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Manafort Jury Selected; White House Holds Only 3 Briefings in July. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 31, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with breaking news, fast breaking news. The federal court for the eastern district of Virginia is known as the Rocket Docket, and today, in day one of the Paul Manafort bank and tax fraud trial, it lived up to its name.

A jury was picked. Opening statements were made, and the first witness took the stand. As courtrooms go, that is happening at warp speed.

Mr. Manafort, as you know, was chairman of the Trump campaign. And as you may also know, the man he helped elect and the people surrounding him aren't exactly embracing him since Robert Mueller's grand jury indicted him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Manafort is a nice guy. But, you know, he worked for me for a very short period of time. Literally for like, what, a couple of months?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president hired Paul Manafort to handle the delegate process which he did, and he was dismissed not too long after that.

TRUMP: Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: He was with him for four months.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.

TRUMP: You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: And Mr. Manafort, as I read it, had requested that there'd be no mention of his brief tenure at the campaign.

TRUMP: He worked for me, what, 49 days or something? A very short period of time.

SPICER: I believe Paul was brought on some time in June. And by the middle of August, he was no long were the campaign, meaning that for the entire final stretch of the general election, he was not involved.


COOPER: Manafort? Manafort? Who is this Paul Manafort you speak of?

Keeping them honest, they used to know who he was. Once upon a time, and they didn't mind saying so.


TRUMP: I have fantastic people. Paul Manafort just came on. He's great.

ERIC TRUMP, SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Paul was amazing. And, you know, he helped us get through the primary process.

TRUMP: I brought Paul in because a very, very smart friend of mine who knew him very well has said he is fantastic.

CONWAY: Paul Manafort remains as our chairman.

SPICER: Paul Manafort.



TRUMP: Mr. Manafort.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Bringing a professional in like Paul helped us grow the campaign. And we need ten more of these. Everything that Paul did for the campaign was one less thing I had to do.


COOPER: That's who Paul Manafort was. Now I remember. What a difference a year and about 300 years worth of federal criminal indictments make.

Joining us now from the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, CNN's Jessica Schneider.

So, what did we learn today at the trial?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we learned a lot. It was only the first day here, but this courtroom is definitely living up to its Rocket Docket reputation. They managed to whittle down this jury pool of 65 people down to 12 jurors plus four alternates, and then, of course, we heard the fiery opening statements here.

In this, prosecutors shed some light on Paul Manafort's lavish lifestyle, and they did it by talking about his 30 hidden foreign bank accounts they say existed in three different countries. And they say that funded that lavish lifestyle that included seven different homes ranging from Virginia to Manhattan all the way to the Hamptons on Long Island.

They also talked about his $500,000 luxury clothing. They mentioned a $21,000 watch, and they even, yes, mentioned a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich.

But then, of course, on the flip side, there was the defense team, and they are centering their defense really on the blame game, saying that the only reason Paul Manafort set up these hidden offshore accounts was because the Russian oligarchs who were paying him, they say that they told him to. They're also laying some of this blame on Rick Gates, his former deputy campaign manager. And then at the end of the day today, we did hear from the first witness here, Tad Devine, he's a Democratic consultant. He worked with Paul Manafort overseas in Ukraine.

And, Anderson, Tad Devine talked about the work that they did overseas, and he also talked about Paul Manafort's very close relationship with the pro-Putin former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

COOPER: I've been thinking about a jacket the Paul Manafort is wearing, made out of ostrich, and when you said that, initially, I thought you meant ostrich feathers, and I was like oh please let there be a picture of Paul Manafort in a jacket ostrich feathers. I realize it's ostrich skin.

SCHNEIDER: There may be.

COOPER: It's probably leather.

How does Rick Gates fit into all of this?

SCHNEIDER: Well, interestingly, the defense team has already told the jury of what could be a rather bold move here. They plan to lay out their defense really discrediting Rick Gates. Rick Gates, of course, was the deputy to Paul Manafort when Paul Manafort was the campaign chairman for the Trump team.

And Rick Gates was charged with the exact same things Paul Manafort was. He, though, has since pleaded guilty to lying. He is now cooperating with the special counsel's team. The defense team, though, is taking that saying that Rick Gates was all to blame here. They say that he is the one who stole and embezzled money. They say he's the one who lied.

And now, they're trying flip this on the government. Of course, Rick Gates will be the government's star witness, but the defense team is saying how can he be your star witness? Rick Gates is an admitted liar.

[20:05:02] And he is now cooperating with the government -- Anderson.

COOPER: What's next for the trial? What happens tomorrow?

SCHNEIDER: Just day one, we've already seen a lot. But day two, we're expecting that the prosecution will be calling two more witnesses. We expect another Democratic consultant who worked with Paul Manafort. We're also expecting to hear from an FBI agent.

The prosecution here says that they have a witness list of 35 people that they plan to call, but this trial is really only expected to go three weeks. We saw just how fast this trial moved just in the first day here. So who knows? It could wrap up even sooner.

But yes, 35 witnesses of the prosecution is expecting to call -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I'm just amazed how fast it moved today. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

We have new reporting right now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny, more on the White House strategy for dealing with the trial. As you might have guessed from the top of the program, item one, distancing the president from Paul Manafort. We're also learning the president watched trial coverage on his way down to Florida today. That's according to officials who spoke to Jeff. They also say the president has asked staffers for regular updates as the trial proceeds.

Joining us now is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He's a former federal prosecutor. So is Jennifer Rodgers. Jason Miller is a former Trump campaign senior adviser.

So, Jeff, the fact that it's day one and there's already been jury selection, opening statements and the first witness called, what does it tell you how about this trial is going to proceed?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's going to be two weeks rather than three weeks. I mean, I just have no doubt this trial will go faster than expected. That's how it always works in the Eastern District of Virginia.

And it's a place where prosecutors win almost all the time. It is known as a very pro-prosecution jurisdiction, and given the facts of this case, I think Manafort is just in a world of trouble.

COOPER: But, Jeff, I mean, the judges want prosecutors the steer clear of anything Russia-related. Is that -- I mean, is it the elephant in the room there for the jurors? Or, I mean, can they do that?

TOOBIN: You know, I have a lot of confidence in jurors in matters like this. I mean, the real problem for Paul Manafort here is there doesn't appear to be any evidence that he paid his taxes. I mean, you know, he got all this money. It was stashed in these foreign bank accounts, and the taxes weren't paid.

Now like most people who are accused of a crime with a cooperating witness, he's going try to put all the blame on the cooperating witness. That is a standard strategy. It rarely works. But it sometimes does.

And, you know, but it's just going to be difficult for persuade the jury that somehow Rick Gates is responsible for the fact that Paul Manafort made millions upon millions of dollars and didn't pay his taxes.

COOPER: Jennifer, do you agree that that -- I mean, that defense strategy, trying to pin it all on Rick Gates, who is a cooperating witness, that's basically the kind of defense 101?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It is. It exactly is. The problem here is that Rick Gates, of course, was not cooperating until after the charges were filed. So, they were prepared to proceed with this case without Rick Gates on board. They have all the documentary evidence.

And like Jeff just said, these are individual income taxes that Paul Manafort lied about, not to mention some properties on which there was mortgage fraud, had nothing to do with Rick Gates in the Hamptons and in Brooklyn. So, he is going to have a really hard time pining all of this on Rick Gates, for sure.

COOPER: Jason, the push from the president's allies arguing that Paul Manafort was basically nobody on their campaign, he only worked there for four months, I think the president said 49 days at one point. I mean, they can try to put all the distance they want between him and the president, but he wasn't the coffee boy. I mean, he was the campaign chairman.

JASON MILLER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP TRANSITION: Well, I think the smarter tactic here is to remind people over and over these charges have absolutely nothing to do with the campaign. And even the witnesses being put forward have nothing to do with the campaign at all with the exception of the one sidekick that followed Paul Manafort over the last 20 plus years or so of his career.

I mean, look, Paul Manafort was the campaign chairman for a certain stretch, I guess from somewhere like the middle end of June going into the early August time frame.

COOPER: Right, four months.

MILLER: -- where his role was essentially -- yes, there was a longer stretch of involvement. But the period after Corey Lewandowski left and when Paul was essentially head of the campaign was a relatively shorter stretch, and his main focus was on the convention.

But I do think there's been misportrayed I think in the media where I think it's come across as though president Trump wouldn't have been able to get through the Republican convention if it wasn't for Paul Manafort. I mean, did Paul Manafort help prevent some of the brain damage if it had gone forward and there had been a floor fight and such things like that? Of course.

But was there any chance that President Trump was going to get caught up at convention or he wasn't going to get through or anything like that? Of course not. Let's not go and blow it out of proportion.

So the role that he played was a relatively shorter amount of time. And I don't think we need to go and blow that out of proportion. But again, everything that's happening to Paul Manafort, those are Paul Manafort problems. Those are not Donald Trump problems.

COOPER: It's harder to blow it out of proportion, Jeff, if your title is chairman of the campaign. It seems like a pretty big title.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And remember what's charged with.

[20:10:00] He is charged with taking millions upon millions of dollars from Viktor Yanukovych who was the pro-Putin politician in the Ukraine.

COOPER: Ukraine.

TOOBIN: So it's not that this is completely unrelated to the whole Russia situation. Remember too that during the convention, they changed the platform to make the Ukrainian section more pro-Putin.

So the entire thrust of the Trump campaign, which the issue of a conspiracy with the Russian interests remains the heart of the investigation, Manafort's presence in the campaign is evidence of sympathy to Putin in and of itself. So in that respect, it's not the criminal charges, but who Paul Manafort is, is highly relevant to this investigation.

MILLER: But, Jeffrey, if I could just jump in real quick. So, is there some sort of crime that you're accusing the president of?



TOOBIN: No. I'm not. But when you are asking why the president had this fixation with Vladimir Putin, which apparently continues to this day, and why Vladimir Putin was so desperate to see Donald Trump win and Hillary Clinton lose, and why Donald Trump was asking Russians to hack e-mails, which they did the same day, all of it is relevant evidence to what happened in this campaign.

COOPER: Jennifer, at some point rick gates himself will have to testify. Do you think he'll find anything out about -- will we find anything out about the larger Mueller investigation from that?

RODGERS: You know, the one way that we could is that when a cooperator testifies, the defense is entitled to cross-examine him or her about all impeachment material. So, if Rick Gates did things during the campaign that were illegal or go to his credibility, then prosecutors could raise that and the defense could cross-examine on it. You know, it seems from some of the pretrial motions in litigation that the word Russia I guess one of the prosecutors said probably won't even be uttered.

So, it sounds like they don't have that kind of impeachment material that they need to front and that Manafort's lawyers will cross on. So I'm suspecting not. But if there is anything like that, that would be the context in which it would be raised.

COOPER: And, Jason, I mean, President Trump has said on more than one occasion about only hiring the best. If that's true, shouldn't the campaign have done its due diligence when it came to Paul Manafort and figured out if Manafort had been operating aboveboard or not? I mean, this is a pretty, you know, sleazy track record that the prosecutors certainly have laid out.

MILLER: Well, absolutely. But there is no such thing as a time machine. And so, the fact of the matter is that Paul Manafort was on board for as I said before, a relatively shorter amount of time, and he was not the person who ultimately was the campaign manager that took us across the finish line. That was Kellyanne, as you know, along with Steve Bannon and a whole host of other folks who were on board.

But look, I mean, Paul Manafort, we primarily focused on the convention phase of this, did have a long track record of working with conventions and things like that. But I think one of the other things that I think kind of a little jumbled up in the media is that President Trump and Manafort weren't particularly close. I don't think that President Trump really knew much all about Paul Manafort's background. These were not two men who would hang out, grab dinner or lunch or chat.

COOPER: Right, but to the point the president constantly saying he hires the best, that seems to imply he knows who he's hiring. Your argument is he didn't really know this guy even though he went on TV multiple times and talked about what a great guy he was.

MILLER: Well, he got a mulligan in this one.

TOOBIN: But what's the one thing Donald Trump knew about Paul Manafort, which was that he worked for Viktor Yanukovych. That was basically his only client for years.

MILLER: But I think --

TOOBIN: And the fact that he worked for Yanukovych, the pro-Putin politician in Ukraine was good enough for Donald Trump. That tells you something in and of itself, no?

MILLER: But I think the one thing that President Trump knew is that Paul Manafort had convention experience.

TOOBIN: In the '80s. In the '80s. 30 years ago.

MILLER: But it's been a long time since there was a real convention fight. Keep in mind it had been literally decades since there was a real convention battle within Republican Party politics. That was something that Paul is able to speak to.

He wasn't being brought on for any policy matters or any grand strategic vision. He is someone who was going to manage the convention. That was the value he was demonstrating at that particular time.

COOPER: All right. Jason Miller, Jeff Toobin, Jennifer Rodgers, thanks very much. Up next, the president's trip to Florida and his flight from any tough

questions or any place he might encounter any tough questions. We're keeping him honest on that.

Also ahead, breaking news. In the fight over firearms that you can make at home with a computer, a special printer and the plans a court tonight just blocked from getting out. The latest on the legal battle and the role the White House played in all of this with 3D printing guns, ahead on 360.


[20:19:09] COOPER: Well, it is July 31st and that give us an opportunity to point something else. The White House has only held three press briefings all month. Now, these things used to be common enough that they were called the daily White House briefing, which meant daily. Now, you can call them nearly extinct, which makes what you're to be hear fairly odd.

Give a listen and ask yourself, does this sound like a promise?


SANDERS: We are here. We are taking questions. We are doing everything we can to provide regular and constant information to the American people, and there is a responsibility by you guys to provide accurate information, and we're going to continue to try to work with you.


COOPER: Well, she said that May 9th. That entire month, there were nine White House press briefings. In June, just five. This month, only three.

So tell us what was that again?


SANDERS: We are here. We are taking questions. We are doing everything we can to provide regular and constant information to the American people.


[20:20:06] COOPER: Everything they can do to provide regular and constant information. Everything they can do.

See, for a minute there, it sounded like Sarah Sanders was actually promising to provide regular and constant information to the American people. Keeping them honest, we asked her why they promised the people one thing and is doing the polar opposite, but we simply haven't had the chance because there have only been three briefings this month.

If you'd like to ask Sarah Sanders about her promise, take a number. If you'd like to know what President Trump thinks of Michael Cohen's reported allegation about the Trump Tower Russia meeting, get in line. If you want to see the president challenged about why the White House lied about the president not being involved with wanting to buy Karen McDougal's silence, after audiotape shows he actually was, sorry, you are out of luck.

And the same goes for false and misleading statements like this one just yesterday. The president tweeting: A highly respected federal judge today stated that the Trump administration gets great credit for reuniting illegal families. Thank you, and please look at the previous administration's record. Not good.

The president neglected to point out that the judge also admonished the administration for essentially making orphans out of hundreds of kids. That's one of the beauties of the Twitter machine has discovered. You can omit, you can rephrase, you can make stuff up. Whatever you want, and no one can challenge you.

Last year, Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director for those ten glorious days, or was it 11, refused to commit to regular White House briefings. The following may the president threatened to replace them with written handouts he said in the name of accuracy. That didn't happen.

But it sure likes the idea of reducing transparency and accountability is actually gaining traction at the White House today. President Trump, for example, left for his trip to Florida this afternoon without saying a word to reporters. And in case you're wondering, that is par for the course.

The exception of his joint appearance alongside Italy's prime minister yesterday, the president refused to answer reporters' questions 16 times in just the last six days.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, thanks, guys. Thank you.

REPORTER: Mr. President, sir, is Michael Cohen lying?

REPORTER: Did Michael Cohen betray you?

REPORTER: Mr. President, did Michael Cohen betray you, sir? Mr. President, why did you cancel the meeting with Vladimir Putin, sir?


COOPER: Well, that's what we're seeing more and more of, unanswered questions and fewer chances to ask them. And in the meantime, the president reportedly is itching for more occasions like the one he just finished up at tonight, rallies where he can say whatever he wants and hear nothing in return but applause.

Our Jim Acosta is in Tampa for us tonight, joins us now. So, this lack of transparency. I mean, is there any other reason

they're doing this other than simply the fact that they don't want to answer questions for instance about why we -- why the president lied and why the White House -- why the campaign I should say, lied about the president not knowing anything about Karen McDougal and AMI and the deal?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think the only thing you can conclude, and you're going to hear some folks here, I think, letting their feelings be known at this rally here in Tampa, about how they feel about CNN.

But, Anderson, I think the honest answer to your question is that this White House is obviously hiding from the press. They're hiding the president from the press. They are hiding the press secretary from the press. That's the only conclusion you can come to when they've only had five press briefings in the last month of June, and only three press briefings this month. I mean, that is historically at a very low level.

Now, one thing we should point out, Anderson, at this rally tonight, the president went after what he calls fake news. He even talked about fake polls, even though he touted a poll that he said that he had seen saying he was the most popular Republican president ever. It's hard to understand how you can have fake polls but also out the polls that show you being popular.

But, Anderson, despite the president going after the press, he just hadn't given us opportunities to ask him very many questions. And I think there really is no other, you know, reasonable conclusion other than they just don't like the questions that are going to be asked right now. You know, I've been trying to talk to White House aides about this, and one of the things that you hear, and they've said this before in the past is that, well, when the president has a speech, or when he has an event, they don't want to step on the message of the day.

Well, the president had a speech tonight, and so there was no press briefing today. It is possible they could have one tomorrow, Anderson, but we just don't know at this point.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, so there is no idea when the next one might be held?

ACOSTA: Say that again?

COOPER: There is no idea, it's not a schedule when the next one might be held?

ACOSTA: You know, I think it is possible. I'm pushing these earpieces in my ear just to hear you, Anderson. I think it's possible they could hold one tomorrow. But aides are being very cagey about it.

You know, one thing they'll talk about as they have these off camera gaggles when the president is traveling down on Air Force One, and that sort of thing to various events. But as you and I both know, Anderson, that's not the same as having an on-camera briefing with the press secretary coming into the briefing room.

[20:25:03] You know, we used to call them daily press briefings. They're barely weekly press briefings anything. And I think, Anderson, the only conclusion you can draw at this point is they just don't like the questions right now.

And it's amazing, Anderson. You're hearing some of the insults being hurled at us right now. I've been talking to some of these folks this evening, even though they're being pretty negative towards us right now. I answered a bunch of questions from some of these Trump supporters here about all sorts of things, a lot more questions than the president has taken from us in recent days, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate you being there. Thanks, Jim.

I want to bring in two new voices. One, former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, with long White House experience managing the message, and Carl Bernstein, who's got even longer experience holding presidents accountable, including this one, shares a byline on the latest CNN Michael Cohen scoop.

David, I mean, every White House certainly, look, has had their issues with the press. Have you ever seen a White House that has had this many issues with the press?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I've never seen a White House who has had many, many issues, not just issues with the press, but, you know, every -- this is a precedent-shattering White House. And particularly when it comes to issues of transparency and disclosure, starting with the president's refusal to release his tax returns and running through a whole series of things.

I think the important thing, though, here is beyond not answering questions about Michael Cohen and the probe which are uncomfortable, we've also seen the practice suspended of briefing people, briefing the press when the president speaks to foreign leaders. We are only -- Americans are only finding out what the president has said in their name from reports from foreign governments. It's two weeks later, we still don't know what was said between him and Vladimir Putin.

I mean, there are fundamental things, bits of information that the American people deserve, and, you know, the bottom line is this president doesn't believe that he has any obligation to share that information with people. He calls the press the enemy of the people. He conflates his political interest with the public interest. And he thinks that reporting is a hostile act.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, you know, the fact is we're not even sure he has told, you know, his secretary of state or his secretary of defense exactly what was discussed with Vladimir Putin in that meeting. It's not clear from their own -- from, you know, Pompeo's testimony that he really has a full read-out from the president.

AXELROD: Right. COOPER: Carl, you fought with many White Houses over the years trying

to get your questions answered. Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler had a famously adversarial relationship with the press.

How would you compare then to now?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's far worse. The really great thing that's happening is, is that news organizations from "The Washington Post" to "The New York Times" to CNN, to the "A.P.", to "Reuters" are doing some of the greatest reporting we have ever seen on a presidency.

And the result is that the American people understand what the facts are. They can make up their own minds about it because of our reporting. The idea that somehow we would expect this president, this presidency, this administration to be anything like open or transparent or honest or truthful at this stage of the game is absurd on our part. And we're doing the right thing by doing our reporting.

33Donald Trump is the president of his base. He makes no attempt to be the president of all the people of this country. And part of appealing to his base is to make the conduct of the press the issue rather than the conduct of Donald Trump and his presidency.

So, that's where we are, and the great part of this, as opposed to the part that we ought to be terrified about is that we're doing the reporting. And that's really why he is so upset, why he is so furious, why he is going to ground the way he is, because we have raised the questions about what is truthful, particularly about his relationship with Putin, particularly about his relationship with Michael Cohen.

We've raised the questions. They're out there, and the people of this country know that they're out there.

COOPER: Well, I mean, David, you know, to Carl's point, it's not just about making the press the enemy, it's making, you know, the NFL players the enemy at times when it suits the president, or making, you know, undocumented immigrants the enemy, or whomever it may be to suit the president's needs at any given time.


COOPER: I want to ask you, though, about comparing to the Obama administration, because Kaitlan Collins was barred last week from attending an event in the Rose Garden after the White House didn't like the questions she asked. Obviously the White House has issues with CNN and their coverage. You know, there are those who say look at the Obama administration. They didn't always give the same access to Fox News as everyone else or the same number of interviews.

To that, you say what? Is that a fair comparison?

AXELROD: I don't -- no, I don't think it's a fair comparison because they never barred Fox reporters from doing their jobs. I talked to Fox News reporters all the time when I was in the White House. They asked questions at presidential press conferences and so on. I don't think it's -- look, as you pointed out at the beginning, every President is irritated at times by their coverage, but most Presidents understand that that is part of the obligation of the job. That a free press is enshrined in the First Amendment for a reason.

But I just want to react to one thing that Carl said. It's not just that he's using the press as a foil with his base. He is trying to impeach the media so that when facts are reported that are inconvenient to him, he can dismiss them as political in nature. And that to me is a very insidious thing. That's really, you know -- that is the stuff of autocratic states. And so while I agree with Carl that the reporting has been aggressive, it's been thorough, it's been critical, there is still is concern about a President who doesn't really believe in a free press.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And Carl, I mean it is not just the lack of press briefings. You know, the President himself still hasn't directly answered questions about why his campaign lied about their involvement in, you know, trying to buy Karen McDougal rights -- the rights to her story from AMI, which the campaign claim they had had no knowledge of, they knew nothing about the AMI deal, nor has he answered any questions about your reporting that he allegedly knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This President and this presidency and this White House has no -- no interest in the truth as we have known it in every other presidency. This President and this presidency has an interest only in its own propaganda, its own lies, its own version of events that have nothing to do with real existing information. You know, I went to Jack Kennedy's press conferences, starting with his third one. I was copy boy at the time. And if you were to go back and watch him and every successive President of the United States, including Richard Nixon, you would not see anything comparable to the lying, to the -- you know, unavailability to being open and transparent, such as we have seen in this presidency. This presidency and this President is unique. We have never had anything like this in our history in terms of disinformation.


BERNSTEIN: Misinformation, and an attempt to undermine the truth at every turn. Not just in a criminal conspiracy like Watergate, but about everything.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein.

BERNSTEIN: So I think there are no surprises at this point.

COOPER: Yes. Carl, thank you. David Axelrod, as well. A quick note we should point out that Anthony Scaramucci's tenure the White House came shortly after the President floated the idea of eliminating press briefings not surely before. As I said in the intro to David and Carl, I'm sorry, I was wrong on that.

Coming up, a federal judge makes a decision on the 3D printed guns that have been causing so much controversy. And after the President tweets, the White House and the NRA have very similar statements about the undetectable, untraceable guns. The latest, next.


[20:35:53] COOPER: A federal judge in Washington state has issued a temporary restraining order stopping the release of blueprints to make untraceable 3D-printed gun. It's the latest development in a controversy that's gone on for years after company in Texas developed instructions on how to make a plastic gun with a 3D-printer. A court battle ensued when the company made the instructions available to be downloaded. Last month there was a government settlement that allowed the plans to be posted online starting August 1st. Multiple state attorneys general have been fighting that and here we are today. The President tweeted this quote, "I'm looking in to 3D plastic guns being sold to the public, already spoke to NRA, doesn't seem to make much sense."

Hours later the White House deputy press secretary said this on Air Force One.


HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: In the United States, it's currently illegal to own or make a holy plastic gun of any kind, including those made on a 3D-printer. The administration supports nearly two decade-old law and will continue to look at all options available to us to do what is necessary to protect Americans while also supporting the First and Second Amendments.


COOPER: So it strikes a lot of the same chords as the NRA statement, which reads in part, quote, "Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years. Federal law passed in 1988 crafted with the NRA support makes it unlawful to manufacture, import, sale, shift, deliver, possess, transfer or receive are an undetectable firearm."

Joining me now is Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who just scored that court victory stopping release of the blueprints, at least temporarily. Thanks for being with us.

Attorney General, the temporary restraining order that you've been granted, what does it mean going forward in terms of -- I mean the law here?

BOB FERGUSON, ATTORNEY GENERAL, WASHINGTON: Yes. In terms of the law -- thanks for having me on again, Anderson. Appreciate it.

This is a nationwide ban. So what it does is takes us back to a period of time before the federal government flipped on their policy regarding these 3D ghost guns. What it means is if anyone posts this information online, they're in violation of federal law and can suffer very serious consequences. So it makes it unlawful to post that information and make it available to the public.

COOPER: Why did the government offer a settlement to allow these blueprints on the internet in the first place? I mean do we know? Because wasn't it the State Department that stepped in to prevent them from being posted online?

FERGUSON: That is a very good question, Anderson. And truly, it's baffling to me and many others why the federal government made this decision. And just to be clear, to your point, there has been a court case going on Texas in which the Obama administration and the Trump administration opposed this entity down in Texas from making this information public. The State Department filed declarations, talking about the national security risk and public safety risk of any process, no procedure, no nothing. They caved on a case they were winning and allowed this entity to go forward. It's truthfully breathtaking, and the risk to public safety, you know, is hard to overstate.

COOPER: Yes, the Cody Wilson, the man who invented the first 3D printed gun told CNN today that despite your suit, he has already uploaded plans and the blueprints for the 3D-printed AR-15 semiautomatic rifles have been downloaded more than 2,500 times. How concern ready you? And is there anything you can actually do about that? I mean once it's out there, it's out there, isn't it?

FERGUSON: So, I am very concerned about that. And every American to be very concerned about that. And the President of the United States should be very concerned about that. And he can put a stop to this right now. He should tell his attorneys to stand down in this litigation and allow us to declare victory in this case and move forward. So, yes, some folks have been able to access information. but obviously, Anderson, if it's allowed to go forward for days, weeks, months, obviously many more thousands of people would have access to it. We want to limit that damage, and we're very thankful our judge here in Seattle granted our request for a restraining order to shut this down nationwide.

COOPER: This notion from the White House and from the NRA that, quote, "Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years." So that you say what?

FERGUSON: Well, I say why are you fighting in me in court, then? We're going to court to go back to a time in which it was illegal to do this. The U.S. government was in court today saying no, that the entity should be allowed to post this information.

[20:40:05] So once again, we have an administration, we have a White House where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand's doing. They are not communicating in concert with one another. There is nothing new about that, Anderson. I've been on your show many times and I've filed 32 lawsuits against this administration. In 10 cases, we have decisions. I won all 10 of them. One of the reasons I've won all 10 is because this administration can't keep their story straight. They're sloppy. And frankly, they're dangerous when it comes to public safety. And that's why I'm so relieved Judge Lasnik took the action he did today.

COOPER: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, good to have you on. Thank you.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

COOPER: President Trump took to Twitter today, once again telling his followers there was no collusion with Russia, adding it didn't matter. In any event, because collusion is not a crime. This of course the day after his private TV attorney Rudy Giuliani said the same thing. We'll have an examination of that, just ahead.


COOPER: It took a while, but President Trump followed in his private attorney's footsteps today tweeting about collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. Quote, "Collusion is not a crime" the President post on Twitter this morning. "But that doesn't matter because there was no collusion except by crooked Hillary and the Democrats." Rudy Giuliani said pretty much the same thing yesterday morning CNN.


RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Which I don't even know if that's crime, colluding about Russians.


GIULIANI: You start analyzing the crime. The hacking is the crime. The hacking is the crime.


GIULIANI: Well the President hack.

HARLOW: Of course not. That's the original --



[20:45:04] COOPER: Well, in the strictest sense of course, both President Trump and Giuliani are correct. There is no federal statute against collusion.

Joining me to deconstruct, author and retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters.

So, Colonel Peters, this change from the President from the months and months just repeating, you know, adding an item, that there was no collusion, to just by any question ask about Russia, to now saying in addition to that collusion is not a crime. The fact that Giuliani is saying that as well. Does it seem that there is a strategy behind that shift?

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS, U.S. ARMY: A strategy of desperation, if a strategy at all. Collusion outright may not be a crime in and of itself, but, Anderson, treason is a crime. Collaborating and conspiring with a hostile foreign power against the United States is a crime. Receiving material support, clandestine material support from a hostile foreign power is a crime. And we get to the people around Trump. Money laundering is a crime. Tax fraud is a crime. Lying under oath is a crime.

So there's plenty of crime to go around. But what Trump and Giuliani and all their paladins have been doing is doing their best to blind the American people, to overwhelm us with various forms of diversion and obscure data, to cloud the issue, to muddy the waters. Pick your cliche. But for me, as someone who genuinely cares about this country and who doesn't give a damn about either political party, for me there is one core question facing our country today, one paramount question, and that is has the President of the United States committed treason against the United States, specifically, in service in thrall of some sort to Vladimir Putin?

I hope I'm wrong. I hope it didn't happen. We'll see what Robert Mueller brings to the fore. But we must focus on that question and not be diverted by clownish antics, because Trump is a brilliant entertainer. In a peculiar way, he may be history's greatest entertainer. He commands global headlines every single day, and we make a mistake of thinking about him as a politician or a leader when he is an entertainer. And by allowing ourselves to be constantly entertained, we lose sight of fundamental ethics, values and security of this nation.

COOPER: I mean you talk about him as a propagandist and a very effective propagandist.


COOPER: Not only the simple catch phrases, but, you know, repeated time and time and time again. So that they just become normalized. It's also part of -- it's not just about repeating phrases, it's also used as a diversion.


COOPER: To take you off focusing, take the American people, on the media, or whomever, off their eye of what's really happening, what really matters?

PETERS: Yes. And Anderson, consider what a brilliant move it is to attack the press as the enemy of the people. Instead of having the spotlight on Trump and his alleged misdeeds, on his daily misdeeds against this country, it turns against the press, the leading press as generals would have said or the enemy of the people. Now, you know, enemy of the people is a loaded term. It does go back to Roman times. But in the modern era, the first person I can find who really used it was Robespierre in the French revolution, master of the guerilla team.

But for me as a former Soviet analysis, and a student of Russian affairs, it's the enemy of item t people in Russia, (INAUDIBLE), under Stalin during the purges. If you were called an enemy of the people, it was a death sentence. And given all of Trump's other ties, to Russia and things Russian and people associated with Russia, it hardly seemed a coincidence that he calls our press the enemy of the people. And Anderson, our press is not above criticism.


PETERS: It's made of human beings. Human beings are flawed. I have -- when I thought the press deserved it, I have criticized the press fiercely, but I hope constructively, because without a free press as our founding fathers recognized, democracy cannot function.

COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, always good to have you on. Thank you.

PETERS: Thank you Anderson.

COOPER: I want to check in with Chris Cuomo, he was working out for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Peters makes you gulp.



COOPER: The way talking about Stalin, it's pretty intense.

CUOMO: It's just weird that they're using the same phrase. So tonight we're going to take a little bit of a different tact on this issue about collusion not equalling a crime. I actually think that the media got out over its skis on this, and I think we're missing the forest for one tree, and I'm going make the legal case today. And I think it's mostly common sense where you can start with where we're hearing from the Trump legal team right now, but still wind up looking at a whole garden basket of potential criminal activity that stems from this. So we'll lay out the case.

We're also going to take on the man who wants people to be able to make their own 3D guns at home. He's going to make the case to the audience as to why. And we are going to test it, my friend.

COOPER: Chris, your screen getting bigger and bigger, your white board there?

CUOMO: Yes, it is actually. I actually have two white boards. Sometimes --

[20:50:05] COOPER: Either that or you're shrinking.

CUOMO: Yes. I have been -- oh, I am slimming. I hope this new suit lets you know, that Anderson. This is the big board. I have two.

COOPER: OK. Good to know.

CUOMO: Don't be jealous. You have everything else.

COOPER: I covet the board. Chris, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Kind of look alike again. COOPER: You know, I'm trying to follow in your footsteps.

CUOMO: Only from here down (INAUDIBLE). See you later.

COOPER: See you. On Capitol Hill today, the top officials were peppered with questions about the Trump administration policy of separations at the southern border. Remarkably, one official said he was told family separation was not part of the policy. Coming up, we'll talk to a senator who was there.


COOPER: The Trump administration officials in charge of immigration policy at the southern border faced a lot of questions at a Senate Judicial hearing today and those questions are listed some pretty remarkable answers. At one point, ahead of enforcement, a removal for immigration customs enforcement, said the facilities were kids and parents are being kept or quote, "more like a summer camp". That's what he said. Take a look at this exchange between Senator Richard Blumenthal and an official at the Department of Health and Human Services who acknowledged separating children from their parents was a bad thing.


[20:55:05] SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: Would I be correct in assuming that the answer to you was, in effect, that's the whole purpose of the policy, to inflict pain so as to deter asylum seekers from coming here, correct?

JONATHAN WHITE, COMMANDER, U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE COMMISSONED CORPS: No, sir. We were advised that family separation was not the policy.


COOPER: He'd raised concerns about the policy there. Well, that's interesting he was told that because here's Attorney General Jeff sessions on Fox News talking about the policy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you considering this a deterrent?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I see the fact that no one was being prosecuted for this as a factor in a fivefold increase in four years in this count of illegal immigration. So, yes, hopefully people will get the message.


COOPER: It was intended there as a deterrent. That was the policy. Jeff Sessions said it. And so did John Kelly on camera. For anyone to say otherwise, is just not telling the truth. At the hearing was Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar who joins me now.

Senator, thanks for being with us.


COOPER: You know, (INAUDIBLE) who testified today that when he tried to get some clarification about the family separation policy, even he was told it was not the policy. I mean the standard answer from the government, how do you square that with the world actually seeing the separations as well as multiple members of the administration describing what they say as not a policy, as a deterrent.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, it's very clear when you listen to the leadership, the words you hear from the Attorney General, from the chief of staff of the White House, that they did view this as a deterrent. But the problem is then they're using kids as a weapon. And I was at the border, and the families I met, some of whom had been reunited, all they wanted to do was to get back to their mom. A little 10-year-old boy and his mom, she had fled Honduras as a victim of domestic violence. And then to have her child yanked away from her at the border, didn't know if she would ever see him again. And he said, well, I knew I'd always see my mom again because she'd find me.

Those are heartbreaking stories, and that's what we heard today at the hearing. And it's very clear to me that there were some people of good will at those front lines whether they were people that worked at the agencies, whether they were the like Sister Norma from catholic charities who runs the operations down there in McAllen, or the volunteers that came from all over America with good hearts to try to fix this. But it should never have happened in the first place.

COOPER: You know, there certainly been a lot of reporting and stories about what the detention centers holding the kids were like. Today we heard this other description from an ICE official Matthew Albence who said this. And I want to play it for our viewers.


MATTHEW ALBENCE, HEAD, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: I think the best way to describe them is to be more like a summer camp. These individuals have access to 24/7 food and water. They have educational opportunities. They have recreational opportunities, both structured as well as unstructured.


COOPER: I mean you've talked about, you know, having been to the border. I'm wondering what you make of that summer camp description.

KLOBUCHAR: This is not what I heard from these families. One pair of siblings who were separated from each other, one went to Florida. One went to Texas. They described themselves as being cold. They described themselves as wanting to go and see their parents again. And you still, Anderson, have 711 kids that have been separated from their parents. Over 400 of them, where they can't find their parents. You know what the difference is between summer camp and this? You go home to your parents after summer camp. COOPER: There's also been reports of kidding being given psychotropic drugs without a parent's permission. I don't think that happens at summer camp.

KLOBUCHAR: No, it does not.

COOPER: Did anyone ask that official if he would send his children to summer camp -- to that kind of a summer camp?

KLOBUCHAR: Those kinds of things were asked and we got some vague answers. There was one official from HHS, Commander White, who clearly said that he told his superiors he was concerned about the psychological effect on these kids. And he also said, you know, this was a policy that we applied to unaccompanied minors. But these kids were accompanied. They weren't accompanied by their parents.

COOPER: Just lastly, this announcement from Facebook today that they shut down a disinformation campaign that was targeting the midterm elections. I know this is an issue obviously important to you, you introduced legislation aimed at trying to prevent election interference this past fall. Are you happy with how Facebook handled this?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I'm glad they came forward and said what we believed is true and that is that there is still -- the Russians are still trying to do this, or it looks like Russian accounts, because they're similar to what they had before the election. One of them had over 300,000, nearly 300,000 followers. The same kinds of ads that are trying to turn Americans on each other from controversial issues, from immigration issues, and they're doing it again. And that's why we have to pass this bill so that you have clear information about who's paying for these ads and what they are. It's called the Honest Ads Act, and it's a bill I'm leading with Senator McCain and Senator Warner.

[21:00:04] COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

KLOBUCHAR: It's great to be on. Thanks Anderson.

COOPER: Well the news continues, I want to hand it over to Chris, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts now. Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo, welcome to "PRIME TIME".