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Trump Contradicts Himself on Russia's Election Interference; Michael Cohen Recorded Discussions with Trump about Payment to Playboy Model; The Dems Most Likely to Challenge Trump; The 2000s, Bush's Second Term Quagmire; Trump Left in the Dark Talking about U.S. Intelligence; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 22, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] SARA GANIM, CNN INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: -- someone files a Freedom of Information Request, a blog that Ryan Zinke keeps called "On the Road with Ryan Zinke" hasn't been updated in nine months and Zinke is racking up the investigations, too. Now facing a dozen federal probes looking at his actions.

Sara Ganim, CNN, Washington.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with us on this Sunday.

Breaking news tonight, President Trump reversing course yet again on Russia's election interference. He tweeted this just a short time ago. "So President Obama knew about Russia before the election. Why didn't he do something about it? Why didn't he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax, that's why. And he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win."

Well, this comes after Trump's stunning words on Monday refusing to call out Russia's interference while standing right next to Vladimir Putin. That triggered bipartisan outrage forcing the president to issue a clarification. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

I said the word would instead of wouldn't. The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why I wouldn't or why it wouldn't be Russia. So just to repeat it, I said the word would instead of wouldn't and the sentence should have been, and I thought it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video. The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia, sort of a double negative.


CABRERA: I want to bring in right now CNN's Ryan Nobles live in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. That's near the president's Bedminster Golf Resort where he spent the weekend.

Ryan, the president's latest tweet not only does he again appear to side with Vladimir Putin that the Russia investigation is all a big hoax but he also asks why he wasn't warned about Russian interference. The fact of the matter is he was warned.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That absolutely right, Ana. And, you know, there are many tweets from the president that make your head spin, this one, it's almost like you're on a tilt a whirl. You can't even get your bearings because there are so many inaccuracies with this tweet, and the president is contradicting his own statements from earlier in the week.

But to your point, there was a moment during the campaign in August of 2016 shortly after President Trump had captured the Republican nomination where he had a briefing with intelligence officials where they specifically laid out their suspicions that Russia was attempting to meddle in the election. So the president knew about this while it was happening. So for him to suggest that President Obama had this information and was sitting on it and didn't bother to tell him because President Obama thought it was a hoax just doesn't make any sense.

And furthermore, Ana, the point that you already made, this is once again the president contradicting his own intelligence community by suggesting that their intelligence is nothing but a hoax -- Ana.

CABRERA: Ryan Nobles, thank you.

Joining us now to discuss further, associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics, AB Stoddard, and CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

AB, let me start with you. I mean, this tweet tonight it shows we really have no reason to believe that the president in fact believes his own intel agencies over Putin's version that this is all a hoax. Right?

AB STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. He often when he is forced to back down as you did in the clarification the other day, changing the two letters and the apostrophe, he will reverse course back to his original position and double down even though people advise him against it. We know this is what he's always, always characterized this as, some kind of made-up thing that is an excuse for the Democrats for them -- because they lost the election, that there was no meddling.

But this is an interesting -- you know, the tweet basically implies that Obama failed to do something real about real meddling. But of course the meddling isn't real. And once again is reversing course on him, having to clarify his comments. Going against the intelligence community. You heard Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina today on FOX News saying that the president has to stop equivocating on this issue.

All of the senators and congressmen in his party this week were saying that the Russian meddling was real, the intelligence community findings are authentic, and the president needs to support them. Lindsey Graham was saying this morning on "Meet the Press" that he has to come out and lead an effort to stop the meddling in the 2018 elections and the president is not playing ball on this issue.

[20:05:06] CABRERA: And Brian, as Ryan pointed out, not only is it about whether Russia actually interfered in the election, but he lies again or at least speaks a mistruth when he says in his tweet that he wasn't warned at all during 2016 about Russia's interference because as Ryan just reported, he was warned. In fact, we know that. Do you think that this fact-based reporting, the fact-checking the media is doing is the main reason the president continues to attack the media?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's my educated guess. You know, there's been a weekend especially on the Sunday shows, a weekend full of criticism of the president for his performance in Helsinki. We know that he's been watching at least some of it as he was heading back to Washington. And that's the best explanation for why he would go out and post this kind of BS.

And I think you're right that it is a lie in this case because we know that the president was briefed. We know he's well aware of the truth on these issues. We know, according to the "New York Times," he was presented with a bunch of evidence back in January 2017 of the Russian attack. So he'll well aware it's not a witch hunt. He's well aware. It's not a hoax but he feels compelled to go back to this lie again and again.

And I do think it's insightful for one reason because it shows that's his true colors. It shows us how he really, really feels. AB was talking about this earlier. The cleanup, the walkback, whatever you want to call it, it was always bogus. It was kind of obviously bogus at the time, and now it's clearly bogus. And as we head into a new workweek, now once again this story is front and center.

The president's loyalty, his issues about Russia, his relationship with Putin. Now all of this is back, front and center because he is calling it a hoax. I just think it's mind blowing for a United States president to be calling an attack by a foreign power a hoax.

CABRERA: And remember this moment earlier this week when Trump was asked if Russia was still targeting the U.S., he said no. Let me play it.


TRUMP: Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, make your way out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is Russia still targeting the U.S.? Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much. No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let's go. Make your way out. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No, you don't believe that to be the case?


CABRERA: AB, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders argued the president wasn't actually saying no to that question. Here is how she explained it.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Got a chance to speak with the president after his comments. The president was -- said thank you very much, he was saying no to answering questions.


CABRERA: Then he went on to answer more questions. So I mean, AB, who do you believe? What can we believe?

STODDARD: Well, Sarah Huckabee Sanders basically said that it's real and that's why the administration is working so hard to combat it. That the Russian threat is ongoing and that they are working hard to stop election meddling this fall.

They are not. There is definitely an effort underway that we are not going to know about by the intel community to combat this. That's for sure. That would be happening no matter what President Trump was doing. But in terms of leading an effort with Vladimir Putin to stop what was his directed attack on our elections through interference, he is not doing that. He's invited him to the White House right before the midterm elections while his intel community has acknowledged again and again, and he has been briefed as Brian said, again and again, that this is a real threat and it's on -- it's going to go on all summer and into the fall.

And so this is -- he is totally at peace with speaking to two separate truths in the same hour or day and having his administration continue to contradict what he has said that very day. And that's what we saw this week.

CABRERA: Brian, it is clear that the president has found an ally with FOX News. That's been consistent until the reaction following Helsinki. Watch.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: That was quite something, almost surreal at points.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Shameful, disgraceful, treasonous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the time and the place for the president to look Putin squarely in the eye and said you will be punished for what you did in 2016 and don't ever think about doing that again.


CAVUTO: And that's what made it disgusting. That's what made his performance disgusting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community.


CABRERA: So there. You hear the strong condemnation from a network that usually supports the president, Brian. And yet here he goes tweeting again tonight. He doesn't seem to necessarily be changing his tune?

STELTER: Right. That shock, that condemnation, that came in the very early hours after the Helsinki presser. But then by the next day President Trump gave those supporters on FOX a way to stay with him by saying no, I double -- you know, I misspoke. It was a double negative. He gave them enough of an excuse to stay in his corner. And we see the polls making clear most Republicans, most Trump supporters are still firmly with him in part before the Hannitys and the Pirros are still with him.

[20:10:08] I do think as we head into the new workweek, if President Trump is going to give another interview, unless it would be with FOX News, he needs to be asked, why in the world are you calling this a hoax? Where is your patriotism?

CABRERA: Brian Stelter, AB Stoddard, thank you both for that conversation.

And we're going to continue to follow this breaking story. We'll be right back.


CABRERA: More on our breaking news now. President Trump throwing away every walk-back he made this week, now saying in a statement that President Obama didn't warn him about the Russia election attack because, quote, "It is all a big hoax."

Quick fact check, the Obama administration did warn about Russian interference and it specifically warned Trump.

Let's turn to CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen. He has advised four U.S. presidents both Democrat and Republican.

[20:15:01] David, always good to have your insights on all things politics. This week we had the president all week long and his staff trying to walk back the statements he made in Helsinki, trying to make him appear more tough on Russia. Of course you probably remember the whole would versus wouldn't clarification, there was the no didn't actually mean no.

Did President Trump in this statement, in his tweet tonight, just throw his aides under the bus?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he certainly reverted to both the form and to his earlier statements as if this last week was erased from his memory. I mean, he was going back to, you know, his oldies but goodies in calling it a hoax or a witch hunt and the like. And I think the good news is, the president, of course, Ana, and we have to recognize this is that whatever we in the whole fake news industry may say the president's approval ratings went up this week.

And, you know, the latest from the "Wall Street Journal"-NBC has him up from 42 to 45. That's I think one of the highest numbers he's had since earlier in his presidency. And it does give you pause when 80 percent of Republicans continue to support the president and approve of his time in office.

So I'm not sure all of this we're seeing is sinking in very much. But from a point of view of history in trying to have an objective look at this it's bewildering why the president would go back and call this a hoax when earlier in the week he did -- he accepted the fact that the Russians had been seriously spying on us and it follows from that that it's totally legitimate to have a Mueller investigation that is first asking the question how bad was the spying and then asking the question, was there collusion.

Those are two separate questions. And I think the evidence is overwhelming in favor of the first which legitimizes the Mueller investigation.

CABRERA: What does Dan Coats do now?

GERGEN: Well, I know in his heart of hearts Dan Coats is -- he must be extremely torn. But I think there are a lot of people in the national security arena who hope that he will stay. You know, it's often a good thing to resign on principle. But when we have this much uncertainty about government, this much of a disconnect between the president himself and his top advisers on national security and that disconnect extends well beyond Dan Coats.

There are people in the NSC and others -- you know, who would argue very different things. So I hope he stays. And you know, there may come a time -- what you normally do in this situation when you're really unhappy but the pressure is on to stay to help your country, is that you set a discreet and you determine, OK, three or four months from now when the dust settles and we move on to other things, I can then quietly take my leave. And I imagine he is closer to doing that than he has been any time in the past.

CABRERA: I mean, U.S. intelligence chiefs say Russia is still attacking or trying to attack our elections as we speak.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

CABRERA: Is the president abdicating his responsibility to protect our democracy? GERGEN: I don't think I'm alone in believing that the White House is

not treating the Russian attacks with the urgency that they demand. After all, this is about cyber security in very large measure and the position of cyber adviser to the president is vacant. The FBI does not have the kind of strength that they have had in the past on this. And I think it is irresponsible to leave the country vulnerable especially with new midterm elections just over the horizon.

If we go in, in this posture, Ana, with uncertainty about how secure we are, the losing side in November, and it will be a losing side, is going -- protest and say, you know, somehow things were tampered with. That's going to be especially true if the Democrats fall short of taking back the House. You're going to find a lot of Democrats who are going to feel we were cheated because the White House, this administration failed to take the necessary steps, failed to treat this with urgency, failed to stand up to Putin and demand that it stop. There is a price of allowing him back on the big international stage.

CABRERA: As always, thank you, David Gergen, for joining us.

GERGEN: Thanks, Ana. Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, sex, lies and audio tapes. A Trump biographer weighs in as the president expresses disbelief that his longtime confidante Michael Cohen would secretly record him.



CABRERA: "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." That's how President Trump apparently reacted after learning his longtime confidant and personal attorney Michael Cohen secretly recorded their conversations according to a source. At issue a discussion they had about paying a former Playboy model who claims to have had an affair with Trump before he was president.

Now that tape is in the hands of the FBI. And that led the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult film star, who also says she had an affair with Trump, to make this observation.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Of all the decisions that this president has made over the last 24 months, Joy, I think the decision to place Michael Cohen on an island and not take care of him and not keep him close will go down as one of the worst, if not the worst, decision that he made.


[20:25:15] CABRERA: Joining me now, CNN contributor and Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio. He is the author of "The Truth About Trump."

Michael, here's how Cohen once described his relationship to Trump.


MICHAEL COHEN, LONGTIME TRUMP CONFIDANT AND PERSONAL ATTORNEY : I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there is an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's of course concern to me. And I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.


CABRERA: Michael, has Trump ever experienced anything like this before where a supposed member of his inner circle betrays his trust?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: I don't think he has, Ana. And it's a really good point that you make. This is new territory for Donald Trump. He relied on Michael Cohen in particular to have his back and he served then businessman Donald Trump very well in pressuring people to treat him fairly and even give him the benefit of the doubt when he didn't deserve it. But, you know, I have to say this is a method that Donald Trump actually taught to Michael Cohen. Mr. Trump was famous for recording conversation --


D'ANTONIO: Or recording almost every conversation so he shouldn't be surprised. So when he says, I can't believe it, I'm sure he does believe it.

CABRERA: Well, and according to Rudy Giuliani, President Trump -- he didn't know he was being recorded. However in the past, Trump has talked about how much he likes recordings. Listen.


TRUMP: We solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument.


CABRERA: Michael, this is a man who has weathered tabloid stories and other scandals over the years. Has that made him cautious at all in talking to people about private matters?

D'ANTONIO: I think it has made him cautious when it comes to private matters especially now that he is a political person and president of the United States. You won't find him blabbing in the way that he might have in his offices. And even then, you know, people on his office staff were engaged in arranging liaisons for him both when he was married and when he wasn't married. So he was pretty indiscrete back then.

And this is what must be giving the president pause now is Michael Cohen has seen a lot, he's heard a lot, he's done a lot on the president's behalf, much of which I think he would be embarrassed and maybe even endangered by should it come out now. So the president has to be very concerned about what Michael Cohen knows and what else he may have recorded.

CABRERA: I'm not sure, Michael, if you've had a chance to see the latest cover of "TIME" magazine. A lot of people have commented on this. It features President Trump morphing into Vladimir Putin. It takes us, you know, from one to the other and combines the two. And it's a digital morphing of sorts.

What do you think President Trump's reaction would be to seeing this?

D'ANTONIO: I think he is outraged. I think he is going to attack "TIME" magazine as fake news. And it will harden his belief that everyone is against him. But if you study the response around the world just about the only outlet that is criticizing this "TIME" cover is Russia Today. And RT is the house organ for Vladimir Putin. So that almost gives us confirmation that there is something they have in common.

The president is not going to like this. Vladimir Putin isn't going to like it. But I think everyone else recognizes that these two men have a lot in common. They both love authoritarians, they both love dictators, they both want to wield power in a way that their predecessors didn't possess.

CABRERA: Michael D'Antonio, thank you so much.

D'ANTONIO: My pleasure.

CABRERA: Coming up, rating his rivals. The president says he knows who he wants to battle for another four years but is Joe the way to go in 2020?


[20:33:50] CABRERA: 835 days and counting. The next presidential election might seem a long ways off, but the buzz surrounding which Democrats might run against Trump is building.

CNN's Chris Cillizza has a new definitive power list of 10 possible challengers. Watch.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER and EDITOR-AT-LARGE: OK. Let's run through them. Let's show the first, these are 10 through six. These are the -- you know, we're going least likely to be the nominee to most likely to be the nominee.

I want to pick here Eric Holder, the former attorney general, not the most likely candidate at the start of, say, 2017 but he has been to early primary states, he's considering it, he's talked about running against Trump and he is someone who can carry that Obama legacy. Another person we could figure, Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts.

Let's go to five and four, build up these suspense. You'll see here Bernie Sanders, which might be a little odd to some folks. Why is Bernie Sanders, who was the runner-up to Hillary Clinton in 2016, why is he fifth on our list? And here's why. He -- I think a lot of people going to want to not relive 2016, Democrats especially. I think that Bernie Sanders in some ways may be seen as a little bit of the past. Maybe a younger voice.

[20:35:02] And you're going to have a lot of liberal voices in the conversation. So does he get crowded in or not.

Now let's go to the big three, the top three. OK. At number three, Kamala Harris. The California senator is new to the Senate. She was elected in 2016. She's the first Indian-American and African-American woman to the Senate. She was the attorney general of California before she got elected. Great law-and-order credentials. She's writing a memoir that comes out in 2019. Wink, wink. I wonder why she's doing that. OK. Very serious and I think very serious contender.

Let's go to two. Elizabeth Warren, a name a lot of people know. Some people wanted the Massachusetts senator to run in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. She decided not to do it. She's giving every indication she's going to run now. And if Democrats are looking for a liberal voice that has fought the establishment, it's probably Elizabeth Warren.

Number one, my Vanna White reveal, Joe Biden. Now you say, Joe Biden? Yes. Joe Biden. And here's why. If you look at all past nominations, particularly crowded ones, the person who starts in front in almost -- in polling is almost always in the end mix there. Joe Biden is in front. He's ahead in national polling of the Democratic primary, he's ahead in polls in New Hampshire in Democratic primary, and there's a recent poll that had him 17 points ahead of Donald Trump.

Now Joe Biden's problem here is he is 74 years old. He is the former vice president of the United States. He is not exactly a new, fresh face. But very strongly well regarded by Barack Obama and those who work for Barack Obama, and that does matter in the Democratic primary.

So that's who we've got as of now. Back to you.

CABRERA: All right. Chris, thank you.

Joining us now CNN political -- senior political analyst and editor for "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.

Ron, good to have you with us. President Trump, you know, he is already weighing in on who he wants to face off with in 2020. In fact, here he is.


JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS: Who do you think your Democratic opponent will be? Joe Biden says he'll make a decision by January.

TRUMP: That's a dream.

GLOR: Tough opponent? TRUMP: I dream about Biden. That's a dream. Look, Joe Biden ran

three times, he never got more than 1 percent. And President Obama took him out of the garbage heap, and everybody was shocked that he did.


CABRERA: Ron, what do you think of the president saying Biden is his dream opponent?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Biden ran twice, actually, in a usual kind of Trumpian moment there giving him a third. A third failed run. Look, Joe Biden has some real assets as a potential nominee and I think he has a couple of serious drawbacks. And they -- both sides of that ledger exemplify the choices Democrats face. On the one hand I think Biden could be effective at being a reassuring figure for ordinarily center-right Republican-leaning voters who are personally revolted by Trump and are thus kind of loosening their connection to the Republican coalition.

He is also someone who historically, he's from Scranton, PA, may be able to win back some of those blue-collar white voters in the Midwest who are critical in tipping the states that decided the election, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. On the other hand, he has two interrelated problems. One is that at 74 and given his history in the party he is by far not the first person you would pick to mobilize and energize the new Democratic coalition centered on minorities and millennials and young people. That was a real problem for Hillary Clinton in 2016, not sure they want to go back to that well.

And related to that, Ana, is because of that the nomination fight will not be a simple pathway for him. You know, he has issues from the '90s, the Crime Bill in 1994 was important politics for its time but it has not aged well in the Democratic Party. And he was a principal author. That is as chair of the Judiciary Committee. And of course he voted for the Iraq war as well. So it's not a smooth path but he brings both assets and demerits as any potential nominee does.

CABRERA: Ron, you also wrote a piece for entitled "There are Absolutely Two Americas."


CABRERA: Sometimes in the same state.


CABRERA: And let me read a quote from it. You write, "Just as 2010 triggered an extended period of Republican advantage in small town and rural districts, 2018 could do the same for Democrats in white-collar seats inside the largest metropolitan areas."

I recall back in 2010 that's when we saw the beginnings of this big Tea Party Movement among Republicans.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. CABRERA: What would a Democratic movement be based on right now?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, I think, you know, there is -- I'm going to say very strong possibility that regardless of who wins the majority in the House, whether Democrats get over the top or not, we're going to come out of this election with the trench between blue America and red America looking deeper. In 2010 Republicans swept out dozens of Democrats in small town and rural districts, many of whom had held those seats since the 1970s and 1980s.

The floor boards have been riding underneath them and the discontent with President Obama then in his first two years just kind of -- was too much weight to bear and we saw this Republican dominance in small town America and the House established it has not been diminished in any meaningful way since then.

[20:40:08] In fact that was the road map that Donald Trump followed to win the White House. In many ways he won the places that Republicans won in the House in 2010 and 2014. The flipside of that is a very real potential for this November. Donald Trump's approval rating among college educated white voters, suburban voters especially women is almost as weak as Obama's was in 2010 among those rural and small town and blue-collar voters.

And as a result if you look the Democratic opportunities are preponderantly concentrated and the last Republicans holding out in suburban seats that have been moving towards the Democrats at the presidential level, places like the suburbs of Philadelphia, northern Virginia, Denver, Chicago, a couple of seats in Minneapolis, five in the L.A. media market.

Democrats have a much tougher road in small town and blue collar America where Trump is still very strong. But in these suburban seats you are seeing I think him crystallizing and accelerating what had been a long standing realignment away from the Republicans. And you could come out of this election with a Democratic Party that is dominant in all of the blue metro areas that are younger, diverse, racially diverse, religiously diverse, globally connected, info-age economy, and Republicans still dominant beyond that and a really big trench in between those two Americas.

CABRERA: Fascinating stuff. Thank you, Ron Brownstein. We appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Ana, thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up from Hurricane Katrina to the war in Iraq we are looking back at some of the big challenges George W. Bush faced as he ran for reelection. And if there are any lessons for President Trump.

A preview of the CNN original series, "THE 2000s" is next.


[20:46:26] CABRERA: From Hurricane Katrina to the war in Iraq the new CNN original series "THE 2000s" covers it all and it returns tonight. We zero in on the hardships of George Bush's second term in office including the financial crisis that nearly wrecked the economy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I faced a choice to step in with dramatic government action or to stand back and allow the irresponsible actions of some to undermine the financial security of all.

Under our proposal the federal government would put up to 700 billion taxpayer dollars on the line to purchase troubled assets that are clogging the financial system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Trouble Asset Relief Program shows you I think just how much resistance there was.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: This bill offends my principles.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: It is simply wrong. It's irresponsible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York City fat cats expect Joe six pack to buck it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their idea was we need the government to have access to a huge amount of money that we can then used to shore up banks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many times do we have to dig in our pockets?

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, AUTHOR, "TOO BIG TO FAIL": A lot of people hated it. Obviously. Here we the taxpayers were handing money over to the bankers. That seems and sounds terrible. And yet had we not done that I'm not sure where we would be today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The motion is adopted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are rescued.

BUSH: We have acted boldly to help prevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis in communities across our country.

PAT BUCHANAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Even though it's not conservative orthodoxy I think what they did in 2008 was the right thing to do to save the economy and I think they probably did prevent a wipe out of a tremendous number of people and the second great depression.


CABRERA: CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali is joining us now.

So, Tim, as you know, George W. Bush, he took heat from all sides, a lot of heat for that bank bailout of sorts but the economy survived.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. Well, the Bush administration's response to the crisis of 2008 is a reminder that pragmatism can be a good thing for an administration. You know, we forget that we don't just want a president who comes into office and does absolutely everything they campaigned on because sometimes presidents learn when they are in office and they learn that some of the things they brought to the White House, some of their assumptions were wrong.

And George W. Bush explained back in 2008 that this is not the approach to the economy that he would normally endorse, but his advisers who were conservative for the most part were saying, Mr. Bush, if you don't do this we are going to have a financial disaster that will compare with the Great Depression. And he said --

CABRERA: We did have the great recession.


NAFTALI: And he therefore used the government, used our tax money to prop up our financial system. If you would have asked him in 2000 when he was running for office should the government do this, he'd probably say oh, no. But in 2008 he made the tough call and he did it.

CABRERA: He did it even though it wasn't popular at the time with his own party in particular. Now I want to ask you about the fact that he was reelected in 2004 because at that time, too, there were some major, major controversies going on. We had the war in Iraq. It was dragging on, very unpopular at home. Many Democrats thought John Kerry stood a very good chance. But he won a second term.

[20:50:06] NAFTALI: The 2004 election was really dirty. The show tonight will remind you of two elements of that campaign. I think George W. Bush, by the way, that history will view him as a person much better than I think many Americans thought of him. I'm not sure that history is going to make his presidency look that much better, but as a person, he comes through as a better person. 2004 campaign was terrible. And it was terrible for two reasons. One, they attacked John Kerry. Whatever you think about his politics, there's no doubt that John Kerry was a hero in the Vietnam War.

And back in the Nixon administration, Nixon had gone to his dirty trickster, Jack Olson, and they have recruited somebody to destroy John Kerry's credibility. John Kerry was a young guy who's part of something called Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

CABRERA: You're saying this is in the Nixon administration.

NAFTALI: Yes. You can hear on tape, they were worried because John Kerry was, is, attractive, articulate, and they wanted to destroy this man. And the same guys that participated in that nasty, dirty tricks campaign in the '70s, they came back in 2004 and they did it again. And instead of us saying my god, it's Nixonian, it worked.

Second thing is that George Bush took advantage of the fact that many Americans were confused about same-sex marriage. And the fact that in some states had recognized -- Massachusetts, same-sex marriage and he used that to pump up turnout in certain states. His lieutenant Karl Rove got states to put same-sex marriage as a referendum on the ballot. And the goal was to get evangelicals and fundamentalist to come out and vote for Bush and against same-sex marriage. They took a very tough sensitive social issue and used it to divide us.

CABRERA: That's so interesting because when you bring that up, it makes me think about what's happening with the issue of immigration right now. In this new administration.

Real quick, before I let you go, because we only have about like 30 seconds left in this. You mentioned maybe history will be a little bit kinder to George W. We do see his popularity on the rise right now.

NAFTALI: Well, you know, I -- I'm not a psychiatrist, obviously. But when you look at his paintings of Wounded Warriors, you see a lot of pain. And I think that George W. Bush understands the cost of the decisions he made. And I think that shows humanity. I believe that the last two years of his administration showed that this administration could get better and there were course corrections. I think they did better things than Iraq. They shouldn't have gone into Iraq. But once there, they had to do something like the surge. I think the way in which they started to change surveillance, showed a better administration. So in that regard, they learned in office.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Tim Naftali.

NAFTALI: Thank you.

CABRERA: I look forward to the episode tonight. It's "THE 2000s" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up, Jeanne Moos on the day the lights went out in the White House.


TRUMP: I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies. Whoops, they just turned off the lights. That must be the intelligence agencies.



[20:57:39] CABRERA: There's a major royal milestone being marked on the other side of the pond. Prince George, the son of Prince William and Duchess Kate, and also a future king of England turned 5 years old. Look at this cutie. To mark the occasion, Kensington Palace released this new picture, which was taken on the same day his little brother Louis was Christened.

And finally tonight that moment when President Trump was left in the dark, literally. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It wasn't nearly as dramatic as the time the lights came crashing down.


MOOS: While Bill and Hillary Clinton were preparing for a "60 Minutes" interview. But when President Trump spoke it was as if the lights were listening.

TRUMP: I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies. Whoops, they just turned off the lights. That must be the intelligence agencies. There it goes. OK. You guys OK?

MOOS: The president stayed calm, but Twitter got excited. "Putin turned out the damn lights at the White House," read one tweet. "The intelligence community has spoken," read another. Even the president allowed that it was --

TRUMP: Strange.

MOOS: Strange. "Evangelicals, do you need any more signs from a god," asked one critic. Then the Twitter account identifying itself as God Chimed In, "Did you like it when the lights went out on him? That was me." But it's not the first time this has happened.

TRUMP: So then we put them in our jails. Because to put them in our jails -- they didn't pay the electric bill. To put -- I like that much better.

MOOS: Then candidate Trump lit up when the lights went off at an Atlanta rally.

TRUMP: No, get those lights off. Let's go, ready? Turn off the lights. Turn off the lights.

MOOS: The chanting worked. Too much light, not enough light. Nothing to do but make light of it.

TRUMP: As I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

TRUMP: Get those lights off.

MOOS: New York.


CABRERA: Time for us to turn the lights off here. That's going to do it for me tonight, I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you for spending part of your weekend with me. Up next is a brand new episode of "THE 2000s" followed by the "HISTORY OF COMEDY" at 10:00. Have a great night and great week ahead.