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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
"New York Times:" Mueller Wants to Ask President Trump Dozens of Questions to Determine If He Obstructed Justice. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 30, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:30] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There's breaking news tonight from "The New York Times." The Special Counsel Robert Mueller has at least four dozen questions he wants to ask the President about his ties to Russia and other subjects.
"The Times" got a list of those questions. I'm going to read from "The Times" here. The open-ended queries appear to be in an attempt to get at the President's thinking to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the President's high-profile firings of the FBI director and his first national security adviser and his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
They also touch on the President's businesses. Any discussions with his longtime Personal Lawyer Michael D. Cohen about a Moscow real estate deal, whether the President knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition, any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump's 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.
Again, that's the reporting from "The New York Times." Breaking tonight, with me now is Michael Zeldin, John Dean and General Michael Hayden.
General Hayden, first of all, what do you make of -- I mean, interesting that these were recently provided to President Trump's lawyers, this list of questions.
GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN (RETIRED), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right.
COOPER: They have now leaked out to "The New York Times."
HAYDEN: Yes. So tied to our earlier conversation, I talked about our being a fractured society, kind inform a post-truth world. We've got issues of our own and now this just illustrates, Anderson, you have a foreign adversary coming in over the top, very skillfully in terms of the Russians, taking advantage and worsening the fissures that we already have in our society, and now you've got the special counsel trying to sort this out. Number one, what did they do, and he he's made some progress with regard to Russian activity, and now how did the Russian activity relate to the Trump campaign and the Trump administration?
COOPER: Michael Zeldin, I'm just wondering from a legal standpoint, as a former prosecutor, I just want to tell you here are some of the questions that "The New York Times" has gotten that Mueller wants to ask. What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016? What did you know about Sally Yates' meetings about Mr. Flynn? How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on February 13th, 2017? I'm just wondering what you make of what we're just now learning, Michael.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it seems that what we are learning is that contrary to earlier reporting Mueller's interest in the President and the President's deposition, however that takes place, falls fully within the full scope of his mandate. It does not going to be a limited interview. It is going to be relating to the question of the interference, the counterintelligence investigation and matters that arise out of it including obstruction of justice, and so these questions point to the broad areas of interest that Mueller has as they relate to each of the four points within his mandate, counterintelligence, matters that arise out of it, obstruction of justice and coordination and conspiracy, the so-called collusion aspect of it.
And this is what you would have expected from Mueller all along, so we talked about this earlier, Anderson, that I was skeptical that Mueller was going to wrap up this investigation with multi-reports. The first one coming on obstruction of justice, it didn't make sense to me as a prosecutor and former independent counsel, and so I think that these questions sort of speak to the breadth of Mueller's interest and the fact that I think we're not yet near the end of this investigation.
COOPER: Yes. I just want to read our viewers some of the other questions from this "Times" article. After the resignations what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon? Another one, regarding the decision to fire Mr. Comey, when was it made? Why? Who played a role? What is the reason for your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy Andrew G. McCabe? Those are just some of the questions, more than four dozen we're told, that Robert Mueller would like to ask President Trump.
Michael, does -- I mean, the fact that this leaked out and, again, you know, this was recently provided according to the "New York Times" to President Trump's lawyers, so it either leaked out from someone on that end or someone on the special counsel's end. It doesn't seem like a lot has been leaking out from that and what do you make of the fact that this has leaked out and has now been published?
ZELDIN: Well, it strikes me that somebody within the White House most likely in the White House counsel's office may be leaking this information.
[21:05:07] We saw a leak earlier about the President having asked White House Counsel McGahn to go to Rosenstein and have Rosenstein fire Mueller. I thought in looking at that article that that had to come from the White House counsel's office itself.
Similarly as I look at this and think where might be the source of this, and this is speculation, and I don't mean to impugn anybody's reputation and I'm not naming anyone by name by any stretch. It seems that that's the most likely point of exit about this information, the White House counsel's office.
COOPER: General Hayden, does it hurt the Mueller investigation that these questions are out there? I mean, couldn't the President say, well, look, these questions are out here. I can now just -- I can answer these in writing since they are already out there.
HAYDEN: Well, obviously the President would know what the questions were based upon the story line we know. You could see this being an attempt by the White House to undercut once again the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, pointing the finger at them, that they are doing this for political purposes. You know, what really strikes me, and I know you've got two lawyers to give the legal point of view here, but the broader kind of strategic point of view, Anderson, the points of tension between this administration and the broader American society have been with law, justice, intelligence, scholarship and journalism, and what do all those have in common? They are fact- based. They are data-based. They are based on evidence. So this is just one more example of what I tried to point out in the book of how evidence-based institutions are a bit under siege in this post-truth world.
COOPER: More questions from the article I just want to read to our viewers. When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting, meaning the June meeting with Donald Trump Jr.? What involvement did you have in the communications strategy including the release of Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails and what communication disease you have with Michael D. Cohen and Felix Sater and others including foreign nationals about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions? During the campaign what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media and other acts aim to the campaign? What did you know about communication between Roger Stone and his associate Julian Assange or WikilLeaks?
Also joining me now on the phone is John Dean, I believe we have Jeff Zeleny also standing by at the White House. John Dean, as you look at these questions being asked, is there something that jumps out at you?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): The very fact that the questions are out there, my first reaction suggesting that it could be an act of obstruction just to have released these questions.
COOPER: How so? How would that be obstruction?
DEAN: Well, to try to somehow disrupt the flow of information, the tipping off of witness in advance to what the question was going to be, and listening to -- you reading the questions, and I'm scanning them, it appears to me more that these are questions somebody wrote down after listening to someone else than necessarily the questions that were designed by the prosecutors.
COOPER: You think the wording is not exact as they might be from a prosecutor?
DEAN: Yes, I do.
COOPER: What makes you think that, just how the sentences are phrased?
DEAN: Exactly. It's sort of mechanical. What did -- you know, it sounds like it could have come out of a discussion with the prosecutors.
COOPER: Michael Zeldin, as a former prosecutor, do you agree with that?
ZELDIN: Well, I think these are not specific questions as you might get in, you know, sort of interrogatories, written interrogatories which are formal questions put in question form. I think that John is probably more right than less as always that these are probably more topic sentences, areas of inquiry than they are specific questions that they want specific answers to but rather we want to talk to you about the topic of communications around the June 9th meeting. We want to talk to you about the topic of Roger Stone's knowledge of WikiLeaks. We want to talk to you about the topic of your counterintelligence inquiries, et cetera.
COOPER: So that's an important -- that's an important point because if the President knew exactly the questions as worded, one might be able to give very precise answers and leave it at that. If these are just general topic areas, and there's more possible questions within these topic areas, that then leaves more opportunity for a -- for kind of a, I don't know, a free-floating, free-form rambling answer or several answers.
ZELDIN: Sure. It gives you the opportunity to have follow-up questions. When you ask what was your communication strategy around the June 9th meeting? Well, that asks a whole host of questions just within that topic.
[21:10:08] What happened on Air Force One? How did that statement get written? Who was involved in the writing of the statement? What did Hope Hicks mean when she said these e-mails will never see the light of day? How did it come to pass in a Jay Sekulow went on television and said he had nothing to do -- the President had nothing to do with the writing of that statement which turned out to be untrue? Those are all subsumed within that one topic sentence of tell us about your communication strategy.
COOPER: That's interesting. I want to bring in Jeff Zeleny from the White House as well. Jeff, what exactly is the status of the President sitting for an interview with Bob Mueller's team? Do we know and I wonder how this might affect it one way or another? HAYDEN: Anderson, that's been the question hanging over this White House for weeks and months, in fact. The last time the President has addressed this he said he did indeed want to sit down with Bob Mueller. Of course, that has been at the heart of all of the changing lawyers, you know, the -- will he or won't he? So we don't know the answer if he actually will go through with it. A lot of his attorneys have advised him it would be, you know, the wrong thing to do.
But Anderson, when I go through these questions and to look at them, there's nothing in here that's a surprise. Of course, like these are an outline, but what this is, it's just connecting the dots of really what's happened over the last year, particularly again on that Air Force One flight from Germany back to the U.S. I was the reporter on that flight. I remember it well. We didn't know at the time what was happening, but in the days after it became clear that that meeting was going on.
So the President wouldn't be surprised by anything that is in this list of questions here. The question is would he give a consistent answer to what many of his advisers have already done, who have already sat down with Bob Mueller, so that is at the root of all of this here. So we don't know if the answer if he will ultimately sit down. It's one of the reasons that Rudy Giuliani is one of the new lawyers on his team. He is supposed to be negotiating something like this, but it does seem to me that this was leaked by someone on the President or the White House's side, not certainly the special counsel.
COOPER: Also joining me on the phone is Anne Milgram, Former Federal Prosecutor in New Jersey Attorney General. Anne, what jumps out at you at this point?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR (via telephone): I have a lot of the same reaction. I think that the areas are not surprising, the sort of areas of inquiry, and I also believe that there's a lot of opportunities for them to go deeper. I mean, these are just high level areas, and so if they interview the President he won't be surprised by the general areas, but they will have I believe a lot of questions underneath each of these sort of subheadings, and they will go a lot deeper on all of them. And so -- but it really does show us that the investigation still relates to -- there are serious questions about obstruction, about, you know, the firing 2of Mr. Comey and the firing of Mr. Flynn, questions about Jeff Sessions and so it really -- and also questions about the collusion aspect and, you know, really that's a conspiracy question, but there are questions related to that. And so it's a very broad and far-reaching. There's really nothing that's off the table I think in these questions.
COOPER: It's interesting, General Hayden. If I'm doing an interview and I have 40 questions I want to ask somebody written down, that's a two-hour interview just on the face of it.
COOPER: And if there's not other follow-up questions from -- it seems like the consensus is that these are just broad topics with follow-up questions. If all these questions and others in these topics were asked, this is a lengthy interview.
HAYDEN: Oh, my God, yes. And the follow-on questions and keep in mind that Director Mueller probably thinks he knows the answers to all of these.
HAYDEN: And so when he puts that out, he's maybe learning a little bit more, but he's checking the answer against what he knows already to be observable fact.
COOPER: Michael Zeldin, I mean, again, for -- there was a lot of talk about, well, will the President agree to an hour sit-down? I mean, this is a long interview.
ZELDIN: Yes. When we did our independent counsel investigation of George Herbert Walker Bush we had really one or two topics, and it took us most of the day. When Ken Starr interviewed Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky Whitewater matter, it took about nine and a half hours, and it was also pretty narrowly circumscribed.
This is not necessarily a one-day interview. All of these topics and all of these questions and the way the President answers questions, this could be a multi-day interview, and so the Raskins along with Giuliani, the new lawyer Jane and Martin Raskin and Rudy Giuliani will have to do a lot of preparation with this President to get him ready for what could be very long and multi-day interviews if that's what Mueller requires of them, because I don't think the President for all the posturing can avoid this interview unless he is prepared to either take the Fifth Amendment or say that Nixon versus the United States and its progeny do not allow for this and takes this to the supreme court which is a two-year legal battle.
[21:15:10] COOPER: John Dean, as someone who was involved with Nixon, is this allowed, do you think?
DEAN: Well, that's a good question. I think he could put up a good fight and certainly would test the process. I think ultimately it's going to be Mueller's call as to whether he forces the issue. Clearly, Trump just walks away I think the special counsel can probably push on an expedited basis to try to get these things resolved, and I think he's got the -- the wind is behind his sails with the existing law, and I think that a president doesn't have any right to say that he cannot answer questions if he takes the fifth.
COOPER: Also joining us right now by Skype is Professor Alan Dershowitz. Professor, you've got a chance to look over these questions. A, what do you make of the fact that this has leaked out so quickly, and what does it tell you about what Mueller is looking and needs from the President?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, everything leaks. We should assume that everything is going to leak. I think there's only one series of questions that caught me by surprise. Everything else was entirely predictable, the questions about some of his financial dealings before the campaign and before he became President.
Here's the President's problem. He can refuse to answer questions based on executive privilege that focus on reasons why he engaged in activities that are covered by Article II of the constitution. The problem is those are the easy questions and he can answer those whereas the hardest questions, the one about his financial dealings, he has no executive privilege. So he can posture and take the case to the Supreme Court and he might very well win on some of the questions, but those are not the most difficult questions because that's the areas of obstruction of justice and who are engaging in and constitutionally protected activities. So he has a little bit of a conundrum and dilemma but there are very few surprises here. The surprises come mostly in the form of questions about financial dealings, real estate dealings before he became President.
COOPER: Professor, do you agree with the rest of the panelists that these are frameworks for sort of topic -- these are sort of topics sentences for under each one there would be a series of questions based on each of these, that this is not sum total of what the questions would be?
DERSHOWITZ: I would expect so. The questions are very inartfully drawn. They are written as open-ended questions. They are not cross- examination questions. They are not sharp questions designed to confront and test. They are really designed to let him ramble and talk, and I suspect that that's the strategy of the special counsel because they know that may be President Trump's weakness. If they were to ask him direct tough questions to which he can answer yes or no, that might not give them advantage they are seeking.
COOPER: We're going to have more on our breaking news. We'll take a short break. We'll be right back.
[21:21:38] COOPER: Well, the breaking news tonight from "The New York Times," the Special Counsel Robert Mueller has at least four dozen questions he wants to ask the President about his ties to Russia and other subjects. "The Times" got a list of questions, open-ended questions we should point out about his tweets, his firings and his campaign and the Russians.
I'm going to read just a few of the questions as we put them on the screen. What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition? What did you think about Mr. Comey's intelligence briefing on January 6, 2017 about Russian election interference? Another question. What was your reaction to Mr. Comey's briefing that day about other intelligence matters? What was the purpose of your January 27th, 2017 dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
More questions. What was the purpose of the February 14th, 2017, meeting with Mr. Comey, and what was said? What did you know about the FBI's investigation to Mr. Flynn and Russia in the days leading up to Mr. Comey's testimony on March 20th, 2017?
They go on. What did you do in reaction to the March 20th testimony? Describe your contacts with intelligence officials? What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coates? These are just some of the questions.
Back now with our panel, John Dean, Michael Hayden who is new book is "The Assault on Intelligence." Jeff Zeleny, Anne Milgram, and Alan Dershowitz and Michael Zeldin. Also joining us CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero.
Carrie, we haven't heard from you. I mean, I think one of the most interesting things when I first saw these questions, I kind of assumed that these were actually the worded questions. It seems like all of our panels are saying they don't think these are actually word for word what the questions would be and that there would certainly be sub questions really to each of these. These are kind of opening salvos per topic?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): I tend to agree, Anderson. I think that these are, you know, could be potential questions but they really are headings that would govern further detailed questions beneath each one, and so what I think these questions were was the questions that the special counsel's office gave to the President's legal team for purposes of saying here is what -- the contours of an interview would take. This is all the things that we want to ask about, not necessarily these are the specific questions, but this is everything that we want to ask about, and then these obviously would be prompts for further details to come underneath each of those headings.
COOPER: General Hayden, you've point out that this is, I mean, in addition to obstruction of justice and stuff, this is still a counterintelligence investigation?
HAYDEN: Absolutely. And because of that I have great interest in that particular chunk of it, and several of these questions relate to what was the relationship of the campaign to the Russians and whether there was any -- I won't use the word collusion by synchronization or harmonization, cooperation, foreknowledge of suggesting things to do, and frankly up till this point, I mean, there has been circumstantial, beyond circumstantial evidence of synchronization between the campaign and representatives of the Russian federation.
You know, Anderson, a couple of other things, you mentioned Mike Pompeo's name in there and Dan Coates' name in there. You and I talked during the break we still have to govern ourselves and you've got these folks now, senior leaders and how many more tied up into this investigation, and then finally would I offer the point. You know, the President doesn't actually give fact-based answers or make fact-based statements. He generally appeals to base is how he handles any controversial issue.
[21:25:13] He can't appeal to base here. This man is after the specific details, the specific facts. I fear this is going to take a long while to sort out.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, as you made a really interesting point that, you know, there would probably be -- these are not particularly pointed questions, that there would be more pointed questions, and it bears repeating how much more Robert Mueller and his team know than the public at large knows. I mean, it's often, you know, the cliche that we know maybe a little tiny tip of the iceberg, but they have access, to you know, hundreds of thousands of documents that they have been poring over, the testimony of other people so they can have very specific questions that they may already know the answer to and want to hear how the President will answer, truthfully or not?
DERSHOWITZ: I think that's exactly right. I think they would love to get him to say when they ask him did you know about this meeting or did you know about that meeting? They would love to get him to lock himself in and say no, I didn't know, because they then may have other people that come forward and say, well, yes, he did know.
If I were the President's lawyers, and I want to emphasize that I'm not, I would take advantage of these questions and I think I would immediately offer to respond to all of them thoroughly in writing in an effort to try to avoid a face-to-face meeting, and if that were rejected I would say let's negotiate for four hours. Pick your best 20 questions and the President will sit down with you with his lawyer President and respond to the 20 questions, but I don't think he's going to want to respond to two or three days worth of topics with sub questions and other questions so we may get to a point where there's no agreement and where he receives a subpoena, and, of course, he has to comply with the subpoena. He can invoke executive privilege.
Invoking the Fifth Amendment will do him absolutely no good. First of all, it will make him seem guilty even thought the constitution says that's not proof of guilt and second, he can be given immunity. And immunity doesn't cover impeachment and he can be compelled to answer questions under threat of contempt of courts and if he answers the questions he doesn't have immunity from impeachment. He only has immunity from criminal prosecution so the Fifth Amendment is a non- starter. I guarantee you he will not take the Fifth Amendment. No lawyer would be foolish enough to advise him to do so.
COOPER: Anne Milgram, why wouldn't Special Counsel Mueller just subpoena the President? I mean, it's been done before?
MILGRAM: You know, I think here and we've seen this as the investigation has been going on. They have been in these negotiations since last fall to try to get the President to come in voluntarily and, you know, there are a couple of reasons I think. First of all, it's standard to want to bring someone in voluntarily before you bring them into the grand jury.
But here what I think is happening more is that, you know, Mueller has made a decision that he wants the President's testimony. I think he's being very respectful of the fact that Donald Trump is the sitting President of the United States and so he's giving him every possible opportunity he can't to get him through that door to come in voluntarily short of issuing a subpoena.
It is extraordinary, and I don't know if we've, you know, really said this enough tonight, but it's extraordinary to give a potential witness who you're going to interview questions like this in advance of a meeting in a criminal investigation. It isn't done. And so I think Mueller is making a lot of concessions and doing things differently than he normally would in an effort to get the President in voluntarily.
Short of that I think, you know, at the end of the day, Mueller will need the President's testimony and so if he needs to issue a subpoena I think he will issue a subpoena, but I don't think he wants to do that unless it's the only possible way.
COOPER: Michael Zeldin, if the President of the United States is looking at these questions, will this kind of -- give him a sense of security, false or otherwise, that, oh, I can answer all of these pretty easily?
ZELDIN: Well, I don't think it will give his lawyers that same sense of security. The President is hard to figure out what his level of comfort is with questions like this. He may feel that he can answer all of these because he has nothing to hide, and he may have nothing to hide and so he could feel comforted by this.
I think his lawyers are going to be anxious that there's a lot of preparatory work that needs to be done here and that this is going to be a long slog through this interview process.
I wanted to add one thing to what Professor Dershowitz said which is and then I agreed with his analysis. The only thing that I think I would add to it is that a lot of these questions point to conversations that pre-date the President's inauguration, so those topics are not covered by executive privilege per se, I think. And then secondly with respect to post-inauguration executive privilege as I read it involves the deliberative advice that subordinates to the President give on policy matters.
[21:30:11] These questions don't seem to relate to policy matters, so I don't know that an assertion of executive privilege would be availing in this case which would lead his lawyers to conclude that they are most likely not going to succeed in an effort to resist this interview, and, therefore, they really have to buckle down and start preparing. I'd be interested to hear what Professor Dershowitz has to say.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, just on that answer but also -- I mean, if you were a part of the President's legal team, would you form a, you know, get all the lawyers in there, form a team, get some other people in there and just go through not only all these questions but also any sub-questions that you could think of based on these questions, whether it takes days and days to do that just to kind of run through the President through everything?
DERSHOWITZ: I assume they are doing that already. I think they were not taken by surprise by some of these questions. I just want to disagree a little bit possibly with my previous speaker about executive privilege. A different kind of executive privilege may apply to the President's motives and state of mind in engaging in actions that are protected by the constitution. Just like you can't question a senator or a congressman about their vote or about their actions as a senator or congressman, it's not completely clear to me that the constitution permits the questioning of a President as to why you pardoned, why you engaged in this activity. It's a different kind of executive privilege than conversations between him and his aides, but it makes for a plausible argument to the Supreme Court.
COOPER: We have to take another break. We'll going to hear from Carl Bernstein and the rest of our panelists after this break.
COOPER: The big breaking news tonight, a list of dozens of questions the Special Counsel would like to ask the President obtained by "The New York Times." We want to -- we want to see now how this tracks with CNN's extensive previous reporting. Evan Perez joins us now with that. Evan, what's your reaction?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we reported a story back in March that talked about the four essentially buckets of questions that the Mueller team had told the President's legal team that they wanted to ask the President, and what my understanding is that these questions that "The Times" have obtained are essentially notes that the President's legal team made so it's their questions.
They basically took what Mueller's team was telling them and they wrote questions based on that, and that's the reporting we had back when we reported our story back in March, and what we were told then was that essentially it amounted to about 50 or so questions.
[21:35:06] Gloria Borger and I were told by different sources that that wasn't the number, and so this matches really what "The Times" is reporting here. And it's interesting here reading some of these questions, I think the most interesting thing to me certainly, and I certainly understand the agitation that this meeting, where these questions were given to the President's legal team. You can see the agitation that resulted -- the agitation that resulted in the President's legal team because there's one particular question here about Paul Manafort and whether or not the President was aware of outreach to Russia. Keep in mind, a lot of people inside and close to the President have thought that collusion is off the table, that this is already resolved, right?
PEREZ: And if you look at the question here from -- that they have written based on the outreach. What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign including by Paul Manafort to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?
What it tells us is that the Mueller team is very much still focused on the question of whether or not there was collusion, whether there was coordination, legal coordination between the campaign and the Russians, and so that's the reason why when we were speaking to people last month, Anderson, it was clear that people were very agitated after hearing some of these questions.
COOPER: Evan Perez, thank you. Stand by.
Joining me now on the phone now is Carl Bernstein. Carl, fascinating to see this. It certainly seems like it came from the White House side. What do you make of what you read?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): I think that what we see here is that there's a clash coming in all likelihood. It could have been predicted that there would be a clash. The real question is what answers does Donald Trump have to those questions? If he has satisfactory answers, he should have nothing to worry about. But those are very loaded questions in terms of collusion. They suggest where Mueller is going. They suggest that Mueller has talked to other witnesses and that he knows the direction that he wants to get answers from the President on that have to do both with, "collusion" or a conspiracy to cooperate with agents of a foreign power, and if the President has satisfactory answers he should have nothing to worry about.
But the real question is what does Mueller and his team know and obviously this is something that's going to deeply worry the President's lawyers because the President's lawyers might not know all the answers that Donald Trump might or might not give to these questions.
BERNSTEIN: And they indicate the seriousness of Mueller's investigation and the direction it's been heading.
COOPER: Yes. Carl Bernstein, I appreciate it.
Back now with our panel, Evan Perez, John Dean, Jeff Zeleny, Anne Milgram, Alan Dershowitz, and Carrie Cordero.
Jeff Zeleny over the White House, you know, Michael Zeldin made the point earlier that we're not just talking about a two hour interview here potentially. I mean not just all these questions but other questions that might be follow-on questions to these ones that were given out already by the Mueller team. Michael Zeldin was saying, you know, you could be looking at a two-day interview or more.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, certainly look at all the topics and all the volumes of information. I'm struck by just going through these questions again. And we should point out they are not verbatim. They are just topics, as we've been saying, but they are using the President's own words in many respects, almost like going through his schedule, if you will, day by day and the key moments of when he fired Comey and then specific tweets that he sent out.
So just simply asking the President about the tweets he sent out and those interviews that he was doing last year at that time would take a considerable amount of time. So this, of course, the President's lawyers will want to limit this as much as possible here. I've been reaching out to the White House officials to see if they have any reaction to this. They are not officially and they still say, you know, the President has not made a decision if he will speak to him, but, again, that might not be up to him. That might not be his decision here if Bob Mueller decides to force this here, but going through this is like a timeline of the first 14 months or so of this presidency, so much to go over, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Carrie Cordero, it's not like they even need, you know, Nixon's tapes. They have all the tweets. They have all the interviews that the President has done. They are asking him about what he meant when he talked about James Comey to Lester Holt in that now infamous interview? What he meant to the Russians who were in -- in the Oval Office when he talked about, you know, firing comb has relieved pressure. It's all -- a lot of it is based on things that the President has publicly said.
[21:39:56] CORDERO: And this is such an important point, Anderson, because so often when the President tweets outrageous things, particularly when he's attacking the Justice Department or he is attacking the special counsel's investigation or he is attacking DOJ or FBI or whoever it is in the political spectrum that he's unhappy with, he tweets, and he says things and many of his defenders often say, well, we shouldn't pay attention to those things. Don't look behind the curtain, look the other way and the fact of the matter is that you see if these questions are in fact, and it looks like they are, an accurate representation of the types of things that the special counsel's office is interested in. President's statements matter. And now they are going to matter in an area where there's legal consequences.
You know, the scope of these questions, it really covers a variety of issues. There's a lot here that I see as I skim through them on the obstruction going through each individual person that the President dealt with, whether it was his targeting sort of his verbal intimidation of the attorney general, whether it was list interactions with Director Comey. Many others. There's all different angles that potentially can speak to an obstruction issue. There's questions about the camp -- all of the things that he may have known that really is a big question mark right now.
One of the things we don't know because he hasn't testified in front of any of the congressional intelligence investigation, others have, and so we've gotten to know pieces of the coordination or communications that took place, I should say communications that took place or meetings that took place between members of the campaign and Russian individuals or officials or surrogates, and we never have known. It's a big question mark what the President's knowledge was of those interactions. And so that's another line of inquiry that's indicated by these questions.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, questions about what he knew after Sally Yates had come to the White House which it took several weeks to fire Michael Flynn. What was happening during those weeks? Still a lot to be determined. John Dean, Jeff Zeleny, Anne Milgram, Alan Dershowitz, Carrie Cordero. We're going to take another break. And we'll be back with our political panel, much more ahead on tonight's big breaking news.
[21:45:53] COOPER: Big breaking story this hour tonight from the "New York Times," Special Counsel Robert Mueller has at least four dozen questions he wants to ask the President, likely much more. "The Times" got a list of them, open-ended questions about his tweets and his firings and his campaign and the Russians ought to talk about. Our political panel, Jackie Kucinich, Mike Shields, Maria Cardona, Paris Dennard, Paul Begala and Michael D'Antonio, also our legal panelists, Carrie Cordero, John Dean, Anne Milgram, Professor Alan Dershowitz.
Paul Begala, where do you begin with this?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first who gets the questions in advance, nobody. Ken Starr did not, like send notes over to President Clinton saying here is where we want to know --
COOPER: Why do you think they did in this case?
BEGALA: I have no idea. I mean, they clearly want him. This is an extraordinary -- maybe it's being extraordinarily gracious and hugely helpful for a witness to know the general areas that he obviously knows but to know, it makes it harder for him to say no. I know his lawyers are telling him not to sit down but he's told the American people for over a year. There's no collusion. I've done nothing wrong with. Now, not only has he told us that, he's gotten the questions in advance. Kind of difficult politically to say I'm not going to participate in an interview with this special counsel.
COOPER: Although, Michael D'Antonio, Professor Dershowitz is pointing out this likely or not the only question, this is sort of broad topic that then, you know, Robert Mueller has a lot more drill down information that he has probably already has based on these topics?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, each one is going to leave the President down a half hour or one-hour odyssey. I disagree that this would be eight hours or even two days. When I interviewed the President, he would speak at length and in a very disjointed way, and it was impossible to follow up and get coherence from him, so -- and he's going to tweet about this. These topics are things he's going to go through and discuss with the American people whether his attorneys like it or not.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, part of me, if this information is coming from the Trump local team, part of me wonders if he did this to get the President's attention. We've seen that from other Trump advisers --
COOPER: That would imply there's leaks in the White House.
KUCINICH: I know. It's a crazy assertion, but I wonder if he's trying to get his attention. So when he's not -- totally not watching CNN later or when he watches "Fox & Friends" tomorrow morning he sees these questions and he starts getting spun up about reaction to them. COOPER: Mike Shields?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I sort of -- I think three immediate reactions reading this. One is there wasn't much of anything in here we didn't know already and Alan Dershowitz said the same thing and that's really striking. I think we've been hearing for a long time. I mean, Mueller's investigation is really thorough. There's a lot of step we just don't know and then we see questions come out and it's not like when you talk to Russian agent "A" did you know you were also talking to Russian agent "B"? I mean, there's nothing about --
COOPER: Right. I mean, if you were Mueller would you put those into the questions then you give to the President or would you want to give him sort of broader view things, you know?
SHIELDS: That's entirely possible. I'm saying, this article doesn't have anything we didn't already know. In fact, a lot of these things they're actually in press reports. And so --
COOPER: Does that make you believe he should go in and answer these questions?
SHIELDS: I can't. Look, we've talked about this. There's a huge negotiation I think going on between these two teams. It's a game of chess about what they are going to say and which questions will he answer? Which ones they won't really sit down, will he put it in writing?
I think the other thing that's really interesting is, how few of these are actually about Russian collusion and that's where going to hear a lot of Republicans talking about I think in the coming days after this which is maybe one of the reason why this is put out there, which is we've now gone on for -- someone mentioned it, 14 months, Zeleny mentioned, 14 months of this, right?
Very few of these questions are actually about collusion and the ones that are in there are about other people like Paul Manafort that we already know are in trouble has very little to do about the President, the collusion and now it's stretching into other topics, which the Clinton team was really, really aggressively going or Ken Starr. Why are you going after things that had nothing to do with when President Clinton was in office. You've now had mission creep and stretch into other things and you'll see Republicans talking a lot about that.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Except at the end of the day I think that it's been very clear from the Mueller team, and this is why I think the President said red line, red line, but to me it has always been, yes, collusion but more so what are the money ties that this administration possibly has with Russia? What are the money obligations? How indebted is he to the Russians perhaps even from deals that have generated years back?
[21:50:09] So that strikes me and you're right. I don't think there's anything in here that we didn't know about, but there's certain things in here that are not going to make this President not happy. SHIELDS: All right, but everything you just said has no evidence -- those are sort of wild guesses of things that maybe could have happen --
CARDONA: But I don't think wild guesses through, and clearly I think if they are in this list of questions as we have said before, Mueller knows the answer to a lot of these. And so I think that there are a lot of connections here. And the other thing I'll say is that to the point made earlier about the President tweeting. Let's remember that in the past hearings and issues that have been in the court like the President's Muslim ban, his own tweets have done him in. And I think that's going to be a lot of what Mueller people look at, is using his own words, using his own decorations. His, oh I fired Comey because he didn't do the right thing during the Hillary Clinton administration. And then he tells somebody on national press that he actually fired him because of the Russian investigation.
SHIELDS: One last point I'll make about this, is the legal experts mentioned, a lot of this is to get President Trump talking. Can we sit down and just kind of -- because he's going to speak so long? But that also does not speak to someone you got -- did the right that you think. We've had 14 months to investigate this president. We've really got him on something. It's like well, let's try and sit down if we can get him to tell a lie or mistruth or misremember something, that sounds like you're going after the President, not that you have something on the President. It did mention in the article again, that he is not a target.
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Carl Bernstein said it best to me, he said, there are a lot of loaded questions that he saw and some of the questions that we've seen, these are not all the questions. But I don't go to Pepperdine Law School, (INAUDIBLE) for under grad. So I'm not a lawyer but if I were the legal team there I would say, Mr. President, do not do this -- do not go for them and do this investigation to testify or whatever. Because, the President did a 90 some odd minute rally, just off the cut, 90 minutes straight.
These questions, this is not going to be one hour, two hour, this is going to be a very long conversation. And I think you're right, Mike, what they're doing to do is, they're going to say, just let him talk. Let's just open up these broad questions what I try to do in my life I don't ever ask a question that I don't know the answer. So I beat you, Mueller and the rest of his team, they know the answers to the questions that they've said and it's about the follow-up, Anderson, is to follow-up questions which they haven't released which could be dangerous for the President.
BEGALA: Can I ask Professor Dershowitz a quite an -- because I was never believe you're going to have access to Harvard Law Professor otherwise.
Alan, the President has the executive privilege, we agree on that. Can't he waive that privilege, for example in the firing of Jim Comey when he goes on television and tell Lester Holt of NBC news, when I fired him this is what I was thinking, hasn't he then waive this privilege to refuse to answer about what he was thinking when he fires FBI director?
DERSHOWITZ: You get an A plus. That is a --
BEGALA: I hope my mom's watching.
DERSHOWITZ: Obviously, can waive privilege by opening up the door and saying look, I spread this out. I put this out. Look, I think there's an intermediate steps that his lawyers might well consider. Take advantage of these questions, if written responses to as many as you can give written responses to that create no vulnerability at all.
Give extensive written responses, obviously written by the lawyers, signed by the President, and then say what's left. What else do you want me to answer, if we can answer them in writing, fine, if you need me in person, we can negotiate that. Then he tells the American public, look, I've answered almost everything they've asked me. And if they need more, they can argue about the more.
So I think there are intermediate steps that could be taken to help reduce the risk of him going on and on and on. That risk is always there. But lawyers would much prefer written interrogatories to open ended questions. And they might try that and maybe it would have a chance of succeeding. But it's very risky for the President to answer any questions, even if he knows he's telling the truth because there's something else is telling the different truth. That could cause a problem. Telling the truth isn't always a perfect defense, the charges of perjury or obstruction of justice.
KUCINICH: Do we really think though that Mueller would accept written questions after everything? After the depth of the investigation? After -- not only has the President said there is no collusion, he has said repeatedly that he'd be happy to sit down with Mueller and answer questions.
COOPER: The key seems to be his intent in a lot of the actions. And it would be hard to glean intent I think from questions written by a lawyer just signed by a President but --
DENNARD: But the question is, are we talking about Russian collusion, are we talking about the litany of other things that -- what all these other rabbit holes? I think what the President -- I'll talk to you about Russian collusion because there is no Russian collusion --
[21:55:01] DERSHOWITZ: That's never been a crime that's actually been on the table.
DERSHOWITZ: Collusion is not crime.
KUCINICH: The obstruction.
DERSHOWITZ: Obstruction is what Mueller--
KUCINICH: Perhaps money laundering?
DERSHOWITZ: And there's been more than $100 million of oligarch money put into Trump. There are facts, but the American people stood on Russian collusion, it's all we heard about.
BEGALA: But that's -- because the President saying --
COOPER: To be continued. I want to thank everybody on the panel and our legal panel as well. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Big night tonight, the breaking news list of dozens of questions, Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask the President. New York Times got the list, they cover his tweets, the people he fired, including James Comey, this treatment of Jeff Session then now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians, offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. It's in many ways the closest look yet inside the Mueller investigation and what the Special Counsel wants to know.
I'm going to hand it over to my colleague Don Lemon who picks up the important coverage from here. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.