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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Judge Orders Release of Transcripts of Flynn's Conversations with Russians; Attorney General Barr Says He Will Not Stop Mueller From Testifying Before Congress; U.S. Claims to Have Images Showing Iranian; Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) is Interviewed About Mueller Testifying Before Congress; Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) Is Interviewed About President Trump's Immigration Plan. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired May 16, 2019 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

There is a lot to get to tonight. There are new concerns about Iran, new claims being made about whether Iranian ships are carrying missiles and what America is prepared to do about it.

And on the day, the Attorney General Bill Barr says he is OK if Robert Mueller testifies before Congress, there is still no concrete plan for his appearance which has a lot of people wondering why.

And President Trump unveils a brand-new immigration plan, but it completely ignores some of the most complicated issues. "Keeping Them Honest" on that.

But, first, there is breaking news on how Michael Flynn, President Trump's first national security adviser, cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller on the obstruction investigation involving the president, including what he told the special counsel about him being among, quote, a select few people, unquote, who heard statements among campaign officials about WikiLeaks after that group dumped stolen emails from the Clinton campaign.

CNN's Sara Murray has details.

So, Sara, explain what you're learning about the level of Flynn's cooperation with Mueller.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we knew, of course, that Flynn was an early and valuable cooperator, that he was talking with his interactions with the former Russian ambassador. But this is giving more meat to the bones. It talks about the interactions he had, what he witnessed from other campaign officials about their eagerness to potentially get in touch with WikiLeaks after WikiLeaks had already started releasing stolen information, stolen emails.

It also talks about how Flynn cooperated with the special counsel's obstruction investigation. This new filing sort -- or this updated filing details the multiple instances where there was outreach from people connected to the Trump administration or even to Congress who reached out to Michael Flynn and his legal team, even after they knew Flynn was cooperating with the special counsel's team. And this filing sort of notes that this could have influenced Flynn and whether he was willing to cooperate.

It even says that Flynn and his legal team provided the special counsel's office with a voice mail. This may be the one that is referenced in the Mueller report and was a voice mail interest the president's counsel to Flynn's counsel, talking about how they needed to know what Flynn was providing to the special counsel's team.

COOPER: And I understand a judge ruled on the evidence tonight?

MURRAY: That's right. That means we could see some of this publicly within the next couple of weeks. The judge basically said, look, I want to see portions of the Mueller report that have to do with Michael Flynn that may now be redacted. He also wants to see transcripts of Michael Flynn's phone calls with these Russian officials, including the former Russian ambassador.

Remember, these were the ones who got Flynn in trouble in the first place talking about sanctions, and the judge wants to see the transcript of this voice mail, these conversations that Flynn's legal team or this message, rather, that the president's legal team may have been leaving for Flynn's legal team. So we could see all of that publicly, Anderson, in the next couple of week.

COOPER: All right. Sara, thanks. I want you to stay with us.

I want to bring in former Deputy Attorney General Elliot Williams and former federal prosecutor and current CNN legal analyst Anne Milgram for some perspective.

Anne, is this a big deal at all? Isn't all of this baked into the Mueller report?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is in the Mueller report. But remember, there were still parts that were redacted on the obstruction component that related to Michael Flynn. So, this is giving us more information, and it is showing us. The truth is always in the details.

And it's fascinating to see, for example, multiple members of the Trump administration and congressional officials reaching out to Michael Flynn after he was cooperating, for example. That's a significant piece of information that we only had a little bit of insight into before.

COOPER: Why would people in the administration be reaching out to Michael Flynn, even though they know he is cooperating?

MILGRAM: You know, it makes no sense. They know he is cooperating. They know Robert Mueller is investigating. They know that the president is being investigated for obstruction of justice, and they can't stop themselves from reaching out and I think it was they were so concerned about what Flynn was saying.

We know from the Mueller report -- excuse me, when Flynn's lawyer says we can't talk to you anymore basically, we're not part of this joint defense agreement. We know that the president's lawyer comes back and says the president will see that as a hostile action that you're taking.

COOPER: Elliot, though, is this anything more than interesting detail, that, you know, some of which may have been redacted? Again, this was all information that Mueller had to consider when he was making determinations he was making?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's interesting detail, but it's interesting detail that sort of shows the level of poor judgment exercise, both with respect to the willingness to play footsie with Russia, as we saw with the WikiLeaks, but also with respect to obstruction of justice.

What I also think this particularly shows is that there's now a very strong case to be made for Flynn coming before Congress. Even if not in public there will be testimony, at least in private meetings with Congress and transcribed interviews or whatever else.

He has a huge incentive to do so. He is still under a cooperation agreement. He hasn't been sentenced yet.

And remember, he is sort of under Judge Sullivan's skin. If you remember, there was a point in a recent hearing where Judge Sullivan had sort of expressed his disdain for Flynn and Flynn's conduct, and even used a word -- I can't recall precisely.

[20:05:09] But it was pointed language.

And, you know, I've appeared in front of Judge Sullivan. That's generally not good. But particularly from him, I mean, that, you know, could be particularly bad for Mr. Flynn.

So, there is a pretty big incentive he has to go before Congress and given that he hasn't been sentenced yet, thumbing his nose at a congressional subpoena or request is precisely the kind of thing that Judge Sullivan could consider in ultimately sentencing him.

COOPER: And, Sara, I mean, it will be interesting to see once the voice mail transcript is released is exactly how the conversation between the Trump administration official and Flynn went down, what if anything the president knew about it.

MURRAY: Oh, absolutely. Not only those conversations, but the conversations he was having with the Russian ambassador in the first place that got him into trouble. But, you know, I think this will also further Congress' push for this underlying evidence. And it's interesting that we may get the first crack at it coming from a judge, rather than coming from Congress who is trying to conduct this oversight.

I think there is one other thing we need to keep in mind. Mueller did obviously bake all of this stuff into the cake when he wrote his report. This may be new information to us, but it's certainly not new information to Robert Mueller. But it gets back to the question of what did Bob Mueller want, you

know, the public to do with this information? Was he hoping to hand all of this off so that Congress could then investigate it or was he hoping that Bill Barr do what he did which is essentially exonerate the president.

If you believe that Bob Mueller wanted to hand them this off to congress and let them make the decision, then, you know, it's more -- there is more here than just saying, OK, this is baked into the cake already.

COOPER: Anne, just in terms of WikiLeaks, it's not as if that they were just passive. This was actively trying to find out about Podesta's emails.

MILGRAM: I think this is really important. What we know how is Flynn was part of conversations where they were discussing actively reaching out to WikiLeaks. And we know that Mueller said there was not a conspiracy, but it certainly looks like they were trying to have those contacts or they were thinking about having those contacts.

And, you know, the president still has not admitted that Russia has interfered with the 2016 election. And so this to me says a lot about what the administration was doing and is a really important point for us to think about.

COOPER: And, Elliot, do they mean anything? The Mueller report has already said, as Anne mentioned, that there was no conspiracy.

WILLIAMS: But again, the question was even if there wasn't -- again, you know, there is an argument to be made there was, but they've made the finding that there wasn't conspiracy. Is this conduct that we want either a presidential campaign or a president of the United States to have been engaging in?

And remember, Congress has a different standard than the reasonable doubt standard or probable cause standard that would have driven or dictated the findings made in the Mueller report. This is now -- the ball is in Congress' court here. There has been some hand-wringing on their end, but at the end of the day, they ought to be investigating this right now.

And either making a determination as to whether to proceed with even oversight or not, but again, regardless of whether there was a chargeable criminal offense, the question is, was it proper conduct? And that is Congress' sole function and mandate here.

I think information like we saw today bears directly on that question.

COOPER: And, Sara, do we know if this was the extent of Flynn's Cooperation, or do we expect more evidence like this to surface? Because this sort of just came out.

MURRAY: Well, I mean, I think that's kind of up to the judge at this point. The government has written their sentencing memo. That's where we're getting all of this information from. But as you guys have point out, the judge is very skeptical about

Flynn's cooperation. I think that's part of the reason that he's asking to see so many of these transcripts, these other sort of organizations of the Mueller report that might relate to Flynn's cooperation, because before he sentences Flynn, he wants to understand sort of the full extent of what Flynn has provided to the government.

There is one other point worth mentioning, that Flynn's cooperation may not be over. He may still be a player in the Roger Stone trial. The government has sort of held that out as a possibility, and we'll wait to see that. Would certainly give us more insight into this question of conversations between the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks?

COOPER: It's so interesting. In Watergate, it really wasn't until there were televised hearings where Americans who hadn't necessarily been following it could suddenly hear tapes, see officials, John Dean and others talking openly about things that had only kind of been whispered about or alleged or nobody had any idea about it. It would be interesting to see what the impact of a Flynn testifying, a Don McGahn testifying would be.

MILGRAM: Ii think it's true, particularly when you look at the poll on how many Americans have actually read the Mueller report.

COOPER: Minority.

MILGRAM: Minority.

COOPER: Yes.

MILGRAM: And it's very long, 450 pages. It's dense and hard to get through. I read it.

COOPER: Single space.

MILGRAM: Yes, single spaced. So I think public hearings and these type of tapes, this audio recording, having that be part of the public conversation I think would change -- might change a lot of the way people see this right now.

[20:10:03] COOPER: Could the White House exert executive privilege or keep trying to stonewall to stop Flynn from testifying?

MILGRAM: Yes. I mean, I think we could absolutely see that. They've already sort of, you know --

COOPER: That's their M.O. (ph) --

MILGRAM: That's what they've already said, it's protected executive privilege and they're still really pushing back on giving access to any of the redacted information, and they've said no to any of the underlying evidence. And that's what we're talking about here. Those tapes, for example, that audiotape would be part of the underlying evidence.

COOPER: Well, it would be fascinating. Anne Milgram, thank you very much. Elliot Williams, Sara Murray, as

well, appreciate it.

Tonight, there are new concerns about Iran. New claims being made by U.S. officials. We got the latest from CNN's Barbara Starr on that next.

Also later, Attorney General William Barr says he won't stop Mueller from testifying to Congress. There is still nothing set in stone. So the question is why not? We'll talk to the man who literally wrote the book on Mueller for what he thinks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A U.S. official tells CNN that the U.S. has multiple images showing Iranian freighters reconfigured to carry hidden missiles.

[20:15:05] Now, I should figure out, CNN has not reviewed the intelligence which has led to the U.S. assessment, and the U.S. government has provided no proof the ships are carrying missiles and other hidden munitions. This new information is emerging as congressional leadership in the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees known as the Gang of Eight meet for a secret briefing on Iran.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us with more on the Iranian freighters.

Barbara, what more are you learning about what the surveillance is allegedly showing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, U.S. officials are telling us, Anderson, that they have images that they assess shows them that Iranian freighters are carrying missiles. So what they're seeing is Iranian freighters with huge areas of the deck cut out. And what they believe are missiles and munitions below deck, transporting them around.

Now combined with the smaller ships they see doing this, this so- called dhows, this is really weaponizing the commercial fleet Iran has up and down the Persian Gulf, and this is putting these weapons potentially in range of being able to attack U.S. troops, U.S. military bases up and down the Gulf. That's why it is so worrisome.

COOPER: I mean, two questions. Is this kind of movement outside the normal pattern of activity? And are these being delivered some place, or are these things that would be used from a ship?

STARR: Yes, I mean, that's really the key question. Some of them potentially could be fired from ships. Some of them could be put ashore in various places and fired from there, delivered to shore.

But that's really the key question, the extent to which this is outside the so-called normal pattern of Iranian behavior in the region. They always have anti-American rhetoric. They always are engaging in potentially provocative behavior. They engage in weapons smuggling up and down the Gulf.

But official says this doesn't appear to be any of that. This appears to be positioning missiles very carefully to be able to be fired against U.S. assets in the region.

COOPER: All right. Barbara Starr, thanks.

STARR: Sure.

COOPER: Well, lots to talk about with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "GPS" and CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot, who is also columnist for "The Washington Post" and author of the Pulitzer nominated book, "The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and American Tragedy in Vietnam."

Fareed, given these new developments we've learned, how dangerous a situation you think U.S. is in right now?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, I think in foreign policy terms, this may be most dangerous point in the Trump presidency.

COOPER: More so than North Korea?

ZAKARIA: I think so, because North Korea, frankly, was hyped be up by Donald Trump because he wanted to make it seem like war was eminent and then he was going to be the peacemaker. You notice that now it became clear that he couldn't get a deal, he's lost interest. The situation is the same. Why is it less threatening now than it was?

But here, what's happened is they've ratcheted up the pressure to an extent that an accident can happen. A miscalculation can take place. This is a very messy part of the world.

There are Iranian militias in Iraq. There are Iranian militias in Syria. There is stuff going on in Lebanon. And then there is the Persian Gulf.

So, there are all kinds of flash points. And by ratcheting up the pressure and being so unalterably anti-Iranian, it makes it difficult for the United States to back down.

You know, what we find in situations like this for America is it's very hard to back down because then your prestige is on the line, your credibility is on the line. This is a lot of what happened in Vietnam where you just can't find a way to back down so, you ratchet up.

So, I'm worried. Obviously, most likely this will be resolved. But as I say, I can't think of a more dangerous point in the Trump presidency in foreign policy terms.

COOPER: Max, does the intensifying posture level make some -- that we see on the U.S. side make some sense given this new information?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it's very hard to know, Anderson, because we don't have access to Iran intelligence. We're really at the mercy of the Trump administration to interpret what they've learned. And unfortunately nothing in their track record would suggest that they are going to be very reliable narrators of what is going on.

Remember, this is a president who lies an average of like 12 times a day. John Bolton is somebody who lied in the past, twisted intelligence to try to make war with Iraq more likely. So why would you trust him today? They have a major credibility problem which I think is coming back to haunt them right now.

COOPER: That is the danger of having an unreliable narrator. It's like reading "Gone Girl." You don't know, is this accurate or not?

BOOT: And this is "Gone Girl" with nuclear weapons.

COOPER: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Right.

And as Max says, it's Trump, but then there is also this additional layer which is the two people he seems to have subcontracted Iran policy, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, have long histories of being in favor of regime change in Iran. Bolton has for a long time associated himself with these groups -- insurgency groups within Iran that are trying to overthrow the regime that view basically is that the only solution to the Iran problem is to overthrow the Iranian regime.

Now, first of all, that seems very unlikely.

[20:20:01] This is a regime well-entrenched. Secondly, this is fueling Iran nationalism because they see themselves as being bullied by America. Third, imagine the mess and chaos. I mean, if we thought regime change in the Iraq produced chaos in the Middle East, regime change in Iran will be on a different order of magnitude.

COOPER: Much more complicated.

ZAKARIA: Much more complicated, much more chaotic. They have their tentacles in Syria and Lebanon and Iraq.

COOPER: But they have proxy supporters all over.

ZAKARIA: Exactly. I mean, they actually helped us enormously in Afghanistan. They could destabilize Afghanistan where there are still American troops.

BOOT: I mean, this would be Iraq on steroids, a much more difficult military problem. In some way, Anderson,

I think our salvation here may actually be the fact that Donald Trump is basically a neo-isolationist. He does not want to get into a war. But unfortunately, what he does like to do, he likes to bully people. He likes to push people around. He likes to put a finger in your chest and try to provoke a reaction.

And my concern is that Bolton may be maneuvering him here, because we know John Bolton is actually in favor of regime change. He's in favor of military action against Iran. And so, basically, my concern is that Bolton has kind of led Donald Trump 90 percent of the way there and, all of the sudden, Donald Trump looks around and says, where the heck am I? How did I wind up here?

But it's a very dangerous and volatile situation where Iran could fire the first shot and that could then justify military action by the United States.

COOPER: There is sort of the confusion over who is responding to whom here. I mean, is Iran making -- moving things on ships because of the U.S. position, or is it the other way around?

ZAKARIA: I think honestly, there is no confusion. The United States has been ceaselessly provoking Iran. It has had a long strategy of regime change. You know, I mean, think back to Desert 1, the Carter administration.

So, I very much doubt -- Max is right. We don't know the intelligence. But I very much doubt that these limited maneuvers that seem to be taking place are Iran preparing for some kind of full-scale attack of the United States. They know they would be destroyed.

COOPER: Fareed Zakaria, Max Boot, thank you.

BOOT: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, the attorney general says he won't block special counsel Robert Mueller from testifying, but there is still no concrete plan for that to happen. I'll talk it over with a member of the House Judiciary Committee, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:26:08] COOPER: Attorney General Barr says he won't prevent special counsel Robert Mueller from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, this after President Trump said he was leaving the decision about whether or not Mueller would testify to Barr.

So the question now is why hasn't he testified? What's the holdup? Is there one?

Earlier, I spoke with a member of the committee that will hear Mueller's testimony if it happens, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline.

Congressman, with Attorney General Barr saying that he is fine with Mueller testifying, has that cleared the way for it to actually happen? Where do the negotiations stand?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, we hope so. The negotiations between the committee staff and Mr. Mueller's team are ongoing. We hope that he will come before the committee.

You know, as you mentioned, the attorney general has now said he has no objection. We're back to that position. So, it's very important for the American people to hear directly from special counsel Mueller, that he has the opportunity to walk the American people and members of Congress through the findings of his report.

So I hope he will be before the committee in short order.

COOPER: Are those discussions between the committee and Mr. Mueller or between the committee and the Justice Department? And if it is the Justice Department, because I guess he still works there, do you believe they're negotiating in good faith to make this happen?

CICILLINE: I hope they are. I mean I think Mr. Mueller is still an employee of the department of justice. Obviously, when reliefs the department, that will change the dynamic a little bit. But with the attorney general saying he has no objection, hopefully that clears the way, and Mr. Mueller come before the committee.

COOPER: Do you think there is a possibility that Mueller doesn't want to testify before your committee?

CICILLINE: I mean, it's hard to know what's in his mind and in his heart. I expect that as a professional, Mr. Mueller is interested in setting the record straight. And this is obviously a very damning report with lots of revelations about the president and his administration, and I would expect that Mr. Mueller would welcome the opportunity to be sure that was shared with the American people.

COOPER: He does, though -- this is a 448-page report. He had the opportunity to say everything he wanted to say as he and his staff wrote it. In past testimony, he's been very judicious in what he said. He is not particularly loquacious and speaking extemporaneously.

Is it possible frankly he has said all he wants to say in the report and that you're not going to be able to get much new out of him?

CICILLINE: Well, I think don't forget what has changed in the intervening time is the attorney general's mischaracterization of the findings in the report and his four-page summary and the way he has spoken about it. So, I think the record needs to be set straight with respect to that. But I also think Mr. Mueller made it clear he relied on the legal counsel's memorandum that says a sitting president can't be indicted. I think many people will be interested to know if he agrees with the more than 500 prosecutors and former DOJ officials who say if he weren't the president, he would be indicted.

Look, I think he is a person that has been very quiet. His work is complete, but I think he wants to be sure, or I hope he wants to be sure that it's not misconstrued or misrepresented to the American people. It's too important. The work was too serious.

So I expect that a person of his integrity would want to be sure this information was communicated accurately and the conclusions he came to were explained carefully.

COOPER: Yesterday, the attorney general apparently greeted Speaker Pelosi, jokingly asked if she brought her handcuffs, obviously making light of the inherent contempt threats.

Joking aside, where does that stand right now? I mean, when is the whole House going to vote on holding bar in contempt?

CICILLINE: Yes, I don't think the attorney general should make a joke of this at all. This is with respect to the attorney general of the United States being in contempt of the Congress of the United States, continuing an effort to stonewall the American people, to prevent people from gathering the facts and getting to the truth. It's not a laughing matter.

I expect that there are a number of other committees that are considering contempt citations. I think the sense is those will go to the floor together. But we fully intend to use all the power that we have to ensure that we get the materials that we need to make informed judgments that we can compel the attendance of witnesses before the committee to testify under oath because, remember, if the executive branch is permitted to extinguish our right to collect evidence and bring witnesses before the committee, it will have effectively eliminated the oversight responsibilities of Congress. That would be a disaster.

So, Mr. Barr should take this seriously and should understand that we are going to use all the tools at our disposal. We have a process we have to follow, but we do not intend to let up. We're going to hold this administration accountable and get the facts and the evidence we need to do our jobs.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman Cicilline, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Well, more on this now from Garrett Graff, Mueller's biographer. He's a CNN Contributor and author of "The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of global Terror."

Garrett, now that Attorney General Barr said that Mueller can testify, do you think he will do so and do so voluntarily?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think Mueller is probably not relishing appearing on Capitol Hill, but he will certainly comply with any invitation or order from Congress to appear.

COOPER: If he does testify, what challenges do you think committee members would face in questioning him, because obviously he's testified before and he has shown a lot of restraint?

GRAFF: Yes. He is not someone who is anywhere near as loquacious or extensive in his testimony as we've gotten used to seeing someone like James Comey speak. And so I think in some ways it's really -- the onus is really going to be on the members of the committee to make sure that they're asking sharp pointed questions.

Because Mueller is not going to want to go much beyond what he's already said in the report, so in some ways the most interesting answers are going to be the things where he says, you know, I can't talk about that because of an ongoing investigation, or I wouldn't characterize it that way or sort of some -- you know, you're going to have to sort of read between the lines of a lot of what he is going to want to say.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it will be interesting to see if he goes beyond really what he said in the report. Obviously it's a 448 page report so he had plenty of time and space to say what he wanted to say.

If he -- no doubt they will be kind of trying to get a kind of a fuller understanding of his thinking on, you know, how hamstrung he was by the Department of Justice's guidelines on not indicting a sitting president, for instance.

GRAFF: Exactly. And I think sort of getting him to talk about his thought process and whether he would have, for instance, brought criminal charges against someone in this instance who was not the President of the United States will be interesting.

But, you know, remember, Robert Mueller could have spoken at any time through this process. And the three times that the special counsel's office came out and decided that there was time for a public event, Rod Rosenstein gave the speech twice and Bill Barr gave that third talk.

So, obviously Mueller has passed up the previous opportunities that he's had to speak publicly, and he knows that. And so anyone who sort of thinks that they're about to get Robert Mueller unplugged on Capitol Hill whenever he arrives in the witness chair is probably going to be disappointed.

COOPER: I wonder if he's always assumed that he would have to testify at some point, that it would just be part of this process.

GRAFF: Absolutely. And I think a lot of people have missed how closely the special counsel's office was keeping Congress informed, liaisoning with the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee that were conducting their own parallel investigations.

I mean, most people don't know that actually Robert Mueller brought his very experienced, very seasoned congressional liaison from the FBI over to the special counsel's office to ensure that Congress was kept up to date along the way. So, I'm sure that Mueller has always anticipated that he would end up in the witness chair, and I'm sure he's not particularly looking forward to it.

COOPER: It would also be interesting to hear if, you know, if he's asked or if, you know, quotes the President has said about him, about his team are read to him, if he actually chooses to respond to things the President has said about him.

GRAFF: Yes. And I would imagine that he won't. I would imagine that we would see him if pressed, make a strong defense of the Justice Department, its independence, its integrity, and the nonpartisan apolitical nature of the way that it carries out prosecutions.

You know, I think you could imagine him saying comments very similar to what FBI Director Wray said in taking issue with Attorney General Barr characterizing the investigation into the Trump campaign as spying, for instance.

COOPER: Yes. Garrett Graff, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Still ahead, President Trump unveils a merit-based immigration plan that fails to address some key issues. We're "Keeping Them Honest," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:38:55] COOPER: Facing battle from Democrats and some Republicans, President Trump has unveiled his plan, if it can be called that, to reform legal immigration and border security. It's been sold as merit-based, giving preference to the high skilled and educated, however short on details, and that is putting it mildly. The White house says they intentionally left out the things that were too divisive.

Now, "Keeping Them Honest," the whole issue is divisive and no small part due to this White House. So in this new plan, for instance, there is no mention of DACA, the program undocumented immigrants who came to the country whose children nickname Dreamers. There seems to be no mention of family separations either.

Here is White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders this morning talking about why those things, which are pretty major things, were left out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a serious immigration program. Why not address the issues of DACA, of family separation?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Because it's a serious program, it's not included. Every single time that we have put forward or anyone else has put forward any type of immigration plan that it's included DACA, it's failed. That's a divisive thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:40:00] COOPER: I'm not even sure what that means, because it's a serious plan, they didn't address those serious issues.

Anyway, moving on, the plan was so short on details that many lawmakers, including Republicans said they don't even consider it a real legitimate proposal from the White House.

Republican Senator Susan Collins, she couldn't support it. And even the President's friend, Senator Lindsey Graham said the plan was "not designed to become law." So, what is it designed for? Because before today, this was all supposed to be easy if the Democrats would only just play ball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: We have a crisis at the border, both the national security and the humanitarian crisis. Democrats have got to stop ignoring the problem. Sit down with the President at the table. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time has come for the Democrats to come to the table and start negotiating.

SANDERS: I think if the Democrats have those types of concerns, then they should sit down at the table and negotiate with the President.

Time for Democrats to work with us and fix this problem.

PENCE: Look, it's time for Congress to come to the table.

SANDERS: It's time for them to come to the table and work with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It seems like a talking point. But after today, what are they supposed to do to actually work on? That isn't even clear.

Earlier tonight, I asked Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, who is a member of the Homeland Security Committee, what she thought of the President's plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congresswoman Rice, I wonder what did you make of the President's speech today? Was there anything in there that you could get behind?

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D-NY): Not likely, Anderson. I mean, I come from a district in New York that has a total of about 10,000 DACA recipients and TPS holders, so it doesn't even address that issue. So I think it's going to be a non-starter for someone like me, that's just in my district.

But looking at the larger issue, if you're going to really try to address the issue of immigration, you need input from both Republicans and Democrats. I don't think they got input from anyone, certainly not anyone on the Democratic side, and not even any Republicans.

This was a plan that was hatched by the President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who to my knowledge has no background expertise on immigration and by Stephen Miller. And we know that he was the architect of the family separation policy along with Jeff Sessions. So, there really was nothing that -- from which we could start, I don't think.

COOPER: It is interesting that DACA was not even mentioned. I mean, the President -- remember, he held that bipartisan meeting one time at the White House and he seemed to be siding at first with Democrats saying that, you know, he wanted comprehensive immigration reform. And then he was reminded by Republicans that that's not really a term that he's supposed to be using because it has a different connotation than he perhaps understands.

But to not include DACA in any speech, obviously it's going to be a non-starter for Democrats. They've made it clear that DACA has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform. RICE: Yes. And, you know, Trump talked about that very early on as you mentioned, and we came very close on the floor with coming up with our own resolution on the DACA issue. But he's got to deal with the far right members of his party who have said no way under no circumstances can we allow a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. And I just think that's crazy.

I mean, you know, these are people who have been here, who were brought here when they were children who are contributing to their society, their community. And these are the kind of people we want to keep here.

So, you know, I think it's going to be a very different sell, not just for Democrats to get Democrats on board, but also there are a lot of Republicans who want to address the DACA issue as well.

COOPER: In terms of this proposed ship to what the President's referring to as a merit-based system, you know, you read the M.L. Lazarus quote on the Statue of Liberty and it's, you know, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. It doesn't say, your educated, your wealthy, your English speaking masses.

RICE: Yes. I mean, Anderson, I'm here because my father's father came here when he was 12 years old. He was not skilled at all and he built a life here. And so what he is saying is to forget about what he is saying about families.

If you're an individual who wants to come here and make a better life for yourself, according to this plan, you're going to have to do it by yourself here and leave the rest of your family, whether it's your wife, your children, your mother, your father, your cousins all back home.

I mean, he puts no value whatsoever on keeping families units together. And we know that immigrant families have been coming here and built this country into the greatness that it is. Forget about that.

And to say that you have to be able to speak English, I mean, there are some people in -- that Trump knows himself that didn't know English when they came here. So I think that's kind of crazy to make it -- and when you say merit-based, I just think that that's forgetting about how important it is to make sure that we allow a diverse group of people come here through our immigration system.

[20:45:04] We need that kind of diversity. It is what America is based on. It's what has made this country so great. And his plan today would completely do away with that.

COOPER: And just lastly, I guess the question is if this proposal doesn't satisfy what Democrats want out of immigration reform and doesn't really satisfy what Republicans want out of immigration reform, what was the point?

RICE: Well, I can tell you what the point was. As I was listening to it, I thought, wow, this would really be a great political ad. And that basically at the end of the day is what he said. Look, if we don't -- if I can't get this passed, let's win. And I'm not really serious about this. I'm just saying this because all I've done for the last four years is talk about immigration, immigration, immigration.

So I'm just going to put this out there, knowing that it's not going to go anywhere, not because it's not going to get any Democratic support, although it won't, but it's not going to get a lot of Republican support either. And we'll just forget that and we'll take care of this after the 2020 election.

So for all intents and purposes, that really was what it was. It was a political ad in the Rose Garden of the White House, I might add.

COOPER: Yes. Congresswoman Rice, appreciate your time. Thank you.

RICE: Thanks, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: More to come tonight, including President Trump's air force one attack on the latest Democrat to declare for the Democratic presidential nomination, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:28] COOPER: All right, we got the big guns coming up at 9:00. Let's check in with Chris to see what he is working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I really don't even work on my arms, to be honest. It's more of a full body mentality for me. So we're going to be talking about how -- what came out in the President's --

COOPER: Full body mentality.

CUOMO: That's me. But, you know, it does --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Arms are all I got.

CUOMO: Yes. I'm not (INAUDIBLE), that's you. You just said that. That's not what I was going to say. It's not what I was going to say. I don't even know that I agree with that, never, never. I think very rarely.

So, we have this new financial disclosure from the President. Everybody is being blown away by the headline, $434 million. Huge number, very wealthy man.

COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: Where to come from?

COOPER: Like 40 million of it was from the hotel in D.C. CUOMO: That's right. And, you know, for all the talk about the economy, revenue growth wasn't so great for this President's portfolio, except for that D.C. property and one other in that area. Why those? Where does the money come from?

I think what they were beating on a big headline is actually going to feed just as largely the need to see the taxes, because the question where it comes is big. So we got David K. Johnson here tonight. We got Daniel Dale fact checking.

We also have Elliot Moritz (ph) who is on this full time looking about where Trump's money comes from, what kind of business person he is. He clearly has a lot of profit and incentive coming from the businesses, so we're going to take that on.

Then we're going to have Tom Styron (ph) to talk about why he's going after his own party as having blown it. We'll test that.

COOPER: And, Chris, obviously you know New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced --

CUOMO: I do well.

COOPER: -- today that he's entering the presidential race. I just want to show our viewers what fellow New Yorker and certainly no fan of de Blasio, President Trump said about him tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: I can't believe it. I just heard that the worst mayor in the history of New York City, and without question the worst mayor in the United States, is now running for president. It will never happen. I'm pretty good at predicting things like that.

I would be very surprised to see him in there for a long period, but it's just not going to happen. If you like high taxes and if you like crime, you can vote for him. But most people aren't into that, so I wish him luck, but really it would be better off if you get back to New York City and did your job for the little time you have left. Good luck. Do well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Matters so little that he made a video about him.

COOPER: Not just like a video that just happened to be made while he was talking, a video of like, hey, you know what, let's make a video. Let's have me be back a lit and let's do this thing.

CUOMO: I beg to that. It's just how he said it. It reminds of that video he made with that eagle attacks him

COOPER: Yes, it is similar to those, like Trump Tower, you know, how fondly we recall those days.

CUOMO: But, you know, he's on pretty firm ground going after de Blasio.

COOPER: Look, yes.

CUOMO: I mean, come on, 73 percent of people New York say he shouldn't run for president.

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: He does have more approval than disapproval in his job as mayor, but it's just shows something else we'll deal with on the show. Is 23 too much of a good thing?

COOPER: Right. Well, Chris, we'll see you then about six minutes from now. Thanks very much.

CUOMO: All right, pipes (ph).

COOPER: All right. Coming up, what does one have to do to earn a presidential pardon? Well, how about write a book praising the President himself? Yes, that just happened. Another lesson on justice in the age of President Trump next on "The Ridiculist."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:57:18] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." In just a few weeks passed Easter, President Trump is handing out pardons like a very large bunny who loves rotten eggs. The latest person worthy of executive clemency apparently is Conrad Black, billionaire Canadian turned U.S. felon, convicted for fraud and, hey, get this, obstruction of justice. What a quinky dink.

So he's two strikes against him, but in the plus column he is a personal friend of the President who clearly doesn't like talking about obstruction of justice. And he gets a little thumbs up from the President also because he recently wrote a hard hitting expose of the Trump administration. I'm kidding. It was a total suck up book. But he actually did write this book. The title, "Donald Trump: A President Like No Other." And note, there's no double on tundra (ph) in that title.

Black writes that President Trump is "a good deal more ethical and honest than many other business men." Perhaps like many of the business men Mr. Black met while serving time at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida.

Anyway, in announcing the pardon, the White House referred to Black who after he was released from prison was deported back to Canada and then banned from returning to the U.S. for 30 years as "Lord Conrad Black." You can Google how he got that title. Let's just say he ain't in the line of succession to any throne unless it's one President Trump just flushed.

And by the way, in announcing the pardon, the White House listed some of lord Canadian bacon's other books, but conveniently not the one about the President nor did they mention their sizzling chemistry back in early 2013 on Black's talk show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONRAD BLACK, BRITISH PUBLISHER: You're becoming the great authority and the great czar of golf clubs in America, are you not?

TRUMP: I have a lot of golf and have a lot of buildings and I have a lot of everything. We're building all over the world. We have jobs going up really all over the world and they're very exciting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's pretty sensitizing (ph), right? Can we just go back to that cut away shot of Lord Black? What is that? Like for someone so wealthy, it kind of looks like caviar or whatever the White House is calling him was kind of shooting a show with a nanny cam. It's like he just slid it up to a bank teller and security needed a wide shot.

Now, obviously this is not the first time the President has used his pardon power to absolve political allies for what he calls unfair treatment and the constitution calls justice. There was the right- wing conspiracy theorist, Dinesh D'souza, convicted of federal campaign finance fraud. He got the giant sharpie treatment.

Senator Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, he got a pardon for his crimes and maybe his nickname as well. And who can forget birther and disgraced ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio held in federal contempt for illegally detaining undocumented immigrants in Arizona.

Who could have ever predicted that President Trump would see that as no big deal? There have been other pardons, someone from humanitarian ground, though it does help if you have a Kardashian willing to go to the White House for a photo op on your behalf.

As for President Trump, Conrad Black, the swamp stench is strong tonight and the President and his wealthy pal can beg our pardon on "The Ridiculist."

And that's it for us. I want to hand it over to Chris. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now. Chris?

CUOMO: In line of succession for no throne except the one the President just flushed.

COOPER: I'm glad you got it.

CUOMO: That is a keeper line. Thank you very much for that, Anderson. Hello, everybody. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."