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FBI Agent Who Sent Anti-Trump Texts Defends Against Republican Claims of Bias; Interview with Congressman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island; Interview with Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 12, 2018 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte wrapping up quite a day, to say the least. For the last 10 hours, almost without interruption, all eyes and no shortage of heat have been focused on that hearing room and one individual.

[20:00:01] He's FBI agent Peter Strzok, pulled from the Russia investigation, as you know, last August over messages and emails he exchanged with then-FBI agent Lisa Page.

Strzok was grilled by two of congressional committees nearly all day, and into the night.

Republicans who see nefarious motives on his part hope it unfolded as high drama. Democrats on the other hand reviewing it all as low comedy at best, a farce, they say, because Strzok has already testified behind doors.

Now, in a moment, some of the lawmakers who took part today. But, first, some of the key moments from CNN's Manu Raju who joins us now after what has been quite a long day -- Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very contentious, remarkable hearing. Something we have not seen on Capitol Hill, outburst after outburst and a hearing like this drowning out the witness himself who pushed back for the first time getting a chance to respond to those messages that the president seized upon, to try to taint all the FBI as biased.

But Peter Strzok wasn't having it.


RAJU (voice-over): FBI special agent Peter Strzok took a firm stand from the very beginning of the hearing.

PETER STRZOK, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: The suggestion that I in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn't happen. And the proposition that that is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society and the effectiveness of their mission and it is deeply destructive. RAJU: Strzok saying he was removed from the Mueller probe because of

how the texts were perceived, not because of bias.

STRZOK: I am stating to you it is not my understanding he kicked me off because of any bias, it was done based on the appearance. If you want to represent what you said accurately I'm happy to answer that question. But I don't appreciate what was originally said being changed.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I don't give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok. I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with unprecedented level of animus working on investigations during 2016.

RAJU: Republican Senator Darrell Issa even making Strzok read his texts aloud.

STRZOK: You want me to read this?


STRZOK: OMG, he is an idiot. Hi, how was Trump other than a douche.

Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be.

RAJU: Strzok publicly disclosed why he sent it in August 2016 text to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, when he said, quote, we'll stop it, referring to Trump as president.

STRZOK: That was written late at night off-the-cuff and it was in response to a series of events that included then candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero. And my presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States. It was in no way unequivocally any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process, for any candidate.

RAJU: The lawmakers also turned their fire on themselves. At one point, erupting over whether or not the full transcript of Agent Strzok's closed door testimony should be released. Something Democrats have called for and Republicans have resisted.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I ask the chairman now to order the release of that transcript. Will the chairman do so?


NADLER: Will the chairman ever do so?

GOODLATTE: You can direct your questions to the witness, that's your time to do that, not to discuss this.

RAJU: The hearing grew incredibly personal, with one Republican spotlighting Strzok's extramarital affair with Page.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I've talked to FBI agents around the country. You've embarrassed them, you've embarrassed yourself, and I can't help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about Lisa --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous.

GOHMERT: The credibility of a witness is always an issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, please!

GOHMERT: Have you no --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is intolerable harassment of the witness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong you? Do you need your medication?


RAJU: Now, after about 10 hours, Peter Strzok just walked by me just now and I tried to ask him, Anderson, whether or not he believed Republicans treated him fairly in this hearing? He didn't want to answer any questions, reporter questions. He left.

And tomorrow, the same two committees will be interviewing Lisa Page behind closed doors, expect that also to be contentious, and they want to bring her to a public hearing. So, this is just part one of what could be another contentious hearing involving Lisa Page -- Anderson.

COOPER: Manu, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Congressman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who took part in the hearing today.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. I know it's been a long day. Do you think today's hearing was productive in any sort of way?

[20:05:01] REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: No. I think this was a very sad day for the committee. This is a joint hearing where our Republican colleagues really had no interest in these questions. This was about promoting a narrative to continue to undermine the investigation of Robert Mueller and to really distract attention to issues Congress is not taking up.

So, there was really -- it was incredible because they literally wouldn't let the witness answer questions. What he said really confirmed what the I.G. said, that there are no bias affected any decisions made in this, that there were appropriate decisions made and that his personal opinions didn't in any way affect the outcome of the investigation. The Republicans already know that, but they continued to ask him specifically about the ongoing criminal investigation, counterintelligence involving the Trump campaign and Russians.

And they know that under the Department of Justice and FBI rules, he cannot answer questions about an ongoing criminal investigation. In fact, that's what the I.G. report criticized the FBI for doing. So, they know he can't answer them but they continued to ask that question. We spent 11 hours in a deposition of him and eight hours in hearings.

You know, this is the Judiciary Committee. We should be focused on the family separation policy. We should be focused on driving down the cost of prescription drugs, which is before our committee. We should be focused on comprehensive immigration reform, common sense gun safety legislation. But no, today we spent 8 1/2 hours talking about the Clinton e-mails in an ongoing effort really to distract from what is a growing and serious investigation off the president and his inner circle.

COOPER: I mean, that not only was it chaotic from the start, and obviously, there was the point when Congressman Louie Gohmert directly referenced Strzok's affairs, saying, quote, how many times did you look into your wife's eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page? Congressman Gohmert tried to prevent Strzok from even responding. What do you think was going on there and was -- in your opinion, was that over the line?

CICILLINE: It was very much over the line. But, look, the Republicans made it very clear they weren't interested hearing the answers to any of these questions. Mr. Strzok was truthful and very forthcoming.

They were not interested in hearing his answers because they have a narrative that they're trying to promote. This is the administration and allies in Congress that are trying to do everything they can to undermine the credibility of the Mueller investigation, to attack the ongoing investigation, to create some impression it's not a legitimate investigation.

So, this -- you know, Peter Strzok was a prop. They brought him in to talk about his text messages, to continue with this narrative that this is an untrustworthy investigation led by untrustworthy people. So, they weren't interested in actually hearing anything. He was used today and frankly they behaved more like members of the Trump defense team, the members of the judiciary committee who have very serious oversight responsibilities.

Look, I'm proud on my home state to be on the Judiciary Committee. It's kind of an honor of my life and today was a really sad day when you see members of the committee that are really abandoning their responsibilities to do real oversight and to take up important issues facing our country and instead devote hundreds of hours to Hillary Clinton's e-mails and to attacking the character of the FBI and Department of Justice in order to protect the president.

COOPER: You've now initiated the process for releasing the closed door transcript of Strzok's testimony, which as you said was already given behind closed doors. Obviously, the DOJ would have to make redactions. Do you expect -- and I know you can't comment on the details. Do you think people would be surprised? I mean, what makes the closed door transcript so interesting to be released? CICILLINE: Well, I think what makes it so interesting is that Peter

Strzok was consistent with the testimony he provided today. And he was clear that those text messages and his personal opinions did not in any way impact the decisions --

COOPER: So, there weren't inconsistencies?

CICILLINE: No. And the fact is that the American people would see that. There should be transparency. The chairman said, oh, I haven't decided if I will release them. It's not up to him. There's no rule that precludes their released. He's just decided and the Republicans have decided to try to prevent it.

I think the American people have the right to know. He sat through 11 hours of testimony. Let the American people read the whole transcript and read this testimony and make their own judgments, particularly after he testified in public in the hearing.

So, I'm working with Congressman Raskin, having the FBI look at it to determine if there is any reason not to. But the American people have the right to see it, and so long as there's no prohibition, we intend to release it.

COOPER: Today, Strzok was threatened with contempt because he wouldn't answer as you said, certain questions about an ongoing investigation. Steve Bannon also would not answer questions under oath as well. He was not threatened with being held in contempt.

You know, is that just political? I mean, do you think the Republicans would agree to the request to bring Bannon back in front of the committee?

CICILLINE: Well, remember, and when Steve Bannon refused to answer questions, he didn't have any basis to do it. He just said I'm not answering them. And we had a vote today in the committee to try to compel Steve Bannon to come back for the committee and answer questions. That vote went down because all the Republicans opposed it.

[20:10:02] On the other hand, Peter Strzok's invocation is that the Department of Justice rules, the FBI rules and the advice of his counsels that he cannot answer questions that involved an ongoing criminal or counterintelligence investigation. The I.G. report, a 500-page report, criticized Director Comey for doing just that, for commenting on an ongoing investigation in violation of FBI and DOJ rules.

Republicans know that. They read that report. They know the FBI protocols. But this was about fear. This was about asking questions that they know Mr. Strzok is not permitted to answer and shouldn't. As he explained, it would be dangerous to the investigation. It would endanger our national security if current investigations or people talked about those criminal investigations in this middle of it.

There's an obvious reason they can't do that. They know it. This is an effort again just to keep -- this was theater. This was an ongoing effort to try to undermine the investigation.

COOPER: Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

CICILLINE: My pleasure.

Joining me now is former FBI supervisory special agent, Josh Campbell, journalist and author Carl Bernstein, and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, I mean, have you ever seen anything like this before? I mean, did you see this hearing as anything other than a partisan shouting match?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. It was a partisan shouting match. I was thinking about that, Anderson. I think I'd have to go back to the Benghazi hearing that was a partisan shouting match where Hillary Clinton testified for 11 hours in 2015. I think, you know, you could compare it to that.

But, you know, the bottom line here is that nobody, none of the Republicans were able to prove in any way, shape or form, that Peter Strzok influenced the FBI in any way to go easy on Hillary Clinton and go hard on Donald Trump. They didn't even get there.

I mean, he gave it to them when they tried to say to him, you know, this is a false investigation. And he took great umbrage at it. I mean, obviously, he has done the FBI a lot of damage in the public eye. That's why he was taken off the Mueller investigation.

But if the object of this was to prove that the Russia investigation is false because it started in a wrong way and should never have begun, I do not think the Republicans achieved their goal.

COOPER: Josh, I mean, as a former FBI agent, former special assistant to Director Comey, I'm wondering how did you view the hearing and Strzok's handling of himself.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Look, we have to start with what the purpose of this hearing was. It was ostensibly an opportunity for America's elected representatives to ask tough questions of a public servant who made mistakes and I think few of us have questioned that Peter Strzok exercised bad judgment. The question is, would they allow him the opportunity to explain himself? I think he did the best he could in the environment that was presented, but it quickly devolved into a sideshow where, you know, you have members of Congress that are meandering from oversight into overreach.

I mean, just look at the tape that you just played, where you have yelling, you have interrupting the witness, you have badgering the witness. I don't think that House Republicans came in there with an open mind seeking answers. I think they came in and looking for opportunities to sling insults and, you know, catchy sound bites.

I think, overall, it's really a low point for the House of Representatives. COOPER: Carl, I mean, Strzok said today that he was not taken off the

investigation because of bias, rather he said it was because about the perception his texts might have created a bias. Do you buy that?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's a footnote. I think you can read it either way. We have to listen to what Mr. Mueller says about that later on. And what we need is to hear from Mr. Mueller at the end of a productive, deliberative investigation, without the kind of travesty and interference in his investigation that this hearing was intended to be.

You'd have to go back to Joe McCarthy to see the kind of berating. Even in the McCarthy hearings, you had Republicans who were willing to say, we want to get at the truth. Mr. McCarthy, you don't want to get at the truth. What we're seeing now is, in this hearing, a total inability and disinterest of the Republican Party to get to the truth of what happened with the Russians and in the 2016 election.

And what we are paying as a price for this travesty today is a total breakdown of democratic process in the legislative branch, which is supposed to be a check on the executive. Instead, what we are seeing is a blank check for an executive who may be flouting and may have thwarted completely the rule of law.

And so, we are now in a kind of place where what is going to insure the integrity of our democratic institutions if the Congress of the United States, and one of the two major parties is totally disinterested in the truth and legitimate inquiry, which is what the Mueller investigation is.

[20:15:04] COOPER: Well -- I mean, Gloria, one of the striking moments which we played of the hearing when Congressman Louie Gohmert brought up Strzok's extramarital affairs, saying, you know, how many times do you look so innocent into your wife's eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page. It was certainly -- I mean, were you surprised that he went there?

I mean, it is Louie Gohmert after all who has made some pretty outrageous frankly, and at least in one case that I know about, that I interviewed him about, you know, made up of false statement publicly on the floor of the House.

But were you surprise?

BORGER: I guess I was because it was so disgraceful and odious and ridiculous, and if -- for somebody who wants to get to the truth about the Russia investigation, this is not the way to go about it. I think he just wanted to sort of get a rise out of Peter Strzok. I was sort of looking all day, and I watched all day, I was looking for a Republican, one Republican to come out and say, Peter Strzok, what you did was wrong, but we have no proof, as the inspector general had no proof that what you did influenced the Russia investigation.

We know that Mueller took him off the Russia investigation, we know they had a short conversation about it, he said maybe 15 minutes, but there was not one Republican who would even admit to that being a possibility. And in watching all of this, you know, I found it kind of sad that the middle ground or any kind of middle ground could not be found or even voiced by somebody in the Republican Party. It was kind of stunning to me as was Louie Gohmert, but I guess in this day and age, you have to expect everything.

COOPER: Well, Carl, I mean, it seems like in this day and age, anybody who seeks the middle ground kind of keeps quiet other leaves Congress.

BERNSTEIN: I think that's true largely in the case of the Republicans. And that's not to say the Democrats on this committee acquitted themselves so well. There was some posturing and theater on the Democratic side that was really unpleasant to watch.

But what we have to keep coming back to here is about the rule of law in this country. What the Mueller investigation is intended to do is to establish the rule of law by having legitimate inquiry into campaign activities and perhaps the activities of the president of the United States and those around him.

We now have a Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives that has said we will not participate in a legitimate investigation, we will be shills, we will be shills without looking at the evidence in an open-minded manner.

Once that happens, unlike what happened -- I hate to go back to Watergate in this instance. The heroes of Watergate were Republicans, Republicans on the Watergate committee, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who voted articles of impeachment against a criminal president of the United States.

Is Donald Trump a criminal president of the United States? We don't know that. We have an investigation intended to determine what his relationship was to these Russian interference attempts in our election. Let the investigation proceed. What we saw today was obstructionism really verging on -- beyond irresponsible by the Republicans.


BERNSTEIN: It verges on undermining who we are as a people.

COOPER: Josh, I want to replay the Gohmert thing, because again, that was -0- you know, just kind of an extraordinary moment. Let's play that.


GOHMERT: I can't help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about Lisa --


(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Josh, I'm wondering what you thought of that. Again, it's Louie Gohmert, so, you know, perhaps not that surprising. What did you think?

CAMPBELL: Yes, it's not surprising but I think it's no less disgraceful when you have a member of Congress sitting there questioning a public servant and bringing up his family and making these kind of demeaning remarks. I think it's just disgraceful.

But I think it also does another thing, Anderson, people are going to be looking at this hearing trying to determine, who do we believe? It's a question of credibility.

Strzok is trying to prove a negative. There's no way that people are going to get inside his mind and know exactly what he meant when he sent those messages. The only thing the American people can do is listen to what he says and kind of look at this dichotomy here and make up their mind based on credibility.

And the end of the day, you have someone at the witness table who was doing his best to answer questions, again, who made mistakes, but sat there and, you know, tried to explain himself on the dais where you had those who were executing this inquisition, you had people that were grandstanding and you're slinging insults.

[20:20:04] So, again, that will be the calculation the American people have to decide, who do we believe?


BERNSTEIN: Anderson, one thing, he's --

COOPER: I've got to get a break in, Carl. I'm sorry.

We'll have more to talk about next, more fiery comments from the hearing. Another lawmaker who took part in it as well.

And later, breaking news from the president's trip to the U.K. He talked to a British tabloid. He really talked. We'll tell you what he said and why it could redefine his relationship with really our strongest ally.


COOPER: Well, in a day filled with loud confrontations, this one was relatively placid but no less contentious. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy once again revisiting one of Peter Strzok's text messages, which he says were expressions of his personal political beliefs and Republicans sees evidence of bias against Donald Trump. The words you hear earlier, we'll stop it.


GOWDY: I'm asking -- look, if you want to have a debate over a two- letter word, we're going to have to do that some other time. What and who did you mean by "it"? STRZOK: Mr. Gowdy, as I stated, that text was written late at night in shorthand --

GOWDY: I don't care when it was written, long hand, cursive, I don't care about any of that. I want to know what "it" meant, Agent Strzok.

STRZOK: It would be his candidacy for the presidency, and my sense the American population would not vote him into office.


COOPER: We invited Congressman Gowdy to come on the broadcast. He said no and so did the other leading Republicans in today's hearing, including Congressman Meadows, Issa and Gohmert and Goodlatte as well.

Joining us now, Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California and a member of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. He questioned Peter Strzok this evening.

So, you had Trey Gowdy said that back in April, Congress has, quote, proven itself incapable of conducting serious investigations. That's the same Trey Gowdy who led the Benghazi investigation. You're part of the House Intel Committee as well. Do you think the system is broken?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, good evening, Anderson. I actually right after the 2016 legislation wrote bipartisan legislation to have an independent investigation. I foresaw then that this was going to become too hot for Congress and that we should put these issues in the hands of elders and state persons. And it's not too late to do that. The 9/11 commission didn't get launch until well over a year after the attacks.

I think this demonstrated today why we need an independent commission.

COOPER: I mean, anyone watching today's hearing saw something that -- I mean, it was certainly contentious, it was personal, at times, seemed arguably out of control.

[20:25:00] Was anything actually accomplished today?

SWALWELL: No. Actually, for the 2,000 children who would like to be with their parents tonight, nothing was accomplished as far as connecting them. This is the committee that has jurisdiction to reconnect and reunite those families. I think that's why this was such a shame.

However, I do think you have now seen that Director Comey, he came to Congress, raised his right hand went under oath with respect to Russia. Peter Strzok has done the same thing, two individuals the president continues to attack.

So, the question now moves, Mr. President, are you willing to go to Bob Mueller, raise your right hand and go under oath and answer questions as it relates to your involvement with the Russians. COOPER: Is what we saw today really that much different than what

we've seen in past years? Or even, you know, I mean, in past -- under past administrations, where, you know, with all due respect, people in public life like to get sound bites on the evening news and their local news broadcast, and oftentimes it's more about them wanting to ask -- be seen as asking a question than necessarily the answer.

Was today really that much different than what we've seen in the past sometimes?

SWALWELL: Well, the best hearings, Anderson, elicit questions that allow the witness to do more talking than the people asking them. But, you know, we're passionate, though. Twelve months ago, we may not have seen a hearing as intense as it was today.

But I think there's frustrations among Americans, there's frustration among Democrats that we have an adversary that attacked us and that we're not doing enough to stand up to them and that our priorities in the wrong direction and we're going backwards and still looking at Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

COOPER: Strzok today repeatedly said his own personal biases did not interfere with his work at the FBI. Do you think that's true? And I'm wondering what evidence supports his assertion. I mean, he, in fact, said, you know, he wasn't let go because of -- he wasn't fired from the investigation because of bias but because of the perception of it.

SWALWELL: You know, I asked him these questions, I asked him if he was the sole investigator who closed the Hillary Clinton investigation. He said, no, there were others involved. I asked if he was the sole investigator who launched the Trump-Russia investigation, he said no, there were others involved.

So, I think that demonstrates there was other evidence to corroborate the closing and opening of these investigations. I'll just tell you, Anderson, if I was at the FBI, he wouldn't be working for me. And I think Bob Mueller did the right thing by taking him off the team. That's what you would want him to do.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, I appreciate your time as always.

SWALWELL: Yes, my pleasure. One quick note, a few moments ago, I referred to Lisa Page as a former FBI agent. She's in fact a former FBI attorney.

Back now with Gloria, Carl and Josh.

Gloria, I mean, do you think any minds were changed today? This hearing have any impact on where Republicans or Democrats stand when it comes to Strzok and his role on the FBI?

BORGER: No. I don't think any minds were changed and I don't think any light was shed on anything.

I mean, as the congressman pointed out, Strzok was hardly allowed to answer questions. The Republicans, many times, wanted him to respond to questions that the attorneys for the FBI sitting behind him said that he could not answer because of an ongoing investigation. I think there was a lot of insinuation here, and I think there was a lot of grandstanding, as Carl pointed out, on both sides.

So, I don't think anything was accomplished other than the fact that Peter Strzok got to speak his piece in many ways, and say, you know what, I did some wrong things, but I didn't influence the Russia investigation in any way, shape or form.

COOPER: Yes. I got to get another quick break in, Gloria.

Everyone, just stay with us. We're going to broaden the conversation after this break.


[20:31:25] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to show you another moment from today's very long hearing. Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat, having a discussion back and forth.


REPRESENTATIVE BOB GOODLATTE, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question. Are you objecting to the question? If so, please state your objection.


GOODLATTE: The gentleman does not have standings to object. There is no --

NADLER: I -- point of order.

GOODLATTE: -- no point of order here that the --

NADLER: The point of order should be heard.

GOODLATTE: The gentleman will state his point of order.

NADLER: My point of order is that intentionally or otherwise, this demand put Mr. Strzok in an impossible position. He is still an employee of the FBI. And FBI counsel's instructed him not to answer the question.

GOODLATTE: The gentleman --

NADLER: If we have a problem with this policy, we should take it up with the FBI, not badger Mr. Strzok.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Earlier tonight, Carl Bernstein compared today the kind of hearing that Joe McCarthy held, Josh Campbell used the word, inquisition both to back along with Gloria Borger.

Carl, I mean does all this back and forth and partisan bickering and the substance of the hearing or lack of substance, does it cloud Mueller's investigation in any way in your opinion? Because certainly, you know, some look at this and say it's designed to certainly cloud it or raised in other people's opinions, legitimate questions about the investigation?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is part of government for the base, for the Republican base instead of government for the people and all the people of the country and legitimate inquiry. We have one shot in this country at establishing that there is legitimate inquiry into what happened in the last campaign, the role of the Russians and the role of the president of the United States and those around him. That is Mueller's investigation. And we have only one entity, and that the Republicans on the Hill and the base then are intent on undermining that investigation. That doesn't mean that there might not be problems. We have plenty of time to find out, if there have been mistakes made in the Mueller investigation, in the FBI investigation.

And there ought to be hell to pay if there's anything that happened that was really untoward or prejudicial in terms of the conduct in leadership of that investigation and how decisions were made that affected all of the essential decisions. What we heard today actually from Peter Strzok were some nuanced accounts that we have not quite heard about the conduct of the investigation, and of all things, despite his personal irresponsible, and his undermining of the investigation or certainly the appearance that he gave by his own actions, what we learned today is that there were safeguards in that investigation, that he had the ability in fact to hurt Donald Trump, as did the investigators and the leadership of the FBI. They did not take that shot.

What we learned today, between the lines, is this was an investigation of objectivity, some difficult calls, some not very competent moves made, particularly by Comey, as we know, and at the same time, reason to believe that there was integrity despite the recklessness of Mr. Strzok.

COOPER: So Josh, I mean, Strzok said in the testimony that the FBI had information alleging a Russian offer of assistance to a member of the Trump campaign. Why could he answer that question while refusing to answer other questions on the Russia probe citing the ongoing investigation?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So I think it's representative now stated, I mean he's in an impossible situation. One need only look behind him during that hearing which struck me as I was sitting there watching some of the footage. He has literary flanked on one side by FBI personnel who are there to protect FBI equities. [20:35:09] And on the other side, he is flanked by his own counsel who is looking into, you know, ensuring that he himself is protected. And so I think what happened here and going through this hearing, I've set in conference rooms at FBI headquarters as these hearings have going on, you have a kind of a war room that's set up, and the primary purpose there is because if a witness doesn't know something and the representative says, hey, can you get back to me on X, Y or Z, the FBI can immediately start working on that to ensure that Congress gets information they wanted. I think in this situation they probably sat there and said look, you know, the witness is in an impossible situation. I'm sure they may gain the decision and said, hey, you know, is it going to impact something negatively if we release this information and you saw that go out to, you know, the person behind him and he said that he could answer it. So I assume that's what happened here.

COOPER: Gloria, I'm wondering what you made of the Republicans threatening Strzok with contempt for not answering, you know, certain questions but not agreeing to bring Steve Bannon back in front of the committee, you know, somebody you also just refused to answer questions, not really about -- not for any reason about investigation, just because he refused to answer questions in some time?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, I don't think we've heard the end of it. The Democrats obviously don't have any power or leverage here because they don't control the committee. But I'm sure this was planned on the Democratic side, that if they knew the good luck was going to threaten Strzok with contempt that they had something in their backpack on forcing Steve Bannon to testify.

And one other thing I want to add Anderson because there is, you know, a little thing we did learn today from Peter Strzok because largely we learned nothing new. But one thing we learned is that he did testify that the Russia investigation opened in July 2016, not because of the Steel dossier. So there's been a lot of charges, you know, saying this is based on this faulty dossier. And this was the reason the FBI opened its investigation, because of Christopher Steel and he was on their payroll, et cetera, et cetera. He today let it be known that was not the reason the FBI opened the investigation. So a lot of unanswered questions but one that we kind of learned a little something about.

BERNSTEIN: One other point is --

COOPER: Carl, I want to play an exchange -- go ahead, sorry.

COOPER: One other point is the way that hearing ended with a threat to Rosenstein by the Chairman in saying we are not through with you, Mr. Strzok. And Mr. Rosenstein, he was implying we might bring you in here and hold you in contempt as well. This is an attempt to undermine legitimate investigation. And somehow there must be somewhere in the Republican Party, in Congress, out of Congress, ex- presidents, a way to find some movement that says we are Republicans who stand together for free and open inquiry, and with some independence as well. Because otherwise we are going to lose the ability in this country to see the rule of law prevails. And that's what this hearing was about, was insuring that the rule of law was undermined.

COOPER: Yes. I want to play and exchange also between Congressman Gowdy, another one and Strzok. Let's listen.


PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: Mr. Gowdy, my understanding of why I was kicked off was that based on the understanding of those texts and the perception that they might create---

REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Hang on second, perception. You're saying it was the perception of the 13 Democrats on the special counsel probe, including one who went to what he hoped was a victory party. That's a perception problem too. They weren't kicked off. You were. Why were you kicked off?

I don't give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok. I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations in 2016.


COOPER: You know, Josh, at one point, one of the things that Louie Gohmert said is that, you know, you've been talking to FBI agents around the country, all of whom were felt very embarrassed and -- I'm not sure embarrassed is the right word but upset about Peter Strzok. Do you think that's an accurate representation about the perception of Peter Strzok within the FBI?

CAMPBELL: So two parts there. The first I was actually listening that here in the "Newsroom" when he said that. And I shook my head because there's no way that Louie Gohmert is talking to FBI agents around the country, this harkens back to what press secretary said, that she talks always people in the FBI, setting that aside that hyperbole or, you know, if you want to --

COOPER: By the way this is -- just for a little historical, this is not the first time Louie Gohmert has made comments based on what he said were conversations with former FBI people or FBI people, we did a whole interview with him about a kind of terror baby conspiracy that he claimed was something that FBI agents were concerned about. Anyway, I think that -- but go ahead.

CAMPBELL: Yes, no it's pattern. No, you're right, Anderson, it's a pattern and there's no way someone can prove that. I mean, we're not going to sit here and fact check him, there's no way we can. You know, he's an elected representative. So I set that aside, I don't believe him. On the other side as far as to what FBI agents and what FBI employees think of Peter Strzok that issue, that something that we can talk about genuinely as an issue that terrorist kind of devised them because some people look and say, look, this is someone who was in a senior position within the FBI that was entrusted with an incredible responsibility and failed the organization through a incredibly, you know, credibly terrible judgment. [20:40:16] That said, it doesn't appear that judgment impacted the investigation for political reasons. So I think, you know, the hearing today showed that these people will be held to account. But again, at the end of the day, I don't think that's something that people going to look back in hindsight and say this person threw an election because of political bias because it's just not something that you do in the FBI. People know that.

COOPER: All right, Josh Campbell, Carl Bernstein, Gloria Borger, thanks very much.

Other news tonight, there's a lot of President Trump left the NATO meetings in Belgium touting a big accomplishment with the allies. Coming up next, we'll tell you how the France President and ended up, keeping them honest on that claim.

Also, what the President told the British tabloid and why some of what he said is bound to make even more headlines not only tonight but tomorrow as well.


COOPER: There's breaking news tonight on the President's visit to the U.K. And yes, it was something he said, a front page tabloid interview hit right in the middle of his black tie dinner with the prime minister and what he said about her could not have gone over well. That is just -- that just ahead, but first what he said before leaving the NATO summit earlier today in Brussels. As you may have heard he took a victory lap on his push to other member nations to boost their defense spending from an agreed on 2% of their economy by 2024 to 4%.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For years, presidents have been coming to these meetings and talked about the expense, the tremendous expense for the United States. And tremendous progress has been made. Everyone has agreed to substantially up their commitment. They're going to up it at levels that they've never thought of before.

Prior to last year, where I attended my first meeting, it was going down, the amount of money being spent by countries was going down and down very substantially and now going up very substantially, and commitments were made. Only 5 of 29 countries were making their commitment, and that's now changed. The commitment was at 2%, ultimately that will be going up quite a bit higher than that. So we made a tremendous amount of progress today.


COOPER: Now, "Keeping Them Honest," the allies did not actually agree to boost their defense spending to 4%, nor did they agree to immediately meet the 2024 target as President Trump demanded yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron is saying, "The communique is clear: it reaffirms the commitment to 2% in 2024." That is all. NATO General SecretaryJens Stoltenberg saying nearly that the President's direct approach had -- and I'm quoting here, "helped allies to really hear his message."

[20:45:11] OK, it's a far cry from the President's suggestion that the allies bought into that message. In other words, whatever else the summit accomplished, the one thing it did not accomplish is what the President took a victory lap over today. In many ways the performance resembled, the victory lap he run after his summit with Kim Jong-un, only data came a bit quicker this time.

Perspective now from "Washington Post" columnist, and CNN Political Affairs Analyst Max Boot, also Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Max, I want to -- part of the op-ed today in the Washington Post that you wrote, you said, President Trump like his North Korea template so much that he's applying it to NATO. Here is how it works, ramp up the alarming in rhetoric, escalate the crisis, then hold the meeting, act buddy-buddy. Claim that the problem is fixed because you're a master deal-maker even though nothing has actually changed. Is that really what's happened here? I mean, that's how he left Brussels?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Pretty much, I mean it's the same I'm always, you know, he went into the Singapore summit saying this is little rocket man and then he left Singapore saying that the problem is solved even though we realize the problem is not solved. Same thing in Brussels where he was attacking NATO for not spending enough on defense for Germany for having the Russian pipeline, for gas, saying that Germany is a captive of Russia, saying that, you know, we're crazy preparing for NATO.

And then lo and behold after two days of meetings he emerged to say everything is great, I believe in NATO, everything is -- they're spending more than ever before on defense, problem solved. When in fact nothing whatsoever had changed, all they basically did was reiterate their existing commitment to aim for 2% of GDP spending on defense by 2024, which is the exact same commitment they made in 2014, but all of a sudden, Trump claims this is a huge victory for his deal making. And I guess, as he left Brussels, although European leaders were -- thought this was a bizarre and erratic performance, they were sort of thinking, well, it could have been worse, at least he left saying something nice about NATO instead of saying that he was going to pull a better or U.S. troops out of Germany.

COOPER: You know, Fareed, one of our guess last night said that basically called the President a master of propagandist that he accuses Germany of being beholden to Russia when he himself is being accused of that obviously. And then he is claiming that he got to be pressure them to up their spending but really there's no new commitments on that. They reiterated commitments they'd already previously made.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: You know, it's the art of the New York hustle that is being applied to international relations. It's bullshit, it's bravado, it's bravado show. You manufacture facts, claim that the other side is weak. Claim that you won, claim that the deal you have is the best deal in the history of the world. It's bizarre only because it's being applied by the President of the United States in the most important form the United States has created over the last 70 years for its security, NATO. But this is sort of the way, I suppose, this kind of New York real estate deal happens. You can tear your hair about this because this has been going on now for, you know, ever since Trump has been president.

What's the --

BOOT: That's why I've gone bald. I've been tearing my hair out about it.

ZAKARIA: What's the lasting damage? And the lasting damage is, you know, what the United States created after World War II with NATO is really extraordinary. The European security umbrella, there's former head of NAT who once said the purpose of NATO is to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and Germans down.

Now the Germans down parties is no longer quite true, but still it's true that you're trying to keep the Europeans unified, not have them having competing foreign policies. This is very unusual in human history to have all these rich countries cooperating rather than competing. And that's where you feel like Trump doesn't seem to see the damage he's doing.

COOPER: Yes. And Max, I mean, some of the President's comments today in this closed door meeting were viewed a veiled threat to leave the alliance and then he did later say, in his news conference that he believes in NATO and the U.S. is committed to its western allies. The message is though just same it's like whiplash.

BOOT: It is the whiplash summit, Anderson, and this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Act that Donald Trump likes to engage in, he thinks as Fareed suggested this is wonderful negotiating style up in New York real estate market. But this is not New York real estate. The nature of NATO is that it depends on trust and faith on both sides, in particular on Article V, mutual defense provision, which is at the heart of the NATO alliance, this promise that if one member is attacked the other members will come to their defense. And to have that kind of confidence, you really have to believe that the United States, in particular, which is the most powerful member of NATO, is truly dedicated to the alliance. And who after this performance can possibly imagine that Donald Trump is truly dedicated to that alliance.

[20:50:14] COOPER: Yes, how do you see this -- Fareed, how do you see this -- all this playing out in the meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin?

ZAKARIA: Well, what's most distressing about it is that Trump again seems that he can freelance this. There's no preparation, there's no set guidelines, and there doesn't seem to be any consultation from any of the reporting we got with the NATO allies. This was always a core part of the way the United States negotiated with Russia, even China, which is you first talk to your allies, come up with a kind of common position. The Europeans are completely in the dark as to what Trump is going to talk to Putin about. We are all in the dark about what Trump is going to talk to Putin about. Frankly I think some of his closest national security advisers are in the dark as to what he wants to do.

COOPER: Well, Max, what do you think Putin is thinking watching what's -- you know, all these shenanigans going on in Brussels?

BOOT: I suspect that Vladimir Putin has a big cheshire cat grin on his face as he's watching this, and he thinks that he has scored two major goals this week, one with the world cup, the other with the NATO summit, where Donald Trump, the candidate that he backed for the American presidency, is sowing dissension in the European alliance, which is exactly what Vladimir Putin would like to see and I'm sure Putin was also encouraged by the comments that Donald Trump made when he was asked about Putin, when he was asked if Putin was an enemy, whether he is a threat. He refused to say that, all he said is that Putin is a competitor, which is pretty much the way that he thinks of Germany.

COOPER: Fareed, Max Boot, I appreciate it. Thank you.

BOOT: Thank you.

COOPER: Now the breaking news that we mentioned a short time ago. There's a lot of it, all from the interview that President Trump did with the British tabloid, The Sun. Front page news as you can see. In it he slammed the mayor of London, criticized the Prime Minister of the U.K., who was also his host for dinner tonight when the article broke. He endorsed one of her ex-cabinet members who is now perhaps a future rival, and that's not all. Details now from CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, he joins us now from London.

So Jeff, exactly what did the President say about Prime Minister Theresa May? Let's start there.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, as you said, extraordinary timing because President Trump was standing alongside Prime Minister May, you know, for the last several days but tonight at that dinner at Blenheim Palace. But the reality is, he has said that he believes what she has done on Brexit is wrong and it has killed any chance, in his words, of a fair tried deal with the U.S. that is her whole point of rolling out the red carpet here for him is to try and get more trade with the U.S. He said this kills it in his view. And then he said what he would have done.


TRUMP: I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn't agree with -- she didn't listen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say in?

TRUMP: She didn't listen. No, I told her how to do it. That will be up to her to say. But I told her how to do it. She wanted to go a different route.


ZELENY: Another remark --


COOPER: -- losing its culture.

ZELENY: Right I mean, certainly --

COOPER: -- and that's -- I'm wondering how is that being interpreted tonight?

ZELENY: Well, Anderson, that is one of the reasons that so many protesters are planning on greeting the president tomorrow, simply on his stance on immigration. He was very harsh on immigration. He said he sees places in Europe that do not look the same as they looked ten years ago, 15 years ago, that Europe is losing its culture. So very aggressive on that front.

But the White House tonight, just a few moments ago, actually, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issuing a statement, a bit of a cleanup, if you will. She said the President never said anything negative about Theresa May herself. He thinks she's a good person. But she didn't say anything about the policies of Brexit. So clearly, the President trying to make a mark. And don't forget, he's meeting with her, spending the morning with her here Friday at her retreat outside of London. He cannot stay in London, so many protests here expected. Those immigration comments very controversial here, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I think we'll be hearing a lot more about that in the next day ahead as well. Jeff, thanks very much.

A new chapter in the Stormy Daniels saga, she was arrested last night in Ohio while performing at a strip club. We'll tell you what happened next.


[20:57:21] COOPER: Another turn in the Stormy Daniels saga. In Columbus, Ohio, she was arrested after a performance at a local strip club. The charges allegedly touching three undercover detective, tis is pretty much everyone knows by now Stormy Daniels says he had a sexual encounter with President Trump back in 2006, which the President has denied. Sara Sidner joins us with the latest. So what do we know about exactly what happened last night?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are affidavits that have been filed showing that there were four vice officers inside the siren strip club here where Stormy Daniels was performing, and they say that she broke local ordinances. She's not supposed to be touching people or letting people touch her. And apparently at some point they say that she was taking patrons and letting them put her heads in their bosoms, also fondling some of the female patrons' breast.

Three of those vice officers say she did the same thing to them. Then, this went on for a while, and apparently she was then arrested along with two other performers here in the -- at this strip club.

But Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, says, wait a minute. This looks like a setup, that she was set up for this. She was in the club. They knew she was going to be in there. He finds it very odd that these four vice officers were inside at the time, knowing that Stormy Daniels doesn't come to town that often. That they were there, and he believes this could have been politically motivated on the part of at least one of the officers. The police chief looking into that. Anderson?

COOPER: And -- but the charges have -- or the charges have been dropped, right?

SIDNER: They have been dropped. In the afternoon, the charges were dropped. The police chief apologizing, saying that in particular, in this particular case with Stormy Daniels, the ordinance is for people who are regular performers at these clubs here in Columbus, Ohio. Stormy Daniels is certainly not a regular performer here. She was a visiting performer, someone who has come at least once to this establishment. And so she didn't qualify under the law. He said it was a mistake and apologized for it. Michael Avenatti says he thanks the police chief for the apology, but if this was politically motivated, there will be hell to pay. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Sara Sidner, thanks very much.

The news continues. I'm going to hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts right now. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME: All right, Anderson. Thank you very much, my friend. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time."

So did the Republicans make the case? Did they show that FBI agent Peter Strzok did things that tainted the Trump probe? That was the bar, and they took ten hours to try. Early on, literally there are attacks going in all directions. Take a look.