Return to Transcripts main page


Former President George H.W. Bush Lying In State; President Tweets Raise Legal Questions; President Trump And First Lady Pay Their Respects to President George H.W. Bush; President Trump Praises Roger Stone's "Guts," Slams Michael Cohen For Cooperating With Mueller; President Trump's Nominee For New EPA Administrator Has Close Ties With Chief Climate Change Denier In Senate. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 3, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Washington, where all the grand ceremonial rhythms of a somber day have faded into a picture of simple, quiet sadness.

The flag-draped casket of the 41st president of the United States lying in state right now in the Capitol Rotunda. George Herbert Walker Bush is being remembered tonight by so many in so many different places for embodying so much of what now seems conspicuous missing in our public sphere. He's being remembered for decades of public service and sacrifice and is being appreciated as one of the most consequential one-term presidents this country has seen.

President Bush was neither especially popular nor appreciated when he left office. Fair to say his stature has grown. When he entered the office, the Soviet Union was a place and the old Soviet Empire was cracking at the seams. Nobody knew how it might end.

As his casket flew back to Washington, despite all the tension in the world, a joint U.S., Russian and Canadian crew arrived at the International Space Station aboard a Russian spacecraft, about a tribute as good as any to his time in office.

President Trump is expected to make its way to this casket sometime tonight to pay his respects. We'll, of course, bring that to you live.

Right now, I want to go to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, can you just walk us through the president's journey that started in Texas this morning.

I think we lost connection with Sunlen. We'll try to reconnect with her in just a moment.

Former secretary of state, James Baker, who was with President Bush at the end, said this about the moment. It was as gentle a passing as I think you could ever expect anyone to have, and he was ready.

My next guest along with family members was also by the president's side, the Reverend Dr. Russell Levinson Jr. is the pastor at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston. He joins us now. How long have you been a pastor to the family?

RUSSELL LEVINSON, BUSH FAMILY PASTOR: We came to Houston in August of 2007, so about 11-1/2 years.

COOPER: Wow. These final days, I know you had a conversation with him, I think, after Thanksgiving.

LEVINSON: The Sunday before Thanksgiving.

COOPER: Before Thanksgiving.

LEVINSON: We had a wonderful visit that Sunday afternoon. A few visits after that, of course, just staying in touch with him and, of course, we were with him and the family and Secretary and Mrs. Baker at the very end.

COOPER: I don't want to obviously pry into such a personal moment, but to the extent you feel comfortable talking about it, can you talk about what the end was like for the president?

LEVINSON: Yes. I mean, it was a precious, gentle, graceful death. And he was surrounded, of course, by his friends, Susan and Jim Baker, by his family, by his wonderful medical aides who had been there with him for a long time.

COOPER: He was at home?

LEVINSON: He was at home, yes. We had been there for quite some time that afternoon and you've heard some of the conversations that happened that afternoon, the phone conversations that took place between the 43rd and the 41st president.

COOPER: The 43rd President Bush was on a speaker phone.

LEVINSON: Right. And there were moments where -- intensely personal moments like that where I moved out of the room which I felt was appropriate.

COOPER: Right.

LEVINSON: As we got to the end, and of course, I was fortunate and blessed to be with Barbara at the end of her life as well. An Episcopal priest and we see that moment in a particular way.

So as it became clear that we were coming to the end, we all, all of us, family, Secretary and Mrs. Baker and myself and the medical aides, we all knelt down next to the president. We placed our hands on the president and I offered what we in the Episcopal Church call prayers at the time of death.

And then he left this life for the next in a very peaceful, gentle way. We had a very silent moment then realizing it was poignant.

COOPER: I mean, what do you pray for at the time of death?

LEVINSON: Pray for -- he was so much at peace and so ready to meet what was coming.

COOPER: He was?


COOPER: He wanted to be reunited with Barbara, with his daughter who had passed away.

LEVINSON: And you've seen this comment by Secretary Baker where he came in the in the morning and the president said, where we're going, and the secretary said, we're going to heaven, and the said, well, that's great because that's where I want to go. And that's between Secretary Baker and -- but he and I talked about that over the years.

COOPER: He fully believed in that, that he would be reunited with his wife and his daughter?

LEVINSON: Absolutely. So at that time we mainly prayed for peace and acknowledged and believed that God's already ready to receive him. We believe that.

COOPER: The relationship between -- I feel like you can't speak about President Bush 41 without speaking about Barbara Bush.

[20:05:01] I mean, the relationship between them was just so extraordinary. From the moment they met I think at a school dance, it seems like something from another age. I guess sadly in many ways it is, but just the length of their relationship, the intimacy of it and the playfulness that everybody witnessed between them.

LEVINSON: Right. They were. They loved each other very much. They were playful with each other. They kidded with each other.

In our 12 years, one of the things my life Laura and I experienced was being taken into the family and that meant meals and time with our children, and you -- they were very free to display that kind of affection with each other, that kind of playfulness with each other in front of everybody.

You know, one of the things that people have experienced with them is everybody feels like they were their best friend. They treated everybody the same way. You all have done a wonderful job of reporting in the tributes and the stories that he took a sincere interest in every person he met.

If he met the door man at a hotel, he would get to know his name. If he met somebody at a restaurant, he would want to know that person. But, you know, it's just a remarkable quality.

COOPER: It's also -- it's such a tribute to a life of service. I mean, from the time -- he was at Yale University. He could have -- and I think his father encouraged him to complete his education before going off to war. He didn't have to go into the military when he did, but he felt the country was at war and that was his duty and that's what he did. LEVINSON: I think that's very true and absolutely committed to

service. And was we've -- my wife and I have reflected on the last few days our relationship with him, I think it's become clear to all of us, clear to us, that what we so there is a man whose service was not driven by political gain or by personal power, but it was something that was in him from the beginning. My job is to talk about his faith and his faith was a very simple faith and I use that in a very -- it came naturally to him. He didn't have to wear it on his sleeve but I think he very much lived his faith.

And that came out in his service. He believed in his service to his nation, his service to his friends, and his service to his family. This family is remarkably close as we're seeing in these days and will see in the days ahead. They're playful with each other. They have a great relationship with one another.

COOPER: I think it's something -- the faith of the president is not something -- I just remember when he was in office, it really wasn't something that he wore on his sleeve as you said. I mean, plenty of politicians go out of their way to make it very clear, and you have the sense with President Bush that he valued through discretion. He grew up in an age in which he's not going to be the person on Instagram tweeting out pictures of every fancy place he's eating or meal he's eating. He sort of walks his faith.

LEVINSON: Right. That's a wonderful way to put it and I think he never sensed the desire to use his faith for any purpose other than to live it. So, I think it's important to realize that, in fact, he was used by his faith to serve other people.

COOPER: Reverend Dr. Russell Levinson Jr., thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. It's really wonderful.

LEVINSON: Great meeting you. God bless you. Thanks.

COOPER: Yes, thank you. I could use it.

Joining us now, someone who covered President Bush, former ABC News White House Correspondent, Sam Donaldson joins. Also, CNN Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen, who briefly said as campaign adviser during the 1980 Bush presidential campaign.

Sam, you covered the White House with George H.W. Bush. As you watched the departure from Texas today, the service at the capitol rotunda this evening, what stood out to you?

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Well, I thought of the man more than the president, because I think everybody in Washington knew George Herbert Walker Bush. He was friendly. I think reporters who wrote things or said things he didn't like necessarily have kind of a drawer full of notes from him. Oh, Sam, saw you on TV on Sunday. Looking good, G.W.

Looking good? Me? He couldn't hold a grudge. Anderson, he couldn't hold a grudge. And David Gergen knows this too. After the 1992 election, he was

defeated. The two boys said one of us will get even for him and one did. But he became a good friend of Bill Clinton's. They collaborated on a lot of social work and charity work together.

They collaborated so often that George W. once cracked when Bill Clinton was in the hospital with a heart problem briefly that he saw a picture of President Clinton surrounded by the people who were closest to him. There was Hillary, there was Chelsea, my dad. That's the guy I was thinking of today.

COOPER: And, David, I mean, the scene today, it does -- I mean, it is obviously a solemn occasion and such a stately occasion and such one with ties and roots in the history of the United States, and obviously it brings up memories of other presidents that we've seen in the Capitol Rotunda and other, you know, funerals for other presidents. But it did today feel like such a departure from the Washington of today, the divisiveness that we've known more recently. It felt like we were witnessing the passing of somebody from another era.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. It's almost like we're watching a banished world. George H.W. Bush held such different values. You know, he came from a different generation, a World War II generation that Tom Brokaw later described as our greatest generation.

And those were people who came of age during the war and they came back home, took off their uniforms and then ran for political office to do at home what they tried to do back overseas, and that was win big victories for this country. George H.W. Bush believed in that strongly.

I think, Anderson, today, coming back to the capitol, it's one of the places he felt very much at home in Washington. As a congressman he enjoyed his time there and frequently when he was president, he went back to the capitol, went up to the gym to work out there with his friends on both sides of the aisle.

COOPER: And, Sam, that -- I keep coming back to his service during the war and I think it was Tom Brokaw I heard talk about how the importance of that in terms of shaping who he was not only the horrors of what he saw losing friends but also meeting people from all different walks of life in the military, the military is an extraordinary melting pot in that sense, and for a guy from a patrician background, it sort of opened him up in a way that he might not have otherwise had the opportunity to be opened up.

DONALDSON: I think that's right, Anderson. He was the youngest naval pilot on our side during the war shot down. But he met a lot of people, as you say.

His father was a patrician, taught him to be reserved, to keep his emotions to himself from the standpoint of a public display of them but not to dislike people. I never heard an example or obviously saw an example of where he seemed to be prejudiced against someone because of their skin color or their religion or what have you. He was just a very decent human being in almost every respect.

His presidency is something we can all debate and I think was well above the line. I think his accomplishments put him very well in history as one of our best presidents, but you can debate that, but you cannot really debate the idea that here was a man who showed what it was to be human, to like people and try to do something good for them.

COOPER: And there you see, David Gergen, I don't know if you can see in our screen, we're seeing a picture live from the rotunda. You're seeing the salute of a little boy, a scout, for the former president, a president he didn't even know at the time. Obviously, he's too young, but clearly, his family wanted to be there and wanted to show respect and he's doing just that.

There was, David, this strong emphasis on President Bush's legacy today. What do you think he will be most remembered for just in terms of his presidency? It obviously came -- he was following in the shadow of Ronald Reagan and yet the world was -- it could have gone a whole number of different ways with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it was a perilous time.

GERGEN: I think he'll be remembered chiefly for two things, Anderson. One is the personal side. He was a man, a president of enormous character.

David McCullough, the historian, has argued that the single most important quality in any president is character. I think he represented that to the hill.

The other thing is he did end the Cold War very peacefully and very, very importantly. He was the man who really made it possible for Germany to reunite. Had the American president taken a stand against that, it would have been very hard to do. But he celebrated it.

He helped in his -- it's not an accident that Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is coming to the funeral. And I think that the German people have great respect for George H.W. Bush. It's part of the underappreciated story.

I'm sure Sam covered a lot if it, but it was emerged later on that the way he handled that, the care and the understanding of history and the understanding of what this could -- how this could bring Europe to peace for the first time in the 20th century was really an important accomplishment.

COOPER: Yes, David Gergen, Sam Donaldson, thank you gentlemen both for your remembrances. Appreciate it.

Again, we're continuing to see members of the public who will be able to all throughout the evening pay their respects to the 41st president of the United States, and we are anticipating the current president and the first lady to also come tonight to the capitol rotunda to pay their respects. We'll, of course, bring you that live as well.

Coming up next, the potential legal fallout from a string of presidential tweets today, questions of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and more in the wake of all of this, as the world is focusing on the death of the 41st president, President Trump has also been tweeting about Robert Mueller. Details ahead.


[20:20:02] COOPER: President Trump pulled off two-thirds of a legal hat trick today. He leaned on a federal judge whose career he could affect and he made statements about a potential witness against him that raised more than a few legal questions.

First, the leaning on a judge tweets, quote: Michael Cohen asks for no prison time. You mean he can do all of the terrible, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, taxis, et cetera, and not serve a long prison time? He makes up stories to get a great and already reduced deal for himself and get his wife and father-in- law who has the money, question mark, off scot-free? He lied for this outcome and in my opinion should serve a full and complete sentence.

Now, remember, presidents can promote judges or not as the case may be.

Now, here's the tweet about long-time associate Roger Stone that raised more questions today of witness tampering and obstruction of justice. The president begins by quoting Stone. Quote: I will never testify against Trump. This statement was recently made by Roger Stone essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about President Trump. Nice to know that some people still have guts.

In addition to legal questions that have been raised via tweet, a number of observers noticed the president's language which some likened to a mob boss.

Joining us now is Garrett Graff, who's written extensively about Robert Mueller and the FBI, also CNN Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, well, first of all, what do you make of this, for the president to so publicly praise stone for a while, at the same time saying that Cohen deserves a full and complete sentence. Does that sound to you like the president is dangling a pardon to Stone?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It sure does. I mean, it is so wildly inappropriate. I mean, you know, we sort of wear ourselves out talking about this stuff this way and it seems almost repetitive, but the idea that the president of the United States would be talking about witnesses and people convicted by his Justice Department -- remember, Robert Mueller is a Department of Justice employee -- this way is just without precedent in American history. This has never been done before.

Now, whether it is an actual obstruction of justice or just an egregious violation of the norms that every other president in history has abided by, I have a hard time figuring that out. I don't really have a clear answer to that. But the fact that it is wrong is indisputable.

COOPER: I mean, some legal experts, Jeff, including Kellyanne Conway's husband, are arguing that it raises questions about witness tampering.

TOOBIN: You know, witness tampering is a very unusual, rarely prosecuted crime. I'm not sure it's -- I think the question is whether it's obstruction of justice and whether the dangling of a pardon is in itself an obstruction of justice by a president because after all, no one else can offer a pardon.

It is worth remembering as we've mentioned several times here that the threatened use of the pardon power to reward people who don't cooperate was one of the articles of impeachment that was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 against Richard Nixon.

So, this is not unprecedented territory in terms of impeachment. I mean, this is potentially an abuse of power that could lead to impeachment.

COOPER: Garrett, I mean, as for Paul Manafort, someone the president has also publicly praised, there's a report the public might learn more in a court filing just by the end of this week, indicating the prosecutors are going to detail what they believe Manafort lied about. Does -- you know, you and I have talked about what Mueller might be doing in kind of writing a report in real time through these public documents.

Can you explain that?

GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "THE THREAT MATRIX": Yes. So, Bob Mueller has filed a plea agreement with Michael Cohen last week more than 300 pages of deeply written narrative -- arguments really -- about how the 2016 election unfolded and the various characters and plots and schemes that unfolded in its midst by Russia, by Paul Manafort, by Michael Flynn, by George Papadopoulos and others.

So, for everyone who's waiting for all of this to be tied up neatly in a hardback book some day that says "The Mueller report" on the cover, well, Bob Mueller is writing a lot of what his final report would end up looking like through these court filings. Every one of them has more detail than is necessary for criminal prosecution. And as Jeff knows, you know, when you're writing a federal indictment or a plea agreement, you're choosing your words very, very carefully and you're not looking to throw in a lot of extraneous words.

So, the fact that Bob Mueller is including this much detail is a message unto itself.

COOPER: Jeff, do you agree with that?

TOOBIN: If I can just -- well, I completely agree and Garrett wrote about this really very perceptively in "Axios" today on this subject.

[20:25:06] And just let me give you two examples. The two indictments of the Russians, the one group that was involved in social media, abuse of Facebook, the other the people who are involved in the hacking that led to the WikiLeaks disclosures. In both of those cases, it's very unlikely there's ever going to be a trial in an American courtroom because most of the defendants are Russian and they're not coming back to be tried.

But what Mueller did was he wrote these indictments -- the term prosecutors use is they are speaking indictments, and they tell the story of how the Russians manipulated the 2016 election. And it is such a valuable service that was provided by Mueller, even though those trials will probably never take place. That's what I think Garrett is talking about in terms of telling the story of how 2016 happened through legal documents rather than exclusively through this report which may or may not ever become public.

COOPER: I just want to point out to our viewers, the president and first lady, we're told they have arrived at the capitol. We expect to see video of them in the rotunda paying their respects to President George H.W. Bush. We'll obviously bring you those pictures live.

Watching this along with us all tonight are CNN Special Correspondent, Jamie Gangel, Jeffrey Engel, who edited "The China Diary of George H.W. Bush: The Making of a Global President," CNN White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins as well, and, of course, David Gergen is back as well with us.

Jamie, as we wait for images of President Bush and the first lady, you know the Bush family probably better than any other journalist that I know, certainly better than most. I'm wondering, is everything we're seeing, I mean, has this been -- is this what Bush Sr., Bush 41 wanted? Did he have a hand in this?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. So a reliable source whose name was President Bush 41 told me when they first came to him and said you have to plan your funeral, he did not want to have anything to do with this. It was -- and then they said it's your duty and he said, okay. He confessed that he micro managed the process from there.

So, there's no question that what you're seeing is what he wanted. And he knew who was president in the last two years of his life, and while President Trump is not speaking at the National Cathedral, it would have been -- anyone who knows George Bush would say it would be unthinkable that he wouldn't want the sitting president there.

COOPER: To attend at least?

GANGEL: To attend. It's for the office.

I also think whether or not it was planned or not, this sends a message to the Trumps. This is how it's done. Look, we're all here together. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, two Democrats, they called Bush 41 a gentleman, total class.

You know, this is the embodiment of just how different it can be. And that's a message to Trump. COOPER: And, Jeffrey, also, you know, when you cannot help but review

the life of George H.W. Bush and not see a pattern which is so different than the current president.

I mean, he was at Yale, he didn't have to volunteer for the military. He could have stayed in college. I believe his father wanted him to stay in college. He insisted when he turned 18 that he would go. I mean, his has been a life of service every step of the way.

JEFFREY ENGEL, EDITOR, "THE CHINA DIARY OF GEORGE H.W. BUSH": There's no doubt. That was really inculcated in him from the very beginning that he was supposed to be a person -- he came from a class of people really who were supposed to be there to give back to the country, that they had been given so much. I mean, this is an interesting double- edged sword because on the one hand President Bush and those like him thought of themselves as having a responsibility to be helpful to the country.

On the other hand, there are moments we've seen throughout President Bush's career where he thought he's the kind of person who should be in charge. We have to remember in a sense when we're talking about the passing of an age, of a generation, he did grow up in an earlier time when the type of person who would be in Washington operating as a political actor was much more narrow than it was today. So, he really felt himself to be a person who belonged within that club.

COOPER: And, David Gergen, you and I talked about this a short time ago, but I mean, this is such a representation of how Washington has changed given what we saw -- the outpouring about President Bush, but also what we're seeing today and no doubt at the funeral as well.

GERGEN: Absolutely. I do think that George H.W. Bush was heavily influenced by his father, Prescott Bush, who was a senator from Connecticut. Eisenhower almost put Prescott Bush on the ticket in 1956 to replace Richard Nixon because they were friends and he had so much respect for him. That was the first generation of Bushes in service.

[20:30:00] Then there was -- George H.W. Bush is the second, his children were the third and now he's got grandchildren who started in a public service. The four generations of service to this country, that represents a tradition.

And I think the reason that he's asked Donald Trump to be there was that that's also a tradition. He likes the precedent of, you know, the former president -- the president, sitting president coming. But he didn't ask him to speak, which I think was a good move on both parts.

I might say just one footnote, Anderson. I do think that President Trump deserves some credit for how he's been handling this over the last few days. He's been very positive. He hasn't been snarky. He is coming. He knows kind of the awkward (ph).

COOPER: David, just to let you know, the President --


COOPER: -- and the First Lady are walking in. Let's just listen in on this.

Jamie Gangel -- the point David Gergen was making a moment ago that President Trump had sent the Boeing 747, which is known as Air Force One when the President is on board in order to bring President Bush to Washington, that is also tradition and that so far President Trump is sort of following through on what one traditional does. I mean the Bushes up at Blair House. I don't know if it's an effort to mend fences given the comments he has made about the family and the President over the year.

GANGEL: You know, he's not one to mend fences too readily. I think he's doing this because he feels he has to do it and I'm also assuming that General Kelly has had a big hand in it.

I do know from the Bush family that they are very appreciative and think the White House has just bent over backwards, gone to great lengths, been extraordinarily helpful. That said, just -- I can't help but wonder if there was a thought bubble over Donald Trump's head just now, what he was thinking as he stood there.

ENGEL: I have to imagine he was thinking, "How much longer do I have to stand here?"

GANGEL: It's, you know, he had to be there. He did it. I think it's interesting he did it because maybe he could have waited until the national cathedral, and then he saluted.

COOPER: I was also told it was about a minute and 15 seconds.

GANGEL: It was somewhat theatrical in nature, but it's -- I can't imagine that this is very comfortable for him, these moments, and I think it is going to be fascinating to watch the cathedral on Wednesday and how he interacts with these other presidents and how he sits there during these eulogies.

COOPER: Jeffrey, that is one thing. Traditionally a sitting president would give a eulogy for a former president. Obviously that is not going to take place. This is a special circumstance given that President Bush's son, who is also a former president, is going to be giving the eulogy. But it's one thing to have -- for the Bushes to have President Trump there. It's another thing -- it would have been another thing for them to let him speak.

ENGEL: Exactly. And I think that we need to remember the historical precedent that you just mentioned that a sitting president in the room is the one who is typically given the honor of addressing the crowd, any crowd to be honest.

And, you know, I think we need to be a little bit thoughtful and careful about how we interpret what President Trump is doing here. I mean, David Gergen just mentioned that we need to give him credit for not tweeting out nasty things about President Bush. I mean, I am concerned that we shouldn't give credit to someone for not kicking dirt on the grave of a person who just passed away.

[20:35:00] COOPER: I mean, David, to that point, I mean, he has tweeted today about, you know, Robert Mueller, about special counsel, things like that. It's not as if his public focus has all been on honoring President Bush.

GERGEN: You know that's true. And he's been, you know, he should be taking slight to people. He's being the ornery president he has been. I just say that when he does something like this that is carries on the traditions, he does it in a solemn way, he does it in a gracious way.

The family has been very grateful to him, the Bush family that we shouldn't question his motives. I mean, let's just -- he's doing it right. And I think there are times when we should say, "You know, he's doing this one right."

COOPER: Kaitlan, so far President Trump is going along with the tradition, the military trappings of a state funeral. They've gone forward, as we talked about, Air Force One. And I know, Kaitlan, you've been covering this all throughout the day. I'm wondering what sort of moments stand out to you.

There was an extraordinary moment just a short time ago of a -- I'm not sure if it was a Boy Scout or an Eagle Scout, a scout standing who wanted to come (INAUDIBLE) family to pay his respects saluting the President's casket.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really has completely overcome Washington, all of the trappings surrounding this funeral, and it will for the next few days.

I like to note that right outside the White House is the Blair House, that's the President's guest house. And President Trump has invited the Bush family to stay there. We saw them arrived a short time ago after they were on Capitol Hill for that ceremony earlier in the day.

And it does show an interesting method that the President is using, a president who has not hidden his animosity with the Bush family in years past, but since his predecessor, President 41 died on Friday night, President Trump has had nothing but effusive praise for George H.W. Bush.

They met multiple times on Twitter, in that press conference in Argentina when he cancelled that press conference where he's going to take questions from reporters saying he did so out of respect for George H.W. Bush.

And then, of course, he did follow protocol and send the Air Force One to pick up his casket and send it here for that final flight from Washington to Texas. That's interesting for President Trump since the last comment he made about the 41st President was being critical of his Points of Light, the volunteer foundation, of course, that he started. That's the last thing we heard from President Trump on that.

But now he does seem to be taking the presidential role here. He is going to be attending the funeral on Wednesday, though he will not be speaking and it will be interesting to see him seated there next to the other former presidents, many who he has not spoken to since taking office, including President Obama, President Bill Clinton.

But he did call President George W. Bush after his father died to give his condolences but it will be interesting to see them all seated here in Washington, something you rarely see, and especially for President Trump.

COOPER: Yes. The President had tweeted once mocking the thousand points of light saying it's essentially something like what the hell was that or I didn't get that. Jamie Gangel, Jeffrey Engel, thank you, Kaitlan Collins, David Gergen. More coverage ahead. We'll be right back.


[20:42:19] COOPER: Turning now to our conversation about the Russia investigation, presidential tweets and other potential subjects for Robert Mueller's team. They've been extremely tight-lipped, as you know, but we're expecting three big court filings this week that could give us the best indication yet about where the investigation may be heading.

First up, a sentencing memo for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is due tomorrow. We're also expecting sentencing memos this week for Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

As we reported earlier, the President has been tweeting about the investigation praising Roger Stone for not testifying against him and lashing out at Michael Cohen saying he should get a big prison sentence.

With me now is Carrie Cordero, David Urban and Gloria Borger.

Carrie, just from a legal standpoint, what does that mean, sentencing documents in all these cases?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so for each of the individuals, their circumstances are different but there's going to be a sentencing document so that means that the prosecutors will have prepared documents, what they propose should be the sentence and that lays out sort of the extent for cooperation for some of them.

And then it lays it all out in terms of what the recommended sentence is. Defense also will provide their own documentation, what they would argue. And then it's up to the judge to decide what the person should be sentenced to. So, each of these individuals have different circumstances.

COOPER: Gloria, does it -- this is probably a dumb question. Does it surprise you that the President is tweeting about Roger Stone and Michael Cohen? But, does it surprise you? I mean, because the juxtaposition and obviously the timing of it --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the timing is, you know, today on the day that the former president's body is brought to Washington, yes, the timing is bad, but you see what's going on this week is that this is all sort of starting to tie up loose ends.

And I think that what we see with the President is that he's sort of giving these big clues to people. "Oh, Roger, OK, you're not cooperating, great, you're a gutsy guy. And Michael Cohen, you know, you're a toad because, you know, you're turning on me."

And, you know, I'm not the lawyer here but I don't know if this is witness tampering or obstruction in public, but it's highly inappropriate and -- particularly today, but highly inappropriate at any time. But, we're going to learn more this week.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So look, I mean, I think the President is not surprising, not doing something that surprises everybody, right? Gloria and I were talking backstage. You know, in an otherwise incredibly remarkable good performance by the President today by all accounts, we heard David Gergen earlier saying, look, give the President his due.

He's been very gracious to the Bush family, a very nice salute there, a very classy touch with the president even saluting 41 as he leaves. So an otherwise great day marred by some tweets in the morning perhaps, you know.

[20:45:00] So -- but again, you know, as everyone will tell you, prosecutor sitting right here, I was a bond lawyer so not really qualified to opine on this. But, you know, no prosecutor would take that to the bank and take that to court and say let me -- in an individual tweet.

BORGER: Alone, alone.

CORDERO: I don't want to minimize the President's tweets, though, this morning with respect to his encouraging people to cooperate with the Russia probe or not encouraging them, discouraging them to cooperate with prosecutors.

Witness tampering has to show some kind of corrupt intent. So, whether or not a prosecutor would actually have a prosecutable case for his tweeting, which is encouraging people not to cooperate, is one thing. Whether or not it --

URBAN: I think he's saying tell the truth. I think he's not saying not cooperate rather than say tell the truth.

CORDERO: Whether or not it meets the elements of witness tampering, though, he has -- if he's doing it with intent to influence what somebody is going to either provide information to the prosecutors or not, then it is witness tampering.

COOPER: But in the sense of dangling the idea of a pardon which --


COOPER: -- I mean essentially is what he seems to be doing both for Roger Stone and for Manafort.

CORDERO: And significantly for Manafort, right. I mean all of these things. And it's not just this is an isolated event also, I think it's important to keep in mind. This is a whole pattern of his tweets that are directed at multiple witnesses, have been directed at the prosecutors, have been directed at senior FBI officials and all of these have -- I think are going to form the basis for --


URBAN: Yes. But, you know, the President tweets nasty things about not just the folks they're investigating.

BORGER: Yes, but this isn't nasty. This isn't nasty. This is telling people what to do. And by the way, he's the President of the United States and he's telling people not to cooperate.

URBAN: He's not saying not to cooperate. I think he said tell the truth. He said, Roger --listen, if Roger Stone --

BORGER: Well, he's saying -- you know, Michael Cohen says he's telling the truth.

URBAN: Well, you can watch -- I mean we can watch tape. We can run tape on this network where Michael Cohen says the President is the most truthful, honest, the best guy going.

BORGER: Right. Yes, that is true.

URBAN: So you say, was he lying then or is he lying now, right? I mean that's the question.

BORGER: No. Don't you think Mueller -- well, don't you think Mueller --

URBAN: That's a question people would say.

BORGER: If Mueller considers Cohen to be a serious witness, he has to have his own corroboration --

URBAN: Sure.

BORGER: -- because he's not going to take Michael Cohen just at his own word.

COOPER: To David's point, Michael Cohen's track record of statements, I mean he's just -- he's that --

URBAN: All over the place.

COOPER: -- completely ridiculous.

CORDERO: But here's the thing, there have been so many of these instances of the President tweeting about the case, tweeting at -- making statements about witnesses who are in an active criminal enterprise investigation. If this was any other regular person, we would be saying you're not supposed to try to be intimidating and it's a violation of criminal law to try to intimidate witnesses. Just because he's doing it out in the open doesn't make it not something that --

BORGER: And how do you think his lawyers are responding to this, because his lawyers have done, I would argue, a very good job. They've gotten written questions. If this is the end of the investigation, he won't have to testify. He's not going to be subpoenaed. And there he undermines his own legal team by doing this openly on Twitter.

URBAN: Listen, again, this is an entire political argument, right, because at the end of the day this is all about impeachment, not about a trial, right? This is about -- this is a political discourse we're having. It's not going to be going and sitting in a court anywhere.

COOPER: All right, Carrie Cordero, David Urban, Gloria Borger, I want to thank you.

Coming up -- let's check in with Chris right now and see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Oh, we don't have Chris? We'll take a quick break. And I don't know what you're saying to me. I don't know what you're saying to me. And there you are.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well played, Anderson. Well played. Very --

COOPER: I got someone in my ear saying, yes, yes. I'm like, what, yes, what?

CUOMO: I was, you know, I was fixing myself a little bit. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the delay.


CUOMO: Here's what we're looking at tonight. We're going to take a very deep look at what's coming this way from Mueller. We know we have to know more and soon because the special counsel has to put in briefs on the Manafort sentencing, Cohen's sentencing and on Mike Flynn, General Mike Flynn's sentencing. So we're going to know more.

Two of those three he's got to talk about why they've been helpful for him. The third, he has to make known why he believes Manafort has continued to be untruthful during his plea arrangement. So, we're going to know more.

And the question at the center of all of it is why do so many people around this President lie about Russia and how does that reflect our President's own actions with respect to Putin? We're getting into it tonight. We have the best legal and investigative minds on that.

COOPER: All right, Chris, that's about 10 minutes from now. I look forward to that. I'll see you.

A lot was made of a new climate report last week, but what you might have missed is who President Trump nominated to be the new head of the environmental protection administration, someone who worked for big coal. We'll tell you more about him next.

[20:53:36] COOPER: Last week, there was a lot of talk about a new federal report warning about the dangers of climate change. President Trump told reporters he didn't believe the findings, and the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the report was "not based on facts."

Today, the annual United Nations Global Climate Summit got under way. "Forbes" magazine says for the first time United States will not have a pavilion there. What you might have missed in the middle of all of this is who the President has actually nominated as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Our Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin has this look at the President's pick who has ties to big coal.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I try to ask the acting administrator of the EPA a tough question.

(on camera) Mr. Wheeler, Drew Griffin with CNN.

(voice-over) You are more likely to get a stiff shoulder from his security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to get back.

GRIFFIN (on camera): All right.

(voice-over) Than a chance at even a glance of Andrew Wheeler.

(on camera) Take a window question. Your security guards won't be bothered by it.

(voice-over) Why?

(on camera) Mr. Wheeler?

(voice-over) Perhaps because the question we want to ask Wheeler is just how is it possible one of the biggest lobbyists for one the nation's biggest coal companies is now leading the Environmental Protection Agency.

ELIZABETH GORE, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: Andrew Wheeler was in bed with the coal companies, and now he's --

GRIFFIN (on camera): And he was in bed with them last year.

GORE: And now he's in a role where he's regulating them. It makes no sense.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever you can do -- GRIFFIN (voice-over): By his own resume, President Trump could not have chosen a swampier, more conflicted person to run the EPA than Andrew Wheeler.

[20:55:03] Just take a look at this photo from last year. It's a meeting between Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who appears to be getting an earful from Bob Murray, the CEO of the largest coal mining company in the U.S. Who else is in the room? Murray Energy Corporation's top lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler.

From 2009 until just last year, Murray Energy paid nearly $3 million to Wheeler's lobbying firm to deliver government access just like this. Months after the photo was taken, President Trump would nominate Wheeler from coal company lobbyist to deputy administrator of the EPA.

MICHAEL GERRARD, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL CLIMATE DEREGULATION TRACKER: I'm not surprised. I am appalled, but not surprised.

GRIFFIN: To those who track the Trump administration's actions on the environment, like Columbia University's Michael Gerrard, Wheeler is a worst-case scenario.

GERRARD: Wheeler is carrying out the wish list of the industry lobbyists who have wanted to shut down environmental regulations, as he himself was a lobbyist with exactly that objective, but now he's in the driver's seat.

GRIFFIN: That industry wish list turns out is real. Shortly after Donald Trump took office, Murray Energy, the coal company, delivered an action plan, a recommended agenda of rolling back regulations to get the government off the coal industry's back.

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: You have promised to put America first, and --

GRIFFIN: Trump's scandal-ridden initial EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt got the ball rolling before he was fired.

ANDREW WHEELER, ACTING EPA ADMINISTRATOR: When Congress established EPA's authority --

GRIFFIN: But it is Wheeler, barely five months at the helm of the EPA who has done this. Rollbacks on coal plant emissions, rollbacks on car emissions, proposed rollbacks on methane emissions in oil and gas production, and he is doing it like a man who knows how to play the Washington game.

In strictly controlled environments like this forum at the "Washington Post," Wheeler will answer questions like a pro, like this response on the newly released government report on the effects of climate change.

WHEELER: They haven't read the entire report yet, but I've gone through it.

GRIFFIN: And carefully choosing his words about the human impact on climate.

WHEELER: I believe that man does have an impact on the climate, that CO2 has an impact on the climate, and we do take that seriously.

GRIFFIN: Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund and a senate staffer while Wheeler was there says she doesn't believe it.

GORE: He's a science skeptic. He was calling people who were studying this climate alarmists, shrugging off the risks of carbon pollution, calling climate change a hoax.

GRIFFIN: Wheeler before lobbying for big coal spent 14 years as a top aide to the top climate change denier on Capitol Hill --

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: It's a snowball.

GRIFFIN: -- Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe.

INHOFE: The past hour and a half or so, I've offered compelling evidence that catastrophic global warming is a hoax.

GRIFFIN: Inhofe is a staunch opponent of environmental regulations. And when in charge of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, he held hearings challenging climate warming science. At his side, whispering in his ear, helping to direct questioning, lining up witnesses, was Wheeler.

Capitol Hill sources with intimate knowledge of his involvement tell CNN, Wheeler was the top man in charge and a driving force behind his boss' climate change denying agenda.

Five former Inhofe staffers now work beside Wheeler at EPA, including his chief of staff, his principal deputy assistant administrator, his assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance, a senior adviser for policy, and an associate administrator for policy, all former staffers of the senator who believes climate change is a hoax.

GORE: The EPA is stocked with former Inhofe staffers and this is reflected in the types of policies that you see coming out of EPA right now.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So, do you think the goal is to just destroy EPA flat out?

GORE: I think that the goal is to undermine climate protections to roll back existing rules and to erode fundamental environmental laws.

GRIFFIN: Mr. Wheeler?

(voice-over) What is Andrew Wheeler's response?

(on camera) Just one question.

(voice-over) We are waiting.


COOPER: Drew, that means we still do not really have an answer as to why it's OK for a coal industry lobbyist to now run an agency that regulates the coal industry.

GRIFFIN: Certainly not from Wheeler himself. He's not answering our questions. But we did hear back from his staff at EPA and they wanted to point out a couple of, I would call them finer points, Anderson.

Number one, while Wheeler was a coal industry lobbyist just last year, his EPA staff says he didn't lobby the EPA last year and he wasn't involved in that Murray Energy action plan or wish list.

The second point they want to make is, yes, Andrew Wheeler was a proud member of Senator Inhofe's staff, but Andrew Wheeler did not write any of those speeches that Senator Inhofe now somewhat famously gave on the Senate floor.

Two finer points, but to answer your question, no, we don't have an answer from Andrew Wheeler yet about how it's possible that EPA's administrator could have been a coal industry lobbyist -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. All right. Drew Griffin -- Drew, thanks. We'll continue to follow that.