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President Trump Likely to Sign Deal, But "Not Happy" and Weighing Options for Building Border Wall; Top Dem on Senate Intel Rejects Chairman's Claim that Panel Found No Evidence of Collusion with Russia; Interview with Congressman Jim Himes. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar joins us tonight, so does former White House aide, whose new book describes the people around the president as a team of vipers. He is now suing President Trump. We'll find out why.

But we begin with the congressional deal to spend a relatively small amount of money on new barrier construction on the border and head off another government shutdown. The president talked about the compromise today. He would not commit to signing it when it becomes legislation, but our reporting now suggests he will.

He also said this about the longest shutdown ever. No, it's not factually correct.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accepted the first one and I'm proud of what we've accomplished because people learned during that shutdown, all about the problems coming in from the southern border. I accept that. I've always accepted it.


COOPER: Well, keeping 'em honest, although it did not last long, he did, at first, offer to accept responsibility for the shutdown.


TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people in this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.


COOPER: "I'll be the one," he said, "I'm proud to shut down the government." That's where he started, as Harry Truman once put it, the buck stops here.

As the weeks went by, that changed. On one occasion, he literally said, the buck stops with everybody. At one point, he wouldn't even call a shutdown a shutdown.


TRUMP: I don't call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and for the safety of our country. So you can call it whatever you want. You can call it the Schumer or the Pelosi or the Trump shutdown. It doesn't make any difference to me. Just words.


COOPER: Words like, "I'm proud to shut down the government," which were his words. And while the president did not fully circle back to them today, he came close and is now painting it as a valuable lesson to the public.


TRUMP: I accepted the first one, and I'm proud of what we've accomplished, because people learned during that shutdown, all about the problems coming in from the southern border.

COOPER: Well, the president there is alluding to the privilege that all presidents enjoy, the stature and often the influence to call attention to serious national problems. However, that privilege comes with a responsibility of actually doing it accurately, factually, and truthfully.

And keeping 'em honest, what Americans learned from the president about the border and all the legitimate problems associated with it, was by and large, inaccurate, misleading, or flat-out false, contradicted in many cases by the government's own data. That's one aspect of what people learned during the shutdown from the government, how to absorb one untruth after another. Some uttered on live national television from the oval office.

Another thing they learned, how to choose between filling up their car and feeding their family. Some learned how to ration their insulin, because they couldn't afford to buy more. These are people we talked to on this program. They learned how to go without pay or worse, learned how to go to work every day in stressful sometimes life or death jobs without a paycheck coming in. Some even now have yet to see their back wages, 800,000 government workers and many more government contractor who is may never see a dime, they learned plenty.

The president also says he's proud of what he accomplished, but keeping 'em honest, it's unclear, even by his own terms what he really accomplished. Back in December before the shutdown, the president turned down a proposed $1.6 billion for 65 miles of fencing. On January 4th, the president threatened to keep the shutdown going for months or years if he didn't get the $5.7 billion and 200 miles he wanted.

So, now after all of that, after an estimated $11 billion blow to the economy, about $3 billion of it permanent, what did the president get? Well, this new deal provides a little less than $1.4 billion for just 55 miles of new barrier fencing. That's less than he could have had before all of this began. The president is right, it certainly has been a learning experience.

More now on where this latest deal stands from CNN's Jim Acosta, who joins us from the White House.

So do we know, is the president actually going sign this deal?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that is the question tonight, Anderson. I did talk to a White House official earlier today who said that the indication is that the president is likely to sign this legislation to keep the government open, and to prevent another costly shutdown. That's something that nobody here in Washington wants. But they're still reviewing the details at this hour and I'm told by aides that until they get through reviewing all of this, it's not final just yet.

But, Anderson, the president did tweet about this in the last hour and he said he was just presented the concept and parameters of the border security deal by Senator Richard Shelby. He says he's looking over all aspects, knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of other money from other sources, will be getting almost $23 billion for border security, talking about the other border security money, non- wall money that's in the bill. And he says regardless of the wall money, it's being built as we speak.

[20:05:01] We know, Anderson, that they've only repaired fencing so far. They're not actually going to start building new wall until later on this month.

But, Anderson, I did bounce these tweets off of a White House official just a little while ago and this person said that this is encouraging. That, you know, reading between the lines here in the president's tweet, it sounds as though he's going to sign this deal. But, of course, President Trump being President Trump, all bets are off until it actually happens.

COOPER: So where would the extra funding for the wall or barriers come from?

ACOSTA: Well, that is something that's been discussed inside the administration. And Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, has been going, you know, looking under the sofa for loose change. No, I'm kidding.

They've been going to various agencies of the federal government, wondering where they can find money that would not be misappropriated, essentially, because as we know, Congress appropriates this money. They can't reprogram these funds without the consent of Congress, by and large.

But they are looking for funds in areas like counternarcotics, money that might be going to the Army Corps of Engineers, money that could be designated potentially for wall construction. And that's something that they're looking at this point. But nothing's been finalized. But, Anderson, what's interesting is that it seems as though Capitol

Hill, members of Congress up on Capitol Hill, they have made up their minds and gotten this legislation to the president's desk. The question is, at this point, you know, whether or not the president is going to sign off on this.

And the longer he waits, even though he said earlier today, you know, if the government shuts down again, that's going to be on Democrats. The longer he creates this cliff-hanger, this essentially edge of your seat entertainment here in Washington, is whether or not he's going to sign this bill, that is going to put the pressure on the president to sign this and it's going to make this all about him. Something I don't think they want very much over here at the White House, Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, but is there a plan B?

ACOSTA: At this point, no. There is the potential that they could come up with a continuing resolution that just gets the government running for a little while longer. It could be any -- it could be any particular stretch of time. That really hasn't been decided. That is another option that they're looking at.

But that would essentially kick the can for another brief period of time, where we can end up right back in the same place, whereas this border security deal, which has been worked out by Democrats and Republicans on this conference committee, that is seen by both Republicans and Democrats as the way to go at this hour.

But again, as long as the president drags this out, he makes this about him, and I don't think that's a place where a lot of Republicans want him to be, frankly, at this point -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks.

Perspective now from someone who's seen it from inside, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. Also, "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, and former Republican senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum.

Kirsten, is this how you expect this all to go? That the president doesn't get his $5.7 million from Congress, but he does get the money from elsewhere, and is therefore able to say it's is a win?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I don't know that he can necessarily call it a win, but I do think that that's the only -- that's the only way forward for him. And in a way, it's probably the best-case scenario for the Democrats, as well, because he's the one who made the promise, you know, he's the one who's broken the promise, because Mexico was supposed to pay for it.

And if he wants to go and get the money somewhere else, then it's on him, right? It's not -- it's his promise that he wants to fulfill. It's not one that most people are very excited about. But I think, you know, in the end, he came out of this deal in a less good place than he started. He got less money. He had to give up, you know, something on in terms of the number of beds.

So I think that he would have been smarter to just not shut down the government.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, how do you see what's happening?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I think that's right. I think the president clearly is not a winner out of this thing. And I think that's one of the reasons he's stewing over this right now. And he's probably not going to give a decision until sort of the last minute that he has to.

And because I'm sure he doesn't feel good about it. And having said that, I think there are alternatives for the president to use, to sign this bill, and I think he should sign it. And look for other places, as Jim was talking about, to get his wall construction.

The other side of that is, on -- not nearly as big of a loss, but you look at Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi said, not a penny. Nancy Pelosi said, if you're going to -- you know, if you're going to get wall funding, you're going to give us other things, DACA, all these other things that were on the list in order to be able to wrest some wall money from the Democrats and the president didn't have to give on any of those things. So, you know, it's not a complete rout for the Democrats, because they really didn't get anything out of this bill, but at the same time, you know, the president was the one who had the big show and didn't deliver.

COOPER: Congressman Dent, how do you see it? If the president does do it like this, get money from other places to build his wall, do you expect congressional Republicans to stand by him on that?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I'm really anxious to see what the president does in terms of trying to reprogram dollars that have already been appropriated.

[20:10:05] Having been an appropriator myself, I can tell you that he cannot simply move money from one account to another without the sign- off of the chair of the House of Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee of Jurisdiction Homeland Security. Those are controlled by Democrats. Same thing with the Senate. Congress considers that a requirement to reprogram, congressional approval.

I think the White House might be considering a simple courtesy, that they are not bound by that. So, if the president is going to start reprogramming dollars without congressional approval, I think there's going to be a big fight, a very big fight. Especially if he tries to take a military construction funds for a non-military purpose, that violates the law, clear and simple.

So I'm really anxious to see how they intend to reprogram dollars, because that could be a very nasty fight.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, do you agree with the congressman, that it would need congressional approval? SANTORUM: Well, yes, if you reprogram funds, you need congressional

funds. But if you declare emergency, then that's a whole different story. I think that's certainly still in the realm of possibility for the president to simply say, there's an emergency and there's these funds available. And instead of having to go through the process of reprogramming, which he clearly would not get approval from the House, you do a different path.

COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, if the president does go along with this deal, it's still not a -- I mean, I guess he can say it's a wall, but it's still just barrier fencing that has been always been used or different kinds of it, perhaps.

POWERS: Right. So I actually think Nancy Pelosi was correct, I'll have to disagree with Rick on this, she said, not a penny for a wall, and there is going to be no construction of a wall. When he was talking about a wall, he was talking about something much, much more grandiose than fencing, OK? I mean, you know, he referred to the Great Wall of China. This is sort of what he was envisioning as something really grandiose. And that's not what he's getting.

He is, however, getting funding for some border security, which is something Democrats have said they care about. There's also additional funding in there for technology, to help, you know, at the border, to help secure the border. And what the Democrats got in return for that is a reduced number of beds for ICE.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, can the president continue to blame Democrats for not getting full funding for the wall, given that this deal was also signed off by Republicans, as well?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, it's signed off by Republicans in a compromise. Obviously, it's a compromise, since he's been very public, he doesn't like anything that he should have done better. The Republicans should have done better.

You know, this is a president who's not shy about blaming Democrats and calling out Republicans for being weak and not standing with him as tough as he likes. So, you know, the president is going to chart his own path for his own political future and I think the Democrats will be part of the fodder that comes out and some Republicans also, yes, both.

COOPER: Congressman Dent, the fact that, again, if he's looking for other funds, it certainly goes against the whole notion that Mexico was going to pay for this wall. We certainly don't hear about that anymore, really.

DENT: Well, it was an outlandish promise to begin with, but I think what's so remarkable about this whole process is, you know, the president and his budget requests for fiscal year '19 requested $1.6 billion for barriers. He wants $5.7 billion. Well, why didn't he put it in his budget request?

And of course, he could have had $1.6 billion in December when Republicans controlled the House, and you know, why he thought -- why the administration thought they could get a better deal when the Democrats took back the House in January, is beyond me. This whole shutdown was completely a futile, useless, harmful gesture, made absolutely no sense, and they got a worse deal.

The number of beds, is it 40,500? That's what's current law. And so, it's basically status quo. They're not really getting anything at all. It's a stalemate. And so, but that's a loss for the president.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, do you understand the thinking on the White House on that? To the congressman's point, of why not have done this when the Republicans were in control?

SANTORUM: Well, because the Republicans weren't in control. You had to get votes from Chuck Schumer and the Democrats in the Senate. And in many respects, I'm not sure that he would have gotten as good a deal, because the Democrats in the Senate were in a position to block and then blame the Republicans, because, quote, they were in the majority.

I think actually, the Democrats being in control gave the president actually more leverage to put them on the spot to have to compromise. So I actually disagree with that. I know that sounds weird, but being in the minority in the Senate is a pretty powerful place to be if the other side -- if the majority doesn't have 60 votes.

COOPER: Kirsten, does that --

POWERS: No, I mean, it's just -- they didn't -- what he wanted was $5 billion for a wall.

[20:15:00] What he got was, you know, a little over, you know, like, a fraction of that, basically, to build a fence. That is not the same thing as him, as the Democrats capitulating and giving him something. It's actually them giving something that they agree with.

You know, the Republicans have spent a lot of time casting the Democrats as people who don't care at all about border security when, in fact, they have supported this kind of security in the past. And they support it now. But what the president's promised was to build a wall that frankly cost a lot more than $5 billion, too. And we have to remember that. In order to build the entire wall that he would want to build, we would be talking about $15 billion or $20 billion.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there.

Congressman Dent, good to have you. Senator Santorum, Kirsten Powers, thank you very much.

Next, the collusion -- conclusion one top member of the Senate Intelligence Service says he has seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Another top member says, not so fast. We'll look at how to decide.

And later, my conversation with the newest presidential hopeful, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar joins me.


[20:20:08] COOPER: There's breaking news on Capitol Hill and the Senate committee's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Last week, as you may know, the committee's Republican chairman, Senator Richard Burr, told CBS News they had not seen any evidence indicating collusion.

Late this afternoon, top Democrat on the committee, Senator Mark Warner, broke with Burr saying, and I quote: Respectfully, I disagree. I'm not going to get into any conclusions I've reached because my basis of this has been that I'm not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation. And we still have a number of key witnesses to come back.

The split between the two senators is significant, because it's rare, frankly. Their committee has generally operated smoothly without the partisan divisions that ensnared their House colleagues.

Congressman Jim Himes is on the House Intelligence Committee and I spoke to him just before airtime.


COOPER: Congressman Himes, I wonder what you make of this very public split between Senators Warner and Burr, given that the intelligence committee in the Senate, unlike the House, has worked well together in a bipartisan way.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, I'm not sure I'd read too much into it just now, Anderson. Look, there are still witnesses to be called on the Senate side, there's still a final report to be written, and, of course, the very word "collusion," which is the word over which Senators Burr and Warner split is subject to a lot of different interpretations.

So I'm encouraging people to remember that you've got three investigations out there, House, Senate, and the Mueller investigation. It's probably best that we wait and see what they actually say in their final versions before we get too excited about any potential outcome. That, of course, Anderson, points to the need for Mueller's investigation to actually be reported to the American people, so that we get finality, whichever way the truth points us.

COOPER: A Democratic aide told CNN that none of the facts are in dispute, only what those facts mean. Is that -- I mean, is that what it could come down to, you think? One set of facts with two different conclusions?

HIMES: Well, that's possible. I mean, again, consider the word "collusion," right? Collusion is actually not a legal term. There's no particular definition of it.

Is it collusion when the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., invites Russians to Trump Tower in order to give him dirt on the political opponent? Is it collusion, you know, the conversations that we still don't know much about that Manafort, when he was running president Trump's campaign had with Konstantin Kilimnik, this individual who has ties to Russian intelligence?

Again, we know there was all kinds of communication back and forth. We know that almost everybody who had that communication lied about it, so at the end of the day, again, I would urge caution here. The facts will out. People will determine whether it rises to the level of collusion when those facts are out.

And, of course, if we point to things like conspiracy, then, of course, you get into the legal realm about whether anyone needs to be held accountable for that. But it's too early to draw those conclusions just yet.

COOPER: The other conclusion is whether or not there is any evidence whether the president himself or even candidate Trump knew of any of what some might call collusion, if it's Donald Trump Jr. meeting with the Russians. Or other things like that.

HIMES: That's a good question. I mean, obviously, if the president knew that these contacts were going on, authorized these contacts, if the president said, hey, and I'm not saying I have any evidence that this happened, but if the president said, hey, yeah, let's continue these conversations, Russia wants X, Y, Z, that gets you pretty close to anybody's definition of collusion.

Now, we don't know some big things, right? We don't know, for example, whether the president's son told his father about the meeting that he had with the Russians. Steve Bannon certainly says it's a zero percent probability he didn't. So what did the president say?

We may not know that until we know what Bob Mueller was able to get from the president when he got answers to those questions. So, again, the thing to do right now is to sort of wait until these things are done, draw conclusions afterwards.

COOPER: And just lastly, in terms of Michael Cohen, Senator Burr said today in the wake of Cohen delaying his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee yet again that any goodwill that may have existed is now gone. At this point, do you expect Cohen to actually honor his commitment to appear in front of your committee on February 28th, as he's scheduled to?

HIMES: I do. We have had a couple of false starts with that, I do expect him to.

Look, at the end of the day, if Congress wants you here, you come. If you don't appear voluntarily and Congress thinks it's important, you will be subpoenaed. And who knows? Some witnesses prefer to be subpoenaed.

But my point is, particularly around issues of, is there a compromise at the United States government, you know, is there an issue with Russia, what can we learn about how to avoid what happened in the past? It's not voluntary. If you get asked, you come. If you don't come, you get suspected.

So I do anticipate that one way or another, we're going to see Michael Cohen here in the Congress.

COOPER: Congressman Himes, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: And joining us now, so we can shed more light on just what the lawmakers defer on and how the information available to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees may defer from what Robert Mueller knows.

[20:25:04] Shan Wu is a former federal prosecutor. Joining us as well, senior advisor to four presidents, longtime political sage, David Gergen.

David, do you think this is going to come down to, especially for a committee like the Senate Intelligence Committee, one set of facts leading to two very different conclusions?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not really. I think we're still in the midst of an investigation in which, oddly, these two men are actually -- each of these two men, I think, is telling the truth. Senator Burr has said, we've had a lot of hearings and we haven't seen any evidence of collusion.

Senator Warner, the Democrat, is silent on that question. He's avoiding the question of whether they have no evidence so far, whether what he's saying is, we shouldn't reach conclusions about whether there's been collusion until we have complete evidence. And we don't have that so far. And the guy who really has it is going to have it in the send Mueller.

Back in the background here, what Warner is saying is, Mueller has many more pieces of this puzzle in his possession already than the Senate Intelligence Committee has. And therefore, we should wait and you can leave it -- you know, by implication, he's agreeing with Burr that he has seen anything so far, but he's not saying that.

COOPER: Shan, does it matter if there ends up being no direct evidence of collusion involving the president, because plenty of convictions are based solely on circumstantial evidence, and there obviously have been already a number of people charged with crimes.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. You can have an indictment, you can have a conviction based on circumstantial evidence. You don't have to have the smoking gun of the admission or the taped conversation. I think here, I completely agree with David, we're in the midst of this.

So much talk about Mueller concluding. Does it seem like this Senate Intel Committee is concluding? They're still in the midst of things. They may never get to hear from some of the witnesses such as Flynn, Manafort, or Gates because of their involvement in the criminal situation. But I think it's important for us to remember to draw that distinction

between how Congress investigates versus how a criminal investigation proceeds. And the criminal investigations always focused on that individual wrongdoing at the end of the day. That's why that burden is so high, beyond a reasonable doubt.

The congressional investigation really tends to be looking at systemic issues. They're both in search of the truth, both have subpoena power, but Congress is looking to uncover facts, a fact-finding mission as part of their oversight, and in that sense, they can fulfill that mission by looking through the facts. They've been looking very diligently, hundreds of thousands of patients, lots of witnesses interviewed.

And they can fulfill that mission by putting a more systemic review out, unlike the criminal investigation, that's at the end of the day going to have to decide, was there individual wrongdoing or not? And that's always a much more weighty call.

COOPER: David, I mean, it is very possible, and I think it's always important to say this, that there is no evidence of collusion involving candidate Donald Trump or even President Trump and Russia and that if Mueller finds that, you know, the White House obviously will trumpet that.

Do you think the increasing number of investigations by Democrats now in the House, obviously, they've taken control of the House, they can justify it as this is part of their role, do you think part of it, though, of just the sheer number and volume is out of concern that Mueller may not find what the Democrats certainly believe exist and therefore, they're launching this investigations, to at least keep pressure on the president?

GERGEN: I think that's quite a good point, Anderson. It's also true that Bob Mueller's, you know, guidelines, you know, his investigation is supposed to be focusing on the U.S. or the Russian, potential Russian collusion in our elections. It doesn't go to say his finances or whether -- what's in his tax returns, whether was there laundered money, all those kind of things.

Those paths may not be fully explored by Mueller, so Democrats may have reason to continue this. I do think, if Mueller gives president Trump a fairly clean review and says he finds no evidence of collusion, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Democrats to limit their other investigations, not just simply to pile on.

COOPER: David Gergen, Shan Wu, thank you very much.

Coming up, I'm going to talk with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, the latest Democrat to announce a 2020 presidential bid. She did that this weekend. An already-crowded field is getting larger and larger.

[20:32:55] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is now officially in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Her announcement was made over the weekend in the middle of a snowstorm, something President Trump couldn't help but notice, tweeting, "Well, it happened again," the president tweeted, "Amy Klobuchar announced that she's running for president, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures, bad timing. By the end of her speech, she looked like a snowman, woman."

To which the senator had this to say on Twitter, "Science is on my side, @realDonaldTrump. Looking forward to debating you about climate change and many other issues and I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard." Senator Klobuchar joins me now. Thank you so much for being with us.


COOPER: I mean, you certainly took on the President very directly in that tweet. The larger question I guess is do you feel you know how to run against President Trump?

KLOBUCHAR: We have all learned a lot about how to deal with President Trump over the last few years and I think the first thing you've got to do is have your own optimistic economic agenda. And that's really what my speech on Sunday, snow and all, was about.

And there was a reason that I decided to hold that announcement next to the Mississippi River, the mighty Mississippi, extending from Minnesota all the way down to that city of resilience, New Orleans, and that's because I wanted to make the point that we need to bridge the river of our divides.

I talked about that sense of community, when the I-35W Bridge in Minnesota went crashing into that river, off-duty firefighters diving into the water, people taking kids off of a school bus. And that right now that sense of community is fractured in our country. And a lot of it has to do with how he's been running things. He seems to love chaos. And I think we should have a government of opportunity and governed by opportunity and not governed by chaos.

So a lot of it is having our own economic agenda and it's very important for any candidate for president. And work with people on their aspirations, but also practical ways to get there. And I have a track record of getting things done and I'll be talking about that, as well.

[20:35:07] COOPER: In -- you know, when you look back at the Republican race during the primary season, you know, there were many qualified Republicans who tried different ways and this was obviously Donald Trump was new on the scene, they didn't know how to respond to him.

And, you know, you responded -- you said -- what you just said makes sense to me, of having an optimistic and a very clear message on the political side, on sort of the actual fight side. Do you respond tweet to tweet? Do you ignore him? Do you try to take a high road? How do you handle that, do you think, moving forward? KLOBUCHAR: It's a case-by-case. And you certainly don't want to go down every rabbit hole with him. Now, in my case, I welcome being called the snowwoman. I thought it was a pretty cool title, myself, and so I was more than glad to respond. I deliberately didn't do it right away. Honestly, I thought it was important that my story and my speech get out there, so I waited a little bit.

But I think those decisions have to be made on a strategic basis, because he wants to dominate every news story. He wants to get himself in news stories, and that's just strategy. But for me, what's most important is not sort of the strategy of dealing with him, but it's what we need to do as a country. And that is, we need to look up, look at each other, and take on these challenges.

And he may talk a good talk on prescription drugs, but did that help the woman who was there with me as my guest to the State of the Union, Nicole Smith Holt, whose son died, her son, Alex, 26-year-old, general manager at a restaurant, just because he aged off his parent's insurance and he was rationing his insulin and he miscalculated it and died. That shouldn't happen in our country.

And that's why I don't think the prescriptions that Donald Trump has put forward have made a difference. That's why I want to have negotiation on Medicare and bring in less-expensive drugs from other countries. Or you look at infrastructure, we still don't have rural broadband in major parts of this country. And I pledged on Sunday, we can do this by 2022.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, I think on the insulin, I don't think a lot of people realize how much the price of insulin has gone up and how often we're hearing now about people actually rationing it.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, a simple drug.

COOPER: I want to talk about some policy issues. There's obviously been a lot of talk about the Green New Deal, which aims to curtail carbon emissions, create new jobs. Mitch McConnell says he'll bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. Will you be voting in favor of it?

KLOBUCHAR: I'm in favor of it, simply because I see it as a framework to jump start a discussion. That is how Senator Markey has described it, because we need to put out a negotiating bid here. I don't see it as something that we can get rid of all of these industries or do this in a few years, that doesn't make sense to me, or reduce air travel.

But what does make sense to me is to start doing concrete things and put some aspirations out there on climate change. I'd say the first thing, which I announced Sunday, as president, first day, I would get us back into that international climate change agreement. I would reinstate the clean power rules that President Obama had worked on. I would bring back those gas mileage standards.

I mean, we mean, we had the fourth hottest year in history last year. And the visuals of that dad driving through the wildfires in California with his little kid trying to talk her through it, these are weather events like we've never seen before. And that is because of climate change and the science proves it.

COOPER: You also -- you mentioned Medicare in terms of Medicare for all. Are you prepared to support that as many of your fellow Democratic candidates have?

KLOBUCHAR: I want to see universal health care, Anderson, and there are many ways to get there. I think the smartest transition right now would be to do a public option, and you can do it by expanding Medicaid, you can expand Medicare. I'm on both bills that do that. And that's going to get us more quickly, I believe, to where we need to go.

COOPER: So not Medicare for all?

KLOBUCHAR: I am -- I'm happy to look at it as an option, but I'm not on that bill right now. The other thing that's been completely neglected is pharmaceuticals in terms of the prices there that we just discussed. And that's why that is 20 -- nearly 20 percent of our health care costs and we need to be working on that, as well.

COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, the first of many long discussions, I hope. Thank you very much for being with us.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. Thank you. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: You're looking there at the site of a CNN Town Hall tonight with one of Senator Klobuchar's potential challengers, Howard Schultz. He's going to answer voter our questions tonight. The former Starbucks CEO is weighing a run for president as an independent. Poppy Harlow is moderating the conversation tonight. That starts at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, stay with CNN. Make sure you check that out.

Up next on "360", the former White House insider now suing the President. Cliff Sims is his name. His new book details his time work in the White House and calls the people around the President a team of vipers. Cliff Sims joins me to explain why he's now taking legal action against the President.


[20:43:44] COOPER: Well, President Trump is facing new legal fight tonight. Cliff Sims who wrote "Team of Vipers: My Extraordinary 500 Days in the Trump White House" is suing the President. The book details alleged infighting and leaking and chaos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now, Sims alleges in his lawsuit that the President is trying to silence him as he promotes his book. This comes just days after the Trump campaign filed an arbitration claim against Sims accusing him of violating a nondisclosure agreement.

When the book was released, the President attacked Sims on Twitter, calling him a low-level staffer and gopher that he hardly knew. Sims then posted these photos to make the case that the President did in fact know him, including this Trump autographed copy of "The New York Times" praising Sims for its work for the 2017 GOP tax bill. Cliff Sims joins me tonight along with his attorney, Mark Zaid. Cliff, what do you think it is specifically about your book that the President takes issue with? Because I mean the fact is, you write favorably about him in the book.

CLIFF SIMS, AUTHOR, "TEAM OF VIPERS": Well, I think this kind of hits on one of the themes that I touch on in the book, which is that he gets really bad, often self-serving advice from the people around him. And I think ultimately, he is basing his opinion of the book off of two things, one is the press coverage, but then, two, is what other people around him who are perhaps portrayed in an honest but unfavorable light at certain parts of the book. He's basing this off of what they are telling him, I think that's a big part of it.

[20:45:08] COOPER: Clearly, he has -- he doesn't -- you know, we know he doesn't read a lot, so he probably hasn't actually read the book himself. You think this is just people whispering in his ear saying who weren't happy about their portrayals in the book?

SIMS: I think that's a big part of it. In fact, I know for certain it is. I still talk to a lot of people in the White House and that's something that several people in there have told me directly, is that there are people on staff who are kind of egging him on with this. And so that combined with the news coverage, yes, I think is probably the main reasons why.

COOPER: And when I talked to you, you said that you weren't sure if you had signed an NDA for the White House, but that you were just assuming you had signed what everybody else had signed?

SIMS: Yes, and that's still kind of where we're at. We are kind of acting in good faith that I did sign the same thing that other people signed in the White House. In the arbitration complaint that they sent to us from the campaign, it did include a copy of the NDA from that, so I have seen that now.

COOPER: And just -- Mark, just in terms of legally, that this is an effort being done by the campaign, not by the White House itself. What's the distinction there?

MARK ZAID, ATTORNEY FOR CLIFF SIMS: The distinction would be significant if that were the factual truth, because what they're trying to say is that Cliff, in signing this NDA, prior to service in the White House, that that has essentially, in perpetuity, you know, forever applied.

So, if Donald Trump had lost the election and Cliff wrote a book now about his time in the campaign, the campaign can certainly go after him. A private entity can go after a private person for the NDA, but that's not what's happening here.

The U.S. government, through the Office of the President of the United States, has instructed, directed, authorized, approved, whatever word you want to use, to have the campaign to use their auspices to enforce this NDA to quiet him with respect to his federal service. I mean, this agreement, this arbitration proceeding, actually demands that Cliff return government documents that might be in his possession, not to the government, but to the campaign. I mean, this is the White House all over it.

COOPER: But do you know for a fact that this is the White House?

ZAID: Well, from my own sources that I have had and other documents that I'm aware of, it gives every indication, and I firmly believe that this is President Trump giving instructions to the campaign to take action.

I mean, the lawyers for the campaign, from what I understand exists out there, have made it very clear that they are representing not Donald J. Trump candidate or Donald Trump running for president again in 2020, they represent President Donald J. Trump. That's the government.

COOPER: Because, Cliff, I mean, the focus of your book is the time in the White House and what you saw in the administration.

SIMS: Well, that's right. And actually, in the arbitration complaint that they sent to us, every single thing that they listed was something from my time in the White House. And so, what our suit is really getting at is that as a federal government employee, I served Donald Trump. I've served him faithfully, but ultimately, I work for the American people.

And so this private entity cannot basically keep me from being able to exercise my First Amendment right to talk about unclassified things that I experienced while I was working for the American people.

COOPER: Is this something you actually think will go all the way through to court or do you think this was an intimidation move by the President or somebody around him and that you had to respond accordingly?

SIMS: Yes. Well, Mark could probably get at the legal side of that, but just having been around Donald Trump for a couple of years and I write a lot about this in my book, especially with regard to his relationship with Congress, that he -- he does not respond well to weakness. That he will steamroll anyone who will allow themselves to be steamrolled.

And I just, you know, I'm not going to be bullied. And so I feel like this is not necessarily something I wanted to do. I've never sued anybody in my entire life, but I was kind of backed into a corner and put in a position where I had to decide whether or not I was going to defend myself and I will not be bullied. And so, yes, I'm going to stand up for myself.

COOPER: Cliff Sims, Mark Zaid, appreciate your time. Thank you.

Well, check in with Chris, see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris? CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So do they think they can make a deal or not when it comes to this shutdown negotiation? We have players on each side, one on the Democrat side who was part of making this deal, one who's a key member of the Freedom Caucus in the House on the other side who doesn't like the deal. Let's see if we can make reasonable out of left and right.

And also, we're going to take on the issue, Anderson, of the President saying that the Democrat Congresswoman Omar should resign for what she said. Where was he on Steve King? Is this hypocrisy to the max? It's going to be our great debate.

[20:50:10] COOPER: All right, that's in about 10 minutes from now. Chris, we look forward to that for the great debate.

Up next, we have "The Ridiculist," the President and his El Paso visit, and his latest questionable crowd size numbers. Yes, still talking about the size of crowds. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." The President held a campaign rally last night in Texas. And in a mortal world of Mamma Mia 2, here we go again.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you would say as an example that tonight 69,000 people signed up to be here. Now, the arena holds 8,000 and thank you fire department, they got in about 10, thank you fire department.


[20:55:02] COOPER: OK. Well, that's not true. We'll have more of that in a second because you know where this is heading.


TRUMP: But if you want to really see something, go outside, tens of thousands of people are watching screens outside.


COOPER: OK, yes, that's not true either. The "El Paso Times" cites a fire department spokesman is saying the arena holds 6,500 people, not 8,000 like the President said, and that they did not let in extra people over that limit. Fire department spokesman also told the paper that the President's overall crowd might total 10,000 if you include the people watching outside.

Now, unlike Wolf Blitzer, I'm neither a mathematician nor a fire marshal, but I know this all feels vaguely familiar.


TRUMP: I've had the biggest crowds. They never say how big the crowds are.

Crowds like this I go one to another to another all over the country.

We have 7,000 people outside trying to get in.

Look at the people back there, shoot it. You got to shoot it. Turn around.

You ought to see the crowd we had in Pennsylvania, the crowd we had in Ohio and Iowa.

They never talk about how big our crowds are.

We had one crowd in Texas that filled up a stadium.

We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.

The line was like 30 blocks longer, went all the way back to a highway.

We have a big crown, Mr. President.

And those are the people that didn't get in.

I looked over that sea of people and I said to myself, "Wow."


COOPER: Now, you may ask yourself, what is more appealing to the President than exaggerating his own crowd numbers? How about bashing a potential rival who is also holding a rally nearby? For President Trump, it's like a big beautiful 20 foot high see through concrete Christmas in February.


TRUMP: But a young man who's got very little going for himself except he's got a great first name, he has -- he challenged us. So we have, let's say 35,000 people tonight and he has 200 people, 300 people, not too good.

They won't mention the disparity tomorrow. They'll say, Beto O'Rourke, that's his last name, right, O'Rourke? Beto O'Rourke had a wonderful rally of about 15 people.


COOPER: 200, 300, 15, you can call it a small crowd, you can call it tiny crowd, you can call it peaches for all the President cares, just make sure that you point out how miniscule the O'Rourke rally was. And pay no attention to the "Axios" estimates that he also had a crowd number in the thousands. Who cares?

By the way, the President recently told "The New York Times" that of all the declared Democratic candidates, he was the most impressed with Senator Kamala Harris because of the number of people at her kickoff event. But the fact is, crowd estimates are tough and there's a reason I know that.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period, both in person and around the globe.


COOPER: How do you even make a jacket like that? I don't know. Sean Spicer, we hardly knew you. Back to the President, like any true star in command of a crowd, he didn't just focus on crowd size last night, he mixed it up. He gave his supporters some greatest hits, but he also dropped some new beats from his next album.


TRUMP: I loved the people of this state. We've had a great romance together, you know that. It's been a great romance.

Is there any place that's more fun to be than a Trump rally? Nice and calm. No, that's not what you're looking for. I really don't like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of let's hop a train to California. You're not allowed to own cows anymore, the Rio Grande, it's happening, go check it out.

There is nothing better than a good old fashioned German shepherd. I wouldn't mind having one honestly, but I don't have any time. How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn, would that be, right? Sort of not -- I don't know, it doesn't -- I don't feel good. It feels a little phony to me.


COOPER: Phony, yes, interesting word. I love that the President is basically saying this hypothetical German shepherd and you know it wouldn't be like any German shepherd would have to be like the great, great grandson of Rin Tin Tin, it would eat up some of his executive time, maybe even literally. One big Mac for you, one big Mac for me, double the fries, double the love.

So just to recap, the President is still exaggerating his crowd sizes. He doesn't seem impressed by Beto O'Rourke. You can't even buy cows anymore. And he wouldn't get a German shepherd if it didn't clash with his whole look on the White House Lawn.

Nice and calm, that's not what you're looking for, not at a Trump campaign rally and certainly not on "The Ridiculist." As speeches once said, "Huh, what?" That's about it for us. I want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: I see the cold medicine is still working. Thank you for putting Mamma Mia squarely in my head. Look at me now, will I ever learn? I don't know how, but I suddenly lose control, there's a fire burning in my soul. I wonder if the President has those lyrics banging around in his head at those rallies. It's good to have you back, my brother. Great show as always.

COOPER: It's good to be back, thanks.