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Embattled Virginia Governor Tells He Won't Resign And Be Known as "A Racist for Life"; Interview with Former Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired February 4, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

Tonight, as President Trump readies for his State of the Union Address tomorrow, there's new questions about what he actually does all day. Questions raised by an elite copy of his schedule which shows a lot of blank spots for so-called "executive time".

We'll have more on that tonight, but we begin with keeping them honest with the state of Virginia and the Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, who, as of this hour, is standing firm and not stepping down.

CNN's Ryan Nobles reporting that a source inside the cabinet for the Commonwealth of Virginia meeting -- in a cabinet meeting he held today, said the governor believes that resigning now would brand him as a racist for life.

To say the last few days have been difficult for the governor is an understatement. It's also been difficult for anyone trying to follow his explanations, which keep changing and still don't quite add up.

At first on Friday, Governor Northam said he was one of the people in this medical school yearbook photo, but didn't remember if he was the guy in black face at the party or the Klansman.

Either one is obviously racist and highly inappropriate. This was not some photo taken of a high school student. This was a yearbook from 1984, when Northam was 25 years old and graduating from medical school.

Then on Saturday, in one of the stranger press conferences we have seen in a long time, and we have seen a lot of strange press conferences, the governor suddenly said he wasn't either one of the men in the photo, but he went on to say he did wear blackface once. That same year, in fact, when he dressed as Michael Jackson at a dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, exempt in his confession, he wasn't really confessing to wearing blackface because he only used, and I'm quoting here, a little bit of shoe polish to put on my cheeks. He went on to explain he only used a little because somehow he knew it's hard to get black shoe polish off your face once you have put it on your face.

You know, let me just play you the part of the news conference when he was asked about wearing blackface.


REPORTER: I just want to be perfectly clear. Were you in blackface --

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: I wasn't. I mean, I'll tell you exactly what I did, Allen. I dressed up in a -- what's his name? The singer, Michael Jackson, excuse me. That's why I have Pam with me.

I had the shoes. I had a glove. And I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put on my cheeks. And the reason I used a very little bit is because I don't know if anybody has ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off.


COOPER: Asking a room full of people if they have ever tried that. So putting shoe polish on your face to impersonate an African-American entertainer is not, in the governor's opinion, I suppose, wearing blackface because he only put it on his cheeks. So says the man who until now was known mainly as a highly regarded former lieutenant governor, doctor and pediatric neurologist.

Keeping them honest, he's quickly developing a relationship as a guy who can't get his story straight. Because remember, when this photo surfaced Friday night, Governor Northam's first move was to put out a statement apologizing for appearing in that photo, then about an hour after that, released this video on Twitter.


NORTHAM: That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today, or the way that I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor, and a public servant. I am deeply sorry. I cannot change the decisions I made, nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.

But I accept responsibility for my past actions. And I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.


COOPER: So that was Friday night. Now, the words there, the decisions I made and my behavior, which is exactly what you would expect someone to say when apologizing for something they've done, they only stand out because the governor said the next day he hadn't done it, that he had never put it, the decisions I made.


NORTHAM: When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page, but I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.


COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, CNN Sara Sidner got in touch with a yearbook staffer from 1984. He told her photos were chosen by the individual student, submitted in sealed envelopes and kept in a locked room, and says it's unlikely someone else's photo could have ended up on the Governor Northam's page. But again, just to be clear, the governor says he's not the one in the KKK robe, nor the person in black face, as he said he was twice on Friday night. He did appear, as I said again, in blackface on another occasion that same year, except it wasn't really blackface because, you know, the whole shoe polish thing.

As you might imagine, none of this is going over well. President Trump slammed him on Twitter, though keeping him honest, you'll recall he used a similar maneuver after the "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced, first acknowledging it and later suggesting it wasn't him.

[20:05:04] Big name Democrats have also spoken out, especially loudly. Tweets from Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Eric Swalwell, all calling on him to resign.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also saying he should step down, and the Democratic governor he succeeded and once served under as lieutenant governor said this.


TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: It's not about Ralph anymore. This is about who we are as Virginians and how we move forward.


COOPER: Except according to our new reporting, Governor Northam apparently has chosen to make it about himself, about being seen as a racist if he resigns now before clearing his name. If, in fact, that's even possible. If he's right and he truly did not don a Klansman outfit or wear blackface for a yearbook photo, he still wore blackface whether he calls to that or not, on another occasion that very same year, and whether you consider his behavior as a medical student in his mid-20s unforgivable or not, he is now a man in his mid-50s, backing away from what was at first a centerpiece for a plea for forgiveness.

A lot to sort through a bit later on in the broadcast. We'll be joined by Professor Cornell West. But joining us now, is former Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran.

Congressman, thank you for being with us. Do you think the governor should resign?

FORMER REP. JIM MORGAN (D), VIRGINIA: I think we should put more facts on the table, frankly, Anderson. What you have described is indefensible. No question about it.

And all of my friends who have urged him to resign, their position is entirely understandable. But there are some things that don't make a whole lot of sense. It's a fact the photo is abhorrent. The whole history of black facing is just sickening. That's a fact.

It's not necessarily a fact that he's in the photo or even knew it was on his page. And I also know it's a fact that this is a guy that has provided Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians, a great many of them minorities. He's restored voting rights to people who had -- many of whom had been victims of a racist judicial system.

He's done so many things that seems to run counter to this, and he has spent his life as a pediatric neurosurgeon trying to heal children, particularly in low-income communities.

COOPER: Right, but I --

MORGAN: I think he deserves a willingness to look at all the facts before we rush to judgment as condemning as what we know today is.

COOPER: Right. Though, I mean, it seems like a strange fact that he would not know what was on his own yearbook page, given that he submitted all those other photos, and that underneath that photo, the Klansman and blackface photo, is actually a quote from him. So if you're organizing a page, it's not as if that photo is just an outlier. It's -- actually underneath is information about the man who had become the governor, and you talk about all his medical career and what he's done for underserved communities, and that -- I certainly respect that.

But he was graduating from medical school when this yearbook came out and he had graduated from medical school when he was donning blackface and dancing publicly in San Antonio, pretending to be Michael Jackson, and doesn't, even now, seem to think that's a little odd or that putting black shoe polish on your face is not really blackface.

MORGAN: Anderson, it all seems indefensible. But there have been a series of these public shamings where we go into kind of a frenzy and we chew up and spit out the targets of our righteous indignation, and then we retreat into our, you know, corners where we're ideologically comfortable, and it just contributes to more tribalism. I think that if all these facts are the case, that governor Northam will resign.

But I do object to what may be somewhat of a rush to judgment. There are some things that just don't match who he is. And I think there are some facts that can be ascertained with sufficient time. We can find out who was in that picture. We can find out how the picture got in that yearbook, and so before we subject somebody that high in office to resignation, which basically is the political death penalty, which means that all of his great-grandchildren, all of the Northams for generations to come, are going to know of Governor Northam as somebody who had to resign out of racism.

[20:10:03] COOPER: But does it make sense that he came forward on Friday night in two public statements saying, yes, indeed, that it was me in the photo. I mean, he said it in a written statement and then he made a video saying it was him and apologizing for that. And then once there was a huge backlash and all these calls Friday night for him to resign, he suddenly came up with this other story that it wasn't him, and he only did a little bit of black face once later on. Do you buy that?

MORAN: It's a very good question to be asking, obviously. But you know, I know that when you get ambushed with something that is just shocking, your staff will immediately say apologize, apologize, and you say but, but, and they say the facts don't matter. Get out there and apologize as profusely as you can.

And then, by the end of the day, you actually get an opportunity to read the alleged statement or look at the photo or whatever, and you say, wait a minute. That isn't me.

COOPER: Right.

MORAN: I apologized for something that may not be true.

So, we have time. We have time to basically sentence this person to the political death penalty. I think we ought to get all of the facts on the table so that everybody agrees these are the facts. Right now, he has a history of being an honest man. You know, give it a couple days.

COOPER: Right, he's not, though, the only person who has a history of being an honest man. Nobody is indispensable. My understanding on Virginia is this is that actually probably the three most important days in Virginia politics right now in terms of budgeting and priorities. And for the governor not to even really -- to be sequesters dealing with his own issues, is he really serving the people of the commonwealth of Virginia?

MORAN: You know, that's up to him, Anderson. But frankly, Ralph Northam, after this experience, would have the highest motivation possible to actually fulfill his promise. And what I know to be a personal commitment to secure greater racial justice in this state. To do what's right, and I want somebody with that motivation.

I'm more interested in the future. I want this state and this country to heal. You know, you look at Lyndon Johnson, no untarnished Northern liberal could ever have gotten the Voting Rights Act passed or the Great Society programs. He wants to be a bridge builder.

And, you know, if you're going to build a bridge, you have to be familiar with the terrain on both sides of the divide. That's all I'm saying.

COOPER: All right, Congressman, I appreciate your time. Congressman Moran, thank you very much.

With me here, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, former Utah Republican congresswoman and newly minted CNN political commentator, Mia Love, also "USA Today" columnist and political columnist Kirsten Powers, former Congressional Black Caucus executive director Angela Rye and former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes.


Oh, my God. I am devastated by what appears to be a clear defense of Ralph Northam by former Congressman Jim Moran. I think that they are both on the wrong side of history. His actions were indefensible.

The fact that he could say, well, if you put black shoe polish on your face, it's hard to get off, which indicates that he knows what happens when you put black shoe polish --

COOPER: Or at least has consulted with others who seem to know.

RYE: Who wear blackface. So, he has a focus group and a brain trust of blackface wearers. Like, no matter what, it's not OK.

There's a page in your yearbook, when I was in high school, Anderson, I cofounded my black student union, at Holy Name Academy. We got to decide what went on our yearbook pages in high school. So, there's nothing -- I can't imagine turning to the pages of my yearbook, and I know he said he never saw it. I can't imagine having a friend who would allow me to have a KKK hood and blackface on my yearbook and it not getting back to me in high school.

What he's saying is not only crazy, it also is just completely unbelievable. And I think the finer point that I would add, as Jim Moran is saying, well, this is not the same man, of course it's not. Because it's politically not tenable to be that way in 20 -- well, now 2019 in Virginia or any other state. And, by the way, he is also a multi-state blackface wearer because he did it in San Antonio.

So, across the board, this is unacceptable. If someone in Florida, the secretary of state just had to resign for blackface. This should be a bipartisan, you have to resign if you're looking like a bigot.

COOPER: Mia Love, do you see a difference in how, if he was a Republican, who would be calling for him to step down versus what's happening now that he's a Democrat?

[20:15:08] MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Either way, unacceptable. I mean, across the board. This is the type of behavior that everyone needs to bind together and say, we are not accepting this. I know that I have got friends in the Congressional Black Caucus who are saying this is absolutely unacceptable. This is not -- he should resign.

I was already upset with him because of his abortion policies, the third trimester policies. To me, the problem this governor has is contempt. He has no value for human life. He has no value for people of diversity, for people of color, because what he should have done is owned what he did. And I think it would have been over.

He could have said, hey, I was 25, my brain wasn't fully developed yet, I don't know. Apologize, do something, but the fact that he's saying, OK, I'm apologizing, and then comes back and says, well, I'm not really sure if that was me, it's pretty significant. That's a significant picture to not realize whether that's you in the picture or not. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: If you were going to

teach someone damage control, and how not to do it, the governor is a perfect example.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You couldn't even come up with how bad this is.

BORGER: He changed his story, then he tried to sort of get ahead of another story about using black face, imitating Michael Jackson. And then, what was so interesting to me, is, there were three senators, Kaine, Warner and Scott, who gave him a little time before his press conference. After his press conference, when he seemed to have no sense of how raw this was for people, how important it is to the state of Virginia, and he made some jokes and almost went into a moonwalk.

COOPER: Thank God his wife was there to say, do not moonwalk. It's not appropriate.

BORGER: So, afterwards, after his damage control --

COOPER: You wonder in some of these, like, why the wife has been forced to stand there? Now we know, because --

BORGER: Let me just say, because after his damage control, so-called damage control, the three senators came out and said, you got to go.


BORGER: That's how bad it was.

BASH: That's really a key thing here. You asked the congresswoman a very important question, which is, a reminder, as a Republican, you're a Democrat, the governor is a Democrat. And it bears repeating because this is a Democratic governor in what was, in recent years, a red state, which he and other Democrats before him helped turn purple, even leaning towards blue.

And he is trapped in a predicament that is bipartisan, nonpartisan. It's about the South. It is about, you know, these horrible, unfathomable, racist ideas and ideals that were just thought of as OK. And it really doesn't matter what party they're in.

RYE: Yes.

BASH: But the fact that he is a Democrat and that all of these fellow Democrats are racing to say that he needs to resign is very telling.

COOPER: It's also interesting, Kirsten, that now all of a sudden this story about the lieutenant governor surfaces. There have been some in Virginia who are saying, wait a minute, is this being pushed by people who support Northam, because the way the system is set up, if Northam steps down, the lieutenant governor, who is African-American and a Democrat, who take power and he could also run again, which Northam is not able to do.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: I think the timing is definitely very curious. It's also --

COOPER: By the way, he denies the allegations.

POWERS: Also, just the way he's being presented as the only person who could possibly ever be the governor, you know, of his state. There is somebody waiting who could actually step in and do the job. So I do think you have to put -- you have to put the bigger issue ahead of your own interests, I think.

And in this case, you know, his feeling that he's going to be tarred as a racist, well, that's because of his own behavior, right? I mean, that's not -- he has to take responsibility for that. And I think that if he -- maybe if he could have pointed to some sort of conversion moment, where he tried to make amends and somehow had changed in the last, you know, 25 years, but when you look at that press conference, it doesn't seem like he has changed at all.

CORTES: I think to that point of not changing, in fact, he has shown if anything he's gotten worse in terms of his disrespect for human dignity, because 35 years ago, he had no respect for black people, now he has no respect for the dignity of unborn babies in the womb. So, he has shown us that's who he is as a person. He pulled off which is hard to do, he managed to alienate both conservatives and liberals within 24 hours.

RYE: So, really quick, if we could just stay focused on the blackface issue, because to me, it is also disrespectful, as a black woman, to have to go back to this abortion issue. That's not what's in play here. I think that's really important is, what -- to me, more damning, is when Ralph Northam was running for governor of Virginia, there was a sample ballot that was done and he intentionally left Justin Fairfax's name off that ballot.

[20:20:09] COOPER: His lieutenant governor's name.

RYE: That's right. And so, to me, that is more indicative of someone who has not changed and who has not undergone a conversion. I think that is more in alignment with the types of issues that we're dealing with here if we listen to black voters.

BORGER: Can I just say? At some point, there's a verifiable fact here we have not verified, which is was he in the picture or not? Is there a picture of him doing Michael Jackson with shoe polish on his face? One would think at some point there are going to be some verifiable issues here that he's going to have to deal with.

BASH: That's true. But the Michael Jackson thing, he admits to.

BORGER: Right.

BASH: Without photographic evidence.

POWERS: For some reason, this picture was there and he never heard about it, that tells you everything you need to know because it means it was so remarkable no one would tell you about it. I mean, if someone had put that on my page in college or in, you know, in high school, I mean, my gosh. There would be records of me, like --


LOVE: The very -- the lowest bar, at the very least, he does not have the ability to make a rational decision. And I would be incredibly concerned if we're going into a legislative session and he's leading it, or he's the one that's making these decisions. So, I mean, I think it's very clear that he has to go. And then he can fix whatever problems he has.

But this is -- this is his issue. He needs to fix this issue and allow Virginia to continue to move on and move forward.

BASH: And one thing that Jim Moran told you that was telling, even though he was defending him and saying, let's not rush to judgment, he also said he thinks he's going to resign.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody. Coming up, we'll have more ahead. We'll also continue the Northam discussion digging deeper. The intersection of politics and race and forgiveness with Professor Cornel West.

And later, those leaked presidential schedules. How little work time appears to be on them and how busy the White House claims the president really is, no matter what the schedule says. Details on that ahead.


[20:26:04] COOPER: The governor of Virginia is trying to stay in office tonight, in part because he does not want to be defined as a racist by resigning, according to reports. He says he was not in the photo that landed him in trouble after initially saying that he was in that photo. He's admitted now to donning blackface. Before, though, he's suggesting it was not blackface because of cleanup difficulties, that he only used a little bit of shoe polish when he was imitating Michael Jackson in a dance competition in San Antonio, Texas.

A lot of questions and problems remain for the governor of his own making. He's trying to dig himself out of a hole or at least deny the hole, and he's just made it worse.

Joining us now is Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University and professor emeritus at Princeton.

Dr. West, always good to have you. Should the governor resign?

CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF THE PRACTICE OF PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, I think that he has a very weak argument in staying. And so, I think he probably does have to go.

But I think we got to put this in the larger context, my brother, that the ugly legacy of white supremacy take as number of different forms. The Klan is one form, blackface is another, decrepit housing is another. Poverty rates of black, brown and red is another. Unemployment, underemployment is another. When we talk about white supremacy, we can't just fetishize one

individual and trash that individual. It's too easy. It's too self- righteous. It doesn't take too much courage to come down on somebody who is in blackface and wants to dance like Michael Jackson or ends up with this on his page, whether it's him or not, and that's still an important fact.

Unfortunately, he is a product of this vicious white supremacist culture, and he can change. He does not have to be a racist for life. He can end up being a strong anti-racist. That was 35 years ago.

So, it's not a question of whether he himself is goal to -- either be in office or not be in office. This is a larger tradition. And how do we fight white supremacy, no matter what color we are?

I'm concerned about the quality of his soul and life after he leaves. This is what first Baptist brothers and sisters in Keithville (ph) are concerned about. He doesn't have to remain locked into this racist perception. He could do a whole host of things that can show the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer mean something to him, that the legacy of Ann Braden means something to him.

But I am a little disturb, my brother, about these liberal centrist Democrats who can trash this brother so easily when they just supported him a few months ago. I see brother Bernie Sanders supported his progressive candidate, right? The same person they're trashing they supported. Where's the principle, where is morality, where is integrity, where is an acknowledgement that white supremacy is shot through all of us, including black people?

That's how deep it cuts in this nation. Who's going to fight for it, how are you going to fight for it? That's what we need to talk about as much as kicking this brother when he's down.

I think, you know, he's in trouble and he's got to go, but that's not the conclusion. That's just a starting point of a serious discussion on how we're going to fight against white supremacy, beginning with poor black, poor brown, poor yellow and working class people of color.

COOPER: Well, I certainly -- I hear what you're saying, we've talked about this before, about expanding the definition of white supremacy, it's easy to just focus on a photo and be blind to other inequalities. In terms of, you know, this is obviously, as you say, this is one man.

There are plenty of people who have done stupid things, inappropriate things, racist things, horrible things in their past, in high school, in college, you know, this in medical school. What is the process for overcoming that? What is the process for not having your life be damned by something you did, some racist act that you did or that you said? How do you atone for that?

WEST: Well,-- the first thing you do, you cast it as a moral and ethical dialogue. It's not a matter of just offending black people because white supremacy is trashing us. It's barbaric, it's monstrous, but it's a moral issue. Whites, brown, a whole host of people ought to be just as morally outraged as black people. The same is true with black people and other people are trashed in this regard. Jews and France, Palestinians under occupation, Tibet, it's a moral, spiritual issue.

We dumb down the whole discussion if it's just a matter of liberal self-righteousness in the name of black people being offended, trashing this white brother. White supremacy must be hated. White supremacy must be trashed, but the question is, how do we attempt to engage in efforts collectively and individually together?

None of us escape white supremacy, male supremacy, homophobia, trance phobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Arab, anti- Palestinian, anti-Muslim. All of these vicious evils are shot through us. And if we can't ascend to the moral and spiritual level, this is the legacy of Martin King, this is the legacy of John Coltrane, this is the legacy of Nina Simone. How do we keep that legacy alive?

And thank God that we have some kind of context in which we can go beyond just this ugly name calling and finger pointing because all of us in the end are fallen. All of us in the end are in some sense sinners. And if you're going to do away with all of the racist elements and sensibilities, you're not going to have too many people in Congress, you're not going to have too many people on Wall Street, you're not going to have too many people on television, because all of us are shaped to some degree.

Now, there's gradation, the Ku Klux Klan gangs the capital G, yes, but there are some other gangs, the small G, that's working in this regard. And the question is, how do we remain in contact with the humanity of each and every one of us so we can accent our best?

I believe Brother Ralph has potential to be a great anti-racist activist just like LBJ. He doesn't have to be in office to do that because I don't think he can govern. But I'm concerned about him as a human being as well, not just as a governor, he's a human being. He's made in the image of God like anybody else.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Professor West, thank you so much. And you mentioned Nina Simone, I'm thinking of her singing "Sinnerman" right now, which sounds appropriate with that.

WEST: Oh, yes. You know what I'm talking about, brother.

COOPER: One of my favorites.

WEST: You know what I'm talking. Absolutely. Absolutely.

COOPER: Dr. West, always great. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

WEST: Well, stay strong.

COOPER: All right, you too. Breaking news on the investigation into the Trump inaugural committee, tonight, we're learning that federal prosecutors have issued subpoenas in that case. The latest on that, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:36:13] COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. Federal prosecutors in New York have subpoenaed the Trump inaugural committee for documents related to donors, vendors and finances, that's according to a source familiar with the investigation. As we reported back in December, the committee has been under the microscope for possible financial abuses related to donations.

CNN Shimon Prokupecz joins us with now with the latest. So, talk to me about the subpoena.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, certainly, Anderson, this indicates that there's an escalation in this investigation. You know, we've been talking about that they were looking at stuff, they were looking at information. The Southern District of New York was looking at the inauguration committee. Well, this subpoena certainly tells us that there is an escalation now in this investigation.

And essentially, quite simply, the prosecutors and what the FBI here is asking for is everything that the inaugural committee has. They want documents about who the donors were. They want documents about vendors. They want to know who was paying the vendors. They even want to know if there were any promises made to people, whether or not they had to pay for photos if they took photos with the President, all sorts of information. I mean, it's quite substantial, this subpoena.

One of the things that we have been reporting on is that the Mueller team had been looking at whether or not there was foreign money, foreign donations that went into the inauguration. And what these foreigners were doing, possibly, was using straw donors, perhaps people who were here in this country, U.S. donors, to try and get money into the inauguration. And that is one of the things that this subpoena is looking for. They're looking for any information on that.

COOPER: So is it illegal for foreign entities to contribute money to inaugural funds?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, it is. Foreigners cannot donate money to the inaugural fund. They cannot donate obviously to the campaign. And now what this subpoena is trying to figure out and what we've been reporting on is whether or not straw donors were used.

COOPER: And the investigation grew out of the investigation into Michael Cohen, right?

PROKUPECZ: Well, partially, it did. Interesting to note that the prosecutor on this case who is subpoenaing this information is the same prosecutor who is leading the Michael Cohen investigation.

But the other thing is to keep in mind is that some of this probably came from the Mueller investigation because they had witnesses in. They had people that they were wanting to question about foreign donation. Remember, they even stopped planes with Russian oligarchs on them, seeking information on donations. And so it could have also come from the Mueller team.

COOPER: All right, Shimon, stay with us. I want to bring in Dana Bash and Gloria Borger as well. Gloria, how significant is this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a very large subpoena. Donors, vendors, anything you can think of that has to do with the inaugural committee. And what it says to me is that we've all been waiting for the special counsel, Mueller, that the Southern District of New York is doing its own investigation. And so it is going beyond Mueller.

And there are lots of ways you can donate money to inaugural committees. For example, you can bundle money together. You can hide donors. You can do all of that. And people on the inaugural committee, including, you know, the guy who ran it, Tom Barrack, who is not mentioned in the subpoena, they would have no way of knowing because you buy a table, and somebody pays for it.

But, but, what we don't know is where a lot of this money came from, and were these people questioned about it? Were any, you know, were red flags raised?

COOPER: Isn't the whole idea of people donating to the inaugural committee to buy influence?

BORGER: Exactly.


COOPER: I mean, it's to try -- and so it's a little bit like saying there's gambling at Rick's casino.

BASH: You're exactly right with that.

COOPER: Yes, of course.

BASH: You're exactly right. But, look, the issue is that it's -- you're right. I mean the whole concept and the whole way the inaugural system is done is maybe needs to be -- they need to take a look at it.

[20:40:11] But there are rules and there are guidelines and there are laws. And something as simple as like what Shimon was mentioning, potentially a straw donor, if that happened even once, that's a big problem.

But the other thing is, OK, let's say they tried to buy influence. They want -- the subpoena calls for e-mails, it calls for text messages and other things, there's buying influence and then there's buying influence. You know, there's a wink-wink, nod-nod, and then there's an actual request for a quid pro quo that might be a little bit more clear and illegal.

BORGER: And we don't know if Donald Trump knew anything about any of this, if it was indeed going on, that people were trying to purchase influence or not. I mean, we just, you know, it is inauguration. Generally, the President --

COOPER: Although, I mean, Donald Trump has talked about purchasing influence when he was a civilian with politicians.

BORGER: Yes. So maybe it was OK.

BASH: Yes, yes. But in fairness, he talked about it in the context of donating under the legal limits.

COOPER: Right. Well, yes, absolutely. I'm not --

BASH: Yes, yes. You know, I know, I know. But that also speaks to the broader question of reforming all of these.

COOPER: So, Shimon, I mean, it is -- the thing is did people break laws in doing this? It's not just that people were buying tables because they wanted to get a photo or wanted to somehow get influence with the President, it's who these people were and were laws followed.

PROKUPECZ: Right. And think about this, right, the Russians were running an influence campaign against the camp -- with the camp against the campaign, right? And then all of a sudden, if there is this Russian money that was coming in to the campaign or into the inauguration, obviously, the FBI and the U.S. attorneys have already -- were kind of on the lookout for this.

What's significant also is, keep in mind, that some of these oligarchs that have now been black listed by the U.S. government were showing up at the inauguration. Remember, Viktor Vekselberg was one of the guys. He even showed up at Trump Tower with Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen greeted him in the lobby of Trump Tower. There's video of it because it was during the transition. He goes up to Trump's office. We don't know if he and Trump ever met.


PROKUPECZ: But obviously, there were a lot of concerns about what the Russians were doing here, and it could be what has been going on here is that the FBI has been looking through all this information and they're seeing some connections here to possible straw donors and some of the Russians.

COOPER: All right. Dana Bash, Gloria Borger, Shimon Prokupecz, happy birthday. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, "The Washington Post" has details on a rash of firings at Trump golf courses recently involving undocumented workers. But first, a new report says the President spends most of his day in which known as executive time, which personally involved a lot of watching T.V., tweeting, and calling friends. The White House says this is not true. "Axios" got dozens of private schedules from an unnamed White House source. We'll have more on what they show and what the White House is saying about it.


[20:46:40] COOPER: The day after the midterms, the President met with then Chief of Staff John Kelly and then had more than seven hours of what's called executive time. That's according to new reporting from "Axios," which obtained 51 private schedules from an unnamed White House source.

They show that since the midterms, at least, the President has spent about 60 percent of his scheduled time in executive time, unstructured time that he uses to watch T.V., to make phone calls and have meetings. Kellyanne Conway says this is much ado about nothing, that he's a very active president.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: There are many, many different meetings that he's having, extending meetings that go longer, people -- I think if you're always going to be presumptively negative, then you'll read into that whatever you want.

But as you see, he's a very active president, and the results speak for themselves. Whoever leaked it doesn't know what he's doing in that block of time. But that's pretty obvious. I'm told 388 people have access to that broader schedule, but very few have access to the other schedule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. So are you going to investigate?


COOPER: Joining us now is CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. What other schedule do you know is Kellyanne Conway referring to?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, apparently, this does exist. I talked to a White House official earlier this evening who says, yes, there is another schedule that is known to a smaller circle of aides close to the President and it includes things that may not show up in those schedules, for example, that were obtained by "Axios."

And for example, this evening, the President had this unscheduled dinner. It wasn't on the public schedule, with the Fed Chair Jerome Powell. And so there are things that don't appear on the President's schedule. And you know, that is something that does occur over here at the White House, but it doesn't really go to this issue as to what the President is doing during this executive time.

COOPER: Is it clear -- I mean, you know, what are -- are there other sources in the White House? What are they saying about all of this?

ACOSTA: Well, I talked to a source close to the White House who said earlier today the President, he is working like a dog, according to the source, during his executive time. That in addition to watching T.V. and composing tweets, he is on the phone talking to a lot of advisers.

And we do know from our past reporting, Anderson, that this does infuriate and frustrate people inside the west-wing. The former Chief of Staff John Kelly used to hate the fact that the President had this relationship with outside advisers, and he tried to control that process. But, Anderson, what we don't know is exactly what is going on during this unscheduled largely unmonitored executive time. The President could really be doing a whole host of things that are just hidden from the public, and you can pound that with the fact, Anderson, that the public schedule that's released to the press and members of the general public on a daily basis had very little on the schedule.

For example, today, there are only two events. They were both behind closed doors. Anderson, honestly, I look at the schedule on a daily basis, there's so little on that public schedule oftentimes I wonder whether the day is a federal holiday because there's so little on that schedule.

And so, you know, it's interesting, Anderson. I talked to a former Obama administration official who said, "You know what, from time to time, President Obama had executive time and he would be preparing for upcoming foreign trips and that sort of thing," but nothing to this level where 60 percent of the President's time could be devoted to executive time. It just goes to show you, Anderson, so much of what the President does, so much of his schedule, is really hidden from the public, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, Jim, thanks.

Joining me now, someone who had a pretty close view of how at least one president spent his time, former Obama Senior Adviser and CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod.

[20:50:00] David, obviously you're very familiar with what a president's daily schedule looks like. Is this unusual? Do you buy Kellyanne Conway when she says there's another schedule that's much more detailed?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I can't speak to whether there's another schedule, but the whole style of governance is unusual. Look, I have the office next to the President for two years. I saw he came in almost every day around 9:00, had his intelligence briefing. And then there would be a series of meetings, one after another on very specific topics with experts and aides on those topics.

He would have breaks in which he could read, and write, and contemplate, but those were relatively spare. And then he would continue on that path until 6:30 at night. He'd go home and have dinner with his family and then spend some time with his kids. And then he'd work typically, you know, into the early morning hours because he'd take a big raft of documents and paper, briefing papers back with him to study so he'd be prepared for the next day's meetings.

Now, everybody has a different style. I'm not suggesting that the way Barack Obama did is the only way to do it. But, you do want a president who is reading and absorbing information, and meeting with people who have insights into the issues on which he has to make decisions. And so this kind of hap hazard, you know, well, he's on the phone, he's calling people and so on, you know, doesn't make sense to me.

Now, you know, Kellyanne and Sarah Sanders said he has a different leadership style than his predecessors and the results speak for themselves and that's something I think we can all agree on.

COOPER: Take for example, the -- what happen to say South Korea agreeing to boost its financial contribution to the cost of keeping U.S. troops there to nearly $1 billion. I mean, as long as the job is getting done, should it matter what the President's schedule looks like?

AXELROD: No, it's just a question how the job is getting done. I agree with you. Look, if you are producing in your own way, so be it. I just don't know if you're not -- if you're not meeting with people and you're not reading, and we're told he doesn't like memos, you know, how are you -- on what basis are you making these decisions, you know? So, again, that is the concern.

COOPER: Right. What's so interesting about it is, for somebody who, you know, a president who -- OK, he has his own leadership style, but according to other the reporting doesn't really read, doesn't, you know, go home with huge briefing books as you were talking about President Obama. He's also meeting privately one-on-one with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. And, you know, who are obviously very knowledgeable on the issues which are important to them.

So, I guess that's the big concern. He's not really doing research. He has all of this executive time. Yes, maybe he's talking to people on the phone, but then he's meeting without any experts with, you know, his contemporaries in other countries.

AXELROD: Right. Look, we know that he's a man of extraordinary self- confidence. He expresses it often. You know, he knows better than the generals. He knows better than his intelligence people. He knows better than the Fed chair. He knows better than everyone.

But the fact of the matter is that President's deal with monstrously complex issues with grave consequences. And you want to feel like they -- no, they are not relying on their own instincts, particularly when he has no background in any of these areas. So it's a source of concern.

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

I want to check with Chris and see what he's working on "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. No executive time for Chris Cuomo.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: No, but listen, I don't have nearly what the President has to deal with on a daily basis. I think Axe is right, it will coming to the conclusion of judge the time by what it produces and that's what the voters will have to do.

We're going to take a deep dive on a couple of things, Anderson, tonight. One is going to be -- we have Chris Stewart, Republican, Utah. He's on the House Intel Committee. And I want to ask him about these questions around the inauguration, because when you look at this subpoena, now it's just the subpoena, I mean they matter, but they're not proof of the -- of what they're looking at.

But the idea of the allegations going into foreign powers and do people give money to the inauguration under somebody else's name, what does he think of those? How come his committee didn't look into any of that when it was Republican controlled?

And then I want to ask him about a couple of very specific things about Roger Stone who've done some reporting on that report that came out from Nunez. And I see it in a different way than I did before.

I also have a friend of Governor Northam, African-American woman has known him since they were kids. She makes a very compelling case to people about what should happen. I think it's worth hearing.

COOPER: All right. I look forward to that, five minutes from now. Chris, thank you very much.

And coming up right now, new reporting from "The Washington Post" on the purge of undocumented workers who've been working at Trump National Golf courses in some cases for more than a decade.


[20:59:18] COOPER: We have more breaking news tonight. "The Washington Post" is reporting the purge of undocumented workers by President Trump's family business has spread. According to "The Post," at least 18 undocumented workers have been fired from five golf courses in New York and New Jersey in just the past two months. "The Post" says presidential son, Eric Trump, confirmed the firings.

This comes as we're getting words that the President will focus on migrants in the State of the Union tomorrow night. According to the White House, the President will reaffirm his determination to stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and the flow of drugs and crime.

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

CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time". We have new developments, federal prosecutors are now closing in on the President's inaugural committee. Who made donations for his parties? How much were those donations and why were they made? Daunting questions that will be asked more commonly now that the President is under Democratic oversight.