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Biden has factored into Pres. Trump's 2020 thinking more than any other candidate; President Trump denies ordering McGahn to fire Mueller; White House blocks subpoenas; Dems gear up for fight. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Chris Cuomo is off tonight. This is a special edition of 360. Joe Biden's first day in the Presidential campaign. We'll talk about how he launched it. Why he's making it a direct challenge to the President?

We'll also discuss his effort at mending fences with Anita Hill over her treatment in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, hearings which he ran. The New York Times reporting she was not persuaded, a lot to get to. Jessica Dean sets the stage.



JESSICA DEAN, CNN REPORTER: Officially a Presidential candidate, Joe Biden came out swinging today going right after President Donald Trump.

BIDEN: We can't forget what happened in Charlottesville.

DEAN: In his video announcement, Biden focusing on Trump's response to the 2017 deadly clash in Charlottesville, Virginia between White nationalists and counter protesters.

BIDEN: Very fine people on both sides. With those words, the President of United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment. I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I'd ever seen in my lifetime.

DEAN: Biden also framed the 2020 race as a battle for the soul of the nation.

BIDEN: If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character this nation, who we are and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.

DEAN: Biden faces a few potential headwinds including his age, possibly becoming the oldest President ever elected and his centrist politics and historically diverse and crowded field that's becoming more progressive. BIDEN: Not only who can know when this - who's the best person to lead the country and that's what's going to be all about and it's going to be for the voters to decide that.

DEAN: In a cycle where small dollar online donations are in and big fund raisers out for Democrats, one of Biden's first stops will be a Philadelphia fund raiser where event organizers hope to raise $500,000.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): They have confidence in his leadership and I've known him for quite.

DEAN: The former Vice President begins his campaign with a number of endorsements including Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware and Doug Jones of Alabama. President Obama who has said he has no plans to endorse anyone right now did praise Biden through a spokesperson who said, "President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made."

BIDEN: I asked President Obama not to endorse and he doesn't want to. This we should- whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.

[21:05:00] DEAN: Another President also weighed in President Trump writing about the race in a tweet, "It will be nasty - you will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas but if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate. Jessica Dean, CNN Washington.


COOPER: Well, we have more breaking news on how Joe Biden spent his first day on the campaign trail including the time he spent on the phone. Arlette Saenz is outside tonight's Biden fund raiser in Philadelphia with some late details for us.

Arlette, I understand you have some news about a conversation that Joe Biden had with the mother of Heather Heyer, the young woman whose death in Charlottesville Biden referenced in his announcement video today.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right Anderson. Joe Biden really made that video, at the centre piece of that video, those clashes in Charlottesville and tonight at a fund raiser here in Philadelphia just down the road right behind me, Joe Biden actually mentioned to donors that he spoke with the mother of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed in those classes with the counter protesters.

He said that he did speak with Susan Bro. I asked the spokesperson to elaborate on that conversation, offer some details about when exactly that happened today. They declined to comment but Biden in that fund raiser, he was touting many of those same themes that he mentioned in that video saying that this is a battle for the soul of the country and taking on President Trump's response directly. Saying that he's never heard of a President talk that way since that civil war, this is something that you're going to hear Biden come to over and over again during his campaign.

COOPER: It's interesting because I actually talked to Susan Bro around 4:45 today, I think it was and she said she had not heard from Vice President Biden so if that is accurate and then it must've been after - after that talk I had with her. What can you tell us about the fund raiser he held tonight, what details are you getting about it?

SAENZ: Well, Anderson, I was inside that fund raiser and this was his first fund raiser of his campaign. It was held at the home of David Cohen, an executive from Comcast. You also had a quite a few members from the Pennsylvania congressional delegation there including the state's Senator Bob Casey.

There were several dozen donors who were there to hear from the Vice President directly. Beforehand, we saw him shaking hands and mingling with people but there were several moments that where he talked about Charlottesville. He also talked about the concern that the nation is at a point that would - potentially that all of the values of this country are at stake. Something we're going to hear from him more and more Anderson.

COOPER: And just looking ahead what are his campaign stops going to be his first ones? I mean, his focus going to be in these first few weeks?

SAENZ: Well, on Monday we're going to see him at his first official campaign event over in Pittsburgh. That's going to be an event that's focused on union working class voters and then pretty quickly we're going to see him doing this tour of the country.

You're going to see him in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire. He's going to head out west to Nevada, also to California and then the culmination of this roll out is supposed to be in Philadelphia on May 18. The campaign stressing that it's the birthplace of democracy and they say that it's going to be a moment for Biden to show how he can unite the divided country. Anderson.

COOPER: Arlette Saenz, appreciate it, thank you. All right, let's dig deeper now with USA Today columnist and CNN Political Analyst Kristen Powers, Former Trump campaign strategist David Urban, also former Obama White House Communications Director Jen Psaki. She and David Urban are CNN political commentators.

Kirsten, what do you make of how the Vice President decided to launch his campaign, basically framing it as The New York Times points out as a "kind of anti-Trump version of make America great again.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think that it's interesting in the sense that I think that he chose something that by - in his campaign video, he's focusing on Charlottesville in particular, which is obviously you know taking the race issue head on, which is something that's very important to Democratic voters, particularly you know progressive voters. I think the problem with it is that he is kind of harkening back to a time where no question, it was better in the minds of all Democrats. It was a time when Barack Obama was President but it's still going backwards, it's not going forward. So it's still sort of going back to a time where I think, that even among progressives when you spend time with them, what you'll hear a lot is, yes, Barack Obama was wonderful but there's, he didn't go far enough.

COOPER: Jen, I wonder what you make of that criticism which is you know, a number of people have said that you know, rather laying out a distinct vision for the country's future, Biden was basically saying, he'll restore things to where they were before President Trump took office.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRES. OBAMA & CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think Anderson if this video was the totality of his announcement, I would say I wanted more. I wanted to know more about his own plans, his own history, his own story. People know Joe Biden across the country but they don't know a lot about what he's done and the issues he cares passionately about and I think they need to do more to tell that story and I think they certainly will.

[21:10:00] COOPER: David, as a Trump supporter, I'm wondering what you make of it and David Axelrod earlier was saying that he thought what Biden was trying to do was sort of look beyond the primary and kind of raise the stakes, sending the message that this is about you know, I'm the person to take on President Trump and not have it be about all the issues which obviously for Democrats in the primary are the focus.

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST & CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's exactly correct Anderson. Look just where the Vice President is starting his campaign tonight in Philadelphia ,with a fundraiser on Monday in Pittsburgh trying to frame himself as a Pennsylvanian and that he can win Pennsylvania because it's obviously one of the states that the Democrats need to take back to, to take back the presidency.

But I think the Vice President faces a very uphill climb there because he has this purity versus pragmatism issue in terms of will he be pure enough for Democrats in terms of all these progressive ideas or is he going to try to be pragmatic and try to appeal those voters in Pennsylvania because I'd submit to you that the voters that the President - the President won - the current President won, President Trump won over from the Democratic Party, they're not big fans of the message, the Green New Deal and free college.

They're traditional old school you know, Reagan Democrats who are very conservative, Catholic pro-life, pro-gun and the message that - the bulk of the party, the bulk of the candidates right now, they're selling, is not what Joe Biden needs to sell in Pennsylvania to win.

COOPER: Kirsten, in terms of the news today that Biden reached out to Anita Hill earlier this month to express his regret over, "what she endured while testifying." What he didn't say to her according to the reporting is that he was sorry for what he put her through. Was that a missed opportunity? Because I mean, this is just one of

several potential missteps in his past or things from his past which may look different in the light of today and that he is going to have to face?

POWERS: Yes, well, I want to say for one thing, it doesn't really look different in the light of today. It was bad when it happened and you know, I was just out of college, I remember it, it was a very, very upsetting time and it's something that a lot of women do remember and so I think that he - as a matter of substance, he should have apologized a long time ago.

He shouldn't have expressed regret, and acts - the way he speaks about it, it's like he was sort of helplessly watching it, where he was actually in charge of what was going on and so I would have wished that he would have realized a long time ago that he did not handle that well and he would have tried to make amends and apologize and actually try to get involved in addressing that issue which is so important to so many people, men and women regardless of political parties.

So I have a problem with the passive language that he uses and he continues to use around this issue and that he waited to do it until a month before he was running basically. You know, she's not accepting it. Now that said, I don't know that this is something that you know stops his candidacy.

I'm just speaking substantively. I don't - I think it's disappointing.

COOPER: Does it make any sense to you Jen, that Biden would ask President Obama not to endorse him as he said earlier today because frankly I mean, I understand why President Obama would not want to endorse anybody at this stage.

But it does seem a little hard to fathom that that conversation was had.

Psaki: Well, I wasn't obviously there in the room but Anderson, what I know is that President Obama - I would be shocked if he endorsed anyone this year and very surprised if he endorsed anyone during the primary early on next year unless it's a time where the party needs to coalesce.

I think Joe Biden knows that and has long known that. He does want to hook himself to the successes they work together on over the course of eight years. You know, they also know and I think this is something President Obama, I have no doubt advised him on, that there are mistakes that the Democrats have made in the past, including that they were involved in.

You know, there was a view that they put their finger on the scale too early in the Clinton Sanders primary and that Sanders' voters were upset about that, leading up to - and even leading up to the general election. They both know, they're savvy politicians, that voters need to coalesce behind the democratic nominee when that person is selected and that's the most important moment. URBAN: Yes, but Anderson--

COOPER: David, to me it's very possible that Biden just kind of blurted out in a conversation with President Obama. Hey, I just want you to know, don't - I don't expect you, I don't want you to endorse me. You know, not that the President was about to or anything.

URBAN: Yes, I just think this, look, if Barack Obama thought the Joe Biden was a suitable stand in as President for him, if he were to be incapacitated, why not now? What changed?

PSAKI: Because David, I think Barack Obama is a savvy politician who's looking around and sees 20 plus candidates, many who--

URBAN: I think Barack Obama is worried about his own legacy.

PSAKI: Let me finish, many who have excited wings of the party. He wants nothing more than to defeat Donald Trump but he also knows that if members of the party who are - who are supporting other candidates feel like they - their voice doesn't count, their vote doesn't count, that he's stepping on that, that does damage and it hurts their party in their fight against Trump.

[21:15:00] URBAN: Yes, but if he were good enough to be the President for President Obama. If President Obama looked across the field of potential Vice Presidents--

COOPER: Well, you can make the argument - yes, but you can make the argument, David that people are made better by running through the gauntlet of a primary and they become better candidates at the end of it so.

URBAN: And you can believe that Joe Biden didn't ask Obama, hopefully those things, okay?

COOPER: David, thanks very much. I'm not saying I believe it. That's why I asked the question. David, thanks. Jen, Kirsten, appreciate it.

PSAKI: Thanks Anderson.

COOPER: A lot more ahead tonight including the Russia investigation, White House efforts to keep the former White House counsel from testifying to Congress. Later Sarah Sanders' first press conference in weeks, but just wait till you see who she's briefing.


COOPER: For someone that once said that the Mueller report completely exonerates him, President Trump sure spends a lot of time revisiting it, attacking it and trying to prevent one key figure in it from telling Congress what he told the Mueller team.

I'm talking of course about former White House counsel Don McGahn, whose account of conversations with the President about getting rid of the Special Counsel have become a major focus for House Democrats and could figure highly in a potential case for impeachment which may explain why the President is so sensitive on the issue.

And it may explain his string of tweets about it all today. More on that from CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House. Jim, what exactly is the President saying about Don McGahn?

[21:20:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw that tweet earlier today where he essentially disputed what was said in a sworn statement to the Special Counsel Robert Muller when he tweeted earlier in the day that he did not instruct Don McGahn, the former White House Counsel to fire the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And the President going on in that tweet to say well, I have the legal right to do so anyway. It's interesting Anderson, I talked to some Trump team legal sources about all of this today and they're claiming that even though the President tweeted this and is essentially disputing what Don McGahn is saying and what others are saying to the Special Counsel, that he still has the ability, the privileges - the executive privileges to block Don McGahn from testifying up on Capitol Hill.

The President hasn't announced publicly that he's going to assert executive privilege at this point but he's essentially announcing - we saw this yesterday that he's going to stop Don McGahn from testifying, he says he's going to block all these subpoenas and the White House and the President's legal team, they're taking a pretty expansive view when it comes to his executive powers.

And they're saying that he has a right to do this no matter what he's tweeted.

COOPER: The criticism is of course coming at the same time the White House gearing up for a fight to fight the request of McGahn to testify in front of Congress. Can they - I mean, I guess, the question is can they really stop a private citizen from testifying about something he's already testified to Mueller about?

ACOSTA: Well, I think that's what we're going to see tested in the courts and you know, I talked to a Trump adviser earlier this evening, Anderson who said listen this is a time honored tradition here in Washington. Administrations do try to attempt to stop certain individuals from testifying up on Capitol Hill when hearings get into touchy and sensitive subject matter.

And that is the case here with Don McGahn, even though he's a private citizen, not part of the administration anymore, they're taking this expansive view that the President can assert executive privilege and block this. I even asked a Trump team legal source earlier today, will the President allow Don McGahn to speak to the Special Counsel for this investigation, isn't that waving executive privilege there and they're saying no it is not and so you know, you're going to see this I think, Anderson, go to the courts because it - that is really the only place where this can be decided.

Otherwise the President is going to try to test this out and it and essentially have this - this legal rationale that he can stop anybody from testifying up on Capitol Hill and of course, the Democrats are saying you can't do that.

COOPER: Jim, thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

COOPER: We'll talk more about this with Garrett Graff, Mueller biographer and author of 'The Threat Matrix, the FBI at war in the age of global terror.' Also with us, CNN Legal Analyst Shan Wu. Shan, is it realistic for the White House to think that they're actually going to be able block McGahn from testifying, first of all when his testimony's already been made public in the Mueller report, he talked to them for 30 hours.

They waived executive privilege for him to do that and he's a private citizen.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's an uphill battle for them. They obviously can't take the position of well, we give up, we have no leg to stand on but I think when it's tested in the courts, it's difficult.

As you point out Anderson, he's already testified to the material. They apparently already waived it and privileges are tricky. I mean, it's not that easy for the court to decide you just made a blanket waiver, they like to protect it.

I think it's hard for them here given what's already transpired and given that he's the private citizen. I don't really see how they can order him not to comply with the subpoena and when Don McGahn is sitting there before Congress and it's just their wishes, there's this talk as Jim just reported about a time honored tradition.

Well, he's going to be facing contempt of Congress and I think the time honored tradition is he's going to honor that subpoena.

COOPER: Garrett, I mean, the White House's argument that McGahn has already said what he has to say and that really the only reason Democrats want him to testify is to create a TV moment. Are they right?

GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, THE THREAT MATRIX: Well, that would be an easier argument to make if the President himself wasn't out there disputing what Don McGahn had told Mueller which he has done repeatedly and even evidently to Don McGahn himself and this is sort of precisely the type of muddled situation that should lead the Democrats on Capitol Hill to begin pushing for hearings that could lead to an impeachment process.

Remember, impeachment - the beginnings of it is not just about removing the President, it's effectively the equivalent of empaneling a grand jury to investigate Presidential malfeasance and that's exactly what we have here. Allegations of Presidential malfeasance and something the Democrats need to be moving forward on investigating.

COOPER: Shan, Garrett raises really interesting point that the President by publicly now saying what's in the Mueller report that it's just not true and what McGahn said is not true, that does actually give weight to the need for a hearing with Don McGahn where he is under oath to see if the President is now lying.

WU: Absolutely, I mean as in so many things, the President is his own worst enemy, creating his own foul himself and I think it's such an interesting point being made about the sort of mechanics of impeachment so different than a criminal trial, where you have extremely tightly controlled narrowing of evidence to an even narrower function for the jury to decide.

[21:25:00] Impeachment, grand jury analogy is a good one. It starts out very broad and ends up being broader and in many ways, these hearings that the House is involved in now as they go forward even through the litigation over who can testify, who can't, prepares the country for the possibility of impeachment.

It errors out the issues ahead of time and that allows the politicians ultimately to make their political decision based on the evidence.

COOPER: So just quickly Shan, I mean, McGahn is a private citizen, we don't know where his head is at, what he wants, would want to do but it - now the President is publicly saying he's a liar, there's an argument to be made, maybe he would want to actually testify. Is there just because the President is saying it's executive privilege, could he just go and testify?

Is there anything actually stopping him just because the President is saying, don't do this?

WU: I don't think there really is. I mean, the way it will play out legally is they'll have to go to court, they'll seek to quash the subpoena, ask for a judge to weigh in on that and I don't think McGahn's going to dash ahead of that and I don't think Congress will either.

But as far as the legal analysis goes, I think they have a very weak case. I don't really see how they can put the genie back in the bottle on this subject.

COOPER: Garrett, I mean if things continue on this way, it does seem like the only option available to House Democrats maybe looking at impeachment proceedings. Speaker Pelosi has made it clear, that's not a viable option to her unless there's bipartisan support for it which at this point, there's certainly no sign of that.

GRAFF: Yes, but I think that that undersells what the evolution of this process could be and I think unfortunately Democrats shouldn't give the Republican Party, a bad faith veto where if Republicans refused to go along with punishing or even investigating Presidential high crimes and misdemeanors, then that's really undermining Congress's role as a co-equal branch of government.

And really, if you look back to - I think Democrats sort of look back to the Whitewater comparison and see how poorly that went for the Republicans, but a much better analogy I think would be the Watergate hearings, where those early hearings as Shan saying really helps set the process, they helped air some of the challenges and allegations against Richard Nixon and really dramatically move public opinion in the country, even with the Republicans.

COOPER: Yes, Shan, I mean I talked to a Republican Congresswoman, excuse me, Democratic Congresswoman, last night, who was saying essentially that what Garrett is saying that at the - there's something about the power of television to actually see Don McGahn or somebody else testifying under oath on television, hearing it from him, viewers are able to judge his you know, his trustworthiness or not rather than the likelihood that they read 440 pages in a Mueller report.

WU: Absolutely, and I think that's where the political aspect comes because we all talk about how impeachment is purely political. It's not a court proceeding. This is how the politics will work if the country can see what's happening and the politicians begin to get the feedback. I think to Garrett's point, that's how the process can move forward and I think the Watergate analogy is a very good one.

COOPER: Shan Wu, thank you. Garrett Graff, thank you always, appreciate it. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders held a press briefing today for the first time in a long time about a month and a half. We can't tell you what she said because it was off the record, we can tell you who she spoke to, that's just ahead.


[21:30:00] COOPER: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders actually held her first briefing in weeks today but it was only for the children of journalists and staffers brought to the White House for 'Take our daughters and sons to work' day.

We can't tell you what you said because for the most part, it was off the record. This is a day after President Trump told reporters, his administration has been the most transparent in history. I'm joined by former Clinton White House Press Secretary, Joe Lockhart and Washington Post Columnist Max Boot, offered Pulitzer finalist for biography, 'The road not taken: Edward Lansdale and the American tragedy in Vietnam.'

Max, when I first saw the headline that the first press briefings Sarah Sanders has had in the month point and a half was for children and off the record. I actually thought it was like an onion article, I thought it was a joke, it's kind of extraordinary.

MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, I would say that the Trump administration often veers between tragedy and farce and often sometimes in the middle and this is kind of a classic example of that, that you know, Sarah Sanders is willing to brief kids but not willing to brief their parents.

The actual real life reporters which is an indication that clearly she has forgotten and the Trump administration is forgotten who she works for because she's supposed to be an employee of the United States government, speaking on behalf of the people of the United States who elected Donald Trump and telling them what the government is doing. But instead they are constantly engaged in lying and in keeping secrets about what this administration is up to.

COOPER: It also Joe, I mean, isn't - it's not a coincidence that Sarah Sanders has not spoken from the podium since the Mueller report has come out which you know, in which not only shows that she lied from the podium and lied two days in a row, which she now claims was just a slip of the tongue on one word.

But also that the Press Office try to get Rod Rosenstein to lie about his role in the firing of James Comey.

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, I mean, she already had an impossible job because Donald Trump lies as easily as he breathes.

COOPER: And lies to her probably.

LOCKHART: And well, and lies to her but I think tells her the truth sometimes and I think that became clear in the testimony but she's - she's now - it's now completely untenable for this reason. Trump tweets out every day, she needs to defend that but you know, have multiple people under oath contradicting it.

You have Don McGahn, you have Hope Hicks, you have White House staffers that are still there, some that have left, who at the threat of going to jail actually told the truth. So then if she goes to the podium and has to defend what the President says, she can be easily contradicted by any reporter in the room. That's why I don't think she'll ever go in and you know, talking to kids off the record is not exactly what I think the public was expecting from the White House Press Secretary.

COOPER: I mean, Max, is it more constructive for Sarah Sanders to hold press conferences and lie or to not hold for press briefings at all?

BOOT: Yes, you know these are the unanswerable questions of the Trump administration, Anderson. I mean, I guess there's an argument to be made that even though she has zero credibility, at least she has some access to the President.

[21:35:00] So you know, even being able to ask her questions may occasionally enlist the truth by accident or at least, it will actually indicate the message you're trying to project through the lies but clearly this is not an ideal situation. I mean, you want somebody in the White House Secretary's job like my friend Joe over here, who has some credibility, that reporters can actually go to as serious questions and expect that he's not necessarily going to answer all of them but at least he'll do what's best.

And he may put spin on it but he's not going to come outright lie and there is no such expectation from this administration and it's not just in the White House by the way, it's also in the Defense Department, where they are not giving briefings either. I mean, it's a disgrace that the American people are not being told by their elected leaders what those leaders are up to. COOPER: Right, I mean, it's easy to look at this you know, as reporters complaining about the press briefings, it is - that's not what this is about. I mean, this is about an administration which claims to be the most transparent in history which is just again, it's so interesting because so much of what they say, the exact opposite is true for them to with a straight face say it's the most transparent because the President tweets a lot and because he you know, yells answers to questions in front of a helicopter is just ridiculous.

BOOT: Yes, I mean, it's unfortunate that Seinfeld is still not making new shows because they can get rich material here. I think there is a reason to do a briefing and it is a big disservice. You know, President Clinton used to always talk about your friends in the press.

Well, the press secretary is the advocate internally, not just for the press but for the American public has the press as the proxy and I think the reason that there's - she should still do these briefings even if she lies, if you think about this and you know, an argument, in a debate or in a court room, it'd be like saying the President gets to make his case but not get cross examined.

And that is something that the public ought to be able to look at and say, well, Sarah Sanders says this and the reporters are contradicting her. I can make up my own mind on who's telling the truth.

Right now you just have Presidential tweets and walk into the helicopter and all of this. The other thing that's important is it instills discipline in the White House. It forces people to talk to each other, forces people to agree on things, make decisions.

So it's an integral part of good government that they have abandoned.

COOPER: I hadn't thought of that. Is it an acknowledgement that this White House people are not communicating and that they don't trust what the President says to anyone at any given time and that that that may not be contradicted half an hour later?

LOCKHART: That they don't trust the President, they don't trust each other. They don't trust the enough to go out. I used to brief twice a day because I saw it as an opportunity. I saw it as an opportunity to tell the country, here's what the President is trying to get done and at times to say, here's what his opponents are trying to do to stop him.

COOPER: Max Boot, Joe Lockhart, thanks very much, appreciate it.

Well there's more to come tonight. Take a look at this 2016 poster for a Trump campaign rally in Philadelphia. It's labeled 'Miners for Trump.' Up next, the real story of the man in the poster and the secret organization that's actually behind this group or alleged group of miners for Trump.


[21:40:00] COOPER: As we've been reporting, the Trump administration is not preparing for Russian interference in 2020 because President Trump doesn't like to talk about their interference in 2016.

Earlier this week, as you may recall, his son along with Senior Adviser Jared Kushner downplayed Russia systematic interference in the last Presidential election as a, "couple of Facebook ads."

Let's take a look at one of those ads, it was included in the Mueller report on page 31, Volume 1. This is the image of a poster for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. 'Miners for Trump' it says. The only problem is, it wasn't organized by Pennsylvania miners but by Russian trolls and the coal dust covered man in the poster, he's a real person his name was Lee Hipshire.

He was indeed a miner but this photo was taken back in 1976. He had extraordinary service as a miner. Mr. Hipshire died of complications from black lung disease in 1987. I should make clear the Trump campaign did not create this image or organize this rally but according the Mueller report they did apparently unwittingly post about other rallies organized by the same Russian trolls on you guessed it, then candidate Donald Trump's Facebook page.

All of this came as a shock to the family of that man, particularly to Lee Hipshire's son, Ronnie who I spoke to earlier.

Ronnie, what was your reaction when you learned this picture of your father was in the Mueller report?

RONNIE HIPSHIRE, LEE HIPSHIRE'S SON: My reaction was, wow. I mean, this is amazing you know, that my dad's picture is in the Mueller report but then I got to thinking, you know my dad might not like this you know because he was you know, a strong Democrat you know and just knowing his beliefs. But to say that it was in there when Earl called me, Earl Daughter called me and told me that that it was in the Mueller report on page 31, I immediately downloaded and looked at and I said, wow. Called my sisters.

COOPER: You told everybody.

HIPSHIRE: Yes, I told my family, yes.

COOPER: Earl Dotter was the - Earl Dotter was the photographer who took that picture. Can you just tell me when it was originally taken and sort of the circumstances of it?

HIPSHIRE: Yes, I sure can, Anderson. In 1976, Earl Dotter was a photographer and a lot of men were getting killed in the mines and so they sent him to sort of investigate little bit what was going on and photograph and so they put him with my father.

He was a safety committeeman, mine committee and secretary and treasurer of the local so you know, he just - they put him with dad and all through the day in the mines, he tagged along my dad and at the end of the shift, dad was coming out of mine.

[21:45:00] It was the Paragon mine at Rum creek in Logan county and when dad came out of mine, Earl snapped his picture and the rest is history you know. In 1978, it was on the cover of Time Magazine when the big coal crisis, when we had a coal strike.

I'm thinking, it was like 110 day Coal strike and - and my father liked to - he had a big 16 by 20 picture made of this and put on the head of the bed and his bed, where he really liked to beat out Anwar Shadath. Anwar Shadath was in the corner and he was - he'd beat Anwar out.

But then the picture, it's been all around the world. As a matter of fact, it's in the Smithsonian Institution and the National reporter gallery and it'll be there forever.

COOPER: How long did your dad work in the mines?

HIPSHIRE: My dad worked in the mines, 33 years. And he died of black lung at age 57.

COOPER: 57, gosh. For your dad's picture to be used this way. I mean for a Russian troll farm to find this picture, use it in the way that they did, to try to support President Trump, that's not something your dad would have been in favor of?

HIPSHIRE: No. No, my dad was definitely would not have supported Trump and you know, he was a staunch Democrat, he always told me that you know, the Democrats are for the working man and the Republicans are for the companies and that was his belief.

I mean, he just was a staunch Democrat and he believed in the values of the working man.

COOPER: What do you think he would say about all this?

HIPSHIRE: I don't think he would like it. I really don't. I mean, knowing my dad's you know, views and what he was and what he stood up, I just don't really believe he would have liked it.

COOPER: It's really a pleasure to talk to you Ronnie, thank you.

HIPSHIRE: Thank you Anderson.

COOPER: All right, back with more on our top story. Joe Biden's now officially in the race. We'll get some insight from someone who's served with him in the Obama administration, next.


[21:50:00] COOPER: Just quickly back to Joe Biden's 2020 entry and the obstacles that could lie ahead for him. Among them his controversial record on criminal justice. You may know, he played a lead role in the crafting of the 1994 Crime bill, that's been blamed for fueling an error of mass incarceration.

It's a subject, CNN political commentator, Van Jones is extremely passionate about and involved with. He's a former Senior Adviser to President Obama, has a new series called original series called The Redemption Project about to premiere this Sunday on CNN. Van, welcome. I want to ask you getting into The Redemption Project

because it's incredible thing that you're working on just very briefly on Biden, what do you make of how he's enter the race and where the race is?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, I say welcome, welcome, welcome. I mean, to hear his voice really calling us up, he's calling Trump out, he's really calling us up and I think I felt like you know, help is on the way.

We need a unifier, we need somebody who can speak in tones that bring us together and he went right at Trump but he did it in a way that actually was I think trying to call people up and not just Trump out. So I think, I hope that he gets to be heard. I'm not saying, I'm going to vote for him.

I don't know who I'm going to vote for but I'm - I was relieved to hear his voice today.

COOPER: Okay, Redemption Project, it looks at restorative justice.


COOPER: And just explain the idea of restorative justice because it is an incredible concept.

JONES: Well, I mean look you know, we all know the old view of justice which is kind of retribution. You damage me, I'm going to damage you and you add damage to damage, you get justice. Well you know, that makes sense in some cases but you do that too much and you end up with communities that are just damaged.

And so there's another view, which is emerging called restorative justice, how you know you got justice? You got justice when every - when the person who got hurt gets healed. Well, that's the courts aren't - that's not what the courts are asking.

So what we did is we went and we found eight people who have done really bad things. I don't mean they had bad tweet, I mean they've done bad things, some of them are in prison, who want to make amends, who want to atone and then we found that eight people that they hurt or the surviving family members.

And then we let them talk to each other for the first time and we found it. And these conversations are mind blowing and in an era right now, where it's not fashionable to be forgetting, it's all cancel culture or call out culture, I'm a black youth culture. We found a capacity in the human spirit to actually begin to get to some kind of a better place and we show it and it's--

COOPER: I mean, I want to show a clip in a second but you know, when you talk about it reminds, it harkens back to me - for my mind to the Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and the way - to the Rwanda, to the courts they had in villages which they didn't have enough room in the prisons in Rwanda for all the people who committed genocide and so there was village restoration. Let's take a look at the clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My actions started a cycle of violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He took the love and what my life could have been like. I want him to look me in the face and tell me why he killed my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way that you could actually prepare for something like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the last piece of that puzzle found a lifetime of what if.


COOPER: I mean, this is as real and human as it gets, people just face to face, what happened? I mean, what - what--

JONES: You know, it's interesting of the eight episodes, in two of them, they do not get to a warm and fuzzy place. I mean the pain of the children who have been hurt or lost was just too great but then they still got information that they hadn't had.

They got to ask questions. What was my child's last word? What happened? And that was someone healing. But in three of the eight, Anderson, they got to a point where they actually successfully went to the parole board and got the person out of prison.

So you literally have in this series, a full range of emotion.

COOPER: Some people hearing that are going to say okay, prisoners are conning these families to help them get parole.

[21:55:00] JONES: Well, the thing about it is that there was no possibility of parole when the conversations happened. In other words this was something - basically three miracles essentially that happened because of the power of this conversation but here's what I want to say.

I know for sure that if we keep going the way we're going with no empathy for each other in this country, no compassion, we're going to end up in a bad place so I want to show people who really probably shouldn't be able to talk, at least trying to talk to inspire the rest of us to give it a chance.

COOPER: If they can do it--

JONES: If they can do it, certainly we can do it better.

COOPER: It's going to be fascinating, Van Jones, thank you. Quick reminder, tune in Sunday, the kick off of Van's series, The Redemption Project. It's at 9:00 PM eastern and Pacific right here on CNN. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Lot more news ahead. Let's turn things over to Don Lemon in CNN Tonight.