Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Shares Edited Video of Speaker Pelosi as Feud Escalates; Facebook Doubles Down on Not Removing Fake Pelosi Video; President Trump Orders Intel Community To Provide A.G. Barr With Sensitive Intelligence In Probe Of Russia Case's Origins; DNI Coats: "Confident" Barr Will Adhere To "Long-Established Standards"; Father Of Slain CIA Officer Johnny "Mike" Spann Furious After John Walker Lindh Set Free In U.S.; GOP Congressman Stalls $19 Billion Disaster Relief Bill. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

If you thought this week couldn't get anymore unusual than it was, say, on Wednesday or on Thursday, well, it has. Today, the president of the United States re-tweeted a heavily edited video of Nancy Pelosi designed to show her stuttering and seemingly incoherent. It is deceptively edited.

But another video, which is actually full-on manipulated, slowed down to make Pelosi appear not just incoherent, but perhaps ill or drunk. This fake video has been put on social media and seen by millions. We're not going to show either of the videos to you, because we don't want to amplify something that's false.

The president doesn't seem to mind doing it, but we do. The president's TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was happy to as well, but then took the video he tweeted down, then tweeted a mangled explanation, and I'm quoting now, or at least I'm trying to, "Ivesssapology for a video that is allegedly a caricature of an otherwise halting speech pattern she should first stop and apologize for saying the president needs an intervention. Are."

If you were trying to make out your opponent as drunk or incoherent, probably not great to send out an actually incoherent tweet. He also included a visual aid. I want to show you there, the photograph he included with the tweet, some basketball players throwing their hands in the air. Not sure why. More on Mr. Giuliani shortly.

As for the president himself, here's what he said on the way to Japan.


REPORTER: Mr. President, has your relationship with Nancy Pelosi soured to the point of being too personal? And some of these altered videos that are being disseminated. Is that going too far?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't know about the videos. I can tell you that what I'm here is to help the country. That's why I did this. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I don't know about the videos, he said, then quickly changed the subject.

Now, keeping 'em honest, his own tweet does say otherwise. Quote: Pelosi stammers through news conference, it reads, in all caps, and right below it is the heavily edited video. So who you going to believe? The president of the United States or the tweet from the official account of the president of the United States?

As for the continued attacks on Pelosi, the president is putting the blame on Pelosi.


REPORTER: What do you want to accomplish with your personal attacks on the speaker? You're saying she lost it --

TRUMP: Excuse me! This just shows how fake you and the news are. When you say -- when you say a personal attack, did you hear what she said about me long before I went after her? Did you hear?

She made horrible statements. She knows they're not true. She made -- she said terrible things. So I just responded in kind.

Look, you think Nancy's the same as she was? She's not. Maybe we can all say that.


COOPER: That's the verbal tick again, the president has a long history of it, saying something that's at best arguable or not true then suggesting that the people he's saying it to all agree with him. Maybe we can all say that, after suggesting that the woman second in line of secession to him is losing it.

Maybe that's the point, suggesting that his political opponents aren't quite mentally competent. Keeping them honest, if you don't think this could be a campaign strategy in 2020, all you have to do is remember what happened in 2016 when Hillary Clinton had a health scare.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: Fails to point out several signs of illness by her. All you've got to do is go online --

INTERVIEWER: Wait, her campaign and a number of people defending her saying there's nothing factual to the claims about her health and that that's speculation, at best.

GIULIANI: Well -- so go online and put down, Hillary Clinton illness, take a look at the videos for yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Yes, no speculation on the Internet. Rudy Giuliani then sounding a lot like Rudy Giuliani now.

Here to talk about it, 2016 Trump campaign strategist, David Urban, and former California state representative, Bakari Sellers.

So, David, I guess the obvious question is, is it appropriate for the president of the United States and his attorney to be sharing, you know, videos that are either deceptively edited or just outright false?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, Anderson, look, I don't think anybody should be sharing videos that are deceptively edited, clearly. It's like, look, it's not a good look. But for the president to take a poke at Nancy Pelosi after he took a poke at -- after she took a poke at him, I think as you stated earlier, he's a counterpuncher, that's what he does.

But, look, you know, putting forth further false things on the Internet, not good.

COOPER: I don't get why the president said he didn't know about it. To me, it could just be like a speech pattern of like, oh, I don't know about it, he brushed it off, he didn't want to talk about it, but he clearly knows about it.

URBAN: Yes, look, I don't think the president purposefully put out -- somebody said to him, hey, look, this video has been edited to make her look bad, please put it out. I don't think that's the case.

COOPER: Bakari, how do you view this? I mean, is this a new low for political discourse? Is it just politics as usual? Is this escalating feud gone too far?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's -- we're not at the nadir. I don't ever want to say it can't get any worse with President Trump, because next week it always gets worse with president Trump.

I remember a time when we were talking about Barack Obama's decorum in the White House and that was because he liked Dijon mustard and wore a tan suit. I mean, the disrespect that Donald Trump shows for the presidency is not anything new --

COOPER: But, I mean, Nancy Pelosi is -- I mean, she's playing into this, as well, saying the president needs an intervention.

SELLERS: Well, I think that what Nancy Pelosi is going off of is what many people say is that the president behaves in a manner in which draws some concern --

URBAN: Oh, come on, Bakari!

SELLERS: I'm not -- come on Bakari what? I mean, you have someone --

(CROSSTALK) URBAN: Come on, Bakari, you can call her out. You can say -- Bakari, be brave, Bakari. Be brave and say she shouldn't have said that.

SELLERS: Wait a second. You have someone -- no. You have someone who acts like a petulant child and threw a temper tantrum. And I think what we see is Nancy Pelosi legislatively and strategically --

URBAN: You're a smart guy, Bakari.

SELLERS: -- gets the upper hand on Donald Trump and he has a problem when people get the upper hand on him, especially women. And that's what we see him lashing at it.

URBAN: Bakari, just say that Nancy Pelosi shouldn't have said it either. It's OK, Bakari. You'll feel better.

SELLERS: I don't believe that. I honestly think --

COOPER: Do you believe the president needs an intervention?

SELLERS: Yes, I honestly believe that the friends of the president of the United States, if he has any, the friends and family of the president of the United States, I think those individuals who are close to him, the Lindsey Grahams and the Bill Barrs, that those individuals who are close to him --

URBAN: How about me, Bakari?

SELLERS: -- who are enabling his behavior has to have a conversation about someone who tweets repeatedly, manically all throughout the day, who is not focused on the task at hand, and who is destroying the respectability of the presidency of the United States. Now, is that a legitimate intervention in the terms of --


URBAN: Bakari, I could come on and say, hey, listen, that's wrong for the president to do, but Bakari, the Democrats can't come on and say, Nancy Pelosi shouldn't have done that, that's a bit too far. I don't know. I don't know why.

COOPER: David, you are one of the folks who will come on and actually say that, to your credit, I just want to point that out.

But, you know, Bakari, you don't buy that Nancy Pelosi has been, you know, knows she's under his skin, knows how to clearly get under his skin and is doing that?

SELLERS: No. I mean, we're giving out props for individuals who say the president is wrong for sharing deceptively edited videos? I mean, how low is the bar here? Thank you for showing up, David. The point is, the president has taken the discourse --


URBAN: Bakari -- when Democrats do something, you should call it out, Bakari, be strong!

SELLERS: The president has taken the discourse of this country so low that it's no comparison. And I will not allow anyone to do the lack of equivalencies for Donald Trump and his lack of respect for institutions and people in this country and Nancy Pelosi, those are not the same thing.


COOPER: David, has the president -- OK, go ahead.

URBAN: Anderson, you know, I said it on this show and I said on others, I prefer to see the president do like what he did and speak like he did in Pennsylvania on Monday night when he talked about the strong economy, the incredible numbers, unemployment, African-American unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, real wage growth, all going up under his administration.

I think that's what he's best at, I think that's what he should talk about for the next 16 months, every day.

COOPER: Yes, well, David, he had the event with farmers yesterday, the headline could have been, you know, 16 million or billion dollars going to farmers, you know, farmer relief, and instead, he veers off into getting his, you know, subordinates to, you know, testify to his stability.

URBAN: Anderson, look, again, if I was -- if I was king, I'd talk about all the good things that are happening right now in the economy, across America, for every individual in America. That's what I would be talking about every day from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. reminding them, are you better off now than you were four years ago? The answer is going to be a resounding yes.

COOPER: David Urban, Bakari Sellers, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the reply from Facebook. I'll talk to a representative from Facebook, why being factually false isn't enough to get a video taken down from Facebook, because that video, the totally manipulated one slowed down, altered, that is still up on Facebook being viewed by millions.

Later, the president's new order, the latest move in his crusade to investigate the Russia investigators, the question is, could it jeopardize agents and assets right now in the field? I'll ask former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.


[20:13:56] COOPER: As we mentioned before the break, the president today re-tweeted a misleadingly edited video of Nancy Pelosi, edited to highlight and exaggerate stuttering.

Another fake video is also circulating online. It's been slowed down to make Pelosi appear incoherent, ill, or perhaps drunk. The video is fake. It's manipulated. Numerous audio and video experts, and fact- checking organizations have confirmed that.

But that video in particular has been viewed by millions of people on Facebook. And in fact, it's still up on Facebook, even though Facebook knows it's fake. They have added comments from independent fact-checkers to inform people who watch it, and have made it less prominent, but it is still up there.

Now, YouTube took it down, but it's still up on Twitter. They're not even commenting about it.

Facebook, however, was good enough to provide us with a spokesperson. She's Monika Bickert, the company's vice president for global policy management. I spoke to her just a short time ago.


COOPER: So, Monika, in the wake of the 2016 election, obviously, Facebook has repeatedly told Congress and the American people that you're serious about fighting disinformation and fake news, yet this doctored video that I think your own fact-checkers acknowledged is doctored of Speaker Pelosi remains on your platform.

[20:15:02] Why?

MONIKA BICKERT, FACEBOOK VP FOR PRODUCT POLICY AND COUNTERTERRORISM: Well, you know, first off, I think the suggestion there is we haven't taken action, and that's not right. We have acted. Anybody who is seeing this video in newsfeed, anybody who is going to share it to somebody else, anybody who has shared it in the past, they are being that this video is false.

And this is part of the way that we deal with misinformation. We work with internationally certified fact-checking organizations that are independent from Facebook, and we think these are the right organizations to be making decisions about whether something is true or false. And as soon as we get -- and we did in this case -- as soon as we get a rating from them that content is false, then we dramatically reduce the distribution of that content, and we --

COOPER: But you keep it up?

BICKERT: -- let people know that it's false, so they can make an informed choice.

COOPER: Why keep it up?

BICKERT: Yes. We think it's important for people to make their own informed choice about what to believe. Our job is to make sure that we are getting them accurate information. And that's why we work with more than 50 fact-checking organizations around the world.

If there were misinformation that was, let's say, tide to an ongoing riot or the threat of some physical violence somewhere in the world, we would work with safety organizations on the ground to confirm falsity and the link to violence, and then we actually would remove that misinformation. But from what we're talking about here --

COOPER: Misinformation that doesn't promote violence, but misinformation that, you know, portrays the third most powerful, you know, politician in the country as a drunk or somehow impaired, that's fine?

BICKERT: No, what's important to us is making sure that people have the accurate information to make their own choice.

COOPER: But it's not accurate information.

BICKERT: And I think if you look right now at the -- we are telling people that this is false.


COOPER: Right, but you're not -- but videos are more powerful -- but the video is powerful -- is more powerful than whatever you're putting under the video.

BICKERT: Well, actually, what we're seeing is that the conversation on Facebook, on twitter, offline as well, is about this video having been manipulated, I mean, as evidenced by my appearance today. This is the conversation. The conversation is not about people believing this video. It's that they are discussing the fact that it was manipulated. And that's the conversation that people should be having.

COOPER: You have no problem removing 3.39 billion fake Facebook accounts from October through March. So, why is it OK for you to remove fake Facebook accounts, but it's not OK to remove a clearly fake video?

BICKERT: Because we're focused -- when we look at our community standards, those are about keeping the community safe.

COOPER: Well, how are fake Facebook accounts dangerous?

BICKERT: Fake accounts -- we do see that fake accounts engage in safety violations more than accounts that are real.

COOPER: Three-point-three-nine billion of them are promoting violence? I mean --

BICKERT: It's a fundamental -- no, that's not what I said. It's a fundamental rule when you come to Facebook, you have to use your real identity. That's always been our rule.

And we do see that accounts that are fake are engaged in safety violations more than authentic accounts. And, by the way, and this is probably not shocking, fake accounts are also more likely to distribute misinformation or fake news. And so, part of our effort to combat misinformation, it's not just about working with third party fact-checkers. When we remove fake accounts, we are also reducing the chance that these accounts will be sharing misinformation. And I would point out that this is working.

COOPER: If you have the scale, though, to be able to remove over the course of six months, 3.39 billion fake accounts and you have the scale to remove, I think -- you ID'd -- in that six-month period, 83 percent of accounts or comments that were selling drugs or doing something illegal or promoting something illegal, you certainly have the scale to decide something that you know is clearly fake. It's not even a question.

I guess I still just don't logically understand -- I understand it's a big business to get into of trying to figure out what's true or not, but you're making money by being in the news business. If you can't do it well, shouldn't you just get out of the news business?

BICKERT: Look, I reject the notion that we're not doing a lot to counter misinformation --

COOPER: I didn't say you're not doing a lot, I'm just saying, if you are -- you are in this particular case, spreading and allowing the spread of a clearly false doctored video. Again, you're in the news business. There's a responsibility that comes with that. And this is, this isn't even a question.

BICKERT: We are in (ph) the news business. We are in the social media business. People come to Facebook to share --

COOPER: Well, you are in the news business. The reason you're sharing news is because you make money from it. It keeps people watching you and more involved in your site, which I get, and that's fair. But if you're in the news business, which you are, you've got to do it right and this is false information you are spreading.

BICKERT: We have a site where people can come and share what they think what's important to them, the news that they find relevant.

[20:20:05] And when they do that, we want to make sure that they have access to accurate information. If there is a threat of safety, if we're talking about terror propaganda, that's something where we can actually assess that on its face and say, yes, this is terror propaganda and we can pull it down.

When you're talking about political discourse --

COOPER: So political propaganda --

BICKERT: -- and again, if it's misinformation that's related to safety --

COOPER: Uh-huh, OK.

BICKERT: If it's misinformation related to safety, we can and we do remove it, and we work with safety groups to do that.

But when we're talking about political discourse and the misinformation around that, we think the right approach is to let people make an informed choice. COOPER: So if somebody makes a video of President Trump and slows it

down and makes it seem like he's drunk, which he's never had a drink in his life, that's OK with you? If that video is on and it makes people believe that the commander in chief is impaired with alcohol, that's OK on Facebook?

BICKERT: No, again, I want to be really clear here, because the suggestion here is that we're not acting.

COOPER: No, would you take that down? Would you take down that video of the president of the United States that's been slowed down and manipulated by Russia, say, to make it look like he's drunk and impaired?

BICKERT: We would remove content that's created by fake accounts. We would remove misinformation that's created by fake accounts. And we would remove misinformation if it is related to a threat of safety on the grounds. When it comes to other types of misinformation --

COOPER: So if a Russian individual --

BICKERT: -- we work with the fact-checking networks --

COOPER: Right.

BICKERT: -- and then we put that information proactively in front of people so they can make their own decisions.

COOPER: So if it's a real person, not a fake account, which I know you're concerned about fake accounts, because that gets to the legitimacy of Facebook, but if it's actually just a real account, but it's somebody just doing that, they're not doing it even to make money, they're just putting it out there, that video would stay up on Facebook?

BICKERT: Look, we're -- we have rolled out over the past few years all sorts of products and tools --


BICKERT: -- to allow people to have more transparency --

COOPER: You can't say yes or no?

BICKERT: -- and that -- well, because it really -- the answer is, if there is something that is being shared by somebody who is an inauthentic actor, we would remove it. If it is tied to violence on the ground, we would remove it.

And there's a whole lot of other things -- hold on, there's a whole lot of other things that we are doing to make sure we are not remotely in the same place we were in 2016.

COOPER: I appreciate you being on. We --

BICKERT: No, we care a lot about getting this right and we're happy to share what we're doing.

COOPER: Monika Bickert, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

BICKERT: Thank you.


COOPER: A quick note, the interview was edited for time. It went about 12 minutes. We're posting the entire conversation online at

Coming up -- and we appreciate them coming on, because Twitter doesn't even comment about them keeping up the video.

Coming up next, the president's new order giving the attorney general broad powers to make public classified information from intelligence agencies about the Russia investigation. The question is, is it really because as the president says the public need to know? What are the possible risks to human life? We'll keep them honest tonight with the former director of national intelligence, ahead.


[20:27:00] COOPER: Keeping 'em honest tonight, a question, which will the world get to see first? President Trump's tax returns or closely guarded information that might jeopardize American intelligence agents and assets around the world, including perhaps inside the Kremlin.

And despite how it sounds, it's neither a loaded question or a joke. Last night, the president gave Attorney General Barr sweeping powers to declassify any intelligence related to the beginning of the Russia investigation, including FBI surveillance of his campaign. He signed the order just hours after accusing the former top investigators of treason.


TRUMP: If you look at Comey, if you look at McCabe, if you look at probably people higher than that, if you look at Strzok, if you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover, the two lovers. They talked openly.

You know, they didn't use their private server, because they didn't want to get caught. So they used the government server. That was not a good move. He talked about the insurance policy, just in case crooked Hillary loses. And what didn't work out too well for them.

So, you look at them, they wanted an insurance policy, so that should she for any reason lose, remember? One hundred million to 1. Maybe he said 100 million to nothing. But should she lose, we'll have an insurance policy and we'll get this guy out of office. And that's what they said and that's what they meant.

That's treason. That's treason.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, that's the answer he gave, by the way, after being reminded by a reporter that treason can be punishable by death.

And today, as former and current intelligence officials or professionals alike raise questions about the wisdom of it all and what the president's words on treason industrial fresh still fresh, the president was asked some tough questions about his motivations.


REPORTER: It sounds like you want payback, sir. It sounds like you want --

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, it's not payback. I don't care about payback. I think it's very important for our country to find out what happened.


COOPER: He also said he was doing this in the name of transparency, which to his critics, is kind of rich, given his unwillingness to answer Robert Mueller's questions in person or telling former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a house subpoena or fighting one court subpoena after another to keep the financial entanglements out of the public eye or paying to silence Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Given all of that, is it any surprise the reporters asked him whether it's more about himself or the country? This time, the stakes couldn't be higher.

Today, the director of national intelligence issued a rare statement reading in part: I'm confident that the attorney general will work with the I.C., meaning the intelligence community, in accordance with long established standards to protect highly sensitive classified information that if publicly released would put our national security at risk.

Keeping 'em honest, this is the same attorney general who's now being accused of cherrypicking the Mueller report in his summary of it and doing it in a way that puts serving his boss above the truth.

Now, the question now, would he do the same this time, selectively declassifying items to please the president. His defenders say absolutely not. But again, it's not an academic question, given the agents who could potentially be blown, even accidentally or incidentally in the process of declassifying what after all is very recent, very sensitive stuff, some of it from very highly placed individuals.


Quoting from "The New York times" now, "The most prominent of those sources among them may well be a person close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia who provided information to the CIA about his involvement in Moscow's 2016 election interference."

One of the former intelligence chiefs squarely in the middle of all of this, of course, is retired Lieutenant General James Clapper. He's the director of national intelligence during the 2016 presidential election campaign. He's also the author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence." We're glad to have him on the program.

Director Clapper, given how Attorney General Barr represented or misrepresented the Mueller report, is there any doubt in your mind that whatever he decides to do would be a cherry picked investigation that serves the President's interests? Or do you think it would be above board.

LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I would hope it'd be the ladder, although I don't have -- you know, based on the history thus far, I'm not real confident in that. To me, Anderson, the bigger issue here, of which I'm unclear of on, is what exactly is the scope of this declassification authority?

If it, in fact, means the entire Russia investigation, meaning the intelligence work done on the interference, which goes back years, or is it more narrowly focused on the origins of the counterintelligence investigation? And from the media reporting, it's not clear which it is.

If you listen to the President, he's kind of all over the map on this. On one hand, he says it's everything. And he classifies millions of documents, which implies the broader scope. And in the segment you just showed, it seems to be more limited to the origins of the counterintelligence investigation, which is much more narrow.

So it would be very useful for me, at least, and I think others, particularly in the intelligence community, to know what is the scope of this. But you're quite right about the potential for cherry picking. The bigger issue, of course, is potential -- as you alluded, potential compromise of some very sensitive sources and methods and the --

COOPER: And that's real?

CLAPPER: Oh, yes. And the impact -- it's real in terms of potentially people's lives being at risk. And then, you know, ancillary effects like what do our both allies think about it and how confident are they going to be in sharing intelligence with us when they see potentially intelligence being used as a weapon, political weapon. And of course, adversaries are happy about it because they go to school on this so-called transparency.

And then think about assets. Congressman Jim Himes from the House Intelligence Committee was on earlier today and he made a very good point about, you know, our great people, men and women out there in the field trying to recruit people. Well, how much confidence are potential recruits, intelligence recruits going to have when they see this sort of thing happening when we tell them, "Hey, you can trust us. We will protect you."

COOPER: You're talking about a foreign national working for a foreign government or whom ever who might be recruited by the CIA or intelligence agency, that they're going to be less willing to or potentially less willing to because they're afraid down the road, my name could be revealed.

CLAPPER: Exactly. I do take heart, by the way. I think I was really, really gratified, really pleased to see Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats' statement, which I thought was very balanced and tempered. Yes, we'll cooperate, but we need to protect some things here. And I am really glad he made those statements.

COOPER: Do you think he was sending a message to Barr or a message to the intelligence community to try to allay concerns?

CLAPPER: I think both.

COOPER: The -- and it's rare for him to -- I mean, that's not kind of a statement you hear very often from somebody like Dan Coats.

CLAPPER: Well, this is -- no, it's not. I mean, he's very selective when he makes public statements. And when they -- as a consequence, when he does make public statements, they count for something.

COOPER: What happens if Barr requests certain things to be declassified, but Coats thinks it's inappropriate to do so? I mean, has there been a situation like that before to your knowledge?

CLAPPER: None that I can think of off the top of my head. No. I mean, we're, you know, this whole situation here, we're in uncharted waters. And so I don't know how that will be arbitrated. Obviously, the senior classification authority in this country is the President of the United States. So I guess if it came to a dispute between the two and I think I could predict how it would be resolved.

COOPER: So just lastly, you were clearly on the President's mind today as he was flying to Japan on Air Force One. He actually tweeted out a cartoon of you and former CIA Director John Brennan and former FBI Director James Comey. I'm wondering what you make of it? Either your actual physical portrayal or just the fact that the President of the United States on his way to, you know, an important stuff in Japan is tweeting out cartoons.

[20:35:06] CLAPPER: Well, first of all, I thought the cartoon likenesses weren't bad. I don't know who the original artist was. It was pretty good. You know, I'm not sure what this is alluding to. There's been some discussion in some parts of the media about a discussion about whether or not to include the dossier or draw on the dossier as sourcing for the intelligence community assessment that we did in January of 2017.

The important point here is it was not included as a source in the intelligence community assessment. So if there was -- you know, John and Jim have to speak for themselves. I wasn't aware of a debate or dispute between them. But I think the important point is how it all came out and the dossier was not included.

COOPER: General Clapper, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, I'll talk with the father of Johnny "Mike" Spann, the CIA officer killed in the first weeks of the Afghan war, killed in an uprising of Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners.

The man Spann interrogated just before his death was John Walker Lindh, the American who had joined up with al-Qaeda to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. Lindh was freed as you probably know earlier from prison. In a moment, you'll hear what Mike Spann's father thinks of that.


[20:40:03] COOPER: Well, John Walker Lindh, the American captured in Afghanistan who joined up with al-Qaeda to fight alongside the Taliban is a free man tonight. His lawyer says he'll live in Virginia under supervised probation. He spent 17 years in prison because he pled guilty to 10 counts, including conspiracy to murder Americans, as well as fighting alongside the Taliban.

He'd originally been sentenced to 20 years, but was released early for good behavior. Released, despite the fact from prison he praised ISIS in a letter to the producer of the NBC News affiliate in Los Angeles, saying he thought ISIS was doing "a spectacular job."

Lindh was often called the American Taliban, though he actually wasn't part of the Taliban. He joined up with al-Qaeda to fight alongside the Taliban. He was captured and in a prison in Afghanistan interviewed by a 32-year-old CIA officer named Johnny Michael Spann.

Shortly after the interview, the prisoner rioted and Spann was killed. Lindh initially apologized for his radicalization, but later according to the Bureau of Prisons, in addition to praising ISIS, he said he wasn't interested at all in renouncing his beliefs.

Joining me now is Mike Spann's father, Johnny Spann. Mr. Spann, thank you so much for being with us. When you got the news, I'm wondering, A, how you got the news, and I can't imagine what went through your mind.

JOHNNY SPANN, FATHER OF JOHNNY "MIKE" SPANN: Mr. Anderson, the way I got the news was through a news reporter. Someone in the news media called me and asked me if I knew about it that it was going to be -- he's going to be getting released on the 23rd. And that's how I found out.

COOPER: You weren't told by prison officials?


COOPER: You were not told by any prison officials or government officials?

SPANN: No, sir, I was not. I think -- our family was never considered to be a victim of any of that. I think I had to actually, you know, file a document in the courthouse back -- just back when he was getting sentenced, just to be able to speak at his sentencing hearing.

COOPER: Goodness. I didn't know that.

SPANN: And there was quite a time there that I didn't know if I was going to get to speak or not.

COOPER: When you -- the fact -- I mean, he was sentenced to 20 years. I know you feel that he should at the very least have gotten life in prison. He's -- according to prison officials, got out for good behavior.

But when I read that he had actually written to producer in Los Angeles supporting ISIS, you know, in the last couple of years, I found that really interesting, because sort of the message we'd heard from some of his supporters, people who felt he had been imprisoned for too long was that he had renounced those beliefs.

SPANN: OK, I'm sorry, I couldn't hear the last part.

COOPER: It doesn't seem like he has renounced his beliefs at all.

SPANN: Well, you know, Cooper, according to all the reports that I'm reading, the things that I've read from the National Counterterrorism Center and the "Foreign Policy" magazine, and then of course the documents you're talking about now, and then I'm hearing the other officials there inside the prison saying they were very concerned with his Jihadist ways and his radical Islamic views. So, you know, it doesn't appear to us that he was.

As a matter of fact, when I went to the courthouse last Monday to file a document asking the courts, asking the justice system to do an in- depth -- a thorough investigation of those things, to see if they were true or not, because if they were true, to me and our way of thinking, I read that program three or four times and those things would actually -- that would be -- he'd be breaking his plea agreement. He wouldn't be living up to it.

And so I wanted them to hold off and not let him out. But, you know, that wasn't -- I guess I got started too late on that, because I understand the President says that he could not stop it and Senator Shelby and Congressman Aderholt and some other one said that they weren't able to do that, either. So, but, yes, I'm very concerned.

COOPER: Had -- if Lindh had actually served his full sentence of 20 years, would you feel differently? Is it the fact that he got out three years early or just in general the fact that he didn't get a life sentence?

SPANN: No. You know, my family's law-abiding people. Mike was a patriot to this company, to this -- to the United States. Mike loved America and he proved it by his actions. And we accepted the 20-year sentence. I didn't like it. I didn't agree with it. But that was handed down through the courts and through the system, so we agreed with it.

And if today had -- yesterday had been his last day of his 20-year sentence and there was no indications that he had not been a model prisoner, that he had not been renouncing his Jihadist ways and his radical Islamic ways, I would be saying, "Good, you've done your sentence, you know, I hope you've reformed yourself. I hope that we've reformed you, and let you out."

[20:45:19] But, you know, one of the things I've said about this, Cooper, we sent people to prison to reform them, but in this instance here, if you go back and look at the lawsuits that he is involved in, once he got into prison, once he was admitted in prison, he reformed the prison system. We changed our rules to fit what he wanted and that's not right.

COOPER: Mr. Spann, your son served six years, I believe, in the Marine Corps. He was in college. He went to officer candidate school, joined the marines and then joined the CIA and died in the line of duty. First American in combat -- American killed in combat in the war in Afghanistan. I appreciate you being on and talking about your feelings in this moment and I'm sorry for the pain your family continues to feel and especially now in the wake of his release.

SPANN: Yes. Cooper?


SPANN: Do I have time to say one more thing?

COOPER: Sure, of course.

SPANN: I'd like for all the Americans that's listening to this tonight to think about one thing. If American people followed in John Walker Lindh's footsteps, would we be free? Would America be free? Would you be free? Would your kids be free? I'd like for everybody to think about that, because Mike Spann was a patriot and he showed it by his actions. This guy was a traitor and he showed it by his actions.

COOPER: Mr. Spann, I appreciate that. And again, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you.

SPANN: Thank you.

COOPER: And in a moment, an update on the disaster relief bill that was supposed to get past the House today. We'll have details, ahead.


[20:51:10] COOPER: I want to give you an update of that $19 billion disaster relief bill that was to bring relief to farmers and other people around the country affects by hurricanes and flooding should have passed the House today. It turns out a single Republican congressman prevented the bill from reaching the President's desk.

Texas Congressman Chip Roy's no denied the House unanimous consent needed to pass it, which means the survivors of western wildfires, Midwest flooding and other disasters will have to wait for those billions in aid. The question is why did the congressman object? He cited a lack of money for the border and the lack of debate before a full vote.

Speaker Pelosi called it last minute sabotage. We should point out President Trump said he would sign the bill even without the border funding. We're bringing Chris Cuomo. Chris, I know you're covering the story on your show as well.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I don't know that Pelosi has this one right. I think that not having the border -- why do I say that? So, we had on a Democrat senator here, the Democrat Whip there in the minority. And what Durbin said was, hey, I got to tell you, I think we're going to get something done on the border. You've been chasing that issue. We've been chasing that issue.

He says this relief bill, we can put it with it. And I said, do you really want to put it on the relief bill? I mean, is this doesn't going to caught up and all those other politics? He said, no, I think it's a good idea. I think it's going to happen. Then it didn't happen. They send it as a clean bill. Roy says I don't like it. I don't disagree with them.

Anderson, I just got reporting from men and women on the ground with knowledge of the information. Right now, they are holding a DHS with CBP, Custom Border Patrol, more kids, tender age, zero to 12, than they've ever had before. They have 250 kids that they've had over 72 hours. That kid who just died with the flu, this is when it happens. They're in a panic.

They have been desperately trying to get HHS to pick up the kids. They have to control the kids. CBP can't release them on their own recognizance like they could with adults. This is how kids died. Kids are going to die. It's not a dire thing. We don't want that to happen. They're coming to me in a panic.


CUOMO: Chip Roy wasn't wrong to say they should have done something about the border. Whether this was the right way to hold this up or not, I don't know. That's for the politicians. But I can't believe they won't get off their asses and do something about these kids. They're going to die and then they're going to watch them blame each other and it's going to be a shame.

COOPER: Yes. More on that on your show six minutes from now. Chris, appreciate on -- appreciate your coverage of it.

Quick programming note, CNN presents a comedy special that's bigger in both sides, "Colin Quinn Red State Blue State" premiers Memorial Day at 9:00 p.m. at CNN.

Still ahead tonight, preview of my Howard Stern interview. Coming up, the full broadcast there is at 10:00 p.m. tonight, a full hour. Learn about his parents and what Howard Stern's mother originally wanted to name him. I'll be right back.


[20:57:29] COOPER: Tonight at 10:00 p.m. here on CNN, I'm very happy you can see my full hour long interview with Howard Stern, whether you listen to his radio program or not, Stern is certainly a fascinating person. He's complex, incredibly smart, one of the best in-depth interviewers around.

I sat with Stern to discuss his new best selling book called "Howard Stern Comes Again." We tweet -- we talked about how psychotherapy has saved his life in his opinion. We also talked about his views on politics and Donald Trump who features prominently in the book.

Again, the full interview is 10:00 tonight. But I wanted to show you just few minutes of tonight's Stern. It is most self-deprecating unhappy with his name and why he says it could have been much worse.


COOPER: It seems like you're almost content. To me content is a big word. Like, I don't know, happy seems like --

HOWARD STERN, AUTHOR, "HOWARD STERN COMES AGAIN": I'm happier. I'm not content. I'm still in therapy, but I'm learning to stop and smell the roses.

COOPER: You have moments of contentment?

STERN: I do, you know. I described in the book, I've taken up painting. I get tremendous pleasure from that. I've learned to enjoy, you know, some little things that go on every day and, yes, I'm happier. I still got a lot work to do on myself.

And someone said to me the other day, I was reading the book and, you know, I'm going back into psychotherapy. She's reading (ph) the book. I wanted to say, hey, especially some of the guys in my audience who go, that stuff is all nonsense. I'm not talking to someone. I wanted to say it really had an impact on my life. I wanted to be very genuine about it.

COOPER: It really -- I mean, most people do not change after a certain age.

STERN: That's right.

COOPER: You have changed.

STERN: I have. And I think it's possible for anybody to do it. And really, what are we looking for? We're just looking to have better relationships with people and be a little more content with our lives. I don't know. What do I know, Anderson? Do you understand? I wish my name was Anderson. Can you imagine if I was an Anderson? It wouldn't fit this face, right? You've got to look like you to be an Anderson.

COOPER: Well, I don't even know what that mean.

STERN: I don't know. You're an Anderson.

COOPER: Did you know that Anderson is a very popular first name in Brazil?

STERN: Is it really?

COOPER: Yes. I don't know why.

STERN: I think the name Howard is on the list of popular names. I think it actually just broke into -- I think it's 999. It is, you know --

COOPER: You think you've been curse with your name.

STERN: My mother wanted me to name Harvey.

COOPER: Oh, no, really?

STERN: Which I will think my life even more difficult.

COOPER: Wow. Well, this is -- you know, that would have been a Shaunda (ph).

STERN: Yes. My mother wanted to name my sister -- my sister's name is Ellen. She wanted to name her Fern so she would have been Fern Stern. My mother goes, Fern is a beautiful name. And my father actually stepped in and went, are you crazy? You know, that can't be. So I am not Harvey, I am Howard and I'm thankful for that, at least.

COOPER: Fern Stern.

STERN: Life would have been -- I would have gotten beaten up 20 times more if I had been Harvey.


COOPER: He's a great person to talk to. You can see more a lot more at 10:00 p.m. Eastern for the full hour Howard Stern. Right now, let's hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."