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FBI Raid Sought Trump's Communications with His Lawyer Michael Cohen Regarding "Access Hollywood" Tape; Wash Post: Bannon Pushes a Plan to Cripple the Special Counsel Probe; Sources: FBI Warrant Reveals First Known Direct Mention of Trump; Speaker Ryan Will Not Run for Re-Election; WH says No Decision on Syria After President Trump Hinds at Strikes. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 11, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:01:19] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Still more breaking news tonight. New reporting on how the President may try to derail the Mueller investigation, and actually who's pitching the plan. Steve Bannon is back apparently what he reportedly has in mind is coming to focus a new reporting tonight.

Also on the table, the "Access Hollywood" tape that's what we learned, the FBI agents were into -- or were looking for at least in part or information about it when they raided three locations connected to Michael Cohen.

Also in this hour, exit stage right. The most powerful Republican in Congress, third in line of succession, decides to call it quits.

And later the FBI Director President Trump fired is firing back. And James Comey is reportedly comparing the chief executive to a mob boss. As all that is happening, the President is tweeting about Sean Hannity's program. The feedback loop just keeps going on and on.

We begin with the President, the Access Hollywood tape and the FBI raid. Our Jim Acosta has the latest and joins us now. So, explain what you've learned about Monday's raid?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, I should mention that I've just talked to sources familiar with all of this. Said these discussions going on at the White House, especially about the Mueller probe, and this source is saying just a few moments ago that the President is still very upset about the raid into Michael Cohen's office and these other areas that are connected to the President's personal lawyer.

But, according to this source, Anderson, it's interesting, this person is saying that the President has not really had time this week to focus on this with his advisers, to study it, to discuss it, to go over it with his advisers and his legal team, because, according to this source, the President has been really focused on what's happening in Syria and getting to the bottom of what actions should be taken by the administration.

Now, you know, obviously, some of that might sound a little over the top, given the fact that the President has been tweeting about this. But according to this source, he really hasn't had a lot of time to focus on the nitty-gritty details of exactly what went down with the Cohen raid.

This source also said that while the President's team is re-evaluating the possibility of whether or not the President will actually sit down with Mueller's team and do an interview, this person is saying that there's still a chance that the President will sit down with Mueller's team for an interview. But in the words of the source, both sides need to keep their powder dry. The implication being, Anderson, that this raid in Michael Cohen's office and these other areas connected to him really just sent people over top inside the President's legal team. They thought it was just way over the top and way out of bounds.

Now, obviously, we've been focusing on this latest development today. And that is that they were looking for information that Michael Cohen might have that might pertain to that "Access Hollywood" tape that caught the President making those lewd remarks. And the President's legal team is going over that, as well.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, a lot to talk about. Thanks.

Now breaking news on the man who we thought was completely on the outs with his old boss. Former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. According to the "Washington Post" in a story that's just breaking, he's now pitching a plan to try to cripple the Russia probe. Step one, according to the report in "The Washington Post," he is firing Rod Rosenstein.

Joining us now by phone is The Post's Karoun Demirjian. Karoun, thank you so much for being with us. So explain your reporting, what exactly is Steve Bannon pitching to West Wing aides?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Well, this is my colleague, Bob Costa's story, and basically that he's pitching this plan that would be a way to pick apart the Mueller probe, basically. Starting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he's the person who has authority over Mueller's probe. He's also newly come back into Trump's crosshairs because he had to sign off on that search warrant to actually raid the offices of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

And then, another part of this plan that Bannon is pitching is that the White House stop cooperating with the Mueller probe and start to exert a rather broad interpretation of executive privilege, that would even involve seemingly revoking some of the permissions given to aides and others who have spoken to the special counsel's team already.

[21:05:11] So he is basically saying the President should go to -- basically go to political warfare over this, by both picking off a person that has been -- those top officials, adjusted with the authority to oversee all of the parameters of this probe. And also refusing to play ball in a pretty broad sense of with an executive privilege indication that would cover more than just himself.

COOPER: Is there any indication that the President or anyone on his team is listening to Bannon or inclined to listen to Bannon?

DEMIRJIAN: It seems where he is right now is in the stage of trying to corral allies to push this. Certainly, we've seen over the last few days that the President is itching to do something and not comfortable with the situation as it is. We see him issuing new statements almost every day. But it seems like the President is reticent to quite take this step. And as it says in the piece, it struck people like Bannon that maybe a nudge in that direction, and they can provide that by laying out this plan, which they think that could actually work.

But, again, remember, Bannon is not inside the White House right now. He's trying to talk to allies within the White House, allies on Capitol Hill, that can make push the President in that direction. But that's -- Bannon no longer is the -- has the stature that he used to when it came to being the person that was in the President's ear about everything. And that, of course, you know, goes back to last summer, the "fire and fury" book, Bannon leaving the White House and all of the bad blood that still exists there, which potentially mitigates how much influence Bannon can have over the President and his allies, who need to listen to him and put this sort of a plan in effect. The political stake of doing so are very high, of course.

COOPER: Yes, Karoun Demirjian, I appreciate it, thanks very much in the Washington Post.

Joining us in the phone is Josh Green, who wrote the book on Steve Bannon called "Devil's Bargain" and just got off the phone with Bannon about this plan. Josh, what did you learn?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): Well, basically, I asked him, what made you change your mine? And Bannon up until now has been in the camp up -- you know, don't fire people, you can't get rid of this investigation, he was against firing James Comey.

Now he's flipped. He said what changed his mind is that Mueller and his team crossed a red line, this is a quote from Bannon, so they crossed the red line by subpoenaing the Trump organization records in doing the raid on Michael Cohen. They're in the dark territory now, he told me.

And so he said, "Let's make this political, let's shift this back to Capitol Hill, take the moral high ground, do some kind of delaying action and give voters an up or down vote on Trump in November."

And I asked him, I said, does that also include getting rid of Rod Rosenstein, which Trump has been rumored to want to do. And he told me, and this is another quote, "you have to get rid of Rosenstein, maybe Mueller too, and Ty Cobb, the President's lawyer. He said, we need to get this into the political process and move it away from a fight over Michael Cohen.

So I think, Anderson, what's going on here is that Trump wants people who are going to fight for him. Bannon knows this. And he's trying to signal by going public with this, that he's going to be one of those people, if Trump wants to allow him back into his good graces.

COOPER: Is -- so, this -- in your opinion, it's clearly an attempt by Bannon to get back in the good graces of the President?

GREEN: Yes, I mean Bannon has been talking to people all day, in the press, White House allies, you know, outside Trump supporters to try to rally support for this position. I think like a lot of Trump inner circle folks, he's alarmed at the speed with which Mueller's moving and the fact that as Bannon put it to me, you know, he crossed the red line. The red line being, you know, Trump's admonition to Mueller, you know, not to start looking into Trump's own personal financial dealings, which he is now clearly doing.

You know, the threat obviously hasn't impacted Mueller, but I think for Bannon and for people who thought at one point that if Trump was cooperative, that the investigation would wrap up, without any kind of legal troubles for Donald Trump, have now changed your mind based on Mueller's actions and what's happened over the last week or so and are now telling Trump, in Bannon's case, through intermediaries, telling him that you need to fire Rod Rosenstein.

COOPER: It's also interesting that he said to you about possibly firing, getting rid of Ty Cobb, I mean the President does not have a ton of attorneys around him at this point who have been with him for a long time. Ty Cobb is one of those who has?

GREEN: Right, and he's had trouble finding a replacement for John Dowd, you know, essentially Alan Dershowitz seems to be working as like pro bono volunteer legal counsel for Donald Trump, you know, through the medium of cable television. So Trump is already, you know, down to a pretty thin bench when it comes to lawyers. But Bannon going back to his time in the White House, they've done a lot of battle with some of these folks. So, you know, he has always has his own axe to grind.

[21:10:12] COOPER: It's also interesting -- I mean, that Bannon has been interviewed by Mueller. And as you said, was previously arguing the opposite position, essentially.

GREEN: Yes, I think that's right. I mean, Bannon's hope, as I think this is also John Dowd's hope, was that, you know, if Trump was cooperative and didn't fight Mueller's investigation, that that would hasten the investigation. It would wrap up, and it would exonerate or absolve Trump of any kind of collusion with Russia or at least any kind of a legal problem.

Now, there seems to be a case building toward obstruction of justice or maybe something in the financial area. For Bannon, according to what he told me, what convinced him was the fact that Mueller's investigators are subpoenaing these corporate records. And so I think that's changed the calculus at least as far as Bannon's concerned.

And again, Anderson, the other factor here, Bannon wants to get himself back into Trump's good graces. He was once a very powerful strategist in the White House, probably the most powerful strategist was all but ex-communicated from Republican politics back in January when Trump turned on him. And I think he understands that his path back to relevance and influence has to go through Trump. And knowing Trump's emotional and psychological needs, especially when he's -- you know, insecure or angry about what's happened with the special counsel investigation, if he, Steve Bannon, can position himself as someone willing to fight for Trump, I think he imagines that that is his best ticket back into relevance in the Trump White House.

COOPER: This is like a play. I mean, this is really just fascinating. Like, just -- yes.

GREEN: It's like alt-right Shakespeare.

COOPER: Yes. Alt-right Shakespeare. Josh Green, thanks very much.

Still more on possible firings and what, if anything, would stand in the way of them. Over the past few days, we've been talking about federal regulations barring the President from directly firing a special counsel. Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal wrote those regulations in 1999. As you might imagine, he is revisiting his work today. I talked to him earlier.


COOPER: Neil, the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the President believes that he has the power to fire Robert Mueller. You literally wrote the rules for how this works. Is Sanders correct?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Not exactly. I mean, the rules say, in part 7, they say the following. That the special counsel, "may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the attorney general." Last I checked, Donald Trump was not the attorney general.

Now, our constitution is bigger than those rules, of course, and it does give the President the prosecution power, but it means that he's got to remove the regulations or go through some other mechanism to try and get Mueller removed.

COOPER: So either he orders the acting attorney general in this case, Rod Rosenstein, to fire Mueller, or somehow just remove -- can he directly remove the regulations?

KATYAL: No, he can't directly remove the regulation. The Justice Department has said for years, if you have a regulation promulgated by the Justice Department, under the auspices of Congress, then only the Justice Department can remove it.

So that leaves the President really with two options. Option number one is to order the acting Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, to fire Mueller. Now, if he does that, that will trigger -- that's exactly what Nixon did. It is a Saturday night massacre. And I fully expect if he did that, we'd have effectively a Wednesday night waterloo or something like that. A complete disaster, in which Rosenstein refuses, has to resign, and you go down the chain of succession. He has one other option available to him. He can order Rod Rosenstein, the acting attorney general, to remove that Justice Department regulation that I just read to you.

Now, I suspect Rosenstein's answer would be exactly the same, which is, I'm not removing that, heck, no. You know, Rosenstein is someone who believes very much in the rule of law and the like. So you would have the same scenario unfolding the Wednesday night waterloo or whatever you want to call it.

COOPER: So can you just explain why it was set up like this? Because I mean, even though it is an extra step for the President to take, he still would be able to have his will done, it would just have to be done through the acting attorney general. What's the point if there are these obvious work arounds?

KATYAL: Well, the premise of the entire special counsel regulations is in our constitutional system, our founder has vested the President with the power over prosecution, the full power. So all the regulations could do was force sunlight into the process.

We were worried about, you know, something that goes all the way back to ancient Greece or modern day Dr. Seuss's Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Which is, who's going to guard the guardians. And you know, you don't want a system in which the guy controlling all of the prosecution can nullify a prosecutor investigating his wrongdoing.

[21:15:08] So the idea behind the special counsel regulations is to say, well, you can't really stop the nullification, but the one thing we can do is force sunlight into it, so you've got to fire Rosenstein or the attorney general openly. You've got to remove the regulations openly by ordering the Justice Department to do it. That's the best you can do in our constitutional system.

COOPER: So just hypothetically, President Trump throws political caution to the wind, uses one of these ways to fire Special Counsel Mueller through Rosenstein. He's opinion on been on the case for close to a year. What actually happens to Mueller's work?

KATYAL: So I think Mueller has done something which is really quite brilliant. Mueller is a legendary prosecutor, really savvy. He did something that, you know, I wouldn't have thought of and I think most people wouldn't have, which is from the start, he worked with the New York State Attorney General's office.

Now, this is significant, because in our constitutional system, while the President has a prosecution power, he only has the federal constitution -- the federal prosection power. He can't stop a state prosecution. He can't pardon people under it. So you've got that, which has been going on since the start of Mueller.

And then this week, we learned that Mueller has also been working with federal prosecutors in New York, the United States attorney's office. And what Mueller has effectively done is create almost like a block chain prosecution. He's dispersed his files among a variety of different sources, so that if something happened to that central hub, Mueller, there's another way for the investigations to still unfold.

Now, if the President did this, I do think it would trigger a constitutional crisis and he should rightly be condemned, and indeed, impeached for it. But I don't think it's a right to say the prosecution will all be over.

COOPER: So with the President pardoned, say, Michael Cohen, he can only pardon him on federal charges. The state could still go after Michael Cohen if there was some reason to?

KATYAL: You got it. So exactly, so the President can't do anything that's going to remove the investigation of Michael Cohen for any state crimes and it sure looks like there are many.

COOPER: Neal katyal, thank you very much. It's fascinating, I appreciate it.

KATYAL: Thank you, thank you.


COOPER: We're going to take up all of this in the breaking news with the panel coming up next. And later, with tension rising almost daily between the U.S. and Russia, we'll talk about the President's tweet slap at Moscow today and the possible repercussions.


[21:19:56] COOPER: A big night, including new reporting in "The Washington Post" about the possible return of Steve Bannon, his plan to try to cripple the Russia investigation, that and just about all the breaking news tonight speaks of a President under pressure. He's certainly been airing his grievances, even more than usual about the Russia probe. He did it to such an extent at Monday's White House's national security meeting that according to sources it left Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retire marine general horrified that he would use that moment for such an outburst.

Joining us to talk about that, and all the breaking news, Jackie Kucinich, Maria Cardona, Steve Cortes, Symone Sanders, Alice Stewart, and Paul Callan.

I'm not even sure where to begin. But let's talk about this "Washington Post" report on Steve Bannon and his ideas on basically fighting back against Mueller.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, so Bannon has been called the President's aid. And I think that's what we're seeing again. He really is. He's telling the President what he wants to hear, what the President really wants to do. I mean there's reporting that the President wanted to fire Mueller back in December. So this seems to be the track where it's that punch back, that fight back that the President wants and some of his lawyers, some others in the White House have been trying to reel their --

COOPER: We should point out, if you haven't seen the top of the broadcast, the Washington Post tonight is just reporting its breaking story that Steve Bannon is encouraging the President to fire Rosenstein as way to push back on Mueller.


COOPER: -- squashing the investigation, apparently, and also stop cooperating with Mueller. Don't sit down and also exert executive privilege, not only on conversations that are about to happen, but even retroactively.

KUCINICH: Right. And so, the other thing, he wants to somehow make this part of the midterm elections. And I can tell you right now, Republicans I talked to, they don't want to run on Trump or this. In the districts that matter, in the districts that are going to make the majority, there are not -- they don't want to be talking about this. They want to talk about taxes.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To the point you broke up about, this is so bizarre, it's like an alt-right Shakespeare. If that's the case, I guess Steve Bannon would be Othello. He would be the hero for the President here.

And one of the key takeaways I think in that Washington Post piece is the encouragement by Bannon for the President to exert executive privilege. I don't think the President would do himself any favors by testifying because of his loose association with the truth. But at the same time, we have this story going against Rosenstein, there is a coordinated effort by many in the GOP to also go after Sessions and the way he is also overseeing this and not being more of a check and balance for the President and reining Mueller in.

So we're seeing a lot of GOP members go out there and attack him. Here's my problem with that. From the standpoint that the President says he's innocent, there's two people that could prove his innocence more than anything. It's Mueller and Rosenstein. And he would be best served to not call this a witch hunt, to cooperate in any way in providing information, sit back and be quiet and let the facts lead to his exoneration if he is innocent.

COOPER: Steve, you say go with Steve Bannon on this?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm thoroughly with Bannon on this. Look, this is -- the point Bannon is making, this is no longer about a crime, because there is no crime.


CORTES: By the way, this is an investigation in search of a crime and nothing could be more un-American than that, right? We have a crime and then we have an investigation. This is the opposite. This is flipped on its head. This is Stalin himself said, show me the man and I'll show you the crime. That's what's going on here. The swamp is trying --


COOPER: You're comparing Robert Mueller to Stalin?


SANDERS: Come on.

CORTES: And listen.

SANDERS: This is why there's a bipartisan bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee right now, because of folks like you and people in the White House --

CORTES: Symone, to your point by the way --

SANDERS: This is why this bipartisan bill is going to get passed.

CORTES: Hold on, the Congress has every right to delve into this. They are a coequal branch of government. If they want to investigate the President, please have at and they have enormous powers to do so --


COOPER: They don't have the same powers --

CARDONA: They don't have the same powers a special counsel would.

CORTES: They have more powers. They have constitutional powers. The special counsel --

CARDONA: Because Republicans are really focused on doing that, right?

COOPER: Corey Lewandowski can tell them to go of themselves and they can't do anything --


CORTES: Yes, they can, they can hold him in contempt. They have enormous --


CORTES: Eventually they can impeach -- which by the way, I think they will, actually.


COOPER: Paul Callan?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They don't have more power. Congress --

CORTES: Yes, they do.

CARDONA: Thank you!

CALLAN: Do you know, they actually have a little jail cell in the bottom of Congress, where they leave people for about ten minutes. Manafort's facing potential life in prison. That's power. And that's the power you have in criminal prosecution.

CORTES: Because he did the crime well before he was ever associated with Trump.

CALLAN: Well, now you're talking about a different question. OK. When was the crime committed? And you know something? This search warrant that was executed kind of indicates that now they're expanding to look at other crimes.

COOPER: In fact, Rick Gates, some of the conversations he had was when he was with the campaign.

CORTES: Right. OK, or it indicates, Paul, and I think this is important, that Mueller, because he could find nothing on Russia, has decided that I'm going to go into all of Trump's life and try to find anything I can. And first we thought it was Stormy Daniels. And if it's not Stormy Daniels, it's going to be -- hold on, it's going to be "Access Hollywood." And by the way --

CARDONA: You're living in a fantasy world.

CORTES: No, I don't.

CARDONA: You're living in a fantasy world.

COOPER: One at a time.

CORTES: And "Access Hollywood," if there is up with story that we have already beaten to death, it's "Access Hollywood." The American people --

CARDONA: Clearly --

CORTES: -- were only apprised of the reality.

[21:25:00] CARDONA: Clearly, there's more there on "Access Hollywood" and on everything else, because what we have known up until now is that things like this FBI raid does not happen on a whim. I know you don't want to believe that. Clearly, Bannon doesn't want to believe that. I hope you're right. I hope that the President takes Bannon's advice, because nothing would make him look guiltier.

CARDONA: And here's the thing -- hang on a second. Here's what I think is so interesting about the whole Bannon thing. And I think Josh is right. This is clearly his attempt to become relevant, because he's completely become irrelevant. What's so interesting, though, is remember when he had that full-on interview where he was honest about what he really thought about Trump, saying he lost his mind. It was Steve Bannon who said, if anything is going to get Trump in trouble, it's going to be the money laundering piece. So Steve Bannon himself might have been a reason why Mueller is going towards where the money is, on money laundering and bank fraud.

COOPER: It's interesting that Steve Bannon said to Josh tonight that -- Josh Green saying that the authorities are going to dark territory, meaning the financial aspects. You can look at that as dark territory that they shouldn't go into or --

KUCINICH: Or because they should!


COOPER: Symone, we haven't heard from you.

SANDERS: Look, Anderson, one, I would like to note for everyone, Steve as I watching at home that we only know what we know. There is a wealth of information that we do not know --

COOPER: We know the tip of the iceberg.

SANDERS: We know the tip of the iceberg. There's a wealth of information that we are not privy too that only Robert Mueller is privy to. So we have to be careful of saying what has been found out, what hasn't been found out, if there's a crime, if there's not a crime. That is why this investigation must play out. That is why I believe there's a bipartisan effort in the Senate, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, to preserve the integrity of this investigation, so that the Russia investigation can continue uninhibited.

CORTES: What does Russia have to do with "Access Hollywood?" What does Russia has to do with Stormy Daniels?


SANDERS: So you have to let it play out.

CARDONA: We don't know yet, Steve.

CORTES: Are you trying to tell me there's a connection from Moscow to "Access Hollywood"?

COOPER: But you do agree that the mission that Mueller has, the marching orders he has are very broad. I mean, yes it is looking into Russian --

CORTES: Far too broad. Just as Ken Starr's were far too broad.


COOPER: If there's anything that comes up in the course of --

SANDERS: Did I just hear you defending Bill Clinton? I just want to be clear. Are you saying you were on the side of defending Bill Clinton?

CORTES: I was --

SANDERS: -- because I will tell you were.

CORTES: You know I was a kid. I was playing beer pong at that time. But if had I been in politics, I would say that was the wrong move for him to go that far afield of his mandate.

STEWART: If I can -- please, the directive is anything that arose or may arise. He does have a broad privy. I think with you Steve, I'm 100 percent -- I'm sick of hearing the pig comments that the President made on the "Access Hollywood" bus. But it's not about that anymore. It's not about sex with a porn star and not about sex with a playboy playmate or him disgusting talk on a bus. This is about potential for paying money, hush money, covering up and intimidating people to cover up this activity. And usually potential campaign funds, this is about campaign finance violations --

COOPER: It also sense like about potential money laundering --


CALLAN: Prosecutors always look to follow the money trail, all right?


CALLAN: Now, the money trail here has led, strangely enough, to a home equity account that Michael Cohen had, which was used to pay Stormy Daniels for her silence. Mueller discovers this in the course of his investigation. And, Steve, he's required, if he stumbles across illegality, to look into it and pursue it. And it's not directly relevant, refer it to a local prosecutor. So he's referred that now to the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Well, just hear me out for a moment.

CARDONA: Like a play within a play.

CALLAN: Hear me out for a moment. If that money was used to pay Stormy and if that maybe gets linked to Karen McDougal and then maybe it gets linked to other women, then you have the issue of, is this money being laundered? Was there tax -- was it being deducted for tax purposes. Is there bank fraud involved because of a home equity?

COOPER: We've got to take a break.


CORTES: -- stumbled into illegally or is this a witch hunt by the swamp trying to nullify --

CARDONA: It's the first, Steve.

CORTES: I don't shy away from --

CARDONA: All right --

COOPER: We've got to take a break. Continue what Josh Green referred to as the alt-right Shakespeare play. Act II is next right after a quick intermission. I'll be right back.


[21:32:45] COOPER: Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive. Not Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, actually.

We're talking about a very full night of breaking developments not just in the Russia probe but also Steve Bannon's plan apparently to derail it is being reported tonight by "The Washington Post." Back now with the panel.

CARDONA: So what I was going to say to Steve is that, you know, what you're saying is clearly something that a Trump supporter would say, because you don't believe the President has done anything wrong. But the fact of the matter is, like I said before, and I think that this merits underscoring the activity that led to the FBI raid is not done on a whim. You have to have so many people that have to justify and approve and underscore and support that everything is done by the book and most of those people, frankly, are Republican. So --

CORTES: Well, that's irrelevant. That's irrelevant.

CARDONA: Not apparently to the people who think this is the deep state.

CORTES: Here's why it's irrelevant. Because the Republicans in Washington, D.C., let's be honest, have been every bit as obstructionist towards Donald Trump as have the Democrats.

CARDONA: Oh, that is so not true. Tell me who. Who has been obstructionist?

CORTES: Senator Sasse, Senator McCain, Senator Flake, Senator Collins. Do you want me to keep going?

CARDONA: That's four out of the majority of Republicans Senate.

CORTES: Here is the point --


CORTES: You are giving the Department of Justice the benefit of the doubt. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt, and here's why I cannot. Because of the way they behaved, many of these exact same characters, particularly Comey in the Hillary Clinton investigation where he wrote the exoneration memo months before key witnesses, including Hillary herself --

CARDONA: That's a crock because --

COOPER: So the department --

CORTES: They show themselves -- they show their cards.

CARDONA: It's thanks to Comey that she is not president today.

CORTES: They show that they were bureaucrats, that they are swamp rats, and that they cannot, unfortunately --

CARDONA: That's all a pieces.

COOPER: So the Department of Justice, the FBI, the United States attorney's office, the --

CORTES: Well, he was --

KUCINICH: The Senate --

COOPER: The Senate, the senators.

CORTES: No, I'm not talking about senators.


CORTES: Hold on, the Congress has --

COOPER: The intelligence community, the CIA, all of them who -- the NSA --

KUCINICH: Everyone else, all deep state?

CORTES: No, the Congress has every right to get into this and they should. And by the way --

CARDONA: What do you mean, by "this?" Because they've investigated and it they decided to stop it, by the way.

KUCINICH: On the House side.

CARDONA: On the House side, right.

CORTES: If the Democrats take the House, which I believe they will, I guarantee you, I can promise you, they are going to quickly get into all of these matters, and that is the right, constitutionally.

[21:35:09] CARDONA: As they should.

CORTES: Of course it is.


CORTES: Trump's own justice department is not entitled --

KUCINICH: It's not his justice department.

CARDONA: No, it's not.

CORTES: He was elected to be the commander in chief --

COOPER: OK, just tell me from a legal standpoint. Just in terms of piercing attorney/client privilege, because that's one of the things that the President has been saying, this is an attack on America. It's an attack in everything we believe in. There are many ways -- I mean, not everything, any -- not every communication is between an attorney and another person is privileged.

CALLAN: That's absolutely correct. And there's something that's called the crime fraud exception to the attorney/client privilege. If the attorney confers with a client in a conspiracy to commit a crime or the client comes to you and says, hey, I would like to pay off some people to silence them, using money from a business, a big business, that I operate, maybe can I get a tax deduction out of it, how would I go about doing that? And if the attorney advises the person, that could be advice relating to a crime. That's not privileged.

COOPER: So let me ask you, if Michael Cohen says he paid off Stormy Daniels with his own money and the President knew nothing about it or then citizen Donald Trump knew nothing about it, would -- if, in fact, there are communications between Michael Cohen and then candidate Donald Trump Donald Trump, about Stormy Daniels and about the payoff, would that be privileged? Because Michael Cohen has said he wasn't my client in this?

CALLAN: Well, it would be presumptively privileged unless there was more information suggesting that there was illegality involved. And that's why they have what they call these taint teams that come in and review all of the material to see if something looks like it could be privileged.

COOPER: So a taint team basically takes the material that the FBI seized from the office and they're a specialized unit of FBI agents that go through and look at this stuff.

CALLAN: And they're isolated from the primary investigators. And the way it's supposed to work, but pardon me that defense attorneys a skeptical about this, is that they're supposed to isolate the privileged material and then a judge can look at it and say, no, this is protected. You can't have that. This, on the other hand, might fall into the crime, fraud exception. This is --

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz was on, who said, look, they're going to leak this stuff out.

CALLAN: Listen, that's why it's so rare that a search warrant of an attorney's office is permitted. It's really a major intrusion. And you almost never see it. There must be a big reason and we don't know what that is at this point.

COOPER: All right, we've got to take a break. More with the panel ahead. Coming up, a huge surprise today in Washington, Paul Ryan announcing he will not run again next year. He says it's all about spending more time with his family and not about the President. Does the panel buy that? We'll ask them and talk about what it means for the Republican Party.


[21:40:52] COOPER: House Speaker Paul Ryan announced today that he's retiring from Congress at the end of his term this coming January. Speaker Ryan says he doesn't want to be just a weekend dad and in an interview with Jake Tapper, he says he has no plans to run for office again, any office, at least not while his kids are growing up. Jake asked what Ryan thought about the speculation on Capitol Hill that the decision also had something to do with President Temperament and character. Here is what he said.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're very different people. I'm from the upper Midwest. I'm not from New York. We're from a different generation. So we definitely have different styles. But what we learned after we got to know each other, because we didn't know each other at all in the campaign. And, yes, we had a pretty -- we had a lot of friction in our relationship. What we learned is we have a common agenda that we agree on and we want to get it done and we know it is going to make a big difference in people's lives and that's what we were elected to do.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. Jackie, do you think he's telling the truth here?

KUCINICH: I think he is telling the truth about wanting to be with his family. I've interviewed Paul Ryan several times over the course of my career. And almost every time he would say, talk about how much he missed his kids, how much he missed his family. And he did lose his own father when he was a teen. And that looms large in his life.

That said, I do think, you heard that patient tone to his voice. I do think he did have a lot of trouble coping with this President. He would frequently get up on the podium and say, I haven't seen the tweet. The tweet speaks for itself, which is code for, I don't want to talk about this.

Also, though, you can't disregard his conference, how difficult it was to try to lead a group of people that doesn't really want to be led. And sometimes doesn't want to pass stuff. And sometimes doesn't want to go along with what he and other leadership wanted. They just want to fight. So I think there were several moving parts to this. But you can't, you can't have out the President.

STEWART: I think a lot of people are trying to read more into it than this. I truly believe that the speaker -- you know, we all recall, he came into this reluctantly.

COOPER: He was very reluctant.

STEWART: From the very beginning he said, look, I've got kids, I want to spend time with my kids, but he reluctantly took the position, but he embraced it. He's gone out and raised $115 million for the Republican Party. And look, his goals, professionally, was to pass historic tax reform, to rein in federal regulations and to raise a lot of money. So he's checked his three main priorities political, now it's time to focus on --

SANDERS: Paul Ryan's shining accomplishment as speaker is passing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, which he says there's lasting implications. Yes, lasting for Exxon. Not lasting for -- you know, Sally, Sue, Tommy, and Joe, who are living in Midwest state that he likes to talk to about. And his other tiny accomplishment is defending Donald Trump in every single term, maybe vaguely, but doing so. So I think it took a toll on him. He knows a blue wave is coming. And Paul Ryan was a coward and got out of the way.

COOPER: You think that he knew that he believed a blue wave was coming?

SANDERS: I think that's what it is. I mean, look, Paul Ryan was faced with a decision. He could either suffer his -- take his family, his kids, himself through a very tumultuous midterm election, one where his seat could be in jeopardy, because Randy Bryce was definitely gaining ground that has (inaudible) as everyone talked about. And lose and face a devastating loss or he could bow out gracefully. He could try to spin it and say, that we passed these tax cuts, we got done what we said we wanted "to get done," not true. And I'm going out on top. I think he chose the la latter, because that's the easier path.

COOPER: Do you think he's jumping ship before Republicans come in?

CORTES: Again, as I said many times, I think November is going to be very, very tough for the Republicans. And I think perhaps, Symone, I think you thought I was going to defend Speaker Ryan. Far from it, OK? I think that he and his ilk are part of the problem. And I'm not sad, quite frankly, to see him go. I'm very happy he got tax cuts done. Wonderful.

But we talked about the "Access Hollywood" tape earlier. He was one of the first Republicans to jump ship when things really got hard in October of 2016. And I for one won't forget that, as somebody from the campaign. That was a searing mark against him.

CARDONA: -- common decency.

CORTES: So now he's good?

SANDERS: In that moment, in that moment yes --


COOPER: All right, one at a time. Maria?

[21:45:00] CARDONA: So, I agree, I believe that he is a committed family man and father. I think all of that rings true. But I almost guarantee you that if this President was sane, normal, and that you could count on him to make, you know, good, again, in any other era, normal decisions, even as a Republican, and I'm saying this as a Democrat, I can almost guarantee you that he would not be retiring.

CORTES: Maria, are you on record saying the President is insane then?



CORTES: I want to put that on the record.

COOPER: You don't really believe he's --

CORTES: She just said it. That's why.

COOPER: I'm asking.

CARDONA: I don't think that he is fit for office.

CORTES: Is he insane?

CARDONA: I don't think he's got the temperament to be President.

CORTES: You said it twice. Is he insane?

CARDONA: I don't think that he is normal in terms of his reaction. That goes to his immaturity emotionally.

CORTES: Is he insane?

CARDONA: I have never thought he has had the fitness for office. I don't think he's unqualified. I don't think he's knowledgeable. I don't think he cares about knowing anything about governing.

CORTES: You twice said he was insane and now you won't say it.

CARDONA: You take how you will.

KUCINICH: I wanted to add thing to watch going forward, Speaker Ryan says he'll stay speaker through November, until he's done with his term. Watch the Trump folks, because I think a lot of them are going to try to push him out earlier. You're already seeing the drum beat on Fox News.

COOPER: Do you want to see him out?

CARDONA: Do you want see him out?


CARDONA: Because right now there's going to be a leadership battle for six months.


CARDONA: If Ryan does stay in.

SANDERS: For positions that might not be available, though.

KUCINICH: So you're hearing -- well, even for the top, to lead the party. And right now, you're hearing kind of from the Freedom Caucus, you're hearing some agitation to get him out.

CORTES: I think we need to (inaudible) the leadership: I think that the bill the President signed -- and by the way, I criticized the President when I think it's correct. And the bill he signed, the spending bill was outrageous. I put some blame at the President's feet. I put far more blame at the speaker's feet. That should have never come out of the Congress. Given that, do we need new leadership on the Republican side in Congress? Absolutely? COOPER: All right, Alice?

STEWART: You're pushing Maria to say that again, but here's the thing, his temperament that I disagree with on many occasions and many do, is the same during the campaign as it is now. And the fact is that he won and people voted for him anyway. I disagree with his tone and demeanor but agree with his politics. I think the policies that he's putting forward are reflective of the Republican Party. But we have to understand --

CARDONA: You do? You think they're reflective of the Republican Party?

STEWART: Yes. And I think the fact that his temperament hasn't changed and he was elected anyway, I think we just need to --

CARDONA: I think I had a different place, though. I really don't.

COOPER: I've got to take a break. But Symone, very quickly?

SANDERS: I just want to say -- I mean, look, when it comes to November, regardless of what everyone is saying right now about all of the (inaudible) and what not, when folks are out there in the states, polling is saying and people are saying they care about health care and the economy. And the fact that Republicans ran away, people ran away from the tax cut in Pennsylvania. Paul Ryan is the writing on the wall.

COOPER: All right. I got to get a break. Thank you all. Up next, the President tweets, "Get ready, Russia, because missiles are coming to Syria." Whether that's true or what happens now, unclear. We'll talk about it next.


[21:51:21] COOPER: The President's morning Twitter, Session did little to clarify exactly what's happening in the U.S. response to the chemical attack in Syria. But he did take the unusual step of threatening military action on Twitter.

There's also new nickname for Assad and a message for Russia, "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready, Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and smart. You shouldn't be partners with a gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it."

Joining me now retired CIA Chief of Russia Operation Steve Hall, Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and Retire Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, former U.S. Military attache in Syria.

General Hertling, how high wire of an act is this for the President to tweet something like this without A, any concrete agreement by his own military leaders and even allies like the U.K. and France about a military response?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Pretty risky. I would say, Anderson. It's -- first of all, using a platform like social media to deliver a message to the world when what you really need to be doing is diplomatic engagements with the other countries while building alliance doesn't seem to be quite in line with the way you conduct operations. And it certainly doesn't seem to be a link to what candidate Trump said on the campaign trail.

This is tactics he's advertising. This isn't an operation or strategy where, hey, we're about to attack into Mosul, the thing that he mentioned during the campaign. This is no kidding, here's when we're going to do it, it's going to be soon, and this is what we're sending your way. That's a whole different category of announcement that I think is inappropriate, and, quite frankly, it's -- it's just not the right thing to do.

COOPER: Yes, I mean Colonel Francona, the President is telegraphing possible plans here is something he did state over and over and over again he'd never do while campaigning. I mean, you'd think that would give Assad time to move assets or targets out of the way or give Russia time to issue counter-warnings or move assets.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL RICK FRANCONA (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: And all of that's happening. We've seen that over the last couple days. The Syrians are moving things. Anybody with a computer and the internet can monitor some of these aircraft movements so they're taking defensive actions.

And of course, the President's boxed himself in now. Once he makes these statements, whether it would be social media or any other forum, he's got to now deliver. He's almost on the hook to do something. And I think it's foolish to say we're going to use missiles. No one knows what we're going to use. We don't want to telegraph that. So I think we're being a little premature.

COOPER: You know, Steve, it's interesting, because some of the President's supporters said, look, you know, his critics have been saying he hasn't been tough enough on Russia, hasn't been critical of Vladimir Putin, here he is directly challenging Russia, or sort of taunting them, however he would describe it. What do you make of this tweet?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Anderson, you can make an argument that says -- I think as Sarah Sanders tried to do today, which is to say, look, just because he talked about, you know, bright shiny missiles that are really good, he might choose to do something else and, therefore, he's trying to throw the enemy off or something like that.

The problem with that argument is that as Mark sort of alluded to just a second ago, it presupposes a thoughtful strategy. During the cold war, we had a very elaborate almost dance-like routine we would do with Russia to signal, you know, plans and intentions or not to do so, but there were some really very specific rules behind that. And perhaps more importantly, there was a big geopolitical plan in place on the side of the United States and the west with regard to how to deal with Russia. What we have with this President is he wakes up in the morning, gets mad at something that the Russians say, and then he responds in Twitter. The Russians, of course, have pin picked up on this and said we don't do this sort of thing on Twitter.

But what happens if something bad happens in the Mediterranean, something Donald Trump doesn't like and gets up in just in a knee-jerk reaction which is what this seem to be puts the United States and Russia in a very dangerous military situation? That's what concerns me.

[21:55:11] COOPER: Yes, I mean General Hertling, the Defense Secretary Mattis said that they were still assessing the intelligence of who was responsible for these attacks. Are there lessons to be learned from the Iraq war here? I mean, the certainty of intelligence needed before acting militarily?

HERTLING: There is. In fact, I could give you about nine different examples, specifically, that you don't telegraph these kinds of things. You say -- if you say something that is incorrect or, in fact, does telegraph your move, it could cause the enemy or the foe to do things that you don't want them to do.

The thing I'm most concerned about, Anderson, and Steve just said it, is what kind of risk does it do to our forces? You're trying to not only attack the enemy, but you're attempting to mitigate the dangers to your own forces on this.

I'm sure the commander on the scene is just planting his palm in his face saying, gosh, I wish my boss wouldn't do these kind of things because it's going to affect the execution of my plan and the way I conduct my maneuver to go after the enemy.

And I'm sure General Votel and others on the ground are trying now desperately to adjust their tactics, their techniques and their procedures to either launch strikes or do the things that they've been asked to do in the options that Secretary Mattis talked about.

COOPER: Yes. Colonel Francona, General Hertling, Steve Hall, thank you so much. I appreciate it. A lot more to talk about. We'll be right back. More news ahead.


COOPER: Been quite a day, began with the President taunting Russia on Twitter, including preparations for a military strike on Syria, which he himself said was coming. Heavy stuff, life and death stuff. So how does the President end the day? Plugging a conservative talk show whose host echoes his talking points and vice versa. That is where we are tonight.

That's about all the time we have. Thanks very much for watching "360." I want to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. And I'll see you tomorrow night. I hope you'll join us.