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CNN Sources: Mueller Offered to Reduce Number of Obstruction Questions, But Wants to Include Them in Face-to-Face Interview; Growing Hostility Toward the Press Encouraged by President Trump. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 1, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Today yet again, the White House has been backtracking and trying to explain away something the president himself said very clearly, as well as breaking news in a moment about a possible interview with special counsel Mueller. Today, the president told millions of people what he wants. He said it plainly and directly, and in fact he wrote it down. So, he put some thought into it.

Now, the problem for the president and the White House is that what he wants and what he said, what he actually wrote, it freaked a lot of people out today, because if you're looking for evidence that the president is trying to obstruct justice, this is potentially one more piece of evidence.

Here's the tweet. This is a terrible situation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch-hunt right now before it can stain our country any longer. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted and his 17 angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to the USA.

Now, let me just repeat the key sentence there. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch-hunt. That's what the president said. He said stop it right now.

Now, it sounds like the president, who chief executive wants to see Jeff Sessions, who works for him and the Russia investigation ended right now. That is what it sounds like, because that is actually what the president wrote. Unless, of course, you believe his press secretary and TV lawyer who scrambled to try and convince the public that what the president said about what he wants to see happen and happen right now was in no way a directive to actually make it happen and happen right now.

No, according to them, it was only some guy's opinion, the guy who happens to be president, commander-in-chief. Now stopping this investigation, it's complicated. Sessions would have to recuse himself. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein might have to be fired. There might be a court challenge or political blowback.

But if the president of the United States really, truly wants a certain function of his own branch of government to stop, he can when all is said and done, and make it stop, which is why his tweet raised such concern. But again, if you believe Sarah Sanders, there's no reason for concern because this is just someone's opinion on Twitter.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is stating his opinion. He is stating it clearly, and he certainly expressing the frustration that he has with the level of corruption that we've seen from people like Jim Comey, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe. There is a reason that the president is angry, and frankly, most of America is angry as well. And there's no reason he shouldn't be able to voice that opinion.


COOPER: See? The president is just like most Americans, angry, speaking out on twitter from the White House as president and chief executive, as Jeff Sessions' boss. But hey, he said should, not must. And besides, he is just a guy with an opinion.

It's not like his tweets are official statements by the president of the United States. I mean what idiot would ever claim that?


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is the president of the United States. So, they're considered official statements by the president of the United States.


COOPER: Doh! Spicer!

All right. So, the White House used to claim that the president's tweets are not just idle opinionating, they're official statements with all the power of the White House behind him. How many times have people working for the president said the president's tweet speaks for itself or words to that effect?

Except for today's tweet, that doesn't apparently speak for itself. That needs a spokesperson and a TV lawyer speaking for it, sweeping up after it, quietly trying to wipe it off the bottom of their shoes.

When the president of the United States says that one of his subordinates should do something and do it now, how is that just one guy's opinion? It all smacks of another effort that was made recently to suggest that the president didn't really say what everyone heard him say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And a key sentence in my remarks, 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. Sort of a double negative.


COOPER: That actually happened. It doesn't seem like a decade ago?

Anyway, it wasn't, a little more than two weeks ago. And now another cleanup effort is under way. And just as before, the word twisting also comes with a dose of fact twisting. Listen.


SANDERS: The entire investigation is based off of a dirty discredited dossier that a was paid for by an opposing campaign and had a lot of corruption within the entity which was overseeing it, which was Peter Strzok, James Comey, Andrew McCabe. We've laid this out a number of times. I don't think that we have to go into it every single time we're in here.


COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, what she said is simply not true. The investigation sprang from a number of sources, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was under suspicion as far back as 2013, and his fellow adviser George Papadopoulos' drunken boasting to an Australian diplomat in London that triggered the current investigation, not the Steele dossier, dirty or not.

As we mentioned at the top, there is breaking news. The story centers on talks between the president's legal team and Robert Mueller over a possible presidential interview. We now have a better idea of the terms that Mr. Mueller may be offering.

CNN's Evan Perez and Gloria Borger got the story. Evan joins us now by phone.

So, what do you know about where these negotiations stand right now?

[20:05:02] EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Anderson, there is an important concession by the special counsel in this latest proposal. We're told that they finally got a response from the special counsel, first time in almost a month that they've heard back from the Mueller team. And in this proposal, they are essentially asking, they're suggesting that they're willing to limit the number of obstruction questions that the president would be asked, but that he would still be asked some of those questions in a sit-down interview.

So, the president's team has been proposing this idea of a take home test. I like to call it a take-home test where the president gets to write answers to some questions about anything related to things that happened after he was inaugurated as president. So, anything having to do with obstruction would come in this written test, so to speak. And so that's where they've been pushing.

And so, you now have at least some movement from the Mueller team. But keep in mind, Anderson, they're still insisting that they want a sit-down with the president, and some of those questions will cover this very important question of obstruction of justice.

COOPER: Do we know at this point where things stand about any questions regarding collusion?

PEREZ: Well, the collusion question, believe it or not, the Trump team has been open to having the president answer those questions, you know, if there is a sit-down interview. Now, keep in mind, Anderson, I think Rudy Giuliani said this in his statement today that the lawyers do not want Trump to do any interview at all, but obviously, they have a client who is insisting that he does want to do an interview. He wants to sit down with Robert Mueller face-to-face because he believes that if he doesn't, he's going to get crucified politically.

COOPER: In terms of the tweets of the president this morning, I'm wondering what you're learning about what actually led up to them. Was it something he heard that made him unleash this?

PEREZ: Yes, look, he was in Florida yesterday, and he flew back on the plane with some of his friends, some of the people who have been around him, people like Parscale or Corey Lewandowski were on the plane. And our Kevin Liptak and our team in the White House were told that essentially the president was being riled up by the talk on this plane where, you know, they're encouraging essentially for him to try to figure out a way to end this investigation, that, again, the problem is Jeff Sessions, because Jeff Sessions recused himself.

And the way for this all to end is to simply get Jeff Sessions to end this. Obviously, there is a lot of detail that they're missing which is that Jeff Sessions recused himself out of this investigation. It's not that simple. The president says that the president is, you know, has the ability to shut down this investigation if he wants to. He's not doing that yet, and he's not firing Jeff Sessions, at least not just yet.

COOPER: All right. Evan Perez, appreciate it.

With us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. He serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Thanks so much for being with us.

The idea, first of all, this new reporting that the Mueller team is willing to reduce the number of questions. Does that make sense to you?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, it makes sense to a point. As a prosecutor both federal and state attorney general, I can see some limits, but this investigation cannot close without all of the relevant questions about both the conspiracy, the Russians in attacking our democracy and also the obstruction of justice that is continuing in real time right before our eyes. You just laid out the word games that the White House is trying to play in walking back the president's very blatant and brazen threats to shut down this investigation, which itself is an act possibly of obstruction of justice.

COOPER: It is remarkable, the extent to which the president and the White House are continually walking back things that the president has said. I mean, he says them very clearly, you know, he's -- whether he's thought about it or not, but in this case, he wrote it out. It wasn't just a slip of the tongue.

And now, they're saying oh, kind of ignore what he's actually said when in fact in the past, they've said, well, no, that's what the president actually believes.

BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely right. And in fact going back in history, the president of the United States actually has fired people on Twitter.

COOPER: Right.

BLUMENTHAL: So, to say should stop when it's the commander in chief has real instructional meaning.

COOPER: Do you believe this is obstruction of justice, this tweet?

BLUMENTHAL: It's certainly very powerful and credible evidence of malign and corrupt intent, which is an element of obstruction of justice. And oven the most difficult to prove.

It is a threat, plain and simple, brazen and blatant. Its purpose and effect is to threaten and intimidate the special counsel. But there is also a subtext here, Anderson, which is all of the president's surrogates, his cronies on Capitol Hill that are calling for the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein who controls this investigation.

[20:10:06] And the other kinds of intimidation coming from my colleagues unfortunately, very unwisely on Capitol Hill on the Republican side.

COOPER: Do you think the investigation can be properly completed without an interview of the president?

BLUMENTHAL: No. The president has to be interviewed.

COOPER: Because to figure out intent?

BLUMENTHAL: To know what the intent was, to give him an opportunity to clarify what he meant by these kinds of tweets and a variety of others that he has sent and conversations and other points he may have made privately. A lot of it is in the public eye, but some of it may be privately known only to Mueller at this point. Mueller knows a lot more than we do.

COOPER: If you were the president's attorney, though, you would not want him to sit down with Robert Mueller, would you? I mean, given what he said in front of Vladimir Putin on a world stage with cameras rolling that they then have to walk back, oh, you know, I said wouldn't, I meant would. What he would say to Robert Mueller, there is just no telling what would come out of his mouth.

BLUMENTHAL: That's why I think you're seeing this reluctance and constantly moving of goalposts by Rudy Giuliani about what he would accept as a condition for sitting down. Remember, just a couple of weeks ago, he said there has to be proof of

a crime committed by the president. You have to show us your evidence, before we'll sit down with you at all. Now they're using other goalposts. And I think that ultimately, they are very, very reluctant, and understandably so because the president is a tinderbox of potential perjury.

COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Other views now joining us, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case Against Impeaching Trump." Also, CNN legal analyst Anne Milgram, a former federal prosecutor.

Professor Dershowitz, this reporting that Mueller's team is willing to reduce the number of questions they'd ask about potential obstruction, do you think that's going to be enough to get the president to sit down?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, it's a very smart move by Mueller because it's not about quantity, it's about quality and substance. If they can just get the president to testify about what his motive was in firing Comey or about why he spoke to Comey about being -- going soft on Flynn, those are potential perjury traps. So, Mueller is very smart to reduce the number if the result is that he can get Trump to sit down and talk to him.

The lawyers are not happy about this. The lawyers do not want the president to answer any questions because that would subject the president to a possible 101 prosecution, that is lying to a prosecutor.

So -- and remember too, the lawyers are saying to him, look, you don't have to answer questions about your intent. We have a very good privilege argument that will probably prevail in front of a court. If you had the right and the power to fire Comey, then you cannot be questioned about why you did it any more than senator or a congressman or a judge can be questioned about why they rendered a decision or a vote.

So, I think in the end, it's going to be very unlikely that the lawyers will lose this battle and the president will actually sit down and expose himself to a possible perjury trap.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Professor, you use the term perjury trap. It's only a perjury trap if someone wants to perjure themselves, isn't it?

DERSHOWITZ: No, that's not true.

COOPER: Well, no one is being forced to lie. I mean, it's a perjury trap -- correct me.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I will correct you. If you have the president saying something that he believes is truthful, and then you have another witness, Cohen or Manafort or one of the others contradicting him without regard to who is telling the truth, you could get a perjury prosecution.

So I've often advised clients who have insisted to me that they will only tell the truth. I say to them, but it is possible that any other witness will tell the truth different than yours? And if the answer to that is yes, in 53 years, I've never had a client sit down with a prosecutor, innocent, guilty, or in between.

So, you're absolutely right that for the most part, if you're completely innocent, the risks are lower. But there are risks even if you're innocent. If you have people who are being squeezed.

Remember that Judge Ellis has said about Manafort that they're not really interested in him. They're trying to squeeze him. And he used a term, a term that I have used for years, saying sometimes you can squeeze a witness into not only singing, but composing. If you can get a witness to compose, then it really does become a perjury trap.

COOPER: But, Anne, but the biggest perjury trap is having a witness who is prone to lying.

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No question about it. And also, I think the way the professor's describing perjury, it makes it seem like if there's two completely different versions of events, someone can be charged with perjury. In my experience as a state and federal prosecutor, that's not the case. To prove perjury is a very high standard, and you actually have to be able to prove to a jury that one version of events is false.

So, you know, again, I tend to think the same way most people do, that, you know, if you have nothing to hide and you're going to tell the truth, you should go in and talk to the investigators.

[20:15:05] COOPER: Professor Dershowitz --

DERSHOWITZ: That's why you're not a defense lawyer. That's why you're not a defense lawyer. If you were a defense lawyer, you would understand completely.

MILGRAM: Well, one point --

DERSHOWITZ: That it is enormously -- it's enormously risky to go in and tell the truth if somebody is telling a different truth, and if prosecutors have an interest in promoting the truth that the other person is saying. It's just too risky.

MILGRAM: If I could switch a little, I think it's worth debating this question of perjury, but I'll tell you my view. My view is that the president doesn't want to go in. And so, we talk about whether or not the lawyers want him to go in or don't want him to go in. And I think that Mueller very much wants him in.

So what we're seeing a little bit is this dance. And, you know, my view is, look, people tell the president not to tweet. He tweets all the time. If you were his lawyer I assume would not have told him to send that tweet this morning, and yet he is pretty unstoppable.

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely.

MILGRAM: So my view is if he really wants to go in, he's going to go in. And so, I think we'll know soon enough whether it's true that he wants to tell his side of the story.

COOPER: Professor, the tweet from the president this morning saying the Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop the investigation, the White House said it was an opinion, not an order. I wonder how you read it, because previously, the White House has said these are statements by the president. They hold the imprint of that.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I don't know what the tweet was intended to do because he's telling sessions to stop the investigation. Sessions doesn't have the power to stop the investigation. Sessions is officially and formally recused. He is not permitted to take any action to stop the investigation.

If he really wanted to stop the investigation, he would direct Rod Rosenstein to stop the investigation, or he would fire Mueller, which he has the power to do legally, but not politically. Politically, he does not have the power to fire Mueller. It would be enormously costly to him. Nor does he have the power politically to fire Rosenstein.

So he's just, you know, puffing off about Sessions when Sessions has no authority to stop the investigation at all.

COOPER: Anne, is that how you see it? That it's just kind of puffing off?

MILGRAM: You know, to me, it's pretty stunning that we're in the middle of this national conversation that started last week about the president's tweets and whether or not he is obstructing justice in tweeting about wanting to stop or influencing an investigation, and then he literally sends a tweet this morning talking about wanting to stop the investigation.

And so whether or not he could actualize it and make it happen strikes me as almost not the point here. The point is that -- please.


COOPER: Finish your thought. Hold on. Just finish your thought.

DERSHOWITZ: I thought you were done.

MILGRAM: The conversation about tweets to me is tweets can absolutely used against someone in a court of law. People's words are used against them all the time. And it is one of those things where to me the tweets will be looked at all together, and there are multiple tweets that I think could pose legal jeopardy to the president.

So, obviously, you know, it's stunning to me that he would be tweeting about this today.

COOPER: Yes. Professor, finally? DERSHOWITZ: I just want every American to think about what it would

mean if we started prosecuting any American, the president or anybody else for expressing strong views about the unjustness of a prosecution. Any defendant feels that the prosecution or the investigation against them is unjust. Every one of my client has railed against prosecutors.

COOPER: But your clients don't have the power to stop the prosecutors --

DERSHOWITZ: Threatening prosecution. Now, of course -- of course, that's right. But he doesn't have the power to stop it through Sessions. And he really doesn't have the political power to stop it.

I just want to talk about the civil liberties implications of basing a prosecution on cobbling together public tweets. Obstruction of justice takes place generally --

COOPER: And you know they're not basing the prosecution based on tweets. I mean, you certainly know -- I mean, they've been amassing evidence now for quite some time.

DERSHOWITZ: But it's almost all public. It's almost all public things he did, acts that he was entitled to do under Article 2 of the Constitution.

COOPER: I mean, we don't know that. I mean, you don't know --

DERSHOWITZ: It's an extraordinarily week obstruction case.

COOPER: You have no idea what the evidence they gathered is.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, we know what the public evidence is.

COOPER: That doesn't mean anything. We know the tip of an iceberg.

DERSHOWITZ: If there is -- look, if he did what Nixon did and paid hush money or told his people to lie or destroyed evidence, of course, that's obstruction of justice. But engaging in public outrage at a prosecution that he honestly feels is unjust has to be protected by the First Amendment, whether you're the president or anyone else.

COOPER: All right. Professor Dershowitz, appreciate it. Anne Milgram as well. Thank you.

Just ahead tonight. More on how the Paul Manafort trial may factor into all of this. What went on today as the case continues to speed through court. Also, why the government's never ending -- never ending of calling -- why they never ended up calling their star witness, excuse me.

And next, the rage at Trump rallies and the president's encouraging of it. We're keeping him honest, when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:22:56] COOPER: If today's attempt to downplaying the president's Russia tweet bear into the comical at times, this next issue is not. It is flat out disturbing. It happened at a Trump rally yesterday and it was something the president encouraged people to do, as he often does, something he's repeatedly encouraged people to do.

And I'm going to show you the video in a moment. But what you're going to see are otherwise respectable people, fellow citizens, fellow Americans, people you'd say hello to on the street shouting profanities, making obscene gestures, emptying their rage on members of the press covering last night's Trump rally in Tampa. Take a look.


COOPER: So, it gets worse, as you'll see in a moment. One of the things that's alarming about this, besides the very real potential that this kind of anger can easily lead to violence is instead of taking steps to tamp down the anger or curtail the protesters or just admonish them, the president of the United States has encouraged them, even retweeted some of the video out to his millions of followers. And if you think anyone in the White Houses that courage or the conviction to criticize what the president is encouraging, you would be mistaken.

Here is Sarah Sanders generically condemning violence, something that, of course, did not happen last night, thankfully, but saying nothing about what did actually happen.


SANDERS: The president condemns and denounces any group that would insight violence against another individual, and certainly doesn't support groups that would promote that type of behavior.


COOPER: So, she was trying to steer the conversation towards far right conspiracy groups like QAnon, which we'll talk about more. And even then as you'll see, she lumped them together with the press, suggesting there is some kind of equivalence between the two.

In fact, there was another reporter in the briefing pointed out, that's not the issue. At issue, at least not for now it's not the issue. The issue at hand is the kind of open display of rage last night that the president is encouraging in rallies and on Twitter.

Now, here is some of the video that CNN's Jim Acosta put up on Instagram. I want to play through it a couple of times. First what cameras saw and then with portions highlighted so you get a better idea of what Jim and other reporters were surrounded last night in Tampa while simply doing their constitutionally protected jobs.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop lying! Tell the truth. Tell the truth.




COOPER: So, that's what it sounded like. Now, I just want to play it again with certain things highlighted, because, you know, it's easy to lose it in the crowd. It starts with a man shouting F the media.

And everyone you see here, they could be your neighbor. They could teach your kid science, they could be in your carpool. They could be saying prayers next to you in church.

But at these rallies that potential churchgoer might be raising a middle finger shouting as another man does "stop lying, stop lying" into the camera. That guy.

Now there is another lady who first raises one middle finger. This lady right here is very charming. Then she raises both fingers shouting "you suck, you suck."

You're only seeing less than a minute of it. But this kind of thing went on a whole lot longer. The president saw fit to encourage it on twitter.

And again, Sarah Sanders did not see fit to condemn it simply without reservation.


SANDERS: The president, as I just said, does not support violence against anyone or anything. And we've been very clear every single time we've been asked about that.

When it comes to the media, the president does think that the media holds a responsibility. We fully support a free press, but there also comes a high level of responsibility with that. The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools. This has happened both in our administration and in past administrations.

One of the worst cases was the reporting on the U.S. ability to listen to Osama bin Laden's satellite phone in the late '90s, because of that reporting, he stopped using that phone and the country lost valuable intelligence.


COOPER: So, as for the last part of what she said there, the part about reporting accurately and fairly. Yes. Certainly, people in the media have gotten things wrong. I've gotten thing wrong. Not often, but when we do. And when that happens, we correct it, sometimes within seconds or minutes, as fast as we can.

The same cannot be said of Sarah Sanders or the president or others in the White House. Keeping them honest, though the example Sarah Sanders mentioned there about Osama bin Laden and the phone, that's actually not true. "The Washington Post" fact checkers ran it all down 13 years ago.

By the time the story Sarah Sanders was apparently referring to ran in September of 1998, bin Laden had apparently already stopped using his satellite phone. In fact, CNN's Peter Bergen, who has reported extensively on this as early as 1997 met with bin Laden. Bin Laden's men were already concerned about electronic surveillance back by 1997.

Quoting "The Post" headline now: Filed the bin Laden phone leak under urban myths. Now, we'll see if Sarah Sanders corrects herself in a few minutes or a few hours or in a few days or whenever she happens to have a next press conference. I doubt it. We'll see if she holds herself to the same standards that we hold ourselves to.

Joining us now is CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.

I mean, you know, I always try to use the example if the president was a Democrat and you had, you know, a Democratic president encouraging people at rallies to scream at reporters.


COOPER: Reporters would be outraged about it. I mean, if they were screaming at a Fox News, you know, get off the air and when anybody does that, that's abhorrent.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: Yes, I agree. There are some reporters of other networks who are coming to the defense of CNN on this and Jim Acosta in particular.

You know, the publisher of the "New York Times" went to see the president recently, and he made the point to him which I think is exactly right. The whole charges about fake news is very, very disturbing, but the serious issue is when the president starts calling the press enemies of people.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: That's an old phrase. It comes out of the Stalinist background, and it really makes them sort of traitors to the country. And there were some hint of reporters being called traitors last night. If you put that, the enemies of people together, along with a rally that has a mob quality to it, and then along with the culture of gun violence, that's a very combustible mix.

COOPER: Well, also, Sarah Sanders then -- I mean, talking about enemies of the people, traitors, she is talking about revealing classified information. I mean, there are so many examples of reporters holding back on reporting things at the request of intelligence agencies so that sources and methods are protected or lives are not endangered. An operation actually put in --

GERGEN: I've been involved in many other occasions when the head of the CIA or someone, the secretary of defense or the president himself might call a publisher and say would you please withhold this.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: Because here's what's at stake. You know, when we had our hostages in Iran, you know, for those 400 and plus days, no leaks. They were protected the whole time by press who knew they were in there, but didn't want to endanger their lives. So, we have a president when he comes in, takes an oath to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans. And what this president and this White House seem to not to accept is that that's their responsibility at these rallies, to ensure that a free press can exercise day to day work.

COOPER: It's also sort of interesting, because, you know, the President has spoken about the importance of the Second Amendment.

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: Many times. You expect the President, and again, I know Donald Trump is a rule breaker, and that's why he got elected, and people wanted to see things shaken up. But you do expect the President to defend the constitution of the United States.

GERGEN: Exactly.

COOPER: And to explain the intricacies of the constitution.

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: And the sometimes uncomfortable difficulties that the constitution, you know, enforces on the country. And that's not something this President has done or really seems willing to do in any way.

GERGEN: I'm afraid it does (ph), I mean if he's read parts of the constitution like the Second Amendment but is not terribly familiar with other parts of it like the First Amendment. But I will tell you this, Anderson, what we saw last night is what we saw frequently in Sarah Palin rallies way back when in the early part of it. And John McCain, who was her running mate and presidential nominee went out, went to those rallies and said stop it. Let's end this. That is the president's responsibility. And unless he stops this soon, I will tell you, if there is violence against any reporter that's tied to this, the blood is going to be on his hands.

COOPER: I mean it seems, you know, I mean one doesn't want to predict anything, but I mean the idea of violence occurring if somebody whose disturbed, you know, being motivated by this rightly or wrongly in their -- you know, certainly in their mind they would be right. But even if it's not what the President said.

GERGEN: Right. COOPER: Just this kind of a mob atmosphere, violence, it doesn't take much.

GERGEN: It doesn't take much. And then we got this new element of the QAnon, which we're reporting on.


COOPER: A lot of people -- not a lot, but a number of people there last night with shirts saying, you know, with QAnon on it.

GERGEN: It's strange, but there are a lot of conspiracy theorists.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: Conspiracy theorists are known to act on them.


GERGEN: And sometimes use violence as in the pizzeria situation.

COOPER: Yes. David Gergen, appreciate it, thank you very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Day two of the Paul Manafort trial. Prosecutors are urging the judge are speaking through their case. There is a lot of testimony goes with the government says was Paul Manafort's lavish lifestyle, including details in that $15,000 ostrich jacket. The latest from the court, just ahead.


[20:36:15] COOPER: Day two of the Paul Manafort trial and focus of what prosecutors said was his lavish lifestyle. Paid for wired transfers from off shore accounts. Government lawyers also told the judge they might not call his long-time deputy Rick Gates as a witness. Now, in the courtroom today for us, CNN's Jessica Schneider who joins us now.

So did we learn today more about how Manafort paid for all these expensive purchases?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we did, Anderson. Prosecutors, they're going to great lengths to showcase Paul Manafort's lavish lifestyle. To do that, they called six vendors to the stand. These were employees at Mercedes-Benz, also high end retailers in Manhattan for luxury men's clothing. And all of these vendors, they said the exact same thing. They said that Paul Manafort paid them through wire transfers, through these offshore accounts. And these were really some heavy price tags here.

Paul Manafort paid contractors about $1.13 million for home improvements. He also paid close to $500,000 to a men's clothing store boutique, as well as women as $123,000 at that car dealership, Mercedes-Benz. So really what prosecutors are trying to do here, they're trying to lay out exactly how Manafort got all of this money from his Ukrainian lobbying, and also how he tried the hide these payments in these offshore accounts as well as these shell accounts. Anderson?

COOPER: I was very confused yesterday as you know about the notion of an ostrich coat which I thought meant ostrich feathers. Sadly it apparently doesn't. There were pictures introduced into evidence, right?

SCHNEIDER: So, there were pictures. Prosecutors have plenty of these pictures not only of that illustrious ostrich coat, but these luxury watches, all of the luxury clothing that Paul Manafort had. And what's interesting about this is they have entered it into evidence. However, the jury has not actually seen these photos. The judge has wanted to keep this case moving along. So when prosecutors tried to enter the actual photographic evidence, when they tried to publish it so the jury could see it in the courtroom, the judge said no, let's move along. The testimony is enough.

However, the jury will see these pictures once they go back into the jury room after the case, both sides have rested. When they go into their deliberations, of course they're not allowed to watch TV, not allowed to see any of the news articles about this trial. So likely, Anderson, they won't be seeing it on your show or elsewhere. But yes, they will get these pictures that show just how lavishly Paul Manafort lived.

COOPER: The ostrich coat is a little disappointing to be honest now that I've seen the pictures. Did the prosecution say why they might not call Gates as a witness?

SCHNEIDER: You know, it's quite possible that the prosecution was just bluffing here, because when they said we might, we might not, it actually came during questioning of an FBI agent. And he introduced some of the evidence that they got during this raid of Paul Manafort's condo last summer. And one of the items said Gates' agenda. So as soon as that came up, the judge stopped the proceeding. Again, the judge has been very vocal here, and the judge said why are you questioning him about something Gates did? Gates' work product. If you're going to have Gates up here testifying. That's when prosecutors said, well, we might, we might not.

So it's possible it was bluff. It's also possible they're trying to throw the defense team off their game because of course the defense has said they will rely on Rick Gates' testimony, essentially to discredit him as the real liar, the real stealer, the real embezzler. So, it remains to be seen.

COOPER: There were also more details that came out today about the raid on Manafort's house.

SCHNEIDER: That's exactly right. They had an FBI agent on the stand who was present for that predawn raid last July at Paul Manafort's condo right here in Alexandria, Virginia. He really laid out what happened. Now at the time there were some reports that this was a no- knock raid, that FBI agents just burst into the home. This FBI agent said no, we actually knocked three times, waiting before each and every knock. And then when there was no answer, we entered the home with a key we had. That's when we saw Paul Manafort standing there.

[20:40:11] Of course Paul Manafort has portrayed it as him being stunned. FBI agents at that point did take hundreds of documents, all of which they're relying on heavily in this case for their prosecution. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Jessica, I appreciate it.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara who used to be the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. First of all the idea that Rick Gates might not take the stand of the prosecution, may not call him -- I mean why do you think that would be, because clearly the defense is putting a lot on saying basically Rick Gates is the villain here.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIONR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, look, so as an initial matter the government made the decision to sign up rick Gates as a cooperating witness to give him potential for leniency from the judge if he testifies truthfully, et cetera. So they made a determination as an initial matter that Gates had substantial assistance to give to the government. But when it comes down, you know, to trial, when the rubber meets the road, it may be true as the report said that they're bluffing. But also as sometimes the case, you see how the evidence goes in.

And if you see the documents speak for themselves. And you see if the other testimony so clearly sets out the violation of law, you know, in this case, some of those being Paul Manafort had an interest in a foreign bank account, didn't disclose it. That's not very complicated. You don't need a lot of commentary.

COOPER: So may not even need Rick Gates.

BHARARA: Right. Because the problem with Rick Gates, with every cooperating witness, it's someone who is testifying a little bit to save his own skin.

COOPER: Right.

BHARARA: So you always have that layer of it.

COOPER: And they're going to go after him because of that.

BHARARA: Correct. And not only that, one of the things he plead guilty with Gates, plead guilty to, was lying to the FBI. Not just any kind of lie to the FBI, lying in the context of trying to get a disposition for himself. So that subjects him to a lot of cross- examination, which we withstand all the time in trial. So it's a balance between trying to see do we have enough evidence that speaks for itself without having to call this person who is going to attract a lot of terrible cross-examination.

COOPER: But the defense could still call him to the stand.

BHARARA: Potentially.

COOPER: But he would have less power if the prosecution hasn't called him and sort put a lot of weight on what to what he has to say.

BHARARA: Yes, you to be careful what you wish for. Because in some ways Rick Gates also presumably given that the government signed him up has the baggage, yes. But also probably has a lot of devastating commentary he could give about the intent of Paul Manafort.

COOPER: So if the defense calls him up, that could still come out as well?

BHARARA: Yes, it will all come out. Because, then the prosecution would cross-examine.

COOPER: Right.

BHARARA: As to all the other things. So, it's unclear. Sometimes -- it will also be very bad for the defense I think in some ways if they don't -- if the prosecution doesn't call Rick Gates, even though the defense can call him, they made a big show of how terrible Rick Gates would be. It's a little bit of a different circumstance when it becomes a defense witness versus a prosecution witness.

COOPER: Interesting. The idea that Manafort was paying for all this stuff directly with wire transfers, a, I didn't know you could do that at stores. But is that -- I mean is that legal?

BHARARA: It's only ostrich coat stores, apparently.

COOPER: But I mean it just seems, if he's not paying taxes on the stuff, isn't it idiotic for him to get wire transfers from offshore banks into stores? Doesn't the government track that?

BHARARA: Yes, there is a lot of idiocy in crime generally, and it seems that Paul Manafort is no exception to that. It seems like he was making a lot money. He could evade taxes on that money. You know, what's interesting in some of the reporting that we've seen about the trial is that the prosecutors are making a big deal of how he spent the money, the lavish lifestyle, the ostrich coat, you talked about it some length this evening, which can sway the jury and have the jury feel, well, this person was motivated by greed and was cheating in a way that is offensive to the jury, but you do have to be careful about that. You can overdo it and you can be, you know, not proportional about it.

COOPER: Right.

BHARARA: And jurors begin to see if you're piling on. So, I wasn't there at the trial. I assume it was done elegantly and proportionately. But you do have to be a little bit careful because it doesn't matter --

COOPER: Right.

BHARARA: -- if he was spending money on an ostrich coat or for his mother's surgery, the crime was the crime. And how he spent the money actually doesn't matter, necessarily.

COOPER: I have to say looking at the coats, it's not sort of like, oh my god, I can't believe he bought that brown coat. I mean it's like a bunch of coats. I mean I don't know how --

BHARARA: I'm not familiar with ostrich. I don't wear --

COOPER: I thought it was going to be feathers in which case --

BHARARA: A wool. A wool guy.

COOPER: A wool guy. All right. Give it time. A few years in TV you'll be an ostrich.

BHARARA: Well, I follow you.

COOPER: Preet Bharara, thanks.

Up next, the TSA is supposed to keep us all safe of course from the sky. So, the why the agency considering not screening thousands of passengers? The answer on a CNN exclusive report in a moment.


[20:48:22] COOPER: Tonight, a CNN exclusive. The Trump administration is considering a major change to airport security, stopping TSA screenings at more than 150 small and medium-sized airports to save money, screenings that started after the September 11th terror attacks to keep everybody safe, of course. The reporting that broke late this afternoon is already making waves.

Detail now from CNN's Rene Marsh.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): TSA is considering allowing thousands of passengers to board commercial airlines across the United States without being screened. That's according to internal documents obtained by CNN. The documents from June and July outline an elimination of security screening at small and some medium-sized airports that operate commercial planes with 60 seats or fewer. TSA's recent cost analysis estimates the move could save $115 million that could be used to bolster security at large airports.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think it's stunning that this is even being seriously considered.

MARSH (voice-over): The proposal does not list which airports could be impacted, but says screening would be eliminated at more than 150. TSA currently screens passengers at 440 airports.

According to the proposal, passengers and luggage arriving from these smaller airports would be screened when they arrive at major ones. Their operating theory is attacks with small aircraft would not be as attractive a payoff to terrorists because the potential for loss of life would be less than what terrorists could achieve with larger planes. National security experts disagree.

CRUICKSHANK: ISIS their message is attack in any way you can, big or small against anybody you can go after. And so the opportunity to go after a 50-person passenger jet or aircraft is going to be very attractive to the group in terms of its messaging.

[20:50:10] MARSH (voice-over): In an e-mail to CNN TSA said, "This is not a new issue. The regulations which establish TSA does not require screening below a certain level. So every year is the year that TSA will reconsider screening."

CNN asked TSA to point us to that regulation. The agency has not responded. 20 TSA employees recently met to evaluate the cost-saving proposal that could mean less hassle for thousands of travelers. The group determined the plan could increase security vulnerabilities at airports. But overall the risk is low.


COOPER: And Rene joins us now with more. So, I understand there have been some new developments just since your story broke.

MARSH: Right. Well Anderson, after our story broke TSA sent talking points out to all of its senior leadership communicating just how to respond to the many inquiries at airports nationwide. And the talking points note that a final decision has not yet been made. And it goes on to say that TSA remains very committed to its very core mission and it says that any potential operational changes to better allocate limited taxpayer resources are simply part of predecisional discussions and would not take place without a risk assessment. And you know, it is CNN's reporting that there was a risk assessment completed.

COOPER: So, I mean is this the first time TSA's considered this? Because in your statement it seemed like it something that every year it's kind of under review.

MARSH: Right. And some of our sources who've been at TSA for quite some time push back on whether they're being loose with the word "consideration." We do know this. The idea was floated as far back as 2011. It met a lot of resistance from city, states, the airline industry and even Congress. The proposal has since been resurrected. But the people within the agency who are veterans who've been there for quite some time say this is different. This proposal involved a cost analysis as well as a risk assessment. They say that doesn't happen every year, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Rene Marsh, appreciate it.

I want to check in with Chris, see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you and I disagree about Twitter. I say that the tweets matter, especially the President's. You tell me not to go so heavy on Twitter in general. But tonight I win. And here's why, Anderson. I'm going to make a case tonight. We're going to point out on the magic wall why the tweets matter on two levels. Why they may matter to prosecutors and not as opinions but as potential admissions. And why they matter on a larger part of our political reality right now with the introduction of the President's new conspiracy pals of QAnon's.

COOPER: Yes. I should point out I'm not saying the President's tweets or tweets in general don't matter, I'm just saying your tweets. You need to back off a little bit. You don't need to put your heart into them.

CUOMO: Yes, that is true. I stretched what you usually say to effect and to play for advantage. But you are telling the truth. You usually limit it to just to me. It just wasn't as helpful to me in this argument.

COOPER: I just think you'd be happier in general. Maybe not.

CUOMO: Any thing's got to help.

COOPER: All right. I'll still follow you Instagram. Chris, thank you very much.

David Gergen mentioned early in the program, Chris just mentioned as well, we're going to take a look potential elements, some Trump rallies including one last night members of this group called QAnon. You see the sigh there, believe over conspiracy theory, their movement is just now surfacing to a large audience. We'll detail what it is ahead.


[20:56:32] COOPER: Well certainly a lot of conspiracy theorist out there this day, but you may not know very much about a group called QAnon, a group that embraces a wide array of these theories. You could see some signs to last nights Trump rally and QAnon visible presence is growing. Our Randi Kaye tonight has an explanation.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): QAnon is a fringe group built on conspiracy theories and devoted to Donald Trump. The Q represents a real person. Someone who is anonymous who claims to have access to government secrets. Intel that he or she refers to as crumbs that are revealed in dark corners of the web. Those so-called classified secrets, all of them false, then are shared on websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Some of the conspiracy theories that have been shared under the banner of Q, that the Las Vegas concert shooting was actually a botched attempt to assassinate the Saudi crown prince. And that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are actually the ones under investigation by Robert Mueller, not the Trump campaign. Also that Trump was pretending to favor Putin so it would force an investigation into the Democrats. The group seems to have grown stronger last year after the President said this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: You guys know what this represents? I don't know maybe it's the calm before the storm.

KAYE (on-camera): Weeks later report say, someone calling themselves Q began to post cryptic messages in an online thread called Calm Before the Storm. Q claimed to be a high-level government insider. Followers believe Q even flew on Air Force One.

(voice-over): At one point QAnon had falsely suggested certain Hollywood celebrities were pedophiles, posting video of the alleged victims on YouTube. Another theory that gained steam, lies about slain DNC staffer Seth Rich.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Explosive developments in the mysterious murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich.

KAYE (voice-over): One of the theories posted read "Q bombshell. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ordered Seth Rich's murder." And suggested someone has put together some very significant QAnon bread crumbs and baked a bombshell loaf of bread.

Police say it was a botched robbery. Wasserman-Schultz called the rumors vial. More recently QAnon evangelists started bombarding a reporter for the conservative website "The Daily Caller" insisting he ask about QAnon at the White House briefing. He refused to do it.

SAAGAR ENJETI, WH CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY CALLER: I have people commenting on my personal Instagram photos saying I'm a coward who needs to do my damn job and ask about Q. So yes, it was like a nonstop of three, four days of online harassment.

KAYE (voice-over): While it's unclear how many people believe these lies, awareness of QAnon really began to mushroom after the so-called pizza gate conspiracy. A wild theory that falsely connected high- ranking Democratic officials to an alleged child trafficking ring at a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. But people believed it. Leading to one man opening fire on the restaurant. No one was hurt, but some worry it could be a precursor of violence spawned by the group's outlandish claims.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Weird. Quick reminder, don't miss our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. It's called "Full Circle". You can see it weeknights at 6:25 eastern at

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

[21:00:02] CUOMO: I love full circle, by the way. So does my 15- year-old. Look at you breaking into a new generation. And thank you for Randi, set up piece, it is the perfect transition to the case we're going to make. Thank you my friend.