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Clinton: "Congress Should Hold Substantive Hearings"; Government Official: "Like Pulling Teeth" to Get White House to Focus on Russian Interference. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired April 24, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:19] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

There's breaking news tonight. Hillary Clinton has just weighed in on how Congress should respond to the Mueller report and whether House Democrats should move quickly to impeachment proceedings. Her comments relate to new reporting about the president today and the question is raises, something that no one has ever had to ask before because up until now it's simply been unthinkable.

Would the president of the United States leave this country vulnerable to attack by a foreign adversary to protect his own ego? Would he push the country into a constitutional crisis over the investigation of those attacks just to bolster his self-esteem?

Now, I know it sounds absurd or at the very least outlandish that a person so powerful might be doing that, but there's new CNN reporting tonight on how President Trump's insecurity over his election victory has made any cabinet level discussion or oval office discussion of ongoing Russian interference difficult, if not impossible.

A government official telling "THE LEAD's" Jake Tapper that it is, quote, like pulling teeth to get the White House to focus on, quote, on the ongoing threat of Russian election interference. Not what happened in 2016, which the president has still not convincingly accepted, but what could happen in 2020 in terms of foreign interference in the next election. This same official saying to Jake Tapper, and again, I'm quoting: In general, senior White House staff felt it wasn't a good idea to bring up issues related to Russia in front of the president.

Now, what makes this so startling is that top officials in this administration are well aware of the threat.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The warning signs are there. The system is blinking, and it is why I believe we are at a critical point. It was in the months prior to September, 2001, when according to then-CIA Director George Tenet, the system was blinking red. And here we are two decade -- nearly two decades later, and I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking red again. Today the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.


COOPER: So of that the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, whose department handles threat assessment. The Department of Homeland Security, meantime, has a responsibility of civilian cyber defense.

And this government official, who spoke to Jake Tapper, says that the DHS tried repeatedly over the last year or so to set up more cabinet- level meetings on the subject of preventing interference again but, quote, kept getting the Heisman, meaning the stiff-arm from national security advisor John Bolton and others in the White House.

Now, separately, "The New York Times" is reporting that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen not to bring up the subject in front of President Trump. And I'm quoting from "The Times'" account of a meeting Mulvaney, quote, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory.

Now, Mr. Mulvaney, through his spokesman, disputes that, telling "The Times," quote, I don't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting. Which is not quite the same as saying it didn't happen, it's just saying I didn't recall.

In any event, the Mueller report also speaks to that same notion. I'm quoting now from volume two, page 23. Several advisers recall that the president-elect viewed stories about his Russian connections or Russian investigations and the intelligence community's assessment of Russian interference as a threat to the legitimacy of his electoral victory, not a threat to the United States.

Hicks, for example, that's Hope Hicks, said that the president-elect viewed the intelligence community's assessment as his, quote, Achilles heel, unquote, because even if Russia had no impact on the election, people would think Russia helped him win, taking away from what he had accomplished. That was when he was president-elect.

And according to this new reporting, it still seems to be his Achilles heel. It's as if embarrassment over the attack on Pearl Harbor made it impossible for President Roosevelt to fight the Second World War or talk about it realistically or even hear about it from others. That's where we are tonight. In fact, it's probably where we've been since before the election.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was.

I mean, it could be Russia. But it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? You don't know who broke in to DNC.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So that was in September of 2016. We now know one month before that, he was reportedly briefed by members of the intelligence community that, yes, it was the Russians. And here he is nearly two years and several more briefings later from his own intelligence officials saying this in front of Vladimir Putin.


TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others.

[20:05:01] They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.

I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.

I think it's a disgrace that we can't get Hillary Clinton's 33,000 emails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


COOPER: He later claimed he had messed up a word and didn't really mean that he didn't know why it would be Russia.

He said that in front of Vladimir Putin right there as you saw after meeting privately with him. And we should point out, we still have no idea what he discussed privately. It's not even clear many of his top officials know for sure either.

The president referred to DNI Dan Coats who just issued the warning we played at the top less than a week before that the system was blinking red. The president said what you just heard in response. And even that couldn't stop him from casting doubt on something that every top intelligence official in his own administration considered beyond any doubt.

Yet, according to all we know from the Mueller report, from "The Times", and our own reporting tonight, they simply could not even mention the subject to him even though they knew the country was under attack.

Again, just let that sink in. The commander-in-chief couldn't be told that the country was susceptible to further attack because not hearing apparently helps the president sleep better at night, feels better about himself. As for the country, perhaps not so much.

More perspective now from the former Soviet and Russian analyst, author, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters.

Colonel Peters, if this reporting is correct that the secretary of homeland security was told not to bring up preventing further attacks on the United States to the president of the United States essentially because his ego couldn't handle it, didn't want to hear about Russian interference. LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think that's the

standard line, that this is about 2016, about the legitimacy of his election. We're looking backward, but I believe that Donald Trump is looking forward to 2020. I mean, he can read the poll numbers. He's not doing well. His negatives are very, very powerful.

And if the Democrats don't self-destruct, which they are perfectly capable of doing, he's going to be out of office in early 2021. And think what that means. If he doesn't win re-election, there's not just a new president, Anderson, there's a new attorney general, there's a new secretary of the treasury, a new director of the IRS, perhaps a new director of the FBI.

And once he is out of office, the senators can't help him, even if the Republicans maintain the majority in the Senate. He's going to be in the hands of the courts. And it does appear that there's going to be plenty to follow up. If he's not in prison, he'll be in the courts for years.

So I really believe that Donald Trump is stonewalling on taking effective measures to prevent our electoral system because he wants Russian help. He'd take Chinese help. He'd take help from Albanian folk singers.

He is desperate to win. And, by the way, if he doesn't win in 2020, you're going to see the ugliest departure from the White House in American history.

COOPER: So, you're -- I mean, what you're saying is, is that it's not just about ego, it's not just any talk of Russian interference he hates because in his opinion it questions the legitimacy of his victory, but you're saying he needs it or wants it to happen again to win?

PETERS: Absolutely. I mean, certainly, his ego is always involved, he wants 2016 to be seen as legitimate. But what matters to him is re-election. It's becoming desperate.

I believe he is afraid for all his bluster and bravado, he's a terrified man. He knows the consequences if he loses in 2020. He knows, because he knows far better than you and I know, far better than Robert Mueller knew, what his exposure is, what his criminal exposure is.

Just today documents are transferred from Deutsche Bank. This is going to go on for some time.

And I genuinely believe that this is a president who does not care about this country. It's Trump first. It's not America first. It's make Trump greater, not make America great again. And I do believe he will do everything he can to prevent our government from stepping in and blocking Russian attempts to disrupt and influence the election.

COOPER: I've talked to Trump surrogates about this or people who support the president on this issue and say he's tougher on Russia than anybody else. PETERS: Yes.

COOPER: They always point to, well, look, the FBI is working on stopping Russian interference. Homeland security is as well. The secretary of state is as well.

Does it matter if the president isn't holding cabinet-level meetings about this? Does it matter if the president doesn't want to hear about -- I mean, is it ongoing -- does it make a difference if there was buy-in from the president on preventing this, you know, full stop?

[20:10:11] PETERS: It makes a profound difference. If the president is excited about something, everybody gets excited about it. You need presidential leadership. You need the president to empower everyone from the -- from the Department of Homeland Security to the intelligence agencies to work together to do all they legally can to prevent and interfere with Russian attempts to disrupt the election.

And to me, it is as clear as can be that Trump is sending the signal he doesn't want it to happen. He continues to slow roll sanctions on Russia, still will not criticize Vladimir Putin. I believe, I believe with the firmest conviction I can possibly communicate, that Trump will welcome Russian help and any other help, but especially Russian help in 2020.

He is counting on them, because he wants to win this election at any cost, at any cost to our country.

COOPER: Lastly, a few hours ago, Kim Jong-un arrived in Russia for his first one-on-one meeting with Putin. I mean, I wonder if they have a conversation about President Trump, and I can only imagine what that conversation would be like.

PETERS: Well, I think there would be some laughter. Kim is clearly dating around. But Putin has manipulated Trump brilliantly. Kim Jong-un got much of what he wanted and Trump got nothing in return.

Trump's flabbergasting incompetence is yet another issue. I always come back to the Russia issue. You know, if you think back, if you want to look back at 2016 and that statement, when he stood up and said, Russia, if you're listening, it's as if in 1940, FDR had said, Berlin, if you're listening, we need help.

Putin is our enemy because he has chosen to be our enemy. He's an embitter enemy. He wants the United States damaged badly, if not destroyed. He is gleefully disrupting everything he can. And our president is his accessory and assistant.

COOPER: I do want to ask you one last question. Yesterday, I talked to Paul Krugman on the program and one of the things he had written and he talked about it last night on the program was saying that he believes we may not have a functioning democracy in 2020 if the president wins again. Essentially America, as we know it, is under threat.

And one of the things I asked him -- he said if you're not scared, you're not paying attention.

PETERS: Well, I don't think you're going to have to wait to see some of Trump's maliciousness. He's already doing tremendous damage, abetted, by the way, by the Senate Republicans who are amazingly undercutting their own institution and its powers for very short-term gain.

But Trump, yes. If Trump wins, he'll do great damage. But if he loses the election, he is going to call upon his supporters for violence. There's not going to be a civil war, that's idiocy. But you will see isolated violence on the part of crackpot supporters.

He will be clinging to the doors of the White House giving orders to everybody on all sides that the honest people will not obey, career employees will not obey and military will not obey. Anderson, let's check back in and I'm telling you, it's not funny. It's going to be very, very ugly whatever happens. But Trump needs to go for the good of this country.

COOPER: And the silence of Republicans on Capitol Hill is extraordinary. I mean, the Republican Party that I knew growing up, you know, the party of Reagan, the party -- I mean, that's just -- it's just a dim memory.

PETERS: Yes. I mean, in national level elections as an adult, I've voted for Republicans probably two times out of three. They don't exist anymore. That party is gone.

These people are so incredibly craven. And this was the party of patriots. They were going to defend the American Alamo to the last round.

COOPER: And the Constitution. I mean, that was everything.

PETERS: Oh, forget the Constitution. They don't -- I mean they're shredding it.

Again, the constitutional crisis is right now with the Republicans in Congress preventing Congress, doing their best to prevent Congress from fulfilling its duty of being a check and balance on the president. And they also allow this president, who has already gone rogue. It's not a question of will he go rogue. He is daily damaging our country at home and abroad.

And, Anderson, you know, I don't get a buzz-off being on TV. The reason I'm here is I believe deeply we have to speak out. When Trump is gone, I'm gone. Sooner is better than later.

[20:15:00] COOPER: Colonel Peters, appreciate you being here with us tonight. Thank you.

PETERS: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, next, Colonel Peters' point on Congress' confrontation with the president or at least the Democrats. We'll talk shortly with the Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee. Next, more on the breaking news. Hillary Clinton speaking out,

offering her advice to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Is anybody listening? We'll take a look at that, just ahead.

Also more breaking news. What CNN has learned the president's bankers are sharing with the authorities.


COOPER: Tonight's breaking news, our first take on the Mueller report from Hillary Clinton. In a piece for "The Washington Post" opinion pages, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee has the following advice for Congress.

I'm quoting now: What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflective partisanship. Whether they like or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country.

She goes on, writing: Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps and not jump straight to an up or down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment.

[20:20:02] That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now. She also mentioned her experiences as a staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee's Watergate impeachment hearings.

Joining us is John Dean, who experienced Watergate from the other side, from the witness table, as former Nixon White House counsel. Also with us, CNN global affairsa analyst, Max Boot, author of Pulitzer finalist biography, "The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam". Also, former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes, he's currently a CNN political commentator.

Max, just in terms of substance of what Secretary Clinton is saying, whether or not she's the right voice for it as she herself raises in the piece, the idea that it's not a binary choice, either go for impeachment hearings, a binary choice for Democrats, go for impeachment hearings, or go impeachment, or do nothing. She's saying there's essentially this middle way.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, I think it's basically called kicking the can down the road, Anderson. I'm not disagreeing with her advice. This is in fact what Speaker Pelosi is basically choosing to do, to try to hold these hearings, so build up an evidentiary base and create popular revulsion against Donald Trump.

But, you know, they're dreaming if they think there's any set of facts that can possibly come out that will cause a single Republican to ever vote for impeachment of Donald Trump. So, at the end of the day, they're still going to face that very difficult choice. Are they going to push a motion of impeachment through the House without any Republican votes, with no hope the Senate will uphold that impeachment and remove Trump from office, but is it worth doing to lay down that marker to say what Trump has done is so abhorrent, it is such an affront to the rule of law, that we need to impeach him anyway, even if he's going to beat the charges in the Senate.

And essentially, I think what they're doing -- they're recognizing that this is not a position that they want to go to, and I think basically de facto what Speaker Pelosi is saying, what Secretary Clinton is saying let's just focus on exposing Trump's wrongdoing and not go to impeachment because the chances it will back fire and blow up in our faces are too great.

COOPER: John, I mean, Secretary Clinton, she says that Watergate offers a precedent, or a better precedent for what to do, as someone who lived that precedent, do you agree, because essentially she's saying, the televised hearings in Watergate were crucial to essentially involving the public, changing people's minds.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I do agree with her. You have to educate the public. That's what happened during Watergate. That's what she's suggesting should happen again. And that's the only way you can really politically move forward is to have an informed electorate.

They are not today. A grand jury doesn't inform anybody other than prosecutors and maybe the jury later. But we do need to have those kind of proceedings.

And I think that's what the House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight Committee are going to do. They're fighting, though, with getting their subpoenas turned down and that's going to be their problem.

COOPER: And, Steve, obviously the clock -- the idea for the administration is just, you know, do not cooperate, maybe run out the clock or just see what happens in the courts. I'm wondering, as a supporter of President Trump and his agenda, do you think Democrats moving for impeachment now would be essentially a gift, that it would mobilize Trump supporters even more than they may already be?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I think it would absolutely be a gift, Anderson, because the facts of the case as laid out in the Mueller report don't justify it at all. And it is important -- we can't bypass the deliverer of this sermon on obstruction of justice from of all people Hillary Clinton. I mean, that is really the height of hypocrisy and shows once again that she is really the paragon of arrogance, that she would dare to lecture us about tampering with an investigation.

You know, when her staff was taking hammers to their personal devices, to their blackberries, I'm afraid one of them when swinging for their devices hit her in the head, because the only way you could possibly explain that she could think we are willing to accept this kind of a lecture from her when she should in fact be writing this op-ed from prison. The only reason she's not is because the FBI leadership under Obama gave her a gift that no other American would ever get --

COOPER: Just in terms of what she's actually saying. We don't need to go down the road of -- Trump won, she lost, she's out of it.

Just in terms of what she's saying, you agreed essentially that Democrats moving for impeachment, I mean, you're agreeing essentially with Pelosi, that Democrats moving for impeachment would actually be a gift for Trump?

CORTES: Oh, I think it would be and for Republicans in general. I think the Trump is going to easily win re-election regardless. If they move toward impeachment, I think then the House control very much shifts in favor of the Republicans taking back the House of Representatives.

The people don't want this to be the issue of 2020. CNN's own polling just a few weeks ago, CNN asked what are the important issues for the 2020 election. A total of 0.0 percent said Mueller or Russia.

[20:25:00] This is not resonating with regular Americans outside of the beltway.

COOPER: Right.

CORTES: Number one is immigration, number two was health care. Those are the issues that matter.

If the Democrats decide they're going tilt at windmills like Don Quixote and try to go after impeachment when there is no case to be made, they're going to pay a political price.

COOPER: Yes, the president's approval rating, though, is at 39 percent so just in terms of -- I mean, it's not as if people are not -- there's certainly people who are interested in the Mueller report, but obviously there are a lot of Democrats, Max, who are concerned that focusing on impeachment, talking about it on the stump for these 2020 candidates, that it takes away from talking about tabletop issues.

BOOT: Right, of course. And there's a part of me that almost wonders if Donald Trump wants to be impeached, if he's trying to goad the Democrats into impeaching him because he is so flagrantly attacking the rule of law right now. Not just what was shown in the Mueller report and documented obstruction of justice but now he is ignoring the subpoenas of the House. He is daring them to sue him. He is daring them to hold his appointees in criminal contempt.

COOPER: Because it would go nowhere. I mean, the House, the Democrats control --


BOOT: Right, because ultimately, the only recourse the Democrats have is to pass a motion of impeachment in the House which the Senate is not going to approve. It seems like Trump is almost baiting them into doing that because he thinks it would mobilize his supporters.

But the one thing that I would say, and let's a lot of pragmatic reasons for Democrats not to do that. But let me just put on the table here that there is a need for justice. There is a need to uphold the Constitution, Anderson. There is a need to punish law breakers. That is very fundamental to our system of justice. And there is no question in my mind that Donald Trump has broken the

law. He needs to be held accountable. It's just a question of how.

COOPER: John, I want to ask you something. The president wrote on Twitter. He said, quote: If the partisan Dems ever tried to impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. That's not really how it works. I mean, you don't first head to the Supreme Court.

DEAN: No. No, it doesn't. It's surprising at this stage of his presidency, he has no idea how the impeachment process actually functions.

You can't take it to the Supreme Court. It's strictly a congressional, constitutional process. The only involvement of the court is the chief justice, when the president is the subject of the impeachment, sits as the judge in the Senate and chairs the Senate trial. That's it.

There's no appeal to a higher court, once that judgment is made by the Senate, either up or down, both on guilty and on removal, two separate votes.

COOPER: Yes, John Dean, Max Boot, Steve Cortes, thank you. Running short of time. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, what a House Democrat thinks about the president's resistance to House Democrats and their investigations.


[20:30:37] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We've been reporting tonight, Hillary Clinton weighed in today in "The Washington Post" with advice on how Congress should follow up on the Mueller report. She's calling for hearings, but not a rush to impeachment.

Meantime, the President today signaled his resistance to House Democratic investigations in congressional demands for witnesses saying we're fighting all subpoenas. I spoke about it earlier with a Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee, Congresswoman Katie Hill of California.


COOPER: Congresswoman Hill, just first off, I want to ask you about the op-ed from Hillary Clinton on how to respond to Mueller's findings. Essentially she's saying that it's not -- shouldn't be a binary choice of Democrats of either move to impeachment now or do nothing, she's for televised hearings, further investigation. Do you agree with the path forward that she's laying out? And is it helpful for her to be weighing in on this right now?

REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): I actually could not agree more. I think that this is the only path forward, where we have to make sure that people really understand what's going on and a dense legal document that's, you know, almost 400 pages long and that, frankly, a very, very small portion of the population is going to read is -- I think right now people are taking away the wrong thing and that's why, you know, we did a video that was trying to explain a little bit better, but people need to have these hearings.

They need to really have the opportunity to hear directly from Mueller and from other key witnesses in a televised way that we're able to then, you know, provide the sound bites and the analysis from. And I think that that's what's going to ultimately lead us to a place where we can decide whether or not impeachment is the right course of action.

COOPER: I think some Republicans hearing that or maybe even some Democrats might say, well, if the only reason to have hearings is to try to help convince the public of what Democrats believe and what you certainly believe, isn't that political? If it's not actually finding out new information but just framing it in a way that people are going watch T.V. as opposed to reading a report.

HILL: I don't think that's true. I think that it is finding out new information. It's filling in the gaps of what we didn't get from the Mueller report or what, you know, was redacted and obfuscated. I think those are exactly Hillary's words, Hillary Clinton's words.

But I think that we also have to -- this isn't about -- this isn't about making decisions for people. This is about providing the opportunity for them to hear directly and decide for themselves. We're not going to be framing anything. This is direct access to hear from the witness -- witnesses and to hear the facts in a firsthand way that you can only get from -- you know, from opportunities like this.

And then ultimately people will be able to decide for themselves what they believe and whether they think that this kind of behavior is right or wrong and how we need to move forward as a country.

COOPER: Just in terms of the subpoenas from your committee and others in the House, the President weighed in on those today from the south lawn. And I just want to play that for our viewers. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're fighting all the subpoenas. Look, these aren't like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020. They're not going to win with the people that I see and they're not going to win against me.

The only way they can maybe luck out, and I don't think that's going to happen, it might make it even the opposite, that's what a lot of people are saying. The only way they can luck out is by constantly going after me on nonsense. But they should be really focused on legislation.


COOPER: He did use his favorite, a lot of people are saying this. But if the White House does fight all the subpoenas, couldn't they just run out the clock on them? Because -- I mean the reality is those subpoenas are only valid until 2021 when a new Congress is seated, right?

HILL: I mean this is clearly their strategy is to run out the clock. And what we have to do is we have to use every tool in our toolbox to make sure that that's not the feasible option. This is a real challenge for us. We haven't seen an attempt by any administration to defy Congress in this way and to defy subpoenas.

And frankly, I think that this is some of the most alarming behavior that we're seeing is what's happening right now with the refusal to cooperate in any way. And really I think that the more that we see of this, the more concrete it is and the more clear it is that this is obstruction, right, this is active obstruction.

Whether you want to call it criminal obstruction, it doesn't matter to me. You are clearly trying to obstruct the American people knowing what's going on and what you've been trying to do. And I think that that's absolutely horrifying.

[20:35:01] COOPER: So, I mean, the bottom line on your position is, you know, Senator Elizabeth Warren is calling for moving toward impeachment now. Is the bottom line in your position that the public isn't fully on board there at this point with that or not enough of the public and that impeachment -- moving toward impeachment now without overwhelming public support and then you have a Senate that's not likely -- there's no sign any Republicans are going to vote for impeachment in the Senate. It's just essentially going to hurt the Democrats.

HILL: I don't actually think we need to be looking at it from what's going to hurt the Democrats or not. I think that that's actually a very dangerous message for us to be sending. What I think is more important is for us to say that we have to lay out the argument through hearings and through every possible means before we move forward with something as serious as articles of impeachment.

I don't think that we can live with ourselves to not have exhausted every possible opportunity to do this in the light and in a way that the American people can really understand and have an opportunity to really internalize what's happening. And I just don't think that that's -- it cannot be a political decision. It's something that is so much more fundamental than that.

And I'm somebody who believes that when the time comes, even if it's months before the election, if we have to decide to impeach, even if that's a political danger, even if it means that I'm going to be ousted from my seat that I just took, then if it's the right thing to do, we have to do it.

COOPER: Representative Katie Hill, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

HILL: Thank you.


COOPER: Coming up after a short break, more breaking news. New CNN reporting on the bank that lent Donald Trump hundreds of millions of dollars over the years and what it's now sharing with investigators.


[20:40:24] COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. CNN learned late today that Deutsche Bank, a bank that did millions of dollars of business with Donald Trump over the years has begun providing financial records to the New York State Attorney General's Office. The bank's cooperation is in response to subpoenas issued for the documents, and those records are part of what President Trump has said he considers his red line.

Joining me now is David Enrich, finance editor of "The New York Times." David, how significant is that the Deutsche Bank is handing over these documents? I mean -- and also, do we know -- is this the full -- I mean, is this all the documents they have or just some documents?

DAVID ENRICH, FINANCE EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, first of all, it is significant. This is the first step in what's going to be a long process, not just with the New York Attorney General, but also with congressional investigators who are really prying into everything they can about Deutsche Bank and its relationship with Donald Trump.

And the bottom line is we do not know exactly what they are handing over. The New York Attorney General and the congressional investigators have subpoenaed actually different things. And so what is being handed over now to New York is stuff related to the handful of loans or loan requests that the bank did with Trump over the past six or seven years before he got elected.

And so that's a fairly narrow request relative to what Congress is looking for. What's key here, though, is that Deutsche Bank is starting to cooperate and actually fork over these documents to prosecutors and other authorities. And that means there's about to be a lot more scrutiny on Trump and his financial position than there ever has been in the past.

COOPER: What's fascinating, and you've been reporting this more than anybody, and you and I talked about this before, you reported about how Deutsche Bank ended up doing business with then citizen Donald Trump in the first place, even though he had defaulted on loans, and correct me if I'm wrong, on Deutsche Bank loans, he would just go to another part of Deutsche Bank and get loans from them.

And even people in Deutsche Bank who had done business with him and had their loans defaulted on would tell other people in Deutsche Bank don't give him loans, they still gave him loans.

ENRICH: Yes, they did it anyway. And Trump really played the bank like a fiddle. And it worked very well for Donald Trump who extracted hundreds of millions of dollars out of Deutsche Bank at a time when no other main stream financial institution would lend him money. And it did not work so well for Deutsche Bank.

While Trump did not default on any of the most recent loans that Deutsche Bank made him, Deutsche Bank now finds itself in this white- hot international spotlight where investigators all over the world, but especially in the U.S., are viewed the bank as kind of the holy grail for untangling the secrets of Donald Trump's finances and that is not a fun place for the bank to be right now.

COOPER: You've actually said that were it not for Deutsche Bank, there might not be a President Trump because he may have gone bankrupt.

ENRICH: Yes. On one occasion after another over the past 20 years, Deutsche Bank lent to Donald Trump when no other bank would touch him and that enabled him to bounce back repeatedly from defaults and bankruptcies that for normal human beings, like you or me, would be the end of our relationship with the financial system.

You can't just default and rip off your lenders and then expect to get more loans except that's exactly what happened with Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump. And Trump -- it enabled Trump to keep building more and more properties and keep plastering his name on things all over the world, which gave him a lot of credibility as he campaigned in 2016 as a businessman running for president.

COOPER: And can you just explain again -- I mean, because I think people listening this for the first time are going to say, well, wait a minute, why would a bank -- you know, you would think there are smart people in Deutsche Bank, why would, you know, he default on loans with one part of Deutsche Bank and those people say, look, never do business with him again. And yet another part of Deutsche Bank -- why was Deutsche Bank so desperate?

ENRICH: They were really eager to make a name for themselves in the United States. And Trump even at the time before he was running for president was -- he was very well known. He's a splashy name. He was a big reality T.V. star. He had a knack for getting publicity and for attracting crowds. And that was exactly what the bank needed at the time as it tried to make itself not just as random German bank but a household name in the United States.

COOPER: David Enrich, fascinating reporting as always. Thank you so much.

ENRICH: My pleasure.

COOPER: All right, let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Another fan, another fan with me tonight, Coop.

COOPER: Oh, wow, hey.

CHRIS: This is Carolina Regina Maria Cha-Cha-Cha Cuomo. What do you want to say to Anderson?

CAROLINA CUOMO, CHRIS CUOMO'S DAUGHTER: You're my second favorite show.

[20:45:01] COOPER: Oh, thank you very much.

CHRIS: He says --

COOPER: Is Don your first, Don Lemon?

CHRIS: He says is Don Lemon your first favorite show?

CAROLINA: No, "Cuomo Prime time" is of course. He's my third, but I've never watch you guys. But, yes, I bet you're amazing. I bet you're amazing.

CHRIS: You've said enough. So, she's with us tonight.

COOPER: I love your show. Never seen it, but I love it.

CHRIS: It's the best kind of fan I can have, one who said no exposure. So, what we're doing tonight is we're going to taking a look at what you were just covering about the Deutsche Bank documents going to New York, fitting that in with the President's apparent strategy of just blocking participation, and dovetailed with what we saw in "The New York Times" today about the Homeland Security secretary being dissuaded from even bringing up interference.

Does this constructively become an avenue for Congress of abuse of power? We have Jim Clapper, we have Mike Rogers. They know the intelligence side and the political side. We're going to go through it with them. And then we'll be talking about Biden with axe and Mr. Carney who worked with Biden and Obama.

COOPER: All right, good show. We'll see you in about 14 minutes from now, Chris. I'll see you then.

Tomorrow is the day when former Vice President Biden will declare that he's running for president. The question, what does a group of voters in a key state have to say about him and about where he fits in the crowded field? We'll hear, ahead.


[20:50:30] COOPER: Former Vice President Joe Biden is making it official tomorrow. After a long period of formal indecision, he's going to join a very crowded race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden, of course, he's been a prominent political player for decades, but the question is where does he fit in among opponents who are mostly younger and more diverse? Will that matter? Our Randi Kaye spent some time with a group of Florida Democratic voters, getting their reactions.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Who is ready to vote for Joe Biden? Raise your hand. One, two, three out of eight.

(voice-over) Eight Florida Democrats, most of them still undecided. (on camera) Why are you already committed to Joe Biden?

IMRAN SIDDIQUI, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: First and foremost, I think he can beat Donald Trump.

ALEXANDRIA AYALA, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I would like to see a unifying experienced candidate representing the party going into, you know, a general against President Trump and I think that he reflects the values of Democrats enough to get support from all wings of the party.

ROB LONG, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I think Joe Biden is the only candidate who could really pick up the moderate votes, the votes in the middle. He is probably the only one that's going to pick up those votes in blue collar America.

KAYE (voice-over): Everyone in the group likes Biden, but some are intrigued by new faces in the field like, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

STEPHANIE REUBINS, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I really like Joe Biden, I do like him. But this fellow from Indiana, I think he's great. I like him. Can he win?

KAYE (on camera): If you thought he could win, would you vote for him?

REUBINS: Yes. I would. I would.

KAYE: If not Joe Biden, then who is it for you?

CERINA SPENCE, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I have been watching Andrew Yang and I think some of the things that he says is unifying. I do think it's interesting with his universal basic income and trying to supplement $1,000uppl month.

BOB UMBENSTOCK, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I liked Andrew Yang, the minute I heard him talk. He's a bright guy. He expresses himself well.

JUDE AVRIL, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I definitely want to see Joe Biden in the mix. Let's say if it's was today Joe Biden/Elizabeth, I'm in 100 percent. It depends on who is next to him.

KAYE: Are you more motivated by a candidate's positions or are you more motivated by a candidate that can beat Donald Trump?

LONG: I think we have to vote for the one that can win by the numbers. I think Joe is a great candidate.

KAYE: Even if you didn't agree with all of his platforms?

LONG: Even if I didn't -- exactly.

REUBINS: It doesn't matter who is right, it matters who is going to win because I think that Trump is an obstructionist and an embarrassment and he's destroying what this country's about.

KAYE: How many of you believe that Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump? All of you, but yet you're not ready to vote for him.

ALPHONSO MAYFIELD, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I have a lot of respect for Joe Biden, but in a lot of ways he really represents politics of the -- of the 20th century.

UMBENSTOCK: Joe Biden is part of a diminishing component of the electorate. Those young people I think are looking for new ideas may just be looking for younger blood.

KAYE: How do you think Joe Biden would do taking on Donald Trump if he is indeed the nominee?

SIDDIQUI: I don't know a single other candidate who could go toe-to- toe with Donald Trump in a debate in a casual and I think confrontational way.

KAYE: Do you think he would let Trump bully him?

AYALA: To me, he'd like eat him for lunch. That's what I feel like that debate would be like.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Delray Beach, Florida.


COOPER: Well, a big day tomorrow for the Democratic field. You can, of course, see it unfold here on CNN.

Coming up tonight, a lighter end to the broadcast, what do President Trump and Elmo from "Sesame Street" have in common? You may be surprised. Not just the love for television cameras. Stick around for "The Ridiculist."


[20:57:39] COOPER: Time now for Anderson Cooper's "Ridiculist." And tonight, it involves two Cooper classics, bizarre vernacular and egos run amok. Now, you may have notice President Trump has unusual tick in his communication style, we saw it again today. And I'm not talking about the screaming or the cursing or mimicking a dog choking to death. What Anderson Cooper is talking about is the President's habit of referring to himself in the third-person.


TRUMP: We just went through the Mueller witch hunt where you had really 18 angry Democrats that hate President Trump. They hate him with a passion.


COOPER: Him, he is him. Why is he doing this? Also, grammar aside for a moment, if he says witch hunt one more freaking time, Glinda is going to float down from Oz and tell Lee Greenwood to hit yellow brick road because Dorothy has arrived with the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. Of course, the Scarecrow doesn't have a brain, but even if he did, the third-person-in-chief wouldn't be worried. I kid you not.


TRUMP: China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump's very, very large brain.


COOPER: Let's just be happy he landed on brain because that sentence really could have taken a turn for the worse. Now, you may be thinking -- believe me, could have taken a turn for the worse. You never -- sorry, I think -- I just decided to add that in. Believe me, I did.

Now, you may be thinking, hey, speaking in the third-person, that's just part of the job, like accompanies that trappings of power. Actually, no, no, it does not. Anderson Cooper knows a thing or two about a thing or two and the President of the United States is not supposed to talk like Elmo.


ELMO, SESAME STREET: It's such a beautiful day. Elmo just wishes there was someone Elmo could play with.


COOPER: You know, Elmo once tried to choke Anderson Cooper out in a green room at letterman. But Anderson Cooper forgave him because Anderson Cooper, that's the kind of guy Anderson is.

Anyway, like Anderson was saying, speaking the third person, it was a habit for President Trump long before he moved to 1600 Sesame Street. Back in 2012, citizen Trump tweeted, "The Apprentice" -- thank you. "The Apprentice was the number one show on television last season on Sunday from 10:00 to 11:00. Congratulations Donald."

Hey, it's a good life, a good life lesson. If no one else is tweeting compliments about you, tweet your own, you deserve it. Now, obviously I've been joking this the whole time. I don't talk about myself in the third-person, nor for that matter does anyone at CNN.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That Wolf Blitzer, the best beard in the business. He's Wolf Blitzer and he's in "The Situation Room."


COOPER: OK. Wolf, he's allowed to talk however he wants. He's the hardest working guy in television. You should hear his beard talk in the second-person, it's weird. As for President Trump, Anderson Cooper will be looking for him and his very, very large brain on "The Ridiculist."

And that does it for Anderson Cooper. I'll hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you, Mr. Cooper. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."