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We'll Leave The Gaslight On For You, Part 12; Giuliani's Shifting Stance On Alleged Trump-Comey Conversation; Pres. Trump Signs Defense Bill Names For Sen. McCain; Pres. Trump Signs McCain Defense Measure Doesn't Mention McCain; Pres. Trump Hits McCain On Health Care Vote Again; Marching On; White Supremacist Rally Again, Feel Emboldened By Pres. Trump. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 13, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

In normal times, it would be strange to lead a newscast with the firing of a former reality TV contestant, but let's face it. No matter where you are in the political spectrum, you probably agree these are not exactly normal times.

So we begin tonight with Omarosa Manigault Newman fired once three times from "The Apprentice" and once from the White House. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me four times? I don't know who's to blame.

Manigault Newman who last we saw was whispering to Ross on "Celebrity Big Brother" is now trying to sell a book and is waging a war of words of sorts with her old boss, President Trump. She is releasing tapes of conversations made on the job, including one with the president. And she promises more recordings of phone calls according to "Politico" with first daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Manigault Newman was once held a senior position at the White House Office of Public Liaison. She drew the highest salary possible for the West Wing, and drew questions about what qualifications if any she actually had for the job. Well, now that she's back in the spotlight, Manigault Newman is being accused of poor judgment on the job, and worse, by the same people who hired her in the first place. She is being called a liar by many people, including by Michael Cohen who is also at war with the president who also recorded conversations with him.

It's, of course, a cliche to point out that all sounds like a reality show, but yes, this all sounds like a reality show, a show where public employees are told to sign nondisclosure agreements which she just said she did not sign, but show where the boss is talking about paying hush money the silence "Playboy" models and where he allegedly offers a deal to Manigault Newman to remain on friendly terms.

It's a show where the presidential candidate could loudly and repeatedly promise to hire only the best people, only to ditch them and call them liars and wacky and more.

On Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press", Manigault Newman released this clip reportedly of her firing by Chief of Staff John Kelly in the White House Situation Room.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We've going to talk to you about leaving the White House. It's come to my attention over the last few months that there has been some pretty, in my opinion, significant integrity issues. I think it's important to understand that if we make this a friendly departure, we can all be -- you know, you can look -- you look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation and then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: Can I ask you a couple questions? Does the president -- is the president aware of what's going on?

KELLY: Don't do -- let's not go down the road. This is a nonnegotiable discussion.


COOPER: Well, this morning also on NBC, Manigault Newman released another recording of a call purportedly with the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Omarosa, what's going on? I just saw on the news that you're thinking about leaving. What happened?

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: General Kelly -- General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave.

TRUMP: No. Nobody even told me about it.


TRUMP: They run a big operation, but I didn't know it. I didn't know that. Goddamn it. I don't love you leaving at all.


COOPER: Well, the president either pretending he didn't know she was going to be fired or actually not knowing she was going to be fired, but not exactly stopping it either. That is what he said then.

This is what he tweeted this morning. Quote: Wacky Omarosa, who got fired three times on "The Apprentice" now got fired for last time. She never made it. Never will. She begged me for a job, tears in her eyes. I said, OK. People in the White House hated her. She was vicious but not smart.

He continues: I would rarely see her, but heard really bad things, would constantly miss work. When General Kelly came on board, he told me she was a loser and would only cause problems. I told him to try working it out, if possible because she only said great things about me, until she got fired.

All right. Now, first things first. That is the president of the United States seeming to suggest that someone may have deserved firing in real life because she had been fired three times from a reality TV show, a TV show he continued to have her on. The president is also suggesting that despite being nasty and missing meetings and work and being informed by his chief of staff that she was nothing but problems, wanted her to remain because, quote, she only said great things about me.

So, given that, was the president just making it up when he said this about her during the campaign?


TRUMP: And, Omarosa, don't leave, Omarosa. She is a wonderful woman. Don't leave. She's a wonderful woman.

She has done so much for me with the African American community, with communities generally, and she's another one. She is such a fine person. And nobody knows it.

You are amazing, OK? I just want to thank you very much for everything you've done.


COOPER: See? It sounds there he is not just talking about a lies the fired reality star who says nice things about him. No, it sounds more like he considers her a great hire like all the other great people he either had had hired or was planning on hiring.


[20:05:00] TRUMP: We're going to make America great again. We're going to use our best people.

I'm going get the best people.

We're going to deliver. We're going get the best people in the world.

We don't want people that are B level, C level, D level. We have to get our absolute best.

We're going to use our smartest and our best. We're not using political hacks anymore. It's a sophisticated chess match, but I have the best people lined up.

You need people that are truly, truly capable.

We have to get the best people.


COOPER: So, was Omarosa Manigault Newman one of the best or was she always, to use the president's words, a loser who just said new things about him? Is she a low life, as the president says today, or a fine person as he once said?

We may never actually know. But if the president is right now, what is his hiring of Ms. Manigault Newman say about his own judgment and the kind of people he wants to surround himself with?

We don't know what White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders used to think, but now that the president doesn't like her, she is clearly not fan. Her statement reads and I quote: The very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room shows a blatant disregard for national security and then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this former disgruntled former White House employee.

As I mentioned earlier, the president's former attorney and current alleged adversary, Michael Cohen, also decided to weigh, tweeting: To the many dozens of journalists who called me questioning Omarosa's claim in her real book that POTUS @RealDonaldTrump took a note from me, put a note in his mouth and ate it, I saw no such thing, and I'm shocked anyone would take this seriously.

Just for the record, he is saying he never saw the president eat a piece of paper. And the president of the United States retweeted that. And that is all just part of today's reality.

More now on all this from CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who joins us from the White House.

How is the White House trying to explain what is going on here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, my, how the strategy has changed from week ago when aides were encouraging the president not to tweet about Omarosa and give her book any oxygen. The president now tweeting multiple times about Omarosa today, naming her specifically, saying that when she was in the White House, she wasn't liked buy her colleagues, that she regularly missed meetings and even skipped work, yet he kept her around because she praised him. A reminder, she is someone who made $180,000 of taxpayer-funded money.

But Anderson, certainly these recordings from Omarosa that she has released over the weekend and today are creating a sense of paranoia in the West Wing. Staffers long suspected when Omarosa was on her way out that she was recording conversations she was having, but these are recordings being published really give weight to those claims and even give weight that Omarosa was having conversations with the president and chief of staff and other senior White House officials, and they are worried about what else could come out.

COOPER: I mean, is it clear what, if any recourse the administration would have against Manigault Newman? And the president says she has a full signed nondisclosure agreement which she I believe now just recently just moments ago denied that she had signed.

Do we know what the truth is here?

COLLINS: Well, Anderson, the president seemed to be referencing those NDAs that they had White House staffers sign last year which a lot of them saw as unenforceable, watered down version. But then Omarosa making clear she did not sign the White House version of the nondisclosure agreement. She could have signed one when she was on the Trump campaign or at the Trump Organization. It's unclear exactly which NDA it was that she signed, but the president tweeting that there.

But also Omarosa threatening that she does have more tapes to come, and she is waiting to see what the White House's reaction is going to be because she does believe that they will retaliate against her. She didn't say how or what she was expecting, but she did say that and said if they do, she could publish other tapes.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.

A lot to talk about. Joining us David Gergen, Paris Dennard and Amanda Carpenter.

Paris, I want to start can you because I remember when Omarosa left the White House, you had some really interesting things to say and it always stuck in mind. You -- first of all, just not -- it doesn't really get to today's story, but it's interesting, it sort of sets the stage you.

You were saying one of the criticisms of her was that rather than kind of reach out to people, she basically isolated potentially good people who could have come to the White House because she was concerned about her own power. I don't want to put words in your mouth. But is my memory correct on that?

PARIS DENNARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF BLACK OUTREACH FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Anderson, your memory is absolutely correct because that is the truth that is exactly what happened. Omarosa had this complex about being the number one person in charge at the White House and being the assistant to the president, the highest ranking black American at the White House. And there were several people who wanted to work at the White House from day one.

Kay Coles James, who is now the president of the Heritage Foundation, was one such person who as on the record as saying that Omarosa blocked her. And there are other people who came in and who wanted to come in, but Omarosa successfully blocked them from coming to the White House. But luckily, even with her attempts, there were black Americans on day one, and there are black Americans working there now in pretty important roles.

But the fact of the matter is Omarosa was concerned about her own ego, about her own status, and about her own image in the Trump White House and across the country, masquerading as if she was the black liaison person when she really wasn't. She could have had that title, but decide not to hire anybody to actually be the liaison to the black community like I was when I was the director of black outreach at the White House for the Bush administration.

But instead, she became the director of communications and office of public liaison, a position created just for her, but it was convenient when she didn't want to do black issues. She would say, oh, I have so many things on my plate because I'm dealing with all of the things that public liaison is doing. She did not want anybody else to be at the table, and that's unfortunate.

COOPER: So, David, what does it say? I mean, I think Paris' perception of this is really interesting. What does it say about the president and the kind of people he hired or, you know, wanted to keep around? The fact, I mean, anybody who -- I didn't even watch "The Apprentice," and I knew her representation.

The idea that anybody would be surprised of anything that is happening, you know, I just feel it's hard to imagine that anyone, particularly the president or the White House would be a surprise.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: Well, certainly, Reince Priebus must not be surprised. It's been widely reported that as the incoming chief of staff, he tried to block her from coming to the White House. The president insisted, and she came in on Trump's -- basically, his order, to hire her and put her in an important position.

I do think Donald Trump has ample reason to be angry now at her because she has violated all the norms and rules that go with being a White House staffer, and that is you are a member of the staff. You're expected to keep -- you can write a book later on, but do so after a period of discretion and some distance, and certainly carrying around a wire violates every rule, I just can't imagine. The last time I heard about wires in the White House was in the Nixon administration when the president himself ordered that people, there be wiretaps on people.

But this is a -- I think is a blow that goes well beyond Omarosa. Increasingly, it's becoming a tension about race and race in the White House and Donald Trump's racial views.

COOPER: Amanda, how do you see this? David said the president has reason to be upset. Again, I come back to how could he have not known who he was hiring? And even from the get-go, it seems like plenty of people around him were saying what are you doing? This is not a good idea.

But she said good things about him so he wanted her to stay.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CXRUZ: Yes, what I think -- I think we're seeing something pretty serious here. I think it's fun to laugh of because it's Omarosa and we know her from reality TV. But what we are watching in real time is someone attempting to blackmail the president, that collected tapes and evidence to use against him if anyone in the White House retaliates against her for writing this book.

And so, who else has blackmailed? What was Michael Cohen doing when he was recording the president? Stormy Daniels and her lawyer Michael Avenatti say they have a DVD of some kind of evidence against the president. "The National Enquirer" negotiated a hush agreement on Trump's arguable behalf for Karen McDougal. So, how many people have this type of blackmail against the president?

It's a fair question. And what Omarosa is doing is not funny. I think people think it's fun to watch because they don't like President Trump.

No, this is pretty serious. You're watching someone bully the president, and she is pretty much able to do it because he made the mistake of hiring her.

COOPER: Well, and, Paris, I mean, it's not funny, because, you know, to the point that was made by Kaitlan, she was paid, you know, very highly from American taxpayer dollars for a job which as you yourself was saying she wasn't doing.

DENNARD: No, absolutely. It's not funny. There is -- I've heard reports of people that are in this book and there are claims of defamation of character. She is making claims that are just absurd.

And I think just to the president's credit, the president hired her because one, he likes people who are loyal and he likes people who support him, and she was effective on the campaign trail talking about him and defending him to the black community and to all communities, talking about the fact that she did not believe he was racist and all the things he was going to do for the black community and the things that he was going to do for urban America, things I believe and know that he is doing.

But it's interesting when she worked for him on "The Apprentice" three times and the ultimate merger which is another she did with him, and then for the campaign and the transition and a year at the White House, and then a day after she was fired, she never once said the man was racist. The day after she was fired, she says she resigned and said then he is not a racist.

So, this is a woman who knows him and knows him not to be a racist, said as much, and now conveniently when she needs money because her gravy train with the Trump team and family has run out she is going to flip and say now he's a racist.

[20:15:07] It's unfortunate and it's pretty sad.

COOPER: David, you're shaking your head.

GERGEN: I just want to take issue on a couple things. Look, I think she is a grifter. I have no use for her. I think she's done terrible things and all of that.

But let's face it. She is handing Donald Trump some of his own medicine. He was recording people secretly in his offices long before he became president, made a habit of it, used the tapes to his advantage. And now, people are turning around and doing that.

What happens in a presidency is that everybody takes their cues from the president. He sets the standards. If he starts behaving in certain ways, other people follow. What I think is particularly unfortunate about this whole incident is that this is a black woman who is involved here.

And for many blacks in this country, what they have heard is yet another black person the president knows being called dumb when he turns on her. He went after LeBron, he went after Maxine Walters, he went after our Don Lemon, he has gone after her, you know, and black athletes are SOBs for taking a knee.

And as one of your contributors, Blanken (ph), pointed out recently, blacks come from shithole countries. So, there is a pattern here I think is as disturbing as anything else that is going on in this story.

COOPER: Paris, do you see that as part of this pattern?

DENNARD: No, I don't. And I think it's insulting to the men and women who are serving currently in the White House to think that they -- this is what happens at this White House.

Omarosa did this. It is dumb, quite frankly, to go into the Situation Room.

GERGEN: How many blacks are in senior positions?

DENNARD: Well, if you want to have that --

GERGEN: How many blacks are in senior?

DENNARD: You have Johnathan Holifield, who's the executive director of the White House initiative on HBCUs. You have Ja'Ron K. Smith who is a commissioned officer in legislative affairs. You have Mary Elizabeth Taylor who is a commissioned officer in legislative affairs who just got appointed by the president to be the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs.

GERGEN: These are all second and third tier people. How many people are in first tier positions?

DENNARD: There is no one that is at the assistant to the president level. However, the two persons that I named before --

GERGEN: Exactly.

DENNARD: -- are commissioned officers which are as you know very well are in the senior level positions, as well as the fact that executive director is Johnathan Holifield. And you have other people, the deputy director of the White House fellows program, Blandon David, is African American.

You have the second lady in the United States, her communications director is Kara Brooks, who is African-American.

And then across the administration, in senior level positions in the agencies, you have many African-Americans serving in senior level position. So, that's the facts.

COOPER: Amanda, the notion that the president feigned ignorance and then displeasure when we talk to Manigault Newman on that recording again, I don't know how that recording is edited, we don't know what else was said. This was something that was released by her. Do you find that telling? Because I mean, it is -- it runs consistent with what Maggie Haberman in the past has talked about, doesn't like direct confrontation.

And he either is feigning oh, I didn't know that you were going to be fired, I don't like the idea of you leaving. He's not saying, you know, I'm going to stop it or anything.

CARPENTER: Yes. I think Trump often tries to play both sides on the issue. I don't know what he really knew at the time. But for all this talk of what Omarosa may have invented or not, there has been a productive piece of information that came out of this, and that's in the fact that Kellyanne Conway did confirm that West Wing staffer asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.

With that, Omarosa has also produced evidence that she was offered a $15,000 a month contract that she describes as hush money. And so, I think this has far-reaching implications, because if the Republican National Committee funds and/or Trump campaign funds are used as hush money, I think donors are going to be very curious about that.

And let's not forget that Michael Cohen was a deputy finance chair at the RNC. So, he had a say in how that money was used. And so, I think RNC needs to be asked a lot of questions about where their funds are going and why.

COOPER: Yes, more on that in the coming days.

David Gergen, Paris Dennard, Amanda Carpenter, thank you.

President Trump treated him like public enemy number one, now he's been fired. Coming up next, we'll talk about special agent Peter Strzok's real and alleged defenses, whether they warranted the professional death penalty and whether his punishment had anything to do with the president's displeasure.

Later, the president's TV lawyer changes his tune on what the president said to James Comey and why the shifting story line could matter a lot.

We'll be right back.


[20:23:00] COOPER: When the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility got done investigating special agent Peter Strzok, it recommend that he'd be demoted and suspended for 60 days. Today, we learned he was fired. Strzok, as you know, was bounced from the Russia investigation last year in connection with a number of anti- Trump text messages he exchanged with his lover at the time.

His actions became a focal point for criticism of the probe, someone which played out when Strzok testified before Congress, including this exchange over why special counsel Mueller took him off his team. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: My testimony, what you asked and what I responded to, was that he kicked me off because of my bias. I am stating to you it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any my bias, that it was done based on the appearance. If you want to represent what she said accurately, I'm happy to answer that question. But I don't appreciate what was originally said being exchanged.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't appreciate what you appreciate, Agent Strzok. I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.


COOPER: Well, as you know, the president has been loudly calling for Strzok's departure. He has now gone. He tweeted today, deeply saddened by this decision. It's been an honor to serve my country and work with the fine men and women of the FBI. He also linked to a GoFundMe page.

CNN's Manu Raju joins us now with more.

So, the FBI had already punished him for texts. Do we know now why he was fired or why he as fired now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is actually no real answer from the FBI about this decision to fire Peter Strzok, Anderson. The FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility which does deal with personnel matters recommended that a 60-day suspension, along with a demotion for all these anti-Trump tags.

But the FBI's deputy director David Bowdich was a Trump appointee, overruled that decision and fired Strzok on Friday. Now, this caused Strzok's attorney to say that this breaks from precedent and is, quote, deeply troubling to all Americans because the inspector general's investigation at the Justice Department did not find that Strzok's personal feelings ultimately impacted the decision to clear Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing.

Now, after silence for much of the day, the FBI did put out a statement tonight saying, quote: The deputy director as a senior career FBI official has the delegated authority to review and modify any disciplinary findings and/or penalty as deemed necessary in the best interests of the FBI.

[20:25:17] So as you can see, Anderson, not many details about their thinking, all raising questions about whether or not his firing was prompted by pressure from the president and his relentless tweeting attacking Strzok and the FBI.

COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks.

I want to bring in former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell. He worked for James Comey. Currently, he is a CNN law enforcement analyst. And also with us, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Josh, do you think he should have been fired?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think it was a tough decision. If you're the FBI director, you're trying to weigh two different things. There is Peter Strzok's performance as an FBI employee. He had a reputation of someone who is widely known as an excellent investigator, a counterintelligence expert.

And then you have issue of conduct. And if you're sitting in the shoes of Dave Bowdich, the deputy director, you have to look at that and ask yourself, does this type of conduct warrant a serious, you know, meting out of punishment, which would include termination in this case. He said that it did.

I think that the audience wasn't necessarily the outside world, the American people, but it was internally. It was telling the rank and file that, you know, we expect you, the career FBI employees, to come to work every day and comport yourself in concert with our core values. How can I ask you to do that when I'm not holding our own senior leaders to the very same high standards. I doubt it was a very easy decision, but it was one he determined he had to make.

COOPER: Gloria, you can also look ate as if he stayed in his job and interacted in the future on other investigations, would people raise -- automatically raise questions or be justified in raising questions about well, what's his motivation on this next investigation?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I think that was probably part of their consideration, although the inspector general report said that they did not believe that his work at the outset was biased.

But, you know, I do believe that it would give people ammunition to use against the FBI, particularly the president of the United States, who doesn't seem to need any more than he already has. But in getting rid of Peter Strzok, he can claim victory, just as he did when the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe was fired.

So, the president can say, look, we've gotten rid of these two bad apples, although there are plenty more.

COOPER: Josh, you think the president's attention on this had an impact?

CAMPBELL: I don't. And it circles back to the person who made the decision.

Now, I know Dave Bowdich very well. I worked for him in the FBI in a number of different positions. You would be hard-pressed to find somebody with greater integrity in the organization.

When I actually heard it was him making the decision, that actually gave me comfort, because I know him to be an honorable person. I think this is one of those instances where you can have two things that can be both true at the same time. We have a president of the United States and his allies in Congress, Chairman Goodlatte, Congressman Gowdy, who have politicized this issue with Peter Strzok in a disgraceful way, in a disgusting way, going after a career civil servant. That's happening on one hand.

The other thing that is also true is you have an FBI employee who engaged in wrongdoing. You know, I don't think that those officials inside the FBI who were making that decision were influenced by outside politics. I think they looked at a very tough decision and made a tough choice.

COOPER: Gloria, in one of the president's tweets today he said the list of bad players in the FBI and DOJ gets longer and longer. If he still considers Strzok, you know, a bad player, he obviously does, wouldn't the list be getting shorter?

BORGER: Well, you might think so. But there are plenty of bad players.

I mean, as far as the president's concerned, how about starting with the special counsel, Robert Mueller? How about starting with his own attorney general, who he's been tweeting about? How about the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, whom he doesn't seem to like? How about all the lawyers who work for Bob Mueller? What does he call them, 13 angry Democrats, or maybe now the number is up to 17?

So, you know, I think there are always going to be plenty of people that the president is going to feel aggrieved by, particularly so long as they're involved in the Russia investigation, which he still, of course, considers a witch-hunt and a hoax.

COOPER: Yes, Gloria, thanks very much. Josh Campbell as well.

If President Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is at it again tonight, saying that the president never had a conversation with fired FBI Director James Comey about limiting the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, this despite Giuliani saying precisely that last month, an attempt at untangling it all is just ahead.


[20:32:56] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Another keeping them honest report tonight, and another example of someone speaking for the President, trying to gas light the American public. It's certainly no secret the President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani is no shrinking violet when it comes to putting his client's views about the Russia investigation on public display.

So here he is about 36 hours ago telling our Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION" that the President did not have a conversation with former FBI director James Comey about limiting the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.


RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: There was no conversation about Michael Flynn. The President didn't find out that Comey believed there was until about I think it was February when it supposedly took place.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But Mr. Mayor, you said -- you told ABC News last month that the President told Comey, quote, "Can you give him a break". Now you're saying that they never had --

GIULIANI: I never told ABC that. That's crazy. I never said that.


COOPER: Crazy. He never said that, he says. But here he is, July 8th on ABC saying that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is he a good witness for President if he is saying that the President was asking him, directing him in his words, to let the Michael Flynn investigation go?

GIULIANI: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was --



COOPER: So in case you missed that, because the cross talk, Mr. Giuliani said, quote, "What he said to him was, can you give me a break", which is of course the exact thing he denied saying to Jake. Not to be deterred, Mr. Giuliani took another crack at it this morning.


GIULIANI: What he was saying is perfectly justifiable. He didn't say you must, you have to, I'll fire you if you don't. He said consider it. Number three, he never said it. Lawyers argue -- like talk like this all day. We call it arguing the alternative.


COOPER: So let's start to unpack all of that. I'm joined by Harvard Emeritus Professor Alan Dershowitz, the author of the book "The Case Against Impeaching Trump" and CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who once study under Professor Dershowitz.

Jeff, the idea that Giuliani floated that this conversation never took place, is this some strategic shift or is this just a lawyer who can't keep the story straight?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No, I think there is method here. I mean I think -- you know, you need to look at what Giuliani is doing as a political strategy more than a legal strategy, and he is giving choices to what people want -- can believe. They can believe that this conversation never took place. They can believe that if it took place, there was no crime committed there.

[20:35:09] And I think this is something that the President has been doing, which is basically throw everything up against the wall. And, you know, if you look at the polls, some of it seems to be working.

COOPER: Professional Dershowitz, is there a method there to Jeff's point? Because, I mean he does -- I mean Giuliani did then, you know, in the morning shows saying well actually, no there was a conversation, just not how it was portrayed.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD: Well, I think Jeffrey is absolutely correct. This is a political tactic. And I'm not an expert in politics. It may or may not be working. From a legal point of view, it makes very little sense because Mueller has a witness. And from his point of view, it's a credible witness that the conversation occurred. You now, it really doesn't matter from the point of view of filing a report or filing charges whether there is a denial that the conversation occurred. I think for the purposes of any legal analysis, you have to assume the conversation occurred. It may have occurred with this nuance or that nuance.

And then the question becomes a legal question. Does the President have the authority to ask his director of the FBI to go easy or to lay off. And my answer to that right from the beginning has been yes, he does have that thunderstorm. It might be a political sin to do it and a violation of traditions of separation between the White House and the Justice Department. But going back to Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Kennedy, Presidents have directed their Justice Departments who to prosecute and who not the prosecute.

TOOBIN: Well, this is where I disagree with Alan on the law, that I do think it is potentially an impeachable offense for a President to tell the director of the FBI don't prosecute, investigate, bother someone who may yet implicate me. I think that's the very definition of a corrupt motive. But I do agree that this is a political process. And I think what Giuliani is doing is basically telling the Republican base, you know, what Mueller is doing is wrong. You can pick your reasons.

COOPER: Right, but Professor, if Giuliani is adding more confusion about what is actually happening, couldn't you also make the argument that therefore it becomes even more important for the President to actually speak to Mueller to clear up what actually happened?

DERSHOWITZ: You're sounding like -- you're talking like a citizen of the United States.

COOPER: Forgive me.

DERSHOWITZ: And that makes a lot of sense. But from the -- all right. From the point of view of a lawyer for a person who is under investigation, confusion is a good thing, not a bad thing. And your client has no obligation to clarify. All he has is an obligation to make sure that he doesn't say anything that results in incriminating statements. COOPER: Jeff, I want to ask you something about that Giuliani also said yesterday that I didn't quite understand. He said that it would be easier for him if the President did ask Comey to give Flynn a break that would be something he and Jay Sekulow could defend.

TOOBIN: Well, I think Alan's making that point, that the President can to do for any purpose. And I just think that's dead wrong. I think if you look at Watergate, if -- you know, the President did have the legal right to tell the FBI that the CIA wanted the Watergate investigation stopped. That was done for a corrupt motive, and it was seen, properly, as an impeachable offense. You know, just because --

DERSHOWITZ: But that was a crime. That was a crime itself, telling a subordinate to lie to the FBI is a crime. Everything --

TOOBIN: That's not a crime.

DERSHOWITZ: -- that Nixon was charged -- yes, it is. You can't tell somebody to commit a crime. You can't tell somebody --

TOOBIN: It's not a crime --

DERSHOWITZ: -- to lie to the FBI.

TOOBIN: -- to tell the FBI.

DERSHOWITZ: That's a crime. Of course it is.

TOOBIN: Not in an investigation.


DERSHOWITZ: An untruth. In any investigation, that's 1001.

TOOBIN: I know.

DERSHOWITZ: You cannot lie to a law enforcement official about a subject of the investigation if it's material. Look, I also disagree that it's a good thing for if he said that. It's much better from a criminal defense point of view. I'm not saying it to advise the President. Obviously, I'm not his lawyer. But it's much better from the point of view of the defense to be able to say look, I didn't do it. But if I did do it, it's legal than to say well, maybe I did it. But if I did do it, maybe it's legal. It's much better to have alternative defenses.

But right now we're hearing a confused alternative defense. We don't know whether t position of the White House he said it. Or he didn't say. We do know the position of the White House is if he said it, it's not a crime. I think that's correct.


DERSHOWITZ: Well, we have a fundamental disagreement.

(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: We've been disagreeing about this for months. If you have a corrupt motive to save your own skin, the fact that you have the legal right to fire the FBI director doesn't matter.

DERSHOWITZ: So you say -- so you say that Bush was criminal, that George H.W. Bush was a criminal, because that fits exactly into what you're saying. He had a corrupt motive to saver his own skin, and he pardoned.

[20:40:00] TOOBIN: That's not true. That was on the last day.

DERSHOWITZ: So you're saying he didn't do the crime.

TOOBIN: No, I'm not saying that.


DERSHOWITZ: What's the difference if it's the last day?

TOOBIN: It's a total -- because there was no more presidency to -- there was the presidency was over. He wasn't worried about criminal --

DERSHOWITZ: But it doesn't matter if he committed a crime on the last day, he committed a crime on the last day. Remember, that a President can be indicted and convicted after he leaves office. So he was trying to save his own skin. Yes, it would have been a crime under your theory. But I think your theory respectfully is wrong.

TOOBIN: This is a wonderful trip down memory lane about to the George Herbert Walker Bush presidency. But I'd rather --

DERSHOWITZ: Precedent matters. Precedent matters.


TOOBIN: From the master.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Professor Dershowitz, thank you so much.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

COOPER: Reference to kung fu early '70s ABC, (INAUDIBLE) never mind.

President Trump today signed the defense spending bill named in honor of Arizona Senator John McCain, now seriously ill with brain cancer. The President might have used this as an opportunity to say something nice about the senator. We'll tell you what he actually said instead.


COOPER: President Trump signed a massive Pentagon budget bill today in a ceremony at Fort Drum, New York. Officially it's called the John S. McCain National Defense Reauthorization Act. And as chief executives tend to do, the President thanked all manner of high- ranking officials for making the whole thing possible. [20:45:07] Listen though to what he left out, starting with the name of the bill.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The National Defense Authorization Act is the most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history, and I am very proud to be a big, big part of it.

I'd like to recognize Deputy Secretary of Defense Shanahan, who is with us. Please, Mr. Secretary. I want to thank General Dunford, General Millie, General Neller, Admiral Richardson, General Goldfein, General Lengyel and Vice Admiral Ray, thank you all for your leadership.

We would not be here for today's signing ceremony without the dedicated efforts of the members of Congress who worked so hard to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.


COOPER: Missing from that list, of course, is the President mentioning the very person for who the bill is named for, Senator John McCain, former POW War Hero, the John McCain battling brain cancer. Here is a look at the front page of the actual legislation. There is Senator McCain's name pretty far down in the small print. After that sign ceremony with President didn't mentioned McCain, President Trump headed for another political rally, this on behalf of Republican New York Congresswoman. Didn't say Senator McCain's name at the rally. He also didn't miss a chance to take a dig at Senator McCain, referencing McCain's no vote on the healthcare bill.


TRUMP: One of our wonderful Senators said thumbs-down at 2:00 in the morning.


COOPER: Now, joining me former is Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo and CNN's political analyst, Kirsten Powers. Good to have you both on.

Kirsten, I mean the fact that the President didn't say McCain's name though he had multiple opportunity, the name being on the bill, does it say something to you?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean -- I think it shows that he cannot rise above his petty differences with John McCain, who -- as we all know is dying. And this is somebody who is, you know, at the end of his life, a very storied career, including in the Republican Party very important person to the Republican Party. Which is why this is named after him. It's something he worked on. And so to not give him credit and not be able to acknowledge that, I think it just looks extremely petty and small. You have somebody who deserves some recognition, especially at the end of his life.

COOPER: Michael, should the President have thanked McCain?

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FMR TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I don't know. This is -- yu know, politics ain't beanbag. And Senator McCain hasn't been good to the President. He's insulted the President over and over and over again. This is -- you know, politics can get petty, and it's gotten really personal between these two men. And I appreciate the fact that the President did name checked him today. The NDAA is an important bill and I know he put some work into it. I wish him and his family luck. But not everybody in the United States thinks very highly of John McCain. I came across -- I mean I came up with my dislike for John McCain long before the President ever ran for office, and, you know, he is not exactly nice to the people who he opposes, and he's been really nasty to the President of the United States.

COOPER: Kirsten, in one of the President's tweets today about Omarosa Manigault, he said that he tried to keep her on at the White House because she only said great things about him. It's kind of a telling remark. I mean, he get John Kelly saying according to him she is a loser, she doesn't do work, she is causing trouble, but he said try to make it work because she says great things about him.

POWERS: Right. I think it says a lot, and I think in the context of this conversation, if I can just quickly talk about what Michael just said, I think thing is one of the big problems now that you see in politics, which is Michael's basically saying, well, because he is a political enemy, then, you know, and he said bad things about me then even though he is dying and he has had, you know, a storied career, who cares, when it actually used to be that people who would go up against each other in the Presidential races. They would actually even end up being friends sometimes. And at a bare minimum, could show decency.

So I think in this situation with Omarosa, the fact that the President would just want somebody who is just saying positive things about him suggests somebody who has, you know, maybe is too closely identified with his ego.

COOPER: Is it a lack of decency Michael?

CAPUTO: You know, as you know Omarosa was the communications director of the Public Liaison Office, and her job was to say nice things about the President and publicize his policies. So, I mean, if you're going to criticize him for her talking about doing her job, I don't know what to think about. Then, also, by the way, you know this incivility in politics isn't brand-new to 2018. It was -- it went on decades ago. It went on a century ago.

POWERS: That was my point.

CAPUTO: It's the spirit.

POWERS: That was my point, Michael.

CAPUTO: It's the spirit of democracy. POWERS: Right, that was my point.

CAPUTO: Yes, it's not unusual. I understand.

POWERS: But this has always gone on. But people are able afterwards to be able to be decent to each other, especially when people are dying or even when they die. You will see when somebody dies in politics, even if it was somebody you didn't agree with, usually try to find something nice to say about them.

[20:50:10] There is -- this is --

CAPUTO: Surely.

POWERS: -- this is an unusual way to behave for a President of the United States.

CAPUTO: No, it's not. You know --

POWER: Yes, it is.

CAPUTO: -- as I said before, the rivalries that lasted well beyond an election have gone on throughout the history of the American republic. This is not an unusual one. It's a recent one. It's a particularly visceral one, and I think a lot of us are disappointed it's debilitated to this point.

COOPER: Michael, a lot of people pointed to, you know, Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill as, you know, competitors who obviously didn't see eye to eye on much but who were social and friendly with each other when all was said and done.

CAPUTO: Right. That's when I came to Washington when you would see people nearly in fist fights on the House floor, on the Senate floor. Then you'd see him at monocle having drinks together. The stories of Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan drinking whiskey together they were great stories. But things have Capitol Hill.

The monocle -- now they're -- people go to their office and corners. It's not a very nice place and just on Sunday, we saw people itching for a fight, you know, wanting to hurt each other. Right now I think America is in a bad place, and this relationship is just a smart part of it.

COOPER: But isn't the President to blame for that, or does he play --

CAPUTO: No, I think both sides are to blame for it. I think the President is giving tit for tat with McCain. It wasn't just a couple of weeks ago where McCain intimated that the President might have committed treason in Helsinki. This is a nasty back-and-forth, and I wish it wouldn't go on, but that's a fact of life.

POWERS: I just can't follow this. It's like it always happens, it never happens. It doesn't matter. I mean you keep changing everything around. It's like --

CAPUTO: That's not what I said.

POWERS: You got done --

CAPUTO: You're absolutely mischaracterizing what I said. You are mischaracterizing what I said.

POWERS: What you just described in the monocle with Tip O'Neill and the President --

CAPUTO: Right. Those were sanguine times and there were times before that that weren't like that.

POWERS: That's what I'm saying.

CAPUTO: I'm telling you it's cyclical and there are times --

POWERS: It's not cyclical. It's Donald Trump.

CAPUTO: -- when two people will never get along till the day they die. No, it's not. You're absolutely overestimating it. This is the way politics works.

POWERS: No, so this is why I'm saying you're saying this is the way politics works like it's always been that way. It hasn't always been that way. The way the President is behaving when a man is dying because he's criticized him, it's childish. I mean it's petty.

CAPUTO: This is not the first time in history. It's not the first time in America. It's not even the first time in the last 10 years.

COOPER: All right. Let's just leave it there. Kirsten Powers, Michael Caputo, I appreciate it.

I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" in about seven minutes. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: News makers, baby. We've got Kristin Davis on tonight. She's going to tell us what is it like to be in there with Mueller? What did he want to know about Roger Stone? What did she have to say? And then we have the attorney for Peter Strzok. Why are they surprised that he got fired? What they say was -- what was really going on and what this is about. We're going to take both of those things on. We're going to have a great debate about what you were just talking about right there. And then I have a closing argument about how not all punches are equal.

COOPER: All right. I'll be watching. Seven minutes from now. Chris, thanks very much.

Up next, white supremacists marching again. Michael Caputo was just talking about this, in Washington. What they told our Randi Kaye when we continue.


[20:56:07] COOPER: Well, it was a year ago when President Trump said, quote, "there were very fine people on both sides when white supremacists and counter protesters filled the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. One of the supremacists used his car to plow down and kill Heather Heyer one of the counter protesters.

Yesterday to mark the anniversary of their march, white supremacists gather yet again this time in Washington for their so-called Unite The Right 2 rally. They were a smaller group this time, but their message of hate of course remains.

Randi Kaye was there. She talked with some of the marchers and discovered some of them feel emboldened by what the President said about them last year. Take a look.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the shadow of the White House, about two dozen white supremacists led by organizer Jason Kessler carrying an American flag.

JASON KESSLER, ORGANIZER: I would like President Trump first of all to know that there were good people on both sides.

KAYE (voice-over): In a pre-rally tweet over the weekend, the President said he condemns all types of racism but didn't specifically denounce the white supremacists or neo-Nazis who would be attending. And that as well as what the President has and hasn't said in the past makes Kessler believe he has an advocate in the White House.

(on-camera): Do you get the sense the President has your back?

KESSLER: I hope he does because there's a lot of people who -- who hate him and hate me and hate free speech, and I'm not trying to hurt anybody. I'm trying to stand up for my people.

KAYE (voice-over): His people? White America. Despite him telling me that he's fighting for the civil rights of all Americans, there isn't any evidence to support that, nor did he give us any examples of a time he has advocated for any other group. And Kessler is not alone in his thinking that white America may have an advocate in the Oval Office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he has the backing of the President in the fact that we want our white rights back which we have been stripped off.

KAYE (voice-over): Wwhat rights he's referring to is anybody's guess. He wouldn't say. This 21-year-old from Texas had plenty to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here to protect the rights of not just whites but of all people, OK? We understand who is in power. We understand who is trying to enslave us, who is trying to manipulate us and trying to control us.

KAYE (on-camera): Who is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of theories about who they are, OK? I do think that they have an agenda to --

KAYE (on-camera): Who is "they"?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not going -- I do not want to mention names.

KAYE (on-camera): Do you feel like you have the President's backing and support?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So the President is a nationalist. He said it himself. We're nationalists as well.

KAYE (on-camera): So is that a yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, no, no. all right. Different allegiance, I guess you could say. We're -- our allegiance is to whites as a majority. Trump's allegiance is to all the people of America, OK? He's not a bigot. He's not racist. I don't know how you guys can spin that.

KAYE (on-camera): You didn't hear me say that. You're the one who's saying.

(voice-over): This man in the group proudly wearing his "Make America Great Again" hat.

(on-camera): Do you feel like Trump is a supporter of this group and Jason Kessler?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, I -- you know, I think he's like just a pretty fair, intelligent man.

KAYE (voice-over): We asked the White House for a response. Sarah Sanders told us via e-mail, "The President has condemned all racism and said many times it has no place in our country". If ever white supremacists feel emboldened, it's now.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well a quick reminder, don't miss our daily interactive newscast on Facebook where you pick up some of the stories that -- you pick some of the stories we cover. It's called "Full Circle". You can see at week night -- every week day night at 6:25 p.m. eastern at, just rolls up the tongue. It's a lot of fun, lot of variety on the stories, please join us again, that's 6:25 p.m. eastern every week day night at

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

[21:00:00] CUOMO: Three generations of Cuomos like your Facebook show. My mom, my wife, my daughter. Three generations. Good for you, brother.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time".