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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) Connecticut Is Interviewed About Mueller's Investigation; President Trump: Never A Fan of John McCain and I Never Will Be; Source: Rosenstein Saying Longer at DOJ to Be "Heat Shield" or Absorb the Punches, If There's Fallout from Mueller Report. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired March 19, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

If you are wondering if the president of the United States apologized today for his attack on a war hero just months after his passing, the answer is he didn't. In fact, he continued to express his dislike of John McCain, blaming him for his vote on health care and other unnamed issues.

As you know, in the past, one of those issues he disliked during the campaign, about McCain was he got captured during the Vietnam War, that he was a POW for six years and was tortured. Mr. Trump apparently doesn't like members of the military who get captured. So he said.

The continued comments by the president of the United States has also unleashed a flood of attacks by everyday citizens against the McCain family. Senator McCain's widow, Cindy, posted one such comment she says she received from a woman on Facebook messenger. It's a note laced with obscenities which we're sanitizing.

Quote: Your husband was a traitorous peace of war-mongering S word, the woman writes. And I'm glad he's dead. Hope your Miss Piggy- looking daughter chokes to death on the next burger she stuffs down her fat neck too. She concludes with another vile word which I'm not going to repeat.

Cindy McCain posted that after the president lashed out over the weekend on Twitter, of course, from the comfort of the executive -- of executive time at the White House. He took aim at a man who stood up to six years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison. He blamed Senator McCain for sparking the Russia investigation and falsely claimed that he graduated last at Annapolis.

Just keeping them honest, he graduated sixth from last, something the senator himself had the confidence to point out and make fun of himself for. The president also attacked McCain for casting a vote against repealing Obamacare, saying he caused the repeal to fail. We should point out McCain wasn't the only Republican to vote no.

Today, as we noted, the president continued to comment on McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very unhappy that he didn't repeal and replace Obamacare as you know. He campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years, and then he got to a vote and he said thumbs down. And our country would have saved a trillion dollars and we would have had great health care.

So, he campaigned. He told us hours before that he was going to repeal and replace. And then for some reason, I think I understand the reason, he ended up going thumbs up. Frankly, had we known that, we would have gotten the vote, because we could have gotten somebody else.

So I think that's disgraceful. Plus, there are other things. I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.


COOPER: You don't have to be a fan to respect their memory or just recognize their undeniable service to the country. You don't have to be a very stable genius to understand that your words and deeds have consequences. They can inspire or incite, which is why presumably Cindy McCain made public today that vile message attacking her late husband and their family.

Late today, Republican Senator Mitt Romney weighed in, tweeting: I can't understand why the president would once again disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain. Heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic and driven by duty to family, country, and God.

Just moments ago, CNN's Jim Acosta got new information on the roots of the president's grievance over Senator McCain's Obamacare vote. He joins us now.

What have you learned about the president's claims about Senator McCain today?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I talked to a former McCain aide who worked with the senator right up until his death and was around for when this repeal and replace vote went down. When John McCain gave that now famous thumbs down to the GOP repeal and replace plan and angered the White House, angered the president. You heard the president talking about that today.

In the words of this aide -- nope, never happened, he was not one to consult the White House before he acted. And then this aide added the question you're surprised, you're surprised that Trump lied? This aide added.

And so they, inside McCain world, they are obviously furious with the way the president has been behaving over the last few days, going after John McCain. But this is just a factual error according to people who worked for the late senator.

COOPER: Has the White House had anything to say about what Cindy McCain posted today? ACOSTA: No, they haven't. I think it is worth reminding folks,

Anderson, that, you know, this is the sort of thing that happens all the time. When the president lashes out at any number of targets, and you and I know this, probably as well as a lot of people do. You know, you do take on a barrage of social media attacks from the president's supporters, there is just a whole legion of trolls and bots and so on to back up what the president says, and sometimes those messages get very, very sinister and sometimes violent. I think this is just a taste of what the McCain family I guess has gone through.

But as for McCain's status as a war hero, you mentioned what Mitt Romney said just a few moments ago, Anderson, we should point out, President Trump has been to Vietnam twice now. I've traveled with President Trump in his first two years in office to Hanoi twice.

[20:05:04] On both of those occasions the president has been right down the street from the Hanoi Hilton. He has elected, he has chosen not to go to that former prison to see the bravery of John McCain firsthand.

Journalists who travel with the president go to the Hanoi Hilton all the time and see it for themselves. It would not have been a big stretch for the Secret Service or for the White House staff to arrange a trip for the president to the Hanoi Hilton, so he could see what Senator McCain's bravery is all about. It's just something that the president doesn't want to do because he wants to continue to nurse this grudge against the late senator -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, obviously, Hanoi Hilton, you know, an ironic name. Anything but a Hilton of course. Prison for POWs.

Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Perspective now for a man who's had plenty to say about the president, his leadership, strategic analyst and author, Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters.

Colonel Peters, I mean, it would have been very easy for the president just to say no comment today. But he can't help himself from once again attacking John McCain, who's both a war hero and deceased.

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), STRATEGIC ANALYST AND AUTHOR: Well, I think it's very straightforward, Anderson. John McCain was and in our heart remains the man Trump could never be. And Trump knows it.

It's a classic case of male fears of inadequacy. I mean, it goes along perfectly with his lifelong obsession with having women on his arm that look like teenage boys' fantasies.

He wants to show us all how tough he is. But he's not tough. He's a draft dodger. And he appears to be a physical coward with a big mouth.

COOPER: It seems to me the people who are actually tough, who have actually been in tough situations and shown themselves and have risen to those situations to meet them, they don't talk tough necessarily. I mean, they often are the quietest person in the room.

PETERS: Yes. Indeed. It's just an old rule. The guy who brags at the bar wasn't a hero.

And -- myself, I've been privileged to know some men and women whom I regard as genuine heroes, and John McCain, who I knew slightly as well. And no, they don't shoot off their mouths. They don't gratuitously insult people. They don't incite hatred, on the contrary.

The people who've actually served this country so well, with John McCain as his generation's leading example, they don't -- they just don't behave like Trump.

COOPER: Yes, it's interesting because I used to think, or at times I thought, OK, there's a political reason for the president to be doing something or for tweeting something or trying to change the message, refocus people onto something else that distracts from something, something going on that's negative to the president or that he doesn't like.

Mike Shields, who's a supporter of the president's, was on the program last night saying that some people might actually see this as strength from the president, that he's sticking to his guns, that he's not pretending to like somebody who he didn't like in life, and that you know, it's him not backing down, just because Senator McCain has passed away. That it's actually a sign of strength to some people.

PETERS: Does one really need to reply to anything that preposterous?

Look, Trump is just shameful. He is obscene. He is disgraceful. I mean, pick your adjective.

But anyone who -- again, who dodged the draft, who never did anything for this country and who was elected apparently with the help of a hostile power, that this guy would attack and keep attacking John McCain just shows you the power of human jealousy. I mean, jealousy -- here in Washington, everybody's afraid of human emotion. We never talk about something like jealousy being a strategic factor.

Yet if there is a quality, an emotion that will ruin lives and start wars, it is jealousy. And Trump appears to me to be consumed by it, because for all the doodads he's got and now he's got Air Force One to replace his older plane, all the toys he has, he does not seem like a happy man. He seems terribly lonely, just roaming the halls of the White House at night living, living for television.

This man's the president of the United States. And the best he can do with his time is watch Fox News and tweet? I mean, future historians, future citizens are going to look back at this interval in our history and be utterly appalled and disgusted because I'll tell you, as an intelligence officer I was a really good analyst.

[20:10:02] I had an incredible track record. I could never foresee the American people electing someone like Donald Trump. COOPER: I'm just wondering also, it's a little off topic but I was

curious when this happened to get your take on it. When the president talked about having the military and the police and construction workers and bikers on his side and that they're tough people and, you know, that they're peaceful and he hopes they stay that way, but it would get really bad if they didn't, I was surprised by that. I mean, I don't know of other ways to look at it other than he's saying he has Armed Forces on his side, he's saying he has the police.

That seems to be the kind of message you would hear from some dictator in some other country, from some wannabe strongman.

PETERS: When I heard that, I was infuriated, on multiple levels. First, what an insult to our military, particularly to the officer corps. We have never had a coup or the threat of a coup in this country. Our officer corps and our military is loyal not to some midtown Mussolini, but they take an oath to the Constitution of the United States.

And as long as the elected president of the United States gives lawful orders, our military will obey those orders whether they like them or not. But should any president give unlawful orders, orders that contravene the Constitution, the military will say no.

I mean, you might get a couple crazies. But the military is loyal to the Constitution, not to an individual. I'm sure that's the same with the overwhelming number of police departments and others.

Now, some biker gangs. Will he have some biker gangs on his side? He might. I don't really think they're going it overthrow the country.

But, Anderson, whether or not collusion is a crime, sedition is. And if on his way out the door, whenever that may be, Trump incites people to violence and people die -- well, you know, the mob boss is an accessory to murder. It's not just the hit man down on the streets.

And deadly sedition, I mean, that is incontrovertibly a criminal offense and it doesn't take a powerful CNN lawyer to tell you that.

COOPER: Colonel Peters, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

PETERS: Thank you.

COOPER: Digging deeper now is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, also former Trump White House attorney Jim Schultz.

Jim, is there a strategy to what the president is doing, continuing this, you know, attack on John McCain, who's dead?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I don't think there's a strategy associated. I think he was reacting to the news of the Steele dossier and McCain, turning over -- turning over the Steele dossier. I think it was a reactionary and quite frankly --

COOPER: Right, by the way, he's not being accurate even though about -- I mean, what that report said, which we've known all along, was that McCain turned it over to the FBI, an associate of McCain's gave it to at least one reporter, maybe more. The president's saying it was McCain who gave it to the media. So I mean, just specifically --

SCHULTZ: He's reacting to a report, so he's -- and lashing out. And quite frankly he can find other things to talk about. He's got a great track record, great performance as president of this country in terms of the jobs, the economy, the trade --

COOPER: But he doesn't tweet about that.

SCHULTZ: He can talk about a ton of other things and this is something he didn't need to tweet about, and quite frankly I think was an unforced error strategically because John McCain did have his fair shake of supporters although certainly not very popular politically among the president's base. But I think a lot of folks -- you know, most people in this country including myself respect the sacrifice that John McCain made, even though you might not agree with his politics.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff, does it -- I'm wondering how you see this. Does it make sense to you he's continuing this? He was asked a question today but he could have very easily said you all know what my thoughts are, I'm just going to move on?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I'm a lawyer, not a doctor. But I mean, the psychological problem -- phenomenon of projection is so evident in everything Donald Trump does, that he dodged the draft, so he has to disparage a war hero. You know, he -- who knows how he did in school. So he has to pretend that Barack Obama did poorly in school. At the same time as we learn that Michael Cohen was threatening his schools about releasing Donald Trump's transcripts.

And you know, the thing that I think is most sad about all this is that not so much Donald Trump's character, which I think is very clear, is that a lot of people in our country are the same way. That the bigotry of Donald Trump, that on the day after 50 people, Muslims are killed in New Zealand, he devotes tweet after tweet to defending Jeanine Pirro, who's an anti-Muslim bigot.

[20:15:08] You know, that's popular with a lot of people. That's the real scandal here. You know, Donald Trump's personality is what it is. But I think the really hard question we have to address is why do so many people in this country feel exactly the same way?

COOPER: Jim, do you have thoughts on that? Because I mean, it is clear, Cindy McCain one of the messages she says she's received, and certainly when the president of the United States kind of opens the floodgates himself in terms of his emotions and vitriol, it does sort of breed it in others and give license to others.

SCHULTZ: Yes, I get that. But let's face it, Anderson, you and I -- you go on TV every day, I go on TV every once in a while. The moment we go on TV there's someone attacking us, sometimes personally, sometimes violently on Twitter. It happens on a regular basis. And certainly whenever the president speaks, you know, people who may

agree with his position or go one step further are going to make negative comments on Twitter as well. It's certainly unfortunate. No question about it.

COOPER: But he's also retweeting, you know, what vitriolic stuff people are saying, he's retweeting it to the family members of John McCain. I mean, I think he retweeted something to Cindy -- to Meghan McCain the other day. The idea that he is going through his own feed, I assume it's him, and finding, you know, tweets that agree with him and -- isn't that just for the president to spend his time doing that weird?

SCHULTZ: There are better battles to choose. No question. And I think he should choose better battles going forward in terms of, you know, the things that he's pushing forward on his agenda and some of the folks that are coming at him from Congress. Certainly that's fair game as it relates to members of Congress that are coming after him in a partisan way to punch back. And his base expects him to punch back.

But in this instance, I think he could have picked a different fight certainly.

TOOBIN: But, you know, to pretend that anything on these Twitter wars is about the good economy or, you know, trade issues with China, this is about racism and it's about bigotry and it's about discrimination, and people like that about Trump. And that's what I think we have to -- we have to think about in a really hard way. It's not about the economy.

COOPER: You think he's opening the vein of that in this country.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. That's why he won the election. I mean, you know, that's who he is.

Donald Trump is famous, the only reason Donald Trump is a politician at all is because he made up a racist lie about Barack Obama not being born in the United States. You know, that's sort of fallen into the memory bank. That's why Donald Trump became a political figure, because he made up this racist lie and used it to become a political figure and it worked. And he won. And that's what's really significant I think.

SCHULTZ: Jeffrey, what we can agree on here, we see time and time again, we saw the whole issue where the Democrats twisted themselves on some anti-Semitic comments that were made by members of their caucus. And they twisted themselves trying to deal with that issue.

I mean, it's something that needs to be taken head on, no question about it. And I think everybody has to take -- the president, Congress, and others, you know, the leaders of this country have to understand that there are consequences for what they say. And it's on both sides.

I wouldn't -- you're quick to point out that it's the president. But there are others involved in this kind of political Twitter battle that causes this vitriol. Maybe we've got to tone it down a little bit.

TOOBIN: I spent 2016 covering a campaign where I personally engaged in false equivalence between Hillary Clinton's misdeeds and Donald Trump's misdeeds. And I'm not doing it in 2020. And the idea that one congressman's -- congresswoman's, you know, silly statement is at all equivalent to the racist and bigoted tirades of the president of the United States is absurd false equivalence.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Jeff Toobin, Jim Schultz, appreciate it.

We've got breaking news next in the Russia investigation, leading figures' role in it. What we're learning from a massive new release of documents in the Michael Cohen case and what it could say about a case against president.

Later, Trump critic George Conway, who's now questioning the president's mental health and who continues to obviously be married to Kellyanne Conway, one of the president's top advisers and leading defenders. Some new developments in the war of words, ahead.


[20:24:03] COOPER: Breaking news tonight in the Russian investigation. A source familiar with the matter telling CNN the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein intends to stay on until Robert Mueller makes his report. A source saying that Rosenstein sees him as the, quote, heat shield, unquote, someone who can take any hits that may be coming when the report comes out.

News came at the end of a day that saw some relate in the Michael Cohen case, the release of documents relating to the search warrants for the raids that at the time the president obviously was very upset about.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with the latest on both those stories.

So, what are you learning about why Rosenstein is staying at the DOJ? What does it mean to be a heat shield exactly?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, certainly, he wanted to make sure the incoming deputy attorney general and that the now Attorney General Bill Barr kind of would have a clean slate, that is, they would come in, they wouldn't really have to deal with any of let's say the punches that are thrown at them because of the Mueller report or any political issues that are a result of it. Rod Rosenstein was there from the beginning.

[20:25:02] He really is the person that was responsible for appointing the special counsel, because you'll remember that Jeff Sessions recused himself and then Comey gets fired and then this whole thing ensues where they decided they need a special counsel to take over this investigation and it was ultimately Rod Rosenstein who made that decision. So, in order to sort of see this thing through, Rod Rosenstein for

whatever reason is staying it's clear that things are perhaps not wrapping up as quickly as we all thought and that look, this could come at any day, but for now, Rod Rosenstein, which he always had intended, he always wanted to stay this see this through, he kept delaying his leaving the Department of Justice and now it just seems that that's continuing, we really don't know when the special counsel will finally deliver the report to the Department of Justice. Once that happens, we certainly expect for Rod Rosenstein to leave shortly thereafter.

COOPER: Just for clarification, the source, are they using the term heat shield of their own or is that a phrase that Rosenstein himself has used? Do we know?

PROKUPECZ: That was a phrase that was told to my colleague Pamela Brown in a source close to Rod Rosenstein who said that to her essentially saying that he, Rod Rosenstein, wants to take the punches, if there are any punches as a result of the report, it could be a while before the entire thing is made public. So who knows what will happen? But certainly I think everyone expects there to be some political fallout once this thing gets landed on the attorney general's desk.

COOPER: In terms of the release of the Michael Cohen raid documents today what's the headline from that? What did we learn from it?

PROKUPECZ: So, I think one of the things we really saw for the first time is the Mueller team started looking at Michael Cohen just months after Robert Mueller was appointed. About two months or so after that they started getting search warrants for his e-mails, other information, subpoenas that they were issuing to really get an understanding of what was going on with Michael Cohen, his business interests, whether or not he was making money off of foreign countries, whether or not he was doing any work for foreign countries and not reporting it.

And that essentially is what started all of this. It is then all of that information and plus other information that the Mueller team and the FBI learned. That is after then is when they send everything to the Southern District of New York where obviously the campaign finance laws were investigated.

COOPER: And everything about the campaign finance violations, that was redacted?

PROKUPECZ: It was. And that's significant, Anderson, because what it tells us is that a lot of that is still under investigation. There's about 20 pages in the search warrant affidavits that are completely blacked out, where we can't even read anything on them, which indicates that there are still portions of that investigation that are ongoing and that we could see more people being charged in connection with the campaign finance laws.

As you know, the president, Donald Trump, was implicated by Michael Cohen, by the Department of Justice in that crime. Michael Cohen has said that he was directed by Donald Trump to make those payments. There are other people in the Trump organization that perhaps are facing some scrutiny.

So that tells us that that very much is still under investigation.

COOPER: All right. Shimon, appreciate it. Shimon Prokupecz.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, member of the Judiciary Committee.

So, if -- what do you -- if the idea of Rod Rosenstein staying is to be a, quote/unquote, heat shield as this source has said, who is he staying to be a heat shield for?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTAHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Robert Mueller is a prosecutor with vast experience in very heated prosecutions. And so he's pretty combat tested. The idea that he needs a buffer or a heat shield is somewhat surprising.

But the fact is politically, he needs some backup. And I will tell you, members of Congress will have his back, if the president goes after him, as is likely to happen. We've seen what the president did when the offices of his lawyer Michael Cohen were raided. We've seen some of his remarks about resisting the prosecution. There is a credible case of obstruction of justice right now, a powerfully credible case against Donald Trump. And he is clearly feeling the heat himself.

COOPER: And in terms of the Michael Cohen court documents, the idea that special counsel Mueller zeroed in on Michael Cohen and started investigating Michael Cohen much earlier than anyone realized is interesting.

BLUMENTHAL: Not only interesting but profoundly significant. That document, more than 800 pages long, contains a wealth of detail, factual precision, that was collected by this prosecutor in just two months and is only part of what he knows at that point, which is almost two years ago.

So, think of how much he knows now. I've said all along we know only a fraction of what Robert Mueller knows.

COOPER: If there's 800 pages of documents from two years ago and Mueller does actually write out a report, there's no -- I mean, it will be interesting to see if we can learn how long that report actually is.

BLUMENTHAL: The report hopefully will be long enough to contain the incriminating information that he has gathered about Donald Trump. Not accidentally, Donald Trump was named in fact as an unindicted co- conspirator in the prosecution of Cohen. And the reasons for his becoming individual number one, he's not named by actual name but by clear reference as individual number one.

COOPER: But if he's not going to be prosecutor for a crime, isn't it entirely possible that Robert Mueller would not go into detail? I mean, if the person is not actually being charged with a crime as one of the criticisms of Comey's press conference about Hillary Clinton.

BLUMENTHAL: That's the reason for transparency. If he's not named as a crime, the facts and evidence have to be presented. That's the reason that I've authored a bill with Senator Grassley, its bipartisan now joined by another Republican, another Democrat that would require a report with those factual findings and evidence that includes all of the facts that implicate Donald Trump.

The public has a right to know. And if he's not going to be indicted because the Justice Department policies, they're not rules, they're not regulations prevented and if Mueller is not going to present into a court the facts that he knows that are relevant to the potential criminal charges, there is a right on the public to know and I think that Robert Mueller has that obligation and the attorney general has the obligation to make it public.

COOPER: If -- and obviously if that doesn't happen, you would want to see -- we also now have, you know, reporting that the White House wants to review those documents before their -- and whatever he's handed over to Congress to, you know, look for executive privilege, you are fully prepared, I mean the Democrats are fully prepared to challenge each case?

BLUMENTHAL: We will challenge it. I think that document will be suspended. There is no legitimate claim to executive privilege here. There's nothing --


BLUMENTHAL: There is nothing in a regulations that justifies the President of the United States concealing criminality in the name of candid discussions with his advisers on policy. We're talking here about an effort to hide criminality, obstruct justice in the name of executive privilege. And the purpose of executive privilege is to enable candid discussion about policy among his advisers. So I see nothing in those regulations that would justify a broad claim of it.

COOPER: But if it's not found to be obstruction of justice by Mueller, then you can't really make an obstruction of justice argument to stop executive privilege from being claimed, no?

BLUMENTHAL: I think that the claim of the White House to review this report should not be upheld. The Department of Justice has a claim to review the report, the White House does not. And the Department of Justice should not cut out to the White House. And after all, the President has his lawyers, not even his White House counsel, potentially reviewing it, to protect him, not to enable the public to know.

COOPER: Right. And it's not the job of his lawyers to declare privilege, it's the White House.


COOPER: Yes. Senator Blumenthal, thank you.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it. The President as you know has gone after Democrats claiming they're anti-Semitic. He's not commented on the racially charged remarks Republican Congressman Steve King has said, of course. The Iowa Republicans now caught up in a new controversy and the reporter caught up with him to get some answers, that ahead.


[20:37:24] COOPER: If you were stripped of your committee assignments over a defense of white supremacy, it might be a good idea to maybe lay low and watch what you say for a while and what you post, what Congressman Steve King is doing either.

The Iowa Republican shared a meme on Facebook that alludes to a new civil war that red states would apparently win because that side has "8 trillion bullets," while the blue states "don't know which bathrooms to use."

It's been taking down, but not a far cry from that warning President Trump issued the other day saying his supporters could "get tough" on the left to things reach a certain point and it would be very bad saying he had the military and police on his side as well as bikers and construction workers.

CNN's Gary Tuchman just caught up with Congressman King in his home state and had a chance to ask him about his latest controversy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join me in welcoming 4th District Congressman Steve King.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Congressman Steve King meeting with constituents in the small Iowa town of Algona and almost making it through the hour and a quarter town hall without being asked about the meme on his Facebook site that boast red states would win a civil war against blue states. Reporters not invited to ask questions, but we did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, before you say your good-byes, I just want to give you a chance to explain the posting on Facebook which talk about red states having 8 trillion bullets in case of another civil war, which --

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I think it's interesting that nobody here asked that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, can you explain --


KING: Nobody here is interested in the question, it was this that I found out a meme about -- that being posted yesterday morning at the same time and I thought that it had been taken down about 8:30, it wasn't until few hours later. The only people that care about that are national news media. Nobody has raised the issue around here and so -- no we're done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you post it, so why did you post it?

KING: I've answered your question. And we don't -- we're not going to take any questions of the press. I've answered your question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We care about it.

KING: OK. I've answered your question.

TUCHMAN: Indeed, some constituents did want a further explanation from their congressman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you look at that page?

KING: I found out that that was posted yesterday morning and I don't manage that. I don't manage that. I don't -- I'll say it again, I don't manage that Facebook page. And I can control it, but I don't manage it. So, I wasn't aware that that was posted until yesterday morning. And I was also under the understanding that had been taken down right away. It wasn't. I wish it had never gone up.

TUCHMAN: Most of the people at the town hall were strong supporters of King and don't think its fair he's been under so much scrutiny for allegations of racism in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got beaten up pretty hard by the media and I just was wondering what your take on that was.

TUCHMAN: But some of his constituents are troubled. And this woman got a strange answer to her question.

[20:40:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think a white society is superior to a non-white?

KING: I don't have an answer for that, because that's just so hypothetical.

TUCHMAN: But then, this answer.

KING: America is not a white society. It's never been a completely white society. We came here and joined the Native Americans that were here in many times, the number is greater than ours. I've long said that a baby can be lifted out over cradle anywhere in the world and brought in to any home in America, whatever the color of the folks in that household and they can be raised to be as American as any other.

TUCHMAN: As he was leaving, I asked Congressman King the exact question President Trump was asked following the mosque massacre in New Zealand.

(on camera) Do you see white nationalism as a rising threat throughout the world?

KING: I didn't hear that come up in this state at all.

TUCHMAN: President Trump was asked that, didn't say it specifically.

KING: I'm going to just head out and leave that be.


COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins me now. Gary, did the Congressman say who did post the, you know, the new civil war meme on his Facebook page?

TUCHMAN: Well, it's interesting, Anderson, because it appears Congressman King threw someone under the bus, someone he knows pretty well, but he did not tell us who he thrown under the bus. It's important to point out, Anderson, day and age of social media if you put your name on a site and you approved of the site, then generally you're responsible for the site. The Congressman did tell us that he does write his own tweets. He doesn't have a ghost twitterer. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Gary Tuchman, thanks very much. We want to continue the conversation now with CNN Political Commentator Tara Setmayer and Cornell William Brooks, former NAACP President and CEO.

Cornell, there is a lot certainly to unpack from Gary's story, putting aside the fact that I was part of the union.


COOPER: I'm just wondering what you make of -- what you heard from Congressman King, the idea that he didn't know about this and removed it as soon as he did.

BROOKS: Well, let's just ignore this. If this were some isolated incident, it might be one thing. It might be some error made by his staff. But where you have a congressman with a long sorted ugly history of bigoted tweets, and retweets, and memes, this is not aberrational, it is not isolated, but a part of a continuing pattern.

And so the congressman is acting like a 21st century wannabe confederate, romanticizing the past in order to (INAUDIBLE) the present. I'd like to remind the congressman that here in Iowa no less than 3,000 Iowans lost their lives in the civil war on the side of the union, that is to say the side of Lincoln, the side of those that supported the eventual freeing of 4 million slaves.

And so the congressman needs to be aware of American history and certainly the history of Iowans. It's an ugly tweet and a part of an ugly pattern.

COOPER: Certainly, Tara, also not only in the wake of the congressman's prior comments and long history of comments, but even of the President's comments about, you know, having the armed forces, having the police on his side, and that things could get very ugly. This whole idea of a civil war, I mean, it's -- I don't know if it's bizarre or scary or however one wants to view it, it just seems odd that a congressman would have this on his Facebook page.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's all of the above, Anderson. You know, to be honest with you, I never thought that I would actually be concerned that a possible civil war would happen in this country. I've said it before, I'm worried about the peaceful transition of power in the next election.

Donald Trump -- that tweet that you just referenced where he talked about the bikers for Trump and he's got the military and everybody and, you know, be careful if something happens, like that is insane, like what is he inciting? And it's not the first time. He's poking at these kinds of really ugly dangerous sentiments that we haven't seen in this country in a very long time.

And Steve King then turning around and allowing something like that on his Facebook page, whether he posted it or not, the way he's handled this is not acceptable, it's not. And, you know, I worked on Capitol Hill. I was a comms director and we had certain people that controlled the congressman's social media, but you knew who that was.

And if it was someone that he fired a staffer who did that, if it wasn't him, it just seems to me like it's a cowardly response and it's terribly irresponsible to even imply something like that with bullets and a civil war and then have like, you know, happy face about I wonder who would win.

This isn't a joke. We just saw people slaughtered in New Zealand. We just had people slaughtered at a synagogue a couple months ago in this country, in Pittsburgh, you know, Charlottesville. This is real.

[20:45:01] And it's -- and I have to say that I'm really disappointed in Steve King. I know Congressman King. I worked with him when I worked for Congressman Rohrabacher. Steve King and I were buddies. When I would go to Iowa, Steve king was the nicest gracious host to me. That was many years ago.

The Steve King today, I don't know who that is and I'm really, really disappointed in him and, you know, he deserves to lose his committee chairmanship. And he's gotten -- he's drawn a primary opponent out there in Iowa and hopefully the people of Iowa had enough of this. You know, shameful Steve King. What are you doing?

COOPER: Cornell, it's interesting, it would be one thing if, you know, in the wake of this, I mean, all right, it was a mistake someone else, you know, assuming he is telling the truth there and someone else posted it at that town hall when, you know, Gary asked the question and then it turns out there were people in the audience who were concerned about it and followed up with it.

BROOKS: That's right.

COOPER: He could have said more than just, you know, "I wasn't happy it was posted. I took it down." No one seems today kind of tries to explain why they're unhappy that it was posted. I mean, he could have said, "I don't believe that there should be a civil war. I don't want there to be a civil war in this country. The idea that, you know, we would be pitting Americans against each other is a terrible idea."

BROOKS: That's right. COOPER: Anything like that, but it's not, it's just, you know, "I didn't want that posted."

BROOKS: That's right. I mean, the congressman is not taking responsibility for his rhetoric --

SETMAYER: That's right.

BROOKS: -- for his tweets or his re-tweets. Let's keep in mind where all this is happening. Where we have over this past weekend, a Jewish cemetery desecrated, where we have a New Zealand people slaughtered, where we have a hate crime rate in this country which is going up three years in a row, literally on Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Latinos, you pick the group. Transfolk, gay folk, everybody, I should say so many people who are a part of this republic of the authorized and excluded as a consequence of this rhetoric.

So in this moment, he declines to take responsibility. In this moment, he declines to speak to all Iowans and all Americans by saying, you know, that he has nothing to do with that kind -- that ideology of white nationalism. Because we've got to be clear about this, this tweet was about using transphobia to legitimize white nationalism, OK, and using a bathrooms as a way of literally spitting on the grave of people who laid down their lives so that eventually 4 million slaves might be free. That's what this is about.

And so this congressman needs to be called out. We need to be very clear about this. He may have been a well meant racist, but he is no less a racist.

COOPER: Cornell William Brooks, appreciate you being on, Tara Setmayer, as well always. Thank you.

President Trump now publicly attacking the husband of one of his chief aides, Kellyanne Conway, just when you thought things could not get any weirder than they have, we'll tell you about it next.

[20:51:40] COOPER: There was more escalation today in one of the strangest White House that we have witness. George Conway, the husband of White House aide Kellyanne Conway, has been taking digs at President Trump over Twitter since he took office.

Yesterday was no exception with Conway tweeting out -- Mr. Conway tweeting out a definition of narcissistic personality disorder implying the President has shown many of those symptoms.

Today, the President shot back retweeting remarks by his 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale who wrote, "We all know that @realDonaldTrump turned down Mr. Kellyanne Conway for a job he desperately wanted. He barely worked at the Justice Department and was either fired/quit, didn't want the scrutiny? Now he hurts his wife because he's jealous of her success. POTUS didn't even know him." To which the President wrote a total loser.

And then just later, Conway posted this. "Congratulations. You just guaranteed that millions of more people are going to learn about narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism. Great job." I think I still said it wrong. Mr. Conway rarely talks about this, but he did today to "The Washington Pos," Josh Dawsey.

So, Josh, what did George Conway tell you about his verbal attacks on the President on Twitter why he chooses to wage them so publicly?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, George Conway, has said for than a year all of his problems with the President. Today, his answer was interesting to me. He said that he does him so that he doesn't scream at his wife. He say about a tweet for 15 to 20 minutes in the morning it allows me to go on about my day and kind of gets it off my chest that allows me to focus on other things.

And also I think, Anderson, there's been a growing kind of following, an exponential following of him now and that's certainly is attractive to him as well to have a larger sway on social media with his opinions. But what he said today was that a lot of it is just about kind of relief, stress relief to some degree.

COOPER: The notion that the President doesn't even know George Conway is simply not true. I mean, not that we should be surprised that the President said something that is not true, but it's not true.

DAWSEY: Right. George Conway today delineated a number of occasions to me where he had met the President dating back to 2006 where he helped the President on a condo board dispute in Manhattan and even procured a letter from the President thanking him and talking him what a good lawyer he was.

Then in 2016 he attended a fundraiser with the President. He also got -- given the President legal advice on who he should hire for the Mueller probe, how he should handle his emoluments case, he's gone to parties with the President., he's met with the President at Steven Mnuchin's wedding.

I mean, there's been a number of occasions that George Conway and other that are pretty well documented that show that the two men know each other. No, they've never been personal friends to be clear, but they have a relationship and have known each other for many years.

COOPER: You also report on a British embassy party that Kellyanne Conway attended last month. What happened there?

DAWSEY: At the party, Kellyanne Conway was talking with Maureen Dowd, "The New York Times" columnist, Andrea Mitchell, the NBC reporter, and Sally Quinn a former journalist here at "The Washington Post" and she went on kind of a rant about her husband.

She said the media should stop giving him attention, that he was jealous of her success, that the President also thought that he was jealous of her success, that the people in the media would not want their private life scrutinize, and basically we're on a pretty long case about her frustrations over her marriage and how it's depicted and particularly what her husband says publicly. It was a pretty striking scene by all accounts. COOPER: I mean, you know, she's right, no one would want -- no one wants their personal lives scrutinized, but it's -- I mean, this is just a bizarre situation, you know.

[20:55:09] I mean, like after -- you know, it start to seem normal, but when you step back from it, it's just weird. I mean, she is a, you know, top adviser to the President of the United States, you know, (INAUDIBLE) defender. He is publicly calling the man his wife is working for, you know, unstable and the President is now attacking his top adviser's husband.

Does she -- I mean, I guess -- I mean, does she stay in the job? Did Conway talk about the -- I mean, you know, I don't want to ask about the state of their marriage and stuff, but I just find the situation very strange, especially now with the President attacking his adviser's husband.

DAWSEY: Right, right. Well, Kellyanne Conway has shown no signs of wanting to leave the job. In fact, she's been even, you know, prominent adviser, even more prominent recently, done several interviews defending the President where other folks want. I mean, she's been one of his most valuable and supportive defenders and the President loves her for that.

One of George Conway's frustrations he said to me today in the interview was that she wouldn't leave the job and that he's tried to get her too repeatedly without log. I don't want to get into the contents of someone's marriage, it's not right for me to analyze, but I will say that's few parallels.

I mean, the President weighing in on the spouse of a top adviser. The only parallel I can think of is Martha Mitchell who was a wife of Richard Nixon, one of his top advisers that kind of helped precipitate Watergate at least in Nixon's eyes. For the most part, this doesn't really happen publicly.

Can you imagine, you know, George Bush weighing in on Carl Rhodes' spouse or President Obama weighing on David Axelrod. It's not normal, but it's not without precedent either with the Martha Mitchell and Watergate.

COOPER: Interesting comparison. Josh Dawsey, appreciate it.

DAWSEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Stay with us on this busy Tuesday night. More on President Trump's continued attacks against the late Senator John McCain and why the President seems so focused on this right now. The latest on what's in those government search warrants on Michael Cohen as well.