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Nadler: Barr Won't Commit to Releasing Full Mueller Report; President Trump Defends Support for Fully Eliminating Obamacare Without Backup Plan; Steve Bannon Reacts to Mueller Report Summary and More. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

We begin with breaking news on two issues while on Capitol Hill.

Attorney General Bill Barr is refusing to commit to releasing the full Mueller report. That's according to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler who spoke with Barr tonight.

Also breaking news, President Trump pushing forward in support of legal challenge against Obamacare, vowing his administration will have a plan that is far better. A White House official said they have no alternative plan as of right now.

In a moment, I'll talk about this and 2020 race with former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. It's a CNN exclusive.

We begin with the Congressman Nadler's talk with Attorney General Barr about the Mueller report.

CNN's Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill.

So, what is Nadler saying?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I talked to Nadler after this 10-minute phone call with Bill Barr and he said that Barr would not commit to releasing the full report to Congress and the public. He also said Barr would not commit to providing the underlying evidence to Congress as something that Democrats have demanded and he said that he doesn't believe that the Justice Department will meet the Democrats' April 2nd deadline to provide the full report to Congress.

According to Nadler, Barr told him this report is, quote, very substantial and Nadler questioned how it could be summarized in just four pages. And Democrats are going to have to weigh or -- what they'll do next if they don't get what they want.

But Nadler made very clear, he's not happy.


RAJU: So the attorney general would not commit to releasing the full report? REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, he

would not. I just had a conversation with the attorney general. I asked about the length and breadth of the report. He said it was a very substantial report, so substantial that I don't see how you could summarize it in four pages fairly. He said it was a very substantial report.

I asked when we would see the report and he said it will be a matter of weeks, not months as we've heard before. Obviously he's not going to -- they're not going to meet the April 2nd deadline the committee set. I'm very upset and concerned by that and most concerned that when I asked whether the -- he could commit that the American people and the Congress would see the entire unredacted report and the underlying evidence, he would not make a commitment on that. And that is not acceptable.


RAJU: Now I asked if any of the report that will be ultimately submitted would be summarized by Bill Barr. He said that Barr reserved the right to summarize portions of the report that would ultimately be heavily redacted but it is unclear to Nadler how much that would be and how much of the report will be released. He did say though, Anderson, that Barr did commit to testifying in public before the House Judiciary Committee, so expect that to happen in the coming weeks.

COOPER: Right. Well, the thing that Congress Nadler is not saying is what Barr's explain is, in fairness to the attorney general, there are some issues which may be from a grand jury -- which would need to be redacted or some issues which are -- come from classified information or reveal sources or methods that, would need to be redacted.

So I know Chairman Nadler is putting the worst possible light on the attorney general saying I won't release the full report, we don't know exactly what that means. It does seem the idea that the Department of Justice would give all of the underlying documents, that has always seemed like a -- that would be a major step if they were willing to do that. I know it was done in the investigation of Hillary Clinton but that's a rare thing. That is essentially Congress reinvestigating the Mueller investigation.

RAJU: Yes, no question. That is difficult for Democrats. They want to see -- they realize they couldn't get all of the underlying evidence, but they want a good portion of the underlying evidence. They do point to what happened in the last Congress where Republicans got hundreds of thousands of pages of e-mails related to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and that is a precedent that they point to. But Nadler is saying the full report is what they are ultimately demanding which is what he -- Barr is not committing to.

But one thing, too, Anderson, I asked him whether or not the White House would have a chance to review this first and I told me that Barr told him there are no plans to let the White House review it before the public ultimately sees the report.

COOPER: Right. Manu, thanks very much.

And now the White House where the focus is shifted from praise to the Muller report to an effort against Obamacare.

CNN's Abby Phillip joins us now.

So does the White House have something to replace Obamacare?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They don't, Anderson. The White House is pretty much acknowledging that they don't have a plan at the moment. Marc Short, the vice president's chief of staff, acknowledged earlier on air that they would come up with one by this year. But one of the problems, the crux of the debate within the administration, has been that if there is no plan, which there isn't at the moment, it would essentially throw the entire health insurance market into chaos, leaving millions uninsured if Obamacare is completely struck down and the White House has nothing to replace it with.

[20:05:17] An official told CNN Jim Acosta this afternoon that there is nothing fresh at the moment. They pointed to some -- a plan that had previously been debated in Congress that ultimately failed to pass. But at the same time, that is a clear acknowledgment that the White House is starting from scratch here and meanwhile over on Capitol Hill, Republicans lawmakers are actually pointing to the White House and saying, we'll be happy to see what they come up with, but so far they have nothing.

COOPER: I mean, it was yesterday the president said that the, quote, Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care.

PHILLIP: Just yesterday, the president seemed to suggest this would be the new battle plan for Republicans. But it is not clear how many actual Republicans are with him on this. The Republican Party did not fare well when battling with Democrats over the issue of health care in 2018.

And most that we've spoken to, sources that I've spoken to today suggested that they know that this is not going to be a great political strategy for them moving forward. And given that the president seems to suggest that this is going to be their standard bearing for the next two years, it would suggest that they would need to have a plan and they would need to come up with one pretty soon.

COOPER: All right. Abby Phillips, appreciate it.

My next guest was one of two people who was CEO of the Trump campaign at one point he also served as White House Chief Strategist.

He had a front-row seat to the battle over Obamacare. He was interviewed by the Mueller team three times. Steve Bannon joins me now from Rome. Mr. Bannon it's a pleasure to have you on.

I want to get to Obamacare a little bit later on but let's start with what the attorney general Barr, according to Chairman Nadler not committing to releasing the full Mueller Report. Do you think he should, except of course of classified material or Grand Jury proceedings?

STEVEN BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Look, I think it's obviously up to the attorney general as somebody that was part of the process I think they ought to release it.

But it's the attorney general's decision. You know one of the things, Anderson; I think is lost in all of this is -- is President Trump, you know, waived executive privilege. He waived attorney client privilege. He had not just Reince Priebus and myself but Don McGahn, the White House Counsel and others.

I think it was like 500 witnesses, what 2,800 subpoenas. So the president went out of his way to get all this information out and get it out quickly. So I would assume that everybody would want to get the full report out to people except for what's classified or what needs to be redacted.

COOPER: Yes, and Lindsey Graham just said today that the president told him directly said, quote, just release it. I know you thought it was legal but not wise for the president to fire Comey.

Given the fact that Mueller has now exonerated the president and those around him when it comes to any kind of collusion or criminal conspiracy with Russia, was smart in retrospect for the president to have been attacking the investigation in the way that he did really for the last two years?

BANNON: Well, you know, actually -- I actually used you as example when we talked -- when I talked with the president back in the Oval Office. I said hey, on the Comey investigation, I said even Anderson Cooper, you know, has got this in the C Block.

This was in the spring of 17'. But you know the president had his own ideas about the job that Comey was doing. And so he -- he terminated him. I always said that Mueller, I think's an honorable guy.

He's a combat veteran, he's combat marine. And -- but the president, you know whatever he said on Twitter or whatever he said you know in -- in -- in public declarations or on T.V., the important thing was he told everybody to cooperate and to get it out there like no other president's ever done.

That's what was stunning. And in fact I was kind of a critic about how quickly they were releasing information. I thought it ought to be a little bit more processed. You know there's 1.2 million documents that were released.

So I think the president's actions where he was full supportive of the Mueller investigation and that's -- that's why I think it's -- and coming back like it is to kind of exonerate him.

I actually think it's time to release the documents and let's move on and get on with the work of the country.

COOPER: You've been very clear about no collusion all along. You've been probably less definitive; I think is fair to say when it comes to obstruction of justice. Were you surprised that Mueller himself did not reach a conclusion or recommendation on that and essentially hand it over to the attorney general to make a -- a conclusion?

BANNON: Look -- look, I'm not a lawyer but the way I look at prosecutors either charge or they don't charge. You know the no exoneration line, to me, I thought was a little bit of a cheap shot and -- and I've been very supportive of the Mueller process.

Look he -- here's the thing, they took two years, they looked at everything. It wasn't that I was concerned about an obstruction of justice. I didn't think there was any. But you know you go through all these documents and that's why the 18 election, you know, by the democrats getting out there and working so hard, the grassroots democrats winning the House, I said look, what they're going to try to do is weaponize the Mueller report.

And to -- and to use that as the beginning under Nadler's -- Jerry Nadler's Judiciary Committee to start kind of impeachment hearings and impeachment process.

[20:10:07] I actually think that this -- what happened is with this report; it looks like that's all going to be put to bed. So we'll just have to see when it gets released but I think it's really time to -- to kind of release it, people review it and then move on and let's get on with the -- the great work in front of us.

COOPER: So the -- I mean essentially you -- you believe even if the report is released, even if it has negative -- you know some things which are of questionable behavior by the president or attempt to cover up what the Trump Tower meeting was with this sort alternative explanation about it was -- about adoption.

As long as it's not criminal, at this point, you think it's done no matter what's released, it's really not going to matter and no matter what democrats try in terms of, in your words weaponizing but in terms of investigating, it's not going to matter?

BANNON: Yes, I just -- I think it's -- I think -- look, if there's anything substantive -- you know Mueller had what, you know what 20, you know, serious professional prosecutors, they had 42 field agents in the FBI.

I know as somebody who went through the process, Anderson, it was like a proctology exam. And -- and I was witness of fact as was Don McGhan and was Reince Priebus. And -- and so this was a very thorough investigation.

I think if -- if Mueller had something being the kind of senior level prosecutor he was, he -- he would have done something. And I think by not doing anything and -- and saying there was no collusion, which this whole thing started about, I -- I think -- I just don't think there's going to be much there. Look, it's -- it's -- it's what over 1,000 pages long, we'll have to see. I said, you know, early on that if the democrats won the House and the Mueller report, you know, had these type of charges in there, had this type of stuff that the -- the democrats would try to, what I call weaponize it and really use it to move forward.

But I think you're seeing already in the House, people like Nancy Pelosi saying hey, we got to get focused on healthcare, we got to get focused on other things. So I think that this is a time to move on. I do think that the media ought to kind of assess both their coverage -- and I've said this for a long time, both their coverage of the 2016 campaign and now their coverage of this whole investigative process.

I think the media ought to be self regulating and kind of internally look at itself and then I think we just got to move on. There's so much in front of us with China and what's going on in the world. It's time to get focused on the big problems facing the country.

COOPER: Yes, and there's a lot -- there's stuff going on with China, which I do want to talk to you about. In -- in an interview though, I think you gave earlier this week, you said that the president's going to quote -- or going to go full animal, which is an expression I hadn't really heard before but it's really stuck in my mind.

Now that he sees himself as no longer being under the cloud of the Mueller investigation, what does going full animal look like? What does that mean for -- because I also know you said that 2019 would be the most vitriolic year in American politics since before the Civil War and you include Vietnam in that. Both of those things are pretty startling statements. What is -- what's the vision for this year then?

BANNON: Well you know I was talking a Spanish journalist and I think I said honey badger, which as you know is one of my favorite phrases.

COOPER: I love honey badger. Honey badger don't care.


BANNON: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. I think the -- I think the president is going to be very aggressive. You saw some of the tweets. In fact I was talking here to the foreign press assoCIAtion in Rome and the president tweeted out the time (inaudible) the opposition party media.

So I think the president's going to be very aggressive. I think he feels like the work of the country, particularly the work he had was kind of slowed down, particularly looking internationally because of some the hysteria around this investigation.

Not the investigation. I think this is the thing that people should focus on. He, you know, overly supplied people with documents. He was very aggressive in getting this information out there because he said from day one there's no collusion.

But I think about the hysteria is that what he's -- he's you know I think reasonably upset about. And I think you will definitely see some push back. You know President Trump's a fighter. I don't need to tell you Anderson, you know him very well.

He's a fighter. And I think he looks at this as a fight and I think he's going to be very aggressive. I think he's going to start giving interviews and I think he's going to really try to push this.

And look, we're just in a time and I think democracy has never been stronger in American. We just had 113 million vote in the midterm elections. I think -- we are divided but I think division is good and healthy because people have to argue out and have to -- have to kind of fight at the ballot box for what they believe in.

And I think the country is very engaged in this political process. I do think this year is going to be very vitriolic and I think we're just going to have to work through this but I think the president of the United States and I think rightfully so that Donald Trump's going to be very aggressive.

And kind of pushing back on this -- what I think he believes is media hysteria around the investigation at the time entire time that he was actually putting everybody in the White House, everybody on the campaign front and center with all these documents and his lawyers to kind of work through this.

COOPER: But -- but you know -- I mean listen, I understand the criticism of the media. I think every reporter I know is constantly trying to look inward and look at their coverage and if something is wrong apologize for it and correct it as quickly as possible.

[20:15:09] But at the same time, the president himself, while he may have been behind the scenes the people of the White House may have been behind the scenes providing all of the documents that they needed, publicly he certainly gave a lot of people a lot of reasons to scratch their heads and think, wait a minute.

From interviews he gave, to tweets he sent, to things he said to the Russians in the Oval Office. He did provide a lot of the questions -- he certainly stoked it whether he meant to or not.

BANNON: Well, Anderson, but Mueller had all of this to go through. So I think he saw it. There is no collusion and if the atmosphere -- I think the president -- justifiably looked at -- and I said this from day one, after the '16 defeat, the Democratic Party was in such disarray, the mainstream media was on the position and during the campaign. And I'm the one that came up with that term, and it was the opposition party media.

I think instead of doing mea culpas or big inflections internally, one of the things that the media could do -- and I think this is a big issue for both conservative and liberal media, and this is the FBI's counterintelligence operation, and some of the CIA, what was done at the beginning of the investigation of the Trump campaign? I think it has really got to be looked into.

I've said now, Anderson, over a year and a half I believe the like church commission is going to have to be established to look at the FBI's behavior in this and the CIA -- and I would hope -- in the old days in the '70s, "New York Times" and "Washington Post" would lead the investigations, that is not happening. Maybe CNN will do it, but I think there is a lot there, and this is not to get partisan. I think this is for the good of the country.

We have to look at -- I'm a huge supporter. I've never been a conspiracy guy, I'm a former naval officer, and my daughter is at West Point. I'm not a deep state guy.

But we have some big problems. I think we have to, in a bipartisan way, look at what these investigations were, particularly look at the start of the Trump -- investigation into the Trump thing, and I think really seriously question some of the FBI counterintelligence, and some of the CIA, and maybe even foreign intelligence services.

And I think this is for the good of the country and for the good of the FBI and the CIA too. But I would hope that that would be the next phase of investigations here.

COOPER: As to the question the vitriolic tone, which you mentioned, the president said recently something which I think a lot of people who don't like the president or distrust the president or are very concerned about, he said before an audience: I could tell you have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump, I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they get to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.

How do you interpret that?

BANNON: I just think that's -- I think it's President Trump talking about the deplorables, talking about what about his base is, which is, as you know, a lot of veterans, a lot of people that served the country, a lot of people in law enforcement. I don't think it's anything pejorative. I don't think there's anything that people get worried about.

I think people read more into some of the president's statements sometimes in trying to read the tea leaves. I think this is all -- although I do think the president is going to be pretty aggressive in his tweets, I think in some of his interviews, I think the way maybe he talks to some people at Congress. I know he's not particularly happy with -- I think some investigations that may go into his -- the finances of the Trump Organization.

I think his point is, hey, the American people had a chance to judge that in 2016. We voted on it and then had this huge investigation into Russian collusion which turned out to be I think, honestly, kind of a hoax and we've gone through two years of that. It costs million dollars, but more importantly, it's the opportunity cost. And now, it's time to really get focused on the kind of move on.

So I think very legitimate -- and I could tell you, Donald Trump is a fighter and he's going to fight on this one. And so, I just think it's time -- and all of these other investigations about his finances and all of this stuff, I think the American people are eventually going to say, hey, look, you're grasping at straws here. You know, if you don't like the guy and I think Nancy Pelosi said this the other day, go beat him at the ballot box in 2020. If you think orange man bad, right, and then get organized and get out there and do the kind of effort like you did in 2018 and defeat him in the way that you should -- you know, which we have in the United States.


BANNON: If you want to win, win at the ballot box, not in some sort of investigative apparatus to do that.

COOPER: I want to get your thoughts on the field of Democratic candidates and what's going to happen in 2020. We've got to have a quick break. If you would, just stick around. I know it's late in Rome, but appreciate it.

We'll be right back.

Also, there's breaking news in the uproar of the dismissal of the charges against actor Jussie Smollett. What the state's attorney is saying now about a so-called error.

We'll be right back.


[20:23:39] COOPER: Back with Steve Bannon, former chief strategist of the Trump White House, former CEO of his 2016 campaign.

So, in terms of the 2020 election, how much of it in your opinion is about convincing people to switch sides or find new voters, and how much is about candidates just getting out their side, mobilization?

BANNON: It's mobilization. I don't think we're in an age of persuasion. I mean, you want to persuade people in the margin, but I think it's mobilization. I think you saw that in '16 where we were able to mobilize the deplorables, particularly in states that the Clinton campaign wasn't focused on. They didn't think we'd win places like Michigan and Wisconsin and, you know, Pennsylvania.

I think '18 election is the same thing. I think the progressive left did a terrific job like the Tea Party did in the old days of kind of grassroots, door-to-door. They mobilized their base and they had a big victory. I think this is all about mobilization.

And I think this next, you know, four or five months of what I call the gauntlet that the House of Representatives is going to try to think to put up around President Trump and these investigations, I think they look at that as one aspect of how to mobilize their base and how to excite them. So, I think this is all going to be part of the lead up to 2020.

COOPER: Do you include reaching out and finding people who haven't voted before? Because that's one of the arguments that some, you know, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman, makes, which was in her district, reaching out to people who finding new voters and bringing them in.

[20:25:06] BANNON: I think it's very important. Low propensity voters, we did that in '16. One of the things we did in '16 that wasn't quite done in '18 in these House races was low propensity voters. I think one of the good news for all the Trump supporters is Brad Parscale and the campaign looks like they're very focused on already kind of doing the pick and shovel work that you have to do to build up this kind of -- this field operation and this digital operation to actually get out there and do it.

I know the Democrats are going to do it. Mike Bloomberg is talking about putting $500 million of his own money in to kind of anti-Trump.

So I think this is going to be -- look, I think our democracy, Anderson, is in great shape because 113 million people voted. You know, the political, you know, discussion is permeated even popular culture. Everybody is talking about it.

I think 2020 is going to be just huge. I think people will be very engaged and I think it's about mobilizing the people that support you. And I think this is going to very important and I think the winner at the end of the day is going to be who mobilizes his base.

COOPER: I think there are a lot of people who hear you say democracy has never been stronger in America and would take huge issue with that. That, you know, I mean, look, this is a president who has undermined a number of institutions. You could argue they deserved to be undermined. But he certainly, you know -- the -- he's questioned the FBI. He's questioned, you know, U.S. intelligence which obviously many people have over the years --

BANNON: But I -- but, Anderson, I don't think that's undermining. I actually think -- I think these institutions -- look, I believe in these institutions, I believe in the FBI, the CIA, some of the institutions in Washington, D.C. But they have to be rejuvenated. You always got to question -- remember back in the --

COOPER: Right, but saying the polls are fixed and --


BANNON: And with Vietnam and all of those issues -- all of the issues, people are going after those all of the time and what happened I think we made these institutions stronger. And I think that is -- I one of the things, remember, Trump was elected because, you know, working-class Americans believed America was in decline and the elites were comfortable with managed decline and they weren't.

Trump is a disruptor. I mean, he got hired by people who said we want to shake up things and he had this cute phrase of "drain the swamp".

COOPER: Right.

BANNON: But it's really quite serious. We want you go to go in and we want you to start focusing on these institutions and making sure they're working for the American people. So, I don't think -- I think undermine is way too tough of a word. I think Trump is trying to -- he's a disruptor and he's trying to rejuvenate.

COOPER: I understand the idea of disruption but, you know, he is siding with Vladimir Putin over Dan Coats and, others in the U.S. intelligence service about whether Russia was involved in the election. He stands next to Putin and says, you know, he says very strongly that he didn't do it.


BANNON: Well, listen, by the way -- but Anderson -- but, Anderson, here is the other thing. When you see this evidence, I think reasonable people can say -- can question about this whole thing of interference. I think it is another thing that kind of question --

COOPER: You don't believe the Russians interfered in the election?


BANNON: Look, no, I think -- I think it was complete marginalia. It's complete, total marginalia, right? I think there is another overhyped part of what I call the hoax.

COOPER: So, you don't believe they hacked the e-mails?


BANNON: So, it is not a serious thing -- I think like I said on the margin, you might have had some e-mails , you might have had, you know, these guys down in Florida that even Clapper said was what, $115,000 of Facebook ads. It's all marginalia, right?


COOPER: So, you don't think stealing the e-mails was a major thing?--

BANNON: The stealing of the Podesta e-mails?

COOPER: Yes. The Podesta e-mails.

BANNON: Look, should you have done it? No. It's wrong to do it, but it's marginalia. It's inner office gossip, right? So, I think it was complete marginalia.

I'm not saying it's right to do, and we want to make sure we stop the Chinese, we stop the Russians, we stop other people from trying to hack in this, but I think at the end of the day, it's total marginalia.

And I don't think President Trump is trying to undermine any American institutions. I really -- I've got to challenge you on that. I think what he's trying to do as a disruptor who was hired by working class people in the country to say, hey, you know, we don't want America to be in decline and we particularly don't want this permanent political class that's comfortable with managed decline in the United States.

Remember his task is to rejuvenate and I think that's what you're seeing.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, I would say that is a charitable interpretation. But just one more thing on that, I mean, meeting with Vladimir Putin without anybody else present, meeting with Kim Jong-un without just -- just with interpreters. I understand disruption, doesn't it concern you have no idea as an American citizen that was discussed?

BANNON: Anderson, Anderson, Anderson, he is commander-in-chief of the United States military, right? He's the chief law enforcement officer. He's president of the United States.

If he makes a decision that he wants to meet with the world leader with just interpreters or without interpreters, I wouldn't have problems with President Obama, I wouldn't have problems with Clinton or Reagan or anybody. If the president of the United States in his judgment is going to make that decision, you know, I would abide by it.

And I think people, if it's President Obama, I think Democrats will say it's fine. I don't think there is any nefarious activity. If he wants to make a decision that he wants to talk with an interpreter, I think that is -- look, he was elected commander-in- chief. You know, one of the big issues we had in the campaign when I stepped in just to give people permission to vote for him as commander-in-chief particularly given the resume of Hillary Clinton. People did.

They weighed and measured Donald Trump in that campaign and, you know, a hard-fought campaign as you remember. They selected him and I think he got -- I think you've got to trust his judgment.

And if you don't trust his judgment, you've got 2020. You can get out, you can knock on doors. You can say, "Hey, he's done all this bad stuff," get your friends out there. If you're opposing, then beat him at the ballot box.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is there one candidate on the Democratic side announced or expected to announce who you think would provide a real challenge to President Trump?

BANNON: I don't really see a real challenge right now and quite frankly I'm a little surprised, I thought there might be some real challenges. I think that -- I think the launches of these things have been particularly kind of weak.

The one thing I think is very different in this primary season, Anderson, than any other we've had in American history is that the -- you know, the sitting president, Donald Trump, is going to have a vote in the Democratic primary, that's a reality. And this is because of the -- of President Trump's house style, right? He's going to be engaged and I think a perfect example is Elizabeth Warren.


COOPER: He's defined her --

BANNON: -- more well-thought through -- well, yes. She's got probably, if you look at and particularly given some of other candidates, she's got some pretty well defined policy initiatives on big tech, on, you know, getting people more -- participation and ownership in society.


COOPER: Which are things that you have been talking about for a long time.

BANNON: Yes. So, listen --

COOPER: I mean, just in the populous --

BANNON: -- I think on the populous side, you have kind of right-wing populous and then left-wing. I don't believe on solutions. I think some of the stuff she's been saying is very smart. In fact, I've kind of say, "Hey, she's lifting from our playbook."

But, what's most amazing to me is she's now 8 percent. And even President Trump said, you know, "Hey, maybe I moved too quickly. She would have been a weak candidate." I think it's very interesting and I think that his direct involvement has really brought Elizabeth Warren under 10 percent and she's having a tough time getting that muzzle velocity, that traction you need to get going.

So, I think all of the candidates -- one of the things that surprised me the most is how much the AOCs kind of, you know, New Green Deal and kind of this movement to the far left economically has pulled the candidates I think farther left and I think they've had some pretty slow starts. Right now, I don't see anybody.

And I think when Joe Biden announces, that's going to peak Biden. I don't see anybody in this field right now taking on Donald Trump. You know, Donald Trump is going to be very tough in this campaign. He's going to go right at you.


COOPER: And you see Hillary Clinton coming in?

BANNON: You've got to go right at him. Here's what I think. First, you know, Secretary Clinton said she's not running but, you know, she's in the bull pen waiting for the call.

I believe that if you go through this gauntlet this summer, you start the Democratic primary, by the fall of next year if there is not a candidate that is kind of breaking out of the pack and looks like they could take on Trump, because the number one thing for the Democrats is not policy right now, the number one thing for Democrats is beating Donald Trump. And they're going to fall in line with whoever they think can beat Donald Trump and shows they can beat him.

If you get to the fall of 2019, pre-Iowa, and you don't have a candidate that's breaking out, looks like it matches up with Trump, you know, I think somebody is going to call the bull pen and get her start warming up because she's there, she's going to say, "Hey, I get 63 million votes," you know.

Look, I realize people heads will blow up, particularly Democrats that don't want anything to do with her. But remember, at the end of the day the Democrats I think are going to focus on somebody who can beat Donald Trump and they're going to search for that. It's not going to be a policy discussion, it's going to be electability.

And if you're going to beat Donald Trump as an incumbent, you're going to have to bring it, right? You're going to really have to bring it and the field I've seen so far, I don't know anybody that can hit a fastball like Donald Trump can throw.

COOPER: Just lastly, you're in Rome tonight. Your focus there -- you're there to focus on China. I've heard you talk about the China 2025 initiative. It's certainly I've been looking at. I find it fascinating. It's not gotten a lot of attention in the United States.

But Chinese espionage, the stealing of trade secret, recruiting Americans to steal information, it's become a huge issue for intelligence agencies more than -- I mean, I've talked to some intelligence officers who say it's more, you know, more than Russia, more than anybody else. Is the U.S. on top of this enough?

BANNON: Well, I think before Trump got there, we really weren't. Remember, Xi came to the Rose Garden a couple of years ago with President Obama and promised President Obama and actually signed some documents saying, "Hey, we're going to stop all the cyber theft, we're going to stop cyber espionage," and didn't, it was really Trump.

And the reason we did it, that's what we think we won the upper Midwest is because all these manufacturing jobs that the elites let go to China, that's what -- you know, the jobs left as J.D. Vance says, the jobs left and the opioid crisis came in with the workers that were left behind. This is a central issue to the United States.

And made in China in 2025 -- Anderson, let me give you the bad news. It's not about the stealing of intellectual property, it's about forced technology transfers. This is what this very tough negotiation that Ambassador Lighthizer is having right now under President Trump's guidance on the trade deal.

[20:35:06] It's not about soy beans, it's about making major structural changes to the Chinese economy. What made in China 2025 is that every American should understand this because it will change your life, is the convergence of advanced chip design, artificial intelligence and robotics.

They have a plan which they've been working on for years and announcing that by 2025 the conversions of those three will make them an advanced manufacturing superpower and really we'll become kind of a component parts supplier for their manufacturing, high value added.

That will crush manufacturing in the United States. It will lead to underemployment like you can't believe. This is going to be a massive issue in 2020, this economic war that China has been running against us. And one of the reasons I'm here in Italy, this One Belt, One Road initiative, the Italians who are allies signed a memorandum of understanding. It's not a full deal, but to anchor the One Belt, One Road actually up near Venice on the Adriatic Sea, it's a major strategic shift and I know that the United States is now engaged in talking to Italy, et cetera.

But this geopolitical struggle, this economic war of China versus the West -- and this is why the Russia thing I said for years is kind of silly. Russia's economy is the size of New York State. China -- and this is not the Chinese people. The Chinese people are decent and hard working, honorable people.

This is just kind of radical cadre of the Chinese communist party that runs China is that economy war and it's an existential threat economically to the industrial democracies to the West. And this is -- you're going to see this now play on a global stage and it's going to be a huge part of the 2020 campaign.

COOPER: Yes. Steve Bannon, appreciate talking to you. Thank you very much.

BANNON: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead, we have breaking news in the Jussie Smollett case. The prosecuting attorney speaking out for the first time since the bombshell announcement that her office was dropping all charges again the actor and Smollett's attorney will join us with her reaction, next.


COOPER: Breaking news in the Jussie Smollett case. In her first interview since the charges against the actor were dropped, the state's attorney said her office believed they could prove him guilty. She also blamed a clerical error for the fact that the court files were sealed. All this is certainly raising even more questions tonight. Smollett's attorney will join us in a moment. But first, Ryan Young has the latest from Chicago.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx under fire speaking out for the first time after her office dropped all charges against actor Jussie Smollett.

KIM FOXX, COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: He chose this alternative prosecution method. The court has not found him guilty. I believe based on the facts and the evidence that was presented in the charging decision made by this office, this office believed that they could prove him guilty.

[20:40:07] I think this office based on those charging decisions believe that he's culpable of doing that.

YOUNG: New and important, she said parts of Smollett's file were sealed in error.

FOXX: Mr. Smollett was allowed to have his criminal record to the police report around the arrest sealed. The court file was not supposed to be sealed. I think what happened was the clerk sealed the whole thing.

YOUNG: But an attorney for Smollett made the request for the case to be sealed in court and a judge approved it, contradicting the state's attorney statement. The decision to drop charges has been met with criticism from many corners, including from the mayor.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO: He abused the City of Chicago. He actually committed a crime here. He lied about something.

YOUNG: Meanwhile, Foxx was heavily criticized for her involvement with two people close to the Smollett camp, so she recused herself from the case back in February. CNN obtained e-mails between Foxx and Tina Tchen, a former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama.

Tchen e-mails Foxx asking for help in the matter. On February 1st, Foxx e-mailed Tchen saying in part, "Spoke to Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to the FBI to ask that they take over the investigation. He is reaching out now and will get back to me shortly."

Tchen then gave Foxx's number to unidentified Smollett family member, a text message exchange between Foxx and the family member. Foxx eventually sharing the same update and the family member responding, "Oh, my god, this would be a huge victory."

FOXX: The family reached out I think to me largely because they didn't have a connection with the police department, asking if there was a way to make sure that the leaks in the case were too a minimum.

YOUNG: Despite it all, Smollett's attorney claiming victory.

TINA GLANDIAN, SMOLLETT'S ATTORNEY: I think if they believe the charges they would have never dismissed the case.

YOUNG: Ryan Young, CNN, Chicago.


COOPER: And Jussie Smollett's attorney, Tina Glandian, joins us now. Ms. Glandian, thanks for being with us. How do you square State's Attorney Kim Foxx saying she's confident her office could have proven Jussie Smollett's guilt with the fact that she dropped the case?

GLANDIAN: I think, as I said earlier, that if they were able to prove the charges, they never would have dismissed the case. Sorry.

COOPER: It's OK. Those things pop out all of the time.

GLANDIAN: I think there's been a lot of political pressure in this case and so as much as we applauded the state's attorney office for what they did yesterday, which was the right thing under the circumstances, they've been backpedaling and we understand all of the heat and pressure they've gotten and they've been reacting to that.

COOPER: So, Jussie Smollett did what, like, two days of community service and paid a $10,000 fine. Why did he do that? I mean, that seems to be some form of punishment. What was he being punished for?

GLANDIAN: He was not punished. He was not ordered to do a single thing in this case. He voluntarily agreed to forfeit the bond because if he had chosen -- and this was a decision he struggled with, because he knew what the perception would be and he didn't want that to be the perception.

But had he wanted to go to trial, he would have to put his career and life on hold for a minimum of a year and he would have incurred much more costs than $10,000 to ultimately bring this to trial. And to have his day in court would have put his career on hold and also been very costly. So, we strongly advised him to agree to forfeit the bond.

As far as the community service, that's completely been falsely represented at this point. Jussie, as we told the judge at the initial bond hearing, has always volunteered. He's been a contributing member of society for decades at this point and volunteered with dozens if not hundreds of organizations. And so he has done volunteer service.

I know there were some questions about the push coalition. They put a statement out saying that there was no court ordered community service which is the true facts here. And if you look at the transcripts from the proceedings where the case was dismissed, there is no mention of any required community service, either before or after the fact.

COOPER: So if you can just stay with us, Ms. Glandian, because I do want to bring in Laura Coates and Jeffrey Toobin, who are both former federal prosecutors and CNN Legal Analyst. Laura, you hear the argument from the legal team. You get the comments from the state's attorney. Does this make sense to you?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it sounds as if this is an alternative to prosecution just hearing what they're having to say about it in the sense that perhaps that the dismissal was contingent on the payment and forfeiture of the bond and perhaps some look at his criminal record, et cetera. That to me suggests that it wasn't a full dismissal with no contingencies.

Having said that, I do have a question for you in the sense of, well, when you think about the notion that your colleague talked about this being prosecutorial overkill, is there something to suggest that the reason they may have decided against this and not to the charges because of the number of counts against him and charging as a felony rather than a misdemeanor?

[20:45:06] GLANDIAN: No. I think the fact that they charged so many counts is all the more reason just looks so odd to everybody that all 16 counts were dismissed two and a half weeks after he was arraigned on the 16 counts. So, there's obviously very different ways they could have tried to dissolve of this case and their initial offer to us involved a dismissal.

This wasn't something that was negotiated. We were never going to enter a plea. He's maintained his innocence. Obviously, he continues to maintain his innocence and so a plea was off the table. And so for them -- two and a half weeks later to completely dismiss the case, I think that speaks volumes.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, I know you have some questions.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Ms. Glandian, does your client plan to apologize to the actual victims of hate crimes who will now be disbelieved because of your client's ridiculous stunt here.

GLANDIAN: Well, I completely disagree with your categorization that this was a ridiculous stunt. Again, he's not been convicted of any crimes. It's unbelievable to me the amount of conviction in his guilt when prior to him ever stepping foot inside of the courthouse and now the 16 counts were dismissed against him by the state attorney's office in such a high profile matter.

The fact that people still call it -- call this a ridiculous stunt is actually very offensive to me. And so the only person who should be apologizing is the mayor and the City of Chicago. That's who should apologize to the victims of hate crimes who will now hesitate to come forward because they don't want to be charged with 16 counts themselves.

TOOBIN: What was his relationship with the two people who allegedly beat him up?

GLANDIAN: He was friendly with one of them. He had met Abel and Ola Osundairo about a year and a half ago. They were friends and friendly and they trained together. They socialized. He knew the older brother strictly -- you know, he met him only a few times and did not even have his contact information, had never communicated with him, which also should, you know, make you wonder that if he was going to pull such a ridiculous stunt, would he actually entrust pretty much a stranger to do that to ruin his -- to potentially ruin his life and come out with this?

COOPER: Ms. Glandian, let me just ask you, so he knew this guy for a year and a half. They trained together. They've socialized together. If this guy is punching him in the face and saying things to him, how is it possible he could not recognize this guy?

GLANDIAN: He was wearing -- the attackers, I should say, were wearing ski masks.

COOPER: Did they have gloves on?

GLANDIAN: I'm sorry?

COOPER: Did they have gloves on?

GLANDIAN: Yes. But more importantly, I mean, his face was covered with a ski mask. He only saw one of the attackers. COOPER: OK. But they were wearing gloves so he didn't even know he was of Nigerian decent, that he was not white?

GLANDIAN: He did not.

COOPER: How -- I just don't understand, if you know somebody --

COATES: So why did he identify the person on --

COOPER: -- as white. He identified the person as white. But if you know -- I mean, if you've known somebody for a year and a half --

GLANDIAN: If you were jumped from --

COOPER: If my trainer beat me up or punch me in a dark street, I would know it's my trainer.

GLANDIAN: No. I think if it's 2:00 in the morning and you got jumped from behind and somebody -- the first point of contact is a punch to your face and it's all of a 30 to 45 second tussle and they're wearing a ski mask and there's the commotion that goes on in a fight, I don't think through a ski mask you're going to identify anybody in the excitement of the moment.

COOPER: All right. We're out of time unfortunately.

COATES: Well, I have to ask, if I could just ask one question. You know, if you have -- the reason you say this is, of course, you're all lying. Why do you think that the state's attorney office has not charged those two brothers with actually committing perjury if they testified in front of the grand jury? I think there was no actual plea deal, cooperation's agreement, why would they not be charged?

GLANDIAN: I can't speak to what the police department of the state's attorney office has done because a lot of it has been frankly inexplicable to me. So, you would have to ask them that.

COOPER: All right. Tina Glandian, appreciate, Laura Coates and Jeff Toobin as well.

Still more to learn, Senate hearings begin tomorrow on the nomination of acting Secretary David Bernhardt to become the full-time Secretary of the Interior. Coming up, an investigation you'll only see here about what Mr. Bernhardt was doing during the shutdown when hundreds of thousands of federal employees weren't getting paid.


[20:51:01] COOPER: The Senate committee holds hearings tomorrow for the acting attorney -- Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to be confirmed for the job full-time. Bernhardt is a former oil and gas industry lobbyist who's been questioned by CNN's Drew Griffin about why so many of his former clients have been getting what they've asked for while he's been serving as secretary -- as acting secretary.

Now on the eve of those hearings, there's some new information about how Bernhardt ordered federal workers back to the job during the government shutdown, specifically to process and approve drilling permits on federal land, this while during that shutdown, as you all remember, thousands of government workers were severely impacted.

We even met some on this program who told us stories of rationing badly needed medicine and wondering if they were going to wake up the next morning or choosing between eating and putting gas in their car because money was no longer coming in. So keep that in mind as you watch Drew's report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The oil and gas industry in Northeastern Colorado is booming, new wells, new drilling rigs, new roads and an industry awash in gas and oil. And in a controversial move, the Interior Department under acting Secretary David Bernhardt --


GRIFFIN: -- tried to make sure all this activity didn't even slowdown during the recent government shutdown. How? By calling in furloughed federal workers in the Bureau of Land Management whose job was to process and approve drilling permits for the industry that David Bernhardt used to lobby for, a few of those permits even went to Bernhardt's former clients, which has environmentalists fuming.

AARON WEISS, CENTER FOR WESTERN PRIORITIES: In every shutdown prior, the Interior Department actually shuts down so there's no reason to bring those employees only back just to do the bidding of the oil and gas industry, but that's what happened here.

GRIFFIN: Some members of Congress are questioning if it was even legal. Federal law dictates when an agency doesn't have funding to pay workers like during a shutdown, only essential employees, those needed to protect life or property should continue to work. But the BLM under Bernhardt used a novel interpretation, saying permit fees would cover the cost of the permit workers.

During the shutdown, the BLM approved 267 drilling permits along with 16 oil and gas leases. Permits went to at least two of Bernhardt's former clients, including Noble Energy, which got four permits to drill in Colorado's Pawnee National Grassland.

BERNHARDT: I'm happy to visit with you at any time. Right now is not the time.

GRIFFIN: Bernhardt, who refused to answer questions on a previous CNN report concerning his ties to the oil and gas industry, has again denied a request to be interviewed here, and has yet to fully explain why it was so urgent, essential, that workers be brought back to process drilling permits.

Bernhardt was quoted in a local New Mexico newspaper saying, "There's also safety and we need to keep things safe," though it's not clear how permitting impacts safety. Asked for an explanation, the Interior Department said the acting secretary's words speak for themselves.

WEISS: That makes no sense to me. Not issuing a permit does not make things unsafe and I can't imagine a way you can parse that sentence in which that does make any sense.

GRIFFIN: Kathleen Sgamma is president of the Western Energy Alliance which represents the oil and gas industry.

(on camera) The Western Energy Alliance did not raise a concern on safety.

KATHLEEN SGAMMA, WESTERN ENERGY ALLIANCE: No. We started to hear concerns from companies that, "hey, I've got these situations changing in the field. I can't get BLM on the phone. And not problems as in safety problems, but problems as in, hey, this company wants to keep moving forward with development and can't because they can't get an answer out of BLM.

GRIFFIN: Couldn't this be viewed as just another favor to the energy industry?

SGAMMA: Well, it's not a favor because we pay for those permits.

GRIFFIN: It wasn't that long ago these wild Pawnee Grasslands were just that, wild. Now, almost everywhere you look is a gas rig.

[20:55:05] It doesn't look like a grassland where we standing.

BRIAN RUTLEDGE, NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY: Kind of falling away from that, hasn't it? It looks like a factory.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Brian Rutledge with the Audobon Society has worked for decades trying to prevent encroaching oil and gas drilling from destroying habitat in the grasslands. What he sees now is rampant drilling on federal lands with the Interior Department focused on approving permits as fast as possible, even during government shutdowns.

RUTLEDGE: Our responsibility is these great western lands. It's not whether or not gas and oil is hitting their profit margins.

GRIFFIN: The Bureau of Land Management told CNN, "We had a legal and ethical obligation to continue this work, especially since halting would have increased the hardships borne by our people and the communities that depend on energy production for jobs and economic development."


COOPER: Drew, this is the third story we've done on Bernhardt's close ties to the oil and gas industry. He's up for confirmation hearing tomorrow. Is there any expectation that his confirmation as interior secretary is going to be challenged?

GRIFFIN: His nomination may get some tough questions from Democrats, but on the issue of granting favors to his old industry clients, Bernhardt through his office maintains, Anderson, that he has done nothing wrong. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Drew, thanks. I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: My favorite word from the Bannon interview that I learned tonight, marginalia.

COOPER: Marginalia.

CUOMO: All the Russian interference, marginalia.


CUOMO: I had to look it up if it means what I thought it meant, which is something opposite than the truth. What an important interview to have on, though. Good for you, Anderson.

Tonight, we're going to take on people on the other side of the equation. We have Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings here tonight, big members of the Democratic Party, chairs of Oversight Committees, what do they see as the path forward?

COOPER: All right. Chris, we look forward to that, just about three minutes from now. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Busy night to say the least. Our interview with Mr. Bannon went longer than expected. We're going to leave it to Chris now.