: I don't know that that is necessarily true. I think that he could put -- I think there's an interpretation probably why Alan had him over for dinner. There's an interpretation that you could put somebody in that spot temporary to clean house and if you're putting -- if somebody is accepting that position, if somebody says I'm willing to take it. I know what he wants me to do. That person will not care about the legal niceties.

RANGAPPA: And one big other repercussion here is that Mueller periodically is going to produce reports on the various threads of his investigation. We know that he's going to do one on obstruction. I don't think he's going to recommend indicting the President because that is against the Department of Justice Policy but he may say there is evidence of it.

A new DAG could decide to not make that report public. And that -- I think -- in any subsequently and then that is under wraps and the American public will know.

COOPER: We'll going to take a break. More discussion ahead with the panel, President Trump is claiming the FBI broke into the offices of his personal attorney Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen told CNN what he says really happened and it's much different. We'll tell you that, next.


COOPER: More now on the FBI raid on President Trump raid on President Trump Personal Attorney Michael Cohen. The President is not suppressing his anger. Here is what he said yesterday just after the story broke.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man. And it is a disgraceful situation.


COOPER: They didn't break into his office. Keeping them honest, he's not Daniel Ellsberg psychiatrist and even Mr. Cohen backs that up. Here is what he told Don Lemon this afternoon. "I'm unhappy to have my persona residence and office raided but I will tell you that remembers of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion."

Back now with the panel. Kirsten, I'm wondering what do you made of the -- just the President's remarks yesterday, how he's handling this publicly and apparently privately?

POWERS: Well, I think it is the concerning part is more of the private reporting that we're getting that he feels that the DOJ hasn't protected him enough and I think that is been a theme all along that he sees first Jeff Sessions, the attorney general that being his primary job which I don't think is suppose to be the primary job and when people are recusing themselves he feels he's being let down and not protected. So I think that is concerning that he feels they are supposed to be protecting him and they're supposed to be pursuing justice. And the idea of him trying to fire people who are doing the investigation is also contrary to what Steve is saying. I find it very troubling and I don't think that we have enough -- this idea that these are all of the swampy political hacks I don't think is backed up by the facts.

[21:30:25] COOPER: Rich, Jeff Toobin in the last hour saying that all of these people are essentially doing their job. Rosenstein is doing his job, the head of the southern district is doing his job who recusing himself and the guy who stepped in is doing his job that you can agree with what -- I guess their job. Do you agree with that that there -- I mean, the President is angry with them for essentially doing their job?

LOWRY: Well, it is hard to know without seeing the evidence directly yourself. There's raid in Cohen's office, if it is indeed just entirely about the Stormy Daniels matter, and a potential campaign finance violation, it is going after a nat with a sledgehammer.

COOPER: There's also reporting about possible branch fraud? LOWRY: Right, which is why I wonder if it something more than that.

COOPER: Right.

CORTES: It's not what you -- I mean Rich, I think if they are going to -- with a sledgehammer, let's compare and contrast versus the investigation of Hillary Clinton and the careless way with which she handles her mails. If this is a sledgehammer, that was a feather, right? I mean, no one was raided there. Nobody.

COOPER: If you actually comparing things that actually deserve comparison, wouldn't it be like Whitewater and this --

CORTES: Well, I think that is a valid comparison as well, Anderson. And by the way, Ken Stars was totally out of bounds to voyeur into the bedroom in a matter of sex, when he was commissioned to look into Whitewater and what we're seeing now -- I wrote an article about this in RealClearPolitics, "It's Monica 2.0." He can find nothing right now --

LOWRY: Janet Reno adopted --


COOPER: Do you believe the only Republican arguing that?

CORTES: It is just as wrong. It is even more wrong because at least Ken Starr had legal standing. He was a truly independent counsel and could not be fired. He was commissioned by law. And this complicates.

RANGAPPA: And that is morally dubious because that means this is coming from the executive branch. This is less constitutionally proper.

CORTES: And talking about actions, which if they occurred, occurred --

COOPER: Did you speak up about that during the investigation?



GERAGOS: Look, we complained about it 20 years ago during Whitewater. They could -- there is an easier way. They could have issued a grand jury subpoena. They could have compelled him to do a privilege log. They could have compelled him -- him being Michael Cohen, so there was a less intrusive way, which leads me to believe that the only way some judge signed off on this is some judge was convinced in the application that there was some kind of exigent circumstance because there is no way some federal judge is going to sign off on a search warrant when he could have said, wait a second, FBI agent, just issue a grand jury subpoena --

POWERS: Especially for the President's lawyer. GERAGOS: For the Presidents a lawyer. It is mind boggle. So that means to me that they felt that evidence was going to get destroyed.

CAMPBELL: Look, I'm going to borrow from the wisdom of Kirsten and one of my favorite lines is they are slowly trying to drive us insane. You see what is going on. We just heard was in 2018 a reference to Hillary Clinton. Now as a former law enforcement investigator or someone who was down the middle, I didn't care about politics and the same way here as I try to analysis these things and if you look kind of the totality and these comparisons, I think it does a disservice.

I mean, there is an echo chamber out there that unfortunately tends to inform our national policy on some of the news networks. This isn't that news network. So I don't think we should sit here and say because Hillary Clinton was treated one way Donald Trump is being treated another way. I think it's a disservice to the viewers, to those watching -- it is intellectually dishonest and kind of cheap to say well, she -- in this case one thing happens and this case it's another, and if it is not a perfect comparison, what are we talking about.

LOWRY: But again, maybe there is something more to this. But if it is just the potential campaign finance violation, this would be an extraordinary way to go after an offense that usually just results in FEC fine.


COOPER: But you make a good point. If that is all it is -- I mean, it is usually just a fine. The FEC can turn it over to the Department of Justice for investigation if criminal actions occur. But it is pretty minor find and it usually takes years and years.

POWERS: They have to be aware of what -- if that is it is, and that comes out, they're perfectly aware of how that will be perceived. So --

LOWRY: A gift --

POWERS: Right. So I think it's hard to believe that somebody would do that. That they would -- like you are saying that they understand the gravity of the situation. So I don't know why we're assuming that it is just some minor --

RANGAPPA: This is Robert Mueller. I mean, he was the director of the FBI for 13 years, the longest serving FBI director since Hoover. I mean, he knows how to do these investigations. He led the Scooter Libby investigation under Bush. He knows the sensitivity of these, how these are approved and what the scope is. He's not a runaway train.

[21:35:13] COOPER: It is interesting through, I mean, you talk about as being the salacious thing, if AMI, which is parent company of National Enquirer has been catching and killing stories for Donald Trump for years, and has filed of all of these stories that they own the rights to that are critical of the President, it gives the head of AMI an awful lot of power over the President. It's essentially if then I'm Donald Trump and the President of AMI wants to come in my office and bring a bunch of Saudi business people who I'm about to embark on business with to meet me, don't you feel pressured to then meet with this?

COOPER: That is a valid question to ask. But here is what is important to in the election in 2016, I don't think any single Trump voter though they were voting for Princess C.C. (ph) or for Mother Teresa --


GERAGOS: The is he's susceptible for bribery --

CORTES: It was well-known and extremely broadcast --

COOPER: But being -- having people have their thumb on you because of files full of salacious and damaging information on you, that is being compromised.

CORTES: I don't know that that matter.

COOPER: No one would care that Donald Trump is --

CORTES: It doesn't seem like it, right?

POWERS: It matters for national security --

CORTES: It is something that he could get blackmailed on.

GERAGOS: I don't think for a second, call me jaded, that this is coming down to just Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal. That may be the pretext but I think ultimately they have a connection and I think it is a Manafort connection and they want Cohen to -- they want to squeeze him. I mean, that is what happens. You know, you did it for how many years. They squeeze people to go to the next level. That is what is happening here.

LOWRY: We're talking about 1990s President. I would think Michael Cohen would be the likeliest candidate to be the Susan McDougal of the situation, who went to jail rather than talk about Bill Clinton.

GERAGOS: And having represented her and in two trials, I will tell you that it takes a certain kind of individual who would rather go to jail than testify --

COOPER: I will tell you what Michael Avenatti said in the last hour that in his experience the more someone talks about how tough they are -- the less thought they are actually in the final analysis -- you know, Michael Cohen portraying himself as I'll go to my grave holding all of these secrets, it remains to be seen.

GERAGOS: Well, you know, there is some precedent for that. The Anthony Pellicano in Los Angeles who -- it wasn't --

COOPER: Who is about to get out. GERAGOS: He's about to get out. But he went in and he could have rolled at any time and he didn't.

COOPER: There was kind of story on how it would report about all the secrets he may come out and now like expose --

GERAGOS: Exactly right. So some people will do it.

COOPER: It just takes time. Get a book deal.

All right, coming up, we'll going to hear from Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger about his thoughts on the new Rosenstein reporting and the potential United States response to Syria.


[21:40:26] COOPER: Fate of Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein is in flux. Sources telling CNN the President is considering firing him as we've been talking about. That of course, could also put the special counsel in jeopardy and there's new reporting in the New York Times that as recently as December, the President was intent on shutting down the investigation.

Just before air I spoke with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.


COOPER: Congressman, this breaking news tonight that the President is actively considering firing Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, is that a move you would support?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You know, look, I don't know. It is a rumor. Let's see what happens. With all of these -- every day something new comes out. I said let's take the long game here and let's look at what is going on. I think it would definitely be smart of the President to not fire people involved with this investigation.

COOPER: If the President does fire Rosenstein, do you think Congress would step in or should step in and pass some sort of legislation to protect Mueller and his investigation. Is there any appetite in the Republican side to do so?

KINZINGER: Well I haven't -- besides speculation, I haven't heard any indication that the President is going to fire Mueller besides the speculation. So again, look, I think preemptively passing this, not necessarily, but I think it is clear and I think the President should understand and he does and I think a lot of people have said this both in the Senate and House side that we want the independent investigation to go through and we'll get answers.

COOPER: And just one more on this -- I mean, if he did fire Rosenstein, which he has actively been talking about, do you think that is an attempt to impact Mueller's investigation?

KINZINGER: Well, that is a big leap to say anything on that. I think it is probably wise of the President, unless he has cause, for Rosenstein to leave him there. But that said, I don't like speculating in what-ifs until we see what happens because this is an investigation and a process that every day is different and it changes and it is new and I think it just behooves us to get the final answers and stand by.

COOPER: Given what is happening domestically, are you concerned that it could possibly hinder the President's possibility to make an informed or swift decision when it comes to Syria.

KINZINGER: No. I'm not worried about decision making or options in Syria. I do think it's important for the President to focus on the country right now on the military response to make the case for why. I believe a military response is essential in this case because this country has to stand for something. And standing for preventing chemical weapons to be used on the battlefield as we have since World War I is a big thing and essential, so I think maybe making the case now would be important. And when you tweet different kinds of things and taking people focus off it but I have no doubt that he's got the best people around him presenting him the best options and he'll make the right decision.

COOPER: If the U.S. does act in Syria, does it need to act more aggressively than last year or on more of a long-term basis than simply, you know, a targeted air strike or two?

KINZINGER: So there is only kind of two ways to look at it. I look at this whole attack as one thing, which is making the cost of the use of chemical weapons far exceed any value by using them. So in the last attack, we destroyed a Fifth of Assad's Air Force. There is nobody that would doubt that the cost to Assad was greater than his benefit. So I think an attack like that needs to happen again whether it is that kind of limited attack, or even attacking his command or control but I think making it clear that not only will the cost of the regime be extensive but secondly, that this country, the United States of American stands for something. We're not just talking glamour to people. We want to make sure we have a good economy. We're people that stand for values and beliefs and we're going to do that through the might of the military when necessary.

COOPER: The Syrian regime which has obviously lied throughout this entire conflict they say they possess no chemical weapons. Russian foreign ministry has labeled the reported attack a hoax. Should the U.S. wait for definitive evidence that chemical weapons were used and be able to trace it to Assad before conducting a strike?

KINZINGER: I can tell you, we have pretty definitive evidence, pretty early on and I don't want to get into the details and I don't actually know the specifics but I know what capabilities we have. When on the one hand Russia says that U.S. Special forces in a false flag operation did this, and then say there was no use of chemical weapons, and then block the U.N. attempt to actually investigate whether there was chemical weapons, I think there is no doubt that the Russians know there was and they're complicit.

So look, we can't take anything the Russians say to their word. It's obviously that they like to just play to their domestic audiences and sadly some bots on Twitter or some people that are willing to believe some of these crazy conspiracy theories like a false flag operation.

COOPER: Yes, congressman I appreciate your time. Thank you.

KINZINGER: Any time. You bet.


[21:44:46] COOPER: Well, coming ahead, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirming his company's cooperating with special counsel Mueller's Russia investigation. Other headlines from his testimony at the Capitol Hill next.


COOPER: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was on Capitol hill today, told a panel of senators that his company did not do enough to protect its users data and combat fake news and foreign interference in election and hate speech. In a Senate testimony, Zuckerberg confirmed that his company is cooperating with Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the election.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I assume Facebook has been served subpoenas is that correct?


LEAHY: Have you or anyone at Facebook been interviewed by the special counsel's office?


LEAHY: Have you been interviewed?

ZUCKERBERG: I have not. I have not --

LEAHY: Others have?

ZUCKERBERG: I believe so. I want to be careful here. Because that -- our work with the special counsel is confidential. I want to make sure in an open session I'm not revealing something that's confidential.

LEAHY: I understand. I just want to make clear that you've been contacted and have had subpoenas?

ZUCKERBERG: Actually, let me clarify that. I actually am not aware of a subpoena. I believe there may be, but I know we're working with them.


[21:50:00] COOPER: Well, joining me now is CNN Senior Technology Correspondent Laurie Segall. What more are you learning about any interaction between Facebook and the special counsel?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: You know, actually, a Facebook spokesperson said to me that they're providing information with the special counsel, including ads and related content. You can assume that has to do with the IRA. And actually, you know, it came up in September that they were working together, that they were looking into Russian meddling. And something else Mark Zuckerberg said today during his five-hour grilling is he essentially said that his biggest regret was just being too slow when it came to Russian interference. I think he saw a lot of anger and frustration over the fact that it took too long for Facebook to get on top of that, that they were too reactive and not proactive enough. Anderson.

COOPER: Zuckerberg, he was repeatedly asked questions about whether the company is too powerful. What did he say?

SEGALL: It's I think a question I think a lot of us are asking. He was asked, is Facebook a monopoly, name your competitors. And kind of stumble through a little bit. He said Amazon, Google, and tech companies that don't necessarily compete right with Facebook.

He acknowledged the right kind of regulation was needed. That Facebook's company line, they're trying to get in front of the regulation talk, which is inevitably happening.

One thing, Anderson, I think that was really interesting that he said, he said, we are responsible for content when it comes to the platform. Now, that might just seems like a throw line, but for so many years, tech founders have just considered themselves the pipes, they're not responsible for the content going through them. That was an acknowledgment. He was then followed up with the question, are you a tech company or the world's biggest publisher, which was an interesting exchange, and he said, a tech company.

So there's been tension there because this brings up all sort of questions about free speech and censorship and artificial intelligence and how it will proactively police content, which was also discussed, and whether or not Facebook could be politically biased. They kind of open the door for that. So that's a conversation that shouldn't get lost in a lot of the political theater.

COOPER: And I know in the run up, we understand in the run-up to today, Zuckerberg spent weeks preparing?

SEGALL: Yes, I mean, even in the last week, they took over -- a source telling they took over a conference room and they did these mock hearings. They set it up like a congressional hearing room because this is a very new setting for Mark Zuckerberg. This is not an outward facing CEO. And the idea the source told me was to be contrite, humble, and respectful, which I think he was able to do. But a lot of the people that would criticize some of the questioning it wasn't that tech savvy to unable him to stick to that company line, Anderson.

COOPER: All Laurie Segall, thanks very much. A Canadian digital advertising firm with ties to everything from Cambridge Analytica to the Republican campaign to the Brexit movement of the U.K. is temporarily banned from Facebook over the possible misuse of personal Facebook data. That company aggregate I.Q. it says it has done nothing wrong, but CNN Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin says the little known firm appears to be at the center of a new type of campaigning weaponizing micro targeted messaging to influence voters. Here's Drew's report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT: AggregateIQ created with the company's own record's call as database of truth. The ability to collect shopping records, internet browsing, social media connections, and voting records to create individual profiles on almost every voter in the United States, and according to Chris Vickery, used that information to influence voters in a way never seen before.

CHRIS VICKERY, DIRECTOR OF CYBER RISK RESEARCH, UPGUARD: Kind of like being able to whisper in somebody's ear any message you want and nobody else is going to find out about it. Think of all the things you can do with that ability.

GRIFFIN: Vickery is Director of Cyber Risk at UpGuard, date risk security firm. It was through his sleuthing he came upon AggregateIQ's unguarded work product, exposing the company's campaign tolls used in targeting voters for the Ted Cruz pac, for Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a SuperPAC for now National Security Adviser John Bolton, along with several different campaigns supporting the U.K.'s Brexit referendum.

VICKERY: Ted Cruz's actual personal e-mail is in here.

GRIFFIN: Vickery says it was all out in the open until AggregateIQ was notified at the exposure. The company took just 11 minutes to take it down. What was there? Vickery says a window into the type of campaigning that he says seeks to radicalize voters by changing how individuals receive political messages.

VICKERY: Let's say you get an e-mail from your uncle that loves Donald 2Trump, and there's a hidden tracking pixel in there, that as soon as your e-mail client loads that image of the tracking pixel, their server can figure out what your I.P. address is.

GRIFFIN: From there, the software can track everything you bought online, get your home address, and because AggregateIQ was in possession of the Republican national commission data on U.S. voters, it could determine your voter registration history. Combined with Facebook data, Vickery says it's a blueprint into how you think.

VICKERY: We know all this about you. What do we think we should target you with to engage you? How can we get you interested in downloading the app or get you interested if liking posts by Ted Cruz?

GRIFFIN: It sounds both genius and frightening? [21:55:00] VICKERY: It is pretty genius and fairly frightening, yes.

GRIFFIN: Facebook continues to investigate how data from as many as 87 million users got into the hands of Cambridge Analytica. The London based data firm that worked for the Donald Trump campaign. This week, Facebook extended its investigation to include AggregateIQ. The British parliament is investigating both companies over the alleged misuse of personal data and also possible campaign spending violations tied to the Brexit campaign. Despite the evidence linking the two companies, AggregateIQ release the statement saying AggregateIQ has never been and it's not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCI." Denies ever using the Facebook data and says it has never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity. Phone calls to the company went unanswered.


COOPER: Drew Griffin joins us.

Now, Mark Zuckerberg was asked about this Facebook data today and said again that the personal accounts of 87 million users got into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, the firm that worked on the Donald Trump campaign. Do we know did Cambridge Analytica and Trump's campaign use the data to target voters?

GRIFFIN: Anderson, Cambridge Analytica emphatically says no. In fact, company disputes the numbers and says it only had access to 30 million users and it did not use any of that material whatsoever in the 2016 election cycle. I think it's going to take one of these investigations to determine if that's true. AggregateIQ is denying it ever had that data and it's exposed records seem to show that company was not working on the Trump campaign.

COOPER: All right, Drew thanks for the reporting. We'll be right back.


COOPER: That's all the time we have. Thanks for watching. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.