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Tempers Flare as Trump Allies, Critics Dig in Over Russia; Rep. Ro Khanna (D) California and Rep. Mike Quigley (D) Illinois are Interviewed About the Tense House Hearing Today; President Trump Backs Off Proposed Funding Cuts to Special Olympics. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Nearly one week after Robert Mueller delivered his much anticipated report to the Justice Department, a new front in the battle between President Trump and the Democrats has burst open into spectacular public view. Congressional Republicans, in tandem with the president, are setting their sights on some of his most prominent critics, some by name, others by association. It's both political and personal, part of a "we told you so" Washington victory lap, such long running animus the president is levying of treason, which is a crime punishable by death.

One key foe of the president, Democrat Adam Schiff, head of the House Intelligence Committee. Today, the committee's full slate of Republicans lambasted Schiff and formally sought his ouster as chairman. For his part, President Trump wants Schiff forced out of Congress entirely.

Schiff responded in kind today, and his response was the most full- throated defense from a Democrat since the Barr summary was released, a summary that for the past few days had seemingly have the effect of knocking the Democrats back on their heels, but today arguably was a day when the Democrats started to find some footing. Not only evidenced by Congressman Schiff's remarks, which we'll play for you in a second, but also because the Democrats learned something, mainly that the Mueller report is at least 300 pages long -- 300 -- which is, of course, a far cry from the four-page Barr summary that the president and his allies have used to claim victory.

Now, to be clear, Democrats don't know what's in those 300 pages. We don't know either, nor do Republicans. No one does save for people very close in the investigation.

Does it spell out more detail about the Trump Tower meeting, the cover story to lie about the meeting concocted on Air Force One? Are there details about the Trump Tower Moscow project, about the Oval Office meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak?

Again, we don't know, but the revelation of the report's length only made the Democrats that much more convinced should it be released and they seem to have had enough with the Republicans framing this as complete victory for the president, which brings us back to intelligence chairman Adam Schiff. His committee met today for the first time since the reports were

released, and Congressman Schiff's critic wasted no time in going after him. We want to take the unusual step of playing for you the extended and vigorous exchange because it underscores for both parties this is far from over. It's about five minutes long, but we think it's worth watching, no matter what side of the political aisle you're sitting on.


REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Your actions, both past and present, are incompatible with your duty as the chairman of this committee, which alone in the House of Representatives has the obligation and authority to provide effective oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community. As such, we have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with the responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee. Mr. Chairman, this letter is signed by all nine members of the Republican side of the House -- of the committee, and I ask unanimous consent for it to be entered into the record of today's hearing.

I yield back.


I'm going to turn to our witness today. But before I do, and as you have chosen, instead of addressing the hearing, to simply attack me, consistent with the president's attacks, I do want to respond in this way.

My colleagues may think it is OK that the Russians offered dirt on a Democratic candidate for president as part of what was described as the Russian government's effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that's OK.

My colleagues might think it's OK that when that was offered to the son of the president, who played a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president's son did not call the FBI. He did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead, that son said he would love the help of the Russians.

You might think it's OK that he took that meeting. You might think it's OK that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience of running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it's OK that the president's son-in-law also took that meeting.

You might think it's OK that they concealed it from the public. You might think it's OK that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn't better. You might think that's OK.

You might think it's OK that when it was discovered a year later, that they lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions. You might think it is OK that the president was reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that's OK. I don't. You might think it's OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential

campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness.

[20:05:04] You might think that's OK. I don't.

You might think it's OK that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don't think that's OK.

You might think it's OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent's e-mails if they were listening. You might think it's OK that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don't think that's OK.

You might think that it's OK that the president's son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don't think that's OK.

You might think it's OK that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it is OK a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.

You might think it's OK that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions. And you might think it is OK he lied about it to the FBI.

You might say that's all OK. You might say that's just what you need to do to win. But I don't think it's OK. I think it's immoral. I think it's unethical. I think it's unpatriotic, and yes, I think it's corrupt. And evidence of collusion.

Now, I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel, and I would accept his decision, and I do. He's a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor, but I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK

And the day we do think that's okay is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.


COOPER: Joining me now are two key Democratic members of Congress, Representative Ro Khanna of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Representative Mike Quigley who sits on the House Intelligence Committee who was in that tense hearing today.

Congressman Khanna, do you have any concerns that the president and his allies have essentially been able to define the Mueller report based on the four-page Barr summary, and that by the time whatever is released of the Mueller report, whether it's all 300 pages or 250 pages, whatever may be, that people will essentially have already made up their minds and not care?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA), OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE: Anderson, I do. It's highly unfair, because they're attacking Adam Schiff's integrity without letting Adam Schiff or the American people read the report and read what Mueller found. You know, when Bill Clinton was investigated and the Ken Starr report took place, that report and all the grand jury hearings were public. People got to decide. That's all we're asking for before casting aspersion, let the people at least read the report.

COOPER: Obviously, that was a different -- an independent counsel. A different kind of setup.


COOPER: Congressman Quigley, you were in the room today when Congressman Schiff responded for the calls to step down. He seemed clearly emotional toward the end. Seems to take it certainly personally.

What has it been like within the party? And what is the strategy going forward to push back on the president's narrative about the report?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think the first thing is to point out that it would be funny if not tragically ironic that Mr. Nunes led this argument today. When the Russians attacked our democratic process, Chairman Nunes leaped into action and attacked the intelligence community and the independence of the Justice Department with his memo and his now infamous ride to the White House. And the rest of the Republicans have just equal blame involved here.

During the middle of this investigation, they dumped it and they shut it down. They refused to call key witnesses, to subpoena key documents. They went along with a White House gag order so people didn't have to answer questions.

Again, it's very cold comfort to the American public that the prosecutor investigating this couldn't find a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. There is obvious evidence in plain sight and in previous court filings of collusion and obstruction.

COOPER: Congressman Khanna, I had Steve Bannon, I talked to him last night, former White House chief of strategist.

[20:10:03] He said that he thinks the president is going to go what he described as, quote, full ammo on his opponents now. He also said he thinks this next year is going to be the most politically divisive year in American history since the civil war, including the Vietnam War. I want to play something that the president said tonight about Adam Schiff.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Little pencil neck Adam Schiff. He's got the smallest, thinnest neck I've ever seen. He is not a long ball hitter. But I saw him today.

Well, we don't really know. There could still have been some Russia collusion.

Sick, sick! These are sick people. And there has to be accountability, because it's all lies, and they know it's lies. They know it.


COOPER: Congressman Khanna? I mean, he is saying what Adam Schiff said today are all lies.

KHANNA: I had lunch with Adam yesterday. He was a bit amused that the president was insulting his golf game and insulting his drive. But the serious issue here is why is the president attacking separation of powers?

And for Steve Bannon, who believes the president should be tough and negotiating with Xi Jinping, and this president can't take the heat of divided government and separation of powers and tough press? That's American democracy.

You know, Harry Truman said, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. And if this president is tough, he should respect the process.

COOPER: Congressman Quigley, without the full report, without the full facts, how do you fill in the blanks here? You say there is still evidence of collusion. Obviously, it wasn't enough for Mueller. The president hasn't seen the report, doesn't have the answers. He is already filling in the blanks anyway.

How does a message of wait and see sell better than what the president is saying?

QUIGLEY: I don't know what else to do but to file the necessary subpoena next week when they don't comply with this. Clearly, one of the things that we would get from this paper is the fact that there are gaps. We absolutely have no idea where the special counsel went on money-laundering, for example. Knowing what we know about the fact that Deutsche Bank did most of the financing for Trump world leading up to his presidency, and that they were also fined $600 million for illegally laundering money with the Russians.

What do we know what's left to do? What's still in those gaps? And I think the answers will come with the report, and a frank discussion with Mr. Mueller himself.

COOPER: Congressman Quigley, appreciate it. Congressman Khanna, as well. Thank you very much.

One thing that is certain tonight, if and when the full Mueller report is released, the president's critics and supporters will seek to spin what's expected to be a tremendous level of detail, depending how much is released, how much detail the public is prepared to decipher and digest and for how long, that, of course, remains to be seen.

Joining me are presidential historian and former Nixon Library director, Tim Naftali, and "New York Times" op-ed columnist and CNN contributor Frank Bruni.

I was struck by something, Frank. Something you wrote in "The Times" yesterday, you said we Americans excel at many things, but we're terrible at nuance. In reaction to Robert Mueller's report, rather, to the maddeningly succinct and vague summary of it, we've been provided are the latest and some of the most vivid proof of that.

It seems like the president and his supporters in the last couple of days have been very successful in, I don't know if exploiting that lack of detail or nuance or making the most of it?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think we know how successful they've been. They're certainly speaking to his base, and I think his base is feeling more fired up and confident about hiss righteousness than ever. But do we really know whether they've been successful with those people, the very few of them who are in the middle?

But what distresses me and the reason I wrote that, two things can be true at the same time, and we seem unable in America to hold two thoughts at the same time. It is certainly the case that four pages from over 300 is ridiculous. But it can also be the case that there are some hurdles and concerns to releasing the whole report.

It can be the case that someone like Adam Schiff maybe engaged in over-baked language and got too far out on the limb. It is not the case that he should be reprimanded and censored the way his colleagues are suggesting he should be.

I just want to say one thing because I'm so outraged and embarrassed by the president and his pencil neck thing or whatever that is. He said it's all lies. Actually, everything Adam Schiff said is a proven fact.

COOPER: Right.

BRUNI: The debate is whether those add up to this word collusion, which is so vaguely defined. But Adam Schiff gave a litany of proven facts that explained why people were so concerned about what was going on. And for Donald Trump to stand there and tell people it was all lies is shameful.

[20:15:02] COOPER: Yes. Not surprising, though. I mean, he has been --

BRUNI: Not surprising, but we need to keep being -- I don't know if shocked is the word, but we can't be so unsurprised that we let it roll off of our shoulders.

COOPER: Tim, has there been a ton of nuance in American politics ever, really? I mean, we all think this is the roughest things have ever been. Obviously you go far back, it was pretty rough. TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, two different things.

One, the decibel level is high. But as Steve Bannon said to you, there have been periods in our history where the decibel level has been high.

I'm shocked and dismayed that he would say that we reached the pitch of the debate before the civil war. My god, I hope he didn't say that with glee.

But there is also the question of nuance.

COOPER: He actually thinks, he was saying that he thinks democracy is stronger than ever, that people are energized, people are involved.

NAFTALI: Well, I don't think that the 1850s is a model for what we want -- for what our democracy should be. But the other thing I wanted to talk is about the issue of nuance was a beautiful piece today, but we've never been very good at nuance. After all, how many times in the cold war have we asked presidents to have a doctrine? What's your doctrine? And a doctrine is not nuanced.


NAFTALI: It's a very direct form of policy. You do this, we'll do that.

We tend to want very straight forward responses. We also like contests. We like winners and losers. You don't get a participation medal in American politics. And so, I think this bleeds over into the way in which we talk about things like the Mueller report.

The White House got a lot out of a four-page summary, because that four-page summary said just what the president needed it to say, no collusion. The president had defined this entire investigation about collusion and not corruption.

There is lots of corruption. It's just there wasn't direct collusion with the Russian government. Notice, it's the Russian government, not with Russians.

So I think when we get the details, we will see lots of unethical misconduct with Russians that should raise our hackles.

BRUNI: And hopefully Americans won't be so over this that they'll pay attention to those details and nuances. What's different on the nuance front, Anderson, we're more polarized than we were a decade ago, two decades ago. There is fascinating research showing if you're on the other side of the political aisle from me, I don't just think you're wrong, I think you're evil.


BRUNI: That is informing people's language, the pitch of it. I think Steve Bannon is exaggerating. I'm worried he does take some weird delight in this. But we are talking to each other with a volume and a kind of vitriol that was not true ten years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago.

NAFTALI: And I just want to add that this is part of the product of the Contract with America. In the 1990s, people entered the political fray saying, I'm not going think when I get to Washington. I'm going to do exactly what you want me to do, and if I don't, primary me out -- which means there is no benefit for a member of Congress, certainly from the Republican side, to compromise in Washington, because they're going to be primaried out because they promised not to compromise. That has polluted --

COOPER: There are Democrats who don't want to compromise either.

NAFTALI: No doubt about that. But what I'm saying is when you have the Newt Gingrich structure of the '90s has really changed American politics. And then the Tea Party was a reaction to Republicans not doing enough.

BRUNI: Your point is really well taken, Anderson. There are Democrats who are just as strident. We're not going to get an infrastructure bill because of both Democrats and Republicans, because neither party is going to want to do something that maybe the other side takes credit for.

COOPER: Exactly.

BRUNI: And that's where we are.

COOPER: The Democrats don't want the give the president a quote/unquote win.

BRUNI: Not going into 2020.

COOPER: Yes. Frank Bruni, thank you. Tim Naftali, always. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Up next, breaking news on proposal to cut millions of dollars in funding for the Special Olympics. What the president is saying now after his education secretary came under fire on Capitol Hill. She has been defending it. He just basically totally reversed it, leaving her out to dry pretty much.

I'll speak to the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver.

Also on the Hill today, the president's nominee for interior secretary gets grilled about our report last night about calling in federal workers during the government shutdown to process and approve drilling permits. You'll want to hear what he has to say.


[20:23:39] COOPER: Over the past few days, the education secretary has come under fire on Capitol Hill for defending a proposal to cut nearly $18 million in funding for the Special Olympics. It was a difficult sell, no doubt, to lawmakers. And late this afternoon, President Trump stepped in.


TRUMP: I've been to the Special Olympics. I think it's incredible, and I just authorized a funding. I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics.


COOPER: Total reversal there. Now the money won't be cut after all. Shortly after the president spoke, the education secretary released this statement, quote: I am pleased and grateful and the president and I see eye to eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.

OK. Sounds very different than what she's been saying for several days. It doesn't make any sense, because keeping them honest, DeVos has proposed funding cuts for the Special Olympics for the past two years before this current effort, and lawmakers rejected it. So this is the third time.

This time, she didn't even know how many kids with special needs could have been impacted. Here what's happened when Democratic Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan asked her about that on Tuesday.


REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN: The cuts to Special Olympics, do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut, Madam Secretary?

[20:25:03] BETSY DEVOS, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Mr. Pocan, let me just say again, we -- we had to make some difficult decisions with this budget --

POCAN: Again, this is a question of how many kids, not the budget.

DEVOS: I don't know the number of kids.

POCAN: It's 272,000 kids. I'll answer it for you. That's okay. No problem. It's 272,000 kids that are affected.

DEVOS: I think Special Olympics are awesome organization, one that is well supported by the Philanthropic sector as well.


COOPER: So, the grilling didn't end there. She faced more questions about her proposal today on Capitol Hill. So, she was still defending it before the president made his announcement.

Look what happens when CNN's Ryan Nobles tried to get answers from her.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Madam Secretary, you said today that you were not the person that proposed this funding change. Can you explain who in your administration did? Madam Secretary, have you spoken to the president about this at all?

If there is some misunderstanding, Madam Secretary, this is your opportunity to explain it to us. Are you concerned about the supporters of the Special Olympics that are upset with the decision to remove their funding?


COOPER: Oh my goodness, it's so painful and awkward. I loved how the camera, after focusing on the back of her head, the camera person moves around and then she's looking at I assume that's someone who works with her for some sort of like saving, but the other person was mm-mmm, I'm not saying anything either.

That's an epic non-response. I mean, that's a wait for the -- that's not even a can't talk, I'm on the phone. I know they can hear, sorry. That was something. Let's keep that on hold for later use and just bring it up every now and then.

Not long after that, the president said, quote, I've overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics, unquote. And then Ms. DeVos was like yay, I wanted that all along.

And that's welcomed, but obviously it's all welcomed by the Special Olympians and those who run the program which was founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver more than five decades ago. It's a program about much more than winning medals and sports ribbons, of course. The athletes also be encouraged and self-respect and new friends, and all the volunteers and all those cheering in the stands gain an important lesson in tolerance and inclusion.

Joining us now is Tim Shriver, the son of Mrs. Shriver. He's continuing his mom's mission. He's the chairman of the Special Olympics. He joins me now.

Tim, first of all, congratulations are in order for this happening. What do you make --


COOPER: -- of the president's reversal on the proposed cuts after Ms. DeVos has been arguing about this for days now, defending it?

SHRIVER: Well, I think it's a great moment for the country, honestly. I think it's a moment of positivity the likes of which we haven't seen in years. People from all walks of life, both parties, heartland and coastline, volunteers, young people, parents, business leaders, all standing up, sports figures, saying that these are American values that we believe in, that we are committed to. And that we will not step down from.

And I think the president responded to that in a very positive way and recognized how important these values are in this country right now. And I think we should celebrate the fact that we have a moment of unity in the country. And let's maybe build upon that, not just for people with special needs, although that's obviously critically important. But maybe for broader conversations about what unites us, because in the end of the day, that's what this ended up being a conversation about.

COOPER: The -- before the administration changed course, part of what Secretary DeVos' argument was that the Special Olympics doesn't need federal funding because of what she described as robust support from private donations. Is that accurate? The funding cuts she proposed from what I understand would have cut programs for special needs students around the country.

SHRIVER: Well, first of all, I think people don't understand that the traditional Special Olympics program is privately funded. This particular initiative is a school-based initiative. It's trying to teach inclusion, teach empathy, teach connection to kids in schools in this country.

We're in about 6,000 schools. We're introducing what we call "Unified Sport" where kids with and without special needs get to play on teams, learn from each other, become teammates, recognize that everybody matters.

COOPER: That's awesome.

SHRIVER: I mean, this is such a fundamental American lesson. And I think people are responding to it right now where we feel maybe that lesson is under threat.

This is all about being able to look into your friend's eye and learn from the child who has Down syndrome, learn from the child who has autism. And when you're in sixth grade or eighth grade or tenth grade, learn this most profound -- I mean, I dare say, it's an American lesson. We are a country founded on at least the hope that we can build a country where everybody matters no matter what.

And that's what we're trying to teach in schools, that's why we're getting funded by the Department of Education and that's why we want to grow that effort. We're -- as I say 6,000 schools, there's 100,000 schools in this country, every one of them, the families in those schools, the teachers in those schools, the young people in those schools are starving for positive messages and for ways to find their purpose and big ideas like these.

Why not celebrate that, grow it, partner with the private sector philanthropic giving to make these kinds of lessons the norm in our nation's schools.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, it shows my own ignorance on this. I didn't realize that this was something that you've had working in schools, and that you're in 6,000 schools. It just sounds like a remarkable program. The whole idea of pairing people with different abilities together and learning from each other, I mean, what's more important than that.

SHRIVER: I mean, it's the future of our movement, Anderson, we call it the "Inclusion Revolution." What we're saying, and I think what the country said to these last 48 hours, and it's really quite remarkable to parents who have kids with special needs, to people who have differences, they heard a message loud and clear, this country cares about you.

This country believes in you. This country values you. This country believes you're important. This country will fight for you. And that's a lesson and a message that for so many days and weeks and months, those families never hear, but they heard it here.


SHRIVER: They heard it now. We are committed to you as a country, not just to a program. Of course, I believe in the Special Olympics movement and the work we're doing in schools is critical. The social and emotional development of children is critical.


SHRIVER: Right now, critical in our schools and it's growing. So, you know, we're at a moment here to celebrate. But for all those young people, life is still very difficult. If you're different, it's still tough.


SHRIVER: So we got a lot of work to do.

COOPER: Tim, I appreciate you being on and I appreciate all the work you're doing. It's extraordinary. Thank you.

SHRIVER: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Much more breaking news tonight. Up next, the President's nominee for Interior Secretary gets grilled about our report last night. You'll want to hear what he has to say.


[20:35:53] COOPER: Well, for the past few weeks on this program, our Drew Griffin has been reporting on the close ties between acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the industry that he once represented.

Drew has been asking Bernhardt repeated questions about allegations he has been granting favors to his former clients, allegations the department denies, although Bernhardt is refusing to talk to Drew Griffin.

Last night, Drew disclosed that Bernhardt ordered federal workers back on the job during the government shutdown, specifically to process drilling permits for oil and gas leases on federal land.

That report came up today on Capitol Hill as Bernhardt sat for a hearing that would confirm him to the job full-time. Here is an interchange between Bernhardt and New Mexico Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.


SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO, NEVADA: It was reported on CNN that during the 35-day government shutdown earlier this year, BLM under your supervision approved 267 drilling permits and 16 leases applied for by oil and gas companies. What exactly was the safety component applied to your decision to continue with the oil and gas permitting during the furloughs and during the government shutdown?

DAVID BERNHARDT, INTERIOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: I made a decision during the shutdown that we were going to put people back to work because I could guarantee that they'd get paid. And I didn't know how long this was going to take.

And I can tell you, I had employees that were calling our ethics office to see if they could sell their plasma. And so I made a decision to put folks to work that I could, and that we had resources for.


COOPER: I want to apologize, I misspoke, Senator Cortez Masto is from Nevada not New Mexico.

Joining me now is Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, who's also at the committee that heard from Bernhardt. Senator, the questions surrounding Bernhardt issuing drilling permits during the government shutdown, some which went to his former clients, do you buy his reasoning as to why he did that? Because he said he -- there were people calling saying they're going to have to sell plasma. He was putting them back to work, but they weren't being paid right then. He just said that they'd be paid down the road.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: I thought his answer was bizarre. After all, there were 800,000 federal workers who -- many of whom were standing in food banks. So, I thought his answer was really strange. But he is very typical of too many of the Trump nominees. You know, they have spent a lot of their professional time fighting the laws of the very departments that they're now being asked to head.

So in his case, of course, it was oil and gas industry and that's why this industry is very happy that he is now poised to become the head of interior. They're very happy. So too many of, as I said, these nominees are very conflicted. And at some point, the conflict gets so bad and the ethical violations get so bad that they end up having to resign as his predecessor did.

COOPER: You know, Bernhardt pushed back on criticisms about potential conflicts of interest saying that he's actually work to bolster the ethics guidelines in the department by hiring more people to oversee it. Do you believe it?

HIRONO: Good for him. Good for him. We shall see. I commended him on that point, but a lot of it was -- I've also relating to sexual harassment and those kinds of matters that had already been brought to the attention of this department. So, yes, I think that he is making sure that, you know, he kind of inoculates himself on those points.

But at the same time, there is no question that he represented so many oil and gas people that I understand he has a list in his pocket of all the people that he's not supposed to have contact with.

And we also learned that he doesn't keep a schedule and yet in his testimony he said he's met with all these environmental people. How does he even know that if he doesn't keep a schedule? And how are we supposed to ascertain that? So just a lot of responses that I thought were not terribly credible.

COOPER: But as you say, I mean at the end of the day, he is going to be confirmed. I mean, regardless of the concerns you and other Democrats may have, Republicans have the majority and they support the nomination.

HIRONO: Yes. I'm waiting for the day that the Republicans wake up to the fact that you can't keep confirming the roosters to guard the hen houses. So rather than draining the swamp, they are part and parcel of helping all these people who just jumping into the water saying, "Come on in, the water's fine."

[20:40:09] I am waiting for the Republicans to wake up to their responsibility and to recognize that we cannot keep doing this. But you know so far, that hasn't happened. But as I said, meantime, Anderson, sometimes their ethic violations come so close to the bone that they actually have to resign on their own volition before they get indicted.

COOPER: Senator Hirono, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.


COOPER: Coming up, the latest on the Jussie Smollett saga. Now, President Trump is having his say.


COOPER: There's breaking news tonight on the roller coaster drama encircling Jussie Smollett. President Trump says both the Department of Justice and the FBI will now review the case, this after the Cook County State's Attorney's Office says it's dropped all the charges against Smollett. And before he left for his rally in Michigan, President Trump weighed in even more.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Smollett -- I think the case in Chicago is an absolute embarrassment to our country. And I have asked that it be -- that they look at it. I think that case is an absolute embarrassment to our country, and somebody has to at least take a very good hard look at it.


COOPER: Well, for his part, Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel said once again his city is, "a Trump-free zone."

[20:45:02] Sara Sidner is in Chicago tonight with the latest. So, aside from what I just said, I also understand the City of Chicago is asking Smollett to pay them $130,000 for their work on the case. Is that right?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is an extraordinary response in this case. Mayor Rahm Emanuel saying the city was going to send Smollett a bill to help pay for the investigation in what he said was a hoax perpetrated by Smollett, and indeed, this is the letter that they sent Smollett demanding $130,106.15 and asking for it in a money order and certified check.

Now, I should mention that Smollett's attorneys snapped back. They are saying it is the mayor and police chief who owe Jussie an apology. And they say it's for dragging an innocent man's character through the mud. Jussie has paid enough. That is what they are saying back to this request or demand, if you will, for $130,000 plus.

COOPER: So the State's Attorney, she stated she was going to unseal the case, but that wasn't actually correct, is that right?

SIDNER: Yes, you are correct, Anderson. The State's Attorney first said she could have sealed -- unsealed some of the case, but now her office says she misspoke. The law says she cannot unseal the case, and it's also interesting to note that Smollett's attorneys dropped their expungement argument. They basically are not going to ask for an expungement.

Now if you look at this, that actually means that the case will never be unsealed likely because the only way it could be unsealed is if they ask for an expungement. The law allows for an unsealing of the case when the expungement is out there, but since they are not going to ask for an expungement, the case will remain sealed and out of the publics view.

COOPER: And there's no information on, I understand, another case that involves Smollett from years prior.

SIDNER: Yes. This is a 2007 misdemeanor case. Jussie Smollett pleaded no contest to providing false information to law enforcement, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. Now, that case stemmed from a DUI stop in which Smollett gave police the wrong name. Smollett also pleaded no contest to driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit and driving without a valid driver's license.

So, this is another case in which wrong information, improper information was given to the police. In this first case here in -- in that case, he pleaded no contest. In the case here in Chicago, he says, "Look, I'm an innocent man. This is what happened to me," and none of the words of the police chief or the mayor of the city that they are wrong. He is still proclaiming his innocence in the case here in Chicago.

COOPER: All right. Sara, stick around. I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. OK, Joey, first of all, the repayment the City of Chicago is requesting, is that a PR thing? I mean, do they have any power to demand payment?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, they don't. So here's what's happens. And, you know, this case is just -- in so many levels problematic and here's why. I think initially, Anderson, before getting to that they should have called it what it was. This was a plea agreement and they didn't call it a pleas agreement. They said, "We're just dismissing the case." They were not transparent about it. And let's be also clear, they have the discretion, that is the prosecutor, to do what they think is appropriate, right?

COOPER: But -- so if it's a plea agreement, what was the plea?

JACKSON: So if it's the plea agreement, what they did, as you recall, the initial statement was you're going to forfeit your bail, right, of the $10,000, it was $100,000, you pay 10 percent.

COOPER: Right.

JACKSON: In addition to that, we've evaluated what you've done for the community and then they found out that he did community service. Now, as part of a plea agreement, customarily, what a district attorney can do, county attorney in this incident, is they could require restitution. That gets to the core of your question, can the police require him to pay it back?

If that was going to be a requirement, the district attorney, county attorney, could have conditioned it upon a plea, but it's not a plea. We're just dismissing the case. And, you know, I think the mistake was made and that it's sort of like the county attorney became his advocate.

And they should have just come out, held a press conference and said, "Look, we ran too hard at him. We've indicted him for 16 felonies. We don't think it's appropriate, it's disproportionate. So what he actually did, we think he is a good member of the community. He's done so many things. This is an appropriate resolution."

Instead, they covered it up. "We didn't really do it. It's dismissed." Then, "Oh, we had the proof to prove the case." It was just nonsense. And we're confused because they were not transparent in the first instance.

But in terms of the police department sending anyone a bill, there's no statutory authority for a person who is a defendant in the case with the case is resolved to have to pay them back and so it is PR (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: So do you think this will be ever be unsealed?

JACKSON: I think it could be unsealed and let me you why. First, you know, we see this federal investigation and that also is bluster, right? And it's bluster because the county attorney calls the shots. You're not dictated to by the president or anyone else. You are an independent elected official.

And if you feel that an alternative resolution is appropriate, the world could be upset about it, the President could be upset about it, the Department of Justice could be upset about it. You do what you think you need to do.

[20:50:01] Now, why do I raise that issue? Because if we're talking about unsealing, remember, there's another component to this. That component is the alleged letter that he sent to himself that may be a threat and that may have been a hoax.

That allows the federal government to pursue federal charges, and in that regard they could get an unsealing order to find out what the state found out about his case. So the Feds could get it unsealed, but other than that, the Feds don't have any authority.

COOPER: A lot of twists and turns. Joey, thank you.

JACKSON: Needless to say.

COOPER: Yes. Sara Sidner, as well, appreciate it.

I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO: Hey, pal, you know, if this situation at the border gets half as bad as they fear, you and I are going to be spending quality time down there in the not too distant future. I'm just shocked that it's being ignored. You and I see -- we see this fatigue on tragedies all the time. God forbid there's a shooting that happens too soon after a shooting it doesn't get the same attention. But we have so many lawmakers.

We have a president who literally made his bones on this crisis at the border. He's talking about it right now at his rally and he's completely deceiving people about what's actually happening there and the fact that he is not done what he needed to do to help them. So we're going into that tonight.

We also have Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota. What does she think of the situation? What does she think about the Democrat posture on the Mueller report and the disclosure?

And we have Vicky Ward is here tonight. She wrote the definitive book on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. What does she have to say about why Kushner got called back be senators today?

COOPER: Chris, I don't know if you saw this. I'm obsessed with this. I just want to show you our viewers again the most awkward non- response by Betsy DeVos.

CUOMO: Let's see it.

COOPER: It's just -- this is like halfway through it. They're asking her question --


COOPER: -- and now she's looking to the camera almost challengingly and also sort of at her resistant I think or the person with her, perhaps an attorney, and she says nothing. It's like one of them is just when would the elevator come?


COOPER: She's just hoping the elevator comes.

CUOMO: It's a little bit of a combination of the whom me and the what say, what say. I mean, it's a little bit of a combination of those two. It's not unlike how you react when I ask you if you have money.

COOPER: No -- yes, that -- my reaction like that is always, huh, what? Yes, I'll get back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: Yes, wait, hold on. Mr. President, I'll --

COOPER: I can't hear. OK, got to go, Chris. Bye-bye.

CUOMO: Yes, see you.

COOPER: All right, thanks. See you in a few minutes.

President Trump claiming total vindication in the wake of relation of the Barr summary. What do independent voters in the state won by the President think about it? Our Randi Kaye talks to some of them, just ahead.


[20:56:23] COOPER: In Michigan tonight, President Trump held a rally relishing what he says is total vindication after the release of Attorney General Barr summary of the Mueller report. And the things, of course, aren't that clear cut. The full Mueller report said to be at least 300 pages long, won't be released for awhile it seems.

Earlier on the program, Frank Rooney of "New York Times" said, "We don't know what voters will think of all of this." But, we sent Randi Kaye to Pennsylvania to find out what some voters there do think.

Randi spoke with the group of eight voters there, all of whom consider themselves independents because to vote in Pennsylvania's primary elections you have to register either as Republican or Democrat. Four of them are registered as Republicans, they can still vote in the general election as independents. Here's Randi's report.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): In the wake of Attorney General Barr's letter to Congress and what we've learned about the Mueller investigation, is there anyone here who feels more or less supportive of Donald Trump?

MIKE PALMER, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I feel more supportive. I think it was an exhaustive investigation.

PATTY MISKEL, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I think it was a sham from the beginning.

JIM LUNDBERG, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: My mind hasn't changed when (INAUDIBLE) -- I've had pretty firm opinion of him and I didn't need their help.

KAYE: Yours is a negative opinion and that hasn't changed?


KAYE (voice-over): These eight independent voters in Bucks County, Pennsylvania are happy the Mueller investigation is complete. They're anxious to move on to issues that matter to them.

(on camera) Will the Mueller investigation and what we've learned about it so far through the attorney general, will that impact your vote for 2020?






KAYE: No, not at all.

(voice-over) What does this group care about?

JAMES O'BRIEN, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: The economy will be one piece, but things like health care and the environment are definitely other pieces.

KAYE (on camera): Just raise your hand, how many of you give President Donald Trump credit for strong economy? Raise your hand. Just three. If the economy's doing great, do any of you care if the Trump administration or the campaign colluded with Russia or if he tried to obstruct justice, do any of you care? Or does the economy outweigh that?

PATTY MENOW, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: No, the economy is way more important to me.

KAYE: Despite everything that the President has been criticized for, his lies, now further investigations with the Southern District of New York, the government shutdown, I mean we could go on and on, despite all of that, could you still vote for him if the economy is strong?





KAYE: You say?

HARRIS: Absolutely not.

KAYE: Why not?

HARRIS: It's not specifically him. It's not specifically those investigations. It's not specifically those investigations. It's not specifically that. It's just like every tiny little piece, like of the open -- like I want to say racist or bigotry, the openness of that for me is, of course, like number one.

KAYE: You look at what's important, the pocketbook issues, you know, the stock market is booming, unemployment is at historic lows, the economy is strong they say, that still wouldn't change your mind?

BETH CLARK, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: It's a trend that has been going on before Trump came into office and he has continued it. So, I think it's continuing to do well some what in spite of Donald Trump. I have voted for a Republican for years, 40 plus years, and I could not vote for him.

HOLLY KAESER-FOGG, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: You know, if Donald Trump isn't president two years from now, I don't think that the economy is going to fall apart at the seams.

LUNDBERG: If the economy happens to be good when he ends his term, I'll be really happy about it but I'm not going to give Donald Trump all the credit.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Doylestown Pennsylvania.


COOPER: We certainly all appreciate their time and their opinions. The news continues.