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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Melania Trump Undergoes Kidney Procedure, Will Remain Hospitalized Through the Week; Palestinian Ministry of Health: At Least 58 Killed In Gaza As U.S. Opens New Embassy in Jerusalem; EPA Chief Pruitt Asked for Round-the-Clock Security From Day One; NY Magazine: President Trump and Sean Hannity Talk Many Weeknights; 19th Fissure Opens, More "Lava Bombs;" Actress Margot Kidder Dies at Age 69. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 14, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:48] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: First Lady Melania Trump is expected to be hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for the rest of the week according to her office after she underwent a procedure to treat a kidney condition. Boris Sanchez joins us from the White House. What more do we know?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Anderson, at this point the White House is staying relatively quiet on this. Stephanie Grisham, the First Lady's communications director actually greeted reporters at Walter Reed Media Center. She was still wearing scrubs. And she told them that he had recently been with the First Lady that she was in good spirit, which she wouldn't elaborate on her condition or what it was that led her to have this procedure. So we still don't know if this was a last-minute decision or something that was long in planning.
We also haven't heard much from President Trump on this. We actually heard more from the Vice President, Mike Pence, he's taking part in an event in Washington tonight, celebrating Israeli independence, and he told the crowd that the First Lady is already on the mend and wished her a speedy recovery, Anderson.
COOPER: The President wasn't with the First Lady during the procedure, which isn't actually all that uncommon for Presidents. He did visit this afternoon, right?
SANCHEZ: That's right. We understand that the President spoke with Melania shortly before the procedure took place and then shared a phone call with some of her doctors after it was over. He did tweet about the fact that he was going to visit her at Walter Reed. He was there for about an hour and a half or so.
We understand that he thanked well-wishers but didn't answer questions from reporters on his way there, while there or when he returned to the White House, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks. The news of the First Lady's procedure and hospitalization pretty much came out of nowhere today. There are still a few unanswered questions. Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to try to help us answer some of them. So, can you just explain what it is we know about the procedure the First Lady underwent today?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's called an embolization procedure. And basically what that means is that a catheter is typically threaded in through one of the blood vessels. It's threaded into an area that's close to the kidney. And through that catheter, then, something can be injected. In this case, it can be a type of glue and the purpose is to try and stop the blood vessels from traveling to that abnormality, whatever it was that they were treating in the kidney. Stop the blood flow there if it was at risk of bleeding, whatever this abnormality is, it can decrease that risk as well.
It's worth pointing out this is typically a type of procedure, Anderson, it's not performed in an operating room, but usually by an interventional radiologist in a radiology suite typically. It's still, you know, something that's done in a star sterile way and everything that's why you have the scrubs and everyone wearing sterile gowns. But it's an interventional radiology procedure.
COOPER: The statement from the First Lay Lady's communications director says this was done to treat a benign kidney condition. What is a benign kidney condition?
GUPTA: Yes. It's a great question and a vague terminology. And I think that was done on purpose. They didn't tell us, what it was especially. They could have told us what the condition is. Benign means something it's not cancerous, it's something that's not going to be as usually malignant or problematic. But we don't know what it is, is it a benign tumor? There's a type of benign tumor known as AML or Angiomyolipoma, which is a type of benign tumor that does have a lot of blood vessels. Could be treated by embolization, but we don't know for sure if that's what it is.
And there's a few other things, abnormalities within the blood vessels, themselves, that could be treated by embolization. I think what they were trying to tell us, what that statement -- and again, it's a very short statement, I think purposefully vague in a few areas. They're just saying it's not cancer but we're not going to tell you what it is exactly.
COOPER: And just in terms of length of stay for a procedure like this, is it typical to stay for several days?
GUPTA: It's not typical to stay for several days. It's -- these types of procedures, these embolizations they can even be done on an outpatient basis, meaning go in the morning, and be able to be discharged by the end of the day. Overnight can happen usually where you're just monitoring the person to see if they develop any pain or any problems. But several days like this is unusual. Is there another procedure still coming up? We don't know the answer to that, but that's one reason someone may stay in the hospital. That there's still more expected. Or is it just sort of out of abundance of caution because, you know, she's the First Lady, and they just want to keep an eye on her in the hospital? I don't know. That is a still open question mark, Anderson.
[21:05:11] COOPER: And just to be clear, would this type on discovery, and procedure, be considered normal, routine, an emergency? How would you describe it?
GUPTA: Well, I think that's -- it can be emergent if someone started to develop bleeding, for example, you could do an embolization emergently. This sounds like it was more planned ahead. So it may have been planned just over the past several days or couple of weeks but it doesn't sound like it was emergent, we did see her just last week doing some events.
What happens a lot of times you get an image, you see there's an abnormality there in the kidney, and you might even say, you know what, let's watch it for a while and in a few months get another image. If it's changed or grown in some way, that can be the point, which you say, all right, let's start this procedure, to do the embolization, and see if we can shrink this thing and make it go away.
COOPER: All right, Sanjay, thanks very much.
Joining me now is CNN Contributor and author of "First Women," Kate Andersen Brower.
So it's interesting Kate the all these details are out there just given how private a person we know the First Lady is?
KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I was surprised that they were being so forthcoming about this even though we don't know specifics. I also thought it was interesting that Stephanie Grisham, her spokesperson, was in scrubs in the hospital with her and it shows what a close-knit group. She has less than a dozen people working in the East Wing.
And usually in East Wings you find that they are very protective of the First Lady. But in history we've had a lot of first ladies who have undergone surgery, you know, you had Nancy Reagan in the '80s, she had a mastectomy. Betty Ford in the '70s had a mastectomy at a time when women didn't talk about breast cancer and that was a huge step when she talked about it.
So I think this makes them seem human, relatable. And I think it's a good thing that they're being forthcoming about it.
COOPER: It's also not the first time a first lady's been hospitalized while her husband's been in office?
BROWER: No. Not at all. In fact, even in 2007, Laura Bush had a minor operation on a pinched nerve and President George W. Bush was flying back from an overseas trip and called her. He wasn't there for the surgery. And I think you mentioned earlier that presidents often don't go for the actual procedure. I think in part that's as of respect for the First Lady because when a President goes anywhere, it's a huge disruption. And they really want to just focus on the task at hand. When Betty Ford had her mastectomy, Gerald Ford flew on Marine One and prayed in the aisle of the helicopter with their son for his wife's health. So oftentimes they do not get there until after the procedure's over.
COOPER: It Melania Trump has obviously valued her privacy in previous -- in her previous life and also certainly now in the White House. How common is that for first ladies?
BROWER: I think she's an incredibly private First Lady, you know, going back to someone like Bess Truman, we haven't seen a first lady who's quite this private. You know, they do have a 12-year-old son. She talks often about being a wife and mother as her main priority, but I think even Michelle Obama and Laura Bush were a little bit more willing to share bits of their personal life. I think this is interesting that this comes on the heels of her most public week. I mean, she made this 11-minute-long speech in the Rose Garden for her "Be Best" campaign last week, she planned a state dinner not long before that. We hadn't seen much of her until recently and now to see she was going through all this at the same time I think says a lot about her ability to kind of do both things.
COOPER: Yes. Well, we certainly wish her the best. Kate Andersen Brower, thanks.
Coming up, more breaking news tonight, a bloody day in Gaza. The death toll is rising at least 58 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces on the same day the U.S. embassy officially opens in Jerusalem. We'll have an update from the region.
Also ahead, two more fissures open up near the volcano in Hawaii, means more lava and more toxic fumes, the latest from Hawaii when we continue.
[21:12:41] COOPER: There's more breaking news, deadly day in Gaza, at least 58 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces and at least 1,000 were injured. That's according to the Palestinian ministry of health. That happened, obviously, on the same day that the U.S. embassies officially opened in Jerusalem. Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner led the delegation to the embassy opening. Our Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott joins me now with the latest.
Elise, you were at the opening ceremony today. What can you tell us?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think you can call it a love feast would not be an overestimation. It's impossible to overestimate how popular President Trump is with this move to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Driving up even to the embassy, there are all these signs that say President Trump will make Israel great again, Trump is a friend of Israel.
And I think that the Israelis feel that after years of President Obama that there is a U.S. president that does have their back, that you just saw last week, he pulled out of the Iran deal and cited evidence from Prime Minister Netanyahu. That was really the theme of today, all of the speakers praising President Trump.
Ever everyone in his administration who was named whether they were there or not. John Bolton, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo. Everyone got a standing ovation, but it was really Jared Kushner who was the keynote speaker that got the kind of loudest applause and, of course, he was, you know, praising President Trump's move but also talking about that unshakable bond between the U.S. and Israel, but I think it's really now about these two leaders.
And Prime Minister Netanyahu had a very good week between the embassy, President Trump pulling out of the Iran deal, and on his successful campaign against Iran which he has unequivocal support from the U.S. So I think that it was really an emotion emotional day for him, an emotional day for Israelis. But we see from these protests coming out of Gaza that it was a crushing blow for the Palestinians that is now turning violent.
COOPER: Yes, what is the latest on the violence on the Gaza/Israel border today?
LABOTT: Well, today has really been the bloodiest of days of clashes for the last seven weeks since these protests on the border between Gaza and Israel started.
[21:15:07] More than 58, we're told, were killed, Palestinians, by the Palestinian ministry of health is saying. Over 1,000 injured. That's the single bloodiest toll in these seven weeks and it brings the total of those Palestinians killed to more than 100.
Now, the Israelis are blaming, obviously, Hamas, for instigating it, and certainly there are members of Hamas that are in there kind of instigating some of the more violent parts of it, but some of them are journalists, some of them are youngsters. There was a handicap person, I believe, that was killed.
And, you know, Israelis are using live fire against all of it, and this is obviously very concerning. Tonight the ambassador of Turkey has been -- the Turkish ambassador to Israel has been recalled for a consultation. Along with the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey in London today, a very tough speech, not just against Israel and the actions in Gaza, but against the United States for this move of the embassy to Jerusalem saying that the U.S. is now part of the problem, not the solution and has forfeiting its role as a peacemaker, Anderson.
COOPER: Elise Labott, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Today's speech at the embassy opening marked a return to the public view for the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner who kept a relatively low profile recently. Randi Kaye tonight has more.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jared Kushner, a mainstay around the White House, often seen whispering in the President's ear. Sitting in on important meetings and walking around the White House grounds with his wife, Ivanka. This was President Trump a year ago.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is so great. If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can. OK? I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job.
KAYE: But despite that high praise, Jared Kushner has faded from public view. These days, the President barely utters his son-in-law's name in public.
In the White House, Kushner has reportedly been severely weakened. The "Washington Post" wrote in March that colleagues described Kushner as beaten down. Part of the issue may be Kushner's apparently tense relationship with Chief of Staff John Kelly who stripped Kushner of his top-secret security clearance following questions about the administration's vetting process. Now even the chief White House calligrapher has greater access to sensitive information.
TRUMP: I think he's been treated very unfairly. He's a high-quality person.
KAYE: As the Russia probe ramped up, Kushner's clout seemed to go down. He's testified before congressional committees probing Russia's involvement in the election.
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: Let me be very clear, I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.
KAYE: Kushner has also faded from view since taking heat for the appearance of mixing business with government work. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is probing his foreign business contacts including meetings Kushner had with a Russian banker and a Russian lawyer looking to share dirt on Hillary Clinton.
KAYE (on camera): Then there's the 666 fifth avenue headache. That's the Manhattan Super Tower Jared Kushner's company bought years ago that's been saddled with debt. It's come under scrutiny since Kushner's father reportedly sought a $500 million investment from the former prime minister of Qatar while his son works on Middle East issues for the White House.
KAYE (voice-over): But with the unveiling of the new embassy in Jerusalem, Kushner's back in the spotlight, after working quietly behind the scenes for the last year and a half or so on a Middle East peace agreement.
KUSHNER: When there is peace in this region, we will look back upon this day and remember that the journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth.
KAYE: Kushner's fingerprints also believed to be all over the President's decision recently to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. A move Kushner praised while in Jerusalem.
KUSHNER: Last week, President Trump acknowledged another truth and kept another promise. He announced his intention to exit the dangerous, flawed and one- one-sided Iran deal.
KAYE: Despite his relative silence in recent months, Jared Kushner seems to have once again found his voice. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Lot more news to get to tonight. President Trump faces a deadline of tomorrow to file his annual financial disclosure before the federal election commission. The question is, will it include anything about Stormy Daniels and the money repaid to Michael Cohen?
New revelations also about the security request from the embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Allegations they directly contradict what Pruitt, himself, told lawmakers.
[21:23:52] COOPER: Breaking news tonight about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his request for around the clock security on his very first day on the job. This, of course, in contrast to his claim that protection was in response to an assessment of death threats against him.
CNN's Sara Ganim joins me with details. What are you learning about Pruitt's request for security?
SARA GAMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, tonight we're learning from the EPA inspector general that Scott Pruitt asked for his unprecedented 24/7 security detail. He began on his first day in office back in February of 2017. Here's the letter the inspector general wrote to Senate Democrats. It says Mr. Pruitt requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as administrator and security detail began providing 24/7 coverage of the administrator the first day he arrived at the EPA. That contradicts the story that Pruitt and the EPA have been telling the public. Here he is, Anderson, at a hearing before Congress last month reading from a threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to find you and put a bullet between your eyes. Don't think I'm joking. I'm planning this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman's time has expired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So these are threats the I.G. has documented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[21:25:00] GAMIN: So now to be clear, the inspector general is the I.G., that's what he's talking about, and that review was completed six months into his tenure, in August of 2017. That's well after he requested this extra security. No previous administrator has ever requested such elaborate measures. And the security detail head who has since retired cited security concerns to justify those first-class plane tickets for Pruitt as well. He also hired more agents to guard Pruitt around the clock. We calculated that those salaries, alone, cost the agency about $2 million per year.
Now, security and travel are just two of almost a dozen investigations and reviews into Pruitt at this time.
COOPER: So what can you tell us about the assistant inspector general overseeing investigations? I understand he's actually recused himself?
GAMIN: Yes, this is interesting. So the inspector general letter also reveals for the first time that the official who was in charge of investigating threats for the I.G., which is what the EPA was hanging their hat on all along, he recused himself from some investigations and the reason why he is, "A professional friend" of the controversial former head of Pruitt's security detail. That's an apparent conflict of interest according to the inspector general.
COOPER: All right. Sara Gamin, thanks very much.
President Trump has until tomorrow, May 15th, to file his official campaign financial disclosure forms with the federal election commission.
Now the question is, will he or his staff include the $130,000 payment his attorney Michael Cohen made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels on those forms?
I'm joined now by Adav Noti, the Senior Director of Trial Litigation of Washington's Campaign Legal Center who wrote about this for an Op- Ed for "USA Today." So Adav, it sounds like Trump is sort of caught in a catch 22 with this filing tomorrow. Can you just explain what's going on?
ADAV NOTI, SENIOR DIRECTOR, TRIAL LITIGATION AT CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: Yes, he backed himself into a corner. He has to file his personal financial disclosure report tomorrow and needs to list all the debts that he owed during 2017. All the personal debts and that would appear to include the $130,000 that he needed to repay to Mr. Cohen for the hush money to Stormy Daniels. The problem is if he discloses that on his filing tomorrow, it's going to essentially be an admission that he didn't disclose it in the prior year's financial disclosure report. The problem with that is intentionally leaving something off a financial disclosure report is a violation of federal law.
COOPER: So he's got two choices, disclose the debt or not disclose the debt. If he does not disclose this as a personal debt, what happens?
NOTI: Right, well it would depend on the reason that the President tries to assert for not disclosing it. The one exception that he might try to invoke here is that he wouldn't be required to disclose the debt if instead of a personal debt it were a campaign debt. The problem with that is that if it was a campaign debt, the Trump campaign needed to report it to the federal election commission on those disclosure reports. And they didn't do that, either. And just as it's a violation of law to not report a personal debt, it's also a violation of law to not report a campaign contribution of this kind. COOPER: So if he does disclose this as a personal debt, there will obviously be questions of why it wasn't disclosed previously and also we would see, we assume, if there were any other personal debts that were not previously disclosed?
NOTI: Right. That's one of the big questions. So, you know, if the President decides to report this debt, I think, you know, we'll be combing the disclosure report carefully to see what other debts that weren't disclosed last year are being disclosed now and try to understand the reasons why they were omitted last year.
COOPER: So what if they don't comply with the rules? I mean, are there any potential consequences? What's in place to actually enforce this?
NOTI: Sure, so the Department of Justice has criminal jurisdiction over these matters. So if the Department of Justice believes that somebody has willfully and knowingly omitted something from a personal financial disclosure report or from a campaign finance report, the Department of Justice can choose to prosecute.
COOPER: All right. Adav Noti, I appreciate it, we'll see what happens tomorrow.
Up next, Robert Mueller is days away from his one year anniversary investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Quite a year, obviously. I'll talk it over with the former U.S. ambassador to Russia who has quite a history with Vladimir Putin.
[21:33:21] COOPER: This Thursday will mark a year since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. So far, there have been 75 criminal charges, 22 defendants and 5 guilty pleas. We don't know where or when the investigation will end, but we do know President Trump often calls it a witch hunt, and according to "The Washington Post," complains about it often as 20 times a day. That would be more than 7,000 times a year if he did it everyday.
Joining us for his take on the investigation and all things Russia is Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. He writes about the experience in his book "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia."
Ambassador, thanks for being with us. So I want to talk about the book in a moment. But first I just want to ask you about the Mueller investigation which started a year ago this week, regardless of what Mueller does or doesn't find when it comes to Russia, collusion or cooperation or coordination, did Putin get exactly what he wanted? I mean, was his goal to sow discord in the U.S. and that's what he got?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, he didn't get exactly what he wanted. He most certainly preferred President Trump over Secretary Clinton for obvious reasons because Trump said pro- Russian things he liked and Secretary Clinton, my former boss, said the opposite. And then he intervened in his various ways to try to influence that outcome.
I think now they're somewhat disappointed that candidate Trump's promises have not come true. So he hoped for lifting of sanctions. Day haven' they haven't had that. He hoped that there would be more disarray in the NATO alliance. He hasn't had that. He hopes -- you know, candidate Trump said he'd look into recognizing Crimea. He hasn't done that.
[21:34:59] But the disarray piece that you mention, Anderson, of course they had that. We had the polarization well before the Russians got involved but they have exacerbated that and the presidency of Donald Trump most certainly has exacerbating that as well.
COOPER: And you write a lot, obviously, about Putin in the book. You dealt with him personally, dealt with him professionally.
MCFAUL: I have.
COOPER: Based on everything you know about how he operates, how do you think he views his relationship with President Trump right now, or his -- his country's relationship with the U.S.?
MCFAUL: Well, first of all, he liked the Trump doctrine, which is the withdrawal doctrine. So every time we pull out, including the latest pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Accord's TPP, that pulling in, that creates a vacuum and Russia can move into that vacuum. I think -- I mean, I know he has this theory about the deep state in America. I sat in the room with him when he explained it to President Obama, which is the CIA and the Pentagon, they kind of run American foreign policy and the Presidents come and go and he still holds open the possibility that he'll be able to work with the person of President Trump, but right now he sees that deep state and I want to make clear, I think it's folly, it's a flawed theory of American foreign policy, but he sees them as the ones getting in the way of this cooperation. If he could just get them out at the dacha, sit them down for some tea, the two gentlemen could get along.
COOPER: The news last week that Michael Cohen may have received money from a company tied to a Russian oligarch, is that standard practice for oligarchs to exert their influence and by extension Vladimir Putin to extend influence through business dealings?
MCFAUL: Well, here's what I would say. Vladimir Putin creates leverage with all kinds of oligarchs, all kinds of businesspeople. And I know Viktor Vekselberg. I used to work with him when I was ambassador. And here's how it works. I'll let you do something, here's money, I'll give you some money, I'll give you a contract here, but then you need to do favors for me down the road.
Vekselberg is actually not one of the inner circle for Vladimir Putin. That's incorrect. He's on the outer tier. And even some people of his have been arrested lately by Vladimir Putin. But what I think was going on here, it's just a hypothesis, is that Vekselberg wanted to show Putin that he knows his way around New York City. Remember, he does a lot of business there, his daughter lives there. He knew how to reach out to Michael Cohen to show that he could deliver things for Putin. I think it backfired rather radically. But that would be very consistent with behavior that I've seen in the past regarding Putin and the oligarchs.
COOPER: I mean, that exerting of leverage, did you see that with a lot of oligarchs and with Putin?
MCFAUL: Absolutely. You know, there's a special thing put out. One example, when I was ambassador, Putin said all government officials have to divest from their holdings overseas. Right? Lots of them have all kinds of holdings overseas. They're very rich people. Then he would say one-on-one, well, for you, Vilogia (ph), for you Yvonne (ph), I'll cut you a special deal but that means you need to be loyal to me.
Number two, he gives property to his friends. Igor Sechin, who used to be his deputy when I met him in the spring of 1991 working in the St. Petersburg's mayor's office, he's now CEO of Rosneft, the largest oil company in Russia. But he only has the property rights because of his personal relationship with Putin. If Putin goes, Sechin does not get to control that oil company. That makes him beholden to Putin.
COOPER: The book as we said is called "From Cold War to Hot Peace." I'm wondering what exactly you mean by hot peace?
MCFAUL: Well, what I'm trying to say is the U.S./Russian relationship is bad today and in some ways, is worse than some of the periods of the cold war. I think you got to go back into the 1960s to find a time that's more confrontational and some of the aspects of our current era are worse. We thought we got rid of annexation, for instance, during the cold war. That's now back. Cyber wars, that's something new that we didn't have before.
We ended the quantitative nuclear arms race but a qualitative race is on. And Vladimir Putin invested heavily in that. So I use the phrase, hot peace to echo the cold war because some things are the same but to say actually the situation is new and in many ways more dangerous than even periods of the cold war.
COOPER: And here to stay as long as Putin remains in power?
MCFAUL: I think so. As I write about in the book, this conflict is not about some policy here or there. It's about Putin thinking of us as the enemy, trying to under throw his regime. Back when I was ambassador, he accused me personally of trying to overthrow his regime. He thought that President Obama sent me there to do that.
[21:40:01] And no amount of diplomacy, no amount of good chummy chats is going to end that. I think, tragically, and I underscore tragically, we're going to be in this confrontational moment for a long, long time. At least as long as Putin is in power.
COOPER: Given his intelligence background, you know, there's certainly a view of President Putin that he's very intelligent and cunning. As you said, he dealt with him directly. Do you think those are fair characterizations?
MCFAUL: Yes. He's a very smart guy. Comes to meetings prepared. I remember the first meeting we had with Putin, with President Obama, out at his dacha, his country estate, July 2009. He came very well prepared for that. Had read up on Barack Obama's background and had a game plan for that meeting. And I think of that because I want our President to know that if he's going to sit down with Putin to do business, he has to come prepared. Having said that, I don't think he's a grand strategist. I don't think he's trying to recreate the Soviet Union. I think he's emotional and tactical in his decisions, his decision annex Crimea, for instance, I don't think was thought out years in advance.
But the cards that he holds in his hands, even if they're small ones, he's grown increasingly aggressive in playing them. He is become much more willing to be risky in the 18th year of his rule than he was in the beginning.
COOPER: Ambassador Michael McFaul, fascinating. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Just ahead, according to "New York" magazine the romance between President Trump and Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity and Washington is ramping up even more. Details on that ahead.
[21:45:48] COOPER: In advance of today's ceremony in Jerusalem that formally recognized the Israeli capital as the new home for the American embassy, President Trump took to Twitter and again acted as the PR man for Fox News. "U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem will be covered live on Fox News and Fox Business, lead-up to 9:00 a.m. Eastern event, has already begun, a great day for Israel."
Now, the President certainly is a busy man and to make this symmetry even better "New York" magazine is out with a new story about President Trump and friendship with Fox News opinion commentator Sean Hannity.
The magazine says the feedback loop between the two is strong and getting stronger. With Hannity phoning the White House most nights after his show is off the air and then linking up with the President for counsel and commiseration. Helping me to break all this down, our CNN's Brian Stelter and Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley. So, Brian, first of all, what else can you tell us about what "New York" magazine is reporting?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the story really supports the idea that Hannity is a key adviser to President Trump and Trump is a producer of Hannity's show. I think that direction is really interesting piece of this. The Trump is giving advice and guidance for Hannity's show on a nightly basis. The story says on Sundays, Hannity and Trump speak multiple times with one of them calling the other to, "inform them of the latest developments." COOPER: Doug, I mean, we've seen relationships between Presidents and members of the press before or opinion, you know, radio hosts or television hosts. Ben Bradlee had a close relationship with JFK, certainly posed problems for him, but have we ever seen anything like this before?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No. Really nothing like this. This is quite bizarre. The very fact that the FBI had to raid Michael Cohen's office to find out that Sean Hannity was a client just like Donald Trump, the fact of the matter is, it's not about Donald Trump trying to influence Fox, it's Sean Hannity telling Donald Trump what to do and what to think.
You know, there are -- in some ways perfectly made for each other. They both feed off the right wing InfoWar and information circuit and Trump is a narcissist who needs constant reinforcement and Hannity gives him that and Hannity in turn gets to kind of spin so-called news, it's really right-wing activism, on his show. And they work in a very symbiotic way together.
COOPER: Brian, though, I mean it's not unusual for Presidents to reach out to other people to kind of get a read on what's happening in the base. What's happening in various parts of the country? Or just what's happening among their core supporters, Sean Hannity being a core supporter obviously of the President and very public about that. I mean, how unusual is it just for him, for the President to reach out to Hannity to kind of take the temperature of where things are with his supporters?
STELTER: Well, it's an unusually tight relationship with a broadcaster or member of the media. Hannity frequently says he's not a typical journalist. I think it's better to call him an entertainer, but he's a very influential entertainer. He channels Trump's base and is able to express what Trump's target audience might be thinking. I think the issue here is that Hannity's not the most reliable source of information. Hannity is someone who presents a very tilted view of the world, whether that's promoting fear of immigrants or the idea that Mueller's probe is a witch hunt. The President's having that message reinforced not just by watching Hannity's show but also by talking to him on the phone. I think that's ultimately why this is an issue.
Look, if Trump was getting advice from Dana Perino or Shep Smith or some of the other television hosts, journalists at Fox News, I don't think this would be as intriguing. But instead he's turning to his biggest supporter, the person who's known to promote conspiracy theories on Fox. That's ultimately why I think this is concerning.
COOPER: Well, frankly, Doug, I mean if the President is getting advice from a journalist at all, that would be -- that would be concerning. I mean, that's not the role of a journalist. You're not supposed to --
COOPER: -- obviously do that. BRINKLEY: Sean Hannity's claiming that he's not really a journalist. He's a talk show host.
BRINKLEY: He's an entertainer. And so I think that's the cover, that's the fig leaf. Nevertheless, not everybody that's channeling surfing that gets Sean Hannity up until recently knew he was working that closely with the Trump White House, that he would put out all Trump's accomplishments and never say that he is taking to him everything.
[21:50:14] We're now finding out that was his source for things. Sean Hannity would talk to him daily. He is a hot line into the White House along with Roger Ailes being able to kind of strategies how Fox and the White House can work in synchronicity together. That's very unusual and it creates mayhem within the White House they sort of like the child. They've told Donald Trump don't watch CNN, don't watch MSNBC, don't watch things that will upset you. So they term him to Fox.
And now he's honed in and become kind of Sean Hannity buff. And they both have a lot in common. New York backgrounds actually grew up 12 miles from each other. And he's become a new Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, promoting an alt-right agenda within the White House sphere.
COOPER: Brian, who do you think needs more, needs the other more?
STELTER: Well, Hannity is benefited from his connection to Trump. He sometimes refers to anonymous sources on his show, I'm sorry and I think that might be the President directly, it's a little bit amusing given the President earlier today railed against "traders and cowards" that are leaking from the White House.
Sometimes you got to wonder if the President is one of those leakers himself and Hannity is one of his conduits. And when you see the polls showing that the GOP, the Republican Party number are turning against Mueller, getting more and more suspicious of Mueller, that is really why this is significant. Hannity every night calls it a witch hunt, as all the same things every night and it is having a corrosive effect. Trump on one side, Hannity on the other. They're working together to undermine credibility in the probe.
COOPER: Brian Stelter, Doug Brinkley thanks very much.
Still ahead, more fissures open up more lava bumps flies of Hawaii volcano shows no signs of slowing down. We'll take you there.
Also saying good-bye to an iconic actor Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the Superman movies died at the age of 69.
[21:56:01] COOPER: In Hawaii's Big Island the volcano eruption continues to turn parts of the paradise island into a fire disaster zone. New fissures have opened up spewing lava that has torched homes like this one. And officials warn it could get worse. Here's the latest from CNN Scott 2McLean who was on the island.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An incredible lava light show, another day, another fissure, nearly 20 now in all. They're spewing lava and poisonous gas from the erupting Kilauea volcano. It's also giving us this, lava bombs or fountains spewing from the ground covering it in dark rock.
The U.S. geological survey says the bombs are rocks usually made up of old lava flows from the volcano's core, forming an aerodynamic shape as they travel through the air, the oozing lava scorching a path of mile away from the original opening.
In Leilani Estates, this is all that's left of one home consumed by lava. It's one of nearly 40 structures destroyed by Kilauea. This fissure, the 16th to open bringing new concern that the damage zone could widen.
JOHN DAVIDSON, LIVES NEAR FISSURE: The first thing that I notice was I heard what sounded like a jet turbine.
MCLEAN: At times spewing dozens of feet into the air it opened on private land relatively far from the community of Leilani Estates where most of the damage has been concentrated. It's not just the lava but cracks in the road that the USGS is watching.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're setting up a crack station just so we can check and see how they're moving.
MCLEAN: For nearly 2,000 evacuees, the rushes on for supply. This line nearly 100 people dip form of protected gas masks, while some 300 evacuees continue to ride out the worst in shelters and tents.
NINA BERSAMINA, EVACUEE: We're calm. When you move to this volcano or move to this island you move into her house.
MCLEAN: Her as in Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire. Many here believe she is in control and hope she relinquishes her grip soon.
COOPER: Scott, it's just incredible to see. Describe the conditions where you are right now.
MCLEAN: Hey, Anderson. So we are inside the evacuation zone where two of the most recent fissures that have opened up are quite active. They're beyond the trees there. They're hard to see during the day, but at night they're really impossible to miss. The people who live over here, some of them have left already. Others they are packed and ready to go at a moment's notice.
Now, the lava flow from these two fissures it is headed towards a major roadway in this area. It's going about 100 yards per hour. And at that rate that road could be wiped out by late tomorrow. That means the people who live over here where we are would have one less escape route if things were to get worse. Anderson.
COOPER: Scott McLean, I appreciate it, thanks.
Before we go tonight, a farewell to an iconic actress, Margot Kidder, who has died at the age of 69, she brought Lois Lane to life in the 1978 superman movie, as well as three sequels.
Kidder's manager says, she died peacefully in her sleep at home in Montana. The cause of death has not yet been released. Margot Kidder had a steady career on stage and in television but it was, of course, her role as superman's girlfriend that set her career soaring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUPERMAN: Good evening, Ms. Lane.
LOIS LANE: Oh. Hi.
SUPERMAN: Oh, I'm sorry. Did you have plans this evening?
LOIS LANE: Oh, this old thing. No.
SUPERMAN: Well listen, it's no trouble at all for me to come back later.
LOIS LANE: No. Don't move! Sure, you can move. Um, just don't fly away, all right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Margot Kidder had triumph. He also overcame difficult challenges in 1996. She was homeless, struggling with bipolar disorder, eventually got back in her feet and become a mental health advocate. Margot Kidder has died at 69.
[22:00:10] Thanks for watching, time to hand it over to Don Lemon, "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now. See you tomorrow.