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Mueller Team Interviews "Manhattan Madam"; Accountants: Manafort Doctored Financial Statements; Trump Slams Russia Probe as "Hoax" Hours After Intel Says Russia is Trying to Interfere in 2018 Elections; Federal Judge Calls Government Proposal For ACLU Track Down Deported Parents "Unacceptable"; TSA Officials Discussing More Cost- Saving Measures. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 3, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:21] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

A lot happening tonight, including two big developments that may touch on the president, one involving his former campaign chairman who is on trial for tax and bank fraud, but is also under pressure to cooperate with the Russia special counsel. The other involves the close friend of the president, his longtime associate and longtime campaign adviser Roger Stone, a woman who once made headlines for another political- connected scandal.

Kristin Davis is her name. She was formally known as the "Manhattan Madam". Today, we learned she has spoken with team Mueller.

CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now with the latest on her and how she may factor into Robert Mueller's case.

So, we know she met with Mueller's team. Do we have any idea what they asked her?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't right now, Anderson, what was asked by Mueller's team to Davis. But we know that this woman, as you said, known as "Manhattan Madam" voluntarily spoke with investigators. And what she knows and how she fits isn't exactly clear. But sources tell CNN Mueller's team would like her to testify in front of a grand jury.

So, this really points to the fact that the special counsel seems to be focusing on Stone as they continue this overarching investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. And Davis really has a very close relationship with Stone. They've known each other for a decade. Stone is the godfather to Davis' 2-year-old son. Stone put Davis on his payroll.

And conversely, when Davis made a New York gubernatorial run, Stone worked on her campaign. So, perhaps she has information on his finance, his connections, his friendships, any other personal life matters.

We should mentioned, Anderson, that Stone did release a statement saying this, quote: Kristin Davis is a long-time friend and associate of mine. I'm the godfather to her 2-year-old son. She knows nothing about Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration or any other impropriety related to the 2016 election which I thought was the subject of this probe. I understand she appeared voluntarily. I'm highly confident she will testify truthfully if called upon to do so -- Anderson.

COOPER: And I understand, investigators seemed to be interested in Stone's relationship with her son?

GINGRAS: Yes. Sources tell CNN Mueller's team have asked at least two witnesses about the relationship between Davis' son, again, 2 years old, and stone, probing about the possibility that's it Stone's child instead of godchild. Again, we're not sure where those questions lead, but it's clear here, investigators are asking questions about his personal life as part of this bigger picture.

COOPER: And how does Stone fit into what we know about the Russia investigation so far?

GINGRAS: Yes, this is a man who had close relationships with the president. Stone served as an adviser to the president. While he never was officially part of the Trump campaign, he knew -- talked to Stone frequently, talked to him during that time.

At one point, Stone admitted to even brag about having connections to WikiLeaks. So that would obviously be of interest to investigators. But stone hasn't been interviewed by Mueller's team as far as we know. So, we have to make that point, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Brynn Gingras, appreciate it.

Now, the president's former campaign chairman, his trial and what appeared to be his growing legal troubles. Today, two accountants for Paul Manafort took the stand and what they have to say about his taxes will leave a mark.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with the latest on that trial.

So, what else happened today, day four?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So, it was big day really for the prosecution. They had their first person of testifying really with direct knowledge of Manafort's alleged scheme obviously to hide money in offshore accounts, to lie on his taxes. This witness who testified, Cindy Laporta, she was one of the witnesses that was given immunity. She was one of the five that given immunity by the special counsel's office.

And really, Anderson, it was big day for prosecutors, a damaging testimony for Manafort. She testified that Manafort asked her to falsify document, and some of this activity while he was running the Trump campaign in 2016. In one case, she said that money that Manafort claimed he had in offshore account, that it was loan when in fact it was income that he had made, that by doing so, that reduced his taxes by $500,000. There's e-mails of communications between her and Paul Manafort. Really, this is setting up quite the number of witnesses that are

going to be coming and really all the evidence that prosecutors seem to have against Paul Manafort.

COOPER: Did the accountant explain why she lied for Manafort initially?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, she was regretful, Anderson, certainly. She said he was an important client to her and she simply did not want to fight him. She didn't stand up to him. But in the end, really her only reason for not doing it was because she just felt he was too important a client.

COOPER: Do we know when Gates is going to testify? Rick Gates?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So, that's going to be a big day. We thought maybe it could start today. We now think it is likely, if there is any chance that it could probably be Monday, the earliest. It could be on Tuesday.

They have to finish with this accountant on Monday afternoon. She is going to be back in court on Monday, and he could, Rick Gates could testify after that, which would either be Monday or Tuesday, Anderson.

[20:05:03] COOPER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks.

So, between Manafort, the former madam and Roger Stone as well, there is plenty to talk about, plenty to ask our best legal minds. Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case Against Impeaching Trump". Also with us is former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, author of some years back of "Blind Ambition."

Professor Dershowitz, the fact that Mueller's team interviewed the so- called "Manhattan Madam", it is clear to you that Roger Stone continues to be a focus of this investigation, or at least of the interest to this investigation? Is this what this is can only be about?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: It seems very likely. Look, I think everybody hopes this doesn't become what happened in the Bill Clinton investigation where it started out as Whitewater and ended up with sordid sex.

This is a serious investigation. It should focus, of course, on Russia and Russia's involvement in the American election. And I hope that's where the focus remains.

COOPER: John, I mean, this isn't the first associate of Roger Stone that the special counsel has talked to. Sam Nunberg, Michael Caputo were also questioned by the Mueller team about him.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It appears that they're trying to get a very tight timeline on his activities, his contacts with Guccifer 2, to find out what his relationship may or may not have been. To either exonerate him or find to press him to admit whatever role he may or may not have had. So, yes, a lot of his associates, much to his chagrin, are being

questioned as well as his relationship with other people.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, we know the special counsel's team hasn't talked to Roger Stone yet. Is this typically the way works, get all the information from people around someone and then call them in?

DERSHOWITZ: Without a doubt. You always want to know the answers to the questions you're going to ask before you call somebody in. You don't want any surprises.

It's rare that interviewing somebody like Stone would be for purposes of gathering information. It's for purposes of validating information you've already got from others and perhaps, and this is always speculative, trying to squeeze him by getting him to say something that's untrue and then use that to try to squeeze him to provide information he may not want to provide.

Look, that's the way prosecutors operate. Civil libertarians have been concerned about that for years. But it's fairly typical.

COOPER: And, Professor Dershowitz, in the Manafort trial, you think that's really what's going on here? That this is an effort ultimately to squeeze Manafort?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, that's me. That's Judge Ellis who's the judge presiding over this, who knows an enormous amount about this case. He said in open court that this is not about Manafort. It sounds like a fairly typical tax evasion case. Was it a loan? Was it income?

But the goal is to get him convicted and to give him a choice between dying in prison or turning on his former associate. Yes, that's what this is about, of course.

COOPER: John, do you agree that's what this is about? That they're not really interested in what are, you know, the charges of bank fraud, or money laundering or violating lobby disclosure law and evading taxes? It's really about ultimately squeezing him?

DEAN: Well, that is a possibility. They certainly appear to have stacked up some charges. The reason there are two cases, there is one in D.C. and one in Virginia is that Manafort refused to waive the venue issue, otherwise these would have all been tried together.

And as you watch the trial, you watch the information, what's curious is that Manafort went to work for Trump when the guy apparently was flat broke and asked for no salary. So, this suggests somebody as the commentators are saying, who might have been ripe for pickings by the Russians. And that might be the cliff this trial leads us on.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, this is within the purview of Mueller's team. The special counsel is authorized to investigate any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. That's a pretty broad mandate. DERSHOWITZ: I think that's right. And I think the judge wrote the

right decision when he refused to dismiss it. But nonetheless, the judge did say that the purpose is obviously to try to get Manafort.

Look, Manafort was smart not waiving venue because he is much better off with Judge Ellis and a Virginia jury than he would be with a judge who revoked his bail in Washington, D.C. and a D.C. jury, which is going to be largely Democrat. And so -- but, it gives the prosecution two shots.

It's risky on both sides, but in the end, they will probably get a conviction and probably try very hard to squeeze Manafort. We can't know at this point whether Manafort will, A, sing or compose, or B, whether he'll be pardoned.

COOPER: It was interesting, John, to hear all the details how far Manafort went to attempt to hide a very significant amount of income and how many different ways he allegedly went about trying to do it.

[20:10:00] DEAN: Yes. His accountants on the stand today were certainly revealing his modus operandi and how little they knew about some of his affair, yet they were enough aware the fact that his taxes were not accurate, and they put that into evidence today. And this defense of blaming everything on Gates is getting tougher and tougher as they record that Manafort himself was signing many of these documents.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, about Gates, he is expected to testify Monday. How important do you think his testimony is going to be in the case? Because certainly defense has been trying to paint him as the bad guy from the start.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, a little less important than I previously thought because this accountant, who doesn't seem to have an ax to grind did testify pretty persuasively. Now, of course, she could conceivably have been prosecuted because she did sign the tax returns. But that's rarely done.

So, Gates will still be important. He will be easy picking for a good cross-examiner because he has gotten the deal and he can be shown to have an interest in being -- stating testimony that would be acceptable to prosecution. But if he has corroborated testimony and if he's corroborated by the accountant, then his testimony can be persuasive to a jury.

COOPER: John, is it possible to make a plea deal once the trial start?

DEAN: Absolutely. As the professor I'm sure could instruct us, and maybe in his own experience, I understand that you can you take a plea up to the time the jury is even out to deliberating.

COOPER: Is that right, Professor?

DERSHOWITZ: Yes. And that has happened. There is a famous case where Rudy Giuliani was a young assistant district attorney, and a congressman was on trial, and the plea was obtained after Giuliani devastated him on cross-examine. He then submitted a plea.

There is another famous case where while the jury was out, they accepted a plea, and then the jury came back and acquitted. Nonetheless, the guilty plea was accepted.


DERSHOWITZ: So, you can do it any time.

COOPER: Professor, thank you. John Dean as well. Stick around. We're going to talk to you in the next hour of 360.

There is a lot more ahead tonight in this hour, including the question of why the president always seems to be at odds with the rest of his administration on Russia's threat to U.S. elections. Keeping them honest, I'll ask two officials in other administration if they've ever seen anything like this before.

And later, a judge gives the administration a tongue-lashing and all those kids who still have not been reunited with their families. See how he is keeping them honest tonight on 360.


[20:16:41] COOPER: The Kremlin today lashed out at the Russia investigation. A foreign ministry spokeswoman referring to it as, and I'm quote here, the two-year hysteria around the alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections which did not happen. She says the focus on it undermines relations between the two countries, which sounds almost exactly like what President Trump said last night.

Speaking at a rally in eastern Pennsylvania, the president had warm words about his summit with Vladimir Putin, harsh words about the Russia probe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got along really well. By the way, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. That's a really good thing.

Now we're being hindered by the Russian hoax. It's a hoax. I'll tell you what, Russia is very unhappy that Trump won, that I can tell you. But I got along great with Putin.


COOPER: We're being hindered by the Russian hoax, he said. Now, the president sometimes clarifies what he means by that, saying any notion of collusion is a hoax, but he often doesn't make that distinct, seems to imply the entire Mueller probe into the election attack is a hoax, or the attack itself is one. That's where his claim Russia is unhappy he won. There really isn't much evidence of that. As Putin himself said in Helsinki on camera in a press conference next to Trump that he wanted Trump to win, and the president has rarely if ever attacked Putin the way he has other world leaders, even allies of the U.S. And that's, of course, his privilege. The president determines the

foreign policy course he wants to set for the country. That's not the issue.

Keeping him honest, this is. The president's position on Russia often undercut his administration's position and the tough statements his own advisers make, which raises the obvious question, is the president trying to have it both ways? Or it is now explicit White House policy to speak out of both sides of its mouth on a vital national security issue?

Regardless of the motivation, this is something that's been happening over and over again, the president undercutting his own national security team after the fact or undermining their message beforehand. Again, here is what the president said last night.


TRUMP: Now we're being hindered by the Russian hoax. It's a hoax, OK?


COOPER: All right. He says it's a hoax. Here is what his top national security and counterintelligence officials said on his orders at the White House just a few hours before he said that.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: What we see is the Russians are looking for every opportunity regardless of party, regardless of whether or not it applies to the election to continue their pervasive efforts to undermine our fundamental values.

NIELSEN: I fully share the intelligence community and the ODNI's assessments at past efforts and those today to interfere with our election and of the current threat.

COATS: They step upped their game big-time in 2016.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously, and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.


COOPER: Have you heard the president say anything like that? These are the president's own top advisers and cabinet members sent out with his blessing to push a message that he himself doesn't seem to fully accept.

Here is the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, again on Tuesday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIELSEN: Two years ago, as we all know, a foreign power launched a brazen multifaceted influence campaign to undermine public faith in our democratic process and to distort our presidential election. Let me be clear, our intelligence community has it right.

It was the Russians. We know that. They know that. It was directed from the highest levels. And we cannot and will not allow that to happen again.


COOPER: Again, that was Tuesday. A day later, the president tweeted, not backing Nielsen up, but instead he tweeted about the one aspect of the Russia probe that seems to truly concern him and I, quote, Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a total hoax. The Democrats paid for the phony and discredited dossier which was along with Comey, McCabe, Strzok and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page used to begin the witch-hunt. Disgraceful.

He didn't condemn Russian interference in American elections and he certainly didn't use the opportunity to back his own secretary of homeland security, not then and not a couple of weeks before. Here is FBI Director Christopher Wray on July 18, two days after the president had such generous words for Putin in Helsinki and for Putin's denial he interfered in the 2016 election.


WRAY: The intelligence community's assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election, and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.


COOPER: That's pretty clear. But even as the networks were broadcasting that, they were also still broadcasting this from the president just a day before.


TRUMP: I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. It could be other people also. A lot of people out there.


COOPER: Two contradictory messages on Russia, a day apart, at the very moment the entire world was asking what the message really was, and two contradictory messages in the very same presidential statement, one written by the president's staff that he read, and then, barely a beat later, the president's own ad lib thoughts on the matter that it could be other people, that there is a lot of people out there.

As we said, this happens again and again. DNI Coats in February. Take a look.


COATS: We need to inform the American public that this is real, that is going to be happening and the resilience needed for us to stand up and say we're not going allow some Russian to tell us how to vote, how we ought to run our country. And I think there needs to be a national cry for that.


COOPER: Well, those remarks came just a few days after the president tweeted out something he saw on Fox News discrediting the Russia probe, blaming the Justice Department, the FBI and the State Department for victimizing him during the 2016 campaign.

Again, time and time again. One White House, two messages. And time after time, the president prefers the one that lets Russia off the hook. It raises a host of questions, some of which we'll put to our guests. Former Clinton White House chief of staff and Obama CIA director, Leon Panetta, and "AXE FILES" host, David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama.

Secretary Panetta, it's pretty remarkable the president at times seems to be more in line with what the Russia foreign minister is saying than what his own intelligence and security chiefs are saying.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Anderson, I have never in my lifetime seen an administration that is presenting such a confused message when it comes to a national security threat. And the fact is that it's sending a very mixed message to both our enemies and our allies that the United States does not have a clear policy when it comes to Russia.

COOPER: Do you know why they're sending such a mixed message?

PANETTA: Well, this has gone on too long to be just the consequence of incompetence. I think this is deliberate. Certainly, it's deliberate on the part of the president, but whether it's deliberate on the part of his cabinet members, I don't think that's the case.

But it clearly is deliberate that he's trying to send two messages here. One is a message to the Russians and to his base. And the message to the Russians is keep doing what you're doing, and the message to his base is: regardless of the facts, please stick with me and listen to me.

The other message is one to the majority of the American people, which is that U.S. policy remains the same, that it remains firm with regards to Russia and that we're taking steps to try to protect our country.

Those are the two messages that are going out. But when you put them together, it creates tremendous confusion about just exactly what the United States of America really stands for.

COOPER: David, obviously, you worked in the Obama administration. You've watched many others. Have you ever seen a president and members of the administration on such different pages when it comes to a national security threat?


[20:25:01] I agree with Leon. I've never seen this, whether in my years in the White House or in my years of being involved in politics or my years as a journalist. This is totally unprecedented.

You know, there was a time when we had this bipolar world, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Now the world looks at us and they see a bipolar administration. And it's very hard to determine what the truth is here.

But we should point out, like I want to give credit to the members of the national securities team because I think they did the right thing by standing up. I think Dan Coats and others and Bob Wray and -- Chris Wray, I should say, have been very consistent about the nature of this threat. But the president of the United States has the biggest mega phone.

It was the president of the United States who sat alone for two hours with Vladimir Putin. It was the president of the United States who stood on a platform with Vladimir Putin and essentially undercut his national security team and his intel team and gave credence to Putin's lies. So, the world sees that first and it makes them wonder. And I think it gives Putin the idea that the back door's open, come on in.

COOPER: Secretary Panetta, I mean, David just mentioned Dan Coats. Last night, the president said he had a great meeting with Putin. The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said yesterday that he is, quote, not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki.

Now, either he knows and can't talk about it, but the idea that to even say he is not in position to understand what actually occurred behind closed doors is pretty stunning.

PANETTA: Well, you got director of national intelligence who obviously has no idea about what the president said to Putin in that room. And I suspect that there isn't anybody in the administration, the national security team that really knows exactly what was said in that room.


COOPER: Right. Because when John Bolton -- he referred to John Bolton next, and then Bolton quoted Vladimir Putin's statement, not something the president himself had told him.

PANETTA: Yes, I know. I think the Russians have said things about what was agreed to in that room. But we have heard absolutely nothing from the president of the United States about the specifics of what was discussed or what was agreed to.

And so, the result is that there is a tremendous amount of suspicion here of what exactly what is it that the president and Putin really talked about that impacts on United States foreign policy. This is unheard of. I've never seen a situation like this. But that's what we're getting with the Trump administration.

What really bothers me is that this is an enemy who's trying to undermine our democracy. That's what the Russians have tried to do since, you know, since recent history, is basically undermining our democracy. That's what they're engaged in.

And right now, they are successful at doing that in the way they don't try to interfere with our election. That means that a national security threat facing this country has a very confused response in terms of the administration.

COOPER: David, I mean, it is simply the president can't separate anything having to do with Russian interference from the legitimacy of his electoral win? I mean, is that what his silence on the issue is about right here?

AXELROD: Well, that's what you keep hearing from his people, that privately you read this, you hear this. He just doesn't want his win, you know, denigrated or downgraded or called into question. But that doesn't speak to -- even if that were the case, it doesn't speak to where we are now.

I mean, there is a threat now. And one of the reason there's is the confusion that Leon speaks about is that the president is parroting Putin's line. When the president calls the Russian investigation a hoax, that is exactly what Moscow said today. This is the Kremlin line today.

They were bitterly denouncing the investigation and said there was no truth to it. So, you know, the president keeps reinforcing the Kremlin's line. And that is a source of great concern and confusion for anyone who is trying to read what's actually going on here in our own government.

COOPER: Yes, David Axelrod, Secretary Leon Panetta, thank you very much.

A lot more straight ahead, including the breaking news of a federal judge's rebuke of Trump administration attorneys who wanted a civil liberties group, the ACLU, to take charge of finding hundreds of immigrant parents deported without their kids.

And later, word that the TSA is discussing even more cost-saving measures at the nation's airports, besides the one CNN already reported earlier this week. The question, of course, is, could the changes compromise security?


[20:30:00] COOPER: There's breaking news tonight in the family separation front. A federal judge in San Diego has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Trump administration. Attorneys who proposed that a private civil rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU be in charge of locating hundreds of deported parents who have been separated from their children in the wake of the government's family separation policies.

Now, the judge is the same one who has been overseeing the return of those kids over the past few weeks. He calls the administration's proposal to let the ACLU and other groups locate the parents "unacceptable." He also added the reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanent orphan child and that is 100% the responsibility of the administration.

Joining me now to discuss is Oregon Democratic senator, Jeff Merkley, who's visited some of those detention centers for parents and kids have been kept.

Senator Merkley, thanks for being with us. Do you have any understanding as to why the government thought it was the ACLU'S responsibility to find these parents, to essentially, you know, right these wrongs in the first place?

[20:35:08] It wasn't the ACLU that separated the kids from their parents.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D) OREGON: No, absolutely not, Anderson. The situation is that the government has so botched the connection between the parents and the children that they'd like to shed that responsibility and put it off on to someone else. When they sent the parents back without their children, and many of the children of the 700 who are still not reconnected to their parents, 500 or so their parents have been deported.

They didn't track carefully where the parents would be. We don't know if they have more information than they have revealed in terms of phone numbers or e-mail addresses. But in terms of street dresses, many of their files just say things like sin calle, which means without a street or maybe no other city and no other details.

And they are finding it very difficult to find the parents since they didn't track the information. They'd like to say, well, we messed it up, but let's make sure someone else has to clean up this.

COOPER: Yes. I mean it's been going on for weeks now. The government still doesn't know how they're going reunite these families. Because even when people are deported, they're not necessarily sent back to where they came from. They could be sent to another town, in some cases I'm told even another country.

MERKLEY: Yes. And so that adds to the confusion. And in this situation where the government, our government knew that their kids were still in the United States or at least should have known if they tracked it carefully, they made no effort to say, well, we need to make sure that we know how to find these parents because we still have a child, a family member whose in the care of the U.S. government.

And they simply apparently didn't do so with any sort of diligence. There is -- throughout this entire process, from the time that the Trump team decided to start ripping children out of their parents' arm, there's been a thorough lack of preparation, planning, a certain callousness about the impact of this treatment on the kids. So we're talking about a policy that deliberately inflicted trauma and then follow-up that was so incompetent as to further aggravate the situation.

COOPER: I mean, the ACLU say they're willing to work with the government. But according to them, they say that the government's contact information is so unsatisfactory that even though it appears HHS has phone numbers for many of the parents, they really just don't know how to locate them. I mean is the government acting in good faith here?

MERKLEY: I don't -- I'm sure there are some individuals in this process who are doing everything they can to assist these children. But in terms of the decision-makers who designed the program, it was done in a horrific, incompetent, callous fashion, and now everybody is paying the price.

COOPE: And it does -- I mean there's no end in sight right now and really no solution in sight. You have the judge saying it's unacceptable and that the responsibility is 100% of the government. Are there repercussions here, or is that just part of the issue here that there are no repercussions for this?

MERKLEY: Well, certainly at this moment, we're dependent upon the judge to keep the heat on. The judge is demanding that the government assigned a specific theme that carries a responsibility. There really should be an action team now for every one of those children, a pair of employees of the federal government who have responsibility for a certain child, tracking down their parents, using every possible resource, using our FBI resources, using our international contacts, using our State Department, advertising.

And they need to do everything possible. And this is just a message that the administration has never internalized. They've been doing the minimum time and time again, missing the deadlines, not mobilizing the resources, kind of begrudgingly saying, well, we really wanted to separate these kids from these parents. We're being told we have to reunite them. We're just not going to make that much of an effort.

COOPER: It is amazing when you think about, you know, you had Secretary Kelly who at the time, before he was Chief of Staff, was secretary of Homeland Security telling Wolf Blitzer, you know, more than a year ago, I think it was that they were considering separating the children as a policy, and that it would be a deterrent or potentially a deterrent. And that even in all that time, it wasn't planned out enough, or that HHS just isn't up to the task even though, you know, you had claims from officials saying oh, it would just take a couple of key strokes on a computer to figure out exactly where the kids are and where the parents are. MERKLEY: And realize that the entire premise of this program is completely flawed. The administration for publicity said this is catch and release, that people don't show up to their hearings. But the administration shut down the family case management program.

[20:40:02] And the inspector general's report says 100% of the families and the family case management program showed up for their hearings. So administration basically lied to the American public, said people aren't showing up for their hearings, so we have to do something dramatically different, that is to treat people as criminals. And then they did share finally, after a year, after launching the pilot project, they shared their real intention, which was to deter people from seeking asylum in the United States of America.

And so we can't forget kind of the dark and evil place that this came from, which was a deliberate decision by Kelly, by Steve Miller, by the President, by Jeff Sessions to inflict harm on children in order to send a political message.

COOPER: Senator Merkley, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Earlier this week CNN's Rene Marsh reported that the TSA is discussing a proposal to eliminate screenings at more than 150 small to medium airports across the country. She is now learning that's just one of several cost saving measures up for debate. Here's her report.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A senior TSA employee tells CNN the agency is looking at cuts that could save more than $300 million in 2020. Among those cuts, reducing the number of full-time air marshals, reducing the workforce at TSA headquarters, and a 50% cut in reimbursements to state and local law enforcement agencies for use of their K-9 units.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is an agency under pressure to reduce costs, does not have an animating theme from where -- from where they're going to do it, and is potentially exposing Americans and traveling Americans to risks that they do not need to be exposed to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we are the police, remain calm.

MARSH (voice-over): Air marshals are the last line of defense, armed agents aboard planes to prevent hijacking. Critics question its effectiveness, but the TSA has defended the program as a deterrent. TSA did not respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this week, CNN revealed the most controversial cut under consideration, eliminating screening at more than 150 small and some medium-sized airports. An idea that has already been widely panned by lawmakers, security experts, and airports.

BRYANT GARRETT, MANAGER, REDDING MUNICIPAL AIRPORT: Since I as the airport don't want the take on either the liability nor the cost, and I'm quite certain the airlines don't want the take that on. So if TSA backs out, there is a void. And I don't know who would fill it.


COOPER: And Rene joins me now. Is there any indication why these areas are the areas that the TSA is discussing cutting?

MARSH: Well, Anderson, we do know that, you know, agencies discuss where they trim all the time, but honestly, the big question tonight that Congress and likely the American public is asking is what can explain why TSA is focused on the specific programs and whether these cuts are being considered because the threat and risk to aviation has changed or whether it's just an indication that the agency is under extreme pressure to cut cost. It really is unclear why they have highlighted these specific programs, because we've reached out on multiple occasions and the agency has not respond. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thanks for the reporting.

His lawyers advised against it. President Trump reportedly still wants to sit down with Robert Mueller. And that decision could be coming soon. I wouldn't be the first time he's gone under oath. We'll hear from two lawyers who know exactly what it's like to question Donald Trump, next.


[20:47:28] COOPER: He keeps claiming he wants to. Soon we may know whether President Trump will sit down with Robert Mueller. Decision could come within a week or so. That's what his attorney Rudy Giuliani told "Politico". The question, what would it be like to depose Donald Trump?

Randi Kaye spoke to a lawyer who knows firsthand.


GLENN ZEITZ, ATTORNEY: He was like a pot that he started off OK, like a simmer. And then slowly the pot was boiling and boiling and boiling. And then we got towards the tail end of the deposition, and that's when the pot boiled over.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Attorney Glenn Zeitz is talking about Donald Trump. He deposed him long before he was president in case involving eminent domain back in the 1990s. Trump was claiming eminent domain to take possession of an elderly widow's home at Atlantic City, so he could use it as a parking lot for Casino's limousines.

(on-camera): Overall, how would you describe him during the deposition?

ZEITZ: Self-deprecating is not Donald. Donald was the Donald that you see now, you know. He walks in. He wants to take over. He wants to make the deposition his deposition, even though it's mine. He tries to control the questioning.

KAYE (voice-over): Zeitz says Trump tried to come off confident, but that his emotions got the best of him. That's when the insults started flying.

ZEITZ: Now he's calling me a third rate lawyer. I thought it was pretty good that he was saying that because it meant that finally after almost two hours, I had gotten to him.

KAYE (on-camera): How would you describe his technique?

ZEITZ: We call it a nonresponsive answer. He will add things on, he'll make self-serving statements, he'll shuck and jive. If I asked Donald in that a question, I said Donald, what time is it? He'd probably tell me how to build a clock. He was grossly unprepared or he was just deliberately being evasive. What he was doing, at least in the deposition was saying that he delegates everything to everybody else.

KAYE (voice-over): In fact, Trump responded with "I don't know" more than a dozen times during the deposition, often saying "ask my representatives" and "it's called delegation. I have some very good people."

ZEITZ: The problem is trying to figure out are the answers a deliberate lie or are they a product of someone who is indifferent to the facts or indifferent to what he sign and therefore there was no intent.

KAYE: What surprised this lawyer most, though, was Trump's bizarre request to go off the record moments before he fired his own lawyer. In his 46 years practicing law, Zeitz has never seen anyone do that.

[20:50:12] ZEITZ: We go off the record and then he wants to talk to me while his poor lawyer is sitting there like a potted plant.

KAYE: Zeitz says Trump wanted to make a deal and settle the case, but Zeitz refused. And in the end, Trump lost.

ZEITZ: He's like, you know, an animal in the woods. He's been through plenty of depositions. If you approach him in the normal way, he's going to pick up the scent. He's going to understand, he's got to be careful about what he says because he's no dummy.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach, Florida.


COOPER: Neither the White House nor the Trump organization have given us a comment on that story. With us now, another attorney who wants to depose the President, Jason Forge, who was one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Trump University case.

Thanks so much for being with us, Jason. How would you describe the President during a deposition? He's certainly not a novice at them. He's given them really his whole adult life. JASON FORGE, DEPOSED DONALD TRUMP IN TRUMP UNIVERSITY CASE: Anderson, I'd say he's fully engaged, completely uninhibited and frankly pretty fearless.

COOPER: Is that -- are those good qualities to have in a deposition?

FORGE: Well, for me, as an adversary, those were wonderful qualities. I found it very easy to get the types of answers that we are hoping to get from his deposition and then some. If I was his attorney, it would be a nightmare.

COOPER: It didn't seem to you that -- I mean did it seem to you he had been coach or that he responds to coaching because I mean that's certainly the impression of him is that, you know, he's not really going to be responding to a lot of coaching from his own attorneys in advance. He's going to say what he wants to say.

FORGE: You know, he had a great lawyer, Dan Petrocelli represented him and he's done a number of high-profile cases. But I am very confident that Mr. Trump is uncoachable. And there's no way that Dan prepared Mr. Trump to give some of the answers that he gave. But the fact of the matter is he's in charge whether it's in a deposition or in any other context. And no matter how high-ranking the lawyer is, no one's going to tell him how to answer a question.

COOPER: We've certainly seen this in interviews, and I've heard you say that he really responds to flattery.

FORGE: He definitely responds to flattery. On the other hand, you know, he does -- he will push you. And if you cower, he's not going to respect you. So you have to push back. But at the same time, a compliment to him goes a long way.

COOPER: It actually has an impact on him?

FORGE: It really does. I mean there's a clear difference in his responses, just in his demeanor. Once you start complimenting him, his guard goes down, and he is much more cooperative.

COOPER: The reporting that he's been pushing for a sit-down interview with Mueller, do you think people underestimate how persuasive he can be under oath? Because I mean I've always found he can be charming and, you know, a pleasure to talk to, which people who don't even like him might be surprised about if they actually met him.

FORGE: You're exactly right. In fact, I experienced two different versions of him. I deposed him once in December, and it was the first time we had met, and I think he was going through his normal routine of seeing how far he could push me. I then deposed him again in January. And in the meantime, he had realized, OK, I'm not going to bully this guy. Now I'm going to charm him. And he is extremely charming. You're 100% right. He can be very charming.

As far as being persuasive, I think he's a very formidable witness for a jury. I don't think he's going to persuade these prosecutors, but as far as presentation in front of a jury, he'll be a very formidable witness.

COOPER: What do you think makes him formidable for a jury? I mean I assume the same thing that makes him formidable for voters, I mean the people. What's your opinion?

FORGE: Well, number one is like you said, he is very polarizing. So there are some people who I literally would play the same clip of a deposition for one group of folks who are, you know, politically inclined to agree with him and another group of folks who are disinclined to agree with him. And they would see the same exact testimony and come away with completely different reactions.

But it's almost like a Stockholm syndrome with him. He, you know, he can be a bully, but then when he goes from bullying you to complimenting you, the contrast is so stark, it does -- it is charming.

COOPER: He does that with reporters. I mean if people watched during interviews, he'll often say to a reporter like, oh, your ratings are great or, you know, I've been watching what you're doing, things like that, which I assume is part of -- I mean he does watch a lot of TV and follows ratings and things like that. But it's also part of his charm offensive.

FORGE: It is. And it drives me bananas to see this time and again that, you know, if people don't at least, you know, kiss the ring a little bit, I think that they don't get as much -- nearly as much information from him.

[20:55:11] But on the other hand, if he does turn on the charm, it's obviously important to keep in mind whatever objective you have, whether it's in an interview or a deposition, it's easy to become, you know, swept away when he starts turning on the charm because it's such a stark contrast to the way he can be otherwise.

COOPER: Especially if you have a limited amount of time with him, that would be a real concern, obviously a real danger for the Mueller prosecutors. Jason Forge, fascinating to talk to you. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

FORGE: My pleasure. Thank you.

COOPER: Reminder, don't miss our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. It's a lot of fun. It's called "Full Circle". You can see at week nights at 06:25 Eastern at It's a lot of stories you actually -- we don't end up getting to get to on this broadcast. A lot of more variety, it's a lot of fun.

Up next, there's breaking news. New reporting on what appears to be a connection between an alleged Russian spy and a former Trump campaign adviser. We'll be joined by the correspondent who has that story.

Also Robert Mueller's team interviews the woman once known as the Manhattan Madam. She has ties to long-time Trump ally Roger Stone. The question is, is Mueller trying to build a case against him, and is that why he wants to talk to her? Details ahead.