Return to Transcripts main page


Kremlin Aide Echoes President Trump's Denial That He Ever Worked for Russia; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA); Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); House Speaker Pelosi Calls President Trump to Reschedule State of the Union Address. Aired on 8- 9p ET

Aired January 16, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

The president who says he's been tougher on Russia than any president ever won a narrow vote in the Senate to ease sanctions on companies tied to a Russian billionaire with close connections to the Kremlin. We're just half-way into the week that began with some serious people in and out of government, asking whether a U.S. president might be an unwitting or witting Russian asset. And today, over the objection of quite a few Republicans, the Senate fell short of the votes need to block the easing of sanctions on companies tied to Oleg Deripaska.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: This guy is bad news. He's a tyrant. He's a pirate. He's a gangster. And he's hurting the Russian people every day and is trying to hurt America.

And I'm not -- we have him down. (INAUDIBLE) choking. I'm not going to let him up.


COOPER: A number of Senator Kennedy's fellow Republicans agreed, most did not, and the Trump administration certainly did not agree, sending Treasury Secretary Mnuchin up to the Hill yesterday to lobby against the measure, to lobby against it, we should add, just days after those two remarkable stories. One on the FBI back in 2017 launching a counterintelligence investigation of the president's actions and the other first reported in "The Washington Post" on the lengths President Trump went to, to conceal what he and Vladimir Putin discussed at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, also in 2017.

That is the summit where, in case you're wondering, we learned after it was over, the president told a "New York Times" reporter he believed Putin when he said Russia didn't attack the 2016 elected. It's also the summit where this moment is getting renewed attention. The president giving the series of gestures apparently to Vladimir Putin as Putin was speaking. Unclear what it meant. Looked like a you and me guy, a fist of solidarity perhaps, interpret it as you will.

It's the same summit where the president met with Putin and afterwards, he took the interpreter's notes and that, as you know, is just one of many incidents, or utterances, actions, tweets and policy changes that, fairly or not, have raised suspicions. Just to be fair, we should point out the Constitution gives the president almost total discretion to conduct foreign policy. That said knowing the suspicions, and this dates back to the campaign, the president has made little or no effort to allay concerns that just as it seemed to be in Hamburg, Vladimir Putin and President Trump are on the same wavelength, eye to eye, on the same page.

Now, the Kremlin appears to be stirring the pot. Here is what Russia's foreign minister today said about the notion that President Trump is some sort of asset.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Honestly, to be frank with you, it's hard to make a comment on what happens in the United States around the accusations of Mr. Trump, that he is a Russian agent, in fact. I think it is just the American media, such disparaging journalism and such ungrateful thing.


COOPER: The Russian minister talking about the status of good journalism, in other words, fake news. Stop me if you've heard that one before.

In fact, if you believe President Trump, no president has ever been as tough on Russia as he's been, although he's never named them. That means tougher than, I guess, Harry Truman who confronted Moscow after the blockade of Berlin in 1948, tougher than John Kennedy who went to the nuclear brink during the Cuban missile crisis, tougher than Ronald Reagan.

In reality today, we learned this president and his administration couldn't even see their way to getting tough with a Russian businessman who is a friend of the Kremlin, not that it should raise suspicions or anything. Just ask Russia.


LAVROV (through translator): Prosecutor Mueller is operating for two years now. He interrogated hundreds of people. No leaks would confirm the accusation of the conspiracy between Trump and the Russia federation.


COOPER: Nothing to see here.

Now, the official translation on the Russian foreign minister website does not use the word conspiracy as the interpreter on that video does. Their choice? Well, I'll let the president say it -- our president, that is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They found no collusion whatsoever with Russia.

There has been no collusion. They won't find any collusion. It doesn't exist.

There's no collusion with me and the Russians. Nobody has been tougher to Russia.

There was no collusion.

No collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination, no nothing.


COOPER: Well, that's not true. No other administration until now has seen a national security adviser charged with and pleading guilty to lying about contacts with Russians. No campaign chairman until now has ever been tied to a whole string of sleazy Russian and Russia- connected characters. No president until now has openly trashed the NATO alliance and reportedly talked repeatedly behind closed doors about pulling out of NATO.

Whatever is going on is something perhaps benign, perhaps ill-judged, perhaps within the president's constitutional or legal authority, or maybe not. What kind of something it is, we don't know. Two presidents do, however, President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

With all that on the table I spoke with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.


[20:05:05] COOPER: First of all, Mr. Chairman, what's your reaction to the Kremlin saying -- kind of ridiculing the idea that President Trump was an asset or could be an asset for Russia? I mean, it's interesting to hear them ridiculing this notion.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It is. This is such an otherworldly situation where you got the Kremlin denying that the president of the United States was working as an agent for them.

COOPER: And echoing the whole sort of fake news argument as well. They say, you know, it's bad journalism.

SCHIFF: Oh, yes. And what we heard Lavrov from time to time use what looks like the exact same talking parents as Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But it's worth also remembering that the Kremlin is more than capable and has put out disinformation on this very issue time after time.

The most interesting to me was when we learned from Michael Cohen recently that the Trump Tower Moscow deal which initially the president denied any business dealings and then admitted there was a deal but it ended in January, that the effort to make that deal happen went all the way until June of 2016. And it was revealed they sought the Kremlin's assistance.

The Kremlin had denied that. The Kremlin had said we never followed up on that. We never had any contact. Now, the Kremlin was on the other end of that transaction, Dmitry Peskov, and we would learn from Michael Cohen that, in fact, they had responded.

And so, the Kremlin has helped Trump and his organization cover up contacts with them, so that tells us how much we can rely on the Kremlin talking points.

COOPER: Also when you see every time the president has actually met with Vladimir Putin, it does just raise more questions. I mean, you would think for this president in particular, he would want other people in the room, other officials given the allegations against him, given the suspicions. At the very least, he would want somebody else there to be able to record for posterity what actually was discussed. That's not been the case.

SCHIFF: That's exactly right, and particularly if he was going to confront Putin on their intervention or election. You would want others to be able to say, oh, I watched the president take Putin to task but, of course, he didn't want any of that. And it kind of begs the imagination why this private, secret conversation with Putin.

COOPER: Do you think the FBI was right to -- "The New York Times" reporting after the firing of Comey they opened up -- they started looking into whether the president could be compromised?

SCHIFF: I can't confirm that report. I can't speak to that.

COOPER: If that, in fact, is true, though, is that something you think would have been justified?

SCHIFF: Well, I can certainly tell you that our primary concern from the beginning was a counterintelligence concern initially about those around Donald Trump, and then certainly about Donald Trump himself. And that continues to this day and, indeed, the more the president acts in the Russian interest, these revelations that he wanted to withdraw from NATO and kept bringing up withdrawing from NATO, I mean, that is an idea so much at odds with our national security interests on a very bipartisan basis. There's recognition of the tremendous value to our security that, you know, all the more inexplicable in the absence of some compromise.

COOPER: You and the majority on your committee have subpoena power. Do you intend to try to subpoena the interpreter or get the notes? It's my understanding I believe there's been some reporting the president actually took the notes that the interpreter had. I don't know if any notes currently exist.

But is that something do you want to pursue this?

SCHIFF: We do want to pursue this. I've been in discussion with my counterparts on the foreign affairs committee. Committee Chairman Engel, we've been consulting with the lawyers, also. What is the best case, what arguments might the White House make? It looks to me on the surface that they don't have much of an

executive privilege case to make. That privilege really normally applies when the president is seeking advice from his counselors and there's a policy interest in making sure that he has the free and unfettered opinion of those. That's not the case when he's speaking to a foreign leader and is speaking to that foreign leader in private. And so, I don't think that privilege applies but we want to be on the strongest possible ground.

If the president destroyed any record of that meeting, that's a separate issue and a separate problem. That gives us further potential jurisdiction to get answers.

COOPER: So does that mean -- you could subpoena the interpreter or you would?

SCHIFF: Well, we certainly could subpoena the interpreter. We could subpoena the interpreter's notes. The question is on what basis will they refuse, because they will refuse, and what is our chance of success on that? And, you know, I think we have to look at is there a method for us to get that information voluntarily?

[20:10:06] Is there a way to assure the country that the president behind closed doors is not sacrificing the interests of the country? It's always our preferences to get voluntary cooperation before we consider compulsion.

COOPER: Chairman Schiff, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

SCHIFF: Thank you.


COOPER: I want to talk about this now, senior political reporter Nia- Malika Henderson is with us. Senior political analyst David Gergen and Gloria Borger who's worked -- David Gergen with Republican and Democratic presidents alike, including one unindicted co-conspirator. Also, "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, former RNC chief of staff Mike Shields, and the Obama solicitor general, Neal Katyal.

Neal, just from the legal standpoint, can the White House make a valid executive privilege argument on the interpreter's notes?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: They can try but I think they'll lose. Basically, the executive privilege comes back all the way to George Washington. He asserted it in 1792 with respect to the Indians. He lost there and had to turn over the information.

Most presidents have asserted executive privilege have lost, for reasons Congressman Schiff said, this isn't the strongest case. It's not one of communications between the president and his advisers. I think they may try. They certainly sent signals, the Trump folks, that they will try. I think they're going to lose and the most relevant precedent, it

always comes to this talking about Trump, Nixon, because Nixon tried to exert executive privilege, he lost unanimously in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said the public has a need to know. And I think that if this went to the Supreme Court, they would say the same thing.

COOPER: The chairman also said that if the notes were destroyed by the president, that would also bolster their opportunity.

KATYAL: Yes, it certainly looks like obstruction of something if you're tearing up notes and things like that. So, I think that's a problem. But, look, even if there aren't notes, they can subpoena the translator himself or herself and bring that person before the committee again.

They might try to exert executive privilege over the translator's ability to testify. Again, I think they would lose.

COOPER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALSYT: I think what's so astonishing about this is forget about sharing them with Congress. He doesn't even want his own staff to see these. The fact that the information wasn't made available to his own staff which is what typically would happen, that you would even have access to the notes and would know what happened in the meeting. And so the fact that he seems to be concerned that even people within the White House shouldn't know what he's saying in these meetings is really stunning.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. There's really no precedent for any of this at all ever for meeting alone with an adversary without staff, with just a translator there, and also for not trusting your top advisers to know what you were saying to this adversary to take it, to learn from it, to tell Congress about it, to tell the American people about it.


KATYAL: When I'm sitting there, I have to meet with an insurance guy, I got a witness. The idea do you it with your biggest adversary, when I was in the government, any sensitive thing you would always have someone there because you wouldn't want --

COOPER: Mike, does it make sense to you that the president would have done that?

MIKE SHIELDS, FORMER RNC CHIEF OF STAFF: No. I don't know why he would do that. I do know that --

COOPER: The counterargument is the concern about leaks, but --

SHIELDS: Leaks and here is a unique approach to everything. The president --

BORGER: One way of putting it. SHIELDS: He's a different president. That's what he ran on. That's

what he got elected on.

He sees himself as a true negotiator. What is driving him crazy about the shutdown, he wants to negotiate. That is his favorite thing in the world to do, because that is a game he believes he can win. And one of the ways he puts himself in good negotiating position is to read the eyes of his adversary and know their tells and talk to them. He doesn't want anyone else around him.

Now, that doesn't fit in the way presidents should operate, the way foreign policy is conducted, the way you staff these things, but he doesn't think his staff needs to operate because he is the staff. He's sort of like, who needs the notes? I'm the only person who makes this decision around here.


COOPER: But what argues against that is when he came out of the meeting in Helsinki, he was sucking up, he was kissing up to Vladimir Putin so much, he was saying Vladimir Putin offered this incredible offer to have their investigators come to the United States and that he thought it was a great offer and that Vladimir Putin had been so strong in his denial and despite what Dan Coats said. I mean, the idea he's a great negotiator, it doesn't seem in this case --

SHIELDS: I'm telling you I believe he views himself as a great negotiator.


COOPER: Clearly.

SHIELDS: I will also say that on policy, on the actual things this administration and this government has done in regards to Russia, they have been tough. They have been tough. You have the vote today on the sanctions. OK, there have been sanctions that have been put in place.

We kicked out people after the London poisoning. They bombed in Syria against the direct wishes of the Russians. We've sent lethal weapons to Ukraine to help them kill Russian soldiers.

[20:15:03] I mean, this administration has been pretty tough on a policy level. So, what we're talking about here is what were his notes, what were the conversations, as if he's a criminal and we have a right to know something which is presupposing something.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't want to get into a big argument but he has not been tough on Russia. He's been in alignment with Vladimir Putin.

SHIELDS: On policy. What policies has he not been tough on?

(CROSSTALK) GERGEN: How about the Middle East? How about us spending years to get the Russians out of the Middle East and now we've invited them back in to take over Syria? Is that really smart policy? He's giving them a pass on you Ukraine.

SHIELDS: How is he giving them a pass when he's arming the Ukrainian --

GERGEN: He hasn't done anything serious about Ukraine, that is just -- it hasn't changed anything. That's not the point I want to argue. I just think it's clear, most people accept that.

Anderson, presidents in the past have always wanted more secrecy than we would like to think. You know, they've often felt the White House phone system was intrusive because there might be an operator there listening to you and who knows who was taking what notes. When President Nixon was in office and he dealt with the Russians, he actually asked Brendan Walters (ph), our general, to serve as the interpreter, and Walters was so trusted by the Russians, he was the interpreter for both sides. Nobody else was in the room.

COOPER: All right.

GERGEN: So, we don't even know if there are any notes left. I imagine Trump threw them away.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: We do know the Russians have notes and very detailed notes and you imagine that could be leverage over this president given they know what was in that conversation. The president in that meeting thinking he's negotiating on his own not understanding he's a representative of the American people, the American interests, and we have a right to those notes.

GERGEN: Yes, I kind of agree with that. But one other point, it's not just about his staff. It's really important the secretary of state and secretary of defense, the national security adviser, the principles to the president, the people who are with him in the Situation Room in high-powered meetings, they need to know what's been said in those meetings.

BORGER: Tillerson was with him in Hamburg, right? He was very nondescript.

GERGEN: He's been in and out, and didn't really debrief the State Department.

BORGER: No, not at all.

COOPER: The idea -- "The New York Times" has been reporting that officials in the administration have had to try to glean information listening to what the Russians say was discussed in this meeting. I mean, that's a surreal situation that U.S. officials are eavesdropping on Russians to hear from the Russians what was discussed because they haven't been told.

KATYAL: And the idea that the president was thinking, oh, I'm such a great negotiator with all due respect to my friend -- I mean, this is a president who loves an audience whenever he does anything. If you really thought he was a good negotiator, I think he would have had a witness there and someone who could say look at all the things the president did. It doesn't really stand up.

BORGER: "The New York Times" reported that the president called one of their reporters from the flight back saying, you know, Putin says he didn't do anything. He didn't do anything. He wasn't responsible for spying and sort of making Putin's case so "the New York Times" would actually report that.


Neal Katyal, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

Everyone else will stick around.

Up next, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi taking a poke at the president over the shutdown in the State of the Union. One White House official pokes back, essentially calling her justification for not hosting the president bogus. We'll talk about the facts of her claim and the realities of the president's new political position now the Democrats control the House.

Later, the attack that killed four Americans in Syria and the repercussions in the wake of the announced troop pullout and the president's claim to victory over ISIS.


[20:22:51] COOPER: President Trump is coming face-to-face with the reality the opposition party controlling the House.

This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw him a hard fastball high and inside. She sent the president a letter framed as a request that he find another date for the State of the Union Address which is scheduled for the 29th. The reason she gave, security concerns due to the shutdown. She later said he could, and I'm quoting here, make it from the Oval Office if he wants.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen dismissed the security argument in a tweet, quoting here: The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.

Speaker Pelosi's Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said she was playing politics, called it unbecoming of the speaker.

Back now with our own distinguished speakers.

Gloria, I mean, this is just a power play, isn't it?

BORGER: It is. It's kind of badass from Nancy Pelosi. It is political, obviously. Her spokesman said that they were contacted by a furloughed DHS

official who said, the official said, he was worried about security concerns. And immediately, Kirstjen Nielsen and the Secret Service came out and said, don't be ridiculous.

But Nancy Pelosi was saying, you know what, we've got the authority here. I invited you. I can disinvite you. We're only going to do this when the shutdown is over.

And today, she kind of dismissed it and said, this is a housekeeping matter. It's just a matter of housekeeping which, of course, it really isn't. But she was, you know, she was showing that she's in charge.

COOPER: Why argue it's a security issue if it's not? If she could -- you know, if she doesn't want the president there, she can rescind the invitation.

GERGEN: I think she'd been better off arguing politics than the security question. I think she left herself vulnerable for the first time because she came across overall since she's been there as a much tougher customer, a very wily leader. I think this is first she -- I think she could have done it differently.

It is clearly -- she does not want to give the president a forum to come in there and shoot at them and bang them over the head on the wall and just give them another platform to go at that. He's already had one and is saying I don't think you deserve a second crack at it, and that is the State of the Union does have a hallowed background and it would be unbecoming of the president to give that kind of speech. Nonetheless, I think that's her concern.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Mike, if you call the president out on saying things aren't true, what she is saying doesn't seem to be true.

SHIELDS: Look, I grew up in England. We have a phrase for this, ballix (ph). It is absolute ballix.

And think about what the president gets accused of, stepping on norms, being bellicose and showing machismo just to the delight his base, being petty and scoring political points and just flat-out lying to make a case. She just hit all four of those. She hit all.

She was petty. She's lying. She's flat-out lying. Nancy Pelosi falsely claims, which is how the president gets reported when he's fact checked, falsely claims. There's no security problem here, none whatsoever.

She would have been better served to tell the truth and say he gave a fantastic State of the Union last year. He will have up in the balcony victims of people from border security. I don't want to hand him that. This is a political power move.

The speaker has brought authority over everything that happens on the Capitol campus base. I was in a weak position when I ran for speaker. You now love me and the 31 people in my conference that need border security to go back home next election, too bad. We're going to punch the president in the face, and it feels really good.

COOPER: It is the kind of thing -- I mean, the president gets criticized for appealing to his base on pure political terms. This is for her --

POWERS: Just so I'm clear, we're going to compare her one falsehood to his, what, 6,000? I mean, seriously. This is kind of silly.

First of all, I don't know what she knew, I mean, if she was told this. Maybe she believed this was true. I also think that she is trying to move this negotiation in some way. I think by telling him he can't do something that he wants to do, maybe she's thinking this would be something that he wouldn't want to give the State of the Union, it would be enough to get him to open the government.

Also, it's just completely inappropriate to be doing this when people aren't getting paid. I'm sorry. This is outrageous.

HENDERSON: I think that's the real issue here.

POWERS: Asking them to come in and work for free.

SHIELDS: Can we start adding to our reporting that the president signed a bill today to give everyone back pay. When we say people aren't getting paid, they're not getting their paychecks and it's difficult, but they will get their back pay. Let's add to the conversation.

POWERS: They cannot pay their bills right now.

SHIELDS: Of course.

POWERS: And so, that's a serious issue and a lot of people don't have the money.

SHIELDS: This was pure raw politics. Her base feels we've been pushed around. We want someone tough.

President Trump ran on the same thing in the primaries. You'll see this amongst the 2020 Democrats, who is going to be tough? Who will go punch this guy, even if it's not the right to do, even if it tramples on norms and things that we've seen, he does it, we've got to do it, too, or else we look weak. So, that's her position.

HENDERSON: If you listen to the Democrats it does seem like the optics of this lavish event when 800,000 people are out of work, not getting paid, not able to pay their mortgages. Some people are saying they have to sell their car and also I think keeps the focus on their workers which is what Democrats want to do. They want to keep their focus on the hardship to move this along.

It's also I think Nancy Pelosi saying Congress has a role here. She has been critical of Mitch McConnell for essentially acceding his authority to the president and saying he's not going to bring anything to the Senate floor unless the president gives him permission. This is Nancy Pelosi saying it's a co-equal branch of government in the Senate matters and the House matters as well.

BORGER: They just ought to postpone it.

SHIELDS: Nixon spoke during his impeachment time. Clinton came up and spoke. Republicans had Obama up every single year even though we disagreed the entire time.

It's petty. It's going to be seen as petty. I keep waiting for the Democrats, just like they do in Kavanaugh to overstep. They have the higher ground in the fight. They're going to overstep. This could be the start of that.

BORGER: Well, Joe Manchin today said, who is a very moderate Democrat of West Virginia, said, you know, Nancy Pelosi shouldn't have done this. This wasn't the way to do these things.

Look, she's flexing her muscle. And I -- it's political. There's absolutely no doubt about it.

At some point, they just ought to all agree that it would look like they were living in an alternate universe to have a president talking about his agenda for the future when the government shut down. How do you even do that?

COOPER: Why? The State of the Union has occurred in plenty -- obviously this is unprecedented.

BORGER: But not during a shutdown.

GERGEN: There's never been a shutdown.

COOPER: This long.

BORGER: Right, there's never been one, so why can't they all agree -- I know this is Pollyanna but why can't they put it off until they do their jobs and reopen the government?

COOPER: David, and then we have to go.

GERGEN: Sure. I just want to say I think Kirsten is right, I don't think we ought to overemphasize it. It's not comparative to the attacks on the rule of law, to the press, that this president has been engaged with for a long, long time. We ought to keep it in perspective. I think she should have used the (INAUDIBLE)

COOPER: All right. Thanks, everybody.

Coming up, ISIS claims responsibility for an explosion that killed four Americans in Syria, a tragedy bookended by statements from the president and the vice president that ISIS has been defeated. More on that, ahead.


COOPER: Whatever you might think of how American foreign policy should be conducted or is being conducted, young American service men and women frequently end up on the front lines of it. Sadly, and some end up paying a terrible price.

Today in Syria, two service members, a Pentagon civilian and a DOD contractor were killed by a suicide bomber. The moment was captured on video. We should warn you it's violent, it's disturbing. You might find it hard to watch.

It is the deadliest attack on Americans in Syria. ISIS has claimed responsibility. The same ISIS that President Trump recently said was defeated. Here's how described it in a press release, announcing the pullout of American troops from the country and claiming that fallen troops are looking down from heaven in approval.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have won against ISIS. We've beaten them and we've beaten them badly. We've taken back the land. But they've killed ISIS who hurts the world and we're proud to have done it. And I'll tell you, they're up there looking down on us, and there is nobody happier or more proud of their families to put them in a position where they've done such good for so many people. So our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back, and they're coming back now. We won. And that's the way we want it, and that's the way they want it.


COOPER: They're coming back now, he said. He said the pullout would be effective immediately. He later denied saying that and instead said this.


[20:35:03] TRUMP: I said, "Let's get out of Syria. Let's bring our young people home." And they said, "Sir, could we have six more months?" I said, "Yes, you have six more months. Let's go." And I gave them six months. And I said, "Let's get out." And they said, "Sir, could we have six more months?" I said, "Yes, you have six more months. And they said again recently, "Could we have more time?" I said, "No, you can't have any more time."


COOPER: Keeping them honest, first, the President said, "They're all coming back, and they're coming back now. We won." Now, you can call that a good idea or bad idea, that's up to you. You can say it's a gift to Russia, betrayal to Kurds. You can say it's none of our business and the country is better off staying out of such conflicts.

But to announce a surprise pullout and make false statements in the confusion over it is something different. And continue saying that ISIS is defeated when it's not, that's something else as well.

That particular policy is apparently so ingrained that Vice President Mike Pence repeated the talking point about ISIS being defeated an hour after the coalition confirmed that suicide attack had taken place. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we're bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.


COOPER: Well, a White House official said the administration had not publicly confirmed the deaths of U.S. service members when the Vice President made his remarks. Just to remind you, the announcement from the U.S.-led coalition was already up when he made his remarks.

And just a few minutes ago, a leading Republican weighed in. Senator Mitt Romney tweeting the attack is, "A sober reminder that the threat from ISIS persists that the administration's decision to retreat from Syria now is a grave mistake."

Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward has been doing intense (ph) reporting from Syria, including from the town where the deadly attack happened. She joins us now.

Just days ago, you were in the very same city not too far from where that blast happened. Are you -- can you, first of all, just talk about where it is and how -- is it a surprise that this occurred in this town? Because this is a town, as I understand it, that had been liberated from is a long time ago.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. The town of Manbij was liberated from ISIS in September of 2016. It's been under the control of Kurdish-led, U.S.-backed forces since then. And we were, indeed, in that town just a few days ago.

We were actually shooting video at the souk or the market, which is just a couple hundred yards away from the restaurant where that explosion took place. Certainly a surprise to see an attack of that magnitude targeting U.S. soldiers in a town like Manbij.

There is a significant U.S. presence there. There's a U.S. base on the outskirts of the town. We actually went right by that base. You can see the U.S. flag flying there. But at the same time, there are very -- there are a lot of reasons why it's not such a surprise.

Namely, people have been talking to us since we arrived about the very real fact that there are ISIS sleeper cells prevalent throughout the country, particularly in a city like Manbij because it's an Arab town and it's now under the security forces that are primarily Kurdish-led.

When we were there in the town, Anderson, we happened upon a funeral for two security officers who had just been killed the day before in some kind of a bombing assassination attacked really underscoring the idea that while there may be territorial gains on the battlefield, the threat from ISIS is still very real even hours and hours away from the frontline as Manbij is, Anderson.

COOPER: People you talked to there, whether they're Iraqi or Kurds, U.S. personnel, I mean, have you heard anybody echoed what President Trump and Vice President Pence are saying that ISIS is defeated?

WARD: No. I haven't heard anyone using the language that ISIS is defeated. What people there will tell you are two things. They will say that militarily there is a huge amount of momentum on the side of the coalition, that ISIS militarily is certainly on the back foot.

But their real concern is they can clear the territory, they can take, but can they hold it? Can they persuade people who have been held under ISIS' way who now support them? Can they rout out those sleeper cells? That's very hard to do. The fear is, with a power vacuum he was withdrawal, ISIS will have a chance to regroup and come back with a vengeance, Anderson.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward in Syria tonight, please be careful and thank you for you and your team reporting there.

We have a lot more ahead tonight. Back home, as the Senate Judiciary Committee tonight wraps up its confirmation hearings on William Barr to be the next attorney general, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is weighing in as well.

Coming up next, I'll talk to Congressman Jerrold Nadler. What he told me he's prepared to do if the Mueller report is not released in full.


[20:43:26] COOPER: As the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up two days of confirmation hearings of William Barr to be the next attorney general, the ranking Democrat said she would not vote to confirm unless Barr committed to releasing the full report generated by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein says that Barr's description of what he would do with the Mueller report was, as she put it, confusing. Barr told the committee he expected to release the report but only with, and I'm quoting now, "as much transparency as I can consistent with the law."

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler says he wouldn't vote to confirm Barr if he were in the Senate and then took it a step further. I spoke with the congressman just before airtime.


COOPER: Mr. Chairman, obviously you don't have a vote on Barr in the committee, but Dianne -- Senator Feinstein asked the question on your behalf. Would you vote for his confirmation?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, I would not vote for his confirmation.


NADLER: Well, two reasons. Number one, he's obviously there to protect the President that's why he was appointed, that's why Sessions was not good enough, he wouldn't recuse himself. COOPER: You don't believe that he -- I mean, he has said that he's not about protecting the President. You just don't buy that.

NADLER: I'm somewhat skeptical of that. And second of all, he made it clear that he would not -- I think he made it pretty clear that he would not release the Mueller report to the public and that's unacceptable. The public needs all the facts, and we can't have it filtered through someone who may be very partisan.

COOPER: Would it be acceptable to you to have some redactions in the report?

[20:45:01] NADLER: Well, some redactions that made by the professional agencies, by the FBI to hide individuals or, you know, protect witnesses, yes, that would be satisfactory. But I would much prefer if Mueller would do that rather than him.

He made it clear that he thought that he ought to release only certain information, that he was going to be the judge of that and that's simply unacceptable. I'm going to say it's not going to happen either because, if necessary, our committee will subpoena the report. If necessary we'll get Mueller to testify.

But the American people need the information here, especially given the Department of Justice and Barr's belief, which I don't agree with, but they do, that the president cannot be indicted, any president cannot be indicted no matter what the facts. That at least the American people must have the facts. Otherwise, how do you hold a president accountable in any way? He can't be above the law.

COOPER: Is it possible that Barr could make the argument while the president can't be indicted, the sitting president can't be indicted, therefore, the report should not be released because there's not going to be any indictment and that was the criticism of Comey.

NADLER: The criticism of Comey made sense because -- and I had watched that criticism that summer because he decided not to indict someone he could have indicted, and then he shouldn't pile on to that person.

But if you take the position that as a matter of law someone cannot be indicted, then the only substitute, Congress may want to take action. The only substitute for making a president answerable to the American people and not above the law is to give Congress and the American people all the information so that the Congress can vote impeachment if that seems advisable or something else.

Otherwise, if you're saying he cannot be indicted and therefore all the material must be held secret, then the president effectively is above any kind of justice and is above the law and that's unacceptable in a Democratic country.

COOPER: But you're saying if the administration decides not to -- or if the Department of Justice decides not to release the full Mueller report, you would subpoena the report? You would subpoena Mueller, or you would have him testify? NADLER: One or both. We would subpoena the report, and we might -- we could invite Mueller to testify. But we will get that information to the American people.

COOPER: So if you subpoena the report, what does that actually mean? Then you have it and you can release it?

NADLER: Yes. Now they would contest it, I would assume, but we would maintain that.

COOPER: And just -- you also have a testimony coming up for Whitaker. What do you want to hear from him? What are you most concerned about with him?

NADLER: Number one, the circumstances under which he was appointed. Again, was he appointed just to protect the President? Number two, did he allow Mueller a free hand? Did he tell Mueller not to indict anybody or not to pursue a line of inquiry or to modify anything in any way? Did he communicate with the White House? Did he transmit suggestions from the White House to the Mueller people? Did he tell the White House what the investigators were doing? All of which would be very problematical.

COOPER: And just in terms of Michael Cohen's testimony coming up, how important do you think that's going to be? And do you know the scope of what he will be able to be asked about? Has that been determined? Can he talk about things he's talked about to Mueller? Can he talk about things he's talked about to the Southern District?

NADLER: He can talk about a lot of that, I assume. Some of it he probably can't talk about. I assume the Southern District prosecutors or Mueller may tell him don't talk about this or that because it would imperil some investigation. Other than that, he can talk about anything that he knows, and he presumably knows a lot.

COOPER: You've been very obviously judicious about impeachment, about him discussing that. Republicans have continued to say that no matter what you say, there's going to be an increasing drumbeat for impeachment. And if there's no legal ramification in terms of an indictment that impeachment is really the only avenue the Democrats have and that is going to be inevitable the Democrats move for impeachment.

NADLER: It's a very powerful weapon not to be wielded lightly, and I don't think anybody can say at this point that we're going to do that or that --- and you can't rule it out either. But I don't think that -- certainly we'd be reluctant to do it unless there was an overwhelming case.

COOPER: Chairman Nadler, appreciate your time. Thank you.

NADLER: Thank you.


COOPER: All right, let's check in with Chris to see what he is working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a while and it's time to check in with the President's man. Rudy Giuliani is going to join us tonight to take on what Manafort means to the Mueller probe, to the campaign, and therefore, to the President.

We also have a Republican congressman who is going to say some things the President won't like about the realities in Syria. But we need to hear them, especially from a man who has lived the reality on the ground.

COOPER: I look forward to that, Chris. 11 minutes from now, a lot to get to. Appreciate it. I'll see you then.

Coming up, as the shutdown drives on, it's starting to drag people right down with it. We're going to hear from an employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who said she had to start rationing her insulin because she couldn't afford the co-payment on her insurance. My conversation with her is next.


[20:54:12] COOPER: Well, as you no doubt know, the government shutdown has been going on for almost a month now. It's the longest in American history. And as Mike Shields mentioned earlier, the President today signed bipartisan legislation to provide back pay when this is over, which we should also point out, is the norm. That said, 800,000 federal workers have seen their lives disrupted, sometimes with dire implications.

Mallory Lorge is -- who worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was already having a stretch of bad luck. She was on medical leave and was still being paid, but the money stopped when the shutdown hit and says she had to resort to rationing her insulin because he couldn't afford the co-pay. And when the word got out, the kindness of strangers kicked in. Mallory Lorge joins me now with more of her story.

Mallory, can you explain just what's been going on in the last few weeks for you medically, because the idea of rationing -- having to ration your insulin, I mean, that's incredibly disturbing and obviously, dangerous.

[20:55:07] MALLORY LORGE, FURLOUGHED FEDERAL WORKER: A few months ago, we got married and then had our honeymoon, and a couple of days after getting back from our honeymoon I had double pneumonia. And then a week later, I was hospitalized with sepsis and respiratory failure. So, I was already worried about my insulin supply.

When the shutdown started, I had three vials left and then I started to panic and I thought, well, OK, maybe I'll skip injecting, like maybe one meal every other day. The shutdown will end, I thought.

This last weekend, I didn't wear my insulin pump at all. I just took it off because I was so frightened about what little insulin I did have left and we couldn't afford the $300 co-pay to buy anymore. So I just --

COOPER: So you just didn't do -- you didn't take any?

LORGE: Yes, I just -- I took my insulin pump off and then there was one night where I checked my blood sugar and it was almost 600, which is about triple amount what it should be. And at that point, you can go into diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic coma.

And I thought, no end in sight for the shutdown. I can't afford an ambulance bill. I can't afford to go to the emergency room right now, because I know there's more bills coming our way. So, yes, I just -- I went to bed and just hoped I'd wake up, as kind of like morbid as it sounds, but like, yes.

COOPER: You actually thought -- I mean, given how high your levels were, you actually thought you might die. And that was something -- rather than go to the hospital and risk the bills from that, you just decided to take that gamble?

LORGE: Yes. That was my choice that day and nobody knew. My family didn't know. My husband didn't even know that I was rationing. I just -- it's sick, but like the thought of having more debt was scarier than the thought of maybe dying in my sleep.

COOPER: I mean that's just an impossible, horrible choice, you know, that nobody should have to make. I know that since your story came out, people have come forward to offer you assistance.

LORGE: Oh, yes. It's been -- the outpouring of support and kindness has been just mind blowing. A few people from my diabetic online community, they reached out and they said, "Please, let me send you my excess insulin." And I did accept and --

COOPER: To have to make these kinds of choices is -- and the loneliness of it, because I know you didn't want your husband to worry, so -- I mean, just the loneliness of having that, I can't imagine you going to bed that night thinking you might die and, you know, not telling your husband. I mean, I just -- it's just awful. If, you know, if lawmakers or the President are watching, what would you say to them tonight? What do you want politicians to know?

LORGE: There's thousands of people affected by this. Some people are facing homelessness. And then another thing that makes me so upset is how somebody could say, "Oh, they're fine, they're on a paid vacation."

COOPER: That's what somebody in the Trump administration said, that it was like having a paid vacation.

LORGE: Yes. Yes. It's -- that's heartbreaking to hear that. And that some people think that and there's just -- that's a myth. I don't know any of my coworkers who are having a good time right now, so.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Mallory, I'm glad that you have enough insulin and, you know, we'll continue to check in with you and I hope this helps. I hope this -- I hope people listen. Mallory, thank you so much for talking to us.

LORGE: Oh, thank you so much.

COOPER: I want to point out, we called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see if they had a response to the story. We got a recording that said, "Due to a lapse in funding in the federal government budget, they're out of the office and not authorized to work during this time."

A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," it's our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. You get to vote on what stories we cover. You can get all the details. Watch it weeknights at 6:25 p.m. Eastern at We have Spike Leon (ph) earlier tonight.

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

CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Primetime." First, it was, no one in the Trump campaign had any contact with Russia. The President said that to you. The truth, many people had tons of contacts. Then it was, no, no, no proof of collusion between the campaign and the Russians." The truth, how do you explain the Manafort allegations as anything but collusion? Tonight, an exclusive one on one with President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

And the other big story, the shutdown getting bloodier by the day. More pain for people who don't deserve to be in the middle. More signs we'll all feel the pain of the economy.