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Crucial Races in Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington State; Gates Admits to An Affair, Falsifying Documents in Manafort Trial. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 7, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Thanks for joining us.

It is once again election night in America, or at least in five states with some key races that could take the temperature of the electorate three months before the midterms. There are primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington and in Ohio, a special congressional election in that state's 12th district for a seat that Republicans have held for decades, but could, could be up for grabs tonight.

The president has injected himself into this race, visiting the district on Saturday, appearing on stage with Republican Troy Balderson. A Monmouth University poll last week showed he had just a one-point lead over Democrat Danny O'Connor. We'll check in with his headquarters in just a moment.

But, first, I want to go to Jason Carroll who is at Balderson headquarters in Newark, Ohio.

So, Jason, what's the mood there like?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, folks are feeling pretty good at this point, Anderson. Look, they know that this race is going to be tight. They feel like it could be a very, very late night.

But, look, they see that there has been huge turnout -- turnout that a lot of folks didn't expect given that this is a special election. It's in the middle of August. It's hot outside. But they're seeing exceptionally high turnout. They feel as though that's really going to tip in the favor of Balderson.

You know, in addition to, that they know that the Democrats have momentum going on their side, but they feel very strongly that this, as you say, is -- has been a Republican stronghold for generations. So they're feeling good about that. This has been a red district. They feel as though it's going to continue to be a red district.

There was a bit of a misstep last night, though, when Balderson talked about Franklin County. As you know, O'Connor, his opponent is from Franklin County. That's where a lot of the suburbs are located, and Balderson said, look, we don't want someone from Franklin County representing this district. Well, you've got about a third of the voters who live in the district

live in that portion of the county. And just a short while ago, the Franklin County board of elections, we just heard from them. They said that they experienced anywhere from a 25 to 30 percent increase in voter turnout than what they expected.

Having said that, the Balderson camp not worried about that. They're still feeling good about tonight. But they recognize it could be a very late night -- Anderson.

COOPER: And President Trump obviously was there rallying support for Balderson in the district. I'm wondering what are people on the ground who you're talking, do they think the visit was helpful?

CARROLL: Well, that's interesting because when we spoke to some independent voters out here in the district, they really felt as though Trump coming here really isn't going to leave that much of an imprint, that could not be further from what we heard from the campaign who feels as though the president coming here is really going give Balderson that extra boost that he is going to need to get over the finish line -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll -- Jason, thanks very much.

I want to check in the headquarters for Democrat, Danny O'Connor in Westerville, Ohio. CNN political reporter Rebecca Berg is there.

Rebecca, let me ask the same question I asked to Jason. What do people there telling you? Is the O'Connor camp hopeful?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, the O'Connor camp is optimistic, but I would say cautiously optimistic.

Remember, this is a district that has been represented by a Republican in Congress for the past, you know, decades. But since 1940, only two years this district has been represented by a Democrat. So, the odds are against O'Connor.

But what they have working in their favor is that Democratic energy and enthusiasm that we have seen in other special elections across the country for months. They believe that Democrats are enthusiastic about voting in this election. And then other factor potentially working in the O'Connor campaign's favor here is Republicans who are disaffected, who feel frustrated with the direction of this administration, with the direction of President Trump, who might have voted for him in 2016, but are now unhappy.

In fact, there is an ad running right now by the O'Connor campaign. I heard it on the radio today featuring a Republican voter talking about how she voted for Donald Trump, voted for Governor John Kasich, also a Republican here who endorsed Balderson. But now, she is supporting O'Connor. They're also hoping to bring some of those voters to their side today.

And to win this election, they will need some of those Republican Trump voters to cruise to victory this evening. COOPER: Yes, I mean, in terms of the district, it's suburban. It

obviously includes Columbus. If O'Connor does win -- I mean, how much of it can it tell us about what we might see in November?

BERG: It can tell us a lot about November, Anderson. And that's one of the reasons we are here tonight, one of the reasons this is being so closely watched by national Democrats and Republicans. This is the type of district that can flip the House.

You have educated white collar voters. Women will be voting in this election in huge numbers potentially for the Democrat, that gender gap we've seen in other races is something we'll be watching tonight.

[20:05:06] And this is the sort of -- this is a Republican plus-seven district. And so, if this district is competitive, that means dozens other districts that are less Republican than this one could be on the map for Democrats as well. And so, this is as close to a generic ballot race as you can get.

Two candidates who are -- you know, haven't made these lasting impressions in the district, but really testing the feeling of voters here tonight.

COOPER: All right. Rebecca Berg, thanks very much.

We're going check with John King and the magic wall, shortly, just for breakdown of these different races.

But right now, I want to bring in CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

Gloria, I mean, the sort of Ohio 12th district, as reliably red for decades. What does this say to you if this ends up being as close as the polls indicate?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, this shouldn't even be a race, to be honest. This is so -- you know, Donald Trump won this district by 11 points. Mitt Romney won it by 10 points. And I think what it shows you is that there are a lot of disaffected suburban Republicans.

This is a district that's very well-educated, and those white educated voters are where Democrats need to make inroads. Rebecca mentioned women, of course. These suburban women is another area of opportunity.

And so, you know, I think that also independent voters. There is just a recent poll showing that independent voters substantially favor the Democrat over the Republican. So, if you put that -- if you put that mix together, it really is an anti-Trump mix. And this is a referendum on Donald Trump.

COOPER: Dana, obviously, the president coming -- the president's supporters says it does great things for the Republican candidate. The flip side of, that does it energize people who do not like the president to go out and vote? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The answer to yes, it

could, and likely will energize some of the people who don't like President Trump. But the reality is the Republicans tell me is they're already energized. The people who are part of the sort of -- the sort of angry -- what they call themselves the resistance, I mean, they're mobilized. And that is why this is even a race.

And the challenge for this Republican has been to get those Republicans who make up the majority of this district, to get out and vote. And so, that is a really big reason why maybe there was -- there was trepidation. I know there was trepidation about getting the president out to that district, but at the end of the day, Republicans say that they feel really good about the fact that it was better to have the president there to get Republicans out to vote than not.

COOPER: Gloria and Dana, I want to bring in John King who is at the magic wall for just a second.

What are you watching for, John, in Ohio?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To the point that everybody has been making, number one, what happens if Franklin County -- let me show you so far. We have actual results to count. It's just 5 percent though.

So, if you're Democrats, you see this congressional district that hasn't been blue since the Reagan presidency. You see it blue and you start to celebrate. I don't want to be the skunk at the garden party, but we have long way to go.

Just 5 percent of the district vote in, but Danny O'Connor turned early lead, 33 percent to 36 percent. That's the full district, Anderson. Let's break it down by county because this is so critical.

The fact that we have so much blue right now early on is encouraging for Democrats. But again, you have the early vote. We're waiting for the election day vote. Republicans will tell you, and they're often right, that they have a much better turnout on actual election day. So let's watch this play out.

But in Franklin County, Danny O'Connor right now is 80 percent of the vote. Again, it's early vote. A smart Democrat will tell you he needs this to be 33 percent of the vote. It would be better for Danny O'Connor if the close in suburbs are 35, 36 percent of the vote tonight.

If it comes from down here, that would bode well for him. Why does that matter? We just shade the district by population. About a third of the voters live here. So, he needs it to be at least, at least 33 percent.

This is the more populated area. It's also the more close in suburbs who are to the points Gloria and Dana are making, suburban women, millennials, the people who have been turned against Donald Trump in the Republican Party, there is a lot of them down here. That's the key battleground in Franklin County. Let me turn that off, as we come out. Then you go to Delaware County

here. Danny O'Connor is leading in Delaware County right now. Again, a tiny percentage of the vote in.

If Delaware County stays blue, the Democrats are going to win this seat. But we're at 5 percent. We'll see how this works out.

He needs to hold his own here. These are affluent Republicans. Suburban here, you start to move exurban and rural as you move out there. If Danny O'Connor can stay competitive here, within 5, 6, 8 point, then you have a race tonight.

If these stay blue, again, then we have history being made tonight because this is Trump country up here in Morrow County. If the Democrats hold on to this, then we'd have a stunning upset.

But again, as the Democrats start to look at this early map and say, wow, I just want the say hang in there.

[20:10:03] COOPER: Right.

KING: But just to that point, more Morrow County votes came in and it switched back to the Republican there.

Just one little piece of context, Anderson -- Danny O'Connor currently getting 80 percent in Franklin County. In the last race here, Pat Tiberi, the Republican who gave up this race to step aside, this was his worst county in the district. He got 57 percent down here.

Again, if Franklin County stays red tonight, the Republican will absolutely win. If it stays blue tonight, the question is, how big of a margin for Danny O'Connor and how much of a percentage of the overall district comes down here.

It is very, very early. Democrats are going to be encouraged by what they see early. But if you look at the full district, let's just count them. Hang out a while.

COOPER: And, John, any sense of the sort of time for counting these votes traditionally?

KING: You've done this before. So what you get first right out of the box is you get the absentee ballots and the early votes. Then you start to get the election day votes. And often, not always, often, that tends to happen in the suburban areas where they tend to have more resources, they have more technology.

And the rural vote tends to come in a little later. I'm generalizing. Sometimes you get surprise, sometimes in these very small areas, they are done quickly because fewer people voted.

So, there is no magic rule here. The main thing to watch is how the vote comes in in Franklin County, and then as we move out. So, I would suggest the Democrats can be happy. They're off to the start they need in the early counting. We've got a long way to go.


Gloria, you know, it was interesting because Ohio's governor, Republican John Kasich, said that one of the reasons is it doesn't appear to be a slam-dunk for Republicans is that suburban women, as you discussed earlier, have been turned off. The question is, what can Republican Party do to offset that or get those voters back?

BORGER: I think that's a big question. I think that suburban Republican women are turned off by Donald Trump. Not necessarily by the Republican candidate running. And I think John Kasich himself is also interesting, because John Kasich, who has endorsed Balderson, is also turned off by Donald Trump.

And so -- and so, he was late in endorsing this Republican. He did, but he appeals to those suburban women. So maybe he can help Balderson.

But, you know, he and Balderson disagree on Medicaid money for the state. John Kasich said let's take it. Balderson said no. And Kasich doesn't like Donald Trump.

So, it's kind of a -- it's kind of a mixed bag there. It will be interesting to see what influence, if any, Kasich has in this race, and what influence he really wants to have, to be honest.


Dana, you know, Kris Kobach, who obviously helped fuel the president's unfounded claims of voter fraud in 2016 who headed up that commission and was then just disbanded, he is running for governor of Kansas. If he wins the GOP primary there, could that help Democrats' chances in November?

BASH: They sure think so. That's one of the things they've been crossing their fingers and toes about all day, is that they want the Republican who the president endorsed to win the primary in the governor's race in Kansas.


BASH: Because they think that he is much more -- they know that he is much more beatable -- I shouldn't say that. They feel very confident that he is much more beatable than the man who is now the incumbent Republican.

I mean, let's not forget that it is highly unusual for a sitting Republican president to endorse a challenger of a sitting incumbent Republican governor. Now, this current governor got in after the Sam Brownback, who was elected left to join the Trump administration. But the reason is even though we think of Kansas, rightly so, as very Republican and very conservative, the Republicans have had a tough go of it in Kansas because of Sam Brownback, the now former governor.

He -- lots of budget cuts, lots of issues. And his popularity is very low. And that is dragging Republicans down. So they feel like they have a shot there. But I do think that it will

be interesting before we kind of get to that point to see how successful the president is in this Republican primary, if he is going to get the candidate of his choice --


BASH: Because he has a mixed bag on the general election, of course, on all these special elections. But Republican primaries and the people he endorses, the majority of them he has made a difference.

Mark Sanford in South Carolina, look what happened to Martha Roby in Alabama.

COOPER: Yes, no doubt about it. Gloria, thank you. Dana Bash, thanks.

We're going to keep an eye on tonight's races throughout the next hour. Just in throughout the evening, obviously.

Just ahead, the stunning confession in the Paul Manafort trial. Not from the defendant, but from his top aide who is testifying against him. The revelation came while he was under attack from one of Manafort's own attorneys. We'll tell you what happened.

And later, crews battled what has become the biggest wildfire in California history. And the images are amazing, incredibly awful, while President Trump chimes in inaccurately claiming there is a lack of water to actually fight these fires. Not true. Details ahead.


[20:19:16] COOPER: It's breaking news now from the Paul Manafort trial. His long-time deputy Rick Gates admitted to having an extramarital affair a decade ago, but denied a contention from Manafort's lawyer that he was using money from Manafort's offshore accounts to pay for the affair. Gates spent the day n the witness stand detailing for the jury what he said were hundreds of offshore accounts Manafort used to move money from his lucrative accounts in the Ukraine to accounts in Cyprus.

Jim Sciutto is at the courthouse. He joins us now.

So, talk about more about what Gates said on the stand.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, sitting in that courtroom today, I was a few inches from Paul Manafort, a few feet from Rick Gates. As he walked through just the details of what he said was a criminal scheme, set up by himself and Paul Manafort to defraud the U.S. government. Fake invoices, fake consultant agreements, fake documents to banks, all to get loans illegally.

[20:20:07] But also to avoid U.S. taxes, funnel these millions of dollars they were getting from the pro-Russian government in Ukraine away from U.S. taxes to offshore accounts. That was the focus today of Gates' testimony. The defense attorney, however, trying to poke holes in that testimony by questioning Gates' credibility, saying if you've lied before, and remember Gates has admitted to lying to federal prosecutors, if you lied before, why should the jury believe you now?

And Gates saying effectively, listen, I'm taking responsibility for this now. And that's why the jury should believe me.

COOPER: Do we know how Paul Manafort or at least how his attorney is feeling about Gates' testimony?

SCIUTTO: Listen, clearly their focus here now because there is so much documentation as to these alleged crimes, there are numerous e- mail exchanges. There was one that came up today where Paul Manafort e-mailed gates, saying WTF. Of course, we know what that's short for, saying he was blindsided by how big his tax bill was, this being Paul Manafort, because he expected gates to have reduced that tax bill by doing all the alleged illegal things they were doing to reduce their tax exposure.

So, you have so much documentation, you have Gates' testimony to back that up. Really, the focus becomes for the defense, trying to poke holes in the credibility of gates. And one way they went today, as you mentioned, Anderson, they bring up an affair from 10 years ago where Gates was using money. He says none of the money he stole from Manafort or elsewhere, but had an affair. He is spending a lot of money on a secret life, the defense attorney trying to focus on that.

But again, a powerful moment happened when Gates said, listen, yes, I did all those things and I lied. I'm taking responsibility now. That's a choice that Manafort had, and he's not taking it. It was powerful moment in that courtroom because Gates was in effect saying, I'm taking responsibility. He is not.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, appreciate it. Thanks.

Joining me now, two CNN legal analysts who are both former federal prosecutors. But Shan Wu was also once an attorney for Rick Gates. Also with us is Renato Mariotti.

Shan, the attack on Gates' credibility during the cross examination today, the details of the extramarital affair, his embezzling money from Manafort's own offshore account for what the defense claims was to pay for the affair, how effective a defense strategy do you think that is?

Because, clearly, prosecutors tried to weaken that by getting in front of it, essentially, and having Gates talk about his laws and the illegal acts that he took part in when he was on the stand.

SHAN WU, FORMER LAWYER FOR RICK GATES: Yes, that's the standard approach, Anderson. They want the effectiveness of that by making sure it doesn't seem as though the cooperating witness gets blind side by anything. So that's a pretty normal approach.

I do need to add -- anything I'm talking about is not based on confidential information or anything attorney-client privilege.


WU: Of course.

COOPER: But why -- Shan, why focus on the affair? I mean, just in the range of things that Rick Gates has already said he did, is -- I mean, do you think the affair would have that big an impact on the jurors?

WU: It could. Again, with cooperators, often times, the cross- examination wants to portray all their problems, all the warts they may be trying to hide. One point of bringing that up is, of course, that was no secret probably to the prosecution. And because they chose not to reveal that, from a defense strategy point of view, they get a little bit more bang for their buck by bringing up something that the prosecution did not have a chance to bring up first.

COOPER: Renato, the fact that Rick Gates met with special prosecutors over 20 times once he agreed to cooperate, and previously had lied to them, it does seem for the most part he was pretty unflappable and offered up some pretty damaging testimony against Manafort, do you think?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely, Anderson. And that's the result of those 20 meetings.

So when I was a federal prosecutor, I never put a witness on the stand until I met with them at least two or three times. And there are witnesses that I spent many, many times preparing. And with Mr. Gates, there is a lot of ground to cover because as you pointed out, there was a lot of misdeeds that he talked about on the witness stand.

And he had to keep things straight. The defense was going at him today, trying to put him on his heels, trying to flummox him. And he was very, very well-prepared. You could see that he spent a lot of time with the prosecutors, and that's why you prepare a witness.

COOPER: Shan, I mean, Gates' character flaw aside, of which there clearly seem to be many, it doesn't negate the fact that there is a paper trail that investigators have been able to show between Manafort and Gates, including e-mails on how to doctor profit, loss documents to secure bank loans and the testimony of Manafort's own accountant.

WU: That's right, Anderson.

[20:25:00] And I think the challenge here for the prosecution is they need more than just the ostrich leather and the paper. They need to show the willfulness, and that's what they're counting on a cooperating witness like Rick Gates to show.

I think Rick is delivering on that. He has worked very hard. I think the direct testimony went in very well.

And on the other hand, the challenge for the defense is they need to separate him from Manafort and be able to show that he was an independent operator and that he could have been the real one to blame.

COOPER: Renato, there is also testimony now today that Manafort sought an administration job as secretary of the army for a banker who just happened to be the same banker for whom Manafort sought a loan under false pretenses. Which is -- I mean, that alone sounds pretty sketchy to say nothing of the other allegations.

MARIOTTI: Well, for sure. And you have to wonder, you know, the picture that you see in this trial of Manafort is a man who desperately needs money. He was, you know, in deep financial trouble. And yet he agreed to work for the president for Donald Trump for free.

So, why was he doing that? Well, you know, partially, it seems, he was trying to, you know, feather his own nest a little bit by using the influence that he gained, you know. He saw dollar signs, really. And that's why he ended up, you know, getting a job with the president and ultimately trying to use that influence in the administration.

COOPER: Yes, Shan, it does seem hard to kind of explain other than what Renato just said. Why Manafort would agree to work for -- would volunteer his services for President Trump, other than -- given his financial situation, other than he saw it as kind of a loss leader, that long-term it would have benefits for him in terms of getting other clients or gaining influence.

WU: Oh, absolutely. I think that it is a loss leader as Renato pointed out, that it's probably worth its weight in gold, if not exponentially for the marketing point of view. And, of course, that brings us to the question that's been coming out, which is all of this sort of lobbying and influence peddling. It would seem a reasonable assumption to make that that's what he was setting himself up for in the future.

COOPER: Renato, do you think Manafort is actually going to take the stand?

MARIOTTI: I would be surprised if he did. If I was his attorney, I would tell him not to, just because there is so much evidence out there that is difficult to explain. This isn't the sort of case where it's his word versus Rick Gates.

There are just -- as you pointed out, there's -- you know, all these documents and e-mails that will be very hard for him to explain away. E-mails where he said there were no foreign bank accounts, for example. You know, e-mails where he is sending instructions to lie to banks.

I don't see how you can explain that away. So I think you have to sit down and not take the stand if you're on the defense side.

COOPER: Shan, would you recommend that he not take the stand?

WU: That's always the million dollar question for the defense counsel. I agree, very risky to put him on. I think they'll probably have to make that judgment call based on how they, meaning the defense team, think the case is going. If they really think it's not going well, they may have to put him on the stand so that he can say that it's really Rick Gates' fault, he can point the finger at Rick Gates himself.

COOPER: Shan Wu, appreciate it. And Renato Mariotti, thank you very much.

Just about every day, it seems, we hear something about whether President Trump, in fact, is going to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. We've been hearing this for a long time.

Coming up, I'll talk with "The New York Times" reporter who keeps a very close tab on the president's mind-set in that regard. I'll speak with Maggie Haberman, next.


[20:32:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are continuing to monitor the crucial races in five races. Meanwhile, President Trump has been for him unusually quiet while he's been at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. His one-time Republican primary foe Senator Lindsey Graham did give us a peek into his mind-set when he answered questions at an event in his home state South Carolina last night. Senator Graham had spent Sunday on the golf course with the President. Was asked by an audience member why he and a South Carolina congressman also in the form, don't "step up and stop the Mueller investigation". Here's what Senator Graham had to say.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Well did Trump ask that question? He must have mentioned that about 20 times. So I told the President, I know you don't like it. I know you feel put upon. You just got to ride it out.


COOPER: Well joining me now is "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, you heard what Senator Graham there said. I mean the President is clearly -- well, I don't want to say stewing, but certainly focused on the Mueller investigation in private. He has been unusually quiet about it on Twitter just in the last 48 hours since this Trump Tower meeting tweet. What does it all say you think about his mindset right now?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean I think his mindset has been incredibly preoccupied by this investigation for quite some time. We have heard from several source it's reached something of a fever pitch in the last two weeks, I think because of a confluence of events, one of which is the audio tape of him talking to his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, one of which is the Paul Manafort trial. I think there are a number of things that are reminding him of the existence of this probe and of questions about Russia, which he at least on some level sees as a question of the legitimacy of his presidency.

I think that that Trump Tower tweet that you referenced was sort of a hot stove moment for him. He touched the hot stove and had to back off of it, which he does periodically. His aides were able to say this is a problem. You can't do this again and get him to basically back off for a while. It obviously will not be forever, but it's going to be for a little bit.

COOPER: According to CNN's reporting, the President has been urged to stop tweeting. Which to your point about the Trump Tower meeting, that advised it only gives oxygen to the topic. Does it -- I mean does it seem to you he is actually taking the advice from those around him on this particular incident?

HABERMAN: No. I think he is taking the advice for this moment. I don't think that it has any particular longevity. Look, my colleague Michael Schmidt and I reported that among the issues so that the special counsel's office is looking at is whether the President's tweets have been intended at various points to influence witnesses in the possible witnesses in an investigation into him. Could they be construed as obstruction of justice or part of an obstruction of justice case?

[20:35:00] And there are some who believe that the more he tweets, even if he is, you know, saying things that he has said before, as he did with this Trump Tower tweet, but he is putting it to much starker relief this time than he did last year. But it's not really new information. That he is still creating problems for himself. And I think on this one, for whatever reason he was finally able to see this was unwise to have done. And he is for the time being laying off. But I don't expect it to last.

COOPER: Giuliani yesterday told CNN that the President's legal team is preparing to respond to Mueller in the coming days. I mean it does seem like Giuliani is continually moving the goal post on this interview between Mueller and the President. Is that a conscious strategy?

HABERMAN: I mean I do think part of their strategy has been to draw this out as long as possible and get it to as close to the window as possible where Mueller is unlikely to issue a report after that. You know, there is this guideline within the Department of Justice about when you do things close to an election, I think it's 60 days from an election, you are not supposed to. And I think the assumption is the Mueller would follow along with DOJ guidelines. So that gives you a couple of more weeks.

We're now looking at eight months that they have been having these negotiations about an interview. Mueller's office, while they have said they wanted to talk to the President, they do seem to be letting the President's team and I think the President's team sees advantages in trying to draw this out. You can make the flip case which is that Mueller's folks are giving them an awful lot of room by which Mueller's folks can say we gave them every opportunity and they just didn't take it. I don't believe that whatever they respond to Mueller's proposal with -- will be an outright. No, I believe it will be a counteroffer of some kind, but I don't think we'll see that till tomorrow.

COOPER: In term -- but you think tomorrow we actually might see that?


COOPER: In terms of the Manafort trial, and the second day of pretty damaging testimony from Rick Gates. How do you think the President is processing that right now? Yes, I mean even though it doesn't have to do with the campaign per se?

HABERMAN: Right, I mean I think like a couple of things. I think what would stand out to the President of that testimony and I think it was too hot out for the President to play golf. We don't know whether he did or didn't, because we have not been given particularly timely updates about what he is doing at his private club at Bedminster this week on his vacation. But assuming that he is paying as close attention to this as he does to most things that relate to him in some way, I think what would stand out to him is the testimony about whether Rick Gates possibly was reimbursed for personal expenses from the inaugural committee where he was an assistant to Tom Barrack who ran that committee and who has been a long-time friend of the President, that would I think would bother the President quite a bit and he will not react all to it.

COOPER: And just last time, I want to get your read on the Ohio special election tonight, which we're watching closely. The President obviously some political cap on the line, he campaigned there recently. How do you see it playing out?

HABERMAN: I think that making a prediction right now, since we don't know exactly what the vote's going to look like could be a huge mistake. I think that, you know, if I'm not going to say anything revelatory here. If Republicans win tonight, it will be close, but this will be the model for how they do it in the fall. And it is going to be just straight-out scorched earth. If Democrats win, I think it is going to show the power of enthusiasm and that there is likely a wave coming. And I think that no matter what happens, you can be assured that Donald Trump is going to make clear that in his mind it's not his fault at all.

COOPER: Yes, Maggie Haberman, thanks appreciate it.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: As usual, a great deal of process about what would be a sat earth shattering interview if the President did talk to Mueller. Joining us now is Alan Dershowitz author of the "Case Against Impeaching Trump" and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor.

Professor Dershowitz, the whole back and forth from Giuliani saying he is going to respond to the Mueller team in the coming day, as I said to Maggie, we have heard this many, many times before. Do you see this as kind of trying to push the clock, run out the clock a little bit?

ALAN DERHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD: Well, I see it more in a different way. I see it more as Giuliani wants to make an offer to Mueller that offer cannot -- that Mueller cannot accept. And in the end, it's Mueller who says sorry, I don't accept it. And we're not going to do it on your terms. That way Trump can continue to say look, I wanted to testify. My lawyers made an offer to testify, and it was Mueller who turned me down. And then ball is on Mueller's court. He has to decide to subpoena or not subpoena the President. If he does, he's in for a year-long litigation about whether the President can be subpoenaed. The answer to that is probably going to be yes. Whether he can be asked questions about his motives and intention. The answer to that is likely to be no. Whether he can be asked about other issues that come with an executive privilege. It will be a mixed result.

But in the end, it will be a victory for Trump because it will come after a long period of time. And it will be after Trump has been able to say look, I wanted to testify, but Mueller wouldn't accept my deal. So that I think is what the strategy is all about.

COOPER: Laura, is that how you see the strategy?

[20:40:00] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I do see that in a combination of things. One, in the game of good cop and bad cop, it's all an act. Neither one is actually trying to be accommodating. It's one about a public service campaign and publicity campaign and one feigning that they actually want to be involved in the investigation.

But I think they are trying to run up the clock. Normally speaking, you know you have these midterm elections that are coming up. And it's a DOJ policy not to try to interfere or influence an election result. And for most states do have the November election, there are states that have early elections, including early voting in terms of September. So the clock for Mueller not to be able to interfere is actually as early as September in some states. The caveat here Anderson, of course is running out the clock. The person who is the subject of the investigation is not on any ballot.

So it's not likely that actually would apply, but you would be influencing elections simply by trying to extend the Mueller clock all the way to November if Trump himself is not on the ballot. But it's a combined strategy. I think ultimately, this is a game where Donald Trump knows that the end result here is a political process, and he cannot run the clock out on the court of public opinion because it does not have deadlines.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, I mean at what point would Mueller's team subpoena the President to appear before a grand jury if the negotiations fail and they chose to do that?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, that's going to be a hard decision on his part because if he does subpoena the President, then that means he's going have to delay writing the report. If he instead says look, I tried to get the President to testify. He won't do it. He won't sit down. he's made every excuse, I've given him every opportunity to prove his innocence, now I'm going to write a report that says the President wouldn't sit down with me, even though I offered him A, B, C, D, written questions, no questions about this, no questions about that. And he uses that in his report as one building block toward a conclusion of some kind of guilt. In the end, if you ask me to bet widows and offerings' money on the outcome, I would have to bet that in the end, Donald Trump does not sit down with the special counsel or testify.

In the end, I think we will not hear or see him, unless they go to court and he is compelled to do it by court. But I don't think it's going to happen voluntarily in tend.

COOPER: Laura, would you make that bet as well?

COATES: You know, I would make the bet that he would prolong and delay his ability to speak. But I think it's really against his interests to try to delay for many of the reasons Alan talked about. It's almost a forgone conclusion that the President will ultimately, if they are subpoena, even after a lengthy litigation battle will find the court saying, yes you are the head of the executive branch of government, which oversees the Department of Justice. If everyone can thumb their noses at a subpoena, then we would have really no justice system, including if the head of the executive branch does that. So, I think they will come back and says he has to testify.

However, I don't understand why he fails to realize that it's in his interest to avoid being compelled to testify in front of a grand jury because then he can't have his lawyers in front of a grand jury. And this is a person who we've seen time and time again, he could be coached. He will be able to hedge. He will have the ability to have his attorneys present to nudge him in the rib cage and say are you sure you would like to say that? Here is the script we'd like to have you follow, the truth, of course. And have that. And if he doesn't have his attorneys present, then he won't have the ability to do so, which is one of the reasons that Bill Clinton, when he testified in front of a grand jury, albeit through a satellite feed did not have the advantage of having his attorneys present.

COOPER: Yes. Professor?

DERSHOWITZ: That's one disadvantage, not having your attorneys present. The big advantage is he litigates, and he litigates not only in court, but this the court of public opinion. And he will win some in court and lose some and win some in the court of public opinion. But it makes it more political, and that's what he would like to it be. He would like this --


DERSHOWITZ: -- to seem like a blue/red issue rather than an issue under the rule of law.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz.

COATES: And --

COOPER: Laura Coates, sorry we just got to --


COOPER: -- we're a little over time. Thanks very much.

Up next, two high stakes elections happening tonight in Ohio and Kansas. We're following that closely. John King is crunching the numbers. We have new numbers from the special election in Ohio. More votes come in. We'll give you the latest on that ahead.


[20:48:07] COOPER: Elections in Kansas and Ohio tonight could be new litmus test for the President's position for Republican voters, a possible harbinger for things to come in the midterm elections just three months from now. In the Republican primary, Kansas, the incumbent governor, Jeff Colyer is ahead of Kris Kobach by a few hundred votes with only 1% in the vote in. And wherever there are votes being counted in mirk (ph), the magic wall back ins with John King, well, he comes to us like from the bat signal. Tonight is no exception. Let's check in with him for the latest.

So where the thing stand right now in Ohio, let's talk.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're watching more to vote -- the votes are coming up. We're up to 12% now. You still have the Democrat in charge, again, in a Republican district that that a Democrat has not represented since Ronald Reagan was President. So, just the fact that Colyer is ahead, tells you something about the mood in the country right now. Democrats are competitive in deep red Republican districts. But, deep but, we're 14%, this is the district as a whole.

Important Anderson when you break it down by county in the sense that when we first started to count the votes way up here at Richland County, when it was 5%, it was blue. Now that we're up to 30%, it has gone back to what you say is its DNA, Republican, although a smart Republican would argue Troy Balderson by the time we get higher probably needs to do better than 52% in the rural counties up here to carry the district at least convincingly. But he's flipped it at least.

Morrow County again was blue just for a few moments in the early count, the first wave of votes. It is now back to where you would expect the see in Republican race. And you see there it just jumped again, 64% now in Morrow County. Troy Balderson approaching 70% that is a good sign for the Republican. He would like the turnout here to be a little higher. He would like more votes from this county. But at least the percentages are going good there. This is a trouble sign for Republican as you move down to the more populated areas.

Let me just show you this, bring up the district. The deeper shading shows where more people live. So you see in the rural areas there is no shading down here this are more -- this is more excepts affluent Republican areas, you get the Franklin County, we'll talk to -- get to the second, that's where about third the people in the district. [20:50:01] So as you get closer to where the people -- where there are more people that Danny O'Connor is still ahead in Delaware County is a big deal except we're still at 5% in that county. So we need to see as more votes come in, does that flip? If it stays blue, Troy Balderson is in a lot of trouble, but again 5% it's the early vote we need to see some election day votes first.

Now we move down here, we're still only at 8% in Franklin County, and this is the biggest basket of votes period. This is what matters most. It has to stay blue for the Democrats to have a chance here, Anderson. Danny O'Connor has to win Franklin County to have -- the Franklin County part of the district to have a chance in this race. If he stays at 77%, he's golden. What a smart Democrat would tell you is he probably needs to stay above 60, closer to 63 would be good, and he needs this to be at least 33, preferably 34% or 35% of the total vote in the district. Only 8% in from Franklin County right now.

Again, this is one-third of the votes in the district. So if you're the Democrats, you're in play, right? Let's go back to the full district. You're leading at the moment, just barely, but we're still at 18%. When you're at 18% in a district that has a deep Republican DNA, let's just be patient, count the votes. We're going to be here a while.

COOPER: So, it's 18% overall, I think said what, 8% in Franklin County itself?

KING: That's right. This is the entire district. And again, this is an estimate of what we expect from the precincts. These numbers are never exact, in election don't play out exactly as your computer model says, but we're at about 18% district wide. Then if you go county by county, again, the biggest basket is down here. We're still at 8%. Just watch. It could change while I'm here on live television. And in the smaller less populated county, so small geographically, the less populist we're up to 30% in Richland. We're up to 64% in Morrow.

And again, if you're Troy Balderson, you like the percentages. You'd like the turnout to be a little higher because you want to run up margins here if you're getting beat down here. You want to get the margins up in this more Republican areas, but if you're Troy Balderson, the map looks a lot better now than it did an hour ago and we have a long way still to count.

COOPER: And certainly that turnout is something both sides are going to be watching closely whether the President's visit for Balderson helped bump up turnout, whether even possibly the President's visit helped bump up turnout for O'Connor for those who don't like the President.

KING: Without a doubt. We have a tug-of-war in the Trump Republican Party. The benefit of Donald Trump is he's brought in white working class rural voters who -- 20 years ago would be Democrats, the downside for Trump, if you're say John Kasich who you've had on the program many times. Is this is the strength of Kasich down here in the suburbs, just outside the Columbus. Suburban women, millennials don't like the President. They've turned away from the Republican Party. So it's a source of cause (ph) and tension. We're watching it play out tonight, we will be for next several hours.

COOPER: Yes, and no doubt about it. John King, John, thanks very much.

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing my friend? We're going to have a lot of the results come in on our watch and I'm going to try to avoid that kind draw to the what, what are the numbers and try to look at two different things. One will be what's the suburban play going on in Ohio? I mean, I know John's been talking about that tonight. That's really why that district is so interesting to me because suburbs are the big battleground for both parties.

So you have a lot of -- you have the excerpts that we used to call rural. You have that urban just around Columbus, but suburbs are going to be a big battleground of the big grounds, so what do we see there tonight?


CUOMO: And then there's going to be what this means for Democrats positively and negative. We get the anti-Trump push. We get that's going to drive people to the polls. Is it enough? It wasn't in '94, and it wasn't in 2010. So the question becomes what are Democrats offering more than just if you don't like Trump, come for us? We're going to see how that plays out tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Chris, we'll be watching, thanks very much. About seven minutes from now.

Two fires merged become the biggest wildfire in California history. And President Trump spreads, well, a fallacy about the fire disaster. We have a live update from the fire zone. We'll tell you what the President said when we continue.


[20:58:04] COOPER: A massive fire fight is under way in California. Two wildfires have now merged into one creating the state's largest fire ever, and that's saying a lot. It's one of more than a dozen fires burning in the state.

Meanwhile, President Trump is tweeting about the fires and making inaccurate claims. CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the front lines. Has the latest.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight the Mendocino fire charring almost 300,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in state history. So far, it has scorched an area larger than all of New York City's five boroughs put together. Another fire erupting Monday in Orange and Riverside Counties, the holy fire has already burned over 4,000 acres. Across the golden state, 17 large fires are raging as more than 14,000 firefighters battle the fast-moving flames, spurred on by dry and windy conditions. President Trump Monday blamed the state, inaccurately linking California's long-running water shortage to the intensity and spread of fires in the state, tweeting, California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized.

Trump also incorrectly suggesting that California diverts water into the Pacific Ocean, tweeting, Governor Jerry Brown must allow the free flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the north and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. But Cal Fire, the agency in charge of fighting these fires, is rebuking those claims in a statement, saying there is nothing to release. There are no specifics to the tweet. We have plenty of water to fight these fires. The current weather is causing more severe and destructive fires.

White House officials have declined to clarify the President's statements. Before the people devastated and threatened by these wildfires, the concern is less political and far more personal.

[21:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're working as best we can with the resources that we have to manage this. But Mother Nature has taken its course, and we've needed to adapt to it.