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Ex-Deputy AG Rosenstein Blasts Former FBI Director James Comey as a "Partisan Pundit". Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired May 13, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

We begin tonight with breaking news. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is firing back at former FBI Director James Comey. Mr. Rosenstein is about to speak at an event in Baltimore, Maryland.

Our Evan Perez joins me now.

Evan, what do we expect Mr. Rosenstein to say?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is the first time we're going to hear from the deputy attorney general since he left over the weekend, and one of the first comments that he's making is going after James Comey, the former director of the FBI who, as you remember, made comments at the town hall with you last week questioning his character.

Today, Rod Rosenstein says the following. He says: We now see the former director is a partisan pundit, selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul.

He goes on to point out that generally speaking, prosecutors and lawyers base their opinions on eyewitness testimony.

Clearly, Anderson, the gloves are off for the deputy attorney general after two years of overseeing the Mueller investigation. And now, he has obviously an answer to the comments made by the former director of the FBI, James Comey.

COOPER: Yes, I want to play for our viewers who didn't see it, what Comey said to me just last Thursday night in our town hall with the former FBI director.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think people like that, like Rod Rosenstein, who are people of accomplishment but not real sterling character, strong character, find themselves trapped. And then they start telling themselves a story to justify their being trapped which, yes, he's awful, but the country needs me.

COOPER: So, Rod Rosenstein, you're saying, is a person not of strong character?

COMEY: Yes, I don't think he is. On accomplishment, very bright, but he's not strong enough.


COOPER: I mean, pretty tough words for the former FBI director towards Rosenstein, Evan.

PEREZ: Right. Clearly, Anderson, comments that have gotten under Rosenstein's skin.

And, look, these comments, this speech, we have the prepared remarks for the speech he is delivering tonight that Rosenstein is delivering tonight in Baltimore. For the first time you hear from his own words exactly what went on when he was asked to write this memo that President Trump used to -- as a reasoning to fire Comey. And so, you see for the first time his own words of exactly those harrowing days, frankly, those days of chaos.

And he does, by the way, does not spare criticism of President Trump himself. He said if it was up to him, the firing of Comey would have gone -- would have been handled very different with far more respect and with far less drama. Anderson, you remember that Comey was traveling -- he had gone to Los Angeles to speak to the FBI field office there when he learned from watching on television screens from watching CNN and watching FOX News that he had been fired.

And then the indignity went further, the president was actually angry that Comey was allowed to fly back to Washington, D.C., fly home on the FBI director plane. That was something that he actually had to have permission from the Deputy FBI Director Andy McCabe, to be able to do. Again, the indignity of the way the firing was carried out is what Rosenstein is taking issue with.

COOPER: It is pretty interesting, though, that Rosenstein is focusing his criticism mostly, it seems, on James Comey, calling him a partisan pundit, when it was the president of the United States who, according to the Mueller report, tried to get Rosenstein to lie about him being behind the firing of Comey and the White House press office. Tried to get the Justice Department to put out a statement to the same effect, which is, again, no mention of that or that being some sort of a reflection of the president, I guess, in his speech.

But, Evan Perez, thank you.

Joining me with reaction to all of this is James Baker, the former FBI general counsel.

Jim, first of all, what's your reaction to Rosenstein saying this tonight about Comey?

JAMES BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Well, first, I don't want to get in the middle of a discussion about people's souls. I think that's just not my position.

I mean, Jim Comey's private citizen at this point in time and, quite honestly, Rod's actions with respect to the firing, is the reason that Jim is a private citizen. So, I think Jim gets to say what he feels is appropriate. I mean, he's entitled under the First Amendment to say what he thinks is appropriate. So --

COOPER: Does it -- both these men, you worked closely with them. What was their relationship like before all of this?

BAKER: I think historically, it was pretty good. I mean, Rod was the U.S. attorney in Baltimore for a long time and knew Jim in a variety of different capacities when Jim was deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney probably in New York.

[20:05:08] As you know, Rod came in only a few weeks before Jim was fired, so they didn't have a long time to work together in a role. I think they had a good and respectful relationship.

COOPER: And yet it was, I mean, again, in the Mueller report, the president trying to get Rosenstein to hold a press conference saying that he was the one who was behind the firing and the White House press office is also trying to get them to put out a statement. He resisted that, but that doesn't seem to have prevented Rosenstein from praising the president right before he left in a speech as somebody, you know, for following the rule of law.

BAKER: It was hard for me to understand really the contours of Rod's behavior throughout this whole thing. I didn't understand his logic or thinking with respect to the firing of Jim Comey. I didn't understand it at that point in time.

I greatly respected and supported his selection of Bob Mueller, the special counsel. I thought that was an excellent move, and his willingness to stand up for Bob throughout the time period. But I also didn't really completely understand why Rod, in light of his role in the firing, as you see some of the facts in the Mueller report now, I didn't understand why Rod didn't recuse himself, quite honestly.

COOPER: Because he was so involved?

BAKER: He was so involved in certain aspects of what the special counsel was looking at. Maybe he got an opinion from the ethics folks at DOJ that cleared him. But I didn't completely understand it, and I think a lot of other commentators have noted that as well.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, a lot of people, Jeffrey Toobin would raise that often. Which is why -- why wouldn't he have recused himself? I mean, what was the advantage for him to stay in?

BAKER: I think the advantage was I think he was afraid -- I'm guessing. This is pure speculation on my part. I'm guessing he was afraid that someone else would come in and perhaps more directly interfere with the Mueller investigation. So I think at least in that part, his motives were right, but I think that's -- you know, the idea here we are supposed to stand up for the rule of law and just do what the dictates of the law are.

COOPER: Were you surprised to hear James Comey level the criticism against Rod Rosenstein that he did, that he's not a man of strong character?

BAKER: Given Jim's perspective on these kinds of things and given his experience, it didn't surprise me.

COOPER: No. The president quoted Tom Fenton on Twitter last night who said in part: The FBI has no leadership. The director's protecting the same gang that tried to overthrow the president through an illegal coup.

I mean, he's now talking about the FBI director who he appointed in Christopher Wray. The idea of a coup -- that this was a coup attempt against the president of the United States is -- what do you make of those who say this was a coup attempt?

BAKER: It's preposterous. It's preposterous. I was there. I was the general counsel of the FBI. I didn't see any coup. I didn't see any attempted coup. I didn't see any conspiracy to commit a coup.

There was nothing going on like that. I've said before, I would have stopped such a thing. I would not have allowed such a thing to go on. I would have found a way to bring that to light to the appropriate authorities and prevented that.

I've gone to the mat before on some things of a significant nature in the department, and there's no way that I would have supported such a thing.

COOPER: I mean, even using that word "coup", it's a pretty dangerous word to use when talking about career civil servants, people who have dedicated their lives to upholding the law and working in law enforcement at great risk themselves. I mean, the word coup is something, you know, it's what some tin pot dictator accuses some colonel of doing in order to execute him.

BAKER: Yes, it's not language that helps the country. It's not language that helps the country. So, therefore, I just simply don't understand it.

It's not what happened. We were doing our best to follow the law in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. I mean, the director of the FBI has just been fired. You know, all these strange conversations the director had with the president, at the president's instigation made no sense, very odd, very strange at a minimum.

And so, look, we were trying to uphold the rule of law and apply it in different circumstances. Could we have made mistakes? Of course we could have made mistakes. But nobody in my experience or anybody around me had any intention to do anything illegal or wrong or immoral.

COOPER: What has this done, what have the last two years been like for people within the FBI who just want to do their jobs and serve their country? From the outside, it often looks like, you know, the president is trying to weaken institutions. He's certainly been going after the FBI, Rudy Giuliani uses phrases like "Stormtroopers" just in terms of morale and what's it like?

BAKER: Well, on the one hand, the FBI is an incredible -- incredibly resilient and professional organization and they will persevere through lots and lots of adversity. So, I have every confidence in the rank-and-file, the FBI, to do the right thing and to keep the ship going in the right direction.

At the same time, you know, look, Director Comey was an amazing leader, like a leader of an organization and somebody you wanted -- somebody that you would want in charge of an organization like that with a strategic vision, the way he cared about people within the organization, and people felt that.

[20:10:13] And so, I think one of the things here is -- one of the biggest things is the loss -- the loss for the FBI in terms of what wouldn't happen, what's not going to happen, what opportunities are missed. I think that's one of the biggest tragedies with respect to all of this in addition to the personal costs inflicted on many people.

COOPER: I got to get break in. If you could stick around, I would love to talk to you on the other side of it.

BAKER: Sure.

COOPER: We'll be right back with James Baker. We'll also get more from this moment, Rod Rosenstein, continuing to speak in Baltimore right now.

And later, "Keeping Them Honest", the president's claim on the trade war with China, who gets hurt and by how much with these tariffs? With real implications, including for your 401(k), the super power showdown.

We'll talk to William Cohen, the former Republican senator and U.S. defense secretary about the risk and potential rewards of the president's foreign policy.


[20:15:05] COOPER: And back to our breaking news, a war of words between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former FBI Director James Comey. Mr. Rosenstein officially stepped down last week. He vowed to stay on until the Mueller report was released, and he did.

Tonight, he's speaking out at an event in Baltimore talking about the investigation and former Director Comey.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: So I do not blame the former director for being angry. I would be, too, if I were in his shoes. But now the former director seems to be acting as a partisan pundit, selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul. I kid you not. That is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors.


COOPER: And back with me, James Baker, the former FBI general counsel.

You were there -- you started in 2014.

BAKER: Correct.

COOPER: So, I mean, you were there during the Clinton email --

BAKER: All the horrible stuff.

COOPER: All the horrible stuff. Can you just cumulatively what has that been like there?

BAKER: It was traumatic. I mean, it was personally traumatic, I think, for a lot of us, and I don't use that word lightly.

COOPER: Traumatic in what sense?

BAKER: The dealing and the horrible situation having to deal with investigating presidential candidates under that microscope and that spotlight, I guess you would say. It was horrible. We were put in the place of having to make -- put in the position of having to make decisions in these types of cases that we didn't want to have to do with if we could avoid it.


COOPER: Anything involved with a presidential candidate you know is going to be fraught with all sorts of potential --

BAKER: Fraught with peril, yes, absolutely, absolutely. And so, the idea that we were looking around, after going through the Clinton email case or thinking we had finished it in July of 2016 -- I'm sorry -- no, it was July. Thinking we had finished it and wanted to dive back in to investigating another presidential candidate is crazy. We just had no desire to do that.

COOPER: So, for those who look at, you know, the FBI and they see a deep state attempt to overthrow the president, to undermine Donald Trump as a candidate, you say what?

BAKER: False. It's just false. That's not what we were trying to do. We were trying to execute our responsibilities under the constitutional laws of the United States, adhere to the attorney general guidelines that govern what the FBI can do, with respect to investigations and proceed forward to try to protect the country from a very real threat from Russia.

At the end of the day, the whole thing was about Russia. That's what people need to think about. We were focused on Russia, what they were up to, how they were doing what they were up to and to the extent that any Americans from the president's campaign or anywhere else sort of came across our radar screen, we would deal with that, too. But we were not trying to go out and find them and we certainly weren't trying to collect political dirt or political intelligence on any campaign. COOPER: You know, there's been all sorts of reporting that, first of

all, you just need to listen to the president on his thoughts about Russia, but there's been all sorts of reporting that Secretary Nielsen wanted to talk about future Russian interference in the months before she left office, was forced to resign. Nick Mulvaney, according to "The New York Times", I believe it was, said, look, don't bring that up around the president. He doesn't want to hear about it. It gets to the legitimacy of his election in his opinion.

Can the FBI do all it needs to do to try to combat Russian interference if the president of the United States is not commanding on this issue from the top, setting the agenda, having cabinet level meetings about this?

BAKER: Well, the FBI can do everything it can do but it can't work as well as with other agencies if the president doesn't insist the whole of government be focused on this threat and through his power and influence within the executive branch drive interagency behavior to make sure this is a priority for everyone.

He's got this obligation under the Constitution to protect the country. That's his obligation. And from all foreign threats and this is a real foreign threat. I don't know how you can understand the facts in the Mueller indictments and think otherwise.

COOPER: We just got word that Comey was asked just now about the comments Rod Rosenstein made and Comey's response was "I wish him the best" to Rod Rosenstein.

Just one other thing, you read -- I want to read something from an op- ed you said which addresses the president's statements about the FBI. You said I fear the short and long term damage on those institutions to which I've dedicated most of my professional life, I fear the consequences for the rule of law itself in the United States.

One of the things Rod Rosenstein said in a speech right before he left was thanking the president especially or praising the president for abiding by the rule of law, which is ironic given that the president tried to get Rosenstein particularly to lie about his involvement in Comey. Talk -- tell me just about what is the real threat to the rule of law in this country?

BAKER: Well, there are many aspects to it. I think one of the most important things it undermines the confidence of the American people in the institutions of justice within the country, the investigative institutions like the FBI, the prosecutors and the courts.

They need the confidence of the American people to be successful. People have to serve on juries, and the FBI wants people to help. We need the support of the public. We need people to give us tips to give us leads, to help us --

COOPER: When you knock on a door and say the FBI you want somebody to have confidence --

BAKER: That we're there for a legitimate purpose, you can trust us, that we're going to follow the law. That's what we need. And, yes, the conversations, statements about wanting to prosecute this person or that person coming from the president of the United States and sometimes for political reasons, lock her up and these kind of things, I think that's detrimental to the fair administration of justice in the United States and, again, the president has the obligation under the Constitution to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

And that's important, and he needs to do that. In this kind of language is just not helpful to that end.

COOPER: Is the FBI sending a female investigator under cover to meet with Papadopoulos, is that spying? Not only is that what the president says, but now that's language being used by the attorney general, the head of the Department of Justice.

BAKER: So, first of all, I'm not going to comment on particular things that the FBI did or didn't do. And the inspector general is looking at everything we did. If the I.G. usually finds mistakes that we made, so I expect him to find mistakes this time. But I can say that at least from the intent of the people I was dealing with, there was no intention to do anything wrong or illegal and not to spy on a campaign, at least as I understand that, meaning intending to collect information in some fashion that is about the politics, about the political decisions, political intelligence. There was no effort to do that that I'm aware of. I didn't see anybody talk about anything like that.

COOPER: For you, the focus was Russia?

BAKER: The focus was Russia. Foreign intelligence information, evidence of a crime related to Russian activities and any Americans that were in connection with them.

COOPER: And you would not have used the word spying?

BAKER: I would not have used the word spying. We -- the FBI acted lawfully. Spying, to me, connotes something that's unlawful, improper in some fashion.

COOPER: James Baker, I really appreciate your time.

BAKER: Thank you.

COOPER: A pleasure. Thanks.

I want to get more perspective now. Joining me is Elliot Williams, a former deputy assistant general, also CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, as well as CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Jeff, is it any surprise that Rod Rosenstein would push back at Comey given what Comey said?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No. It's not. It's not. You can see why both of them take the positions that they do.

I mean, just remember the history here. I think we take it for granted that everybody remembers, but the president wanted to fire James Comey for one reason and one reason only, because of the Russia investigation.

And then he sends Rod Rosenstein off to invent a pretext to fire him. In the Mueller report they use that word, a pretext, that he was fired because he was too mean to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Just a preposterous justification.

He then -- the president then asks Rosenstein to elaborate on that, to pretend that that's the real reason that Comey was fired. And that, to me, is -- I mean, it's indefensible what Rod Rosenstein did. And you can understand why Comey is upset that Rosenstein allowed himself to be used that way and then praised the president on the way out the door.

So, the contention between the two is very much understandable.

COOPER: Gloria, what's your understanding of how the FBI views Rosenstein this morning?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my understand ins that they view him with suspicion, that they call him the survivor, I've been told, inside the FBI. Obviously, there's a large group that likes Comey very much and feels that he was unjustly treated.

And while they give him credit for shielding Mueller to a degree and shielding the Mueller investigation from the president and anybody else who wanted to get rid of it, they also believe he has broken down the lines of independence between the Department of Justice and the executive branch and they think also that he has not done enough to defend the Department of Justice to the executive branch when the president starts criticizing it.

COOPER: Elliot, I mean, it's not like Rosenstein wasn't deeply involved in this whole saga. It was his letter, as Jeff points out, that was used to fire Comey. He was probably talking about wearing a wire in the White House, invoking the 25th Amendment, and then he sort of fell in line behind Attorney General Barr.

[20:25:00] ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: And this was exactly the point that Jim Comey was making when he -- I mean, he used some personal language using the soul stuff. But what we saw back from Rod which is a new legal term, which was the sick prosecutor burn, which basically, you know, as sort -- as pointed as a career prosecutor will ever get.

But where I think Comey has a point is, you know, let's not forget in November, just five or six months ago, the president tweeted out an image of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the United States, behind bars. The president, you know, tweeted -- you know, fired the secretary of state not long before that when he was on the toilet with a stomach virus, and on and on and on, there's a sort of consistent degrading of what would serve at the highest levels of government.

Aaron Blake in "The Washington Post" today had a piece laying out the 17 senior government officials that the president first called the best people and then attacked. And so, under those circumstances, it's incredibly hard to serve. And we have to ask the question, what does it take to survive?

Well, we know and that's unflinching loyalty to the president of the United States. And like you said, Anderson, Rod Rosenstein seemed to just go there and give the president what he wanted in the end.

BORGER: But how do you --

COOPER: Hold on, Gloria. We've got to take a quick break. We'll have more. We have more breaking news, also, in the steps in the works for the president's son, Donald Trump Jr. What sources say he plans to do about the subpoena from the Republican-led committee?

Also ahead, President Trump doubling down on his bet that China will blink first as the trade war stakes real high, real fast, and the truth about tariffs. "Keeping Them Honest", ahead.


[20:30:28] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More breaking new now, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN that Donald Trump Jr. is balking at answering more questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about that now infamous Trump Tower meeting the summer of 2016. The committee's chairman, Republican Richard Burr agreed to a subpoena for Trump Jr., but only after months of negotiations collapsed, sources say. Trump Jr. had agreed twice to a voluntary interview but then backed off, according to one source.

Back with me is Elliot Williams, Jeffrey Toobin and Gloria Borger.

Jeff, I mean backing -- balking is not exactly a legal term, I'm aware, but how long is the Senate just going to let Donald Trump Jr. balk at his subpoenas?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, probably a pretty long time. Because, you know, Burr took a political risk as a Republican, subpoenaing him in the first place, but finding him in contempt even though that would probably not have any practical effect is a provocation he probably wants to avoid.

There's a compromise out there potentially of answering written questions. I mean but the idea that a witness would balk -- you know, a subpoena is not an invitation to a cocktail party. A subpoena is a legal command to show up. And to have someone as smart as Lindsey Graham who is a former prosecutor in the Air Force, to say, well, if I were his lawyer I'd tell him not to show up. I mean that's just not how the system is supposed to work. But in the real world of today, it might actually work for the country.

COOPER: I mean, Elliott, if the -- you know, the question is, I guess, if Trump Jr. is not going to hide why just not go back to the committee?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Right. And what that does is it calls attention to the fact that he didn't speak to Robert Mueller the first time around, you know, so why not just go back to the committee?

But here's the thing. It fuels -- and this gets back to Lindsey Graham's comments, too. If fuels this narrative that's been put out, and this is piggybacking in what Jeff had said. The narrative put out there by the President somehow that Congress isn't a legitimate investigative body and Congress isn't a co-equal branch of government and you can just blow off congressional subpoenas.

You know, Donald Trump Jr. is just one of countless subpoenas and document requests and interview requests and testimony requests across Congress that aren't being adhered with, particularly in the House of Representatives where they're just simply not submitting to congressional oversight. And in a system where, you know, the executive and Congress are actually equals, that's a new norm that we're seeing. And it's just -- it will be interesting too see if this continues beyond this current administration in relationship with Congress or it's just a realignment of the executive's relationship with Congress.

COOPER: Gloria, I want to play what Lindsey Graham said about Trump Jr. just because Jeff was referencing it.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): If I were Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer I would tell him you don't need to go back into this environment anymore. You've been there for hours and hours and hours. And nothing being alleged here changes the outcome of the Mueller investigation. I would call it a day.


COOPER: I mean, it is remarkable, Gloria. That is the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee telling a private citizen, oh, yes, just ignore congressional subpoena.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, just ignore a congressional subpoena. By the way, it was a different song he was singing in terms of the Clinton investigation when he was one of the people leading impeachment.

And I think this is all about congressional oversight. I don't think Burr is a rebel rouser. Senator Burr is not. And it seems pretty clear to me that after the Mueller repot, what the committee is seeing is some potential discrepancies here between what they heard from Don Jr. and what Mueller was saying that Michael Cohen told them whether it was about what Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting or what Don Jr. knew about Trump Tower Moscow.

Michael Cohen said that he had been told about it about 10 times and Don Jr. said, well, I was only involved in it peripherally. And so Congress in its role of oversight is trying to sort of get the picture straight here.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: This is the job of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and these people don't like to be misled.


WILLIAMS: And, you know, Anderson, it bears mentioning that Burr is not -- really quickly, is not running for reelection in 2022.

BORGER: Exactly, yes.

WILLIAMS: And so seems like the only people who are really willing to take Donald Trump on are Democrats and Republicans not running for reelection.


WILLIAMS: So it's not a profile in courage here. Let's be clear.

COOPER: Yes. We've seen that time and time again on the Republican side. Elliot Williams, thanks, Jeff Toobin, Gloria Border as well.

President Trump is all in for a trade war with China. The impact on you ahead.


[20:38:35] COOPER: A stark reminder today that elections have consequences. You might hate the consequences or you might like them or at least what they might mean for the future, but they are very, very real. And all you have to do is look at your 401(k) to know what I'm talking about. The United States and China are now in full-blown trade war. Two superpowers staring each other down waiting for the other to blink.

This started when trade talks collapsed last week. President Trump slapped tariffs on goods coming from China. This morning just about the time President Trump tweeted, "China should not retaliate, will only get worse." The Chinese government retaliated announcing they would raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods starting June 1st. The Dow ended up down 617 points.

So where we are tonight is the height of international brinksmanship. So I talk to someone who had seen it all or close to it, William Cohen is the former Defense secretary and former Republican U.S. senator from Maine.

Secretary Cohen, thanks for being with us. For both Republicans and Democrats, they seem to believe something needs to be done about China. Do you think the way that President Trump is dealing with this is the right way to go about it?

WILLIAM COHEN, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR, MAINE: I don't. I think the President deserves credit for calling China on its policy because the Chinese have over the past decade at least have been leveraging this system very much in their favor adverse to U.S. and western interests. So I think he's been right to call China on it. I think the imposition of tariffs is exactly the wrong thing to do.

[20:40:00] And, secondly, I think that he gave over a good deal of leverage when he immediately announced that that he was canceling the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

I went to China immediately after his election and Chinese officials, one very top Chinese official, asked me because Donald Trump has been elected, does that mean TPP is dead? And I said, unfortunately, yes. And then he tapped me on the shoulder and said, good, good.

And so that was something I think all of the Southeast Asian nations, the ASEAN Association, they felt betrayed by the United States. They felt that we not only wasted seven years of their time but also undercut them with all of their citizens. So that's leverage we gave up. And I think the tariffs are basically their tax. And the President says, well good, we're having a tax. We'll collect the taxes. We'll have a big pool of money and then we'll redistribute that money.

Well, redistribution of income sounds a little bit anti-capitalist to me. But in any event, you are bypassing Congress. Congress is the one who's really responsible for setting tax policy and collecting the taxes through the IRS then having policies where you give tax credits and tax deductions, where is this fund -- how is it going to be administered and what is the bench line? Do we take the farmers who say they've lost $800 per farmer to date or 8,000 or 18,000? How do they benchmark what they've lost today and where they'll be tomorrow with the tariffs in place?

So this is going to be an administrative nightmare to be sure. I think a deal has to be made. I think a deal will be made. But what I object to is to try to phrase this as an OK corral shoot-out, that is no way to conduct diplomacy. You sit behind closed doors and you work out your differences --


COHEN: -- and don't try to embarrass the other country in saying I won and you lose. It has to be a win-win situation.

COOPER: It seems like also, you know, many economists argue that a tariff -- the person actually is paying the tariff is the American consumer who's paying more for goods from China.

COHEN: Exactly right. They will pay more. And I think there is some notion within the administration that, well, maybe the big companies, the Walmarts and the others and the Amazons, will keep their prices low. They won't pass on any increase that they are feeling by buying these goods from China. They'll absorb the loss.

I don't know where there's any basis for that understanding, but nonetheless, in the meantime, the people who have to pay to buy the goods are going to pay a higher price. I think that can go on only so long. I think farmers who were promised, by the way, they were promised a $10 billion relief fund from last year. They got less than $1 billion. So wow the President is saying, we'll take care of you. Just hang with me. I think the farmers are having a tough time because China will fill their supply chain not from the United States. They'll go to Brazil of their soybeans. They'll go elsewhere to make sure they don't go without the goods and services that they need.

COOPER: It's also interesting because when you talk to someone like Steve Bannon who is in the White House arguing for exactly this policy what seems to be behind his argument is a desire to break the back of communist China to fundamentally destroy the communist system in China which understandably there's plenty of reasons to abhor the communist system and what it does to its people, but that is essentially sounds like it could very easily lead to a greater escalation and a wider kind of conflict not just an economic one.

COHEN: I think we have to think very carefully about whether or not we would like to see the disillusion of the Chinese government as is currently constructed. I have no, you know, admiration for a communist system. But there are 1.3 billion people who are organized under that system. And before we bring chaos into that system, we better ponder what the consequences of that would be.

Far better that we say that we have a competitive system, we're going to compete on a level playing field with you, and then let the world decide which system they prefer. And I think that we'll always say we've got innovation, creativity, and the ingenuity to prevail in any kind of a free market system.

So what we ought to be doing is joining with our European friends and, by the way, the President separated us from our E.U. friends by saying I alone can solve this problem when --


COHEN: -- when in fact, the Europeans are just as impacted by Chinese behavior as we are. So I just think we have to really look at this in a way and say how do we solve this diplomatically? There has to be a trade solution.

COOPER: Right.

COHEN: I don't think you get it by trying to browbeat the other country into the dust. And one final point, on your previous comments, you know, when you have a debasement of language that is a precursor to a debasement of values. And we're seeing this spread throughout our system.

[20:44:59] The notion that you would have members of the Senate now advocating that people who have been subpoenaed not come, that, to me, is unprecedented in scope and it spells very bad news for our political system. Nobody should feel free to ignore the Congress of the United States including the president of the United States.

COOPER: Secretary Cohen, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.

COHEN: My pleasure. COOPER: This video is from the conflict in Libya in 2011, it was taken by the taunted photojournalist Tim Hetherington, a man I first met on assignment back in Afghanistan, the man I'm proud to call a friend. Tim died in a mortar attack in Libya with a death that didn't have to happen. What is now being done to try to keep his memory and other journalists alive in part of the CNN series, "Champions for Change" next.


[20:50:09] COOPER: This week, we're bringing you stories of remarkable people who are making lasting impacts around the world. We call the series, "Champions for Change". And it's our chance to revisit some amazing chain makes -- change makers that we've covered in the past and people we've never forgotten.

In 2009, I was sent to Afghanistan to report on the fight against the Taliban. I worked with a talented young photographer named Tim Hetherington who went on to co-direct the Academy Award nominated documentary, "Restrepo".

I admire not only Tim's talent but his kindness and curiosity about the world. We became friends. Recently, I met with Tim's co-director Sebastian Junger at the Tim Hetherington photo library in the Bronx Documentary Center to talk about our memories of Tim and the impact he made in so many people's lives.


COOPER: The realities of war captured on camera by journalist Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What just happened?

TIM HETHERINGTON, PHOTOJOURNALIST DIED DURING LIBYAN CIVIL WAR: I think we were the target. It's very close over our heads incoming.

COOPER: This is Tim in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan in 2007. He spent a year on and off imbedded with U.S. troops making a documentary called "Restrepo".

They were on the frontlines of battle. Combat intense. The footage as up close as you can get.

But for Tim reporting from war zones was about so much more than just capturing fire fights. Sebastian's film, "Which Way is the Frontline from Here?" is behind the scenes look at Tim's work and his mission.

HETHERINGTON: For me, wiser is a tantamount of adrenaline to do with combat and filming that. I mean for me there are really important stories of being close to these men. You know, that's what it's about. That's really I'm there for.

COOPER: These pictures by Tim Hetherington, the spot where he's been traveling with us this past week -- I first met Tim in 2009. We were in Afghanistan together reporting on the fight against the Taliban. Tim was our photographer for that assignment and his talent was obvious from the start but I soon came to know his humor, his kindness and his bravery and I saw firsthand how his curiosity about the world gave him the ability to connect with people.

He started off a colleague and I came to consider him a friend. Tim went out of his way to interact with his subjects no matter where he was in the world.

HETHERINGTON: How to say very good in Tamil?




HETHERINGTON: OK. Your English, alam.


COOPER: In 2011, Tim went to Libya to cover the rebel forces who were fighting against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. It would be his last assignment. This video is from that trip taken before a mortar fired by Gaddafi's forces landed near Tim and a group of journalists in the city called Misrata. Sebastian Junger was supposed to be with Tim on that trip.

Do you remember where you were when you got the news?

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, JOURNALIST: The phone rang and it was a mutual friend of ours saying Tim's been hurt and the news was that Tim and some other journalist were hurt.

COOPER: I read that they've been out earlier in the day and sort of felt like they had pushed their luck and Tim decided to go back with the rebels to take photographs of the aftermath of an attack.

JUNGER: So they all went back and who lived and who died and who was wounded and who wasn't depended on where they were in the group when the mortar landed.

COOPER: Tim was hit by shrapnel in the leg. His femoral artery was cut. He bled to death in the back of a pick-up truck on the way to the hospital. Sebastian believes Tim's life could have been saved if the others with him knew how to administer some basic first aid.

JUNGER: I just thought oh, had I been with Tim I wouldn't have known what to do either. I would have watched him die, right, and -- which I can't imagine what that would have been like. And I just thought I've got to start an organization that will train people like myself and like Tim and everybody else.

COOPER: And so he did. In Tim's honor he started an organization called RISC, Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues. His nonprofit seeks to provide free medical training to journalists who cover conflict zones.

[20:55:00] They use real life scenarios. Journalists practice on dummies and actors. Many of these journalists are freelancers. It means they don't have companies to pay for their insurance or security or to outfit them with the medical supplies they may need on the front lines.

Sebastian wants to change that status quo and do what he can to prevent another death like Tim's.

What do you think Tim's legacy is?

JUNGER: I think he represents to a lot of people a certain very human way of taking in and understanding the world, of realizing that we're sort of all part of the joy and the pain of this planet and that there's a way to connect other people in very different circumstances just through your shared humanity.

HETHERINGTON: You seemed very intelligent, Venina (ph). For me it's to connect with real people, you know, to document them in these extreme circumstances. You know, where there aren't any kind of neat solutions. So where you can't put kind of neat guidelines and say this is what it's about or this is what it's about. It's not. I hope in my work kind of shows that.


COOPER: A life and legacy of Tim Hetherington.

I want to check in with Chris, see what he was working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That was a good choice for you, Anderson. It's a good story to remember and the continuing need going forward. You remember going to Fort Benning, right, but I don't know if you were part of that early on right before we started doing the imbeds in 2002-2003 when they would give us the first aid treatment and it was like well, you know, you knew that what they were telling you would need to do. We would never be able to do and just how dire it is for so many of these bang-bang correspondents that were out there and journalists. This is a really great story to remind people of that.

We're going to take on the news tonight that Mr. Barr has in fact put his own man who's done this before, U.S. attorney from Connecticut named Durham is going to look into the origins of the probe. This is a big headline. We'll go through the implications with U.S. Senator Joe Mansion.

COOPER: All right, Christ, we'll see you then just about three minutes from now. We'll be right back.