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President Trump Pardons Conservative Pundit, May Pardon Martha Stewart and Former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich; Samantha Bee's Vulgar Remark about Ivanka Trump Sparks Backlash. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 31, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Another Presidential pardon and the promise of more to come. And the common thread that three criminals involved are celebrities or one sort or another. Two have appeared on the "Apprentice" and all three have committed the sort of crimes that members of team Trump either might be charged with, or already are.

Today, President Trump pardoned right-wing author Dinesh D'Souza who broke campaign finance law.

He also said he was considering a sentence reduction for Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, kind of (inaudible) book case and public corruption. He said he was also thinking about pardoning Martha Stewart, who lied to the FBI. She and Blagojevich appeared on the Apprentice, Dinesh D'Souza has not.

CNN's Jim Acosta as far as I know, he joins us now. So Jim, what more can you tell us about today's pardons?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I feel like I'm on the "Apprentice" everyday here at the White House, Anderson, but that's different subject for different time --

COOPER: I think you have been voted off a long time?

ACOSTA: Probably so. I think he tried to fire me once as a matter of fact. But anyway, moving on, yes, one thing we can tell you this evening, Anderson, was interesting. The White House tried to -- I guess, turn reality inside out and insist that the President is not just considering people because of his celebrity status.

And I will tell you that just in the last several minutes I spoke with a White House official who said, basically come on. You can't ignore the celebrity connections here between President Trump and people like Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich, and even Dinesh D'Souza, who the President has seen on TV a bunch of times and shares the same lack of friendliness with Barack Obama. But the White House is pushing back officially on camera strongly saying that no, that's not the case, that the President is considering each of these cases on their merits. But it just makes you wonder who is next. Pick any of the celebrities who have appeared on the "Apprentice" over the years, it just raises this question as to how the President is going to be using this power that is exclusive with the presidency moving forward. COOPER: It is interesting, I mean, it's not the first controversial pardon the President has made or the first pardon that's raise question about whether or not he's trying to send a message to Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen that Michael Cohen has been accused of any crime at this point?

ACOSTA: That's right. And a lot of Democrats were raising that question today as to whether or not the President was trying to send a message out there that hey essentially if you don't cooperate with prosecutors, there's a Presidential pardon waiting in the wings. I will tell you, Anderson, I think there's another common denominator on all of these if you look at the pardon for Dinesh D'Souza, the pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio and even the

President's behavior this week and how he handled the Roseanne Barr controversy.

And each of these cases, there's a common denominator of being insensitive to racially offensive behavior and comments. Remember Joe Arpaio was convicted down in Arizona. The former Arizona sheriff was convicted down in Arizona of ignoring a judge's warning to stop racially profiling Latinos and of course, Dinesh D'Souza has a whole low light real of very offensive -- very racially insensitive tweets. So I that's a common denominator as well but I mean, moving forward, Anderson, you know, there are a lot of Democrats complaining about this today, saying that the use of the presidential power by President Trump has been improper but nobody at this point is saying, they can take it away from him. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

I want to bring in our panel. Jennifer Rodgers, Paul Begala, Jason Miller, Tara Setmayer, Scott Jennings, and Karine Jean-Pierre.

Jennifer, I mean, do you see a commonality in this? I mean, do you think it's trying to send a message?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTORS: I think it is. I mean there are whole bunch of commonality as you mentioned some of them already that these are people being prosecuted for the same kind of crimes that the Trump circle is facing. They're being -- they're people that the President knows himself personally and they're people who are being prosecuted by people that the President doesn't like, right? His enemies, Comey, Fitzgerald, Preet Bharara, so a lot of commonalities here, the question is, is it illegal the sending of the message? And I don't think we're there yet. I don't think it's obstruction on its phase at this point.

COOPER: Jason, is a message being sent?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think that assertion is kind of silly. I mean, Jack Johnson who'd been dead for 70 year as if that's going to somehow --

COOPER: He's sort of a out liar --

MILLER: But they're also the -- I mean, look at -- whether it be a Scooter Libby or even we talk about someone who look in a head like a Martha Stewart who's already come and served her time and dealt with that. So I think to try to say that this is sending a message to Trump associates or people that might be in his world but I think it's just plain silly. Look, every President goes in pardons or can be sensitive people that some of their supporters will say great. And detractors will absolutely hate him. Remember when Paul's boss was Marc Rich and the first brother --

COOPER: Those were often at the end.


PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- a mistake, I work for Bill Clinton. I think the Marc Rich pardon was a mistake.

MILLER: And Chelsea -- Chelsea Manning's sentence I think was a terrible mistake.

You know, every President is going to go in have their own view that they approach pardon commutation. I think for President Trump, I think the angle that he looks at is through fairness. He believes that someone was wrongly in grieve and I think that's really I think kind of a consistent theme through all of these.

BEGALA: And I think that --

RODGERS: Yes -- go ahead. Go ahead, Paul.

[21:04:59] BEGALA: That word, you're right. President uses that all the time. He used describing what happen to D'Souza, although Mr. D'Souza pled guilty. He said I did it. I'm guilty but still the President somehow feels like that was unfair to Mr. D'Souza. He used that phrase about Sheriff Arpaio. He used that phrase about Scooter Libby. He used it about President Trump all the time. This is unfair, it's a witch hunt and when you look at the constellation defenses Arpio violated the federal court order, Scooter Libby lied to a federal grand jury. Martha Stewart lied to FBI investigators. Mr. Blagojevich was -- conviction of corruption, D'Souza violating federal campaign finance laws. That is a cluster, you're right, Jack Johnson, the heavyweight champion outside that cluster but the rest of them -- there's no question he's sending a message.

He also -- there's been reporting, his lawyer was dangling pardons which could be legally problematic in front of some of these witnesses and defendants. So --

COOPER: They would not characterize it as dangling. There was perhaps a mention of --

MILLER: There was a big dispute on that as well. I mean from --


TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, there are thousands of worthy people of commutation and pardons. I know because I personally worked on a commutation effort when I worked in Congress for many years for two border patrol agents who were unjustly prosecuted by an over jealous U.S. attorney for shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler. And they got 11 and 12 years in prison. And we put in two and a half years of hard work. And the President of the United States George Bush on its final day in office commuted their sentences.

So, there are lots of people who are worthy of that. Do we really think -- and by the way, President Trump please, pardon those guys, Ramos and Compean, and Gary Brugman, if you want to listen to me, those are worthy people of pardons. Do you really think that Blagojevich who is one of the most corrupt governors in history and was overwhelmingly convicted is worthy of a commutation of pardon right now? Just so happens that he was prosecuted by Fitzgerald who was -- is also James Comey's lawyer. Do you think it's a coincidence that Martha Stewart who was on the Apprentice with Trump who lied to federal prosecutors who was convicted by Preet Bharara -- James Comey? These are not coincidences.

President Trump is doing this to absolutely send a message. Yes, no one is disputing the President's power to pardon. It's pretty unconditional, except in the must extreme case and there's even supreme court cases that say Congress can't do anything about it. It's a constitutional right. But it's about discretion and should he be doing this now? There's no reason for him to be giving these people pardons now other than to send a message.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want to expound on what Jason said.

SETMAYER: He can do it but why now?

JENNINGS: And as an answer to you, I actually think there's something refreshingly transparent and accountable about doing them now. Most of these things, especially the most controversial ones are done on the way out the door when voters cannot hold you accountable.

SETMAYER: Well, no they do them at Christmas and thanksgiving too.

JENNINGS: There are not one but two elections where -- if you don't like it, you can go vote against Donald Trump, if you don't like the way he is using the pardon power, most of these are done, you know, as Jason pointed out, the Manning, Oscar Lopez Rivera, a terrorist, a pardoned by Barack Obama on the way out the door.

You know we talk about some of the Clinton pardons, 130 on the last day. I mean, no voter can ever hold them accountable. So I don't have a problem with the President doing it now because look, if you don't like it, you can change it. But my suspicion is most voters aren't going to care too much come election time about presidential pardons.

COOPER: Karine.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SERNIOR ADVISER, MOVEON.ORG: Here is the thing, Donald Trump is a very transactional person. He doesn't do things out of the goodness of his heart. He's clearly sending a message to the people who are wrapped up in the Mueller investigation. He basically looked up all of the crimes that he and his family, his aides could be charged of, could be found guilty of and then found high profile people who are found guilty of those crimes and is pardoning them or talking about pardoning them.

And like Tara says, look, he does have the power to pardon. But there is a difference, the President does -- but there is a difference when you start abusing that power. And the closer that Mueller gets to him, the more brazen he is. The more bold he is.

COOPER: But how was this an abuse of his power? I mean, he has the power to pardon and --


COOPER: -- you know, whether sending a message or --

JEAN-PIERRE: He does, but what it looks like he's doing because if you just look at the people he's pardoning, just like the person today, D'Souza, he is somebody who has -- was found guilty of campaign finance violation. Who is he sending a message to? Michael Cohen. I mean, the President is pretty clear what he's trying to do.

JENNINGS: Hold on, but that's your interpretation.

JEAN-PIERRE: But it's just my interpretation.

JENNINGS: It isn't it.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, it's not just me, Karine Jean-Pierre who is saying this.

JENNINGS: You don't like the President. People who don't like the President --

JEAN-PIERRE: I don't like --


JEAN-PIERRE: Here is the thing. I don't like the President for no reason. There are list of reasons I don't like the President. And a lot of it is because of the obstruction of justice that he clearly is -- has done by firing Comey, by getting in the way of this investigation. And I'm not the only one saying this.

[21:10:09] COOPER: But Jennifer, I mean, his power is absolutely on this pretty much --

RODGERS: It is but, you know, there is something else going on here too, in addition to what I think is sending the message and that's the continued attack on DOJ. I mean, there's a reason that pardons are done the way they are with a long process that asks the prosecutors to weigh in and tell the President what the evidence is and why this people should or shouldn't be pardon. That's to let those prosecutors say, hey, we put a lot of sweat equity in this. Here's why they shouldn't be pardoned. He's completely ignoring all of that. He doesn't care what his prosecutors and FBI agents put into this. He doesn't care what they think about this and that again is the undermining of DOJ and FBI, this kind of continue drumbeat. He's not a supporter of law enforcement. He is not a supporter of the rule of law and these pardons make that just immanently clear.

MILLER: People voted for President Trump because he wasn't going to go and get all this time caught up going through that big long process is something like --

RODGERS: He also said he was the law enforcement President. He also says, he was going to be behind --

COOPER: The process of gathering evidence?

BEGALA: Hold on, following the rule of law is not his strong suit. But I don't think people stool in line to vote for him hoping --

RODGERS: Right, throughout the rule of law.

BEGALA: -- that he would flap the rule of law.

MILLER: Yes, but he's out there -- I mean, he's been very strong support of law enforcement. I don't --


BEGALA: He said the FBI was like nazi storm troopers. I guess --

SETMAYER: Yes, and look, there's a commutation effort going on here that we need to also understand. I mean, Rod Blagojevich's wife was just on Fox News going on and on about how her husband was unfairly sentenced for as long as he was on Fox News. Do you think that is no accident? Now, all of a sudden Rod Blagojevich is the in boy on Fox. This is because of the coordinated effort because of who prosecuted Blagojevich. And Trump doesn't like Fitzgerald and his connection to Comey and that's what's going on here. So it's a coordinated effort. And that shouldn't be ignored.

COOPER: We got a busy Thursday night. Just ahead we'll going to talk about today's developments surrounding Samantha Bee. Also the latest from Roseanne Barr and the question of unspoken racism, plus later,

President Trump tweets that he fired James Comey all right but not because of the Russia investigation, precisely the opposite of what the he has said before.


[21:15:37] COOPER: President Trump double down on his attacks against Bob Iger, the Disney CEO in the wake of his cancellation of the Roseanne Barr show, this after the comic and actress tweeted a races slur against former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

In a morning tweet, the President said, Iger where is my call of apology? You and ABC have offended millions of people, and they demand a response. How is Brian Ross doing? He tanked the market with an ABC lie, yet no apology. Double Standard!"

Brian Ross, you'll recall is the ABC News correspondent who published an erroneous report about the President, ABC News admitted the error, suspended Ross, and as of this hour no statement from the Trump administration condemning Barr for the races tweet in the first place.

Meanwhile, the White House today was quick to condemn Comedian Samantha Bee for her vulgar attack on the President's daughter Ivanka. Here's what she said last night in her TBS shows, for parental we're obviously editing out the offensive word.


SAMANTHA BEE; COMEDIAN: Ivanka Trump, who works at the White House, chose to post the second most oblivious tweet we've seen this week. You know, Ivanka, that's a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad's immigration practices, you feckless [beep].

He listens to you. Put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to [beep] stop it. Tell him that was an Obama thing and see how it goes, OK?


COOPER: Well, after criticism began today Samantha Bee apologized this afternoon in TBS, which like CNN is own by Time Warner, said airing the crude remark was, "our mistake too and we regret it."

It's a great deal here to unpack as they say. Back with our panel.

Karine, do you see the double standard that people quick to -- I mean, that Roseanne Barr got fired? Samantha Bee apologized, you know, she apologize, the company apologize but kept her job?

JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think that it's wild that Donald Trump would find himself to be a victim about a comment that both sides found incredibly racist and condemned, but he as the President was not able to condemn what Roseanne Barr put on her tweet.

COOPER: Do you think he should have said something?

JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. I think in recent political history in our country, any Democrat or Republican would have condemned those remarks. But he can't bring himself to do that, what he doesn't make himself a victim. Now, what Samantha Bee did, I'm not going to seat here and defend that. I think she should have never said those words. Those are horrible words to say. But there is a hypocrisy here that we have to talk about, because you can't condemn Samantha Bee and have a President, who was out -- who was caught on tape saying that he grabs a woman by her genitalia and then go after Samantha Bee and still stand by the President of the United States. It was also reported recently earlier this year that he called Sally Yates the C word.

So there is hypocrisy that, that is pretty daunting to kind of continue to hear coming from the Republican side.

COOPER: Tara, you see a double standard?

SETMAYER: Yes. I think that there's a fair grievance on the part of conservatives and Republicans for years and the entertainment space where we felt that the reaction has been different towards people who are conservatives in Hollywood or entertainment versus people who are liberals because Hollywood is more left wing. I think there's a fair argument there. And based off of the reactions in the past of some people that have said very vial things, I mean, obviously everyone knows I'm no fan of Donald Trump. But there have been some horrible things said about Donald Trump, and, you know, about assassinating him, you know, Johnny Depp made some comments, Dona (ph) made comments, I mean people kind of, oh, yes, that's was unfortunate and move on.

Let it be somebody else and on the right, and, you know, all they should be fired. Now, I think what happened with Roseanne was absolutely the right thing to do, which he said was horrible and racist. But if you're applauding Roseanne being fired and you are excusing Samantha Bee and saying, well, I think it's hypocritical. I think that's a double standard. You know, but I guess in this case, you let the free market decide.

COOPER: Scott?

JENNINGS: Yes, not only are people excusing Samantha Bee they're excusing what's dug up about Joy Reid, Bill Maher last summer said a very unfortunate thing on his show. Keith Olbermann was just rehired by this company and he has said outrageous things about the President. And then you got Roseanne.

One of these things is not like the other and we of course know what it is. Samantha Bee has systematically gone after every female related to or around Donald Trump. We know what she said about a Ivanka, Kellyanne Conway was called soulless, Machiavellian despot.

[21:20:02] Hope hicks called a word that rhymes with witch, helped burn down democracy, Sarah Sanders, a word -- the F work liar and completely evil, Melania Trump, a trophy wife. If you were a female anywhere near Donald Trump, Samantha Bee has made her mission to say vile things about you. I don't want the White House to intervene. I want the free market to intervene here. And two, advertise have already dropped her because they realize most folks do not want this kind of corrupt, vile, unfunny corrupt on TV.

COOPER: Paul, you're saying so, what?

BEGALA: I say so what, the comment about Kellyanne rough was not vile, it wasn't offensive, it wasn't -- it was offensive but I mean, it was vulgar, it wasn't obscene. She's a big gal. She's the first female successful campaign manager for the President of the United States. She is big tough powerful women but we're fundamentally, the language that Samantha Bee uses is absolutely unacceptable and I pretty agree with Karine and everybody else about it. Last night we were talking about Roseanne Barr said, a vicious racist attack on a good woman. And many of my friends who support President Trump said, well, if the White House were to disavow it then they have to disavow everything else. And that's a logical argument. 24 hours later they're disavowing another comment from another offensive comic. So they're the ones who at the double standard, right? And I think that that's really what's at play here is that my friend Hillary Clinton was called that very same vile word by Ted Nugent and the President welcomed him in the White House as an honored guest.

SETMAYER: And he said, pretty racist things to Ted Nugent --

BEGALA: Mr. Nugent, I'm sure he has.

SETMAYER: -- at President Obama.

BEGALA: I'm sure he has. So it's the President who has the double standard here.


BEGALA: It's not the Hollywood laugh.

JEAN-PIERRE: I agree. It's the President who has a double standard, President Donald Trump. But I want to say this, you know, if we really want to have a conversation right about race, we should have a conversation about race. I worked for Obama the first two years of his White House and it was ugly. It was disgusting the things that they were saying about the first black president, having the first black family in the White House. And what did he do, he stayed above the fray. He never talked about it. He never, you know, condemned one person and not the other. He just did what he was supposed to do as president, he was president for everybody. But we don't see that in this President. He picks and choose who he wants to condemn. He doesn't talk about the real issues of race and then may things come up.

SETMAYER: When it comes to victims, which is the --

JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, and makes himself the victim.

SETMAYER: How did Trump become a victim?

COOPER: Scott, Jason had made the point previously that if President -- you know, why should the President say something on this, I don't want to get your point long but that it's never going to be enough for the left that if he says something about this, then they'll say, well, what about this? And it's sort of a no win situation for him. Do you think he should have said something about the actual racist nature of Roseanne's tweet?

JENNINGS: Yes, I do actually. And Jason may be right. It may never be enough. But when you're the President, you can say things and change the course of the national conversation. Had he said something about Roseanne, it would have mattered. It wouldn't matter to people who hate him the most. Jason, I agree with you on that but it would matter to people who want to see like how our folks in Washington reacting to this. The President can do better on race issues. You know, was well-known last summer, I was not happy with Charlottesville. I thought that was a bad moment and he said other bad moment.

I though President Obama's term for eight years was frankly, fairly disappointing on race issues in this country. We had a chance to do better and we didn't do better as a country. We've been failing at pulling this country together along our racial issue for a very long time now. It's collectively on all of us to do better that includes a President, and includes people on the other party. And I hope we get there. We cannot get there if these double standards though continue to exist when certain people are punished and others aren't because that part of the country that supports this President is going to say there's no way for us to win, there's no way for us to ever get the benefit of doubt the way they do.

BEGALA: Was it wrong to host Ted Nugent in the White House?

JENNINGS: I don't agree with Ted Nugent --

JEAN-PIERRE: And Arpaio -- to pardon Arpaio, I mean, it's like you're putting --


JEAN-PIERRE: But you're saying --

MILLER: This is -- you're making my point for me.

JEAN-PIERRE: What's your point?

MILLER: My point is that, Democrats want to go in pin the behavior of anyone bad on President Trump.

JEAN-PIERRE: Here's the thing --

COOPER: Let's hold this thought. We'll continue this. We got to take a quick break. We'll continue the discussion when we come back.


[21:27:45] COOPER: Back now with the panel. We are talking about Ted Nugent before the break and his invitation to the White House. Interrupted, Karine, you wanting to say something?

JEAN-PIERRE: No, I was just saying, just to remind my Republican friend here is that Donald Trump started his business career discriminating against black tenants. He started his political career pedaling a conspiracy theory about birtherism. He started his presidential campaign career attaching Mexicans calling them rapists and drug dealers. And then, he kept off his first year of the presidency watching neo-nazis marching in the street of Charlottesville and saying there were very fine people on both sides. This is the man that we're talking. And he has an issue with race, he has an issue with bigotry, and we've seen that time and time again, not just recently but throughout his career.

I grew up in New York City. I know exactly who Donald Trump is. We had to listen and watch him when I was growing up. And so this is -- he has a race issue. And honestly, the problem isn't Roseanne Barr. The problem is Donald Trump.

MILLER: I couldn't disagree more. And I don't think you know President Trump at all. I mean, earlier you've said that President Trump seat there in researched every possible topic that would come up and might apply to people who have in his orbit and that's why they got pardons. There's no chance that President Trump is saying they're researching those things. I mean, some of this --

JEAN-PIERRE: OK, that's not a big researcher, right? But what I just listed is true. I'm not lying about what I just listed. Those are facts. What I just talked about.

MILLER: I think part of the reason why the Democrats haven't gotten their acts together after 2016 because every --

JEAN-PIERRE: Democrats have won Alabama back, we won --

MILLER: Everything has to go back to an absolutely triggered on everything trying to blame everything on President Trump for years and decades in the past. I mean, I think that's why the Democratic Party is lost right now.

JEAN-PIERRE: How are we lost? We're not lost. You guys are giving us our message. Health care, the tax cut, thank you very much, we're doing very well. Thank you very much --

MILLER: Nobody knows anything about your health care.

SETMAYER: See how Jason got off the race issue into Democrats --

MILLER: And went to politics.

SETMAYER: Which you're wrong on Jason.


JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, Donald Trump has a race problem. It is clear. To Karine's point, he has a long history of this, of established bigotry. He was sued for it. We know comments that he made over the years. I grew up in New Jersey. And right across the bridge and I know what he did in Atlantic City. There was association about racism in the workplace with him, with black dealers in Atlantic City, I mean, the least Central Park Five.


[21:30:17] MILLER: Donald Trump did several points better with African-American than Mitt Romney did.

SETMAYER: I don't care. I don't care. I don't care. That doesn't change the fact that with Donald Trump's history, it doesn't change the fact, it just doesn't.

MILLER: Donald Trump has a massive of opportunity and economic --

SETMAYER: So, explain to me why Donald Trump would not apologize for taking out full page ads demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five despite the fact they were exonerated and paid million of dollars for wrong imprisonment. Why would he not simply say, I was wrong about that?

MILLER: He felt strongly about the issue at the time.

SETMAYER: He was wrong.


SETMAYER: He was wrong. He wanted them to have a death because they were black and Latino.

MILLER: So, now we're going back to Central Park Five?

SETMAYER: Yes. I'm using that as an example of why he has such a problem. Why so many people look at him and see that there's a race issue. What didn't he condemn David Duke right away? Why did he have some B.S. withdrawn and you know who he was.

MILLER: Why don't you give him any of credit for the work that he has done as far as bringing more African-Americans and Hispanics into the place.

SETMAYER: It's two percent more. That's wonderful.

MILLER: Three percent, that's an improvement. That's over --

SETMAYER: That's improvement for Republicans and because Republicans like you and I had to deal with this for 20 years being Republican. Yes, Republicans like you that are better cheering over the fact that five percent of black people voted for Republican instead of three percent. That's wonderful.

MILLER: I'm sure that he improves --

SETMAYER: That's pathetic.

MILLER: I'm cheering that he is --

SETMAYER: We have a problem. We have a racial problem in the Republican Party because people look at this --

MILLER: Don't make it so personal.

SETMAYER: No, Jason you're the one that's trying to justify this here.

MILLER: I'm cheering that we're doing better under Donald Trump than we get in Mr. Romney --

SETMAYER: There is no necessary proof. We'll see.

MILLER: Or even the George W. Bush did. That's I'm cheering. I'm cheering on Donald Trump's improvement and the Republican Party.

SETMAYER: OK. OK. So, that suppose of a race. So because a couple percentage more black folks in the country say that we'll give Donald Trump a chance and that suppose --

MILLER: But hold on, did the numbers go up or did the number go down?

SETMAYER: I like to see what that number is right now actually.

MILLER: He is improving. You can't deny that.

SETMAYER: Jason, that doesn't deny the fact that he should have come out and condemned the racist comments that Roseanne Barr made. He should have come out unequivocal and condemned what happened in Charlottesville. Those out of the abundance of your heart, you mouth --

MILLER: Because you want to pin that on Donald Trump. And that is what's wrong.

SETMAYER: Because he has a racial history --

MILLER: That what's wrong, you're making my point exactly. You're making my point exactly.

SETMAYER: Yes I think Donald Trump has created an environment to that unearth people --

MILLER: That's not --

SETMAYER: -- to a racist and they think that they come out and be OK with it. Yes.

MILLER: I think that's just -- so you think Donald Trump is to blame for Roseanne Barr and Charlottesville?

SETMAYER: I think -- No. I think that he responsible --

MILLER: That's what you just said.

SETMAYER: -- creating an environment with other people, individual -- no, individual.

MILLER: If you do not own it, then own it.

SETMAYER: Jason, you're trying to twist my words.

MILLER: That's what you said.

SETMAYER: I'm not saying that he responsible for individual people doing what they are doing.

MILLER: Just what you just said. SETMAYER: Individuals do that. I said he created the environment for people that (inaudible) to come out and feel they're emboldened to do it. And you let them, well, that's true.

MILLER: You want to try to create, but that's not true.

SETMAYER: It is, because he is a despicable racist also. That's why.

COOPER: I'm sorry to break in.

We'll talk more including the Presidents revision of history when it comes to why he says he fired FBI Director James Comey, how he is contradicting himself now when 360 continues.


[21:36:43] COOPER: President Trump brought up his firing of FBI Director James Comey on Twitter again today and contradicted what he said before. Here is the tweeting question, not that it matters, but I never fired James Comey because of Russia. The corrupt mainstream media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it's not true.

It was rewind to May 2017 on May 10th, the day after Comey was fired, the President met in the Oval Office with then Russian Ambassador to the U.S. and the Russian Defense Minister. According to "New York Times," President Trump told them, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

Then the very next day, May 11th, the President talked to NBC's Lester Holt and said this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


COOPER: President saying he was considering, "This Russia thing" when he fired Comey not the memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Back now with the panel.

Paul, does it hold up just -- first of all, should the President be tweeting about this at all stage and does it make sense his argument that --

BEGALA: No. His lawyers have any hair left, they're tearing it out. He is damage in this case every time. He -- there's no other plausible innocent explanation for why he fired Comey. They first tried this cock and bull story about how he -- Comey was so mean to Hillary which he was. Which should have been a firing offense, because, you know, ethically, trash the presidential candidate 11 days after the election swinging the campaign -- the election to Donald Trump.

But he -- of course he fired Comey because of Russia. But before that he lobbied Comey to go easy on Flynn because of Russia. He asked his White House counsel reportedly to fire Bob Mueller because of Russia.

It looks like they fired Andy McCabe because of Russia, although there's an inspector generals report that looks like there was wrongdoing, by the way, the victim of which was Hillary Clinton.

He attacks the FBI constantly because of Russia. The all roads lead to Russia with this guy. It's the Rosetta Stone of this presidency, because that's what he's fixated on. I wonder why?

COOPER: Jennifer, is it legally not wise of him to be tweeting about this?

RODGERS: That, yes, that it is legally not wise. The problem is, I don't think were ever going to end up in criminal court. I mean, if Donald Trump's was a defendant in a criminal case then his credibility would be shot by these inconsistent statements and they could be used against him.

And what we have here though, of course, is them meaning Trump and his lawyer Giuliani, not bracing really for criminal court. But instead, this campaign is designed to undermine in the public's view this whole investigation.

So what they're hoping is that these muddy the waters and everyone thinks it is unfair and so on, so that when we come to potential impeachment, the Trump base will put pressure on the Republicans in Congress not to impeach him. That's really with this is about, it's not really legal, it's political.

COOPER: So, Jason, do you see a contradiction between what the president has just tweeted and what he previously said both to the Russians in the Oval Office and to Lester Holt?

MILLER: I don't think so. I mean, I think the president has said this a number times before about why he fired former Director Comey and the fact to the matter is in my opinion, the only thing that the president did wrong was not firing Director Comey on the very first day.

COOPER: But did you see no contradiction between him telling what he told the Russians and Lester Holt about Russia and then saying, it had nothing to do with Russia?

[21:40:04] MILLER: No. I think the President has been very consistent. That he believes that the entire Comey reign was a complete disaster, I mean, just in 2016 Democrats all hated James Comey and then as soon as he started attacking the President, then we thought that he was great.

I mean if I was advising the President this morning, what I would advice him to say is, did the single biggest news this week is that fact that Trey Gowdy came out and said that the President is not a target and he's never been the target of this Russia investigation.

COOPER: OK. Well, all sorts --


COOPER: -- one, Trey Gowdy to the actual huge headline of that is that there was no spy and he's contradicting what the President has been saying about this. But let me just play just -- so that I don't think I'm going insane. Lets just -- I just want to read the President's tweet today. It says, not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia. The corrupt mainstream media loves to keep pushing that narrative but they know it's not true. Let's just play the NBC sound bite.


TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats to having loss in election that they should have won.


MILLER: I think what Comey told Trump several times that he was not being investigated. He would never say anything. I think the President is absolutely right to be frustrated and fired up with Director Comey. But the President has also made it very clear that he thought that Comey's reign was a complete disaster. That he did a terrible job with Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. He can fire him for any reason that he wants.


JENNINGS: The best answer to this question was is and always will be because I can, because he can. The President can hire and fire the FBI director. Going any further in that was always necessary. Sarah Sanders has got it right at the podium lately.

One thing that we -- I think should keep in mind here for the people who hate Donald Trump, you could be mad about this and when they criminalize this action. But I would just caution, it is a slippery slope when we start to criminalize the lawful executive actions of the authority vested in the President of the United States. We are going down a road and I don't think we want to go down, when the Democrats have the White House.

Again, Barack Obama did a great many things that I didn't like. But I didn't want to see his lawful actions criminalized in a way that I think some people want to criminalize this action. So I think it's a very real slippery slope. SETMAYER: Scott, we could flip that argument and say I don't think anyone is disputing that the President as the chief executive can fire the FBI director. But when the intent behind firing the FBI director is to obstruct justice potentially which is why we have a special counsel in the first place --


SETMAYER: -- that is a slippery slope that I think that if we start excusing that and trying to criminalize the special counsel for rightfully looking into those actions, then that becomes I think something dangerous that we shouldn't be doing because it should be about the President properly using his authority properly.

JENNINGS: It's a good point and a good question. At the time he did it he had been told by Comey you are not under investigation. How can you obstruct an investigation into yourself that doesn't exist according to the man who was at the top of the FBI?

SETMAYER: But it's there. It's -- wait a minute. If he --

COOPER: We got 20 seconds.

SETMAYER: OK. Look, the whole entire Russia investigation he'd even if he wasn't directly under investigation, Michael Flynn and people around him potential were. And he asked Comey I would -- could you see to it that you, you know, forget this thing on Flynn.

COOPER: All right.

SETMAYER: That is potentially obstruction of justice.

COOPER: All right. I want to thanks everybody.

Coming up, the federal government says nearly 11,000 migrant children have been separated from their parents. They're not living in detention center across the U.S. as the result of the Trump administration, zero tolerance policy for undocumented immigrants. The question is, is a good policy or not? The debate with Jorge Ramos, just ahead.


[21:48:02] COOPER: Significant numbers tonight when it comes to migrants children in government detention. New government figures show that there are nearly 11,000 migrant kids in government shelters, which is at a 22% increase from last month. These are the kids separated from their parents.

The question is given the zero tolerance policy announced by Attorney General Sessions earlier this month, are these numbers the inevitable result and is a good policy? Earlier I spoke about this with the former sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona Paul Babeu and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos author, " Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era." I spoke with them earlier. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jorge, you've been critical obviously the President's immigration policy is not a fan of his. But is it possible the zero tolerance policy could in fact act this to deterrent to illegal immigration?

JORGE RAMOS, AUTHOR, UNIVISION: Well, honestly what I think we are seeing is cruelty as public policy as immigration policy. And these are facts, we know that there are 1400 kids missing or lost. We have don't know where they are.

We know that more than 700 children have been separated from their parents according to the New York Times since now October. And we know that President Trump is responsible. No law requires him to do this. And this is precisely what is happening right now. Is there a deterrent? I'm not sure.

I've been talking to some immigrants and from Central America. And if you were a mother or father (INAUDIBLE) and your son could be recruited by gangs or your daughter could be raped by them would you stay in Honduras or would you -- you try to come United States? I think they're going to keep on coming.

COOPER: Just reactors they say that the number 1500 children lost, that's basically a follow up phone survey that they couldn't tract or account for.

RAMOS: Correct.

COOPER: It doesn't actually mean that they have been lost. In some cases it's people not getting back or returning the call.

RAMOS: And not separated, not necessarily separated from their parents. I --


RAMOS: Yes, absolutely.

COOPER: Sheriff Babeu the -- I mean the President has claimed that they, "have to break up families and the Democrats are responsible for that law." As Jorge just said, that's not true. I mean, the federal government is not required to do this by law as part of the zero tolerance policy they have now.

[21:50:09] PAUL BABEU, FORMER SHERIFF, PINAL COUNTRY, AZ: Well, it's a broken system. It has been, not just with President Obama, but under Bush. This has gone on for decades.

And finally, now what we have as you mentioned zero tolerance, so anybody who comes across the border illegally is subject to federal prosecution. So nobody should be scratching their head surprised that Donald Trump is through his cabinet is enforcing the law. And the fact that they're being prosecuted, now this whole idea that there is 1400 or 1500 missing children go to the website and it shows that there is a lot of misinformation there about this being put out --

COOPER: Right, but there are more calls --

BABEU: -- follow-up calls.

COOPER: Right, but there are more kids now being separated from their parents then ever before.

BABEU: Correct.

COOPER: Is that humane?

BABEU: There is, and you mentioned a zero tolerance this is the start of a zero tolerance, you ask if it's humane I think it's far more humane to help out these Central American countries to get a hold of the crime and the gang activity. The drug cartel activity, they are in our countries rather than never address the underlying the root problem here, because what we are continue to have if we have not just tens of thousands there would be hundreds and hundreds of thousands because everybody has a story, everybody's got an issue and I'm not in disagreement the fact that there is some real problems in violence and crimes in central America but many in Mexico in certain parts can make the same case.

And so we as a nation here in the United States have to decide when is it enough, we already accept a million legal immigrants each in every year, so far more than any other nation out there. So we are generous, we are compassionate and so --

COOPER: So Jorge I want to respond to that, I mean when is it enough?

RAMOS: I think we have to decide what kind of country do we want to be, if someone is trying to find a secure place and they are hiding, and they are just fleeing from violence and poverty, are we going to say, no? And do we want to be known as the country that separates families? You know, I just got some information, I show you, they just published testimony from a mother who was separated from their parents, it's going to take 10 seconds, she said the following.

My son was crying as I put him in the seat. I did not even have a chance to try to comfort my son, because the officers slammed the door shut as soon as he was in his seat. I was cry, too. I cry even now when I think about that moment when the border officers took my son away.

This is exactly Anderson, what the United States government is doing, do want to be known for this? I mean do we really want to be known for this?

BABEU: I would say yes in response, wait a minute --


BABEU: I mean look if you don't want to be arrested and detained don't bring your children clear across one or two countries many times by foot walking up here with all kinds of threats to them and then knowingly break the law and then wonder that why are we being separated? This is what happens --

RAMOS: Would you stay in Honduras if they threaten to kill your son or your daughter would you stay in Honduras or would you try to come to the states?

BABEU: Well, in your argument you are saying that we should completely unload everybody in Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala just bring them here? Well, anybody who is threatened and anybody could arguably make that case with the violent crime that's going on there.

I am submitting to you and to the viewers that, it's far more compassionate for us as a nation, let's reach out with all kinds of resources, not just financial but advising and aid to these countries to stabilize their countries to grow their economies, to create an environment where these people would want to stay in their own country goodness sakes.

COOPER: Jorge?

RAMOS: We are also responsible for that choice because as you know the violence in Central America and Mexico has to do with drug trafficking, and guess what? We have 25 million people in this country in the United States who consumes those drugs, so we're partly responsible so yes I do think that when some of them are asking for help from the United States we should say yes absolutely.

COOPER: Jorge Ramos and Sheriff Babeu I appreciate your time, thank you.

RAMOS: Thank you.

BABEU: Thank you.


COOPER: Up next, CNN exclusive Steve Bannon on the advice is given this old boss, the President, why he mention this program, 360 and what it has to do with fired FBI Director James Comey and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.


[21:58:35] COOPER: Tomorrow night on CNN an exclusive interview with Steve Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist, Bannon talked with Fareed Zakaria about his days in the West Wing in the Russia investigation at one point this program 360 came up take a look.


STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I've been a big proponent of -- I was the guy that said don't fire Comey, this thing is Peter now, I said it's the C block on Anderson Cooper, nobody's interested anymore, it will be done in 90 days and we'll be done with that.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, I have to profess that lot's of people watch this, and Anderson Cooper --

BANNON: No, no but I'm saying the energy by the time you get to the C block when Anderson's got something A block.

ZAKARIA: If you're trying to get a special prosecutor?

BANNON: I've been a big proponent of Mueller, I've gone to be part of that as a witness of fact, I've always said, you know, he was a combat marine, great individual, that auto play out as this is going to play out. Now, where I have a problem and a huge problem, I was the guy that said publicly that Ty Cobb should be fired OK?

He gave the President, I though terrible advice and I actually think lied to the President consistently about what the nature of this investigation was and the timing of it, and giving over all documents. Remember, unlike all the presidents sit with every other president we willingly went and gave over a million pages of documents and allowed the White House council, the chief of staff, the chief strategist, the head of communication to be expedite this, which I thought was not wise.


COOPER: That and much more when Fareed Zakaria special, the Steve Bannon interview airs tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks very much for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon, CNN Tonight starts now, see you tomorrow.