Return to Transcripts main page


Nunes: "We Have to Keep the Majority" to Protect Pres. Trump; Judge in Manafort Trial Tells Jurors He Was Wrong in Criticizing Prosecutors; First Lady's Parents Now U.S. Citizens, Use "Chain Migration" President Hates. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 20:00   ET


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

We begin tonight keeping them honest, with new evidence that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is not impartial on the Russian investigation, evidence reinforcing already existing evidence that he is protecting the White House, not seeking the truth and it comes straight from the chairman's own mouth, words caught on tape suggesting he sees the role of House Republicans as shielding the president from Robert Mueller's investigation.

MSNBC aired the secretly made recording which it says was obtained by a progressive group called Fuse Washington at private fund-raiser for Congresswoman Cathy Morris Rodgers.

Now, here's a portion. This is Congressman Nunes speaking, shall we say, his truth.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So therein lies, so it's like your classic Catch-22 situation where we were at a -- this puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won't un-recuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones. Which is really the danger.

That's why I keep, and thank you for saying it, by the way, I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.


COOPER: Now, if this were an isolated statement, it might be seen differently, perhaps merely as a partisan politician, at a partisan fund-raiser, making a partisan speech in the run-up to midterm elections. However, keeping them honest, this is not one-of-a-kind. It's really part of pattern for Nunes.

You will remember, for example, the chairman's revelation, and we'll put that in quotes, back of May of last year the U.S. spy agency had in the chairman's words incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. He was, he said, alarmed by it. So alarm he rushed to the White House to brief the president and reporters. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNES: The president needs to know these intelligence reports are out there and I have a duty to tell him that.


COOPER: Yes. So, it later turned out that he'd gotten those so- called intelligence reports from the White House itself, from a secret visit he made the night before. And just to underscore what was done later revealed by me and these allegations, which were later refuted by Democrats and Republicans with knowledge of them, came just a couple of weeks after the president famously tweeted this: Terrible, just found out Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism.

Funny how that allegation neatly dovetails with the chairman's subsequent stunt. And again, this is not an isolated incident, even after he was forced to recuse himself from his committee's Russia probe, he continued to influence it by quashing Democratic attempts to call witnesses and subpoena records. Additionally, he launched his own campaign to investigate the investigation itself, and the people doing it which also seemed to please the president who gave him a big old attaboy.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A very courageous man. He's courageous, Congressman Devin Nunes. Thank you very much, Devin, for being here. Appreciate it.


COOPER: Well, back in February, Chairman Nunes released a memo alleging FBI and Justice Department wrongdoing in the surveillance of Carter Page. Here's the kind of response it got from leading Democrats.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: It's appalling. It's a misrepresentation. It isn't even a relief of intelligence, it's a relief of a distortion of it.


COOPER: OK. So, now, you can discount that. You might expect the House top Democrat to say that, of course.

But how about a Republican? Say the president's hand-picked FBI director.

Here's how Christopher Wray reacted in a statement from the bureau, quote: We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy. The FBI run by the president's own Republican FBI. Chairman Nunes is also at war with the president's own Attorney

General Rod Rosenstein, threatening to impeach him for not providing enough records to Congress yet has been reported when some of those documents are provided, Nunes doesn't actually read them, nor will he answer many questions, at least not when he's outside the friendly confines of Fox News.


REPORTER: That you step aside from this investigation?

NUNES: Just like you know already, I'm not going to talk about intelligence committee business.

REPORTER: Does the White House have any role in your memo, sir?

NUNES: Democracy dies in darkness, my friend. Get to work.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) memo after the release of the application (INAUDIBLE) the leading Democratic Party propaganda --


COOPER: Saucy.

The chairman can say what he likes about the press, but keeping him honest, it's his own partisanship that's the issue here, because the House Intelligence Committee is not just any committee, it's one of two legislative bodies responsible for overseeing some of the most important agencies that we have and for keeping some of the deepest secrets we hold. So, it matters whether or not a committee chairman is carrying water for their party or their president. It matters whether a chairman lives up to his words and sentiments like these.


NUNES: We will follow the facts where they lead. When we get enough facts, we will then figure out a way to let the American people know.


COOPER: Look, there he is giving an interview to Fox.

There was reaction from a Nunes spokesman who tells CNN and I'm quoting: It's not surprising to see the left wing media spin Chairman Nunes' routine observations as some nefarious plot since these same media outlets spent the last year and a half touting non-existent Russia collusion conspiracy.

[20:05:14] Joining us now, Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

So, Congressman, you heard your colleague, Chairman Nunes essentially saying it's the job of congressional Republicans to protect the president from special counsel Mueller. Is it the job of lawmakers to protect the president? REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Anderson. No, our

job is to protect constituents and to protect the idea of democracy that we can have free and fair elections and that no adversary ever would be able to disrupt that. And what I heard on that tape is exactly what I saw behind closed doors with the witnesses that Devin Nunes was unwilling to call, the subpoenas he was unwilling to issue for the records, and all the efforts he made to do what he could to act as Donald Trump's fixer in Congress.

But now, the American people can judge it for themselves because they now heard it for themselves.

COOPER: Right. I mean, he's saying it's his job and the Republicans' job to clear the president. Some people have been saying, look, this is just a partisan politician making a partisan speech at a fund- raiser. To that, what do you say?

SWALWELL: America was attacked by Russia. And they didn't attack us to just screw around or test software, they attacked the idea of America, that if you work hard here, you can make it anywhere here. They want to undermine that so that idea doesn't go to Russia. So, you would think Republicans and Democrats would unite as an antidote towards that attack and make sure it doesn't happen again.

And every time we needed Devin Nunes to unite a committee that has always been bipartisan, he has chosen to put the president ahead of the country. And now, the voters, in 89 days, have an opportunity with the 33-year-old prosecutor in that community, Andrew Jantz, to go in a different direction and not make it about politics, but just about us and our country and democracy.

COOPER: But, look, I mean, I'm sure, you now, if it was Democratic president, there will be Democrats who thought the same way about trying to protect their Democratic president. But the fact is Congress is supposed to be --

SWALWELL: I hope not. I honestly hope not, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Well, but Congress is supposed to be a check and balance on the executive branch. I mean, your colleague, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu tweeted that Chairman Nunes should resign for, quote, perverting the oath he took.

SWALWELL: I think that Paul Ryan, Speaker Ryan should remove Devin Nunes from being the chairperson. But I don't think he should resign. I think that that's on his constituents. If they also believe we have a duty to protect our country above anyone else they should vote him out on November 6th. I hope they do.

And they have a strong candidate who I think will work in a bipartisan way, Andrew Jantz, who will make sure this doesn't happen again.

COOPER: Our Manu Raju, our reporter, you saw him trying to get answers from Devin Nunes, has been trying to get a statement from Paul Ryan on this all day. There's basically been radio silence. Should the House leadership, I mean, condemn these comments in your opinion? I mean, you said he should take him off the committee.

SWALWELL: Paul Ryan should condemn this because this goes to the corruption that Donald Trump promised Americans he would clean up. And when I go across the country or talk to my own constituents, they're concerned about their healthcare, they're concerned about their paychecks, and they're concerned that nothing gets solved in Washington because it's all about power and corruption. And if we wanted to show the American people that's not what Washington is about and that they are empowered, we should get rid of a corrupt chairman who is doing everything he can to protect the president under investigation.

That is something Paul Ryan could do right now.

COOPER: You really think he is corrupt?

SWALWELL: I think he's been corrupted with power and he believes that his job is to protect President Trump. And our country suffers because of that.

And, Anderson, because the House Intelligence Committee chairman cannot show unity and protect us against future Russian attacks, as we speak right now, the Russians are attacking us. They're not afraid of us. They believe Devin Nunes and Donald Trump have given them green lights. I think right now, there's just too much corruption and what's this election is going to be about.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, appreciate your time. Thank you.

I want to get two more views now. Joining us, Republican strategist Rick Wilson, bestselling author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies", obviously not a fan of the president. Also with us is CNN political commentator Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Rick, I mean, these comments by Nunes, are they really a surprise, considering all of Nunes' past behavior when it comes to defending the president and, you know, the things we've seen him do?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, Devin Nunes said out loud what everyone has known for a long time. And he admitted his culpability in an effort to obstruct the investigation to the ties of the president of the United States to Russia. I mean, this is a guy who is now facilitating what is essentially a conspiracy to obstruct justice and is essentially facilitating for political purposes only an investigation that could get into the heart of the Russian meddling in our elections.

I think it was one of the most shocking -- look, I'm not surprised because Devin Nunes is about as intelligent as a bucket of warm spit.

[20:10:06] But I'm shocked that he did it in any room whatsoever where anyone could have had a recording device. This is 101 stuff. And this guy went out there and said the things that, you know, put him as a target now as someone who is inordinately corrupt and someone who's aiding and abetting the obstruction of an investigation into Russian attacks on our country.

COOPER: Ken, is it Chairman Nunes' and other Republicans on Capitol Hill job to clear the president?

KENNETH CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Not to clear him, no. But he's come to the conclusion, quite publicly, that there wasn't collusion. That's different from the Russian attacks on our elections.

And you heard the congressman just before us conflate the two. He jumped from one to the other quite smoothly. Frankly, the president messes himself up doing this, too.

There is a difference between the two. What Devin Nunes is doing inelegantly, I will grant you, is just the Republican side of the Democrats who are out to say, elect me so I can impeach the president. You got one of their biggest donors in Tom Steyer funding exactly that kind of a program.

This is an element of the campaign this year. It is an element of the campaign. Whether it should be or not -- and I think not -- it is, on both sides of the aisle. One side wants -- they're selling impeaching the president and the other side is selling protecting the president from impeachment. That's the reality of this election and it isn't new.


WILSON: Well, Ken, you know, I want to say this very clearly. Devin Nunes did not come to the conclusion that there was no collusion with Russia or conspiracy to engage with Russia, he has simply said that he's going to stop any investigation that could lead to that. We're never going to find out if we got Devin Nunes in charge of this. This is the proverbial fox in the henhouse problem and Nunes has stated over and over again, you know, that he's gone out with these wild claims about unmasking and about all these secret reports he's produced and they've all been completely non-entities, they've al been nothingburgers of the worst kind.

And now, you know, we see the secret agenda underneath all this theater he's been engaged in. and that agenda is to --


WILSON: -- to protect the Donald Trump presidency no matter what. This is not his job as a sworn member of Congress. They swear to uphold the Constitution. They're a co-equal branch of the government. Ken, I know you know that. They're not a bunch of junior managers at a Trump golf club trying to make the boss happy.

CUCCINELLI: Look, Devin Nunes can easily, and he appears to believe he is doing both of those things. He, of course, has not said what you just said he said, he has said the president hasn't colluded with the Russians. That is his conclusion.

You may not agree with that conclusion, you're waiting for actual evidence to show up of it.

WILSON: My god, evidence. Why would we want that?

CUCCINELLI: And then, of course, the continuing rhetorical problem of people on both sides of the aisle that conflate the Russian involvement in our elections, plural, and the question of collusion of which there is --

COOPER: But, Ken, the president himself continues to call the Mueller investigation a witch hunt.

CUCCINNELLI: And I don't know how much long it has to go on for there to be evidence of that.

COOPER: Right. Ken, as you pointed out --


COOPER: --as you pointed out --

CUCCINELLI: Can I finish?

COOPER: No, because you pointed out as the president --


CUCCINELLI: Impeachment, impeachment is a political undertaking.

COOPER: Ken, you can keep going. I'm going to ask you this question. As you pointed out, the president continues to call the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. He's not talking about the allegation of collusion. He's talking about the entire thing as a witch hunt. Devin Nunes in that tape says if that Sessions doesn't un-recuse himself, if Mueller won't clear the president, it's up to house Republicans. That doesn't sound like a co-equal branch of government.

CUCCINELLI: That's the conclusion he's come to. Well, and he's done that insofar as he has the authority to do it.

COOPER: Right, but he hasn't seen any of the Mueller evidence.

CUCCINELLI: Well, that's not completely true. There's overlapping evidence they have the Mueller folks have.

COOPER: Right, but he has not seen all the Mueller evidence.

CUCCINELLI: We're further down the road than happened in Watergate, and there still isn't evidence of collusion, and that's because there wasn't collusion. There was involvement by the Russians in the election but that's not collusion --

COOPER: You say based on -- you've seen the Mueller evidence?

CUCCINELLI: No. I've seen what you've seen.

COOPER: So, we don't know. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: No, no, I'm just saying. So, we don't know and you don't know.

CUCCINELLI: The double standard in 2012, when we had a president lean over and say to the president of Russia, hey, let's deal differently before the election, and when we get past my election, I'll go easy on you. That's what President Obama said on a hot mike.

WILSON: Ken, I'll see you and raise you with the president in the Oval Office with the Russian spy.


CUCCINELLI: That was actual collusion.

WILSON: Ken, I'll see you and raise you the president in this United States in the Oval Office with a Russian spy and Russian armed saying, oh, I fired Comey to get the pressure of Russia off me, and a president whose son met with and said, if you're bringing me what I think it is, I love it, met with representatives of the Russian government and who then lied about that meeting persistently. And, in fact, the president of the United States wrote a statement or helped to write a statement lying about that to cover up the conspiracy and the collusion.

I think we've got a lot more trail to travel down with the evidence the Mueller investigation has been gathering. And what you saw in this recording with Devin Nunes, he doesn't care. Devin Nunes can have a videotape of Vladimir Putin handing Trump a bag of cash and he would say, no, we have to protect the president, no, we're going to block any investigation, we will try to get the deputy attorney general fired so that we can have our people short circuit an investigation into the president's relationship with Russia and their investigation of the interference, which is part and parcel of the president's team colluding with Russia in this election.

COOPER: Ken, I want you to respond and we have to go.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, this does appear to be where you end up depends where you start. Rick starts with -- you heard the book title.

And I am a truth finder, a truth seeker. I've also litigated in the FISA court. So, the unmasking is a serious deal to me. There is no collusion here.

COOPER: You can't say that -- you have not heard the evidence.

CUCCINELLI: Anderson, I answered that question. Asked and answered, your honor.

COOPER: Right, but you're saying there's no collusion but you haven't seen the evidence.

(CROSSTALK) CUCCINELLI: What we've seen so far, which was my qualifier, what we've seen so far in spending more time than was spent in Watergate is no evidence yet.


CUCCINELLI: So, you don't have any either. You're describing various circumstances --

COOPER: Right, we do not have the evidence. I'm just saying we should -- I mean, as Americans all wait for the investigation to conclude, and as a law enforcement officer, I assume you believe the same thing.

CUCCINELLI: Yes. I just think all the information they need is available at this point. What else is there to get?

COOPER: All right. Ken Cuccinelli, appreciate it. Rick Wilson as well.

For the record, we requested Devin Nunes for tonight, of course. He did not respond to our request.

Coming up next, new clues in the court to what Robert Mueller may be up to with Paul Manafort's ex-partner, and where the Russia investigation could be going.

Also, why citizenship of the first lady's parents is drawing attention to how they got here in the first place, which just so happens to be through a door their son-in-law, the president, is trying to slam shut for others.

Later, Spike Lee on his acclaimed new film, "BlacKkKlansman" and how the true story from decades ago rings terribly true today.


COOPER: The judge in the Paul Manafort tax fraud case has made plenty of headlines so far today. He made headlines for admitting he was wrong. But that wasn't the only the piece of news from the courtroom.

[20:20:02] The other big item about the government's star witness Rick Gates could signal just how important Mueller still believes he is. Our Jim Sciutto has more in that and joins us now from the courthouse.

So, what are you learning about a discussion that lawyers had with the judge about Gates?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as the president continues to attack the whole Mueller investigation as a witch hunt, that's run its course, we learned more evidence that in fact, the focus of this investigation, beyond the Manafort trial, the question of Russian interference and the question of whether the Trump campaign cooperated with that Russian interference is still an open investigation. There was some testimony on Tuesday, where Rick Gates, of course, the

former deputy campaign chairman for the Trump campaign, was questioned about his interviews, more than 20 interviews with the special counsel. The prosecutor here said he wanted that testimony kept secret, because as the prosecutor described in papers presented to the judge, that relates to an ongoing criminal investigation in his words.

What are the two lines of investigation special counsel are looking at? Manafort's financial crimes as we've been following these last few days at court, but also Russian interference and was there any cooperation from the Trump campaign? By the prosecutors saying there that that is part of an ongoing criminal investigation, you get an indication that that line of inquiry is still not closed, Anderson.

COOPER: That's fascinating. There have also been clashes between the prosecutors and the judge in the case. The judge at one point admitting he was wrong. What else did he say?

SCIUTTO: Right. You know, that's been one of the interesting qualities of this trial here. Judge Ellis is a very vocal judge. I've been inside that courtroom, as he is at times chastised the prosecutor almost like a schoolteacher, telling him to look him in the eye and give a yes answer instead of a yeah answer.

But there was a moment yesterday where the judge disputed the prosecution's ability to keep an expert witness inside the courtroom, in this case, a former IRS agent and expert tax witness. Of course, the crimes alleged here involved tax evasion. The prosecutor said, wait a second, judge, you approved of this decision earlier, just look at the transcript.

So, lo and behold, they looked at the transcript and the judge did in fact approve that. So, today, a bit of mea culpa from the judge saying, you're right, I did say that was OK, you know, my fault, my bad.

COOPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Coming up now, a happy moment for First Lady Melania Trump. Viktor and Amalija Knavs were granted citizenship today. They're the parents of Melania Trump. However, what's obviously a big day for her and her parents is also drawing attention to the president's controversial calls to end the immigration policy that brought them here.

You see, according to a source with direct knowledge, Melania Trump did what so many children do, she sponsored her parents' green cards. This type of family visa is exactly the type that President Trump is trying to eliminate. He calls it chain migration.


TRUMP: Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.

We want to get rid of chain migration.

Ending chain migration.

Ending chain migration.

You have chain migration.

This was a Schumer deal. Schumer wanted this.

We have to get rid of chain migration, all of these things we're talking about.

A guy comes in and then you have to bring his aunt, his uncle, his father, his grandfather, his grandson.

A total disaster which threatens our security and our economy.

His third niece by a different marriage --

And provides a gateway for terrorism.

They think it's good politically. I'll tell you what? I think it's horrible politically. What do I know? But I did become president in like a year and a half.


COOPER: Well, the first in-law's attorney calls it family reunification, not immigration and bedrock policy. The first lady's office declined to comment.

More on this now from MJ Lee, who joins us now.

So, what else can you tell us about the process the first lady's parents went through to become citizens today?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Anderson, we're really learning for the first time today how Melania Trump's parents came to this country and became American citizens earlier today. A source with knowledge tells me that it was in fact the first lady who sponsored her parents, Victor and Amalija Knavs, for their green card.

And to be clear, and as you made clear, this is not out of the ordinary. This is a way that many Americans bring their family members to this country. The first lady's parents, as you know, are from Slovenia. We've seen them around Washington, D.C., and sometimes travel with the president and first lady.

But up until today, we didn't have clarity on how it was that they had gotten their green cards. Well, it turns out the first lady took advantage of the family migration card like so many others do in this country, so that her parents could settle down here.

COOPER: And this is obviously all in contrast from the president's own position. Has the White House had anything to say about the disconnect?

LEE: Yes, you know, I think it's incredibly noteworthy that Melania did this for her parents and this is a practice that her husband, the president, does not like. In fact, we've heard President Trump, you just played a great clip there, rail against the family migration policy many, many times. He refers to it as chain migration.

And that particular part of family visa is a category that Trump wants to get rid of all together because he says they are harmful to this country. Now, the first lady's office is not commenting on any of this. However, we do have a statement from Viktor and Amalija Knavs' immigration lawyer, Michael Wilde (ph).

He told me earlier today. He said, I can't comment on the president's politics when it comes to my clients, but I have stood up against the president's immigration policies personally. So, you're seeing a real disconnect here between the president's policy views on this and the fact that his wife has taken advantage of that policy for her parents -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. MJ Lee, appreciate it.

A source close to the White House tells CNN that President Trump is scheduled to have dinner tonight with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. This in the middle of the ongoing back and forth about whether, in fact, the president will agree to be interviewed by the special counsel. Pros and cons of that, ahead.


COOPER: A source close to the White House is telling CNN that President Trump and his TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are having dinner tonight at the president's golf resort in New Jersey. It seems certain they'll have a lot to discuss with the ongoing negotiations about a possible presidential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, including the notion from the president's own attorney that the Mueller team somehow limit the areas of questioning, citing fears of what they call a perjury trap.

Joining me is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case Against Impeaching Trump", and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

Professor Dershowitz, what's Rudy Giuliani strategy here do you think? I mean limiting the scope for the questions prevent the President from falling to what he calls a perjury trap. Can you envision Mueller agreeing to that?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: No, I can't. Now, I think the strategy has been for Giuliani to make Mueller an offer he can't accept to paraphrase the godfather. That satisfies everybody on the Trump team. Trump says he wants to testify. All of his lawyers are unanimous in saying he shouldn't testify. So, the end result of making Mueller an offer that he can't accept, is for Mueller to be the one who turns down the deal. Trump says, hey I wanted to talk to Mueller. It was Mueller's fault and he didn't accept a reasonable offer from my lawyers and we're off to subpoena land.

COOPER: Carrie, what would you make of that? Because, I mean isn't the easiest way to avoid so-called perjury trap to just tell the truth?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's correct. I mean part of the issue is whether or not the President really intends to testify, and -- or be interviewed voluntarily by the special counsel's office. If he doesn't really want to be interviewed, which the longer that has dragged out, it appears to be, then the strategy that Alan just described, I think is accurate, that they're really just playing a game, which is more for PR purposes, to make it appear that he wants to be cooperative, when, really, what they want is just to drag it out and force the special counsel to issue a subpoena.

The allegation that it is a perjury trap really is silly because if the President had a story that we wanted to tell there would be no risk of perjuring himself.

COOPER: Professor, let me ask you about the perjury.


COOPER: Well let me ask you about the perjury kind of idea, because I mean --


COOPER: -- if the President has, as he insists nothing to hide and done nothing wrong, why all this brinksmanship about the interview, isn't the country owe to full accounting what happens, it's not the American public's fault that the President, you know, has had a disconnect from the truth.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, first of all, no lawyer ever puts the interest of the United States above the interests of his country. There was a famous barrister in 1815 in (INAUDIBLE), who said, I have to put the interests of my client over the interests of the country. There a lot of other people that put the interests of the country first. First, let me explain why every lawyer you will ask, every defense lawyer would give you the same answer, that he would be walking into a perjury trap.

Let's assume he was asked one question, did you know about the meeting in the Trump Tower with your son? And let's assume he honestly didn't know and answers that question honestly, no, I didn't know. We notice already one witness who said yes he did know. That witness is Cohen. Cohen may be lying.

But at that point, the perjury trap has been sprung and Mueller could theoretically charge him with perjury for telling the truth. So you never advise a client to answer a question truthfully if there someone else who will answer the question differently and that person will be believed by the prosecutor. That's what we mean by perjury trap.

COOPER: Carrie, does that seem I mean viable to you? Because I mean first of all, you're referencing Michael Cohen who had said that there were other people present in the room. If there's not actual a documentation, why would the prosecution to side randomly, to side with Michael Cohen who by the way has lied publicly about other stuff? CORDERO: Well first of all we don't even know publically whether or not Michael Cohen has been interviewed in any way. So using Michael Cohen as an example doesn't comport with someone else who has been interviewed under oath or in front of investigative agents or before the grand jury. But, I think the bigger point is that if the President had a story that he wanted to tell, then they would want to submit to a voluntary interview. Most criminal defendants I agree that most criminal defendants or criminal subjects, I should say, excuse me, would not want to be interviewed voluntarily. They would be interviewed pursuant to a subpoena and they were -- or they would be requested to come in before the grand jury. So, I think the President's legal advice is consistent with what most subjects of an investigation would do.

The difference is that he's the President of the United States and publicly his team has said that there is no reason that he should not be able to tell his side of the story.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, I mean for Giuliani to say that if this investigation isn't over by September 1st, Mueller would be in violation of the Justice Department's rules. There actually isn't any DOJ rule. I mean it's customary but not codified anywhere. Do you acknowledge that Giuliani himself a former U.S. attorney is kind over his skis on this?

DERSHOWITZ: No, I don't think so. Because, I think the one thing Mueller doesn't want to become is Comey. He doesn't want to be accused of having influence the election. I'm told that Mueller was furious at Comey when Comey did what he did before the election last time, even though they're close friends. And the last thing he wants to do is be accused of having any influence on the midterms.

[20:35:12] COOPER: Alan Dershowitz, Carrie Cordero, thanks so much.

I want to give you a quick update on a story we've been following closely, nearly 11 months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the official death toll is still only 64, but now finally the Puerto Rican government is admitting that the actual number of deaths may be closer to 1400. We should point out, CNN had to sue the government to get access to mortality statistics. And according to some researchers who took part in a study by Harvard and other schools, the Puerto Rican government was less than helpful in providing access to their stats.

In our report to Congress the government now says, documents show 1,427 more deaths than normal occurred in the four months after the storm end in September of 2017. Official say that's only an estimate and haven't officially updated the death toll. The study by Harvard and others had previously shown the deaths could be even higher than the 1,400 figure. President Trump has repeatedly praised the federal response to Hurricane Maria.

Well the President also figures in this story. The National Park Service said it is approve to permit for the group called "Unite the Right" to stage a rally this coming Sunday across the street from the White House. The rally comes a year after white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia left one counter-protester dead. According to the permit, the speakers will include the organizer of that rally along with former grand wizard of KKK David Duke, who just happens to be a character in Spike Lee's new movie.

Coming up, I'll talk to Spike Lee about race, the President and his new film about an African-American police officer infiltrating the KKK. A true story. We'll be right back.


[20:40:35] COOPER: Now there's a rally planned in Washington this coming Sunday by white nationalist group called "Unite the Right". It's scheduled for Lafayette Park directly across the street from the White House. Now "Unite the Right" was the group that organized last years neo-Nazi and white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when violence broke out and one encounter protester was mowed down and killed allegedly by white supremacist driving his car.

Among the plan speakers at this rally is David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan as it happens Duke is a key character in Spike Lee's amazing new movie "BlackKklansman" which is based on a story of a African-American Colorado police detective who infiltrated the Klan back in the 1970s and yes it is a based on true story.

Spike Lee is on the cover of this weeks "Time" magazine. I'm very happy that he is with me now.

That's your first cover on "Time" magazine?


COOPER: I would have expected like three or four by now.

LEE: No.

COOPER: First of all, I got to ask you about your t-shirt. God protect Robert Mueller. Did you make that yourself?

LEE: No. But couple of people was talking so -- there's a history in this country, so I just hope that God puts his hands on him and he gets to do what he has to do, to the end.

COOPER: I want to ask you about this film, because --

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: -- I went to see it a couple of months ago actually. And it's a period film, it's in the '70s. Did you -- firstly, have you ever heard of this story before? Because --

LEE: No.

COOPER: Tell me to explain, what --

LEE: (INAUDIBLE) I was called out of the blue sky, I have a project for you. So what is it? In six words, he pitched it, black man infiltrates KKK.

COOPER: And you -- were you, like I'm in? That's it?

LEE: Yes, I was in. I said, it's true? He said it's true. Got automatically I thought the great David Chappelle.


LEE: Right.

COOPER: But -- so, just very briefly, this is an African-American police officer --


COOPER: Right. First African-American on this police force.

LEE: In Colorado Springs.

COOPER: Colorado Springs. And --

LEE: Yes, he raps.

COOPER: -- he sees an ad for the KKK in the newspaper, calls them up and starts talking to them.

LEE: No. He left a message.

COOPER: He left a message. OK.

LEE: But, he left his name. He says, call him back. So the premise is that he needs a white (INAUDIBLE) to play him in person. And that's David -- Adam Drivers.

COOPER: Right. So, it set in the '70s.

LEE: '70s.

COOPER: And, I mean, it's so evocative of that time. But I mean men, it is so timely today. I mean --

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: -- that's the thing that just blows you away when you're sitting there watching this. Is that what you --

LEE: That was a plan. With my co-writer Kevin Willmott, we did not want this to just be a history lesson, we want -- even though it takes place in the '70s, we still want to be contemporary. So, a lot of things, phrases, stuff like that, it was said way before the '70s where they were saying then and now you hear them today. And the lexicon of politics and guys in office.

COOPER: It's one of the things that so startling about the film is, you know, we like to think about we've evolved and things change, and, you know, I mean, this doesn't go away. The questions have raised the divisions, you know, it doesn't go away.

LEE: Well, I've been on this show many years, you know, talking about the same thing. But the thing -- I know I might be giving a spoiler alert. And I was in Mueller's vineyard August 12th. And I watched what I feel is homegrown American red, white and blue terrorism.

COOPER: You're talking about last year at Charlottesville?

LEE: Yes. August 12th. And my house and (INAUDIBLE) is like 18th hole. So, I knew Obama was coming because I see the secret service in the trees, you know, in detail (ph) of 18 holes. You know, he's on a golf course, turns his phone off, while and just relaxed. So he -- when I told him he hadn't heard about it.

COOPER: You went up to him and told him?

LEE: He hadn't heard about it.

COOPER: What did you say to him?

LEE: I don't remember exactly. But it was -- I don't want to give the whole thing, but I just said, you need to -- I want to tell this you President, I thought he heard, he didn't hear about it. And the film Black Panther is opening on the one year anniversary of Charlottesville.

COOPER: And that was intentional? That was important to you?

[20:45:00] LEE: very much so. I think that what happened there -- here's the thing for me, the President of the United States had a chance Anderson to denounce hate. Hate groups. The whole world saw what happened and he didn't do it.

COOPER: So there's good people on both sides. That Friday night, you know, there's --

LEE: The torch.

COOPER: -- the tiki torch rally, to go to the Robert E. Lee statute. I mean these were young white males, hundreds of them, this is in the Vice video.

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: Chanting, Jews will not replace us, blood and soil which is a Nazi slogan. The idea that it's -- I mean they're not wearing masks.

LEE: Swastika, left and right.

COOPER: Right. That I mean, does it -- did it surprise even you? I mean you focused on -- you've done so many films about race and race in America, did that even surprise you, though? How blatant it was?

LEE: No. You know why? Because this guy we've got in the White House is not even a dog whistle, it's a bullhorn. And then, also, Anderson, we've seen a rise to the right. It's not just America, it's worldwide. So this thing has happened worldwide.

COOPER: One of the things that LeBron James said in that interview with Don Lemon the other night, he was talking about -- he believes that the President has created an environment where -- where people who hold toxic views or racist views feel more empowered than ever before to give voice to them.

LEE: They got the green light from the White House.

COOPER: You think it filters down from the top that way?

LEE: The top was down. Mexicans, all Mexicans are rapist we go, be with for three hours is doing research and saying all the statements that he posts statements he said. He said over --

COOPER: So what do you hope people get from the film?

LEE: I'm very leery of providing takeaways. I respect the audience intelligence too much. But, I think there is if we just look at this film and look at the ending, we've got to do better. We've got to do better.

COOPER: The -- I mean I'm not going to say what the ending of the film is, but I mean --

LEE: Ends in Charlottesville.

COOPER: When I saw -- when the theater I was watching in, I mean you heard a pin drop and afterward, I mean just the impact.

LEE: That was one of the things we want to do, connect the past to the present. And I'd like to say at this time God bless Susan Bro, who is coming up on the anniversary of the loss of her daughter again, and a terrible act of American terrorism. She no longer has a daughter because of that.

COOPER: Yes, we'll be talking to her tomorrow. The -- you have kids. Do you have this -- I mean do you have these conversations?

LEE: Oh, yes, we do. Because I had these conversations with my parents. We were -- well one of my most -- it's not a fond memory, but April 1968, in front of my stoop in Brooklyn, New York, and I hear a woman screaming. Screaming at the top of her lungs. And then, as the voice gets closer, I said that sounds like my mother. And then, as she got closer, she was screaming, they murdered Dr. King, they murdered Dr. King, they murdered Dr. King. So, I'm 61. So I was -- that was a sweet spot. I mean I was young enough to see everything and not old enough to go to Vietnam. And so it was all the turbulence of '60s and '70s, I was right there in Brooklyn, now taking it all in.

COOPER: Do you -- would you want to sit down with Donald Trump?

LEE: No.

COOPER: And have a conversation?

LEE: I don't use his name either, it's Agent Orange.

COOPER: That hurt (ph) you?

LEE: Got it from Busta Rhymes, shout-out to Brooklyn, Busta.

COOPER: Do you consider him your president?

LEE: No. Might be Putin.

COOPER: Did you --

LEE: I get the next one.

COOPER: So what -- so what --

LEE: You look kind of shook, Anderson.

COOPER: No -- I find the movie -- I mean I was shaken by the film. And --

LEE: Thank you very much.

COOPER: You know, when I thought of it as a period piece, I though oh, it's a look back. And but -- just so -- there's such relevant things --

LEE: I think that would -- like I say that's what people responded to, that is not just a history lesson, that even though it takes place in the '70s, it's also the world we live in, the topsy-turvy crazy insane world we lived in today.

COOPER: Spike lee, it's always good to talk to you. Thank you.

LEE: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

[20:50:02] I want to check in with Chris and see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Listening to you is what I'm doing, talking to Spike. I think you do the right thing when you confront the conversations, Anderson. They're not easy to have. Obviously they're not even easy for us to have sometimes. But we have to talk about what is real in this country because we're seeing what happens when you don't. It winds up getting harnessed and weaponized anyway. The same issues wind up getting used. The film is important. The anniversary coming up is important. And God forbid that this stupid idea of having yet another set of unify the -- whatever they're called with these demonstrations they want to have to mark this anniversary. We'll be watching it. We're going to be talking about it tonight as well.

And we're going to be testing power tonight. Everybody's talking about Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas. Trump made that governor's primary for the GOP into an entire different echelon of election by getting involved. His on our show tonight, and he's got a lot for us to ask him about. So we'll have the show with him tonight.

We're also going to take to take you through the reality of what's going on in Puerto Rico and what the President owes the people there.

COOPER: Yes. Chris, appreciate it. Nine minutes from now. Thanks very much.

More than 20 lawmakers are asking the President to immediately declare a disaster in California because of wildfires burning throughout the state. I'll speak to Congressman Mike Thompson about that, next.


[20:55:35] COOPER: As firefighters in California continue to battle more than a dozen fires, a group of lawmakers is asking for a disaster declaration. More than 20 members of the House are asking the President to immediately grant the request because of the catastrophic scope of the destructive wildfires. Includes the Mendocino complex fire northern California which as of this morning had burned more than 304,000 acres. The largest fire in the history of California.

Joining me now is Congressman Mike Thompson.

Congressman, thanks for being with us. I'm sorry to these circumstances. The President has declared a state of emergency in California. You're urging him to do more, declare a major disaster declaration. Can you just explain what that distinction means and how it would help fighting these fires?

REP. MIKE THOMPSON, (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, thank you, Anderson. In my district -- and you nailed it. Over 300,000 acres burning in that Mendocino complex fire. We've had good support from the federal government. The local assistance grants from the federal government have been there to help us fight the fire. But we also need help in addressing all the problems associated with it. The public assistance, the shared financial responsibility between the state, local, and federal government, and the individual assistance that will allow people to get the help they need to rebuild their home and to get back in their home.

This is -- this is just a terrible situation, and in my county of Lake, this is the fourth year in a row that we've had major forest fires. And people are devastated by this, and we really need the President to declare the disaster and to be forthcoming with all the federal resources that we can muster.

COOPER: I know you and other lawmakers sent the letter to the President two days ago. Have you heard anything back as of yet on it?

THOMPSON: I've been in contact with FEMA. We've been in contact with the White House. It's running its course. But the President could do a world of good by stepping it up and making the declaration now. There's a lot of lives depending upon this. It would make life much easier in these devastated areas. And folks really need the security of knowing that their federal government's with them. COOPER: You know, one of the things the President has said about this, and I'm wondering how concerned, if you were concerned, about what the President tweeted several days ago, that it was a lack of water is to blame for the difficulty in containing the fires because every fire official I've talked to said that's simply not the case. It's not a problem of water.

THOMPSON: Well, we have the water that we need, and I'd really like the President and everybody else to stop tweeting and focus on the disaster at hand. Folks in need help. People need help. Our communities need help. And that's what we should be focusing on.

COOPER: In terms of your own district, constituents, how are they doing tonight?

THOMPSON: Well, they're doing a little better. People are repopulating their homes. But we still have a fire that is not contained. It won't be contained for another month. It's burning, and we have red flag warnings again tonight. And this could exacerbate the situation. And today we had another fire break out in another part of my district in Napa. So this is an ongoing threat. The fuel load is very, very heavy. Resources are stretched. We've got so many firefighters, so many aircraft and pieces of equipment out there. We really can't -- we really can't sustain a lot of this. We need the help from the federal government. The people that I represent want to know that their federal government is with them and will be with them through this terrible time.

COOPER: Well certainly our thoughts and prayers are with not only everybody affected by this fire but all the men and women on the fire line who are working around the clock. I know your son is a firefighter who could be drawn up to deliver mutual aid if necessary. I mean the firefighters just don't get enough credit, and it's extraordinary what they're doing, just working around the clock. So we appreciate you being on, Congressman Thompson. Thank you so much.

THOMPSON: Well, thank you. And thank you for mentioning the first responders. The community has been fantastic. First responders are real heroes and heroines, they're out there everyday, their life is on the line for their community. So, thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Congressman, we wish you the best.

[21:00:00] The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris. "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts now. Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo, and welcome to "Prime Time."

The GOP primary for governor of Kansas should have been a whole (ph) home race.