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Top Administration Officials Deny Writing NYT Op-Ed; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired September 6, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Washington, where one by one today, senior administration officials spoke up and denied being the senior administration official, the one who wrote these words for the opinion pages of "The New York Times," quote: The dilemma -- which he, meaning the president, does not fully grasp is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.

The declaration which rocked this town when it hit has lost none of its power since then, along with reporting of Bob Woodward's new book, it has certainly shaken any remaining notion that this White House runs in any way as the president has repeatedly said it does.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do everything straight. We do everything by the book.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, not sure what book he's talking about, but there's nothing in most books on governance that reflect what seems to be going on in this White House or anything this anonymous official describes. The president, as you might imagine, is said to be volcanic over it, but he said nothing about it this afternoon as he departed for a trip out to Montana where he's going to be speaking late tonight.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders weighed in, attacking what she called, quote, this gutless loser, as well as "The Times" for being, quote, complicit in this deceitful act. She also tweeted "The Times" phone number so people can call and ask who the author of the letter is.

The president has called on "The Times" to name the senior officials. Sarah Sanders called on him or her to come forward and resign. No takers so far.

These are all the senior administration officials up to and including the vice president who have denied writing the piece. Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of State Pompeo, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, the attorney general, more than two dozen top officials in all. However, there is one exception, perhaps significantly, perhaps not, chief of staff John Kelly who's traveling with the president is yet to issue a denial.

In any case, it's not just the White House demanding this anonymous official come forward, so are a number of Democrats who say that this kind of nameless attack is no way to handle a serious problem.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If senior administration officials think that the president of the United States is not able to do his job, then they should invoke the 25th Amendment. The Constitution provides for a procedure whenever the vice president and senior officials think that that president can't do his job. It does not provide that senior officials go around the president, pulled documents off his desk, write anonymous op-eds and leak to Bob Woodward.


COOPER: Well, so far, however, that's what we've got, a remarkable window into an extraordinarily out of the ordinary administration and the dilemma seems to be that someone is trying to keep the president in check and hold him accountable without being accountable him or herself.

Again, President Trump is due to speak a little later tonight.

Our Jim Acosta is traveling with the president just weighed in on this. He joins now us from Billings, Montana.

So, what do we know more about the denials the president is getting from those close to him?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we understand that the president is intensely concerned and interested in those denials. They've been handing them to him all day long and they've been coming in all day long, Anderson. I can tell you from talking to one administration official that the White House wanted a coordinated response to all of this earlier this morning.

And then as they were trying to plan some kind of response, there were all these statements coming out of the woodwork of various cabinet officials and people who work under those cabinet officials and it did take the White House by surprise. They did not seem to be surefooted handling all of this. And according to this one administration official I spoke to, this was disorganized to say the least.

But I can tell you, Anderson, in this rally right now in Billings, Montana, where the president is speaking in a few moments, he has already issued a tweet in all of this, asking whether or not the journalists of the "New York Times" are going to investigate themselves and reveal who this anonymous source is.

Anderson, I can tell you from talking to sources close to this White House, there is a hunt, there is a search going on right now inside this administration, not only conducted by White House officials but allies of this White House. They want to know who anonymous is. COOPER: How much weight is the White House putting on these denials?

Is the president taking them at face value? You said they're printing them out and basically showing them to him.

ACOSTA: Yes. My understanding is that, yes, he is. And remember, this is a president who likes to have cabinet meetings where he goes around the room and cabinet officials and secretaries praise him for the work that he's doing. So, this is very much in line and character with that.

But I will tell you, Anderson, talking to sources close to this White House, I talked to one source earlier today who was raising questions about the strength of some of these statements coming from some of these cabinet officials. I think there is, in sort of the same way, they were going through that "New York Times" op-ed trying to search for clues as to whether or not, you know, this person or that person wrote that particular piece s in the "New York Times." There are people -- allies of the president going through these statements of these cabinet officials and wondering if they're loyal enough.

[20:05:02] It just gives you an idea how intense all of these are being taken inside the White House right now, and especially inside the Oval Office, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, just stunning.

Jim Acosta, appreciate it.

With me now is Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Blumenthal, do you think that the senior administration who wrote this should come forward?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I think he should come forward or she, because there's an obligation to tell the American people even more about the reasons that this official has such deep- seated and frankly alarming views of the chaotic, out of control, potentially demagogic state of our presidency. It's an imperial presidency that seems to be off the rails and has all the more relevance in the midst of the confirmation hearing we're having on a nominee who seemingly would provide no check on this presidency and provides no assurance that he would maintain the independence of the judiciary.

COOPER: If this person does not come forward, is it possible that whatever their motive is, that it has the reverse impact, that essentially this confirms for President Trump, for some of his supporters, that there is something of a deep state, there are -- is this bureaucracy which is actively working to thwart some of his efforts?

BLUMENTHAL: There's no predicting what Donald Trump's base may think about this official who say there's a two-track presidency, but the simple fact of the matter is that we are in the midst of a profound constitutional crisis, with the president, and unindicted co- conspirator. Never before has the president been an unindicted co- conspirator under these circumstances, in fact nominating a justice to the Supreme Court, who may sit on his case, and give him a pass if he is an indicted co-conspirator or otherwise subject to judicial process like a subpoena to testify before the grand jury.

And so, whatever the effect on the base, it may simply further divide the country if this official fails to come forward and give more facts, not just the rhetoric, a lot of it that we see in this op-ed.

COOPER: Mark Meadows, Republican congressman, obviously a key ally of the president, told reporters are looking into whether this is something they could investigate. Should it be investigated with congressional resources?

BLUMENTHAL: There is a need for Congress to investigate much more aggressively so much of the law breaking and wrongdoing, the culture of corruption in this administration. The only way it's going to happen is for the Congress to change. That's going to be the game changer for this administration. Impose some democratic and constitutional discipline.

COOPER: Your colleague, Senator Elizabeth Warren, told CNN today that if senior administration officials think the president is not able to do his job, they should invoke the 25th Amendment. Obviously, it seems highly unlikely though. This op-ed did say that there were whispers about that early on.

Do you agree with Warren?

BLUMENTHAL: Invoking the 25th Amendment requires a high bar to be met, in terms of the facts. In effect, a president physically or mentally unable to do the job, and it has to be done by the vice president and a majority of the cabinet. And that's a decision that increasingly is on the minds of people not only in the administration but also many of us here in Congress. It would have to be initiated by the vice president or others in the administration.

COOPER: Cory Booker asked Judge Kavanaugh at the hearings you're a big part of if he would recuse himself from issues involving the president. Is that something you think he should actually do? I mean, my sense is you do think that and if you do, why should he? But this isn't every -- I mean, every judicial nominee is nominated by the president and they're not asked to recuse themselves from something about the person that nominated them.

BLUMENTHAL: I asked Brett Kavanaugh very directly yesterday afternoon whether he would recuse himself. I believe very strongly that he must do so. He must commit in this confirmation hearing that he would take himself out of any consideration of any issue involving the president's personal criminal or civil liability. Remember, that I and 199 of my colleagues in a lawsuit I've led have sued the president of the United States for his violation of the emoluments cause, the chief anti-corruption of the Constitution.

The case will reach the Supreme Court and the president is an unindicted co-conspirator. The likelihood is as we stand here now, that the president could well be an indicted co-conspirator.

[20:10:06] Not just an unindicted co-conspirator, or that he could be subpoenaed to testify and resist it or to testify in a criminal proceeding against one of his friends or cronies or officials in his government.

COOPER: So, you're saying Kavanaugh is too much under the president's thumb just because he was nominated by the president?

BLUMENTHAL: Not only because he was nominated by this president, who's an unindicted co-conspirator, but because he has utterly failed to give us any assurance he would defend the independence of the judiciary. He failed to defend Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg against attacks by this president when I asked him about them today. He failed even to go so far as Neil Gorsuch did in saying that the president's attacks on the judiciary are demoralizing and disheartening.

He failed to establish that judicial independence. He has the right rhetoric, would be defended in practice, in real terms with real backbone, and that is the reason -- or one of them that I am committed to vote against him.

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

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Joining us, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, John Dean and Carl Bernstein as well.

I mean, it's -- I don't know if surreal is the word, Gloria, that we're in this situation where you have all these senior officials coming forward and making statements of fealty to the president and then being, you know, very read closely by folks in the White House.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a little kind of dear leader-ish and it's -- the stunning notion to me is that it's not just senior administration officials, it is the vice president of the United States, saying, I didn't say that the president is a national security risk. It is people who are running the intelligence community who felt the need, the director of the FBI, who felt the need go out there and say, I didn't say that the president was a national security risk.

I mean, there is something so surreal, is the word about this, and that this notion as these statements come in, somehow they're being delivered, hand-delivered to the president who is reading them, that's good, OK, fine, I know Pence didn't do it. Let's go to the next one.

I mean, the question that I would ask is, why believe any of them. I think Jim Acosta pointed that out. And also, what good does it do? What does it matter in many ways?

COOPER: Well, David, does -- I mean, does this focus on who it is and the search for it, does it take away from the message that this person was trying to get across? DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN &

CLINTON: Absolutely. This could easily be a public relations ploy. This White House fully understands if you spend a lot of times trying to kill the messenger, you can kill the message. And I think we have to keep our focus on what is actually in the contents of that piece, as well as the search. It's interesting this Washington game --

COOPER: But you think, it could be a ploy by White House focusing on the search to distract from what the actual person was saying?

GERGEN: I do, I do. I think they're smart enough to do that. They're very good on these kind of issues. They know how to distract and throw dust in our eyes.

BORGER: Don't you think Trump also want to know that?

GERGEN: Of course he wants to know. But we don't need to become obsessed with the search.

BORGER: Right, I agree.

GERGEN: We need to focus what the country really cares about. It's how well this White House is running.

BORGER: I agree.

COOPER: John Dean, do you agree the White House is trying to essentially change the conversation?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Very much so. As soon as David said it, it clicked, I think you're right on. I think these people -- this whole White House operation has mastered the art of deflecting attention. They do it consistently and they do it very well.

COOPER: Carl, is it possible it actually plays into the president's hands, the notion of that he's surrounded by people who are trying to thwart his will, his agenda?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, it does, or it can, because indeed, one of his themes and those of people around him, has been is that there is a deep state conspiracy against President Trump an that theme is being repeated because of this letter in the "New York Times," this piece in the "New York Times." But what's really going on here is that Bob Woodward's book, and the contents of what is in the anonymous piece in the "New York Times," is that those closest to the president of the United States are saying, we must save the country from the president of the United States.

And, incidentally, people, Republicans in Congress, this is no surprise to them. They have heard this from people around the president of the United States. Mitch McConnell knows this kind of attitude about the danger posed by the president has been expressed to Mitch McConnell by people around the president.

[20:15:04] It's the same with Paul Ryan. What we need here are, finally, I think, some hearings on --

congressional hearings, in which an executive session or open session, those around the president of the United States are questioned about the fitness of Donald Trump to be the president of the United States. That's what's at stake here.

What we are talking about is a portrait by numerous people. In Bob Woodward's book, I've read the whole book, you see it so convincingly, in scene after scene after scene.

COOPER: But, Carl, why would anybody tell the truth in front of a --

BERNSTEIN: Pardon me?

COOPER: Why would anybody tell the truth if that is in fact what their opinion is, given all these people have made statements saying, it wasn't me, it wasn't me? Nobody is standing up and saying, oh, yes, I agree with what this anonymous person said. Why would it be any different?

BERNSTEIN: I don't know what would happen. It's important. If you have bipartisan hearings, if the Democrats were to win the house and you have Republicans and Democrats calling these people in, and there might be mixed opinions. There might be some gray areas.

But it is very important for the leadership in the Congress of the United States and the people of the United States to know whether or not Donald Trump is fit to be president, whether he is stable enough to be president, honest enough to be president, and has the capabilities of being president. That is what we are learning this week. The people closest to him have the gravest doubts.

COOPER: But, Gloria, to Carl's point, there's no expressed appetite of Republicans in Congress to --

BORGER: Have you noticed that?

COOPER: -- even talk about this, let alone hold hearings.

BORGER: You know, exactly. And Republicans, as we all know, are whispering about this to each other. There are no profiles in courage up there because Donald Trump has an 80 or 90 percent approval rating with Republicans. It is his party.

The only thing that I can see changing this is an election. And if suddenly --

BERNSTEIN: That's what I was suggesting.

BORGER: Right, that's right. If suddenly, if Donald Trump become as little less scary to Republicans, if he loses the House, there will be all kinds of hearings, trust me. If the Senate comes close or they lose the Senate, then, it's really goes to get bad for Donald Trump.

But right now, these Republicans -- and you heard Bob Corker say it today, a senator from Tennessee who is leaving. Why is anybody surprised about this? We've heard this stuff about Donald Trump.

But nobody is going to do anything about it because they're looking out for themselves. I know that's shocking.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We're going to continue this discussion. We'll pick up when we come back.

Also, there's later breaking news, Senator Blumenthal alluded to it a moment ago, the Kavanaugh hearings. The question of and whether the nominee will recuse himself as to the president. Senator Cory Booker was a very loud voice in the room today. I'll talk to him about what went on.


[20:22:20] COOPER: We talked a bit before the break about letting the risk of letting the search for anonymous overshadow his or her message about the president and the presidency. Just to remind you, here's some of what this administration official wrote. Quote: The root of the problem is the president's amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision-making.

It went to say, meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails. He engages in repetitive rants and his impulsiveness results in half- baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

And then there was this, given the instability many witness, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis, so we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until one way or another, it's over.

Back now with our guests.

You know, you have Senator Rand Paul talk about polygraphing people widely in the administration and polygraphs not admissible in court. I mean, they're not all that necessarily reliable.

But is there a danger how much this consumes the administration and it starts to eat itself?

GERGEN: Absolutely. The polygraph would be an awful idea. I remember when President Reagan was very, very upset with all the leaks and said he had leaks up to his keister and he was carrying on, and people then started talking about polygraphs. And George Shultz, secretary of state, said, the day you start a polygraph the day I walk out the door.

You cannot do that to people. You can't do that to honorable people. And he killed it. And we never went to -- John, I turn to you.

DEAN: I believe they work. It was my word against the acting FBI director. I went and took a polygraph, I passed it. We wanted Pat Gray to take one. Two days later, he left office.

GERGEN: Would you support polygraphing everybody?


DEAN: Yes.

GERGEN: I think of tying polygraph -- asking people to take a polygraphs, it's -- it suggests a level of distrust even above what we're seeing now.

COOPER: But also once you start -- I mean, first of all, how many people are you going to polygraph? There are a lot of people in the realm of senior administration officials, and the amount of time --

DEAN: Not enough machines to do it on a mass scale.

BORGER: What about the irony of polygraphing people in the Trump administration, where the president of the United States himself --

NIXON: Happens to be --

BORGER: -- happens to be somebody who has problems telling the truth.

GERGEN: Exactly.

BORGER: It would be the most ironic thing that would ever occur, this president of all people would -- would ask his own people to take polygraphs.

[20:25:01] Come on.

[GERGEN: I do think there's a very good chance whoever wrote the anonymous piece has already put out a statement of denial.

COOPER: Carl, I -- I've been reading this Polish journalist who wrote this famous book about emperor, Haile Selassie, I know this is kind of a weird tangent but I'm just reminded of it again because --

BERNSTEIN: I'm happy to talk about Haile Selassie.

COOPER: Haile Selassie's court was constantly kind of devouring each other and devouring itself and having all these different competing group playing off and fearful of one another. It makes me feel reading what this person said, just the intrigue in this White House is stunning.

BERNSTEIN: That is what Bob Woodward's book is about. And, again, what was written in the "New York Times". It is about a president who is unhinged.

And what we are watching in the president's response to trying to find this one person is an unhinged president looking for someone when in fact he ought to be doing the business of being the president of the United States. And to Gloria's point, what comes through in Bob Woodward's book and

what comes through in witness after witness after witness is Donald Trump's lying. And the lying being what undoes him, and the reason those closest to him have concluded he cannot be fit to be the president because of the lying. His own lawyer, the last line in Bob Woodward's book is, Trump had one overriding problem that the lawyer, Dowd, knew, but could not bring himself to say to the president, you are an F-ing liar.

That is what suffuses everything we are learning about the honorable supposedly people who serve him. They can't take the lying. No country can survive a president who lies like this. That's what this is about.

BORGER: So, so what do you do then? Give the lying president a polygraph, if everybody else --


BERNSTEIN: No, that goes to the question of the fitness -- this is all about the fitness of the president of the United States to be president.

BORGER: Exactly.

BERNSTEIN: If the Democrats take the House, perhaps there is a way to have truly bipartisan hearings with Republicans as full participants, in which the fitness of the president and what these people are saying to Bob Woodward, these same people who are named incidentally, should come in and testify, and give their feelings about whether or not Donald Trump is fit to be the president of the United States. That's the issue.

COOPER: David?

GERGEN: Yes, I think that those that are calling for the 25th Amendment and invoking the 25th Amendment is premature.

BERNSTEIN: Too quick.

GERGEN: We're in a gray area right now in which there are a lot of allegations but we really don't have this pinned down. And what is needed -- I don't think anything will happen before the midterms. But after the midterms, there needs to be some sort of mechanism exploring this question, whether it's open hearings or closed hearings.

COOPER: Truth and reconciliation?


GERGEN: I think something -- and the Republican Party leadership bears responsibility here. If they know and let this go on, the president -- the Republican Party is culpable on this and it could destroy the party if they're not careful.

BORGER: What is the tipping point? GERGEN: I don't think there is a tipping point. I think there's an

exploration that's more serious than anything we've done.

BORGER: Yes, the tipping point would be their own, I would argue, their own self-interest at a certain point.

GERGEN: Politics.

BORGER: Yes, it's called politics, because they're not going to do it on their own. If they would have done it, they would have done it already.


COOPER: You can only tip over so many times, it's tipped and spilled out.

GERGEN: I agree. There has to be some way to move beyond -- you can't throw a president out based on a book by Bob Woodward, as much as I admire Bob, I think he's wonderful, we're talking about a need for the country to reach a consensus.

COOPER: But it's also important to remember, John, what this writer is saying is it's not just what this writer thinks, this writer is alleging there is a whole sea of people within the administration who are aware of this.


DEAN: There's a body of thought that believes he's amoral and he's off the rails, that he really is somebody -- he is not a leader --

COOPER: It is fascinating how the writer used phrases that Mike Pence used, lodestar, off the rails, which is a phrase John Kelly allegedly used in the Woodward book. Obviously, if there's a reason for that --

DEAN: A little camouflage, maybe.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody.

Still a lot to get to tonight, including what's certainly become a Washington obsession, finding out who was behind that op-ed. We talk about that and whether it's obscuring the actual message of what this person said.

Also later tonight, we remember true Hollywood star. We'll say goodbye to Burt Reynolds. His films included "Deliverance", "Smokey and the Bandit" and so many more.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- "Smokey and the Bandit" and so many more.


COOPER: As we said earlier, the higher ranking officials in the Trump administration are all denying that they wrote that notorious op-ed. Here's that list again more than two dozen top officials denying they wrote it.

Meantime, on Capitol Hill today, some interesting perspective from Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, that Gloria Borger mentioned a moment ago that its not even that much about who did it, but the perception that when you get down to it, it could have been almost anybody.


SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE: I think a lot's been made out of nothing. I think there's the biggest issue they're going to have is figure out who wouldn't have written a letter like that.


COOPER: Who wouldn't have written a letter like that he said? Quite a question there from the Republican senator though "360s" Randi Kaye has more on the guessing game.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three little words.

KELLANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: They're saying senior administration official.

KAYE (voice-over): Have set off a collective game of clue across the country.

RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: Is it a Trump appointee? Is he in the White House?

KAYE (voice-over): Calling all amateur sleuths.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, HOST, THE VIEW: There are plenty of suspects. Did you have other guests?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: There are some good people in the Trump administration, like Dan Coats, who was somebody who, you know, realizes the horror of what happened in Helsinki, and people like General Mattis. So we won't know. I don't know when we'll find out who anonymous is.

KAYE (on-camera): When or if. One former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton thinks anonymous could be a speechwriter, too.

DAVID KUSNET, FRM SPEECHWRITER: It reads like a speechwriter, there's a lot of alliteration, words starting of the same -- the same way.

KAYE (voice-over): Like this. It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era. Others are speculating it's the President's chief of staff.

[20:35:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unnamed senior administration official.

JOHN DEAN, FMR NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Kelly would be high on my list. KAYE (voice-over): General John Kelly clearly has a military background and the buzz word lodestar, used in the op-ed is a military term.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like a military person to me.

KAYE (voice-over): Still others are quick to point out lodestar is a word Vice President Mike Pence likes to use.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Vigilance and resolve will be our lodestar.

Would be our lodestar.

With vigilance and resolve as our lodestar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's too obvious to say lodestar when you're Pence.


KUSNET: If you want to be conspiratorial, it's even possible that someone wrote it knowing that the word "lodestar" was a favorite word of Vice President Pence and wanted to either cast suspicion on the Vice President or wanted to distract attention from themselves.

KAYE (voice-over): The guessing game moved into hyper drive with names such as White House counsel, Don McGahn. CIA Director Gina Haspel and even George Conway, who is married to Kellyanne Conway and often trolls Trump on Twitter.

CONWAY: It's not clear to us anyway that it's somebody in the White House.

GIULIANI: He may be a guy inside the White House. He may be upper level, lower level, maybe he's in the old executive office building.

KAYE (voice-over): The 538th, nate silver who makes a living making predictions zeroed in on the words anti-trade in the op-ed, tweeting that it made him wonder if it's someone in treasury or at least highly concerned with economic policy. Whoever anonymous is, it's a whodunit Taylor-made for TV.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: I had to say, I'm surprised by how good a writer Ivanka is, I mean --

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: With me now, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash and CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who saw in Randi's report.

I know Dana, you've been talking to sources, what's going on behind the scenes? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really is still an explosion of anger. But what we saw in the initial outburst yesterday which really saw in public when the President came out and talked about all the great things that his administration has done, has become a little bit less so according to people I'm talking to who are speaking to those in and around the President, and more kind of a -- I wouldn't say shoulder shrug but more of a hope that this is like so many other big explosions in the media that make the President look bad and ends up being sort of overtaken by something else that happens in the world and maybe something else that the President is doing. That he knows how to try to distract.

This does seem different but we have seen that before. And there's -- and there actually is more than I thought there would be, Anderson, even from people who might at least on some level agree with the substance of what was written, some feeling that this is just wrong. And you heard it from Democrats as well, believe it or not, that this is wrong to do it this way, to do it anonymously, to come out in way that looks heroic but more and more people I talk to said it's more of a cowardice way.

COOPER: Yes, I mean Doug, you heard from Senator Blumenthal earlier in broadcast, he said, you know, that he thinks this person should come forward, because there's more this person knows and should tell the country about. It also Doug comes on the heels of Bob Woodward's book that describes staffers thwarting the President, while the White House officials had denied Woodward's account, the op-ed claims that President Trump's inner circle trust him even less than anyone really as guest have -- just as a Presidential historian is there anything to compare this to?

BRINKLEY: Well first off, anonymous seems to had have a half a spine not a full one with brave to do this in the "New York Times" but kind of cowardly not to put your name forward. But it's only been a day or so, it's what to see if somebody eventually comes forward and owns up to. But it may be a cab boll working within the administration. You know, obviously everybody thinks of this is being strange and twisted times, and that brings you back to Richard Nixon. We spent a lot of time talking about him on CNN. It does remind me of Nixon in 1974, the Woodward book and anonymous when Nixon was unraveling in Watergate. And, you know, Henry Kissinger would come in and Nixon would bark an order and then people wouldn't follow it, they wouldn't follow his major foreign policy directives, because they thought the President was a bit out to lunch or maybe was drinking or under too much stress.

And I think that's what we're having now. A lot of people are concerned about the mental health of Donald Trump. Nobody doubts he can do a great rally. Nobody doubts that he's a genius at media. But the question is with the 25th amendment being raised, which I think is not going to happen, just being talked about, but is he fit for command, and how in the modern world do we judge psychiatric health of a President? And these are big questions.

[20:40:05] But also anonymous is I know you've mentioned Anderson, the Joe Clyde book in the Bill Clinton years and I mentioned during Harry Truman's year, George Kennon was Mr. X for a while, we get these kind of palace intrigues, government Washington intrigues once in a while, but this one is really weird.

BASH: And beyond the whodunit had somebody who is close to the Trump world, part of Trump world but not in the White House say to me earlier today that there is genuine concern that what we're seeing is the tip of the iceberg and the question is what's underneath. And by that, this person meant what's underneath in terms of the real opposition to the President from within. We know about the resistance outside and that was obvious for the whole point of this op-ed. But how deep is -- does that iceberg go within his own administration.

COOPER: Because it certainly, I mean if this person is to be believed who wrote this it certainly seems like there are a number of others who are they are communicating.

BASH: Yes. And look, the reality is that we have spoken to a lot of people at various levels across our network and other news organizations who at various times have raised off the record concerns. This is a different situation, when you have somebody writing it again, we don't know who that somebody is, we have to trust the times it really is senior.

COOPER: Yes, Doug Brinkley, thanks so much.

I want to bring is Chris to see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I like (INAUDIBLE) that you just adding to you conversations because they -- they're so interesting, I'm listening, I don't like to hear myself.

But I do think you guys are on to something. The whodunit, well that's candy for us. We love a scoop, we want to know who it is. If it's a big shot it matters, if it isn't except to put a light on the "New York Times" decision. However, what have they done as opposed to whodunit is a really important speculation. The speculation this feels like the end of something. I think Dana is right, I think is only the beginning of something. What does it mean, is a reflection of how it's being handle by the President, which by all accounts is poorly.

So we're going to get into that tonight. What does it mean? What does it mean for the Trump White House? What does it mean on the other side of this notion of what's going on in the White House, all done in the shadow of this Kavanaugh hearing, who is someone else who could go by the title of anonymous right now because we don't know anything about the guy from these hearing.

COOPER: That's true. Chris starts in about18 minutes. For now also the President is going to be speaking during your hour, it will be interesting Chris to see if he actually talks about this or tries to distract with something else. Sure you'll follow-up on that.

We also have breaking news tonight, I'll talk with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who push Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on whether he'd recuse himself any cases involving President Trump, and the Mueller investigation make their way to the high court. Talk about all the drama ahead.


[20:46:45] COOPER: This breaking news from day three of Senate hearings into Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, New Jersey Democrat Senator Cory Booker pushed Judge Kavanaugh about whether he'd recuse himself if any case involving President Trump came before the high court. Also Senator Booker said he was willing to risk expulsion from the Senate for making public a series of e-mails from Kavanaugh that the Judiciary Committee had designated as committee confidential.


SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I knowingly violated the rules that were put forth and I'm told that the committee confidential rules have knowing consequences. And so, sir, I come from a long line, as all of us do as Americans and understand what that kind of civil disobedience is. I understand the consequences. So I am right now before your process is finished, I'm going to release the e-mail about racial profiling. And I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate. And if Senator Cornyn believes that I've violated Senate rules, I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that e-mail right now.


COOPER: Well, Republicans pushed back later and saying, yes he and his staff had already been informed those documents could be released. I spoke with Senator Booker just before the broadcast.


COOPER: Senator Booker, you just finished your second round of questioning of Judge Kavanaugh. You asked him if he would recuse himself from any case involving President Trump. Why should he in your opinion recuse himself? I mean does it -- every Supreme Court judge nominated by a president, should they all recuse themselves from anything to do with president who nominated though?

BOOKER: No. Definitely not. But this candidate has a long shadow over him, because from his federal -- from the President's federal's list, that he wasn't even originally on until after the Mueller investigative started, that he appeared on the list. He's the only person that has spoken on multiple occasions, written about, even one hand raised his hand about the issue of can a President be investigated, can a President be indicted.

So it's clear that the signal was sent whether it's intentionally or not, that I'm a person who believes a President shouldn't be investigated, shouldn't be indicted. And so that's a long shadow hanging over a person who's being nominated by a President who asks for loyalty tests, who asked for literally said I would not have appointed the attorney general if I knew he would have recused himself. So there such a shadow that would undermine the legitimacy of the work that he has to do, where people would literarily question the legitimacy of his decision making, that he should just step out of the process. There are eight justices that can do that work and he should recuse himself.

COOPER: You call the process a sham. Do you think Kavanaugh has been honest in his testimony?

BOOKER: I guess the issue is for me, is that the document release that they've been bragging about how many thousands of pages they released when it comes to the body of his work, it really represents only about 10% of the totality of his documents. In the little bit that we've got and its been mark to committee confidential, but I continue today tweeting everyday just pushing this committee confidential, documents out today against that sham rule. We are seeing already, there's a lot of nuggets in there that are worthy of asking this candidate.

COOPER: Well speaking the documents, this morning you said you're going to break Senate rules so you could release documents pertaining to Supreme -- to Kavanaugh. You said you were willing to risk expulsion from the Senate to do that. Now Republicans on the committee have said that the documents had already been approved for release before 4:00 a.m. this morning. Senator Cornyn basically accuse you political stunt to bolster a possible run for the presidency, was that just a stunt?

[20:50:02] BOOKER: Well, I mean the amusing thing about that is what Cornyn first said, is he threatened me with expulsion. He said what I was doing was unbecoming to the office I was holding it. It's a deep insult for a senator to give to a senator in an environment (INAUDIBLE) he was doing that because last night I broke the Senate rules by reading from that e-mail. And then today throughout the entire day, this is not just about one e-mail, I've already released over 20 committee confidential documents in violation of what they say are the Senate rules in which Cornyn said I should be expelled for.

So according to Cornyn's rules, it's a lot of talk, a lot of bluster right now. I am breaking the rules. But I was raised and taught that an unjust law, you almost have an obligation to stand against it. So I am violating those laws. I have been doing all day, and it was an unjust law. You see there's no consequence. They will not move to expel me from the Senate for violating the committee confidential rules and I will continue to do so because I believe the public has the right to know where he stands on these issues.

COOPER: But I guess of course it wasn't really a violation, because at this point I want to be clear, Bill Burke, President Bush's presidential record representative said he cleared the documents before 4:00 a.m. per your staff's request and that they had told you, you could use them publicly. Grassley's office also confirmed you were told that the restrictions on the documents had been waived before you spoke today. So how do you square that with the idea that -- with what you've said?

BOOKER: Well, I square that very easily. Number one, last night I broke the rules before they -- then they scrambled to release the document. But I continue to release documents. I've released 20 so far that they have not cleared. I am breaking the rules. I am breaking the sham rules. 20 documents if you check my Twitter feed. Anybody in the public now can have access to the ones that they wanted to hide. They haven't cleared those yet. Maybe they're rushing to catch up to me and clear those as well.


COOPER: So here we're talking about today, though, earlier had those been cleared and did you know those had been cleared?

BOOKER: Again, when I broke the committee rules last night, those documents had not been cleared.

COOPER: At the end of the day, do you have any reason to believe that Kavanaugh is not going to get the votes for confirmation?

BOOKER: I don't. But, again, what my duty is, is to try to properly vet this candidate so that I can give advice and consent. It's written in the constitution. And to properly vet somebody, you should have the fullness of their record. For some reason, the fullness of their record is being hidden from the American public. We only have about 10% of these documents. 90% of his resume is being hidden. Now we've pushing, I pushed documents out about a lot of different things today against the rules of the Senate -- against the rules, excuse me, of the committee. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. That's just a drop in the bucket of the totality of the documents that out there that they've been hiding.

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

BOOKER: Thank you very much.


COOPER: Quick reminder, don't miss "Full Circle" our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. You get to pick some of the story we cover. And you join us at 6:25 p.m. eastern every weekday night at If you haven't seen the show, it's a lot of fun.

One of America's most recognizable, beloved movie stars has died. Coming up, a look back, the life and career of the one of a kind Burt Reynolds.


[20:57:17] COOPER: Well Sally Field today honored the man who once called her the love of -- she called the love of her life. Burt Reynolds died today at age 82. He was for anyone my age iconic as was his romance with Sally Field, who told "People" magazine there are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away. Here's why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: You've got a great profile.

BURT REYNOLDS, ACTOR: Yes, I do, don't I? Especially from the side.

COOPER (voice-over): Burt Reynolds knew what he had. He also knew that you knew. Yet he never seemed to take it all too seriously because he also knew that he and we were all just along for the ride. The kind of ride in the kind of car in the kind of movie that for 96 minutes in 1977 made us forget those very troubled times and ignore one big sign of them. The one that says speed limit, 55.

"Smokey and the Bandit" made more than a quarter billion dollars at the box office and made a black Trans Am the car to have. It made Burt Reynolds an icon. He had already been a star for years.

REYNOLDS: We get connected up with that body and the law, this thing is going to be hanging over us the rest of our lives.

COOPER (voice-over): The 1972 film "Deliverance" took him up the river and transported him from journeyman actor to leading man and scared us all to death along the way. Two years later in "The Longest Yard" he played the football player he'd been in real life until injury led him to acting. He'd return to the game and to fun and games in semi-tough, perfecting the persona that would make Smokey catch fire and cannon ball run in "Smokey 2" into the '80s. He faded then came back big in "Boogie Nights" in a string of other smaller parts that sure of his range and one critics over.

But at the end of the day, at the end of a career few could even hope for and the end of it all, he'll always be remembered for the kind of easy charm we all wish we had.

FIELD: Don't you ever take that hat off for anything?

REYNOLDS: Sure. I take it off for one thing and one thing only.

FIELD: Oh. If we were lost on a desert island together --


FIELD: -- do you think we'd get along and talk and things?

REYNOLDS: Sure. Yes, we'd get along. It would never be boring, I can tell you that. It would never be boring.

FIELD: Take your hat off.

[21:00:06] COOPER (voice-over): Burt Reynolds, semi-tough, semi- tender, and laughing at the joke all the way.