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Roger Stone: "This is a Legal Lynching of Me"; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Former Trump White House Aide Describes Pervasive Leaking, Scheming and Backstabbing. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

One of the president's oldest and closest political advisers was in court today, and just as Roger Stone likes, it was a circus.

This is, after all, a man who is proud to call himself a dirty trickster. And proud of his role in getting the president elected. However, now that Roger Stone is charged with lying in connection with that effort, now that he represents a potential legal and political threat to his old friend and client the president, the president appears to be distancing himself somewhat and Stone, who's reveled in being portrayed as a kind of wizard of the dark arts, is now painting himself as a victim.

After pleading not guilty to charges he lied to Congress about the campaign and obstructed the Russian investigation, he went on the air today with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.


ROGER STONE, TRUMP ASSOCIATE: This is a lynching. This is a legal lynching of me because I appear on Infowars, because I'm friends with Alex Jones, because I support Donald Trump and I supported him for president and I still support him.


COOPER: Well, Stone, by the way, is the one who persuaded candidate Trump to connect with Alex Jones and quoting from a "Washington Post" profile, Stone would also help Trump reach out to mainstream Republicans by suggesting that he hire Manafort as campaign chairman. Manafort who owned an apartment in Trump Tower but wasn't close to the candidate was sold to Trump by Stone and others as the perfect man to tap long-standing connections with party regulars in the event of a floor fight at the Republican convention.

OK, so the Manafort thing really didn't work out too well, but Roger Stone was on board long before that. He was an early vocal campaign booster, a TV talking head. He'd been pushing the president to run for decades. A young Donald Trump was young Roger Stone's first lobbying client. His partner at the time recalled having trouble getting him to pay but it didn't in the way of a long and often close relationship. And keeping them honest, that's the point because now just as it seems

to be when any of his friends, associates, senior campaign aides, officials, cabinet members, you name it, get into trouble, what used to be get me Roger Stone seems to be morphing into Roger who? The president a couple days back tweeting: Roger Stone didn't even work for me anywhere near the election.

And yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said this to a question from CNN's Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Roger Stone last week. Paul Manafort. Michael Cohen. Michael Flynn. Are you concerned, is the president concerned that as more and more of his associates, former aides are brought in to this investigation, are indicted, plead guilty in this investigation, that this presidency is in danger?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not at all. In fact, I think nothing could be further from the truth. The more that this goes on, the more and more we see that none of these things have anything to do with the president. In Roger Stone's case, the charges of that indictment have literally nothing to do with the president and have to do with his communications with Congress. So, in fact, I think the further we get into the process, the more and more we see that this has nothing to do with President Trump.


COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, whether or not it turns out the president broke even one law during the campaign, the investigation has everything to do with him because, and I'm going to say this slowly, it was his campaign -- his chairman, his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. His personal attorney and corporate fixer Michael Cohen. Campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. And Michael Flynn.

And it was Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. who met with Russians at Trump Tower. Michael Cohen told a judge he lied about campaign finance violations on behalf of and at the direction of President Trump. And now, Roger Stone is accused of coordinating with top campaign officials about his outreach to WikiLeaks.

And again, Sarah Sanders says it has nothing to do with the president, but here's what the indictment says, and I'm quoting. After the July 22nd, 2016 release of stolen Democratic National Committee e-mails by organization 1, a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information organization 1 had regarding the Clinton campaign.

Stone thereafter told the Trump campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by organization 1. Now, organization 1 is WikiLeaks. The indictment makes that clear. Not clear who the senior campaign official is, nor who directed him or her to contact Roger Stone. But there aren't that many people who are senior to a senior campaign

official other than the candidate or someone very close to him. So, Sarah Sanders is wrong. This case and the larger investigation certainly is about the president, whether he was up to his eyebrows in wrongdoing, entirely innocent in every respect, or something in between. And you would think if he did nothing wrong the president would welcome the scrutiny.

Joining me now is Democratic senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal.

Senator, is what's happening to Roger Stone in any way a legal lynching, which is what he called it?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Hardly. It is really the result of an extensive and expansive investigation.

[20:05:04] And the search that was conducted is in many ways perhaps as important as the indictment of him.

COOPER: How so?

BLUMENTHAL: But one way or the other -- well, they were looking for documents and other evidence that had to be in fact raided because they were fearful that he would destroy those documents and other evidence as part of an obstruction of justice. And that search indicates that this investigation is far from over, contrary to what Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said, this investigation is very much proceeding and along with the delay in the sentencing of Manafort and Flynn, the extension of the grand jury, the proceedings in the Southern District of New York, which are active and ongoing, there are a lot of indication that's that search along with the prosecution of Roger Stone and the revelation that's may come from it are very, very important as signs that it is active and continuing.

But there is no way that Roger Stone received anything less than complete due process here.

COOPER: I want to ask you about those comments made by the Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker because it was just kind of odd, sort of rambling, certainly unexpected. I just want to play his comments for our viewers and then have you respond.


MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, I've been fully briefed on the investigation, and, you know, I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report. I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed. You know, either through the various means we have, but right now the investigation is I think close to being completed and I hope we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible.


COOPER: Do you have any idea what he was talking about? It just seemed sort of rambling and odd the things he brings up.

BLUMENTHAL: That kind of comment would be bizarre from the most inexperienced junior prosecutor and from the attorney general of the United States and acting attorney general, they are truly a disservice. Remember, Matt Whitaker is illegally in that office. My colleagues and I are suing to prevent him from serving. He also has a severe conflict of interest because of past disparaging comments he's made about the special counsel. And he ignored the professional advice of ethical experts in the Department of Justice to continue remaining in a supervisory role.

So, those comments, which are, you're absolutely right, rambling came at the end of a press conference on something completely different. He really was totally irresponsible in making them.

COOPER: I mean, this notion that decisions made by the special counsel are going to be reviewed by what he called the various means we have, I don't know what that means. And what various means do they have?

BLUMENTHAL: That is the mystery here. And there are no various means. The possibility of review seems incomprehensible.

But here's the important point. That every time he comments or anyone else in the administration comments in a disparaging way about the investigation they undermine its credibility. That's the agenda here. And I would just say that these kinds of comments give all the more weight and importance to transparency. That is, complete disclosure of a report by the special counsel.

I've introduced a bill just within the past few days with Senator Grassley that would require a report. And also mandate that it be made directly disclosable to the Congress and to the American public. The American public paid for this report. They deserve to know what it found.

COOPER: And about that legislation, which as you said you did with Grassley and have introduced, it would require, what, a summary of the final Mueller report submitted to Congress and the public or would it be the complete report?

BLUMENTHAL: Very important question, Anderson. The complete report, unabridged, uncensored, unsilenced. Obviously redacted to remove classified information, secret and potentially damaging information to our national security and maybe some of the privacy issues that, for example, Social Security numbers should not see the light of day. But the complete report.

And the reason is quite simply a special counsel is appointed in the most rare, significant, serious circumstances of violations of public trust. So, the public has a special need and right to know. And it may eventually leak, parts of it.

[20:10:00] It may be subpoenaed, parts of it. But the full report should be made known to the American people.

COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

Joining us right now is Obama Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

I mean, given all the time, Jeff, you have spent on this and with Roger Stone, I guess you are not surprised by his use of the term "legal lynching."

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. This is how he talks. He talks in hyperbole. He tries to be the center of all drama. As a legal matter --

COOPER: By the way, the idea that it's -- the fact that he, you know, quote/unquote, reports for Infowars is one of the reasons why he has been in his words legally lynched, it just seems absurd.

TOOBIN: Well, it is absurd. And also just as a legal matter, this is not a controversial case. He's accused of lying to Congress. He's accused of tampering with a witness and trying to intimidate a witness.

Now, he may be guilty, he may be innocent, but there's nothing legally exotic about those cases. It's a routine case that is often brought. You know, lying to an official in authority, whether it's an FBI agent or congressional committee. And we'll see whether he's guilty or not. But the idea that he's getting some sort of special sinister treatment is just not true.

COOPER: Dana, the whole notion from the White House that the investigation has nothing to do with the president, could there come a time when they can't try to use that narrative anymore, or is that just here to stay?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There could come a time when they shouldn't use that narrative, but I think that it likely is here to stay, that the preparation for the Mueller report is see? The president didn't collude. There was no collusion between the president of the United States and anybody from or associated with Russia.

So, that is probably here to stay. But we have so many open questions that we don't know the answers to that will potentially poke holes in what they're preparing. Like who was the senior official who directed -- who directed the senior official in the Roger Stone indictment to do the nefarious things that they did. Was it the candidate himself or was it somebody more junior?

That's just one of many, many questions we don't know the answers to that could lead to potential problems for Donald Trump himself.

COOPER: Although, Neal, even if Donald Trump said to some senior official, you know what, call up Roger Stone, find out what else he knows from WikiLeaks or what else WikiLeaks is going to do, that's not illegal, is it? NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL, OBAMA

ADMINISTRATION: Oh, it certainly could be. First of all, you're talking about a guy, Roger Stone, who has really close contacts to Trump, and so that's one reason why I think the White House and Trump have been so concerned from the start. And if a statement like the one, Anderson, that you've said were made, absolutely I think that would be conspiracy and, you know, would raise any number of issues.

So, yes, I do think that that's one of the problems. In general the kind of big meta problem here is why? Why is there so much lying about Russia all the time? It's like Pinocchio jumps out every time Russia and Trump or Trump friends are asked about Russia. It's like there's constant lying, and the question is why? There has to be something.

TOOBIN: I agree about why, why there's all this lying? It's a very important question, Neal. But do you really think it could be a crime to ask Roger Stone, say, like, what's going on here? Like what is Assange and WikiLeaks know? Do you think that could be a crime? I don't personally.

KATYAL: Well, if it's just a search for information, no. But if there's an implication of solicitation or some sort of -- you know, we want -- it would be nice to get this information and of course the indictment alleges that kind of colludy behavior between Stone and WikiLeaks in terms of trying to ask for information and get it out there. So if there's any indication that Trump is behind that or anyone else in this campaign, including that paragraph 12 saying some senior member of the campaign directed some activities, that could create liability.

You're right. The mere question wouldn't.

COOPER: Jeff, the fact that Mueller's team is going to try case against Stone in tandem with prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, is that a sign that Mueller is kind of winding down?

TOOBIN: It may be. Although they tried the Manafort case in Virginia with a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of Virginia. So, this is not an entirely new thing.

You know, if you look at the whole arc of the investigation, it certainly seems like it's a lot closer to the end than the beginning. But whether it's six weeks or six months from now, I certainly couldn't tell you. And you know, we had that incoherent statement from Whitaker, the acting attorney general yesterday, where whatever else he said and whatever else he meant, he did say the investigation was close to wrapping up.

[20:15:07] COOPER: His wife said it too, you know?

TOOBIN: His wife said it too. But he also is in a position to know that those of us on the outside are not. So, that actually is newsworthy. COOPER: Dana, I know you've been talking to people in Congress. This

legislation requiring any report from Mueller to be available to both Congress and the public that Senator Blumenthal is talking about. I mean, could it actually have enough support to pass?

BASH: To be determined. You know, the majority leader has not weighed in on it. He would need to be supportive of it. And in the short term the question is going to be what happens with the judiciary committees in both the House and the Senate because the statute does direct at least a briefing by and of -- excuse me, by Robert Mueller and his team to the key committee chairmen and the ranking members.

So, they are going to be very much involved in determining what -- how much pressure to put on the Justice Department and the administration to get this out there. But the point that senator Blumenthal made to you, Anderson, about the fact that this is going to be -- there are going to be leaks anyway is something that is quite potent in and around the caucus rooms in the Republican Senate and even in the House Republican conference because they understand their political antenna are up, they understand if they try to keep this under wraps, it could only hurt them because probably only the most damaging information in and around the president and his people will come out and perhaps not the other side if it exists.

COOPER: Neal, did you understand what the acting attorney general was saying yesterday about the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed?

KATYAL: No. I don't think Shakespeare or Einstein could understand what he was trying to say there. I mean, it was incomprehensible.

But I do think that it's a threat. It sounds like a threat or at least a campaign by Whitaker to be named deputy attorney general or something like that with Trump. Who knows? But it is certainly not something that I would expect from many Justice Department official. And I think it underscores why this legislation by Senator Blumenthal and Senator Grassley is so important.

Ordinarily, we wouldn't need anything like this. Ordinarily, we have presidents who tell the truth. Ordinarily, we have acting attorneys general or attorneys general who are Senate confirmed who don't disregard ethics office officials and the like.

But here in the reality-based community of which I'm glad Senator Grassley is now part of, there's a real damaging thing here. And even Rudy Giuliani, who's not a member of this reality-based community, he says the Mueller report will be devastating.

And if that's the case, then boy, the American people really need to see it, and we have no confidence that the acting attorney general's going to let us.

TOOBIN: Neal, you wrote that regulation. I mean, that -- which is a pretty amazing claim to fame when you were in the Justice Department. What did you think were the rules about releasing it to the public? KATYAL: So we were writing it at the same time as the Starr report

had been dumped on Congress and the American public, and there was a concern about the privacy violations that occurred in that document. And so, we said there should be a report given to Congress that details from the attorney general why the investigation was closed and any instance in which the attorney general or acting attorney general overruled the special counsel.

But we didn't necessarily require a full report because we assumed effectively that you'd have an attorney general who's a real attorney general. We just don't have that right now.

COOPER: Right. Neal, fascinating. Thank you. Jeff Toobin, Dana Bash as well.

Coming up next, my conversation with the author of a new inside account of his time in the White House. What Cliff Sims says he saw and what he'd like you to know about the president, what the president's now saying about him.

Later, what the president's own top intelligence officials are saying about Iran, North Korea, and ISIS and how it differs from all the claims the president is making about them.


[20:23:12] COOPER: Another former member of the Trump White House is speaking out tonight, telling the story of what he saw, and the boss isn't happy about it. The book is called "Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House." Author Cliff Sims is here with me now. We'll be talking to him shortly.

Earlier today as he was being interviewed on CNN's "NEW DAY", the president was weighing in about the book as well, tweeting about him and the book in real time, quoting now. The president said: A low- level staffer that I hardly knew named Cliff Sims wrote yet another boring book based on made up stories and fiction. He pretended to be an insider when in fact he was nothing more than a gofer. He signed a non-disclosure agreement. He is a mess.

We'll get Mr. Sims' answer to that in a moment but first a look at the picture his account now has a part of in what's becoming a growing number of books on the president and his White House.


COOPER (voice-over): Michael Wolff's expose on the Trump White House was one of the first inside accounts to portray chaos inside the administration. Wolff claimed the president himself authorized his access. Among other revelations, Wolff portrayed the White House staff as doubtful of Trump's ability to lead the country, with close advisers calling him an idiot and a dupe.

Trump said the book was full of lies, writing on Twitter: I authorized zero access to White House for author of phony book.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY: INSIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE": It's what I saw and what I heard. In front of my face, in my ears.

COOPER: Famed Watergate journalist Bob Woodward's book "Fear: Trump in the White House" was published in September. Based on confidential anonymous sources within the president's inner circle, it also showed a White House in chaos, with top advisers to the president trying to thwart his impulses, which they saw as a threat to national security.

Top aides describe the president to Woodward as an idiot, unhinged and a liar.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, then this idiot Woodward who wrote this book, which is all fiction.

[20:25:02] COOPER: The abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey four months after Trump took office was featured in both Woodward and Wolff's books. But Comey told his own version in his memoir, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership," which published in April of last year. It was the first inside account from a former administration official. Comey didn't hold back, calling the president unethical and untethered to the truth.

Another insider, former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman's book "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House," released in August of 2018. Her book portrayed the president as a racist, claiming a tape of him using the N-word existed, though no tape has ever surfaced.

Trump took to Twitter, calling Manigault-Newman a lowlife and wacky and deranged, and also pointed out she previously signed a non- disclosure agreement.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, AUTHOR, "UNHINGED: AN INSIDER ACCOUNT OF THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE": It's interesting that he's trying to silence me. So what is he trying to hide? What is he afraid of?

COOPER: The Trump campaign later filed arbitration against Manigault- Newman for breaching that contract.


COOPER: Well, again, this new book is "Team of Vipers." The author Cliff Sims joins me now.

Thanks very much for being with us.

CLIFF SIMS, AUTHOR, "TEAM OF VIPERS": Yes, thanks for having me.

COOPER: I've got a lot of questions for you. We've got a good amount of time. So, you -- in the book you write about how you sometimes drafted possible tweets for the president. Did you ever expect that you would be on the receiving end of one of his tweets?

SIMS: Definitely not when I was there. But, you know, when you approach doing a book like this, especially if you want to do an honest book, which I tried to do, it certainly crosses your mind. You think there's the chance. Because in history you see the way he's done this to others in the past. So, definitely thought going into the book that there was a chance that would happen.

COOPER: And just to be clear, do you know -- I mean, did you sign a non non-disparagement agreement, a non-disclosure agreement?

SIMS: I assume I signed whatever Sean Spicer did in the White House. I assume I signed whatever Corey Lewandowski and --


COOPER: So, are you worried about being sued?

SIMS: No. At this point all it is is tweets. I haven't seen any -- I haven't been sent anything on that. Just kind of wait and see on that.

COOPER: Why do you think the president is so upset?

SIMS: I think it probably has honestly more to do with the coverage of the book than it does the book itself.

COOPER: Because he hasn't read --

SIMS: He hasn't read it. He won't read it. And that's OK.

I think that it's a point for him of frustration, the portrayal of the White House as being chaotic. And I do portray that in certain scenes. I think actually if he read the book he wouldn't be as mad.

COOPER: Although let me just say, reading this paragraph -- this line you say: The 15 months you were there it was the most cutthroat, toxic, mean-spirited, draining work environment you had ever encountered.

SIMS: Yes.

COOPER: That's not good.

SIMS: No, it's not. And it was definitely a tough place to work. Look, there's a reason the book is called "Team of Vipers."

COOPER: Right.

SIMS: I point out in there that I was a participant in some of that. And that's an important part to me about this book is that, I want to be honest about everything that's going on there including the things you just said, I have to be willing to do that about myself too.

COOPER: It's one of things actually found interesting about the book is, you know, most people who write books, they end up being the star of the book and also the best person in the book. You talk a lot about your faith and how important that is and how that is probably the most important thing in your life, how you live your life.

SIMS: Definitely.

COOPER: And yet you look back on how you changed in this White House, how being in this environment brought out awful things in you, you that did things like -- here in the book you say we leaked, we schemed, we backstabbed, the once clear lines between right and wrong, good and evil, light and darkness were eroded until only a faint wrinkle remained.

I mean, how does that happen?

SIMS: Well, it revealed a lot about myself. I learned a lot about myself there. And I can only speak from my personal experience that I'd never had that kind of proximity to power. I'd never gotten to interact with the most powerful person in the world. And so, I suddenly found myself a participant in this "game of thrones" basically where it's like I need to push this person out so I can get a better position or they're coming after me so I need to come after them --

COOPER: In order to maintain proximity to --

SIMS: Sure, yes. The scene in the book that's got a lot of pickup is the so-called Trump's enemies list where he's frustrated because he sees all this coverage of people on his own staff saying bad things about him anonymously, I come in and he says, who do we think these people are? I start listing people. And I justified it in the moment by saying this is good for the president because these people shouldn't be here.

And in retrospect, it was good for me. I didn't want them there because they were my, quote unquote, enemies inside the building. So I justified any number of things like that to get ahead.

And I regret that. But I think I learned from it.

COOPER: You used the quote how power corrupts, but you also say that what you've really learned is that it reveals things about you he.

SIMS: Definitely.

COOPER: Weaknesses in you.

SIMS: Totally. I say things like I had a warrior spirit but lacked a servant's heart. I think that's ultimately what you want in our leaders, people that serve our country, people who have a servant's heart. And I'm by disposition a nice person because I'm from the South, I'm from Alabama. But it revealed kind of a part of my character, an inherent meanness --

COOPER: Does this president have a servant's heart?

SIMS: Oh, man. I think in some ways he does, in a lot of ways he doesn't.

COOPER: We're going to take a short beak. We'll going to talk more about that. When we come back, I just want to ask Cliff about one of the enduring mysteries of the President's Twitter feed, in one tweet in particular. Also later, as the President pushes for wall the border, he's been claiming the women are gagged with tape and smuggled across the borders. He's been saying it for weeks. So far, though, from what we've heard for law enforcement, there's no evidence of it happening the way the President describes. Now, the Border Patrol is apparently been tasked to look for proof to justify the claim, details on that ahead.


COOPER: We're now in the chaos in the west-wing. I'm back with Cliff Sims, author of the new book, "Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House." The idea that they're being chaos in the White House is one of the things that particularly angers the President. You just said that and also we've heard that time and time again.

You write at one point it's impossible to deny how absolutely out of control the White House staff, again myself included, was at times. Can you explain that? Was it just the -- I mean the lack of organization from the very beginning or was it the cast of characters?

SIMS: I think there are several reasons for that. I think part of it is Trump's management style, which is very free willing, open door policy in the Oval Office, that kind of thing. He had a weak chief of staff when he come in at first who was not able to really impose a lot of the process. And also there was -- there were not many people there who had ever worked in the White House before they even knew what those processes would be. So it was kind of like everybody's learning.

At the same time, you kind of thrust together these two kind of overall factions where you have the Trump loyalist, the RNC people there at odds (ph) that were fighting each other while we're fighting the press. We're fighting everybody else. So all of those things combined created a pretty tough environment.

COOPER: Could you believe what the President said to you? I mean, because it seems like -- look, the President says a lot of stuff that's just not true. He may think its true, but it's just factually incorrect.

Sarah Sanders has gone out there saying things she now rather than says this is factual. She also say the President says this. Did you, you know, when you're interacting with the President and he tells you the sky is blue today, do you believe him or do you check?

[20:35:05] SIMS: Yes, I think this is like the great paradox of the Trump presidency that you've got a guy who, you know, has had more "Washington Post" Pinocchio's than every president combined and yet at the same time is perhaps the most authentic person to ever hold the office in a way.

COOPER: And how do you think he's authentic?

SIMS: Just in the way that he basically looked at the American people and said, "This is who I am. You know everything about me." He's pretty much just exactly the same behind the scenes than he is out in public and I think that resonates with some people.

So even the things you hear about him that are bad, it's not like anyone surprise, which is one of the reasons I think why a lot of the things that seemed like just mega hits on him never really land because everybody is like, "Well, I kind of already knew that."

COOPER: But it's interesting also as, again, as a person of faith, you know, you writing the book that -- I don't want to misquote you, you write Donald Trump is not a religious man, you know, even though I think yesterday he tweeted in support of Bible literacy being taught in public schools.

SIMS: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, do you -- he has portrayed himself as a religious man, even though when asked, you know, during the campaign has he ever asked for forgiveness, which is a core (INAUDIBLE) for Christianity --

SIMS: Sure, yes.

COOPER: -- you know, he couldn't remember a time that he did that. You believe he is not a religious man. Does he go to church?

SIMS: Not that I know of. I think frankly Rand Paul has said it better than I can. He said that Donald Trump is not a great picture of the Christian faith he has from a policy perspective been a great defender of it in a lot ways.

COOPER: Right. Like the judges he's put in power and stuff like that?

SIMS: Of course, of course. Yes, I don't think every Christian would be eternally great for some of those policies.

COOPER: But you can look past that. I mean as a person of strong faith, you can look past, OK, the affairs, you know, the allegations of affairs, you know, all of the tweets, everything, as long as what he's doing serves a greater good.

SIMS: I don't think that you look past it. What I try to do in this book, though, is try to help people get inside his head and understand what makes him tick. One other thing you have to understand about Donald Trump is while, you know, everyone is raised with certain moral hierarchy, the things that they feel like are important morals to have, for Donald Trump the highest moral is winning. And he will do whatever he has to do to win. And when you understand that, then all of these other things that he does make a little bit more sense.

COOPER: Right. But the highest moral is winning, for him winning is money, really. I mean, isn't -- I mean, throughout most of his life --

SIMS: Well, I think winning money, winning an election and all of those things. COOPER: Yes.

SIMS: I mean one of the things at the end of the book that I wrestle with is, you know, what does all this mean for Donald Trump? I mean, when he's 85 years old and he's back in Trump Tower, is he going to be fulfilled because he got -- he was the most famous person in history and that he, you know, won the presidency or whatever? Or is he going to be like the rest of us and want to have those personal connections that he kind of hasn't had in his life in my view? And that kind of -- it's a deeper question for all of us and I think for me too is something I took away from my time there.

COOPER: Just, you know, something about the whole tweeting system, the Covfefe thing. Any insight?

SIMS: I don't know exactly what happened. We all kind of speculating it.

COOPER: I mean, he finally admit that that was just a mistake?

SIMS: Yes.

COOPER: Sean Spicer said that a core group I think wasn't knows whatever it is.

SIMS: That was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen in my life. Just like, you know, he send Sean out there just tell them, you know, the people who need to know, know. And so Sean --


COOPER: So the President told -- said that to Sean?

SIMS: Yes. He marches out there dutifully and says the people who need to know, know, you know. Of course, behind the scenes we're just kind of like, you know, laughing or rolling our eyes, or whatever.

COOPER: It's a fascinating book and there's a lot in it. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.

SIMS: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Thanks Cliff Sims.

Coming up, the President's claims about everything from North Korea to ISIS contradicted now by his own director of national intelligence. We'll explain. We'll talk to Max Boot, next.


[20:42:20] COOPER: Because it happens so often, there's a danger in becoming desensitized to the President who say any things that are just not true. In fact, the desensitate (ph) -- the desensitizing maybe the point, but what's chilling is when they're -- I mean, they might made that word up. What's chilling is when we're talking about national security and the President is contradicted by his own intelligence officials. Now, it's happened before and it happened again today.

The director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, released a report today, the intelligence community's assessment of the most urgent worldwide threats facing the United States, all serious stuff. It contradicts multiple claims that the President himself has made about everything from ISIS, to Iran, to climate change, and North Korea.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing today, Coats said that ISIS is continuing to plot attacks and maintains their presence in Syria, where as you know the President said ISIS was defeated. And Director Coats had this to say on North Korea which the President had declared no longer a threat.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.


COOPER: So that's a pretty big difference from what the President tweeted back in June after his first summit with Kim Jong-un. Before taking office, people were assuming that we were going to war with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem, no longer. Sleep well tonight.

Joining me now is "Washington Post" columnist and CNN Global Affairs Analyst Max Boot, author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." You just published a piece in "The Washington Post" where you were saying -- you were questioning why these types of threat assessments are even necessary that is until you remembered who the commander in chief is.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, exactly. I mean, I was reading the report this morning, Anderson, and it was basically stuff that you can read on "The New York Times" or "Washington Post," you can see it on CNN. It is not a huge revelation to hear that global warming is a threat or the Russians are trying to undermine us. I mean this is all the stuff that's on the front pages every single day.

And so my immediate reaction was, you know, this is a waste of money. Why are they bothering to put this out? But then I realized, wait a second, who is the person in the Oval Office?

COOPER: Right.

BOOT: I mean you have somebody who is a conspiracy theorist, somebody who claims that ISIS has been defeated, that North Korea has already denuclearized, but Iran is still trying to acquire nuclear weapons and who claims also that the biggest threat that we face is from caravans of refugees. And so you realize, no, this is actually pretty important to have. The intelligence committee --


BOOT: -- basically stating the fact that the rest of us know anyway.

COOPER: Well, you know, I'm just reminded and I think if my memory is correct, the President threw Dan Coats, who we just saw there, under the bus in front of Vladimir Putin after their summit in Helsinki where he said -- I believe he said something to the effect of, well, you know, Dan Coats has told me, you know, that Russia was involved in the hacking.

[20:45:11] But, I know Putin was very strong and very powerful in, you know, saying that he didn't do it.

BOOT: Right, exactly.

COOPER: And so -- I mean, it's amazing that the President essentially doesn't believe Dan Coats.

BOOT: No. It's amazing that, A, the President of the United States lives in this alternative reality bubble where he listens to Fox News rather than to the intelligence community of the United States.

But it's also heartening in a way that you still have Dan Coats and the other intelligence chiefs, they're still out there telling it straight. They are not trimming their analysis for political purposes even though they are contradicting the President in public.

COOPER: Right. But, I mean, I guess the question is if, you know, the intelligence professionals and folks who have done this a long time end up, you know, are the ones who are briefing the President, if the President is not listening, then no matter how good the intelligence or how bad the intelligence is, it doesn't really matter.

BOOT: Well, that's exactly right. And I think that there is a sense of dispairment that I hear from intelligence professionals because I think a lot of people in the intelligence community ask themselves that very question, "What are we doing here if the President of the United States does not value our work product, does not believe it, and instead chooses to believe somebody like Vladimir Putin?"

I mean, I think they are still doing useful things because, remember, the U.S. government does a lot of things that don't involved Donald Trump. I mean, they're hunting terrorists. They're keeping America safe. They're doing a lot of good for the country. But I think it is very demoralizing for the intelligence community to have the chief consumer their product to be somebody who prefers to his news from Fox and Friends.

COOPER: Right. And, I mean, either Dan Coats is right and ISIS is still a threat and ISIS still has territory in Syria and, you know, or it's not and there's not a lot of middle ground there between what the President's saying and what Dan Coats is saying.

BOOT: Right. And it's not on the one hand or the other hand. It's not equally balanced positions. Dan Coats has facts and reality on his side. Donald Trump lives in this alternative reality fake news bubble.

But I think what's valuable about what Dan Coats is doing here is that he is basically affirming what we do at CNN or "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times." And he's basically saying that the mainstream media organizations, the ones that President Trump calls out as fake news and the enemy of the people, we're actually getting it right because the news that we're reporting is accurate, is in line with the findings of the intelligence community.

COOPER: It's -- I mean, but this is dangerous, isn't it?

BOOT: It's incredibly dangerous.

COOPER: It was a dangerous thing.

BOOT: Yes. We've never had a president who is basically unbriefable and refuses to learn and prefers conspiracy theories to actual facts. I mean this is the person with his finger on the nuclear button. That is incredibly dangerous.

COOPER: Yes. Max Boot, always good to have you on. Thank you, Max.

BOOT: Thanks Anderson.

COOPER: I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, just typing it up. This President conceals what matters and he confounds by creating things that don't matter. The border crisis, the brown (INAUDIBLE) as I call it, it's all manufactured. But when it comes to this President and his meetings with Putin, we always are the last to know. Why?

Why if they have nothing to hide, Anderson, why do the people around this President, and you've to say the President himself, lying so often about Russia? We're going to look at this deeply tonight.

We're also going to look at what really kicked off last night with the big CNN Town Hall. We have Andrew Gillum on, a new CNN member of the family. What does he think about Kamala Harris and where is the party needs to be on policy to win?

COOPER: Yes. For folks who don't know, Kamala Harris had a town hall with our Jake Tapper.

CUOMO: Oh, huge.

COOPER: Yes, like the -- it was the most watched one I think we've ever had.

CUOMO: Yes. It didn't have Anderson Cooper in it. What are the chances that that happens? I say not very good. So obviously, very resonate and we're going to discuss why.

COOPER: All right. Chris, thanks very much. We'll see you in about 11 minutes from now.

Coming up, speaking of the truth, the President has spun this yarn over and over again. A nightmare scenario, women being trafficked into the U.S. with duct tape over their mouths. You know, the problem with this, so far, there's no evidence that this actually happening according to experts. So, what do government officials do when the President makes a claim without evidence? New reporting, they try to find it anyway. That's next.


[20:53:10] COOPER: As the President has been trying to sell the idea of the wall, you may have notice a strange in (INAUDIBLE) narrative has emerge when he seems to love to talk about.

During the shutdown, he started talking about all of these migrant women who were being bound with tape over their mouths. Sometimes he described it as duct tape. Sometimes it was electrical tape. Sometimes it was blue tape riding in vans across the border.

Now, the type of tape change along the way but the stories all had one thing in common, no one could actually track down where this notion of taped up women came from, but the President kept repeating it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that happens there is human traffickers.

Where they grab women, put tape over their mouths, come through our border and sell them.

Talking about in many cases, women and children grabbed.

They have tape over their mouths, electrical tape, usually blue tape as they call it. It's powerful stuff. Not good.

Taped their mouths with duct tape, with electrical tape.

So they can't shout or scream.

They tape their face, their hair, their hands behind their back, their legs.

Duct tape all over the place, it's a disgrace putting them in the backseat of a car or a van with no windows, with no any form of air.

3, 4, 5, 6, 7 at a time.

They make a left turn after they go out 20 miles, 40 miles, 5 miles in some cases and less.

They make a right turn going very quickly. And as soon as there is no protection, they make a left or a right.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Now, human trafficking is a horrible thing, there's no doubt about that, there's no argument about that. But as we pointed out about the immigration debate over and over and over, good people can disagree on it but there's no need to make stuff up and that's what, again, seems to be going on here because about the whole duct tape anecdote, multiple experts say they don't know where that is coming from.

[20:55:00] One expert in the immigration in human trafficking told "The Washington Post" the claim was "divorced from reality" and that's when this next story went next level.

After that, "Washington Post" reports a senior Customs and Border Patrol official e-mailed agents asking them for any information in any format about women taped up and being driven to the United States in cars and vans. So, think about that, government officials asking for evidence to back up a repeated claim by the President, one that experts say is not supported by reality.

The e-mail was first reported by Vox and it seems to be another extraordinary example of government officials paid by you tying themselves a nuts trying to retrofit the President's false claims into some kind of truth. Dana Milbank was also -- wrote about this whole sorted affair for "The Washington Post" and he joins me now.

I mean, it's one thing for the President to make up stories to help his case for the government to then spend time and resources to try to retrofit the narrative is troubling.

DANA MILBANK, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: It is, Anderson. I mean, look, it doesn't surprise anybody that the President has a knack for saying things that aren't necessarily true. "The Washington Post" fact checker says he does this on average 16.5 times a day.

But it is troubling when, as you say, taxpayer dollars are being used to basically go in and backfill an attempt to make falsehoods true. It's happened in the case with the duct tape, but it's been happening all along.

We saw it at the beginning with the -- at the very beginning with the inauguration crowd when the President calls the park service and says come up with photographic evidence to show that it was a record crowd.

We have seen it subsequently with him promising a 10 percent tax cut that didn't exist. They had to go and retrofit that saying there were Middle Easterners in the caravan. They had to go and find evidence of that and failed to find it.

Of course the allegation of voter fraud, they had a whole commission to find that, didn't find it and disbanded. So there's a lot of wheel spinning going on in our government to try to turn fiction into fact.

COOPER: And, Dana, an official from the Border Patrol responded to us regarding Vox story and they said, "We are facing a border security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border. Over the past several months, the Border Patrol has apprehended a record number of family units along the southern border. Transcriminal organizations have exacerbated this crisis by diversifying their illicit enterprises with human beings resulting in billion dollars profits. It is paramount that Congress address the legal framework and allocated the necessary resources to meet this crisis without further delay."

All of which, you know, is an understandable statement. It has -- it makes no mention of this story by the President about this epidemic of women being bundled into vehicles with duct blue tape and making lefts and rights.

MILBANK: Right. I mean, there's no question that there's an issue at the border whether it's a crisis is another matter because, indeed, it's a lot less of a problem than it has been in decades prior. But you see the President trying to create a crisis out of this sort of gilds the lily and says they make left turns, they right turns, it's blue tape, it's electrical tape.

So this is where it becomes something extraordinary and you don't actually need to do that to make the case. The Border Patrol seems perfectly capable of making a legitimate statement without making something outrageous.

COOPER: Right.

MILBANK: The best people can tell us, there was tape put on a woman's mouth, it was in "Sicario," a movie last year with Benicio del Toro. Is it possible the President saw that and got it in his mind and now we're trying to make life imitate art?

COOPER: And I mean, look, terrible things have happened to people being trafficked. There are people who've been, you know, locked in the back of trucks and suffocated. I mean, you don't -- one does not need to invent things which are not true or at least not a major problem. There's plenty of real things that you can point to, to describe the horrors of human trafficking.

MILBANK: Right. And it makes you wonder if the President devoted half the energy he does to concocting these things to dealing with reality. Let's say negotiating with Congress with the Democrats on a border solution, that could be achieved rather than using that energy to send American government officials on a wild goose chase to come up with something that is not -- if it may have occurred at one point to somebody in history, but it's certainly isn't a major predicament on the border.

COOPER: Yes. We should also point out that that statement did not deny that an e-mail had been sent out basically, you know, asking for evidence. Dana Milbank, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Great to have you on, Dana.

A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. You get to vote on some of the stories that we cover. You can get all the details. Watch it weeknights at 6:25 p.m. Eastern. But you got watch it on

News continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time." Why are we only now learning about the details of another secretive sit down with the U.S. President and Putin and once again learning from Russia.