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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
White House Expects To See Mueller Findings Before They Go to Congress; President Trump Has Plenty To Be Outraged Over This Weekend, Except New Zealand Attack. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 18, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
There's breaking news tonight and it has to do with the pending Mueller findings and whether the White House is going to try to hide some of the information before Congress and you get to see it through executive privilege. It would, of course, set up a huge political battle.
I want to go to CNN senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, who's breaking the story.
So, explain what you've learned about this?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've learned that White House lawyers expect to review whatever version of Mueller's report Attorney General Barr submits to Congress before it reaches lawmakers, and the public, and this could be a flash point, Anderson. And it sets up a potential political battle over this hotly anticipated document.
These attorneys in the White House want the White House to have an opportunity to claim an executive privilege over any information drawn from documents and interviews with White House officials over the last couple of years. These sources we spoke with said, but the White House's review of executive privilege claims, Anderson, are within its legal purview, but it could set up this political battle over this perception, at the very least, of President Trump trying to shield certain information from the public about an investigation that has swirled around him since the first day of his presidency.
As one source I spoke to close to the White House put it to me, the source said, look, there's always tension between what looks best politically and what represents the interests of the institution, but preserving executive privilege, Trump's political optics in the White House view in this case, Anderson.
COOPER: President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, suggested that executive privilege could be used to use parts of the report from public view. It's not up to the president's personal attorneys, though. It's up to the White House?
BROWN: Yes, that's right. The president's outside personal attorneys do not decide whether to assert executive privilege. That's up to the president and the White House counsel's office. And we should note, executive privilege allows the president's
conversations with other officials to be kept confidential if he chooses to assert it. Now, Justice Department lawyers could advise him against certain assertions, if they don't feel it's legally defensible. But if President Trump does assert executive privilege, the decision could be litigated in court, if it's challenged, which Democrats would almost certainly do, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Pamela Brown, thank you very much.
COOPER: For more, I want to go to CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
So, Jim, what are you learning about what was behind all of these tweets from the president this weekend?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I talked to a number of sources over the last day or so and essentially, what I'm hearing from my sources over here at the White House and people who talk to the president on occasion is that this is -- this is really more of the same, of the president trying to throw out distractions, try to change the narrative, dominate their narrative. So, there is not as much attention being paid to the Mueller report. We do know that over the weekend, speaking of what Pam was just talking about, he did tweet that he would like to see Republicans up on Capitol Hill err on the side of transparency, when it comes to this Mueller report.
So, it's interesting, if they decide to scale back what the public can see, that would be running counter to what the president said over the weekend, when he said that he would like to see full transparency when it comes to the Mueller report.
But getting back to these tweets, it is never a good day for the administration, when you have top White House officials coming out like Kellyanne Conway, when her husband, George Conway, a prominent D.C. attorney, is saying something, you know, along the lines that the president suffers from some sort of personality disorder, she was disagreeing with that. And because of the president's tweets over the weekend and the way he responded to the terrorist attack in New Zealand, you had Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff saying the president is not a white supremacist.
It's never a good time when they have to respond to the president's rhetoric like this. But, Anderson, I will tell you, from talking to senior White House officials, people who advise the president, know what the president is up to when it comes to his Twitter feed, he is very much trying to dominate the narrative, change the narrative with these tweets. And I think we saw a lot of that over the weekend.
I talked to one source, who -- you know, I asked -- I said, does this sound like the president is starting to worry about what's going to come out in the Mueller report? And this source said, no, basically, it's just more of the same from the president's Twitter feed. There is a sense, though, from talking to my sources, Anderson, that this Mueller report is going to come out soon. That they're anticipating that it will come out soon. They're trying to read the tea leaves like everybody else, but their sense is that we should be hearing from the special counsel's office sooner rather than later, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, Jim, thanks.
For more on the breaking news, I want to bring in CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, and two of our legal analysts, Laura Coates and Jeffrey Toobin.
Technically, Jeff, Mueller works at the Justice Department, which answers to the White House. The president can legally exert executive privilege, no?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And it's worth remembering, people may remember the Starr report and how long that was and detailed. He was an independent counsel. He didn't report to the Justice Department. He reported to a three-judge panel that appointed him.
Mueller's in a very different situation here. Mueller is an employee of the Department of Justice. So if -- and William Barr, the attorney general, is his boss.
[20:05:00] And if he says, this report will not be disclosed or parts of it will not be disclosed, Mueller has no remedy except to resign in protest, because he's simply a subordinate.
COOPER: Although Mueller could be, then, subpoenaed by House Democrats and to testify about what was in the report?
TOOBIN: He could. And that's where the legal complexities begin about whether Congress would have access to that, although executive privilege protects disclosure from -- disclosure to Congress, as well. The issue, of course, is that executive privilege is not something that's easy to define. And the courts have never really defined it in any great detail.
So, if the president wants to assert it, the odds are that for one thing, the clock could run out, because the court battle could take so long, but also, there's a lot of deference in the courts to executives about his own privilege.
COOPER: John, I mean, all the talk we've been hearing from the president's allies for the past couple of years, about Mueller being able to do his job without interference, what is that worth if Mueller's findings can essentially be edited by the White House?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, it's not worth much, if that's the case. And I think, first of all, we've got to understand that executive privilege is not going to reach back to the campaign and protect events that occurred during the campaign. It's not going to reach the transition, either.
It will only really relate to potentially activities that occurred after he became president. So that's one limiting factor. To do -- to invoke it, they're going to also have to, I think, provide what's often known as a privilege log, where they're explaining what they're excluding and why they're seeking to exclude it.
And executive privilege breaks down to a number of areas. Is it communications, is it attorney/client privilege? Is it a document that they feel they can't release? All of that will have to be detailed.
Anderson, this is really no surprise. This is kind of standard procedure for something, a document this hot or anything that's going to go to the Congress. So I really have not surprised to learn this at all.
COOPER: And, John, just to explain a little bit for our viewers, there's a reason there is such a thing as executive privilege. One wants a president to be -- and I think we just lost John.
I'll go to Laura about this.
Laura, I mean, I think one of the things that is confusing is that, you know, one wants a president to be able to have communications with people that remain private, for obvious reasons.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, you want to encourage that candor, because that really is the fundamental issue of how you have separation of powers, you want each particular autonomous and equally potent branch of government to be able to talk amongst themselves, to be able to have the candor that can have the vigorous debate, et cetera. You want that.
But what you do not want is the head of the executive branch, which, remember, their charge is actually to enforce the laws of the land, to be able to use executive privilege to somehow circumvent the fair administration of justice. And that was -- that was Richard Nixon's actual problem there. The courts had this idea of executive privilege being at the fulcrum of two important balancing notions -- one being the right of having that candor, and the other one about the public's right through Congress to know information and to be able to fairly administer justice.
So, you know, John was absolutely right, the notion of, this can't go back to the actual campaign. Executive privilege means you were actually a part of and led the executive branch.
Also, Mueller's charge has been about the campaign. And frankly, the assumption that the privilege would relate to any and all the communications would be false, because there are many people who never had a role in the executive branch who were a part of the campaign -- namely, for example, the children of the president of the United States, anyone who was related to prior the inauguration. There wasn't necessarily be covered by the inauguration, by the executive privilege, unless they somehow were a part of the executive portion of Donald Trump's existence. That may be a stretch in and of itself.
COOPER: Right. Jeff? TOOBIN: And even when a president's communications are involved, that doesn't end the discussion. The famous United States versus Nixon case of 1974, where the Supreme Court unanimously said the president had to surrender the White House tapes, which were, of course, all about his communications with his advisers, they said, because it was a subpoena involving a pending criminal trial, there was a countervailing interest there, where the public -- where the court had the right to get it.
So -- but, again, the clock matters here, too. Here we are, we're already in March of 2019. If this goes to the courts, it probably wouldn't even be resolved until next year. And then you're already into the election.
COOPER: John, who would bring it to the courts? Is it congress, Democrats in Congress who would challenge, you know, line by line, the claims of executive privilege?
DEAN: That would be the most likely source. And that is actually under the case law that exists, one of the weakest sources.
[20:10:05] When the Senate Watergate committee tried to get Nixon's tapes, they didn't fair well at all. They lost at the lower court level and appellate court level and never got to the Supreme Court.
The strongest case is somebody, on behalf of the courts proceeding. It's theoretically possible they could get to a civil case by asking somebody to testify from the White House, who would refuse, and to produce the documents and refuse. And that could get into the civil proceedings.
But as Jeff says, these can be very protracted. And it could take a long time to resolve.
TOOBIN: John, you testified in public about your conversations with the president. You know, the famous, when you talked about saying, there was a cancer on the presidency.
Why were you allowed to testify about that? What happened to executive privilege there?
DEAN: Well, first of all, he did waive attorney/client before I even went up, because he knew I was going to blow through it on a number of exceptions that are well known to that -- crime, fraud, what have you.
But the fact is, if somebody doesn't want to testify, they can invoke it. If you want to testify and provide the information, I don't know how a president could stop you, other than to go to court and try to get an injunction against you. And that's not very likely.
So, if Mueller was called to testify and was inclined to do so, he could indeed testify and get the report out that way.
COOPER: Wow, that would be interesting.
John Dean, thank you. Jeffrey Toobin and Laura Coates, thank you, as well.
When we return, keeping 'em honest on the president's Twitter tear from over the weekend. Why does he keep lashing out at former senator and war hero John McCain who died back in August? You'll hear his daughter's response today, John McCain's daughter Meghan, as well as what some are saying about the president's state.
And we're drawing closer to the big event tonight. A presidential town hall only on CNN with Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren about to make her case directly to voters in Jackson, Mississippi. That's starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Don't miss it tonight.
[20:16:10] COOPER: Take a look at President Trump's Twitter feed from the weekend and you'll probably walk away with the following impressions.
One, he's angry. Two, he's aggrieved. Three, he really likes Fox's Judge Jeanine. Four, he really doesn't like "Saturday Night Live," even reruns. Five, he still really doesn't like war hero and former Senator McCain who died in August.
So let's take these in order and just start with the tweets themselves, particularly the one about late Senator McCain. For context, the president's tweets came after reports about a newly revealed court document that showed an associate of Senator McCain shared the so-called Steele dossier with the media. The court documents do not alleged Senator McCain shared the dossier with anyone outside the FBI, which has long been public knowledge.
So, that's the context. In his tweet storm, Trump tweeted former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr saying developments were, quote, a stain on the senator. For good measure, the president added, and I quote: He had far worse stains than this, including thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace.
Now, that's the president attacking a dead war hero for his vote on a health care bill as he himself was valiantly fighting terminal cancer. Consider that for a moment.
Also consider that one swipe at Senator McCain wasn't enough. The president also referred to him in another tweet as, quote, last in his class, Annapolis, John McCain.
Now, keeping them honest, Senator McCain was actually fifth from last in his class. But the difference from him and the president -- I should say, one of the many differences between him and the president, John McCain never asked his lawyer to threaten his college to keep his grades secret. Donald Trump did that, according to Michael Cohen.
Unlike the president, McCain actually had a sense of humor and was confident enough to poke fun at himself for his Annapolis disciplinary record and even crashing planes. That's the kind of confidence you get when you have been through hell and survived with honor. Just as a reminder, McCain served as a naval aviator for 22 years, was shot down over Vietnam in 1967, spent nearly six years being tortured as a prisoner of war. He refused early release, not leaving without his brothers in arms and was later awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
President Trump did not serve in the military, he was sent to boarding school where they did dress up in military uniforms, but his love for actually being in the military seemed to have ended there. He got five deferments from the Vietnam draft, including one for what he claims were bone spurs.
Senator McCain wasn't the president's only target this weekend. He blasted out dozens and dozens of tweets and retweets, an excessive volume, even by his standards. The president's Twitter frenzy was so extreme that conservative attorney George Conway, husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, himself took to Twitter, questioning the president's mental health and fitness for office.
Quoting from Conway: all Americans should be thinking seriously now about Trump's mental condition and psychological state, including and especially the media, Congress, and the vice president and cabinet. To be clear, Conway there is suggesting serious people consider removing the president from office.
We don't know if there was one specific tweet that prompted Conway to invoke that concept or it was the gross tonnage of everything that the president was turning out. But what we do know, is that the president has said time and time again that Twitter is his favorite forum of communication with the American people, a forum for his priorities.
So, one might wonder, during all of that time on twitter this weekend, while the president was threatening to weaponize the FCC in the wake of a "Saturday Night Live" rerun, defending two Fox News hosts, including one that trafficked in Islamophobia, what did he say about the terrorist attack from which the world is still reeling? What did he say about the 50 Muslims that were gunned down in two New Zealand mosques during morning prayers n Friday?
The answer is, this weekend, nothing. The president did express condolences to New Zealanders on Friday and acknowledged the killings took place in mosques. But in all the time he apparently had on his hands this weekend, and he seemed to have a lot of time on his hands, he wrote nothing about the violence of white nationalism, nothing about protecting America's allies from hate-filled terrorist attacks, nothing about how the FBI says hate crimes in this country rose 17 percent in 2017 compared to the year before.
[20:20:06] Nothing about data from the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, that shows white supremacist propaganda efforts in neighborhoods and on campus increased 182 percent in this country last year, we don't know why the president stayed silent on all of that this weekend. Perhaps, it's because he said all he had to say on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you see today white nationalism is a rising threat around the world?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.
I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet. They're just learning about the person and the people involved. But it's certainly a terrible thing. Terrible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And then today, from the president, quote: The fake news media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So ridiculous.
Still, nothing about the Muslim victims in New Zealand or their alleged white nationalist killer.
Let's see what my guests make of all this. Joining me now is former Republican senator, Rick Santorum, and former South Carolina Democratic legislator, Bakari Sellers.
Senator Santorum, if someone's dad or uncle sent out 29 tweets or re- tweets in one day, wouldn't their family be a little concerned or like have a Twitter-vention.
RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: There's nothing I'm going to do to defend the president in this. I've said it many times and I'll say it, he gets in the way of -- look at the CNN poll that shows that 71 percent of the public think that the economy is on the right track and things are going well. He's doing a good job in many respects as president and then he does this, that diverts attention away from the job he's doing and some of the things that are positive and just likes to focus on things that aggrieve him, and it's all personal.
COOPER: Do you think there's a strategy there, or it is just personal and he's just getting it out?
SANTORUM: Yes, this is -- maybe this is his therapy. I don't know. I mean, I don't know how he does it. I'm not familiar with the internal workings of Donald Trump's schedule, but my guess is, he -- this is his time just to sort of let it all out. And he sees Twitter as his outlet to do that.
I wish he wouldn't do it. I wish he would write them and send e-mails to -- you know, to a therapist, as opposed to sending tweets to the general public.
COOPER: Bakari, I mean, you know, while 29 tweets may not be a lot for any other 72-year-old, it isn't -- this is just what the president does. I mean, is it really any different than what he's been doing for years now? BAKARI SELLERS (D), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER: I think the
country is being desensitized to the president of the United States' psychopathy. I know that many people -- I know George Conway went on his rampage. I dare not go there.
But I think many people view the president is unstable. And the reason I state that is twofold. First, you have someone who can actually crash a business with a tweet. He sets the tone and tenor for national policy and foreign policy, domestic and abroad, with a tweet.
But secondly, when you see the fact that the president of the United States goes out of his way to bash a war hero, but then when asked about white supremacy, he begins to stutter. And let me not say that. He doesn't stutter. He affirms what he believes to be true, that there are good people on both sides, then that's troublesome.
And many people feel, Democrat and Republican alike, this is not necessarily a partisan issue. People feel that his answers when it comes to this question leave a lot more than to be desired and also do not speak for the majority of Americans. I think that's the problem that we get into.
And we have an attack like we had in New Zealand, when the president of the United States again, for the second time, cannot forcefully come out and say and rebuke what we all know to be white supremacy, that's a problem, while you trample on the legacy of John McCain.
SANTORUM: Yes --
COOPER: Go ahead.
SANTORUM: Yes, look, the reality is that the president sees everything through the eyes of him. And the American public has figured this out. I know folks on the left have not. They continue to call him all sorts of names and say that he's a white supremacist or a racist or whatever the case may be.
And this is not about the president's viewpoint. This is about the president being -- not wanting to attack -- not wanting to say something that's going to put -- that's going to reflect badly on people that support him, because it makes it look like that, you know, that he's guilty. And so, he's not going to comment on those things, because he's not going to comment on anybody that is affiliated, even perversely in the case of the New Zealand shooter. He's not going to comment on this, because he's not -- he sees that as somehow, you know, an admission.
[20:25:02] So he just leaves it alone and he goes out and attacks people who attack him. That's what he does.
COOPER: Senator -- it's an interesting point, Senator. But is it that he -- he sees it as blowback on him or is it just a political decision that, OK, these are people, whether he agrees with them or not, these are people who support him, white supremacists, white nationalists. And there's no political benefit for him to go after them, just as not even saying --
SANTORUM: Oh, I disagree with that.
COOPER: He used the word mosque once Friday morning. He said nothing about Muslims since then. Whereas if the attack had been, you know, a radical Islamist, there's no doubt that he would be talking about the victims. He hasn't done anything of that.
SANTORUM: Yes, I don't think it's political at all. In fact, I think the overwhelming good politics of this is to actually go out and do attack these people, because there aren't -- there aren't many of them, number one, and they're insignificant politically. And so, for him to do so would be a very good thing for him to do politically.
He just doesn't. It's the same thing with the Russia investigation. He just won't do anything that looks like he is, he's, you know, implicating himself in these -- in this tweet.
COOPER: Bakari, do you agree with that?
SELLERS: I actually do. I agree with Rick's analysis. First, the fact that the president sees himself and sees the world through a lens that is strictly his own is actually what many people would say, what we are saying or diagnosing here on cable news as being some sort of mental health issue.
But even number two, there is a part of Donald Trump that will not attack this white supremacist, this bigotry, this xenophobia, that is a part of our fabric, that is a part of the country, that's a part of the world that's on the rise, because he views it as an indictment on himself. And I think that Senator Santorum is correct in that, because he doesn't want to offend that base. He doesn't want to offend those people. He doesn't want to offend the notion.
And let me be clear. I think the president of the United States is racist. However, for the purposes of taking this discourse to a higher level, Senator Santorum may not. But I do believe that we all agree that the president --
SANTORUM: I don't.
SELLERS: -- uses racism as political currency. And that means that he allows these people to continue to breed philosophically and vote for him.
SANTORUM: Senator Santorum, I appreciate your time. Bakari Sellers as well.
Wajahat Ali is a contributing opinion writer for "The New York Times".
And after Friday's attack in New Zealand, called President, quote, impotent, unquote, when it comes to commending white nationalism.
Wajahat, thanks for being with us. The fact that the president tweeted about basically everything, including "Saturday Night Live" and Senator John McCain, except what happened in New Zealand, what message do you think that sends? And do you agree with what's being discussed, it's not necessarily a political stance, it's just, he sees no benefit in it in doing so?
WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTTING OPINION WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES: It's true to form, it's the feature, not the bug with Donald Trump, because he doesn't want to offend part of his base. And a part of his base, I'm sorry to say, are racist, because the president is racist. He's not racially charged, he doesn't have racial trip-ups, he is racist.
And the reason why I say that is he has always given cover to certain white nationalist. I'll give you an example, Charlottesville, white supremacists, KKK and the alt-right chanted "the Jews will not replace us." What did Donald Trump say? Very fine people, both sides are to blame.
However, a few weeks later, in Spain, when Muslims did the exact same act of terrorism, they hijacked a car and plowed it through a car, he was tough. He's always tough when it comes to Muslims and promoted that fake conspiracy theory that if you dip bullets into pig's blood, you can use it to kill Muslims. That's what he said, that General Pershing said, he didn't.
And here I am as a Muslim telling everyone, you don't need pig's blood to kill Muslims. Regular bullets work just fine. So you have to ask yourself, why does a New Zealand shooter, a domestic terrorist, Anderson, who killed 50 people in his manifesto say that Donald Trump represents to him a renewed symbol of white identity with whom he shares a common purpose? What common purpose, Anderson, can a white supremacist domestic terrorist share with Donald Trump?
And the -- if I may, the manifesto was named replacement, right, the great replacement. That is the number one conspiracy theory of white supremacists. That conspiracy theory says that the Jews are the head of this cabal, using all of their power and influence, to weaken the white race by bringing in immigrants, rapists, criminals, right, Muslims, to subordinate the white man.
Let's take it to October 2018, the DeLorean, just a few months back. Donald Trump, midterm elections, doubled down and tripled down on one talking point -- invasion, caravan, rapists, criminals, Mexicans, Muslims.
That same time, who used the same exact talking point of invasion? Robert Bowers, who walked into a Tree of Life synagogue and killed 11 people --
ALI: -- saying that I want to punish those who are bringing in the invaders. And who used the word "invasion" several times in his manifesto? The New Zealand shooter.
And on Friday, President Trump had an opportunity to show that he was not pathetic, spineless, impotent, weak in the face of domestic terrorists, white supremacists, and what word did he use, Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Invaders.
ALI: Invasion. Any reason why he's seen as the renewed symbol of white identity and a man who shares common purpose with not only the New Zealand shooter, but also the "Daily Stormer," the leading white supremacist website, alt-right Richard Spencer and David Duke of the KKK. Connect the dots, it's all there.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, after the attacks, you wrote, "The threat we're facing isn't just individual terrorists, it's the global ideology of white nationalism and white supremacy. We have to take it seriously and call out politicians' academics and media personalities who give it a platform."
I mean, I think back even to -- I think it was one of the last campaign commercials, if not the last campaign commercial for the Trump campaign, sort of -- with pictures of, you know, sort of the idea that George Soros was behind, you know, and Janet Yellen, pictures of her. It just all seemed to be that sort of playing up to the trope which you discussed, that Jews are behind this invasion.
ALI: It's worse. Mick Mulvaney said recently that Donald Trump is not a white supremacist. OK. But he mainstreams white supremacist conspiracy theories, exactly what you said that George Soros conspiracy theory was mainstreamed and tweeted out by President Trump, and then carried out by the Republican Party.
That theory says that George Soros, a Hungarian Jewish American billionaire, funded the caravan of rapists, Muslims, Mexicans to invade America. That conspiracy theory literally comes from the ideological swamp of white supremacists worldwide. It was used in Poland. It's used in Hungary. It's used in Europe, and it was used by President Trump.
So the question is, why is the President mainstreaming white supremacist conspiracy theories? Why does he call them very fine people? When it's Muslims, why does he attack them and act tough and say, "I'm going to do extreme vetting on the Muslim ban," but he can't even muster the "T" word, terrorism, for white nationalists?
COOPER: Wajahat Ali, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
ALI: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: I want to turn back over to the storm over the President's latest attacks to Senator McCain, the late Senator John McCain. McCain's daughter says that the President is "obsessed" with great men, like her father, "great men" is her term, and she's firing back anew. We'll hear from her next.
[20:35:52] COOPER: Back now to the President's attack on late senator and war hero, John McCain. As we told you earlier, they came after reports about newly revealed court documents that show an associate of McCain shared the so-called Steele dossier with members of the media.
Documents do not allege that the senator shared the dossier with anyone outside the FBI, which has long been public knowledge. So with that in mind, know what we're about to show you from the President is not accurate.
The President wrote this on Twitter, "It was indeed just proven in court papers, last in his class Annapolis, John McCain, that sent the fake dossier to the FBI and media, hoping to have it printed before the election."
Like we said, it wasn't John McCain giving it to the media. According to the new documents, it didn't say Senator McCain shared it. Here's how his daughter, Meghan McCain, responded to all of this on "The View."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF FORMER SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Listen, he spends his weekend obsessing over great men, because he knows it and I know it and all of you know it, he will never be a great man.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MCCAIN: And so he's -- my father was his kryptonite in life, he's his kryptonite in death. And I just thought, your life is spent on your weekends not with your family, not with your friends, but obsessing, obsessing over great men you could never live up to.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MCCAIN: That tells you everything you need to know about his pathetic life right now.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I want to bring in Mark McKinnon, a former senior adviser to Senator John McCain, also former RNC Chief of Staff Mike Shields, and Republican Strategist Rick Wilson, author of, "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
Mark, as someone who worked with respected and probably loved John McCain, I wonder first of all what went through your mind when you read those comments from the President?
MARK MCKINNON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, three things, Anderson. I break it down this way. First of all, you have a man insulting a guy -- a man who claimed bone spurs to get out of Vietnam, insulting a guy who was -- who volunteered, who was captured and tortured. You have a man who had his lawyer threaten schools not to disclose his academic scores, insulting a man who freely admitted he wasn't the smartest in his class and had the confidence to joke about it.
You have a man who invited a hostile nation to hack his political opponent, insulting a man who gave sensitive information to our own intelligence service, which is what I would hope anyone would do and that's why I wear this bracelet that says, what would John McCain do, and that's why I'm sending them to all 100 senators.
COOPER: Mike, I mean, is this how you wish the President was spending his time?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, you and I have talked before about how is it that the President gets fact checked so much and yet there's a huge group of Americans, his base in particular, that think he's honest and this is why. We've all seen people that go to a funeral or have someone who's passed away and then they're glowingly talking about them. President Trump is being honest. He's certainly not changing who he is.
He criticized John McCain before, they were political enemies, he continues to criticize him. I think he's pretty upset that this information got out, that he thinks John McCain had something to do with it. And so it doesn't surprise me one bit that he's going to continue to say what he thinks is right and there's a group of people that see sincerity in him that he's not being a politician in saying, "Oh, now that he's passed away, I'm going to say nice things about him."
COOPER: Right. But being a sincere -- I mean, if you're a jerk, you know, one week and you're still a jerk the next week, is that really a badge of honor?
SHIELDS: I think -- look, this is what some people might call a jerk, another person is going to call strength and say he's sticking to his guns and he's not backing down from someone who a lot of Republicans think of as a Democrat who fought the President and may have tried to undermine his entire candidacy.
And some of the things that were in that dossier are so personally reprehensible that I think that he's pretty mad about it and he's not -- he's sharing his anger in a way that a lot of people say, "Hey, he's being honest."
COOPER: Rick, I mean, just the fact that the man who not only refused to release his own school records, as Mark was talking about, but actually had the school hide them, criticizing McCain who, you know, joked repeatedly about -- not only about his, like, disciplinary record at Annapolis, but also for the fact that he had crashed planes. I think he first crashed a plane in Meridian, Mississippi, which is where my dad's from. I mean, it's ironic if it wasn't, you know, deeply offensive obviously to those who care for Senator McCain.
RICK WILSON, AUTHOR, "EVERYTHING TRUMP TOUCHES DIES": You know, an actual man can own his mistakes and laugh at himself and have some self-referential moments where he doesn't have to have this constant, you know, fake swaggering act like Donald Trump.
[20:40:05] Donald Trump's, you know, faux macho act is just that it's a mile wide and an inch deep. He's a physical and moral coward. He is a guy who ran from service to his country. He is, you know, he -- the idea that he wants to hide his grades is self-evident, because the guy obviously has the IQ of a room-temperature cup of yogurt. And he is not a man who has ever shown any kind of accountability, responsibility, courage, integrity of any kind, in any sphere of his behavior.
So John McCain is a rebuke to Donald Trump from beyond the grave and he hates it. He doesn't hate it because of the dossier. He hates it because Donald Trump knows that John McCain was more of a man than he could ever possibly hope to be.
COOPER: Mike, do you think --
SHIELDS: Anderson --
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.
SHIELDS: -- I just -- I find it really interesting that my colleagues here are offended by what the President said, and so that their reaction to that is to personally attack Donald Trump with invective and, you know, sort of hateful words about the President. And that's their response to defending John McCain when the President attacks him.
WILSON: Yes, but mine have the advantage of being true.
SHIELDS: That's just an irony there, you know. I mean, I just read an article about how John McCain once showed up to one of his colleague's hearings, wasn't really supposed to be there, and just told them all to "F" off and stormed out of the room. I mean, the guy had a pretty fiery temper himself.
SHIELDS: And so I just -- look, these were political enemies, they went after each other. I would say that whatever Donald Trump is tweeting now, he doesn't feel as nearly as bad as trying to undermine his entire candidacy with a dossier that he thinks is being handed over to someone. I think he thinks that's pretty worse.
COOPER: Mark, do you think -- is there -- do you believe that there's a strategy for Donald Trump doing this? I mean, this has been endlessly debated and I hesitate to even ask this question, because I feel like it's been asked so many times. But, I mean, is there a strategy to this?
Is it -- you know, Senator Santorum I think was -- or Jim Acosta earlier was saying, you know, this is, according to few at least he talked to, just him throwing things out to try to divert attention or release stress. Do you believe that there's actually a thought behind this or is it just a real time Rorschach test of what's going on in the President's head? MCKINNON: I think it's just signs of being under the pressure cooker. And Mike, I'll just say that -- listen, I understand that the President may honestly dislike John McCain, but he should be honest about what he says about John McCain. In each of those instances, in those tweets, they were patently untrue things that he was saying. He handed that dossier over to our own intelligence services after the election and not before it.
COOPER: Mike, what about that?
SHIELDS: Look, I -- I'm not quibbling on whether -- you know, what place that he finished in at Annapolis and what the President said. What I'm saying is that he's a political enemy and he's not -- I think that there are people that view the President as a level of sincerity. It's not political correct.
COOPER: But it's not sincere if it's not true.
SHIELDS: He had political enemies and he's going to attack them --I'm sorry?
COOPER: It's not sincere if it's not true. I mean, if --
SHIELDS: Well, that's the point I'm making now. When he gets fact checked, people go, why is it the people think that he's still honest? They think he's honest because he is who he is. And to a certain group of American, that's what they --
WILSON: Well, Mike, no one thinks the President is honest.
SHIELDS: They're so sick of politicians that just sort of say the right thing and act pc. Here's a guy that sort of says, I don't care, I'm going to say what I'm thinking at any time and you're going to know it. And I'm going to -- I don't think he really stands to gain a lot out of this. I don't know what he's going to politically gain out of it. And so, there is -- there are group of voters that are attracted to someone who is being that, in their mind, honest with them.
COOPER: So he's lying, but people like the fact -- but some supporters like the fact that he continues to lie --
SHIELDS: They think that every politician lies and that politicians are insincere and it would someone -- oh, he was my enemy before, but now I'm going to be nice to him. And they like the fact that there is someone who just says, "You know what, I still don't like the guy."
COOPER: Right. But, I mean --
WILSON: The majority -- the vast majority of Americans think he's not truthful, though. The vast majority of Americans think he's not truthful. Even the base of plurality thinks he's not truthful.
COOPER: It's also, Rick, interesting because -- I mean, he is a person who when he's with you in the room, he'll say one thing, and when you leave the room and somebody else comes in the room, he will say something different. I mean, it does -- you know, the off quoted criticism that whoever's the last person in the room is sort of what he's thinking.
COOPER: But to people's faces, I mean, he doesn't fire people to their face, he doesn't have conflict to his face, that would be --
WILSON: Anderson --
COOPER: -- that would be real.
WILSON: Right. It comes back again, he is a weak man. He is a weak man with a loud megaphone. And so he won't fire people to their face, he'll whisper to John Kelly, fire my kids, but he would never confront them and say, "Hey, you're doing a bad job, you have to go."
He never fires anyone directly. He always does it with this sort of, you know, behind the veil of Twitter or behind the veil, after they're already out the door. Or he just irritates them and bugs them and nudges them until they're gone. He doesn't have the ability to really confront people directly to their face.
I mean, he caves like crazy when he's in a room negotiating with people, all the time. And that is a consistent pattern of behavior that his anger about everybody else is matched by his cowardice about confronting them.
[20:45:02] COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Rick Wilson, Mark McKinnon, Mike Shields, thank you very much. Good discussion, appreciate it.
Just ahead, more on our breaking news about the White House, expecting to see any Mueller findings before Congress receives the report. I'll talk with former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. And the CNN Presidential Town Hall, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren just moments away. It's a look at the location in Jackson, Mississippi. Stay with us.
COOPER: CNN's Town Hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren starts in just over 10 minutes, but back to our breaking news. Sources telling CNN that White House attorneys expect to have an opportunity to review whatever version of Robert Mueller's findings that the attorney general decides to submit to Congress before lawmakers get to see it and the public. The attorneys want an opportunity to claim executive privilege over some of the details.
Joining me now is Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, author of the new book, "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law," just out. From a legal standpoint, the White House is allowed to do this, aren't they?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it depends on what they're doing exactly. I mean, presumably what happened was, lawyers for the President decided that in exchange for being good about voluntarily giving up information to the special counsel, they reserve their right to later assert executive privilege, which is maybe the, you know, the tactic they're going to use now.
The problem is, not everything is subject to executive privilege. If the President had a communication in which he told someone to do something wrong or offensive or wasn't an offense, that's not covered by executive privilege and should become known.
[20:50:08] There's also something unseemly about this idea that the very person who might be the subject to derogatory information in a report that's created by Bob Mueller is in the position to just hide what becomes public and what doesn't.
COOPER: So if the White House exerts executive privilege over a whole bunch of different things, can that be challenged by Democrats and Congress?
BHARARA: Yes, presumably that's what will have to happen. So maybe the tactic is just want to stall and to mock up the works for period of time as you have to go through communication after communication before a court potentially can decide what is outside of the executive privilege, what is outside of -- you know, what is appropriate to keep away from Congress and that can take a long time.
COOPER: That could go, I mean, all the way to the Supreme Court theoretically.
BHARARA: It could. But during that period of time, things will end up being handled more from a political standpoint than a legal standpoint because, you know, we have that vote just recently and also Shan (ph) vote, 420-0 in the House saying that the results of the Mueller report should be public, included a lot of Republicans.
COOPER: So if executive privilege is cited and the Democrats have issues with some of the things that are cited while it's going through legal channels, could the Democrats call Bob Mueller or even subpoena him to testify and would he be able to talk about the things which the White House has claimed executive privilege on?
BHARARA: I guess it could play out that way, but presumably if the White House knows what it's doing, it would not only exert executive privilege over the report and the things above Mueller gave to the attorney general that the White House doesn't want to make public, but they would also intercede in some way and say preemptively and maybe take that to court and say, "We seek a court order preventing Bob Mueller from talking about the things that we still intend to designate as covered by executive privilege."
COOPER: I want to talk about your book, which just out --
COOPER: -- "Doing Justice." I know you're reluctant to talk about it, but here it is. BHARARA: But I will if you insist.
COOPER: OK, yes. "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law," you write in it some advice that you were given by the -- when you started at the Southern District of New York and it's a advice you passed along when you were in charge of the Southern District on the office.
You said, "Do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons." Do you think the Cohen investigation is being done in the right way for the right reasons?
BHARARA: From what everything I can tell, yes. I mean, a lot of people who are doing that investigation, I know they're keeping their heads down and they'll bring a case if it makes sense to bring a case and they won't if they don't think its right to bring a case.
COOPER: I mean, I guess that some of the Republicans would ask, "Would this case have been brought against Michael Cohen if Donald Trump was not the president?"
BHARARA: There was a referral made, as I understand it, from Bob Mueller who came across potential evidence of misconduct on the part of Michael Cohen realize it wasn't necessarily part of the narrow ambient that he was under from Rod Rosenstein and gave that information to someone.
Look, it's like the college scandal, the college admission scandal that we've all been talking about. It's interesting to look at that as a parallel. That was a case in which a U.S. attorney's office was investigating a financial executives for security's fraud and, you know, pinched the guy and the guy decided, according to reports, that I have some other information to give you and gave them this college bribery scandal.
So it turned out that the first motivation for looking at someone ended up being something different from the ultimate big scandal that was exposed. That happens all the time. It doesn't mean it's inappropriate.
COOPER: There's also a passage in the book, you say, "The world calls out for people who care enough to be exacting and rigorous even when no one is looking diligent enough to breathe in the work they do, embracing and owning the responsibility because people are counting on them." Would you describe Robert Mueller that way?
BHARARA: I would. I would. I think he comes from the finest traditions of the department. And, you know, one of the reason I wrote the book is that we're in this time of people talking about alternative facts and people making assertions of fake news and saying truth isn't truth.
And we talked about Trump all the time, and I do on Twitter. We talked about it here on the show, but for purposes of the book and I think for the country, sometimes it makes sense to take a step back and look at first principles and figure out what it means to do justice, what it means to be fair and principle, what it means to be fair minded, how do you get just results. And we don't do that enough I think in the country these days.
COOPER: Preet Bharara, thank you so much.
BHARARA: Thank you.
COOPER: The book is doing justice. Appreciate it.
Well, the CNN President Town Hall with Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren is just minutes away. She'll be answering questions from those gathered in Jackson, Mississippi tonight. That's about six minutes from now.
As for the newest entry into the Democratic field, former Texas congressman, Beto O'Rourke, raised $6.1 million online in the first 24 hours of his launch according to his campaign. That would be the largest first day haul of any 2020 Democratic hopeful to date.
Back with me now is CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers. And joining us, Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers.
Gloria, what does that say to you about O'Rourke that he was able to raise that amount of money in 24 hours?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, it's kind of eye popping. I mean, he beat out even Bernie Sanders who had run last time and it means that he's got some longevity here. He's got the money and we'll see if he has a message. I personally haven't seen it quite yet, but all the other candidates, you know, have got to be wary of Beto O'Rourke.
[20:55:06] I mean, we knew he raised, what, $68 million during his Senate bid and now people are asking can he raise that much money again? And it sure seems that way.
COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, between the President attacking O'Rourke about his hand movements last week and the RNC sending out a tweet over the weekend making fun of his DUI arrest, is there -- I mean, I'm wondering, is there internal polling showing them something that we don't know? I mean, does it show that they are concerned about him at this point? Or are they just, you know, throwing darts at whoever they can?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, look, it's Donald Trump so to a certain extent I think he just likes to hurl insults at people. But, you know, if they're smart, they are taking him seriously. He's somebody who, you know, got un -- just incredible enthusiasm, unprecedented enthusiasm in his race in Texas and, you know, went a lot further than I think a lot of people thought he could, a Democrat could in Texas and, you know, came very close to beating Ted Cruz. So I think he is somebody who should be taken seriously.
I think that -- I'm not sure how tweeting about his DUI really helps their cause, if anything it makes him seem more sympathetic, you know. It's something that I think that was such a nasty attack and it wasn't an attack really just against him. It was sort of an attack on Irish people. It was done on St. Patrick's Day, somehow linking, you know, drinking and being Irish and just, you know, sort of your standard garden variety bigotry I guess. And so I think it's something that is actually in weird way probably helped Beto.
COOPER: Bakari, I mean, what do you make of, you know, of Beto O'Rourke, the fact that he could raise so much money? You know, Gloria asked, you know, does he actually have, you know, policy positions firmed out?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, I mean, I think that anyone who raises $6.1 million has to be taken seriously. But I think the O'Rourke campaign is taking a slightly different tact. I mean, they're taking charisma over substance or anything else and we'll have to see how that plays out. I would bet it wouldn't, but I'm also the same person who believed that Hillary Clinton would be President of the United States.
I do want to point out, though, that the contrast that we're going to see from Elizabeth Warren tonight versus Beto O'Rourke could -- it's going to blow your mind. And the reason being is because Elizabeth -- people like Elizabeth Warren and (INAUDIBLE) to a certain extent have been driving the policy debates in the Democratic Party.
And then when you see Elizabeth Warren tonight, when you see her in Jackson, Mississippi in front of Chokwe Lumumba who is a progressive mayor, who is a rising star as well, you're going to look at that and knows policy, and the depth of a policy and you're going to look at Beto O'Rourke and you're going to have two vastly different candidates.
I think it's up to the Democratic Party, what do we want? Do we want substance or do we want charisma or do we want find some combination of both, because Beto O'Rourke has $6.1 million with no ideas. Imagine if he actually had an idea.
COOPER: Gloria, talking about Vice President Biden this weekend saying that he has the most progressive record of "anybody running."
COOPER: You know, is that intentional, unintentional slip of the tongue? I mean, you could argue it was just, you know, kind of a little too cute, intentional kind of slip of the tongue to get extra drum roll before announcing.
BORGER: Well, you know, Biden is known for the slip of the tongue, in case we don't all recall. So I tend to think he didn't mean to say it, but nobody was surprised that he said it and nobody will be surprised when he announces that he's going to run.
I presume he is going to run. I could be wrong, but I presume he's also going to announce after the first fund-raising quarter because you look at the money that Beto O'Rourke has raised, you look at the money that Bernie Sanders has raised and that could be embarrassing for him.
BORGER: But, he seems like a candidate this time around.
COOPER: Kirsten, CNN is learning that Biden adviser discussing selecting a running mate early kind of in the hopes of taking command of the Democratic race. Again, I guess it's one of the things, you know, advisers would discuss. But given that he hasn't even announced yet, it's kind of incredible.
POWERS: Yes. Yes. Well, I mean, it would be smart if somehow he could -- for example, if it was a Stacey Abrams or, you know, Kamala Harris who would agree to be a vice presidential candidate, then I think that that would definitely help Biden a lot, because there's so many people in the Democratic Party who really don't want to just have a white man, you know, as the ticket. And so I think it's a good idea. I don't know if either of them would even go for this idea and allegedly it hasn't been raised, but I think it's a very intriguing idea.
COOPER: Bakari, the fact that according to the latest polling -- President Trump's approval rating has ticked up 42 percent, could that change if Democrats go after him? And we only have a couple of seconds, so just very quickly.
SELLERS: I mean, I don't -- listen, Donald Trump has a solid 35 percent of the American electorate. Democrats, we can't pray for Robert Mueller to come out with some amazing report. We cannot -- not take this President seriously. We're going to have to just beat him and whomever that is, we just have to get to it sooner rather than later.
COOPER: Bakari Sellers, Gloria Borger.