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President Trump Admits Plan To Place Detained Immigrants In Sanctuary Cities As Retribution Against Democrats; Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, D-Chicago, Is Interviewed About Releasing Undocumented Immigrants Into Sanctuary Cities; Officials: President Trump Promised Then-CBP Chief A Pardon If He Went to Jail for Violating Immigration Law; Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) is Interviewed About President Trump's Immigration Policies. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 12, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

Today, CNN was first to learn that the president of the United States asked a top border official to break the law and promised him a pardon if he did. We also learned from the president himself who tweeted and spoke about it today that he wants his immigration authorities to do something that they have already told him would be unlawful and that others have called inhumane and extreme, whether it's legal or not. That's on top of new reporting that just days after telling the country he would not close the border for a year, he told officials in private to close it now.

Put it altogether, along with some other recent statements and actions and it raises a number of questions. Is this a president who doesn't know the difference between what's legal and what's not? Is this a president who simply acts as if he's above the law? Or is this a president who will do and say anything to cater to his base and appear what he would consider to be tough, even if the actions are never likely to ever occur.

The day began with the White House downplaying last night's reporting on the proposed plan for using Central American migrants detained to the border essentially as human trash to be dumped as retribution on the cities of his political adversaries. Here's part of the statement. Again, this is from the White House essentially pooh- poohing the story.

They say and I'm quoting, the simple question that was informally asked was whether illegal aliens already being released on the daily basis could be sent to and cared for by sanctuary jurisdictions whose stated policy is to welcome and embrace illegal aliens. The idea was briefly and informally raised and quickly rejected. So, there it is. The White House saying , this was just a question that was informally asked, it wasn't seriously talked about, briefly raised, quickly rejected.

That was at 11:35 a.m. this morning. Then came the old White House whiplash. At 12:38 p.m., one hour and three minutes after his White House just knocked down the idea and pooh-poohed the whole thing, the president gave the idea a big ole bear hug. Here it is. We are, and I'm quoting, indeed, as reported, giving strong

considerations to placing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities.

Then at a White House telecom event later this afternoon, he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: California certainly is always saying, oh, we want more people. They want more people in their sanctuary cities. Well, we'll give them more people. We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply. And let's see if they're so happy. They say they have open arms. Let's see if they have open arms.


COOPER: He wants to put undocumented immigrants on buses and send them to Democratic districts to punish his opponents and then threw his White House under a bus by contradicting the denials they just put out. He's talking, remember, and it bears repeating, about human beings, many of whom who are seeking asylum here, which is their right under international law, whether you want them to do that or not. It's the obligation under international law for the host country to give their claims a fair hearing.

Instead, the president is discussing in a tone of voice you just heard, the possibility of casting all that aside because he'd rather use these human beings to somehow bring retribution on the politicians who oppose him. As if these men and women, some with children were, as chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, put it on the program last night, some form pestilence to be visited upon your enemy. Just in case you're wondering whether the president is capable of reducing a group of individuals to a single negative or hateful term, consider that just the other day, he accused Democrats, all of them, of committing treason.

It's not a stretch to think that he sees the humanity of people he wants to use to punish his opponents.

One thing is certain, though. What he said today is a far cry from what he said on the subject a year ago. Remember when he and lawmakers were trying to hammer out an immigration reform bill?


TRUMP: It should be a bill of love, truly. It should be a bill of love, and we can do that.


COOPER: Could he have done it?

Senior advisor Stephen Miller, as you know, favors hard-line immigration policies. Fired DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resisted some, but certainly not all of them. She repeatedly lied saying there was no policy of child separation meant to deter illegal immigration. But none of what we've seen, and none of what we could see happens unless the man at the top wants it.

So does President Trump want it because his base wants it? Because he wants to assure them he is tough? Or does he want to treat people like this because this is who he is?

Which brings it all back to how the presidencies undocumented immigrants and illegal immigrants and how he sees the law. As we said at the top, CNN was the first to report that he asked a top border official to break the law, to close the door on asylum seekers , and the president again today suggested, do not have legitimate claims they faced persecution back home.

We were the first to report that he promised a pardon for doing it. To be precise, it was Jake Tapper who got the scoop. I'm pleased he could join us to talk about it.

So, Jake, what exactly did the president say to the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection last week?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": Well, the context is the president had just visited the border at Calexico, California, and told border patrol agents as I told you earlier this week to stop enforcing the law by letting asylum seekers in.

[20:05:13] Basically just keep them out of the United States and the border agents had been told after President Trump left you can't do that, you have to let people in. That's the law.

After that, President Trump met with the head of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, and said, we've really got to keep them out. If you go to jail for this, I will give you a presidential pardon.

Now, the senior administration officials who were briefed on this conversation who told me about it said they didn't know if the president was joking or serious, but he definitely said this. It all really is of a piece having to do with the president's frustration with immigration laws and his desire stated to have his officials, administration officials and agents break those immigration laws to be even more hard line.

COOPER: In terms of the president's proposal to release undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities for political reasons, again, there's no other reason other than driving somebody -- driving bus loads up to Nancy Pelosi's district, it's just to try to punish Nancy Pelosi, I guess, in the president's mind.

I understand you've obtained documents from the general counsel from the Department of Homeland Security, documents that he sent to the White House about this back in February.

TAPPER: That's right, because this was actually being very seriously pushed by President Trump and other immigration hard liners in the White House, Stephen Miller and others, saying that they really wanted to do this, even though the White House earlier today tried to pooh- pooh this story, saying it wasn't taken seriously.

It was taken seriously. The general counsel of the DHS, John Mitnick, sent the White House a legal analysis and basically had three parts. One was we are not allowed to spend DH money to do this, to transport these individuals, unless it's for a clear agency-related purpose such as providing medical care to individuals or facilities becoming overcrowded. And the underlying message is we can't do this for political reasons, that would be against our charter, that would be against the law.

He made two other points. This would open up the agency and the U.S. government for lawsuits because you'll be denying due process to these individuals. And if you do this, the odds that these individuals do not show up for their deportation hearing are much stronger. So, in other words, you'll be undermining the law and you'll be undermining your own purpose of wanting these people to go back where they came from.

COOPER: I mean, you know, it bears just sort of stepping back for a moment and pointing out, we're talking about human beings here being loaded onto buses and sent far away to random places for political purposes to punish Democrats. To think that that's an actual serious consideration is incredible from this White House.

TAPPER: The law is not let's ship them thousands of miles away to the district of somebody so we can make a political point, regardless of how vulnerable this individual might be. What if it's a 19-year-old girl and she has friends and family in Tennessee and she doesn't know anybody in San Francisco?

COOPER: Or somebody, you know, has a medical issue, dies on the bus going there. I mean, they have died going someplace for political purposes to be used as a pawn, it's incredible.

We should also point out, Customs and Border Protection, the folks working at the border have a tough enough job as it is and they're not getting paid a lot and often living in remote areas. They sacrifice a lot. And to have the president instructing them to do illegal things and then talking about pardoning him, it just -- I don't know, it's -- it's where we're at, I guess.

Jake Tapper, thank you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: That alone is plenty to talk about but that's far from all there is to say tonight. So, we're digging deeper.

Earlier I spoke with New York Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee.


COOPER: Congresswoman Rice, when you heard this idea floated, we were on the air when this story broke in "The Washington Post" last night. At first, Max Boot, the person I was with, thought it was a spoof from "The Onion", it seemed so outrageous. To have the White House say, oh, no, no, no, this was nothing. Then the president comes out and doubles down on it.

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D-NY): Yes. Well, first of all, it's just so horrible to hear the president talk about these people the way that he does, like they're some kind of contagion that he's going to drop on these cities when all he has to do is look no further than Mar-a-Lago for hard-working people that came here for a better life. He knows them. He's hired.

COOPER: He's been hiring them for years.

RICE: He's been hiring them for years.

It's just -- this is just a terrible -- but this is the way he talks, Anderson, about this issue. It's no surprise he's going into his re- election. The one issue that fires up his base is to talk about immigration.

COOPER: So do you think this is even -- I mean there's no -- I imagine legally, I don't think this can be done.

[20:10:03] The Department of Homeland Security pushed back on this.

Do you think this is just something where he can say, look, I wanted to dump them in sanctuary cities for his base? Or do you think he actually wanted this to happen?

RICE: Well, I think a lot of these ideas that he comes up with are really the brain child of Stephen Miller. One of the things I have a problem with is you have this White House figure, Stephen Miller, who has come up with all of the policy proposals that have been shot down by courts as illegal and against the law, and he's basically the de facto head of the Department of Homeland Security right now.

And yet, he's unanswerable. I mean, you can't have it both ways. Stephen Miller cannot draw all of -- decide what the policies are going to be at the Department of Homeland Security and then hide behind executive privilege saying, no, no, no, I'm just a White House employee so that he can't be held accountable.

He needs to come before Congress. And I'm going to work with the Homeland Security Committee which I sit on to see if we can get him to come and answer these questions, because these policies are even people in the Department of Homeland Security are saying we're not going to do these policies because they're illegal.

COOPER: Jake Tapper tonight reporting that the president told the head of the Customs and Border Protection when he was down at the border a couple of days ago that if he followed through and didn't allow people in the country, told them we were full, that he would pardon the head of Customs and Border Protection if he got in trouble for it.

RICE: Well, first of all --

COOPER: Whether it's a joke -- we don't know if it was said jokingly or not.

RICE: Well, it wouldn't be a surprise. We've been hearing for the past two years that he's been talking to people from Michael Cohen to Michael Flynn about pardoning them. But I can tell you that Homeland Security is going to call McAleenan to come and testify before them, and that's going to be the first question I ask him.

It's great to talk about the president asked this question, but I want to know what McAleenan said. Is he going to be willing to put this policy in place that he knows is illegal and is going to put his officers at risk of personal responsibility for carrying out these policies?

COOPER: Yes, it is -- I mean just going back to the idea of busing, you know, arresting people at a border and putting them on buses and sending them to San Francisco so they can be dropped off in Nancy Pelosi's district.

RICE: Yes.

COOPER: Again, it just bears repeating, these are human beings we are talking about. This is not --

RICE: Anderson, I was at the border last weekend in El Paso and in McAllen. And there are women and children being held in cages. I held a 2-month-old baby.

There was a woman who had just given birth two days before. A 2-day- old baby who's an American citizen being held in a cage on the border. This is an un-American as you get.

COOPER: Congresswoman Rice, thank you very much.

RICE: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: As we mentioned at the top, in addition to possibly soliciting illegal activity and pushing a plan that may violate federal international law, we also got reporting on what would be a major reversal, if it happened, on closing the border. The president told the country he'd take that off the table for a year. "The New York Times" today learned that he could be eager to reverse himself.

"The Times" White House correspondent and CNN political analyst, Maggie Haberman, shares the byline of that story, and she joins us now, so does CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, explain what's happening here, Maggie. That he's not going wait a year to possibly close down the border?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened was we had the same reporting that Jake did. We approached the White House about it this morning at 11:00 a.m. and they very notably would not comment on it. The fact that he had this discussion with McAleenan about closing the border and I'll offer you a pardon if anything happens to you, McAleenan appears to have taken aback by it, unsure if it was serious.

It was made a day -- this conversation took place a day after his public pledge of we're going to wait a year and then maybe we will close the border to possible asylum seekers or people trying to cross. It's not clear where the president's head is right now. What seemed to have been happening in that conversation is he was using it as some kind of a nudge or a push with the person he knew he would be bringing in as the new secretary of homeland security. He knew he was pushing out Kirstjen Nielsen.

And the fact that this took place at a time when he was preparing to bring this person on I think speaks to the type of pressure he's planning on putting in place going forward. I think it speaks to the fact that the president is fully prepared to say one thing publicly and do something different privately, as we had known he does for quite sometime. He is willing to test the bounds of the law repeatedly. We have seen that happen in other contexts and we are going to see it with immigration over and over as he watches these TV images of immigrants coming over the border and gets frustrated.

COOPER: I mean, if the game for him is hold the base and appeal to the base, whether or not this policy gets executed, doesn't this -- isn't this exactly what he wants?

HABERMAN: Oh, yes.

COOPER: It raises this idea, people point out that it's illegal and unethical, but for the people he's trying to reach, it sends the message he's tough.

[20:15:08] HABERMAN: Yes. You said something at the top, is it that he just doesn't care. He knows what the law says and he doesn't care. That is certainly my sense from my reporting, is he has been told that these things are not legal an he doesn't care, he goes ahead with them because to your point, he thinks that this works for his base of voters.

He is not going to, you know, run a positive message for his re- election campaign. He is going to run as he did in 2016 a campaign based heavily on fear and on concerns. If he does it this way, it's a way to make himself look as if he's not a part of the system, that he said he alone can fix.

COOPER: Right. Jeff, dropping undocumented immigrants or driving them on buses to sanctuary cities, maybe as far away as San Francisco, I mean, as we were just talking about, is that legal? Would that be legal?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think if it could be established, and I think it clearly could be established now, that the only reason that these undocumented people were sent to specific locations was to punish the Democratic representatives, that would clearly be unlawful. The Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge, has a certain list of obligations and rules to follow that Congress has established. And punishing your political enemies by sending undocumented aliens to their district is simply not within the Department of Homeland Security's authority. So I think a court would stop it almost immediately.

COOPER: And just in terms of Jake's reporting about the president offering to pardon the head of Customs and Border Protection, who's going to be the acting secretary of homeland security, is it legal for the president to preemptively dangle a pardon to someone who may break the law at the president's direction?

TOOBIN: You know, I think that's a novel question that I don't think has ever been resolved.

COOPER: Has it been debated in ethics classes?

TOOBIN: Yes --

COOPER: It's not a scenario that comes up.

TOOBIN: The short answer is I don't know.

But the irony here is that the craziest idea of all, which is closing the border altogether with all the trade and all the legal traffic between the borders, is actually probably within the president's power, unlike what he's talking about doing with asylum seekers. If he wants to simply shut down the border in El Paso or near San Diego, he could probably do it. It would cause chaos and be crazy, but legally I think he'd actually be on solid ground there.

COOPER: But again, Maggie, just as a -- as a bumper sticker, I wanted to shut down the border, I understand the messaging of that for his base. The ripple effects, the economic effects which are hard to kind of comprehend but would certainly be drastic, it makes unlikely that he would actually do that.

HABERMAN: Yes, because he is also very aware that the economy is important to his re-election as well and that is why you wouldn't see him do that. You will see him talk about this way, and you saw him say today this concept of busing or placing, you know, undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities, he said, you know, that we can bring them an endless supply or unlimited supply.

This is not for those Democratic officials, this is not seen as a punishment, right? This is not something that they're upset about. What people are protesting is that he is treating individuals, people who are coming here, many of them fleeing violence in their own countries, like political pawns to be moved however he wants at his whim. That's what they're reacting to.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to be talking to the next mayor of Chicago a little later on to get her reaction about how she wolf about this being done in her city.

Jeff, a president who doesn't care if his policies are lawful or not, again, I don't think it can be said enough yet again, this is not a normal situation. I just feel like it's important every now and again to remind us of that.

(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: Yes, it is. I mean, the idea that he would encourage someone who was seeking a job from him. Think how -- what a vulnerable situation it was to violate the law. You know, whether it was technically a crime or not, I don't know.

But is it an abuse of power? It absolutely is.

COOPER: I mean, even if he now says some point down the road that he was joking --

HABERMAN: He always says that he was joking. It doesn't matter.



TOOBIN: That's right. Hey, WikiLeaks, you know, I love WikiLeaks. I was joking about that.

You know, go find Hillary Clinton's emails, I was joking about that.

It all turned out to be pretty serious, didn't it?

[20:20:01] And WikiLeaks, you know, much in the news today, and, you know, just proof that what he says as jokes may not really be jokes.

COOPER: Maggie, just a little while ago the president tweeted out in all caps, we will never forget. He then attached a video which had horrific images from September 11th mixed in with a snippet of something that the Congresswoman Omar said recently, which basically characterized it in sort of a dismissive way.

That's -- again, those images are something that people use with great caution if at all. Why do you -- is that just -- that's just about --

HABERMAN: It's the second half of the equation of what we were talking about, about this appeal to his base of supporters. The secret sauce for him in 2016 was concern about undocumented immigrants across the southern border and an anti-Muslim sentiment. Don't forget what he was saying around the time of terrorist attacks abroad, terrorist attack in California in the fall of 2015.

He suggested a ban on Muslim immigration, an entire ban. It was not like there was some caveat there. This is what he is going to run on again.

Congresswoman Omar, yes, some people took issue with what she said about September 11th. The president has never used caution with those images. For those of us who covered that day, they're hard to watch still.

He is trying to make sure she's not as well known nationally as, say, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. He's trying to make her very well known. But it's very dangerous what he is doing.

He is putting a huge target on her back. He is the president of the United States. It is absolutely going to be inflammatory. I understand what his political aim is but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have other problems.

COOPER: I mean, look, we know this is a president who, I mean, has no shame. He's willing to go places --

HABERMAN: There is no floor. There is no floor.

COOPER: There is no floor.

Jeff, thank you. Maggie as well. Maggie will stay with us. We'll come back shortly on another topic.

Coming up next, though, what a Trump supporter thinks of all of this as we dig deeper in all the news the president made.

And later, the potential big news when the Mueller report hits. Rod Rosenstein weighed in on that today. We'll talk about what he and others are saying when we continue.


[20:26:35] COOPER: In the space of a day we learned a lot about what President Trump wants when it comes to the border and how far he's willing to go to get it, even perhaps if it means breaking the law. Now, we don't know if he was sort of joking or deadly serious when he reportedly promised a pardon to his Customs and Border Protection commissioner for unlawfully -- if he would be unlawfully turning immigrants away.

Then you have to ask was he joking when he told border agents on the same visit to do the same thing? Was he joking when he likened asylum seekers to con artists?

Joining us now is former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

So, Michael, so putting aside the legality for a moment, do you think it's a good idea? Do you think it's ethical for the president to try to retaliate against Democrats by sending busloads of undocumented immigrants to their districts or to their cities?

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I guess I'm a little confused here because I didn't see the president say the word retaliation. You know, I've watched mayors of Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, others talking about how their sanctuary city would accept illegal immigrants with open arms. And now that the president wants to do this, he's talking about perhaps sending illegal immigrants to cities that will welcome them with open arms and care for them without limits, why that suddenly is bad?

It sounds hypocritical to me that these folks who were crying out for sanctuary city status don't want the people that they're talking about.

COOPER: Right. Well, the president may not have used that word, but in emails that were seen by "The Washington Post" which broke this story last night, there were specific references to sending them to Nancy Pelosi's district, I believe, according to "The Washington Post."

CAPUTO: That's San Francisco.

COOPER: And if the White House was still behind this, why would -- why would they deny it? The White House denied it earlier and the president said actually --

CAPUTO: I think we see this a lot in this White House because it's typical White House -- a White House move or many White Houses for many presidents to walk back things that make them nervous or make them uncomfortable. I don't think the president feels the necessity to do that.

You were just commenting on that earlier sees this as, you know, not necessarily a retaliation, I didn't hear him say that. But Mayor Durkan of Seattle, Mayor Breed of San Francisco, Mayor Wheeler of Portland, they should get ready for the busloads of illegal immigrants that they want. I don't understand if they're asking for them why they finding it so offensive that the president is going to send them there.

COOPER: Right. Well, I'm about to talk to the mayor-elect in Chicago. I don't think she is actually complaining about accepting undocumented immigrants. I think she has said that she welcomes them.

But it's more the idea of being done against -- as retribution, you know, against a political opponent. That is if in fact what is behind this.

CAPUTO: He didn't say that.

COOPER: Yes, but that's what was discussed on emails --

CAPUTO: Anderson, we're on pace -- we're on pace for a million illegal aliens coming across the southern border, mostly across the open areas not necessarily through the legal entry areas -- a million. If we're just going to catch and release them and let them go on the border areas where they cross, I think that has the makings of an unprecedented crisis.

[20:30:00] You know, up here in Buffalo where I'm from, the local border patrol agents have been told that they're being sent down to the southern border because it's an unprecedented crisis.

COOPER: Yes, yes, there's certainly a lot of, you know, manpower issues. Carrie, how -- I mean, how do you see this? I mean, if -- is there a distinction if it is just sanctuary cities that say they'll accept them so for no other reason the U.S. government and the White House wants to send undocumented immigrants there, because by DHS standards that is apparently not good enough.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. This isn't about sanctuary cities. This is about the President wanting to use a law enforcement agency for political retribution. He wants to be able to go against his political opponents in a way that he thinks is on an issue that supports him politically, and he's willing to use and abuse a law enforcement agency, border protection, in order to implement that.

And so what he does actually is he puts the agents and the officers in that agency at risk of violating people's civil rights, because even though he may not like the law once people enter this country, they do have rights and he potentially exposes those agents to vulnerability in terms of them violating the law themselves or violating procedures, which gets to the issue of him offering as has been reported potentially the border protection head, now the acting secretary, a potential pardon.

And on that issue, I think the President is potentially in the area of a public corruption problem, because it is against the law to offer a public official a thing of value, which would be the pardon, a thing of value in order to influence their public -- their lawful act, their lawful function. And so that's something that Congress really needs to take names and take people under oath to find out what happened at that border meeting.

COOPER: I'm afraid we're out of time. But, Carrie, I appreciate it, Michael Caputo as well. We've been running late.

The outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein shed a bit more light on the full Robert Mueller report at a private lunch in Washington. What he said and the potential impact of that going forward.


[20:35:36] COOPER: According to a Justice Department official, the outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told attendees at a private lunch in Washington today that the full Mueller report will clear up questions regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

As on the heels of an interview, Rosenstein gave to "The Wall Street Journal" in which he defended Attorney General Barr's four-page summary of the report, "He's being as forthcoming as he can," Rosenstein told the journal.

There's also this quote in the article, "It would be one thing if you put out a letter and said, I'm not going to give you the report, Mr. Rosenstein said. What he said is, look, it's going to take a while to process the report. In the meantime, people really wanting to know what's in it. I'm going to give you the top-line conclusions. That's all he was trying to do."

As Washington waits for the release of unredacted parts of the report, I'm joined again by Maggie Haberman, CNN Legal Analyst Shan Wu.

What do you make of Rod Rosenstein -- I mean, is he -- what is his position here? I mean, he's sort of been all over the place and it seems like -- I don't know if he's trying to run interference for the Mueller report or just get people to kind of wait.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you've hit on an important point, which is he's all over the place and literally all over the place. He's right in the middle of this whole thing. Remember, Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein, so it's not as if Rosenstein is sort of a passive observer in all of this.

Where I think there has been a tone deafness on his part is not understanding why people would be concerned, especially given the reputational damage to the department for a variety of reasons, given comments that Bill Barr has made in hearings why people would be concerned about the level of candor that they're getting.

And he described that letter to Congress from Bill Barr as, "Well, these were just the top-line conclusions." They weren't just the top- line conclusions. Barr added his own conclusion in what he described as his and Rosenstein's at the end. And so, again, I just think that there has been this sort of remove from the public interest aspect of this that has been surprising.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, he doesn't address at all his own role with Barr in saying, "Well, OK, there's not enough evidence for anything."

HABERMAN: No. Again, it's -- he acts as if he's a spectator and he was not a spectator. He's a very active participant in every aspect of this.

COOPER: Yes. Shan, I mean, why do you think Rosenstein seems to be going out of his way to, in this case, defend the attorney general?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he is setting us up for a lot of disappointment in that report when we do see the redactions. It's interesting his remarks focused more on the Russian collusion aspect where Barr and he can rely on the fact that there have been actual indictments. He's staying away from the obstruction issue.

I think we're going to be very disappointed on the obstruction issue unless Mueller specifically wrote in his report that he's asking Barr to decide that issue. If it's a question of Barr's internal calculus, that's not going to be even in there to be redacted. So I think Rosenstein is basically setting us up for what he wants us to look for in the report and it's paving away for a lot of unhappy people.

COOPER: Why do you think he is doing that?

WU: So that he can tamp down expectations, basically, trying to get the public and Congress perhaps to focus on the collusion, which they can say we've had indictments, we've thoroughly explored that and there was no established evidence of criminal wrongdoing and really wanting to avoid the scrutiny which is going to happen anyway on why is it that Barr reached out to decide that obstruction issue.

COOPER: It is so interesting, Maggie, in your term of him being all over the place. I mean, he went from, you know, the memo in the publics. I mean, constitutionally (ph), he went from the memo justifying the firing of Comey, which the White House then used to being -- to, you know, appointing Mueller.


COOPER: And then being the President's punching bag essentially for quite a while and now defending Attorney General Barr.

HABERMAN: Well, also as we've discovered through reporting by my colleagues, Mike Schmidt and gold man (ph), and also testimony to Congress from Justice Department officials while also talking about people possibly wearing a wire to tape the President and, you know, having discussions about the 25th Amendment.

So, I mean, he is -- it is hard to pin him down. I think it is true that he is trying to pave the way for, you know, some disappointment from people who thought this was going to end with the President being frog marched out of the Oval Office, which was never going to happen. And I think that that was always a belief that people who don't like the President had invested a lot in.

But, again, I think he should either say that there's going to be a lot of redactions and people should be prepared or he should say nothing and just let people read it. But I think he is sending a lot of signals that are hard for people to discern.

COOPER: Shan, I mean, how much do you expect is going to be redacted, particularly in the obstruction of justice portion, because obviously there's plenty of legitimate reasons to redact parts of the Russian interference part for counterintelligence reasons, et cetera.

[20:40:08] WU: I think there's going to be an enormous amount of redactions, Anderson. I think part of the problem is in these types of memos. It's -- the grand jury material is so deeply interwoven with the analysis and Barr is clearly going to use a very broad reading of what was before the grand jury or what arose out of it.

So between that and his interesting color coded redaction system, I think you're going to ending up with a document that looks a little bit more like that recent photo of the first black hole than a smooth reading document.

COOPER: What is the -- what's the color coded redaction system?

WU: Well, he's mentioned that he's going to have color coding to indicate was this material grand jury material, was it sensitive material in terms of intelligence, et cetera.

COOPER: So which of the four criteria he's using for redactions.

WU: Right, exactly, yes. Something that DOJ usually doesn't do very much, using color coding.

COOPER: Maggie, you know, the President also, you talk about being all over the place on Mueller, certainly -- I mean, he's been pretty consistent on Mueller except for in those few brief days after the four-page summary by Barr was released.


COOPER: Then all of a sudden in the words of, you know, Kellyanne Conway, it became the gold standard. The investigation -- you know, she was criticizing anybody besmirching Mueller or Barr. And now the President seems back to kind of preparing people perhaps for something bad by going after Mueller.

HABERMAN: Yes, or preparing himself for it, right? I mean, I think that there was always a risk. There were a lot of people around the President who hoped that he would not say, "See, I'm fully exonerated."

They hoped that he would say vindicated or that he would used different language because they knew they were going to be details and they're even with heavy redactions. There are likely to be things in there that don't paint the President or his campaign in a particularly favorable light.

And so in normal times, one would tread a little more carefully. That said, what we have -- these are not normal times and we have not -- you know, he tends to be able to sort of set the tone for his coverage and the terms for his coverage and it holds. And I think he's banking that he can do that here. We'll see.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, thank you, Shan Wu, as well.

Still ahead, more on our breaking news. The President threatening to take undocumented immigrants detained at the border and essentially dumped them in sanctuary cities. Coming up next, I'll get reaction to this from the newly elected mayor of one of those cities, Chicago.


[20:45:58] COOPER: Back to our breaking news. President Trump promising the Customs and Border Protection commissioner he would grant him a pardon if he broke the law by having his agents block immigrants seeking asylum from entering the United States.

Also today, the President not only admitted but doubled down on his proposal to transport and release undocumented immigrants into sanctuary cities. Lori Lightfoot was just elected as the mayor of one of those cities in Chicago. I spoke to her earlier.


COOPER: Mayor-elect, what's your reaction to all of this? I mean, there's, you know, there's dirty politics and then there's proposing using human beings as pawns a way to punish Democrats and cities like yours.

MAYOR-ELECT LORI LIGHTFOOT, D-CHICAGO: Well, look, the President obviously likes to be provocative. He likes to prompt a response in the media and across the country. But for the city of Chicago, which routinely gets asylum seekers at our airports and coming in through other ways, we've been dealing with these issues really for decades. And as you know, this was a city that was built by immigrants for the last 150 years, so we take this in stride and I think it's -- from our perspective, much ado about nothing.

COOPER: Well, I mean, the current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, said today that Chicago would welcome these migrants with open arms. Would that be the case when you were mayor?

LIGHTFOOT: Of course, because we're doing that now. We have people who are routinely coming to the city. We have a whole infrastructure that's built up to make sure that their rights are protected. The city of Chicago has under the current administration provided funding for various groups to help support asylum seekers and other people that are going through the immigration court system. I expect that we'll continue if not expand upon those kinds of resources.

COOPER: So you have no problem with the President of the United States using migrants, using undocumented immigrants as in his opinion a weapon against political opponents?

LIGHTFOOT: No, no. Don't get me wrong. What I'm saying is I don't think that we should take the bait every time the President puts out a provocative tweet. What I think we need to do is make sure that we are being very clear in speaking our values.

We are a city that is a sanctuary city. We have immigrants from all over the world who calls Chicago their home. They'll continue to do so that and we're going to continue to make sure that this is truly a welcoming community for those immigrants and we want them to come to the city of Chicago.

I also, as a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, want to make sure that we are doing everything that follows the law and that people's rights are respected. Immigrants, particularly asylum seekers, have a right to due process, they have a right to a constitutional process that is consistent with the rule of law and we're going to continue to insist that that law be followed.

COOPER: Is there, you know, a cap on how many people you can -- you can absorb in Chicago?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I think we've been doing a pretty good job with the resources that we have. I don't have a specific head count. But I'm not concerned that we're going to be able -- that we're not going to be able to accommodate the people who are coming to our borders seeking asylum and otherwise immigrating to our great city.

I think the point is, is that we have to make sure that we speak our values. Harmful rhetoric, xenophobic rhetoric, hate, is something that we can't tolerate. We haven't tolerated it to date, we're not going to tolerate it on our watch and we're going to do everything we can to make sure people who come to the city, whatever their immigration status is, are going to be treated fairly and with respect.

COOPER: And just finally after your victory, President Trump I know reached out to you to offer his congratulations. You said he extended an offer to be helpful to the city during your conversation. How do you see yourself working with the President moving forward? LIGHTFOOT: Well, look, the people in the city of Chicago pay federal taxes. I want to make sure that we are getting the benefit of the bargain and getting the resources that we deserve from the federal government.

So I'm going to try to forge a productive relationship with people in Washington from our delegation, our two great senators, and of course with the White House and executive agencies where possible.

[20:50:06] But we're not going to compromise our values as a city and I'm certainly not going to compromise my values in making sure that we are a city that is welcoming and that we have no tolerance for hate or disrespect.

COOPER: Mayor-elect Lightfoot, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

LIGHTFOOT: Sure, thank you.


COOPER: All right. Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to be taking on what seems to be a real bright line that's being crossed by the President. You don't have to like decisions, you don't have to like what laws are. You're supposed to work to change them when you're in public service, but openly disrespecting them and telling an official, "Break the law and if you get in any trouble, I'll pardon you," that is certainly a bridge too far even for this President.

So we're going to go through the legal analysis of where the line is and how this is crossing it and how it's not the first time, Anderson. We then have Tom Perez on, DNC chair, obviously. What does he think about the video the President just put out of Representative Omar in this contrast of 9/11 based on some of her comments that the President put out. And what is his goal with Democrats to combat this President's messaging across the country in a new initiative.

COOPER: All right. Chris, lots to look forward. Thanks very much. Nine minutes from now, see you then.

Coming up, worldwide search for the secrets to living better. It actually sounds pretty great. We're going to have a preview of the CNN Original Series "Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta." I'll talk with him about his incredible journey.


[20:55:47] COOPER: One of my good friends here at CNN has a very cool project that is airing this weekend. It just begins this weekend. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is our Chief Medical Correspondent. He's also renowned neurosurgeon.

He's also anchoring a new CNN Original Series called "Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta." He's traveled the world for it. I'm very jealous that he got to do it and I didn't but, of course, he does actually have medical knowledge that I do not. The program debuts Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Pacific. Here's a preview.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: My grandfather died very young of a heart attack and my father had heart surgery when he was very young. So my father and my grandfather I think unwittingly really motivated me. We know that there's remarkable things happening all over the world that can help us live longer, better, happier, more productive lives.

I felt like the needle went almost to the bone.

I thought I was in pretty good shape. Let's takes it to a whole different level.

Is this what helps you live long?

(INAUDIBLE) in the states for doing what I'm about to do.

Can I work here? I could work here.

"Chasing Life" is an opportunity for us to travel the world looking for extraordinary health practices, experiencing them ourselves. That's my job. That's "Chasing Life," to find those things and bring them back.


COOPER: Joining me now is Sanjay and what sounds like a really remarkable journey. So, Sanjay, in this first episode you travel to Japan and you're focusing on extreme stress in urban areas of Japan.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, Japan is now considered one of the most stressed countries in the world. And it's interesting because there's this real juxtaposition. Mainland Japan, very stressed. You see the impact of -- I think what's described as explosive growth over the last several decades and this desire to maintain that growth and the pressure on the younger generations to do so. So they're working harder. They have this term called karoshi in Japan which means either illness or death from overwork. It's a medically reimbursable term.


GUPTA: And they talk about this openly, which is amazing, because there's such a stigma around mental illness overall in Japan. But the fact that this has become such a crisis that it's now something openly discussed is pretty remarkable.

But then Okinawa, you know, you got this chain of islands off the coast of Southwest Japan where you're more likely to live to 100 than just about anywhere else in the world. So now people on the mainland are resorting to these more ancient practices to try and relieve their stress because they need to. COOPER: And so how do they go about doing that?

GUPTA: I mean, all of these practices like there was forest bathing, for example, something that's been done for a long time in certain parts, like in Okinawa, this idea of just being out in the forest breathing in the aroma of the forest. People know --

COOPER: They're not actually bathing in the forest.

GUPTA: Not bathing. You're bathing in the aroma of the forest.

COOPER: OK. Oh, that's interesting.

GUPTA: And what's interesting is that you see the science around this. Plants, trees, they release these chemicals known as phytoncides which protect those plants and trees from stress, from oxidative stress. But they actually release that into the air and we humans can breathe that in.

We have receptors for it as well, so we can breathe in these stress busting chemicals by being out in the forest. We've always know that it feels good to be outside, but now the science is sort of catching up and you're seeing that in places like Japan.

COOPER: So in upcoming episodes, I know you go to Bolivia --


COOPER: -- where there's an indigenous group that has a very, very low rate of heart disease.

GUPTA: I mean, this is amazing, Anderson. You'll find this amazing. They are dubbed as having the healthiest hearts in the world. They're an indigenous tribe that lives in the middle of the Amazon rainforest and there's others indigenous tribes around the world.

Just because you're an indigenous tribe living off the land doesn't mean you don't have heart disease, most of them do. But this group does not. And we, you know, we lived with them to really see what their lives were like. They eat -- 70 percent of their diet is carbs, which surprises a lot of people.


GUPTA: You farm a lot of food when you're living in the forest.

COOPER: So what are they eating?

GUPTA: They're eating plantains and cassava and things like that, unrefined, unprocessed, obviously, carbs. They move a lot, 17,000 steps a day we calculated, but they don't run, you know. It's movement but it's not intense movement, which I thought was really interesting, you know.

The human body wasn't designed to sit or lie for 23 hours a day and then get up and go to the gym for an hour and they sort of demonstrate that.

COOPER: This is fascinating stuff, Sanjay. Thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thanks for having me. Thank you.

COOPER: The news continues.