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Reuters: President Trump Won't Say If He'll Do Mueller Interview. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 20, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

After a weekend of bruising headlines, President Trump is ramping up attacks on the Russia investigation, while one of his current attorneys tries to explain why he says truth isn't truth. So, there's a lot to cover tonight.

There's breaking news, the president telling "Reuters" that he has stayed out of the Mueller probe so far, but could, quote, run it, his words, if he wants to.

There's reporting that federal prosecutors are prepping charges against Mr. Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen. There's reporting that Don McGahn, the current White House counsel, has been meeting and talking with Robert Mueller's team.

There's also the president's former campaign chairman, still waiting for a verdict in his tax evasion and bank fraud trial, and dozens more former intelligence professionals weighing in against the president revoking former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance.

As for the president, he's anger, at least on Twitter, appears to be growing.

This morning, he wrote and I quote: Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his group of angry Democrat thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House counsel, only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. He then went on writing about Mueller writing: Anybody needing that much time when they know there's no Russia collusion is just someone looking for trouble. They are enjoying ruining people's lives and refuse to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side. The lies, the firing, the deleted emails, and so much more. Mueller's angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are, he concludes, a national disgrace.

The president today also railed against Justice Department official Bruce Ohr whose security clearance he is also threatening to yank and John Brennan. He also tweeted this, which brings us to the assault on the Trump portion of our evening, quote: Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby. Rigged witch hunt.

Now, keeping them honest, Senator McCarthy was a demagogue who routinely that twisted the truth. Interesting historical fact, Donald Trump's attorney and close friend, was the weasely and odious lawyer Roy Cohn, who helped McCarthy be that demagogue who he routinely twisted.

Robert Mueller, until the president began taking shots at him, has always known and been praised by people on both parties for being the exact opposite of McCarthy. But the president would have believe that McCarthy and Mueller are on equal footing. That's the place where we're in right now, the place where the gaslight is always on, and where the president and people speaking for him believe not just in alternative facts, but apparently believe truth isn't truth.

Just listen to what the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had to say about whether the president should talk to Robert Mueller.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PRIVATE LAWYER: What I have to tell you is, look, I'm not going to rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry -- well, that's so silly, because it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth. He didn't have a conversation --

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Truth is truth. I don't mean to go like --

GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth! Truth isn't truth! The president of the United States says, I didn't --

TODD: Truth isn't truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize what -- I -- I -- this is going to become a bad meme.

GIULIANI: No, don't --


COOPER: Well, today, Mayor Giuliani tried to kind of clean things up, tweeting: My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements. The classic he said/she said puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth. Other times, it doesn't.

Now, whatever you think he was trying to say, there is history here. Orwellian language is nothing new from the president's people and the president himself. It began just after inauguration day with the ridiculous lies about crowd size and then Kellyanne Conway's defense of the lies, which is best appreciated by gaslight.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.


COOPER: Alternative facts. Doesn't that seem so long ago? And yet the crazy, craziness of it, it's still crisp. There's no expiration date on that phrase. The president, less than a month ago, in a speech in Kansas City, uttered something which really is something Orwell himself could have written.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. And just remember, what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


COOPER: It's OK, everyone. What you're seeing and what you're reading, it's not what's happening. Actually, none of it is. None of it's real. Sleep well.

There's no more threat from North Korea. These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along. Move along.

Before we move along, though, I do just have to show you one other amazing display of truth twisting that Rudy Giuliani attempted this week on Chuck Todd's program about the June 20th -- the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort had with a Russian attorney promising Kremlin dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Now, put aside whether you think this was collusion, attempted collusion, desired collusion, totally proper, totally legit, put that all aside. There are some basic actual facts about the meeting that are known, that are clear, not alternative facts, not untruthful truths.

[20:05:02] The main facts of the meeting simply are not in dispute. But listen to the man once known as America's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, just totally making stuff up.


GIULIANI: I don't even know if they knew she was Russian at the time. All they had was her name.

TODD: They knew she was Russian. I think they knew she was Russian. But, OK.

GIULIANI: Well, they knew it when they met with her, not when they set up the meeting. You told me -- you asked me, you know, did they show an intention to do anything with Russians? Well, all they knew is that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them. They didn't know she was a representative of the Russian government. And indeed, she's not a representative of the Russian government.


COOPER: They didn't know she was Russian. They didn't know she was a representative of the Russian government. In the immortal words of Mike Wallace, come on! Come on!

There are e-mails. Let's put them up. Rod Goldstone to Donald Trump Jr.: Emin asked that I schedule meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who's flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. I believe you're aware of the meeting, and so wondered if 3:00 p.m. or later on Thursday works for you. I assume it would be at your office.

In case you missed it, that is Russian government attorney and flying over from Moscow.

Remember, it was all about a promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton. Here's Don Jr., how about 3:00 at our office? Thanks, Rob, appreciate you help setting it up. Thanks for setting up the meeting with the Russian, the Russian government attorney.

Those aren't alternative facts. Those are just facts. And those were the droids they were looking for.

More now on the breaking news, the president's interview with "Reuters", CNN's Jim Acosta has that. He joins us now from the White House.

There certainly seems to be some fairly dramatic ramping up of rhetoric of the president when it comes to Mueller and his team and the probe overall.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. We seem to be through the looking glass here tonight. One thing you can say about their view of the truth here, it does seem to be pretty important to the president when he said to "Reuters" in that interview earlier today that he views sitting down with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, as a perjury trap. If truth isn't truth, if the truth is a moving target, then the president, obviously, should not be concerned about sitting down with Robert Mueller and the special counsel team.

Obviously, if he's worried about perjurying himself, they must have some concept of what the truth is. But having said that, Anderson, while they're ramping up the rhetoric on Robert Mueller, the president in that "Reuter" interview was sort of lowering the rhetoric, softening the rhetoric on Russia, he said that there is a scenario he can envision where he could see a lifting sanctions or a relaxing sanctions on the Russians in exchange for their cooperation, perhaps in the Ukraine or in Syria.

Of course, it begs the question, what exactly would that involve? I can't imagine Vladimir Putin pulling Russian-backed forces out of Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. But it is a rather striking contradiction there, a rather striking contrast, while the president is ramping up the rhetoric on Robert Mueller, calling him a disgrace and so on, he's offering these exit lanes to Vladimir Putin.

COOPER: In terms of the news about Don McGahn, what he may or may not have told Mueller, how's the White House been reacting to that?

ACOSTA: Well, so far, from what we understand, the president is unnerved. He is uneasy about what Don McGahn may have said to the special counsel's team. It's not exactly clear that the White House or the president's legal team fully understands what Don McGahn told Robert Mueller's team.

But at the same time, Anderson, I can tell you, I along with some of our Justice Department colleagues here at CNN have been talking to sources all day long about this, and a source told me about this decision to allow Don McGahn to cooperate with Robert Mueller, sit down with Robert Mueller. And essentially what they viewed at that time was is this was not a waiving of executive privilege. That this was allowing Don McGahn to speak with the special counsel, but that at a later date, they could exert or assert executive privilege over any material or any information that Don McGahn gave to the special counsel.

Now, you have a lot of critics out there, we've been talking to legal experts who say, that just is not going to hold up. But that is an interesting thinking that they had at the time, that perhaps they were letting Don McGahn speak to the special counsel, while at the same time down the road, thinking, well, perhaps down the road, they could block Mueller from using any or all of that information that he gave up to the special counsel's office.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House, Jim, thanks.

I want to talk a bit more about the breaking news. Joining us now, strategic analysts and author, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters.

Colonel, thanks for being with us.

The notion from the president that he could, quote, run the Mueller probe if he wanted to, what do you -- what does that say to you?

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), STRATEGIC ANALYST AND AUTHOR: Well, it says that he does not understand the law, for one thing. But also, when I heard that, for whatever reason, I flashed on an instance from the 1990s, when a drunken Boris Yeltsin grabbed the baton from a band master and tried to lead the band and, of course, everything fell apart.

Trump just seems to think he can do anything, and it's the result of having yes-men and yes-women around him for so very, very long. But it's preposterous. Absolutely preposterous claim.

COOPER: And you have the president today saying, even if I am telling the truth, that makes me a liar.

[20:10:03] You have Giuliani over the weekend saying, truth isn't truth. I mean, it does seem like we're operating in some alternate universe sometimes. You know, I use the term "Orwellian" in the beginning, but I mean, these are literally things Orwell would have written.

PETERS: Well, actually, I'm starting to see Giuliani as a Left Bank intellectual in Paris in the 1940s. In philosophy, there's something called coherence theory. And it's especially post-modern philosophy, the crazy stuff.

And it's the idea that if everybody agrees on something, then it's true. I'm simplifying, but if that's -- if you take coherence theory and all of Trump's followers believe that something's true, then it's reality. So -- to be very, very serious.

COOPER: So, you're imagining Giuliani is a Left Bank intellectual --

PETERS: Yes, in a beret with a glass of wine and a cigarette, you know? (INAUDIBLE) Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus (ph). But seriously, about Giuliani, I cannot help feeling so much sorry for

him. And there's a lesson in Giuliani's behavior for all of us -- for you, for me, for anybody ever associated with the media. And that's, you need to know when to get offstage.

And Giuliani clearly is seduced by, you know, the bright lights, big city. He was a star. Everybody respected him. People loved him.

And he -- he wants that again, obviously. And instead, he's turned into a pathetic travesty of himself. And frankly, you know, he may be a diversion, but he's doing great harm to the president by running off his mouth.

COOPER: Yes, Kenny Rogers and that song, you know, you need to know when to hold' them and know when to run.

Giuliani simply, I mean, not telling the truth, though, yesterday about them not knowing the lawyer was Russian and at least claiming to be representing the Russian government, I mean, Giuliani, do you think he's doing more harm here than good or is he doing exactly what the president wants him to do, which is just throw as much spaghetti against the refrigerator door, see what sticks and what confuses people?

PETERS: Well, first of all, Anderson, I've never pictured you as a Kenny Rogers fan. But as for Giuliani, it's not just Giuliani. All of these people that are trotted out by the White House, they need to do their homework, because even if you want to do propaganda, even if you want to lie outright to the American people, you've got to be on the same sheet of music. You've got to get your lies straight.

And it's not even the question of not getting the facts straight for the White House, they cannot get the lies straight. And it just makes it worse and worse and worse for the president.

COOPER: Do you think we're at an inflection point in this presidency? I mean, you have, you know, the Manafort verdict coming, the Michael -- you know, possible charges against Michael Cohen, you know, whatever Mueller is going to decide. Or, frankly, I mean, I feel like I've asked that question a million times at different points over this presidency.

So, I don't know why this would be an inflection point anymore than anything else.

PETERS: I think that's right. Every day is an inflection point of some sort for this presidency. But, again, as I've always maintained, I have great faith in Robert Mueller. We don't know what he's got up his sleeve.

But when I look at it, and in the context, for instance, of the Don McGahn testimony, everybody is making comparisons to Watergate. I think that's utterly wrong. If you read the externals of what Mueller is doing, it looks much more like a classic Justice Department investigation of a mob boss.

You can't get the mob boss, because he didn't pull the trigger, so you go after the money. You go after the tax evasion. You go after money laundering. You go after bank fraud. And you go after perjury.

And so, we shall see what emerges from all of this. But I just think President Trump is extremely worried, extremely worried. And that was even manifested in his interview with I think it was "Reuters" today, where he made this off-the-wall remark about, well, you know, he would like to lift sanctions on Russia if a few conditions prevailed.

Well, he knows at this point that he can't arbitrarily lift sanctions on Russia. Putin knows it. But I believe that our president, our president was signaling Vladimir Putin that, hey, I'm still trying. I'm still trying.

COOPER: Really? You think that's what that was?

PETERS: I -- there's no other explanation for it. Because he knows he can't lift the sanctions.

I think, as I have maintained all along, Putin's got a grip on this man, tragic for everybody, but Putin may even be losing patience. I would love to have heard what was said behind closed doors at that Helsinki meeting, but if I was betting on one thing having been said, it would be Putin telling him, we need these sanctions lifted, because Russia is hurting economically.

Now, we shall see what will Mueller comes up, but I cannot help but feel that while Trump is a buffoon and many other things besides, what we often miss in the day-to-day hubbub of the tomfoolery, the clowning, is that this is a tragic time for our nation, for our image in the world, for our constitutional order.

[20:15:05] And, so ultimately, all those goofy remarks by Giuliani and Kellyanne Conway, they're not really funny. They're deadly serious.

CUOMO: Yes. Ralph Peters, before I let you go, the folks in the control room would like me to make those Kenny Rogers lyrics clear. They are, you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

PETERS: I will treasure this moment.


COOPER: I'm still thinking of Giuliani in a red beret sipping wine.

3Lieutenant Colonel, thanks very much.

More perspective now, joining us CNN legal analyst Anne Milgram, and two CNN political analyst, journalistic legend, Carl Bernstein, and bipartisan White House legend, David Gergen.

Anne, the president telling "Reuters" that he could run this -- the Mueller investigation, does that make any sense to you?

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It makes no sense and it's actually just wrong. If you think about it, the one thing we know for sure is that the president is not above the law. If the president was above the law, it would say that in the United States Constitution.

So, there is no question that the president cannot take over an investigation of which he is the subject and just say, it goes away. If he was the king in a country, maybe he could do that, but in a democracy, in a constitutional country like we live in, that's just not possible.

COOPER: David, does the -- I guess maybe the question is, how rattled does the president appear to be when it comes to Mueller? I mean, you have tweets this weekend today, now in this "Reuters" interview?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He seems to be extremely nervous and getting more so by the day and getting more irrational by the day. We have -- I'm not reminded of Kenny Rogers, but when I heard about that, I thought, there's another way to look at this, when Dante in the Divine Comedy said, in the middle of our lives, I came across a dark wood and the straight way was lost. An I sort of think we're in that very dark wood right now, because the president is not making sense. He continually attacks people.

I saw an account today that over the course of his presidency, he has issued attacks on 484 individual or institutions, that's on top of his 5,000 falsehoods. This is quite a show.

COOPER: Carl, I mean, does any of it matter? I mean, you know, this could have been pretty much any night in which the news, this kind of stuff is being reported and the president is doing these kind of tweets for the people who believe in him, for his base. Is it just about sowing enough doubt, sowing confusion, that people kind of throw up their hands?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, that's certainly part of his intent, that all of this is intended for the base, because the base is his only protection at this point, because he is in a panic, and let's build on what David was speculating.

I've talked to people in the White House in the last few days. And they say he's unhinged, that he is totally obsessed by the Mueller investigation, that only he knows the facts, if indeed he's capable of parsing the facts, that he's not making sense in terms of a coherent defense, but rather he is trying to do everything he can to affect the midterm elections, to reach his base, to put fear into other Republicans who may not be part of that base, enough to win the midterms. Because if he does not win the midterms, there is a cumulative effect

of everything we are seeing including the McGahn story is very important. Because what the McGahn story is, as his lawyers said tonight, it's not that McGahn incriminated the president, but rather he contributed to the matrix of showing the president's obstruction of justice in a very, very definitive way, as well as showing --

COOPER: Although we don't know what McGahn said to Mueller.


BERNSTEIN: -- use the word.

Well, actually, I think we do know some of it and some of it has been reported. And part of that is, indeed, about what happened.

I'll give you one example. And I think we can reliably say that McGahn talked about attempts to fire Attorney General Sessions by Reince Priebus was asked by the president to fire Attorney General Sessions or obtain his resignation. And Priebus refused. And, of course, a few days later, Priebus was out.

Now, in a skeletal form, that was reported by "Vanity Fair," but it's of huge importance in the whole pattern of what Trump has done to obstruct, goes to what McGahn talked about. It's part of a matrix. It's part of a damning matrix. It's not incriminating by itself, as his lawyer said tonight, perhaps, because his lawyer said tonight to clarify things, he did not incriminate the president.

But did he contribute to that matrix, to that damning matrix?

[20:20:02] He absolutely did.

COOPER: All right. We've got to take a quick break. We're going to continue the discussion shortly.

Later, Paul Manafort waiting for a verdict and Michael Cohen waiting for possible federal charges, perhaps a world of legal trouble. More ahead.


COOPER: By the way, my entire staff here did not believe I knew the whole lyrics to Kenny Rogers' song. I'm very upset.

Anyway, talking tonight about President Trump's conversation with "Reuters" and the news he made. He says he hasn't given much thought to stripping Robert Mueller's security clearance, but did not rule it out. He also declined to say whether he'll talk to the Mueller team and, as you know, this unfolded at the end of an already busy day, characterized by a flood of presidential tweets on the Russian probe, John Brennan and others.

Back with Anne Milgram, Carl Bernstein, and David Gergen.

David, I mean, you see the president throwing out some of the most loaded terms in American history in the attacks of the Mueller probe, McCarthyism, the idea that John Dean was a rat in the Nixon administration, he's calling, you know, people on the Mueller team thugs, the idea that Paul Manafort is getting it tougher than Al Capone.

Does that serve the president well?

GERGEN: No. No, I don't think so. What it may serve the president is just contributing to an exhaustion factor. I think people have so tired of this, this torrent of insults and barbs and doing everything except being president. This is all so unpresidential.

But, you know, Anderson, even so, the clock is ticking now. You remember Rudy Giuliani has said, you know, we're not going to go and testify at all to Mueller after Labor Day. And we don't think Mueller should do anything after Labor Day, because it's too close to the midterm elections.

That's only two weeks away. And Mueller doesn't have much tame to act, otherwise this thing could all be put off until after the first of the year. And I think that -- I think it would drive a lot of us crazy. We want to see a resolution.

COOPER: And the idea of it being put off, would that mean -- I mean, if there was a decision by Mueller, you know, not to have anything that could influence the election for 60 days, could he still continue -- I mean, he could still continue his investigation and all this stuff.

[20:25:12] MILGRAM: Yes.

COOPER: It's not as if he's releasing information.

MILGRAM: He would continue his investigation, but what he wouldn't do is anything that could be public or anything --

COOPER: So he wouldn't be serving subpoenas?

MILGRAM: Exactly. And he would be incredibly cautious about that, to make sure that there was nothing that could come out that makes it look like he was interfering with an election.

Let's say he had subpoenaed tons of telephone records, they could go through them. If he was already in conversations with witnesses, he could have those conversations. But he wouldn't do anything that might sort of raise public attention during that 60-day period.


What do you make of, you know, of some of the language that the president -- I mean, calling thugs -- federal employees who are working on this thugs is --

MILGRAM: Yes, it's stunning. And it is, I think it is really disappointing. I mean, criminal prosecutors, their job is to follow the law and the facts, in any case. And to sort of argue that they're essentially criminals, right, basically going out and being politically motivated themselves, it's a really sad day, I think, for government.

And it's just completely at odds with the people I know who work in this space and I, myself, as a criminal prosecutor for many years.

COOPER: Carl, the president is also faced with the looming publication of a book by your longtime colleague, Bob Woodward. Any sense of whether he's worried about that and how much?

BERNSTEIN: That, indeed, the people I talked to in the last three, four days say that, indeed, is something the president has expressed great worry and concern about, about what is going to be in Bob's book. He's terrified about what Cohen, his former counsel, his former fixer might say to authorities and what Cohen has been shopping around in terms of perhaps information that he might have about many matters of interest to Mueller.

And then we also get back to this question of, as evidenced by this throwing around this McCarthyite notion. There is only one McCarthyite that we are seeing in all of this, and that is the president of the United States.

COOPER: You think he is the Joe McCarthy here?

BERNSTEIN: I don't think there's any question about it. I said something about it back in February on our air. If you look at what McCarthy did, he attacked the legitimate institutions of the government. He attacked the State Department, for having communists in it. He attacked the USIA, he attacked the Voice of America, he attacked other government departments.

He tried to say, even as the president and those around him have been saying, he essentially said, there is a deep state, riddled with communists, that we have to be concerned about. And he was making it all up.

And yes, the president has consistently -- look, he learned at the knee, as you pointed out, of Roy Cohn. Cohn was more than his lawyer. He was his mentor. And Cohn's tactics were McCarthy's tactics.

And throughout his business life, Trump's tactics have been Cohen's tactics and McCarthy's tactics.


BERNSTEIN: And the birtherism question is a McCarthyite tactic, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

COOPER: David, it is pretty interesting --

BERNSTEIN: And calling Mueller a thug.

COOPER: David, it is pretty interesting that if you actually believe Joe McCarthy was, you know, not a good guy and a bad person, you wouldn't necessarily hire Roy Cohn, who enabled and worked for Joe McCarthy. I mean, if you thought Joe McCarthy was abhorrent, you know, Roy Cohn was part and parcel of that.

GERGEN: Right. Yes, absolutely. And Carl has been saying, absolutely right. And that is, Joe McCarthy was one of the great villains in American history. And he will always be remembered, not only for destroying the trustworthiness of many institutions, but destroying the lives of many of the people he attacked.

And, you know, the way that Donald Trump goes after individuals and institutions, some 484 since he blame president, you know, is a replica of what Roy Cohn schooled Donald Trump in years ago. His whole -- Trump's whole confrontational, you know, let's take it to the courts, I'm going to beat you up, bullying kind of style, that comes right out of the Roy Cohn playbook.

COOPER: Yes, it's a dirty playbook.

Carl Bernstein, appreciate it. David Gergen --

BERNSTEIN: No president has ever used McCarthyite tactics.

COOPER: Anne Milgram, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, another role Rudy Giuliani is apparently taking up, taunting CIA Director John Brennan, we'll explain how.

Also, the very latest from Colorado where charges have now been filed -- this is just a stunning story -- in the murder of a pregnant woman and her two young daughters.


[20:33:21] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Rudy Giuliani joined in President Trump's assault on forme CIA director John Brennan today, the President's private lawyer, posted this tweet a day after Brennan said he was considering a lawsuit to challenge the revocation of his security clearance last week. "To John Brennan", Giuliani wrote, "Today President Trump granted our request Jay Sekulow and me to handle your case, after threatening if you don't, it would be just like Obama's red lines. Come on, John, you're not a blow hard."

Giuliani's taunt comings as dozens more a former senior U.S. intelligence officials added their names to a letter denouncing the President for the revocation of Brennan's clearance.

Joining me now two people who sign the original statement, former director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Obama deputy national security adviser and former deputy CIA director Avril Haines.

Director Clapper, should Brennan in your opinion take legal action against the President to prevent other officials from having their clearances revoke?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that's certainly an option. And I know John is considering it, and there are several legal activists who have approached all of us that have been threatened with this, and in John's case, where his clearance apparently has been already revoked. And I think that's a decision yet to be made. That's certainly one option. I will say, just to clarify, though, that John's interest is not in attempting to restore his clearance with a suit. His point would be to make a larger -- a larger point, which is his right to speak and by extension others, which is by the way, if I may just take a moment to amplify something I said yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION", that's -- the issue here is not parsing John's rhetoric. The issue is his right to speak, and by extension, other's right to speak.

[20:35:07] COOPER: The -- Avril, I want to read you something that the President tweet today. He said, I hope John Brennan the worst CI director in our country's history brings a lawsuit, it will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, e-mails and documents to show not only poor job he did. But how he was involved with the Mueller rigged witch hunt, he won't sue.

Could -- I mean you worked with Brennan for many years, you were his deputy at CI for two years. Could the President get the records and then cherry pick them if he wanted to?

AVRIL HAINES, FMR CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR: I mean honestly, it's so hard to parse that tweet to begin with, it's not at all clear to me how the records at the agency would have any relevants on First Amendment retaliation claim which presumably would be the kind of claim that would be brought in that scenario. He's certainly has access to the records that John Brennan had access to. I mean they're all part of the government's records in that respect, and I certainly don't think they would reflect anything along the lines of what he's characterized.

But part of what so depressing about the situation is that we're forced to respond to this kind of dialogue as opposed to, you know, the kind of public discourse that you hope you would engage in on these types of issues, where you're really trying to understand the issues better. And get to them instead we're, you know, getting trapped into this sort of name calling and immature statements.

COOPER: I mean we're in an age where the President of the United States is calling, you know, people who work for the government thugs. Rudy Giuliani I think he just term storm troopers. I mean --

HAINES: Yes, blow hards lately --

COOPER: Right.

HAINES: -- all of these things that are -- yes. So much for the language of Presidents like, you know, think not what you -- what your country will do for you, but what you can do for your country, right I mean --

COOPER: Right.

HAINES: -- the President has such an enormous responsibility and has an incredible platform for shaping the discourse of the United States and that -- COOPER: He certainly state in the public discourse --

HAINES: Right.

COOPER: -- with direction, shaping and in. Director Clapper, the President has said that the reason so many former intelligence officers are coming forward condemning the -- taking away Brennan's security clearance, his -- because clearance is in his words quote, "worth great prestige and big dollars". Is there a truth to that?

CLAPPER: Well, it could be for some people, it doesn't really apply to me or I don't think to John. I -- you know, I've been eligible for access to classified information since September in 1963, so going on 55 years.


CLAPPER: So there are intervals in there where I didn't have access. So that's the difference here. We left the government in January of '17 still eligible, but we of course don't have access. So, for me it doesn't have direct impact. It could on others. Depending on how this is applied.

COOPER: Well that's the thing Avril, I mean the President is not just threatening people who are out of government, he's threatening people who are still working in government. I mean, Bruce Orr is currently at the Department of Justice. I mean --


COOPER: -- he security clearance, it's actually a part of his job.

HAINES: Yes. I mean, I think actually the Bruce Orr piece is something that we should be focusing on. Because in my view, one should at least be raising the question of whether or not that's having a chilling action on other employees of the Department of Justice for example who are concerned about their security clearance being pulled because of the activities they're engaged in, the investigations that's they're doing, and that sort of thing that the President may or may not like.

And I think it is, you know, particularly concerning, not only are we undermining in a sense, freedom of expression and as Jim I think rightly points out, we're not really thinking about the John Brennans and Jim Clappers, and, you know, aims (ph) of the world. But we're actually thinking about so many other career officers who may be, you know, formers who are -- have a security clearance for lying in their job, may be working in the defense industry for the broader defense of the United States government. But then feel chilled in terms of their speech.

But then as you point out, the Bruce Orrs of the world, who -- that means if they feel chilled in terms of their actions within their institutions, could also be undermining the institutions and their ability to protect against these types of violations on our principles. COOPER: Right, I mean you're talking about people, you know, the President saying people are making big bucks, there are many, many people former intelligence people, former military people who work for military companies or companies doing business with the U.S. government that do rely on having a clearance. And -- I mean a lot of that is work which does -- you know, I mean whether you like it or not, it does -- it is part of the U.S. government. t benefits the United States, whether you like the policies or not.

HAINES: Yes, part of our national security structure without question.

COOPER: Director -- yes, yes.

CLAPPER: Anderson, if I could just add one point here to this discussion. Another one of the enemies list, is Mike Hayden, and I would point out that Mike's been out of the government for nine years, that has nothing to do with the Russia investigation, in no way has he been able to beneficially touch that, so that just illustrates how political really this list is. And as Avril correctly points out, it's particularly egregious with Bruce Orr.

[20:40:15] COOPER: Yes. James Clapper, thank you. Avril Haines, good to have you on the program. Thank you very much.

HAINES: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Coming up, there's breaking news out of Colorado. Charges have now been filed in the deaths of a pregnant woman, and her two young daughters. We tell you who was charged and what authorities are saying.

Also the President's former campaign chair and former fixer both in legal hot water tonight and the temperature that is rising, the latest on both, next.


[20:44:30] COOPER: There's breaking news tonight in a horrific case out of Colorado. The killings of a 34-year-old pregnant woman and her two little girls ages four and three, tonight charges have been filed. Randi Kaye joins us now with the latest. What's going on?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, now late today, Chris Watts was officially charged for the murders of his wife and his two young girls. He was charged with first degree murder in near death, he was charged with unlawful termination of pregnancy. His wife was 15 weeks pregnant, and he also charged with three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.

But what was interesting today, was they unsealed this core affidavit which had a whole lie of new information in it. One of the things that it says is that Chris Watt actually confessed, confessed to killing his wife. He says, according to the affidavit that he did so because he had asked her for a separation, looking to end the marriage apparently. [20:45:14] And then he said it was an emotional conversation, but a civil conversation, he went out for a bit and came back, and she had he says, she had strangled one of their girls already, and she was blue on the bed, and she actively strangling the second daughter. So he flew into a rage as the affidavit says and killed his wife. That's his story. That's what he told police. The affidavit also says that he was having an extra marital affair with a co-worker which police says something he actually denied in earlier interviews with investigators but they discovered that over the course of their investigation. But we as you know have been following this since last week, and this is what we found in terms of how this case has all unfolded.


SHANNAN WATTS, VICTIM: Girls, mommy has a baby in her belly.


KAYE (voice-over): A moment of joy that's turned to pain and mystery. That was Shanann Watts telling her two daughters that she was pregnant again. Four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste were thrilled.

S. WATTS: I love you girls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to give the baby a hug.

S. WATTS: Yes, give a baby a hug.

KAYE (voice-over): There's also a video of her sharing the news with her husband of nearly six years, Chris Watts.

CHRIS WATTS, SUSPECT: That's awesome. I guess when you want to, it happens.

KAYE (voice-over): But not long after that video was taken, something terrible happened. On Monday last week, Shannan and her daughters went missing, then came Tuesday. And Shannan's husband Chris began a series of public pleas for their safe return.

C. WATTS: Just come back like if somebody has her, just please bring her back. I need to see everybody. I need to see everybody again. This house is not complete without anybody here. I just want them back. I just want them to come back. And if they're not safe right now, that's what's tearing me apart.

KAYE (voice-over): Authorities searched the home and canvassed the neighborhood. Two days later, a grizzly discovery.

JOHN CAMPER, DIRECTOR, COLORADO BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: We've been able to recover a body that we're quite certain is Shannan Watts' body.

KAYE (voice-over): Authority say, the woman's body was recovered on the property of a petroleum and natural gas exploration company where Chris Watts used to work. The bodies of two children were found nearby. Then, another bizarre turn. The desperate husband and father who pleaded for his family's safe return was now suddenly the prime suspect in their disappearance.

IAN ALBERT, SERGEANT, COLORADO POLICE: In the late hours of Wednesday evening. The husband Chris Watts was taken into custody and was transported in Milwaukee Jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, like he wouldn't do anything. And then I seen his interview, and I was like oh, my god. Something's not right.

KAYE (voice-over): On Facebook, with emotions running high, Shannan's brother directly accused Chris Watts. This piece of blank may he rot in hell. He killed my pregnant sister and my two nieces. Police have not suggested a motive. Before his arrest, Watts told reporters that he and his wife had exchanged words.

C. WATTS: It wasn't like an argument. We had an emotional conversation but I'll leave it at that.

KAYE (voice-over): Still on Shannan's Facebook page a portrait of a happy family and a woman in love.

S. WATTS: I got a friend request from Chris on Facebook and I was like oh, what the heck, I'm never going to meet him, accept, but one thing led to another, and eight years later, we have two kids, we live in Colorado, and he is the best thing that is ever happen to me.


COOPER: It's awful to see her talking about him.

KAYE: So lovingly.


KAYE: True. What we know about where the bodies were found Anderson, we have some new information on that. He says that he loaded all three bodies into his truck. And took them to his oil company where he worked. He was actually fired the same day he was arrested. He was also given a map by authorities according to affidavit, and he was able to pinpoint on the map where the bodies were. Shannan Watts was found in a shallow grave. The two girls were found nearby in oil tanks where police say, their bodies were submerged for four days.

COOPER: So -- I just want to understand, if he's claiming he killed her to protect or in a rage whatever why would he hidden the bodies?

KAYE: That's what doesn't make sense. I mean we know that his team has ask for DNA samples to be taken from the girls, next they ask the judge that and possibly to prove it was the mother not the father who did this. But that request was denied. But it doesn't make any sense. You think somebody would have called authorities --

COOPER: Right.

KAYE: -- called police, asked for help. You don't hide the bodies and do all those television interviews.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, thanks very much.

I want to check in with Chris, see what he is working for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Or you hide the bodies and then you do-do all of those television interviews. That's what they going to have to figure out the prosecution side of that case. Boy, what a case that is.

So, tonight we're taking on the case of the truth, Anderson. Can the President do what he just said, which is take over the Mueller probe? Can he? Should he?

[20:50:04] And when it comes to what he seems to fear the most, it's the interview. Why is he really ducking the Mueller interview? We have some great guests who know him personally and who understand the legal issues personally, and they're going to test the case for us tonight.

COOPER: All right. About 10 minutes from now. Chris, thanks very much.

Coming up, two of President Trump's longtime associates in legal jeopardy tonight. Jurors in the trial of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort are still deliberating, a long list of alleged of financial crimes. And sources are telling CNN that the President's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the fix-it guy, could be facing criminal indictment from federal prosecutors by the end of the month. More ahead.


COOPER: Two of the President's former associates are in legal jeopardy tonight. On the left of course is his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Jurors are still considering 18 counts of alleged financial crimes.

[20:55:02] On the right is his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen, sources are telling CNN, that federal prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against him, could announce them very soon. More on the Manafort trial coming up. But first Brynn Gingras joins us with more on Cohen. What have you learned?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. Two weeks left in August, and what sources are telling my colleagues is that the SDNY federal prosecutors are keenly aware of the midterm elections coming up, and they don't want any of their decisions to influence the election. So that's why we have this end of August deadline for these possible charges against Michael Cohen.

But, listen, we've always known the federal prosecutors have been looking into Cohen's business practices, possibilities of bank fraud, tax fraud, campaign finance violations. But the "New York Times" really focused that in their reporting saying that it's possible Michael Cohen lied to lenders in order to secure up to $20 million in loans for his taxi businesses. $20 million is a lot of money and could be very significant to this investigation. Of course when we talk about the probe into whether or not he gave this hush payment to Stormy Daniels, if he committed any campaign finance violations, that would be something, of course, the Trump administration would be interested in hearing if charges do come in the next few weeks, Anderson.

COOPER: Do we know anything about a possible deal with prosecutors? Is that a possibility, and what if anything could that mean for the Mueller investigation?

GINGRAS: Yes. We don't know if he has made a deal. Sure, there's a possibility. We haven't heard that a deal has been struck as of yet. Of course we know that Michael Cohen has been vocal that he's willing to give information in order to strike a deal. And as we understand it, if he does strike a deal, it will be with SDNY, but it also could be with other investigations like the Mueller investigation.

So at this point we don't know what Michael Cohen knows or what he can actually offer investigators. But that's certainly something we hope to find out very soon, maybe even sooner than we think. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, appreciate it. Fascinating turn of events for Michael Cohen. We'll continue to follow that.

The jury in the Paul Manafort trial has gone home for the day, again without delivering a verdict. Shimon Prokupecz is at the court house for us. So, no verdict today. There was some activity at the court house. What happened?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so there was, Anderson. We really didn't get to see the jury today except in the morning and in the afternoon, some nine hours after they started their deliberations, they went home. But there was activity in the courtroom. A lot of secret meetings between the judge and the attorneys. This has happened often at this trial, and there were two more today. The judge sealing those conferences. They're bench conferences done outside of the jury, outside of the public, and they were sealed.

So we don't know why that is. We don't know what they were discussing. Clearly the jury here still working, going through a lot of the evidence that they heard and some of the 18 counts that they're looking at, but really, Anderson, no word -- none -- from the jury today as to what they're thinking.

COOPER: And when do deliberations begin tomorrow?

PROKUPECZ: So they'll be back tomorrow first thing in the morning, 9:30 they get here. And they're expected to just go right back into the jury room and begin their deliberations. They have already, interestingly enough, put in their lunch orders.

Today the judge, before the jurors left for the day, asking them if they had submitted their lunch orders. They said they did. So perhaps maybe they're expecting a long day here tomorrow as well. COOPER: And your talking about the discussions at the bench with the attorneys. Are the attorneys and Manafort -- are they there all day long just waiting?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, exactly. Yes, they are. So, Manafort, obviously he's been in jail since this trial started, so he stays in the courthouse. And the attorneys for -- his attorneys have been sending a lot of their time at a hotel across the street where a lot of the media has been gathered. So we all kind of hang out together. There's a hotel directly across the street from the courthouse.

And what usually happens is when there's a note or perhaps there's something the judge wants to discuss, they'll get a phone call, and usually that's how we know something is going on, because the attorneys will then rush into court, and then we all kind of chase them into the courthouse.

COOPER: And on Friday, the President has said that Manafort was a good man. Do we know if the judge has reacted to that at all?

PROKUPECZ: No. We don't know. We don't know if the jury has even seen some of that reaction from the President. The judge has not addressed that issue in the court.

COOPER: Is the jury sequestered?

PROKUPECZ: The jury is not sequestered, Anderson. You know, some people have questioned that as to why they were not sequestered given all the publicity surrounding this case. But, no, they're free to leave in the morning. We've even seen jurors outside smoking here. So they're free to leave during the day.


PROKUPECZ: To take small breaks.

COOPER: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle" our daily interactive newcast on Facebook. You pick some of the stories that we get to cover. You can see it week night as 6:25 p.m. eastern at If you haven't checked it out, you should. It's a fun show.

The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now. Chris?

[21:00:00] CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris come. Welcome to "Prime Time."