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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Dems Launch Sweeping Probe of President's Finances and Russia; Interview with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California; Chaos in Virginia: Lieutenant Governor's Accuser lays Out Alleged Assault, AG Admits to Using Blackface, Governor Refuses to Resign. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired February 6, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with a major expansion of Democratic efforts to investigate the president. Today, Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of what is now the Democratically-controlled House Intelligence Committee announced a wide ranging investigation that follows the money, to borrow a phrase from "All The President's Men", President Trump's money.
Chairman Schiff says he wants to know whether the president's business dealings drive his decision making and whether foreign actors now have influence over him because of it. As you might imagine, the implications might be sweeping. And remember, this comes just a couple of days after federal prosecutors subpoenaed the president's inaugural committee.
It also comes a day after President Trump said this at the State of the Union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigation.
If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, he also called for a bipartisanship, saying, and I'm quoting now, we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation. Calls for bipartisan, of course, are easy, actually acting on them is not, and easiest of all is name-calling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: So during your speech last night, you decried what you called ridiculous political investigations. Yet this morning, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said he was going to launch a deep investigation into not only Russia, but your personal --
TRUMP: Did you say Adam Schiff?
REPORTER: Adam Schiff.
TRUMP: Oh, never heard of him. That wouldn't be partisan, would it?
REPORTER: But not only into Russia but into your personal financial transactions. What's your reaction?
TRUMP: On what basis would he do that? He has no basis to do that. He's just a political hack who's trying to build a name for himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He also called the move, quote, presidential harassment. So much for the boundless potential of cooperation.
Chairman Schiff responded with this, tweeting: I can understand why the idea of meaningful oversight terrifies the president. Several of his close associates are going to jail. Others await trial and criminal investigations continue. He went on to say, we're going to do our job and won't be distracted or intimidated by threats or attacks.
In the end, though, what Adam Schiff thinks of the president, what the president thinks of him pale in significance next to the simple fact that the landscape has changed for the president. Today, as its first order of business, the intelligence committee voted to send all witness transcripts from its Russia investigation to Robert Mueller's team, something Democrats tried and failed to do while they were in the minority.
It's important to point out, we have no idea what Robert Mueller knows or doesn't know. We have no idea if he has something on the president or if there's no there there. When the Mueller investigation ultimately wraps up, there may be nothing more than what we've already learned. But today, we've certainly learned that the investigations into the president may go on for a lot longer than Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia and the election.
California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell sits on both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. He joins us now.
Congressman Swalwell, the president is saying that Chairman Schiff is a political hack, the investigation is presidential harassment. What do you say to that?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Anderson.
I've had the opportunity for the last five years now to serve on the Intelligence Committee with Chairman Schiff. And what I saw in the two years of the Russia investigation under Republican leadership was someone who so many times looked Devin Nunes and the Republicans in the eyes as we had the discord and the disagreement and he a number of times said, can we take this off-campus? Can we just have a retreat soft sorts and talk about what your concerns are and we can express ours, because we know this committee is always supposed to work in a bipartisan way?
When we started our committee today under Chairman Schiff's leadership, as Republicans kind of made accusations as to where they thought the investigation would now go, he looked at them and said, if you have evidence of something we should pursue, let's pursue it. So, it's not -- that's not the Adam Schiff as the president describes. I see a former prosecutor who wants to follow the evidence. And I think that's what most of the members in our committee want to do.
COOPER: The expanded investigation, though, it does go beyond any questions concerning the Trump campaign and possible coordination with Russia. Where is the line between appropriate oversight and presidential harassment?
SWALWELL: Yes. Well, you know, what the president sees is presidential harassment is really the end of presidential immunity, because for two years, he had Republicans who wouldn't hold him accountable. But our interest is that we want to make sure the president of the United States is not financially compromised and there's deep, deep evidence to suggest that he governs by transactional value, meaning that he's drawn us so close to the Saudis and the Russians, because he has benefited financially from them in the past.
[20:05:08] And there's good reason to look at investments that they've made in him, investments he's made in them, and to see if we need to interdict to protect America's national security.
COOPER: Chairman Schiff said that the investigation is going to focus on credible reports of money laundering and financial compromise. What credible reports is he referring to exactly, do you know?
SWALWELL: Sure. So, you have the Trump children who have in the last six years said that a lot of Russian money has come into the Trump Organization. Not illegal, Anderson. However, we know that not many other lenders would give money to the Trump Organization.
And one of the banks that the Trump Organization used is Deutsche Bank. And Deutsche Bank was fined in 2017 for $300 million for a multi-billion-dollar money laundering scheme with Russian money.
So if you put those two together, you have reason to look, especially when you look at the Russians seeking to help the president during the campaign. Again, I don't want to draw conclusions here --
COOPER: Donald Trump could say, well, what they were talking about was just Russians buying properties in Trump Tower, a wealthy Russian buying a house, I think, in Palm Beach or West Palm Beach, from Donald Trump. SWALWELL: Well, they've never been straight about their interactions
with the Russians. They always are in a position to try to clean it up. And most people, this is the issue here, they cannot be straight about their interactions with the Russians.
So we look at that as also a consciousness of guilt. If there's something innocent going on here, why does the story keep changing when it comes to Russia?
And I just want to say, Anderson, with what the president said last night, that, you know, the best way for our economy to move forward is through, you know, no war and no investigations. The best way for our economy to move forward is if we do not become Russia. Russia would love for us to become Russia, because we wouldn't have free markets, we wouldn't have freedom of speech. We wouldn't have the rule of law.
So, if we allow those values to essentially be torn down in our country, then we lose everything the president was touting last night.
COOPER: Two Trump associates have already been charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee. Today, as we talked about the transcripts of 50 intelligence community interviews were turned over to Mueller for review. I know you can't name names.
Do you believe, though, other witnesses have also lied to your committee? And if so, how many others, do you think?
SWALWELL: Yes. And I'm not going to name names or go through numbers, but, yes, we do believe there are pages of lies in those transcripts where people were not straight with us, where they sought to protect the president or a family member of theirs, and we want the Mueller team to have that, as they pursue their evidence.
And, look, you have to be clean -- you have to come clean with Congress when you're asked. And we expect that there will be more people held accountable.
COOPER: Just lastly, Chairman Schiff said today that Michael Cohen's closed-door interview was postponed until February 28th, in, quote, the interest of the investigation. He didn't say which investigation, though, the intelligence committee's or Mueller's.
Do you know which one it is? Can you say?
SWALWELL: I can't say which one it is. We are going to hear from him on the 28th. This is going to be a big day for Congress in that he lived in Donald Trump's personal, professional, and political lives. And he knows, I believe, you know, the shadowy ways that Donald Trump operated.
He's also someone that now wants to tell the truth and I think this will shed light on us as investigators as to why others will continue to lie and protect the president and hopefully that will allow us to pursue more leads.
COOPER: All right. Congressman Swalwell, appreciate your time. Thanks.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks.
COOPER: With me here, the law firm of Toobin, Bharara, and Katyal. CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Pete Bharara, he's also our senior legal analyst. And Neal Katyal, acting director -- excuse me, acting solicitor general during the Obama administration.
Jeff, I mean, the president can say this is harassment for all he wants. There's not much he can do about the Democrats in the House who are investigating him, can he?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Zero. Absolutely nothing he can do about it, and think about how profound this is. I mean, this is something that is the stuff of political thrillers, which is, where are the loyalties of the president of the United States?
If you look at the interaction, for example, of the negotiations for Trump Tower in Moscow and what he's saying about Vladimir Putin during the campaign, there is a tremendous intersection between them. And this is what this investigation in part is about.
COOPER: And also not being up-front about the Trump tower deal.
TOOBIN: At all. But even more profoundly than just simply lying is the question of whose interests? Is it the people of the United States or is it the personal financial interests of Donald Trump?
COOPER: Preet, do you agree with Jeff, that this is potentially hugely significant?
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I think. And I think a couple of things to remember about Adam Schiff. I'm partial to him, in part, because I think he is a sober-minded person. He doesn't engage the hyperbole very much, the president attacks him.
But Adam Schiff, every time I've seen him publicly, he keeps his cool.
[20:10:01] He's a former prosecutor. I think he's wise to not overstate the evidence. But the thing he's done with the announcement today is sort of lay down the gauntlet and say the investigation is going to be broad, it's not going to be circumscribed, so, you know, any effort he undertakes to pursue the investigation, someone can't argue later, well, that's outside of the ambit of what you said you were going to do.
And that's one of the arguments, maybe a small point, but that's one of the arguments that people keep making about Bob Mueller. The ambit was supposed to be narrow, not supposed to look at the family or certainly financial transactions. Adam Schiff has said, we are looking at all of this stuff and we're not going to be stymied, and he's saying it sort of at the beginning.
By the way, it's not just Adam Schiff. There's a sea change in how oversight is going to work. You have Jerry Nadler, who's the chair of the Judiciary Committee, who has done a couple of things himself, sort of laying the groundwork for Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general, not to be able to invoke executive privilege tomorrow, I mean, on Friday.
In addition to that, is voting tomorrow, I believe, on whether or not Matt Whitaker should be issued a subpoena to testify, even though the acting attorney general, who's a member of the cabinet, has already agreed voluntarily to testify.
COOPER: Why would a subpoena --
BHARARA: It's an unusual thing. He's doing it, he says, so that there's no doubt at all that he will testify. So if someone is ending up being cued at the end or comes up with some excuse, they have a subpoena, they say he has to follow it, otherwise he faces possible contempt.
So, to me, this is -- and Elijah Cummings has said strong statements already, head of the Oversight Committee. So in all of these chairmanships, early in the Congress, as they've taken power, there are strong statements about how broad their investigations are going to be, how much hardball they're going to be prepared to engage in, and I think that's significant, as well.
COOPER: Neal, what happens if the house intelligence committee uncovers some wrongdoing, what do they do with it then? If Mueller's -- does it go to Mueller, does it go to the prosecutors in New York?
NEAL KATYAL, PARTNER, HOGAN LOVELLS: Right. It depends on what the wrongdoing is, and that's what makes this so interesting and so significant, and why I think I agree with both of these gentlemen. There's been a sea change since November and the smart people at the White House, all one of them, very worried about what's going to happen, because the mandate of Congress is much broader than Mueller, who's looking at a crime or counterintelligence.
It's lying to the American people. It's being beholden, the stuff of thrillers and the like. And most importantly, it's about Congress' complicity itself.
I mean, we've seen Devin Nunes and all of these people, you know, engaged in protection of the president for the last two years and all sorts of antics. I mean, they're acting kind of like a dog with just what's in front of them and worrying only about that for the last two years. And now everything has changed. So, there could be potential crimes Congress uncovers, but a lot of potential lying and a lot of very damaging stuff to our national security.
COOPER: I mean, it is -- it does bear repeating. I mean, it's possible that Mueller has no more than what we have already seen.
TOOBIN: Well, he may not have anymore criminal cases. The question of what kind of report he will file, how detailed it will be, what it will talk about, in addition to the cases he will file, is -- we don't -- we don't know. And I think it is important to say that he has not excused anyone in the Trump campaign with actually colluding with the Russian interests, Russian government, Russian people. That may not have happened.
It -- he may not have proof of it. He may not even discuss it in the report. But that is obviously a central question that everyone who has followed this investigation wants to know and answered.
COOPER: This -- the fact that the transcripts from testimony, 50 transcripts, have been given over to Mueller, is that really -- is that significant? I mean, wouldn't most of the stuff that was said to committee already be known to Mueller?
BHARARA: Yes, my understanding is that Mueller would already have access to that information. That's been reported, because some of that information had to be declassified to the DNI. But for purposes of potential future perjury prosecution or lying to Congress prosecution, you would want to have official copies of the documents.
What's a little bit odd to me is why you turn over 50. You would think that the committee would decide, in its discretion, not to sort of give a dump of basically everyone they've talked to, but instead, sort of decide selectively which ones they think contained evidence of perjury or lying and make, you know, some version of a referral to the Mueller team, so that's a little bit odd to me.
COOPER: There's also just, I should ask you about, the federal prosecutors of New York have requested interviews, we learned this yesterday, with Trump executives.
Neal, how significant is that?
KATYAL: I think it is significant, because the request there and the day before with the inaugural committee both are really broad-based requests with a number of crimes. Already, we've seen crimes about -- allegations of perjury, obstruction of justice, some work with the Russians, lobbying violations, and now we have a host of more. At this point, it's like, what crime haven't they been accused of?
COOPER: But there's going to be a lot of people watching tonight else and where who will say, this just sounds like the Democrats going after the president to like slow him down, shut whatever he wants to do down.
[20:15:07] TOOBIN: They may well say that. And I'm sure Republicans will say that.
The answer is, it's going forward anyway. I mean, that's the key fact here, is that the -- that the House Democrats are doing these investigations. Preet's old office, the U.S. attorney's office, is doing an investigation of the business interests of the Trump family and the inauguration, what went on there.
That, effectively, cannot be stopped. And it can be criticized, it will be and it will no doubt be, but it's going forward and we'll see where it leads.
BHARARA: You know, your question, Anderson, to Jeff, actually, I think makes it an important point. And that is, you know, these chairman who have laid down the gauntlet and are speaking in a very strong way and are saying their ambits are very broad, they need to be careful. Because, yes, it's true that they can do what they want and they have the gavel now and they can behave like Devin Nunes behaved.
But over time, you know, belief in them and whether or not they're doing something based on the merits or whether it's a political sort of fight is going to depend on how careful and measured they are.
Jeff Toobin, Preet Bharara, Neal Katyal, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, what is going on in Virginia? Two top elected officials are now on record of wearing blackface years ago. The lieutenant governor is accused of sexual assault by a person. The Democratic Party in full crisis mode. And the story is still unfolding. We'll bring you up to date after another -- well, I guess, remarkable day in Virginia.
We'll also talk to Director Spike Lee about what he says about the country and race.
And later, with the deadline for the next government shutdown approaching, we've got new word on how talks to prevent it are going. I'll ask one of the lawmakers taking part in the investigation whether he thinks compromise is possible on the wall and what the president wants.
[20:21:07] COOPER: When we left you Monday night, only one out of three top elected officials in the commonwealth of Virginia was known to have worn blackface. Now, it's two out of three.
The other, lieutenant governor, is African-American. He's now accused by a woman of sexual assault.
It's Wednesday in Virginia and the implosion of the Democratic Party continues. Today, the attorney general, Mark Herring, without actually saying the word, admitted that he appeared in blackface at a party in 1980.
Quoting from him: In 1980, his statement reads, when I was a 19-year- old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time like Kurtis Blow and perform a song.
He continues: It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspective of others, we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup, in plain English, blackface.
He's now the second Virginian elected official who sounds now reticent about saying the actual word blackface. Keeping them honest, when a white person puts stuff on his face to
impersonate an African-American, it is called blackface. The attorney general, though, he taps to ignorance and glibness, neglects to say, yes, I did, I wore a blackface.
So, his boss, the governor, Ralph Northam, here's what he said over the weekend when asked about it directly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: I just want to be perfectly clear. Were you in blackface at that time?
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: I wasn't. I'll tell you exactly what I did, Alan. 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 under my -- or on my cheeks and the reason I used a very little bit is because, I don't know if anybody's ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So he put shoe polish on his cheeks, he says it wasn't blackface. The attorney general covered his face in brown makeup and says it was a Kurtis Blow tribute. He has, by the way, a record in public life as a progressive, including on issues of race, and this was 38 years ago, a generation removed from the Jim Crow era.
In addition, he hasn't yet done what Governor Northam did, which is to first admit to thing and then deny it the next day, which is what he did about the photo under his name in his medical yearbook, which one staffer at the time told us was highly unlikely to have been someone else's submission put on the page by accident.
If the governor were to resign, the lieutenant governor, also a Democrat, normally would take his place, but Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is now being accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. He denies the allegation. The accuser, Vanessa Tyson, put out a statement today.
CNN's Jason Carroll is in Richmond with the latest on all of this.
So, first of all, Jason, what did the accuser's statement say and what else did the lieutenant governor have to say in response?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, clearly, a lot of different moving parts with this. Vanessa Tyson, professor at Scripps College out there in California, once again alleges that back in 2004, during a Democratic National Convention in Boston, she says Fairfax sexually assaulted her. And she did put out a statement saying she wanted to set the record straight.
That statement says, in part: What began as consensual kissing turned into a sexual assault. She then goes into some graphic description of what she says happened.
It should be noted, Anderson, that she's also hired an attorney to represent her. That law firm that is representing her is the same law firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford. Now, that's important because the law firm that is now representing Fairfax, on the other side of this, is the same law firm that represented Brett Kavanaugh during that whole controversy.
And so for his part, Fairfax has come out with a statement saying, this is politically motivated. He questions the timing of all of this. His statement came out after hers.
It says, in part: Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect, but I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.
[20:25:00] Again, there's been much talk of people resigning, but right now, it doesn't appear as if anyone is going to be resigning over this, but it's still early. It's 8:00 on Wednesday. Tomorrow, the way the story's been going, it could be a completely different story -- Anderson.
COOPER: This weekend, you had the attorney general, Herring, had called for the governor to step down, if he had done blackface, yet Herring doesn't seem to be thinking about going anywhere himself, does he? Or at least, at this point, he --
CARROLL: Exactly -- the only place he's going right now is home. And just a few moments ago, he very quickly left his office. We had cameras out there waiting for him all night long, Anderson. When we say quickly, that means he quickly ran to his car to avoid cameras.
But he was quick to offer his opinion in terms of what the governor should do after those offensive pictures came out. He said, the governor should do what's right for the state of Virginia. And now, we see that he finds himself in the same situation, also admitting that he dressed up in blackface. What we're seeing at this point is you've got people lawyering up.
You've got the governor, for his part, who has hired a crisis management firm to help him weather through all of this. So, what you have are denials and people lawyering up and hiring crisis management firms, but so far, no sign, at least, that anyone is going to be stepping down because of all of this. But again, it's still early.
COOPER: Yes. Jason Carroll, thanks very much.
Filmmaker Spike Lee joins us shortly.
Joining us right now is "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, and with me here, "New York Times" columnist, Charles Blow.
Charles, you and I talked, I can't remember when it was, seems like ages ago, but it was just a couple of days ago. You now have two of the top three Democrats in Virginia embroiled in this controversy surrounding blackface. I'm wondering what your thoughts are. CHARLES BLOW, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, first of
all, I want to make sure that people know, I'm not related to Kurtis Blow. It was mentioned.
But aside from that -- I think you have to separate the political matter from the matter of principle here. As a political matter, it is very likely that no one will resign or be forced from office.
COOPER: Does it make it easier, the fact that now two people are accused of this, somehow for neither one to --
BLOW: I think it helps in the dynamics of the group, right? Meaning it takes a little bit of pressure off Northam, if the secession, if you remember everybody and the secession leads to Republican control of Virginia, as a party, the Democratic Party is not going to allow that. That's very different from the principle here, which is, Northam -- Northam would not be the governor of Virginia if it were not for black people, right?
So, of every five votes cast by white people in Virginia, he got two. Black people were 20 percent to vote in that election, 87 percent of them voted for him.
He is basically saying to them, you gave it to me, now it belongs to me. I am no longer responsive to you. You may want -- you may want me to go, but I won't, because it belongs to me, right?
So that is a very personal choice that he's making, superseding any disgust from other black legislators in that -- in Virginia, and also, I believe, from black voters in Virginia. And I think that black voters have to look at that very seriously and say, this is what happens, right? So that you -- that the people can be racist who hate you and also the ones who help you.
I've been writing a book and I've been reading a lot about people who -- you know, abolitionists who are also white supremacists. They did not believe in slavery whatsoever. And in fact, many of them fought in the war, put their life on the line, so that there would be no more slaves. And they absolutely did not believe that you were the same of them, you did not deserve the same respect as them, you did not deserve to live in the same community as them, at all.
Those two things can exist. And that is kind of a walking reality that black people find themselves in America, whether they -- whether they kind of openly express it or not, that it's not just the people who hate you who can be insensitive to you. And now you have to start going to the polls and making kind of specific demands about how you expect people to respect you and how much disclosure you expect them to have when it comes to offending you.
COOPER: Kirsten, in terms of the allegations against the lieutenant governor, if Democrats are calling on Republicans to believe Dr. Blasey Ford just months ago, is there anything they can do now to believe Fairfax's accuser now?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: I think what people were calling for was a thorough investigation. And I think that's what's needed here, as well. It's true that there were a few Democrats who were saying, the minute the allegation was made that Kavanaugh needed to withdraw. But the most people were saying, including me, we just need to have a real hearing and a real investigation here, not some sort of sham investigation.
So -- you know, an accusation has been made. I think it should be taken seriously, and I think it should be investigated. And, you know, I think what Charles just said right now in terms of the governor is really important because there has been this way that he's been talking about it and some of his supporters, I saw Jim Moran on CNN the other night, basically saying, you know, saying that like he's entitled to this job somehow, that this is his job, and you can't expect him to step down and like there's nobody else who can do this job.
And you know, it's not his job. It's not his. It was given to him by the voters. And I think he's let the voters down. And he's let the voters down by what he did or at least we think he did and he's changed his story, but then by then, even how he talked about it, you know, talked about putting shoe polish on his face. This is somebody who I don't think has evolved. And I think that that's important, and the right thing to do, in this case, would be to step down.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Charles, what about the lieutenant governor? I mean, obviously, this is a different situation than the governor and the attorney general is facing, but certainly for the Democratic Party, it's -- he would be second in line if the governor were to step down.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, of the three, two have admitted to doing the thing that they're accused of doing, right? So there's a slightly different category thing. This is very, a tricky situation, because it is one person's word against another, even in her statement, she doesn't say that there were witnesses around. I'm not even sure what an investigation would yield. There was no report, there was no rape kit. So it so becomes, you know, there's no reason not to believe her other than he said he didn't do it.
And there's no reason to not believe him other than she said he did, right. So these are too equally waited an accusation and a denial. What we have done and news organizations have been is to say, well, can we put -- is there additional weight we can add to one side or the other. Like, are there other people who have had the same experience with this person or not? Or, you know, and that even creates its own problem, because it basically says, we need one or two women to knock down the word of one man. I mean, every part of it is problematic. But I do believe that you have to say, you know, I'm not saying that either one is right or wrong or to tell the truth or not, because I don't know. And I may never know. Because if there is no witness, and, you know, I'm doubtful that hotels keep, you know, recordings of what happens in hallways and who comes and goes from a room years later, you may never know what the truth is of that matter.
COOPER: Kirsten, in terms of doing the people's business, can the lieutenant governor -- I mean, if the governor were to resign, the attorney general, can the lieutenant governor do the pee people's business, if under allegations? Can he stay while there's an investigation going on?
POWERS: I mean, I think he can, but I think it's -- you know, this is just an unbelievable situation, you know, when you really think about it. I mean that you have three people who if they step aside, it goes to a Republican. It's -- you know, and so I think it's hard to say who could, who could actually governor and be taken seriously.
And I don't know, it seems like, you know, the attorney general is the only one who's been contrite about it. I don't feel like it's to me to forgive him, frankly. I think that's up to, especially the African American members, who he met with. It's -- you know, I'm more interested in what they think about it, frankly. So I think, honestly, I don't have a good answer to that question, Anderson. Because all of these people seem, you know, to have something hanging over them. One of them, as Charles pointed out, says he's innocent. But in the Me Too era, I think it's going to be a real drum beat for him to step down.
COOPER: Kirsten Powers, Charles Blow, thank you very much, as always.
Coming up, Oscar-nominated "BlacKkKlansman" director Spike Lee joins us with his thoughts on.
And later, what Senator Elizabeth Warren has to say about a report that she identified herself as American Indiana on her Texas bar registration card back in the 1980s.
[20:37:35] COOPER: Throughout his career, Director Spike Lee has consistently found new ways to tell riveting stories about race, so we wanted to get his thoughts on what's going on in Virginia. His latest film, "BlacKkKlansman" is nominated for best picture. He's nominated for best director at the upcoming academy awards. Just before airtime, I spoke to Spike Lee and asked him about the history of blackface.
SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: It's not a good part of American history and came out of vaudeville minstrels, performers, mostly white, would darken up and perform skits and what not, but there was a famous African-American, Bert Williams, who performed in blackface. But as there's a whole, whole -- there's nothing good about it. And I just can't -- and I know you said it earlier, Anderson, but I don't know what's going on. I mean, don't they understand what this is about? The history that is not funny, that is not hip, it's just -- it's hatred. It's pure hatred. And this is part of who we are in America. We're in the year 2019. And 400 years ago, 1619, the first slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia.
COOPER: Do you think the governor should resign?
LEE: I mean, it seems to me like he's just, he's hanging by a little toenail. A pinkie toenail, I think he's going to go. There's too much pressure. And the state is really locked up now, everything going on there. So hopefully, he'll do the right thing, pun intended.
COOPER: It's also that you -- when I first heard this, about the governor, you think, OK, is this what he did in high school, in 1956 or 1957, but this is what he did in the end of medical school in 1984. The attorney general, I think it was also in the early '80s, as well. I mean, it's not as if at that point, people shouldn't have known better. People should have known better about blackface.
[20:40:05] LEE: True, but even today, Anderson, as many times on college campuses, particularly frat houses, where frat boys are dressing up in negative costumes and blackface and stuff like that, mimicking African-American culture. So we don't have to go back to the '80s. I mean this stuff is happening today in colleges and universities in the United States of America.
COOPER: Also, the governor seemed like for a moment he actually might try to moonwalk again at that press conference, until his wife said to him, you know, that's inappropriate. If this was in one of your films, it would be hard to believe.
LEE: Well, I like to say that wives have saved many husbands.
COOPER: Well, that's certainly true in this case. You know, I was talking to Dr. Cornel West last night about this, and one of the things he said is, he said the governor has got to go, but, you know, change is possible, but it's easy to focus just on, you know, these individuals wearing blackface and kind of lose the bigger picture of white supremacist's belief, white supremacy, in all its forms in American society. That this is an easy thing to kind of criticize, but to ignore -- you know, it's important not to ignore other forms of white privilege, white supremacy, in our society.
LEE: That's true, but something like this is so grotesque. And I want -- I mean, maybe the governor of Alabama, somebody, you know, in Virginia, but I -- I thought I was getting the two people mixed up. Because I said, wait a minute, I thought it just happened already. And then this guy, the other guy --
COOPER: The attorney general.
LEE: I can't keep, Anderson. I can't keep up.
COOPER: Well, it's a sad statement that you can't keep up on all of these things. Spike Lee, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.
LEE: All right, Anderson. Anytime!
COOPER: All right. You take care.
COOPER: Coming up, the latest on efforts to head off another government shutdown from the White House and a key lawmaker in the negotiations. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[20:46:02] COOPER: Once again, the clock is ticking to another potential government shutdown over the border. House and Senate negotiators today heard from customs and border protection officials about what's really needed there. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she thought a deal could be reached by this Friday, a week before the deadline, as long as the White House steers clear of the negotiations.
CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta joins us now. Jim, do we know if the President is any kind of contact with the members of the bipartisan group trying to negotiate a deal?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: My understanding, Anderson, and I just talked to a key source familiar with what's been happening with these talks, is that the White House has had a very light touch so far with these talks and these bipartisan lawmakers have been working towards finding some sort of compromise that will get the President on board and get both sides of the aisle on board.
I talked to this source just a few moments ago, and I don't want to get everybody too optimistic here, because we know how Washington works, but this source who's pretty plugged in said that right now there is reason to remain optimistic, positive, hopeful. I know these are words that we don't throw around very often here in Washington, but the takeaway from a lot of these people in the room right now is that things are moving forward.
The key question in all of this, Anderson, is that what the President does if and when a bipartisan compromise is reached. There are only nine days to go before another government shutdown. The President wants this wall on the border. And as we know, in the past, with the past shutdown, if he didn't get that wall funding, he was going to essentially shut down the government.
And so that is the big, looming question. If they reach something, and there's a good feeling that they might reach something, and there were talks this weekend at Camp David with Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, the question at this point is what does President Trump do, Anderson.
COOPER: It also seems like for the President in particular, how much of a wall or a barrier is enough for him to say, you know, he fulfilled his campaign promise, and how much is too much for Democrats.
ACOSTA: That's right. And that has been sort of the key of this entire impasse. Now, keep in mind, the President is going to be going down to El Paso on Monday for a re-election rally. And as we saw last night, he was talking about what is happening down in El Paso. He made the false claim that because they put a wall in or put fencing in the mid-2000s that crime dropped, as you know, Anderson, the crime actually dropped from early 1990s to the mid 2000s before that money was even authorize and before that section of fencing was built. And so I suspect the President will continue to lay out some of those false claims when he talks to supporters next week.
And the question is whether or not that puts sort of a poisoned pill in the well and disrupts these talks. It seems, though, at this point, talking to this source I just spoke with a few moments ago, that this bipartisan group of lawmakers, that they are very committed at this point to finding some kind of an agreement. And according to this source tonight, and again, we don't want to get too optimistic, folks are often dashing the city. There is a feeling in the room right now that they're moving towards some kind of compromise, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Jim, thanks.
COOPER: Earlier tonight, I spoke with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who is one of the lawmakers trying to negotiate a budget deal.
COOPER: Senator Durbin, you were in a closed-door briefing by career security officials today. What did they tell you? Do they believe that a wall is need? Do they believe that there is, in fact, a crisis at the southern border as the President has indicated?
SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, we didn't get into a crisis, but we heard from the President last night was a shameless exaggeration of the situation at the border. I listened to it and couldn't believe some of the things he said. It reminded me of his opening speech in his campaign about murderers and rapists from Mexico where we need to build a wall from sea to shining sea paid for by the Mexicans. He was back in full campaign mode last night when it came to those exaggerations.
What we did learn today during the course of the briefing is a very real serious challenge that requires new technology and a lot of it. 90% of the narcotics moving into the United States across the Mexican border come through ports of entry. 85% of the trucks crossing those borders are not being scanned and X-rayed. 98.5 percent of the cars are not being scanned or X-rayed.
[20:50:10] COOPER: Is that a manpower issue?
DURBIN: It's beyond manpower, it's technology. To make sure we have the scanning devices and one is called Z Portal and the personnel there to man those ports of entry. That needs to be done and immediately. We're facing the worst drug epidemic in the history of the United States, and while the President waxes on about walls that may be built in two or three years, we have an immediate need to slow down this flow of narcotics in the United States.
COOPER: I'm curious what the career folks from the border said about the idea of barriers? Even if it's in strategic areas or areas -- I mean, you know, the President has talked in many different ways about a wall. If there's going to be some sort of a deal, it seems like barriers of some sort in some locations would be one potential compromise. Did you hear more on that today?
DURBIN: Of course. And the experts talked to us about the need for barriers in many locations. We have 650 miles of barriers and fences now. We authorized for this President 124 of new and replacement miles, and two years later, he's about to complete the first 14 miles. This takes a long time to go through and to get the land, to get the permission, to go through the competitive bidding and make the construction commitments. So this notion about a wall tomorrow to stop the hoards of caravans coming across the border, another exaggeration by the President, is totally unrealistic.
COOPER: In terms of reaching a deal, the bipartisan committee has about a week and a half left, how optimistic are you that an agreement can be reached before that?
DURBIN: I think it can be reached. And I was encouraged yesterday, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said in a press conference that if we can come up with a reasonable agreement, Democrats and Republicans in the conference committee, we ought to go forward. That's a big departure.
Two weeks ago, he wasn't going to make a move without the President. I think Mitch McConnell and the Republicans learned their lesson with this shutdown. It's not popular, it's not necessary, and we shouldn't repeat that mistake.
COOPER: So do you think the committee is more focused on getting something that could pass both Houses of Congress or something that can pass the President's desk?
DURBIN: Well, I think both. We want to make sure we have a bipartisan agreement that has support on both sides of the aisle, moves through the House and the Senate. If the President still insists on vetoing it, then facing a -- forcing another government shutdown, I think it's a real call to action for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to come together and say, "Mr. President, we're not going to go through another one of your shutdowns."
COOPER: Well, obviously, some Democrats do not want to give the President something that he can call a wall and say that he fulfilled that campaign promise. Is, in whatever the compromise is, if there are new barriers to be built, is that something the President can call a wall?
DURBIN: Speaker Pelosi put her finger on it. She pointed to a vase of flowers and said, "If you put that at the border, he'd call it a wall." He's going to claim wall and a big victory when it's over, but it's about time to get beyond that pettiness. Let's get this done for good border security that really tries to interdict and stop the flow of narcotics in our country.
COOPER: Just last one, I know you met with Attorney General Nominee William Barr today. I wonder, did he give you anymore clarity in terms of how much of the Mueller report would be made accessible to the public? DURBIN: You know, Anderson, that really is a big problem. He didn't. He says that the law doesn't allow him to have the latitude he'd like in disclosure. I disagree. I think he has that authority.
When a special counsel undertakes this kind of investigation, I believe there ought to be a complete and full disclosure to the American people at the completion of it. It is important when it comes to public trust. It's important, even so, considering what the President said last night, where he was talking about investigations coming to an end. We've got to make sure this investigation ends the right way, with transparency.
COOPER: Senator Durbin, appreciate your time. Thank you.
DURBIN: Thank you.
COOPER: All right, let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, pal. So, I often make an unpopular case to the audience that you need to temper your expectations on what's going to happen with the Mueller probe that I don't and I could be wrong. But, any proof of criminality that is going to pose a threat to the presidency.
However, there are other probes going on that should be of great concern, because Mueller has a specific mandate. The Southern District and Eastern District of New York, also federal prosecutors, obviously, do not. And they are looking at things that he can't deny knowledge about, his business, his foundation. We're going to look at those tonight and their concerns.
And we have Jerry Nadler on tonight. He is the House -- the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. What does he want to ask the acting A.G., Matthew Whitaker? We have him tonight.
COOEPR: All right, good looking. We'll look for that. Chris, thanks very much. Five minutes from now.
Up next on "360," the controversy that Senator Elizabeth Warren can't put to rest.
[20:59:03] COOPER: Senator Elizabeth Warren on the verge of running for president is apologizing again in connection with the question of Native American heritage. Here's what led to her new apology, her own handwriting on a 1986 registration card for the Texas bar. You see it right there. She listed her race as American-Indian.
Now, "The Washington Post" first published this document a few days ago. In the past, she's left wiggle room about self-identifying as Native American, saying she's not sure if she or an assistant filled out forms. This one is in her own handwriting. Here's what she said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There really is an important distinction of tribal citizenship. I am not a member of a tribe. And I have apologized for not being more sensitive to that distinction. It's an important distinction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She doesn't really address the fact that she said she was American-Indian on this card. This controversy goes back to her first Senate race in 2012. In October, she attempted to settle it, releasing DNA test results, showing she likely has a Native American ancestor. She now apologized for creating any confusion, she says, by taking that test.
The next continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?