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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Alice Marie Johnson, Daughter Reunited for First Time Following Her Release form Prison After President Trump Commutes Her Sentence; Former Fox News Analyst Speaks Out; New Stormy Daniels Lawsuit Alleges Her Ex-Lawyer, Trump Attorney Michael Cohen "Colluded" to Manipulate Her, Benefit Trump. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired June 6, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Tonight, a mother and daughter are reunited on this broadcast and you'll see it here first. The circumstances, safe to say, are unique. Alice Marie Johnson, you see her here, rushing into the arms of relatives, was released after 21 years in prison. She was sentenced to life for a first time nonviolent federal drug conviction and you'll hear from her momentarily.
Today, in the sixth act of executive clemency of his administration, President Trump commuted her sentence. It came after Kim Kardashian West lobbied the president on her behalf and as in many of the pardons and commutations the president has issued or is contemplating, it is part of the larger debate, only some of which has to do with the merits of Ms. Johnson's case, her sentencing or the very real joy that she and her family are obviously now feeling.
So, in a moment, we'll talk more about that, about how this president is exercising his power to grant pardons and commute sentences. But, first, my conversation a short time ago with Alice Marie Johnson on the phone and her daughter Tretessa.
COOPER: Alice, how do you feel? You just got out a short time ago.
ALICE MARIE JOHNSON, SENTENCE COMMUTED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP (via telephone): (INAUDIBLE) feel. I'm so happy but it's so overwhelming to me, to just hug my family.
COOPER: Alice, when did you first learn and how did you learn that you were going to get out?
A.M. JOHNSON: My case manager, Mr. Holler (ph), called me back (INAUDIBLE). I had an attorney called (ph), but when the attorneys came on, I heard Kim Kardashian West. And Kim gave me the news and I started screaming. It was just too much.
COOPER: Did you know she was going to go to the White House and plead your case?
A.M. JOHNSON: Yes, I knew she was going on my birthday. COOPER: Tretessa, I mean, this just must be one of the most
incredible days for you. I wonder, did you ever think after 21 years, you'd see your mom released from prison.
TRETESSA JOHNSON, DAUGHTER OF ALICE JOHNSON: Well, I always had hope that she'd be released. But I didn't know when I woke up this morning that today was the day for sure.
COOPER: Alice, did it feel strange to be out?
A.M. JOHNSON: Yes. I have not been out in a car without handcuffs for almost 22 years.
COOPER: And have you had a chance to talk to each other?
A.M. JOHNSON: To Tretessa?
A.M. JOHNSON: Yes, I thought (INAUDIBLE) with the attorneys.
COOPER: Well, I don't know, if, Tretessa, if you want to use this opportunity if there is anything you want to say to your mom.
T. JOHNSON: Hi, mom, I'm so glad to see you out. I'm looking at the video of you running out. I wish I could have been here.
I always imagined myself as being there. So, but I'm glad to see that you got out today.
A.M. JOHNSON: Oh, I'm so happy.
T. JOHNSON: I'm excited to see you.
A.M. JOHNSON: I'll tell you, that was -- that was the best sight I believe I've ever seen in my life, was to see my family out here today. I feel like I was flying, not running.
COOPER: And, Alice, you said -- you were saying that your daughter, though she wasn't there, she was there in spirit?
A.M. JOHNSON: Yes, I saw her in the faces of my other relatives. She was right there with me in my heart.
COOPER: Do you know what you are going to do now, Alice? I mean, it's -- I know you were -- everybody said you were a model prisoner and worked incredibly hard to help others. What do you want to do now?
A.M. JOHNSON: Well, I meant to in terms of work, I already have a job secured. But I really want to work hard with changing things in our criminal justice system. And you probably already know, I love to write.
So, I don't know what (INAUDIBLE) I would love to get that started up there. COOPER: Did you lose hope at some point that this day might not come?
A.M. JOHNSON: Well, honestly, there were times that I felt like losing hope. And one of the times when I walked up with another person that received clemency. And I felt my name was on the list. That was a pretty rough day for me. But my daughter tells me I remind her of a phoenix.
So, that day, I'll tell you the truth. And I had to rise from those ashes. (INAUDIBLE) that was the worst day.
COOPER: Well, you sure have risen today. Is there anything you want to say to the president, to Kim Kardashian West, and all the others that have been fighting for you?
A.M. JOHNSON: I would say to President Trump, I am going to make you proud that you gave me this second chance in life. And I will not disappoint the American public or the world that has so much faith in me.
All I can say is, thank you, President Trump. And I love you, President Trump. Thank you.
And I want to tell Kim, my angel, that you never gave up on me.
[20:05:05] You never gave up your fight. You were relentless. And it has paid off beautifully for me and my family on this day.
COOPER: Tretessa, what do you want people to know about your mom?
T. JOHNSON: She is a kind person and a generous person and I am thankful that people will get to know her outside of being in prison. So, we'll get to be able to reconnect with her.
That she -- I want people it know that she is genuine. What you see is what you get. This isn't an act.
COOPER: Well, Tretessa, Alice, I'm so happy for both of you.
And, Alice, I just wish you the best. And can't wait to see what you know moving forward. Thank you so much for talking with us.
A.M. JOHNSON: Thank you, Anderson, thank you. I love you, Tretessa.
T. JOHNSON: I love you too, mom, can't wait to see you.
A.M. JOHNSON: Soon, soon, (INAUDIBLE). We're back on the road.
COOPER: Alice, thank you.
Tretessa, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
T. JOHNSON: Thank you, Anderson.
A.M. JOHNSON: Thank you.
COOPER: It's amazing to hear the joy in her voice, obviously.
More now on the bigger debate that this is now a part of and why the president has chosen to lean so heavily so early in his administration on the privilege of the office.
CNN has exclusively learned that the White House has now done the paperwork needed to pardon at least 30 people.
Joining us now is CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She is, of course, also notably a White House correspondent for "The New York Times".
First of all, I mean, Maggie, just an extraordinary thing to hear, Alice, shortly after getting out of prison just to the joy of being reunited with her family and the --
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
COOPER: -- considering her new life and what that must feel like for the president of the United States to have this power. The pardons thus far seem to fall into two categories, conservative political figures or people like Ms. Johnson who were flagged to the president by well-known people, by celebrities.
Is that how you expect things to continue? Because again, CNN's reporting the White House is prepping pardons for at least 30 people.
HABERMAN: I actually think there's going to be a change in how this goes, or at least you can anticipate a change, because as we know with this president, when we think that there's hard and fast ways, he's going to go ahead with something, he takes a diversion.
I do think the celebrity aspect is a big piece of this. I would not diminish that. However, the component where it is people who have political connections and also I'd create a third bucket which is people who have cases that were involved with prosecutors or investigators who he wants to get back at. You know, you saw a case involving a southern district prosecution where he talked about doing a pardon, Martha Stewart was the person that he mused about and that's a celebrity connection. Rob Blagojevich was on "The Apprentice".
I think this is one of the few powers the president has discovered that he has that is just unadulterated essentially. It is just up to him. There are processes that are supposed to take place. Obviously, Ms. Johnson's case had been through the process repeatedly and denied by the Obama administration. The president has decided to go around the process and do it himself, and that's going to create a whole other question about, you know, criminal justice reform and how this goes.
But I do think that he is enjoying the ability to essentially wave a wand and make this happen.
COOPER: I mean, it is basically for president as close to being a king as an American president can get. The president, you know, can't even declare war. Only Congress can do that. You're not surprised that he's drawn to his pardon power.
And I'm wondering how much it has to do with frustration on working with Congress and just general frustration.
HABERMAN: That is -- that is a that is a real part of it. I mean, look, there's obviously the question of the fact that there was an open investigation that relates to him, that relates to his family. There are people who are pleading guilty who he certainly would want to make aware that a pardon could be in the offing and there was some sense by his supporters that that's what's happening here.
I think that's an aspect of it in some cases but I mostly think that he has been very, very stymied by the limits on executive power that he has discovered. I think that he didn't really understand the way the presidency works. He thought it would be much more like a local party boss, and I think this is something where he can just you know say boom and it happens.
COOPER: And the fact -- I mean, the president has posted he can pardon himself which constitutional law experts largely disagree with, say nothing a political fallout that that would bring. I mean, you raised the point of with some pardons, he's sending a message to others who, you know, may be facing criminal charges, or you know, you know, thinking about flipping.
HABERMAN: Right. I -- it's hard to ignore that aspect of it, right, and my colleagues and I at the times had reported that his formerly lawyer, John Dowd, had had conversations with some of the people involved in the special counsel case about the possibility of a pardon down the road.
[20:10:00] And these are people who have not pleaded guilty, there has not been any resolution in terms of their cases, and so that was pretty notable.
I don't think you can avoid that or ignore that, but I really do not think that's the only thing at play here.
COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, we have breaking news, as a third Republican today rips into the president's latest conspiracy theory on the Russian investigation.
And later, a new lawsuit in the Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen's story, as well as Rudy Giuliani's attack on Ms. Daniels. Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, joins us.
COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters was a strategic and military analyst on Fox News for 10 years. But he recently left the network, blasting their role in the pro-Trump, pro-conspiracy, anti-government feedback loop. Colonel Peters joins me for his first on-camera interview since his departure in a moment.
It's significant that Colonel Peters is here tonight because that feedback loop which President Trump has tapped into and used so effectively to disrupt and discredit the Russian investigation -- well, that feedback loop was broken today, even as the president was tweeting out the latest variation on the notion that the Obama administration, James Comey, the corrupt FBI, the Justice Department leadership, the deep state, whomever, planted one or more spies in his campaign, the cycle was broken.
And keeping them honest, it was done first by two leading members of his own party, then late tonight by a third Republican lawmaker, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Now, this all concerns, of course, that confidential FBI source who spoke with three members of the Trump campaign, two of them already had existing or suspected ties to Russian intelligence. A former FBI agent we spoken to have called what happened completely routine, discreet even.
[20:15:07] So have former federal prosecutors and former intelligence chiefs, Republican-appointed intelligence chiefs. So of top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees who've seen the classified documents described in those meetings.
And just a few days ago, as you probably know, Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy who was briefed on this source took the first GOP cut at the president's conspiracy theory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Congressman Gowdy certainly has influence, but he's no Paul Ryan who is House speaker, wields enormous power, including over how the House side of the Russia probe is conducted. He's conspicuously avoided speaking out on this until today.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Right before the recess, you sat in a briefing with Trey Gowdy who came out afterwards and said that he's more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do. Do you agree with Trey Gowdy?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes. Normally, I don't like to comment on unclassified briefings. Let me say it this way, I think Chairman Gowdy's initial assessment is accurate. I think -- but we have some more digging to do.
We're waiting for some more document requests. We have some more documents to review. We still have someone answer questions, but I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment that Chairman Gowdy has made, but I want to make sure that we run every lead down and make sure we get final answers to these questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There's more digging to do, but he sees no evidence the FBI did anything wrong with respect to this confidential source at this point. Nor does Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Republican Burr who also spoke out today, saying quote, I think the Trey Gowdy's description of the process was correct.
Nor does House Intelligence Committee member Tom Rooney who told "Politico" today, what is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?
One voice not heard today was Committee Chairman Devin Nunez who as you know is seen as one of the president's enablers on this and other conspiracy theories. He told CNN's Manu Raju today that he does not comment on committee business.
Earlier tonight, in a CNN exclusive, I spoke with retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters who as I said recently left Fox News and Fox Business News after ten years as a strategic and military analyst. He laid out the reasons in a piece for "The Washington Post", the reasons for leaving, writing: Today's Fox primetime lineup reaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.
He went on to write ; As Fox's assault on our constitutional order intensified, spearheaded by its after-dinner demagogues, I had no choice but to leave. My error was waiting so long to walk away.
This is Colonel Peters' first on-camera interview since leaving Fox. I spoke to him a short time ago.
COOPER: Colonel Peters, this so-called spygate conspiracy theory, it wasn't just the president pushing his narrative. It wasn't just his allies in Congress. It was also Fox News.
They talk about a witch hunt. I know you believe the witch hunt is actually against Robert Mueller and it's being led by FOX News.
LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, indeed I do. I mean, Robert Mueller is this noble -- and I use that word carefully -- as noble a public servant as you will find. And the assaults upon his character, upon his practices, upon his investigation just betray our fundamental principles.
COOPER: In the e-mail that you sent your colleagues in FOX News back in March, when you told them you weren't renewing your contract, you said and I quote, FOX News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. How much damage do you believe they have done to this country and the institutions that uphold the law?
PETERS: I think they're doing a great deal of damage still. We won't know how bad for years to come when we see the ultimate result.
But, Anderson, for years, I was glad to be associated with FOX. It was a legitimate conservative and libertarian outlet, and a necessary one. But with the rise of Donald Trump, FOX did become a destructive propaganda machine and I don't do propaganda for anyone.
And, frankly, you know, as a former military officer, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I saw in my view, FOX, particularly the prime time hosts, attacking our constitutional order, the rule of law, the Justice Department, the FBI, Robert Mueller, and oh by the way, the intelligence agencies.
And they are doing it for ratings and profit. And they're doing it knowingly, in my view, doing a great grave disservice to our country.
COOPER: Do you think, you know, some of the hosts who -- in prime time, do you think they believe the stuff they are saying about the deep state, what they are saying about the Department of Justice, about the FBI?
PETERS: I suspect Hannity really believes it. The others are smarter. They know what they're doing.
It's bewildering to me. I mean, I wanted to just cry out and say, how can you do this? How can you lie to our country?
[20:20:01] How can you knowingly attack our Constitution, the bedrock of our system of government, the bedrock of our country?
And when you go after the Constitution, you best beware because you are doing a phenomenal, indeed measurable damage.
COOPER: Do you think we are heading to a constitutional crisis?
PETERS: I think we're in a constitutional crisis. Right now, we'll end up either, barring unforeseen circumstances, either with impeachment or before the Supreme Court or both. But when you have a president who believes he is above the law, who does not understand our system of government, does not respect our system of government and willingly subverts our system of government, you've got a constitutional crisis.
I mean, Anderson, when the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence wrote that all men are created equal, they knew that we're not all born with the same good looks and the same intelligence or even the same privileges, the same strength and talents. They meant, they were sons of the enlightenment, they meant we are all equal before the law. And no man is above it, no man falls below it.
Our president seems to genuinely believe that he is above the law and that's -- this is a situation we haven't been faced with before with this administration. Even Senator Joseph McCarthy in his witch hunt days never directly attacked the Constitution. This is utterly unprecedented.
COOPER: You referred to it as sort of a cult of Trump.
PETERS: Yes, I think a lot of Trump supporters are so embarrassed by how it has turned out, that they just cling to him. They won't let facts penetrate their reality. I'm startled by relatively well- educated people and I know some military veterans who still insist that Trump can do no wrong. That he is some sort of messiah. And I'm afraid I part company with their views.
COOPER: You -- I mean, you actually trained in Russian studies, the Russian language, you have first hand experience with how Russian intelligence operates. Do you believe that Vladimir Putin has some kind of grip on President Trump?
PETERS: I am convinced that Vladimir Putin has some a grip on President Trump. And, Anderson, when I first learned of the Steele dossier, it just rang true to me, because that's how the Russians do things. And before he became a candidate or president, Donald Trump was the perfect target for Russian intelligence.
Here is someone who has no self-control, a sense of sexual entitlement and intermittent financial crisis. I mean, that's made-to-order for seduction by Russian intelligence.
And, look, I maybe wrong. I hope I'm wrong. I hope he doesn't have a grip on him. But the dossier rings true. I think in the future, we're going to look back at the much maligned Christopher Steele who took that dossier to the FBI as something of a hero.
And yet, I hope I am wrong. But when you look at Trump's behavior patterns, his unwillingness ever to criticize Vladimir Putin, his slow-rolling sanctions, his unwillingness to create problems with Russia, even though as he attacks NATO, disrupts the relations with the E.U., how can you not draw the conclusions that Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is frightened of Vladimir Putin and his grip.
COOPER: So for you, the Mueller investigation is critical. It moving forward and it being allowed time to complete.
PETERS: Without exaggeration, the Mueller investigation is the most important of my lifetime and I am 66-years old. I live through Watergate. This is -- again, Anderson, it's about a fundamental assault on the Constitution by the president of the United States and his paladins. It cannot get grave or short of a world war.
COOPER: Colonel Peters, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
PETERS: Thank you, Anderson.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, up next, a new development in the Stormy Daniels saga tonight. She's filed a new lawsuit, this time against her former attorney and President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, claiming they colluded together to manipulate her and benefit the president. Details on that ahead.
[20:25:42] COOPER: Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti has filed a new lawsuit alleging that Ms. Daniels' former lawyer, Keith Davidson, and President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, both colluded to manipulate Daniels and to benefit the president. The lawsuit alleges the president knew about it. The lawsuit includes alleged text messages between Davidson and Cohen from between January and March of this year.
And here's just one sample. This is from Michael Cohen trying to get Ms. Daniels to appear on television and deny an affair with Mr. Trump shortly after "In Touch" magazine printed an interview she had once given them years before.
Here's the text message, quote: I have her tentatively scheduled for Hannity tonight. Call me after your trial.
And Keith Davidson responds: She cannot, don't today. She's flying to L.A. tomorrow. I'm trying to get her to commit for tomorrow.
With me now, Ms. Daniels' current attorney, Michael Avenatti.
So, you're talking about this collusion in regards to -- I mean, these text messages, one we just read. I want to read one other exchange. Michael Cohen writes to Davidson, quote, let's forget tonight, they would rather tomorrow so they can promote the heck out of the show.
And then Cohen texts again saying, quote: Keith, the wise men all believe the story is dying. Don't think it is smart for her to do any interviews. Let her do her thing but no interviews at all with anyone.
Davidson responds, a hundred percent.
So, you're saying that they were essentially working together, because don't lawyers often communicate even if they are on opposite sides?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, Anderson, you're right. I mean, lawyers often communicate, even when they're on opposite sides. But they are not supposed to be working together when they are supposed to be representing adverse clients. And at this point, the matter was the settlement was supposed to be executed back in 2016. There was no reason for Keith Davidson to be communicating with Michael Cohen.
And certainly, if you look at the text messages attached to lawsuit, I mean, these were two individuals that had a very chummy, inappropriate relationship at this point. They're supposed to be representing adverse interests and there's any -- they are anything other than adverse at this point.
COOPER: In that last text, they talk about the wise men. They say they. You believe they include Fox News and the Trump administration. And the wise men included President Trump.
It how do you come to that conclusion? Is there any evidence to back that up, because it doesn't seem to be any more details in the complaint.
AVENATTI: Well, we have evidence that the term "wise men", quote- unquote, included Mr. Trump. And to be clear, I'm not calling Mr. Trump a wise man. I want to be really clear about that. I'm just stating that that text message from Mr. Cohen included reference to Mr. Trump.
And, Anderson, if you look at these text messages, you would have to conclude that Michael Cohen is making a decision unilaterally to put Stormy Daniels on Sean Hannity without any involvement on Mr. Trump or other senior members of the Trump administration. You also have to conclude that Michael Cohen is able to meet with the first lady relating to Stormy Daniels without any knowledge by the President, which is just not believable. It doesn't make any sense.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is interesting that Keith Davidson is trying to get -- I mean, it seems in this text is basically agreeing with Michael Cohen to try to get his client on Sean Hannity, is there any evidence he had asked her whether she wanted to or I mean, it doesn't -- from the text that was released. It seems like for some reason he is agreeing with Michael Cohen that she should go on.
AVENATTI: Well, you're correct, Anderson. And there's no evidence that he consulted with her at any point in time or asked her whether she would want to go on Sean Hannity for the purposes outlined by Michael Cohen. And if you look at the text messages, you see that Michael Cohen is desperate to have her appear on Sean Hannity to conceivably disavow this relationship that he had with the President. And I think it's important Anderson that we keep in mind that during this time period, January, February, and March, this is a time period that Michael Cohen and others are claiming that my client is a liar that they've had no further involvement with her, after the date the NDA was supposed to be signed.
I mean, David Schwartz was on your show around the same time period in March disavowing all knowledge effectively of Stormy Daniels. So the whole thing doesn't make sense. And these text messages show that the prior dials by the President and Michael Cohen are complete lies.
COOPER: Keith Davidson, her current attorney says that this opens up attorney/client privilege and that you've actually made a mistake that this is great for Keith Davidson so he can finally reveal whatever -- according to his attorney he wants to reveal. Also, I want you to comment on that and also comment on what Rudy Giuliani, the President's attorney said today who is in Israel and I want to play what he said about your client and I will allow you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Oh, very, very credible source. Stormy, the porn star, but I would say that -- that is about the same credibility as her lawyer who basically got thrown out of the case. I don't trust -- I don't believe Stormy Daniels.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, we can often --
GIULIANI: I don't believe her.
So Stormy, you want to bring a case, let me cross examine you. Because the business you were in entitles you to no degree of giving your credibility any weight. And secondly, explain to me how she could be damaged? She has no reputation. If you are going to sell your body for money, you don't have a reputation. Maybe old fashion, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I want you to be able to respond to that.
AVENATTI: Well, first of all, as it relates to the privilege, Anderson, you know, Keith Davidson once again is just wrong on the law by filing the case. There is no board waiver of privilege. We sent that three page letter to his lawyers late this afternoon explaining what the law in California is. So hopefully that will put a bullet in that argument.
But I do want to address Mr. Giuliani's comments. Mr. Giuliani is an absolute pig for making those comments. He is basically stating that women that engage in the adult film industry or other forms of pornography don't have reputations. They're not entitled to respect.
I certainly hope that we're not going to reach a place where Rudy Giuliani is going to be the police that are going to -- is going to decide which women deserve respect or not. His comments are piggish, they're outrageous, especially in today's day and age (ph) and he should be fired immediately by the President. And if the President doesn't fire him as his personal attorney and condones this behavior, I think it is disgusting and an outrageous.
COOPER: Michael Avenatti, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.
Coming up next, Mr. Trump shows up at a FEMA meeting, accompanied by the first lady, making her first public turns in 26 days and he has no mention of the new survey estimating the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria. New estimates that it's actually could be around 4600 people. The government claims the toll is just over 60 deaths.
Coming up, I will speak with the mayor of San Juan.
[20:38:20] COOPER: President Trump, first lady and members of his cabinet showed up at a meeting of FEMA today, a meeting to give a briefing on hurricane season that begin on Friday. This was the first lady's first public appearance in 26 days. The President had nothing but praise of course for FEMA and the job it did during the last hurricane season.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the wake of such tragedy, we also witnessed the resilience of the American people, and the professionalism, talent and devotion of the men and women of FEMA. Good group, right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great group.
TRUMP: That's a great group of people. Administrator Long, I want to thank you in particular for the incredible job and the unbelievable teams of men and women that you lead to take care of these problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The President made no mention of the reported huge death toll in Puerto Rico. Researchers from Harvard estimate some 4600 people may have perished in the wake of the hurricane far more than the official death toll.
I spoke with the mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico Carmen Yulin Cruz just before the broadcast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mayor, when you hear the President praising FEMA and praising his administration's response to hurricane Maria and not mentioning at all this new survey which says that the death toll could be 4600 people as opposed to the official death toll, which is some 64, 65 people, what goes through your mind?
MAJOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO: Well, ever since the beginning Anderson, the Trump administration has really just shown terrible neglect towards the people of Puerto Rico. It's a sign of very early on to put together the discourse that this was good new story. The President given himself a ten out of a ten. So neglect, inefficiency and bureaucracy really deepened the humanitarian crisis brought upon by the climate situation of Irma and Maria.
[20:40:13] COOPER: Yes, because I mean, a number -- according to this survey, many of the deaths that occurred, and again the official toll is some 60 to 65 people. According to this Harvard study, it could be anywhere from 800 to 8000 but they are estimating about 4600 people. I mean that's an extraordinary difference, and about one-third of those deaths they say occurred in the weeks and months after the storm because of the lack of access to medical care and electricity?
CRUZ: Correct and two things have to happen. One was the lack of good and robust supply chain of aid that was being provided by the Trump administration. And the other thing was the silence and complacency of the local government in Puerto Rico. After the Harvard study came out last Wednesday, on Friday the government of Puerto Rico said that the death toll was 1,297 which is about 20 times more than what they had said initially.
COOPER: The other struggling thing is according to the Harvard researchers and others who did this survey, and again, you know, it's not a totally comprehensive survey, but they did go on the ground and interviewing people going to a number of towns to find out a sampling of what they believe the death toll is, they say that the local government in Puerto Rico did not cooperate with them, and did not give them mortality statistics or any documentation that would have actually help them in their study that the governor has talked about being transparent and wanted to give out help and he said he signed an executive order that that information would go out, but the research say it wasn't.
CRUZ: Yes, he just sign an executive order and days after that information came out then the governor of Puerto Rico went on to said that he didn't know that the Harvard researchers were asking for information.
The issue is that, you may have not know but now that you know what are you going to do about, or what are you prepared to do about it? The truth is that we need to know. We're already on the fifth day of hurricane season. We don't even know how many people died in year. The President of the United States today just on a parade of accolades as if our lives did not matter, as if lives anywhere else did not matter. It is really appalling and unbecoming of the true value and the true heart of the American people that have done nothing but come to our aid and rescue.
COOPER: Mayor Cruz, I appreciate your time, thank you.
CRUZ: You're welcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Up next tonight, Senator John McCain and his remarkable legacy as well as the tax on him from the White House, the Senator's political alter ego, co-author and long time friend Mark Salter joins us when we come back.
20:47:13] COOPER: White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway is leaving open the possibility that a former press aid who mocks Senator John McCain might find another job in the Trump administration. Conway told CNN that Kelly Sadler has been told that there are other jobs that "fit with her skill set and her experience." According to a source, Sadler said in the White House staff meeting last month that Senator McCain's opposition to then CIA director nominee, Gina Haspel didn't matter because again, "he is dying anyway."
The Arizona Republican is battling brain cancer. Saddler never publicly apologized for the comment though she did called Meghan McCain and remain on the White House staff until yesterday. All of which brings me to Mark Salter, a long time associate of Senator McCain, who's co-written this political memoir with him, "The Restless Wave: Good Times, Great Causes, Good Fights, and Other Appreciations." Mark, thanks for being with us. I'm just wondering first of all what you make of the fact that despite this horrible comment that she made about Senator McCain that she is still welcome in the administration?
MARK SALTER, CO-AUTHOR, "THE RESTLESS WAVE": I will leave the administration to explain it. She wouldn't be welcome in any administration of mine but I am not the President.
COOPER: Knowing Senator McCain as you do, I mean, does stuff like this bother him? I mean, he is obviously been in the political sphere in public life for so long?
SALTER: No, not really, just like when then candidate Trump made that crack about his POW time, it didn't bother him. It upset him a little for other POWS. And I imagine he's a little annoyed on behalf of thousands of people -- millions of people who are living with cancer but it doesn't -- he is a tough guy and has been around a long time and didn't bother.
COOPER: I have heard you say that not personal attacks bother him but what did bother him are sort of moral equivalencies that the President sometimes draws about the Unites States that's rolling the world.
SALTER: Right. When the President sort of, in that line of his where he said well, you think we are so innocent and compared us to Putin's Russia, he was offended by that and said so it's time and just saw in the book as well.
COOPER: I mean, you have known Senator McCain for decades, "The Restless Wave" is your seventh book together. He's obviously had an extraordinary career. For you personally, what is it that sets him apart. What is it that drew you to him?
SALTER: Oh, I think -- you know, he is -- as he would be the first to admit, he is imperfect but he tries very hard to serve a cause greater than himself. And for him, that is the dignity that every human being has. And he takes our country, served it himself very well.
COOPER: Do you know what his feelings are now on the state of the Republican Party?
SALTER: Well, I think he is concerned, and pre dates President Trump, I think he has been concerned about growing protectionism and withdrawal from the world. That concerns him. The sort of maximalism that some members of Congress bring to our deliberations, where they want 100% of their way and there's never any compromise contemplated. But on the whole, I think we go through these batches and as I think I'm hopeful that we'll work our way back out of it.
[20:50:24] COOPER: He's confident that the institutions of democracy are strong?
SALTER: Yes, he believes they are. I think episodically, they get a little creaky. There's a lot of gridlock in Congress. He's spoken to that directly. He thinks in a country of 125 million opinionated people, that there's no other way to govern except to compromise, to make, you know, incremental but decent progress on the problems of our time.
COOPER: Mark Salter, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you so much.
SALTER: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Chris Cuomo joins me for a quick peek on what he and his team have in store for us coming up at 9:00. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME: Big night, came down here to the nation's capital, Anderson. We have Sarah Sanders, the Press Secretary, of course, who really is right in the middle of a maelstrom right now with the media. We are digging in on this story about what happened with the explanation of the President's role in that Trump Tower meeting and the response there, too. Sanders, the White House, refusing to give an inch. Why? We're going to try to use tonight as a positive pivot point on that.
We also have Senate Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, spicy interview, Anderson, about the state and fate of the Democratic Party.
COOPER: One of the things Sarah Sanders was saying in her briefing is that she doesn't want to get in back and forth or answer questions that basically are referred to the outside counsel?
COOPER: And, so, your job tonight will be to try to get her to do that, I assume?
CUOMO: You got it, my brother. You got it. We are here to ask the questions that need to be asked and must be answered.
CUOMO: She'll get that opportunity tonight we're going to talk about the 500 days and the President's case for why America is in much better shape than when he took over.
COOPER: All right, Chris, we'll be watching 9:00, just nine minutes or eight from now.
Just ahead, EPA Chief Scott Pruitt loses two of his closest aides at the agency, including the one who tried to get him an old hotel mattress. The question tonight, why would he want an old hotel mattress? It's a question for tonight's ridiculist, next.
[20:56:32] COOPER: Time now for the ridiculist. And I just have one question. What in the world is in the water at the EPA? There's been no shortage of scandal at the agency, the $40,000 soundproof booth for EPA's Chief, Scott Pruitt's office. His predilection for first class travel, renting rooms from lobbyists, a set of 12 pens that cost more than $1,500. The list goes on and on, as to multiple ethics inquiries from Congress and federal auditors. But the EPA's bizarre bar has officially, has been raised in just the last few days, including the news that Pruitt had an EPA staff member trying to set up a meeting with the CEO of Chick-fil-A to get a franchise for his wife, possibly violating ethics rules.
And now we've learned that two of Pruitt's closest aides have resigned. It recently came out that one of them did various non-EPA errands for Pruitt, including house hunting and trying to get him an old mattress from the Trump international hotel in Washington.
Today, the "Atlantic" magazine broke the story of her resignation. And when a reporter reached out to the EPA for comment, a spokesman said to the reporter, "you have a great day, you're a piece of trash." Which, of course, is absurd, but it's kind of nice to see the Environmental Protection Agency expressing interest in the general idea of littering, which is at least something sort of in their purview.
But here's what's been bothering me for two full days. Why did Scott Pruitt want an old motel mattress? Now, I'm not making this up, the newly resigned aide testified to this about members of the House Oversight Committee, "as I remember, the administrator had spoken with someone at the Trump hotel, who had indicated that there could be a mattress that he could purchase, an old mattress that he could purchase. But that's the extent of the conversation that I can, that I can remember." In question, do you know why he would want to purchase an old mattress from the Trump hotel? Answer, I do not. I also do not. Who in their right mind and/or not living in a dorm wants an old mattress from a hotel? One that's obviously been used a lot?
Clearly, Scott Pruitt hasn't learned a thing from the Queer Eye reboot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Tom, have you ever shopped for a mattress before?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My last mattress I bought --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just said you didn't ever shop for a [bleep] mattress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After my last divorce, I bought mine from an individual offline -- online.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let's never do that again. Mattresses aren't the best thing to buy used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Seriously, I'll repeat, why would anyone want an old mattress, much less an old mattress from a hotel? Has Scott Pruitt not seen any of those blacklight investigations? For a while, you couldn't turn on television without seeing one of those. Even Gordon Ramsay did one, for goodness sake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON RAMSAY: How much is this room?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: $250 a night Fridays and Saturdays, $180 the rest of the week.
RAMSAY: Let me shows you what $250 gets you at the Monticello. Turn the lights out. You see that? This blacklight shows up bodily fluids. That's exactly what you see --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's disgusting, I won't want to lay on that bed.
RAMSAY: Where do these mattresses come from, Phillip?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A house in Arizona.
RAMSAY: Your house?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
RAMSAY: Wow, those two holes there, that's cigarette holes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh-oh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What did Scott Pruitt want with an old hotel mattress? Why are his aides resigning when he's the one who flew first class on the taxpayer's dime? If you bite into a Chick-fil-A sandwich in a soundproof booth, does it still make a sound? These are mysteries that may never be solved.
For now, I guess, we'll just have to sleep on it, on the ridiculist. Yes, we shall.
Thanks for watching "360." That's all the time we have. Time to hand it over to my friend, Chris Cuomo. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now. Chris?