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President Trump to Host DC July 4th Event with Tanks, Flyovers; DHS Watchdog Warns of Dangerous Overcrowding at Border Detention Facilities; Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) is Interviewed About the Border Crisis. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 2, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:25] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

President Trump wanted tanks and troops for the 4th of July and now he's got them.

Keeping them honest, is the president of the U.S. trying to turn July 4th, traditionally an ultimate celebration of and by the people, into a celebration of and by one person, Donald J. Trump?

That's the question as tanks sit on a railcar in southeast Washington, waiting for their part in President Trump's 4th of July show. He's also doing himself a prime speaking role, which presidents have traditionally not done, and there will be a military fly-by, including the plane used as Air Force One and the Blue Angels.

The president said to be planning the event down to the very last details, which in some way makes perfect sense. Donald Trump certainly knows a thing or two about branding, and if you can link yourself at America's most important national celebration, why wouldn't you? Sure, you risk making it about yourself, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for this president.

Now, the president certainly likes to embrace the symbols of nationhood, sometimes literally. He makes a show of hugging the flag, at some campaign appearances. He claims to have the armed forces on his side politically. And he was famously taken by the parade he witnessed during a trip to France two years ago.

No one questions the enjoyment he gets out of these things and as a military history buff, I think they're pretty cool, as well. But all that said, Independence Day in Washington has traditionally been a nonpartisan, non-denominational, all encompassing celebration of the joy being an American and thanks to those who made it possible. If you've ever been on the National Mall, on the 4th in years past, that character, that quality, well, it's plain to see.

No political speeches by anyone, let alone the president. Let alone from the Lincoln Memorial, where VIPs and friends of the president will be seen out in front. The White House says this will be a nonpartisan event, but keeping them honest, this is a president who a couple days ago said this at another supposedly nonpartisan event speaking to troops during his visit to South Korea.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very shortly, we will have the most ready, the best -- we already have the best military in the world. But we're going to have it at a level we've never been at before. Our equipment, whether it's the missiles or the planes or the ships or the equipment for the soldiers, it doesn't matter. We have the best. And we had the budget to do it.

And that wasn't easy, because I will tell you, this is not a political speech, but the Democrats were not going to give it to you, that I can tell you.

They weren't going to give it to you, folks! They weren't.

They want open borders and the hell with the military. That's not good.


COOPER: Not a political speech, he says, even as he's making it one, speaking of the armed forces.

The president today tweeted about the role in the 4th and I'm quoting now, the Pentagon and late military leaders are thrilled to be doing this and show to the American people the strongest and most advanced military anywhere in the world.

It's hard to determine whether top Pentagon leadership is thrilled or not to be taking part in this. They're not talking and frankly, it would be improper to express an opinion one or another.

To their credit, that's not something the military does. The president can talk all he wants. The generals cannot and should not, and are duty-bound to obey all legal orders, whether talking war or a parade.

Today on "THE LEAD", CNN's Jake Tapper asked retired four-star Army General Stanley McChrystal whether he thought his former colleagues were, as the president tweeted, thrilled.


GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I won't speak for military leaders, but I will say they are very proud of the young men and women who serve alongside them and for them. But we proved that on the battlefield. We proved that around the world. I don't think we need to bring them on to the National Mall to justify their effectiveness.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Would you want to be there, if you were still in uniform? Would you want to be sitting there while tanks are on display and elite planes and other things are being brought out in this way?

MCCHRYSTAL: If my soldiers were forced to come on a holiday and stand in the sun to do an event, I would want to be there alongside them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, not exactly a ringing endorsement. It remains to be seen exactly how the president behaves and what he says if it becomes a political event when backed up by tanks and troops, that would be a shame.

This is a country that's like no other. And July 4th is a day celebrating that fact. So what is this change and how it's celebrated about? Well, we'll have to see what the president has in store.

Perspective now from Leon Panetta who served as secretary of defense and CIA director in the Obama administration and chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Secretary Panetta, we usually see military parades from North Korea, Russia, China, authoritarian regimes not only sending a message to the world but also perhaps to their own people about how tough their regime itself is. Is this the right thing to do in the United States, having tanks and flyovers?

[20:05:07] LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: I don't think it is in keeping with what our country is all about. We're the strongest military power on the face of the earth. And we have never had to display that power to the world in order to prove it.

We know who we are. We know our strengths. And very frankly, our view has always been that we should appreciate our liberties and our freedoms, because in a democracy, the most important thing is that we protect the values that our country is all about.

That doesn't mean we have to roll tanks down the street or roll troops down the street, because we know who we are. We appreciate those that serve. But most importantly, we are all part of one family when it comes to America.

COOPER: The White House is pushing back on criticism saying this is not a political event. Is it realistic to think that the president is going to be able to give an entire speech and not make at least part of it political? I mean, he's -- he loves to ad lib, obviously. He loves to play off, you know, the crowd. And it would be hard to imagine him just doing a straight speech reading from a teleprompter.

PANETTA: Well, not this president. This president almost politicizes every event that he's a part of, every speech that he gives. Ultimately, has a political tinge to it.

So I can't imagine he's going to speak for 20 minutes and not include politics in that speech, which I think would really undermine what the 4th of July is all about, particularly in Washington.

I've been part of those events. I've been there with my family. There are families on the mall that enjoy that day. They enjoy the music. They enjoy each other. No politics has ever been included in that event. When I work for the

presidents of the United States, they watch the fireworks from the balcony of the White House. That's -- that was their approach to saying, you know, we're going to enjoy the fireworks and this day. But this is really a day for the American people to enjoy our birthday.

COOPER: It's also interesting, because obviously this all costs money, the Blue Angels, Air Force, 900 American Guard Corps have been called for security. The president has always been very critical of things like alliances with, you know, South Korea or other countries, based on a financial concerns of tens of millions of dollars or more.

PANETTA: Well, you know, I think we're all missing Jim Mattis as secretary of defense. I think Jim Mattis, when he was asked by the president to have a military parade, you know, resisted it based on the cost, and based, I think, on the traditions of this country. Unfortunately, he's not there. And so the White House is basically running the show.

And I think it is going to cost money. It's going to cost taxpayers money, and it's going to send a message that the United States is basically not -- not celebrating the 4th of July for what it is. Rather, we have a president who is trying to somehow emulate other authoritarian figures in the world that have to have these kinds of parades in order to prove that somehow they're a powerful country. We have never had to do that.

COOPER: I think back to, you know, an ad lib he made in front of an audience a while -- couple months ago saying he has the police on his side, he has the armed forces on his side, and the bikers and construction workers. The president is now saying that, quote, the Pentagon and our great military leaders are thrilled to be doing this.

You are secretary of defense. Do you think that's actually true?

PANETTA: No, I don't. I think the military would prefer to have the 4th of July be a day for the American people to enjoy themselves and their families and enjoy the fireworks and enjoy the music. We've never turned the 4th of July into a military event, and we shouldn't do it now.

I think there's a consensus among military leaders that that's the wrong -- the wrong thing to do. We are strong. We have never had to display that strength to anybody.

COOPER: Secretary Panetta, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

PANETTA: Good to be with you.

COOPER: Well, there's plenty more ahead tonight, including a troubling new report on conditions kids are facing in some migrant detention facilities.

[20:10:07] We've heard the stories. This is straight, though, from the government's own watchdog. There's new photos as well. We'll talk about it with a congresswoman who has seen the conditions

up close.

Later, the president's a prosecutor not named Robert Mueller, New York's attorney general. We'll talk to her about his new attacks on her and her investigations that are ongoing.


COOPER: Disturbing photos tonight and a blistering report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general showing just how rough the conditions are at some migrant detention centers along the U.S. border. Take a look at the photo from a facility in McAllen, Texas, which according to the report is experiencing, quote, dangerous overcrowding, migrants crammed to makeshift cells, when investigators made unannounced visits there and at several other Texas facilities.

A senior manager at one location called conditions a ticking time bomb. Investigators also revealed 30 percent of the children held at the facilities were being kept longer than the permitted 72 hours.

[20:15:03] Some adults were being held in, quote, standing-room-only conditions for a week. After touring a different facility in Clint, Texas, yesterday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet that migrants had to drink out of toilets. Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was on that tour and spoke afterwards, directing a message to the pro president Trump demonstrators who were there.


REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): I want to talk about their parents, the mothers, the abuelas, the tias, the madres, that I sat with who wept openly in our arms, not even knowing our names! Because of the trauma they are experiencing! And because they don't know where their children are! Keep yelling! This is very appropriate! Vile rhetoric for vile actions! Hateful rhetoric for hateful behavior! Racist words and venom for racist policies!


COOPER: And Congresswoman Pressley joins us now.

Congresswoman, so you visited that facility in Clint. The photos that we're showing are from the facility in McAllen. There's newer photos. Do they match up with what you saw in Clint?

PRESSLEY: Well, first, let me say I went to El Paso, because this is an issue of consequence. The humanitarian crisis not only at the border, but this is an issue being felt throughout our country. The district that I represent, the Massachusetts seventh, is 40 percent immigrant. The families I spent time with yesterday are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba.

And every day with this administration, whether we're talking about mixed immigration status, policies from HUD or military policies to separate families or the department of homeland security, every day, they are working hard to criminalize immigrants and to separate them as families. And so, this is why I went to the border.

And what I saw has haunted me. It is unconscionable. And it is very sobering confirmation that the system is broken from A to Z, soup to nut. It is corrupt, it is chaotic, it is calloused.

I spent time with women, one in particular, I'm afraid even to say their names, because even as they were sobbing in our arms, confessing about their daily lived experiences, they feared they would have retribution after we left them.

But one such woman is an epileptic, as a brain aneurism and has been denied medicine. She also shared with me she speaks four languages, including English. But she was not always forthcoming in letting them know she speaks English and she would hear the guards talking about her and the other women using vile, racist and misogynistic language.

And she said, I know I did a wrong thing. I didn't come into your country the right way. But I did it for my son. And do we need to be treated like dogs?

I was with women who have not showered in 15 days, and I asked the doctor at that CBP facility, did he think this was a public health violation? A human rights violation? And his response to me was that it was probably unsavory and unpleasant. But that it was debatable as to whether or not it was a public health threat or a human rights violation.

And that is what we're dealing with, negotiating the most basic decency and humanity.

COOPER: Why -- why is someone going for 15 days without a shower, we've heard reports of no access to soap in some places or toothbrushes at Custom and Border Protection facilities. Are they not designed to deal with the numbers of people they're seeing? With -- yes, the numbers?

PRESSLEY: Well, again, this speaks to how broken the system is. These facilities, to detain asylum-seekers were designed to hold people for 72 hours. And you have people who have been there for 60 days, in sweltering heat, sleeping on concrete floors.

And, you know, cynics and critics have said to me, why do they come here? These parents are doing what any parent would do for their child. The stakes are high and they are taking great risk to ensure a safe, better life for their children. And any parent would do that.

The trauma that I saw, again, we entered into this facility, this cell. We did not even say we were members of congress. We didn't have an opportunity even to utter our names. And the women fell into our arms, grateful for any shred of humanity --

[20:20:03] COOPER: Let me --

PRESSLEY: -- and compassion. COOPER: Let me ask you, Kellyanne Conway said that Congresswoman

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's claim that -- one woman said to her she had been told by an official to -- to drink out of a toilet. Kellyanne Conway has said that's outrageous and untrue and the acting secretary of homeland security described the allegation as being unsubstantiated, saying the facility is, quote, clean and unmanaged. That was the facility you were at.

I'm wondering how you respond to that. Was it clean and well-managed? Did you hear this person say what Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez says she heard?

PRESSLEY: Well, let me just say this. I believe the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power. And that that is why I went to the border to hear directly from these families impacted.

And in this cell, I went to test the water, and, again, we learned that these women had only been relocated in the last 24 hours, and, again, sweltering heat, over 100 degrees.

And so I asked the question, what is the heat index that prompts you to move someone from these tents inside? They didn't have an answer. I asked them the square footage of the facility, they didn't have an answer. I asked them how the temperature is regulated inside these cells, they didn't have an answer.

I asked why women had been there for 50, 60 days, they didn't have an answer. I asked them why the two women who were crying because they had been separated from their children just yesterday, where are their children, and they couldn't answer.

So I don't want to quibble about the details of inhumanity. When I went to test the water of the sink, no water came out. I challenged the CBP staff there. And said if these women want water, what are they to do?

This is not -- this is unsanitary. It is a public health issue. And it is inhumane. These women have been here for 15 days without a shower and now you have taken them out of tents probably because you knew we were coming.

And this is exactly why I went. I serve on the Oversight and Reform Committee. CBP is the largest law enforcement agency, and they have no transparency and no accountability. And I think this system is broken, because people running the system are blind, and because lawmakers are blind. And so we went to get these stories to bring back in the hopes of getting us on a pathway to a system that works, that is humane, that is compassionate and that keeps families together.

COOPER: Congresswoman Pressley, I appreciate your time. And obviously, we'll continue to follow it as we have been. Thank you so much.

PRESSLEY: I hope so. Thank you. COOPER: I want to talk -- I'm going to talk to the New York state

attorney general about why she thinks the president is now going after her over everything from the National Rifle Association to his own defunct charity. That and why some legal jeopardy for the president is back home and not from the feds.


[20:27:30] COOPER: President Trump lashed out for a second straight day at his home state and again, it's unclear why he chose to do it now. Yesterday, you'll remember he tweeted in defense of his defunct and widely discredited charitable foundation, calling New York's case against it, quote, part of the political witch hunt. Today, he continued to focus on the state's recently elected attorney general, Letitia James, and again the president did not use her name.

Quoting from the tweets, quote: People are fleeing New York like never before. They own a business. They are twice as likely to flee. And if they are a victim of harassment by the attorney general, the state, like what they're doing to our great NRA which I think will move quickly to Texas where they are loved.

He goes on: Texas will defend them and indemnify them by New York state and Governor Cuomo. First New York taxes you too high, then they sue you just to complete the job.

Ms. James for her part responded to the first day of the president's Twitter attack with this tweet yesterday, and I quote: As the elected attorney general of New York, I have a sworn duty to protect and uphold state law. My office will follow the facts of any case, wherever they leave. Making a mistake, no one is above the law, not even the president. She added, P.S., my name is Letitia James. You can call me Tish.

We spoke with her earlier tonight.


COOPER: Attorney General James, do you have any idea why, all of a sudden, Donald Trump decided to go after you?


COOPER: But did something new happen?

JAMES: No. We've launched a number of investigations and I don't know why yesterday he decided to mention me in his tweets. Actually, he really didn't mention me.

COOPER: He didn't use your name.

JAMES: No, he didn't. It was basically a criticism of New York state, criticism of our governor. And as if our governor, somehow I'm the attorney general for Governor Cuomo. And I just --

COOPER: He actually -- he said that the Attorney General Cuomo uses his attorney general as a bludgeoning tool for his own purposes. Unlike the attorney general of the United States, you are actually an elected official.

JAMES: So civic lesson. I'm independently elected. And the only laws and the only individual I have to be held accountable to are the residents of the great state of New York.

COOPER: What currently are you suing the foundation about because that lawsuit continues?

JAMES: So, as you know, the attorney general of the state of New York has jurisdiction over all charitable organizations in the state. And we have an obligation and duty to ensure that beneficiaries and donors of certain charities are following the law. And so, we are basically following the law and the evidence, wherever it takes, and this foundation in particular we filed a complaint and that complaint alleges that the Trump organization -- that Trump -- President Trump, as well as his family members used this particular organization as a personal piggy bank, that in fact they used it for political donations and for personal contributions and expenses. And as a result of that as you know, it's in violation of the laws of this great state of New York.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: They used it -- so, they used it to support his campaign in some cases --


COOPER: -- according to what you're alleging.

JAMES: Yes. And it's in -- that's in violation of the law. And as --

COOPER: They also, according to -- I think it was David Fahrenthold who is reporting and I think it was "The Washington Post," they also at some point paid -- bought two paintings for, I think it was $20,000 of Donald Trump from some charity, from like a charity auction that were then I guess hanging in one of his properties.

JAMES: Yes. And the board of directors consisted of his siblings, his children. They hardly ever met. There were no rules.

COOPER: Yes, I think 1999 was the last time they actually met.

JAMES: Exactly. There wasn't a rule. They didn't follow protocol and they were not accountable to anyone. So as a result of that, we decided to investigate, and we are in the midst of discussions with their attorneys.

COOPER: The President also tweeted today accusing you of harassing businesses in New York, I guess the NRA, as well, and essentially driving people and businesses out of the state of New York.

JAMES: So I don't know why the President of the United States is having a moment. All I know is that the NRA --

COOPER: He's having a moment.

JAMES: -- the NRA, as well as the Trump Foundation are under the jurisdiction of the state of New York.

COOPER: That's because the NRA -- though they're based here, they're chartered here.

JAMES: They're chartered here and they are a not for profit organization that was organized under the laws of the state of New York. And as a result of that, we have an obligation and duty, my office and I as the attorney general, enforced the law. And based on the in-fighting and all of the news reports, we've decided to look into these allegations. And we're going to follow the allegations and the evidence wherever it leads.

It's important to understand that the NRA has an obligation and duty to its board of directors, to all of the individuals who contribute to it and to the donors and to the beneficiaries.

COOPER: There are certainly a lot of supporters of the President who will look at this and say, well, look, you're a Democrat and so is the governor. And all of these things, you know, the foundation investigation was launched once he was running and became president. This wasn't while he was a private citizen and that politics is behind this. He says his kids are having to pay tons of money in lawyers' fees to defend themselves.

JAMES: So I would dispute that. I was elected in January of this year. And as a result of all of the in-fighting and the media reports, we have an obligation and duty to follow the facts and the evidence wherever it leads.

COOPER: You said politics has nothing to do with it.

JAMES: It has nothing to do with it. The reality is, is that we have an obligation to the donors and beneficiaries of any charitable organization in the state of New York. And if there is, in fact, any allegation of wrongdoing, we have an obligation to launch an investigation.

COOPER: How do you feel about the Department of Justice announcing today that the 2020 census is going to be published, printed and distributed without any citizenship question? That's something that they had wanted, that this administration had want to put a question about citizenship of everybody.

You and others in New York fought against that and, again, spearheaded those efforts. Is that a victory as far as you see it, the fact that the census will go out without that question on it?

JAMES: So the Office of Attorney General, State of New York, as well as California, we challenge this administration who attempted to put a citizenship question on the census form. The citizenship question has not been on the census form since 1950. It would have suppressed the number of individuals who would have cooperated with the census. This -- and we believe -- COOPER: Because people -- you're saying people, in your opinion, people would be afraid if they were undocumented, not citizens, they would be afraid to admit that in a form.

JAMES: So individuals who are undocumented, and Latinos in particular, and immigrants in general, would obviously not cooperate with that. And all evidence suggests that the numbers would have been suppressed and that the outcome would have been suppressed.

We believe that everyone counts and therefore everyone should be counted. And we are -- this is a victory for democracy and a victory for people and a victory for fairness and equity.

COOPER: And just finally, the suit against the Trump Foundation continues, even though the Trump Foundation has ceased to exist. Do you have a sense of the timeline when this may --

JAMES: No, I can't give you a timeline. I can just say that we were in discussions with the counts -- with the attorneys for the Trump Foundation.

COOPER: Attorney General James, appreciate your time.

JAMES: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, still to come tonight, House Democrats go to court seeking the President's tax return. We'll show you how they're trying to use the President's own words against him in a new lawsuit.


[20:38:40] COOPER: House Democrats investigating the White House today escalating their fight filing a lawsuit demanding that the President's tax returns be released to them. Democrats in the Ways and Means Committee even used the President's words against him to explain why they need to check the IRS auditing process.

And I'm quoting, "President Trump himself has repeatedly questioned the integrity of the process by which the IRS audits his tax returns, complaining that his returns are under 'continuous audit' and that the IRS's policy of annually auditing presidential returns is 'extremely unfair.'"

The lawsuit also quotes the President's comments to Chris Cuomo for why he thinks he's always being audited. This is from -- this is from minutes after a 2016 Republican debate.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm always audited by the IRS, which I think is very unfair. I don't know, maybe because of religion, maybe because of something else, maybe because I'm doing this, although this is just recently.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What do you mean religion? TRUMP: Well, maybe because of the fact that I'm a strong Christian and I feel strongly about it and maybe there's a bias. You see what's --

CUOMO: You think you're being audited for being a strong Christian?

TRUMP: Well, you see what's happening.


COOPER: Well, we definitely do see what's happening. The White House lawyers see it, too. Basically they know this fight works out their way one of two ways, a favorable ruling or they run out of the clock and the Democrats pass the 2020 election.

Joining me now is Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Chief Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor, and David Cay Johnson, tax and accounting columnist and author of "The Making of Donald Trump."

[20:40:02] So, Jeff, we've talked about this before. I mean, the law on the face of it seems pretty clear.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, several of the disputes between Congress and the President are legally complicated. I mean, there are legitimately good arguments on both sides. This is not one of them. I mean, this is an easy case. There is a specific law that says the Ways and Means Committee upon request can get tax returns, period.

What I don't understand is why Chairman Neal and the other Democrats on the committee have wasted so much time. I mean, here it is, it's July and they're finally filing this lawsuit. They knew they were going to have to do this all along.

Now, I understand the need to make a record. But the fact that, you know, they allowed the White House to drag this out this long before they even got into court and, which is going to take months, you know, they may not -- I mean, as you pointed out earlier, the administration may succeed in just running out the clock.

COOPER: David, you've said before that we will end up seeing the President's tax returns. Is this how you thought it would happen if, in fact, it does happen this way?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, TAX AND ACCOUNTING COLUMNIST: Well, I'm surprised to some degree that the administration won't comply with the law and I think the committee has made two mistakes. One, the one Jeffrey pointed out. They have taken too much time and been too polite.

But the other is the duty under federal regulations falls on the IRS commissioner. And I don't understand why they haven't called him and ordered him to turn them over, which he will never fail to comply with because it could cost him his law license in California and he wants to go back to being a lawyer representing wealthy people who have been caught cheating on their taxes.

COOPER: He could actually lose his law license?

JOHNSTON: Oh, sure. Yes. I mean, ask Jeffrey. But I think he could lose his license over refusing to follow the law.


TOOBIN: I actually doubt that that would happen, especially considering Secretary Mnuchin who is the boss of the head of the IRS, has said we are not going to comply with these subpoenas. So, I don't really think there is any danger of the -- of their law license.

And I think, you know, this is just the most obvious and frankly, egregious example of the White House and the President himself personally just blowing off congressional oversight. I mean, you know, see you in court with the understanding that the clock is running.

COOPER: If they -- I mean, it could go to multiple courts, could it not? I mean, it could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

TOOBIN: It would -- I mean, it will certainly go to the D.C. Circuit, the Court of Appeals. At that point, you know, the losing side will probably seek (INAUDIBLE) and the Supreme Court will see whether they take it.

You know, all these cases, you know, between Congress and the President, are starting to bubble through the appeals process and you notice, none of them have been resolved yet because it's a slow process.

COOPER: And David, it is traditional that the sitting president has his taxes audited, and -- is that correct? Because I mean that's what a number of people have said on this program. And that therefore Congress can argue, well, they have a role in making sure that's done properly.

JOHNSTON: Well, it has them reviewed, is the word used in the regulations. But, yes, and I think it goes right to the heart of why we need to see the president's tax returns. The, you know, Richard Nixon famously said, "I'm not a crook." And we later learned that indeed he was a major league tax cheat whose lawyer went to prison.

And the last time Congress changed this law, which was in 1976, the Office of Legal Counsel with the Justice Department made only one significant observation about Congress getting tax returns. It said the chairman of the relevant committees have to personally sign the letter asking for them. And that's how there's no dispute over the law here. Trump is just behaving lawlessly.

COOPER: David Cay Johnston, I appreciate it, Jeffrey Toobin, as well. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, breaking news report, a verdict in the trial of a decorated Navy SEAL charge with the murder of an ISIS detainee. A live report from San Diego when we return.


[20:48:17] COOPER: Well, back quickly to our top story, the President's July 4th celebration and the controversy over it. We want to go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the top of the broadcast, but a different kind of storm. A literal storm is blowing through her location on the National Mall. Skies have cleared and Kaitlan is here.

So, how much personal involvement has the President had in all of this and on all of the planning about the July 4th celebration and who is going to be attending?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the President has been a central figure in all of this and he's the reason essentially that this event is happening. It's been a dream of his since he went to Paris and saw the U.S. and French troops marching down the streets and he's wanted to make this happen. He even try to make it happen on Veteran's Day last year, but it got scrapped because of all the criticism and logistical issues.

Now, the President is still the center of this and there are still logistics problems, Anderson, because the President has been making some last minute request. He wants more tanks. He wants different aircraft doing flyovers. He wants the chiefs of the Armed Forces standing by his side while he's up here.

One thing that the President is facing criticism over, Anderson, is the who is invited. Now, this is an event that's open to the public. There's about 15,000 general admission seats. But if you can see right here behind me, there is going to be a VIP section behind the President.

We're told that the Republican National Committee has gotten some of those tickets, as well as the President's campaign, and essentially it's going to be his political allies, some top donors in the audience here on Thursday.

So, that is why there's been so much focus on this. And, of course, there are going to be questions about making this happen logistically here in D.C., because even local officials are saying the streets of Washington just aren't made for heavy artillery tanks to be rolling down them, even if they're just being stationed here at the base of the Lincoln Memorial.

COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, we'll be watching it. Thanks very much, appreciate it. We'll continue to follow that. Now, to a breaking news on the military trial of a decorated Navy SEAL team leader.

[20:50:02] A jury found Eddie Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder of an ISIS detainee. Prosecutors alleged that Gallagher stab the prisoner to death while in Mosul, Iraq in 2017. CNN's Nick Watt is in San Diego. So walk us through this verdict, Nick.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, there were seven charges he was facing and Eddie Gallagher was looking at possibly life behind bars. No more, he will be home a free man by the 4th of July.

As you mentioned, stabbing that ISIS detainee, not guilty. Firing his weapon indiscriminately into crowds of civilians, not guilty. Using his sniper riffle to shoot an old man who was a noncombatant, not guilty. Using his sniper riffle to shoot a young girl, not guilty.

Also, he was charged with pressuring his fellow SEALs not turn him in and then retaliating against those that did also not guilty. The only charge he was found guilty of was posing for an unlawful photo with the corpse of that dead young ISIS detainee.

Now, the maximum sentence for that, Anderson, is four months. He's already served nine months in jail, so he will be going home.

Listen, all along the defense said that this was not a case about murder. This was a case about mutiny, young SEALs who just didn't like Eddie Gallagher and wanted him gone, and it looks like the jury agreed.

COOPER: So in terms of the evidence the prosecutors were using against Gallagher, it was essentially the testimony of other SEALs?

WATT: Yes. I mean, it was that photo. They said that photo in Eddie Gallagher's own words, he had texted that photo, that trophy photo as they call it, with captions like, "Got my hunting skills on, got my knife skills on." The prosecution said that was enough to prosecute. But, Anderson, there were no forensic in this case, whatsoever.

The alleged crime scene was a battlefield, an excisable battle field all the way over there in Mosul. There was no body. There was no autopsy. You know, a forensic pathologist for the prosecution took the stand and said, "I can't even tell you what the cause of death was." And, you know, one line that the defense kept on pushing, they kept on saying that no body, no forensics, no science, no case.

Now, Eddie Gallagher didn't testify. We haven't heard from him at all. He came out here rather shyly. He doesn't want to talk until after sentencing. He was asked what the next few days look like for him and he said they look like freedom.

His wife, Andrea, who was a little more talkative, she said that this is finally vindication after she says being terrorized by the same government that sent her husband overseas to fight terror. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Nick Watt, appreciate it. Thanks.

I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How you doing my friend? So, we're going to take a look tonight at what the state of play is within the Democratic race, these new polls, but why they're moving? Is Kamala Harris' move a sustainable move or is just about what she pulled off against Biden in the debate? What does this mean for him?

And then, I have a closing argument about the 4th of July and the tanks. I'm not bothered by the showing of the tanks. I think the bigger issue is what this President tries to ignore about what this country represents. I think that should be a bigger source for concern. I'll make that case.

COOPER: All right, Chris, about seven minutes from now. I look forward to that. Thanks very much.

Coming up, the President's love/hate relationship with Twitter continues. But maybe, just maybe, Melissa McCarthy has the answer for how the President can really get his message out. "The Ridiculist" is next.


[20:57:01] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And we begin with the cranky surely temple of President's kind of ramping last night on his own personal good sheep lollipop also known as Fox News, because Twitter is being mean to him and he might have to do something about it. Yes, that might surely temple.


TRUMP: They don't treat me right and I know for a fact. I mean, a lot of people try and follow me and it's very hard. I have so many people coming up and they say, "Sir, it's so hard." They make it hard to follow. What they're doing is wrong and possibly illegal. And a lot of things are being looked at right now.


COOPER: A lot of things are being looked at right now. Oh, yes, they're looking at the homeless thing. They're looking at the Biden stuff, you know, what's going on. They're looking at UFOs. The Twitter, there's something going on there.

I mean, who believes that big fat phony followed button? It doesn't work. Never has. People are talking about it. I hear things. You know it. Smart people know it. I know it. You know it. Some people know it. Media doesn't know it. You know it.

So busy down looking to the Twitter, he can go back and finish up the July 4th parade, which is starting to feel little like a product of too much executive time or maybe just binge watching back-to-back Paden and Hello Dolly.

Well, there's no way to know what the President is exactly talking about as far as, you know, Twitter making it hard for him to follow. Because, of course, Fox News really presses him for details or prove of any claims.

We do know, according to "The Daily Beast," that the head of Twitter recently had to explain to the President that numbers of followers sometimes drop when spam and bot accounts are deleted from his favorite source of virtual applause.

By the way, it is worth pointing out that the President doesn't really need Twitter to air his grievances. You know, he could just kind of kick it old school and fire up his webcam. And for that, you know, if he's looking for advice, there's no better role model than my favorite online influencer, Marbles Harsgrove.


MELISSA MCCARTHY, ONLINE INFLUENCER: Hello. Marbles Harsgrove here again, 12/20/2006, second video blog getting right to us. We got a lot of e-mails and my space questions about E. Coli. What is going on? So I got a soft cell. It looks like a flour corn tortilla. Thank you, Randy, for bringing in the specimen.

Just loaded with the bacteria of the E. Coli virus. It's like a Petri dish for that. The meat piece is not (ph) pasteurized and not surprising to me but to many lay people, the produce, the lettuces as well green onions are loaded with the E. Coli virus. So keep that in mind. Choose wisely and good eating. Don't live your life by fear.


COOPER: All right, that was Melissa McCarthy. It was one of my favorite characters she did before she really became, you know, the big star she is. Now, if you haven't watch Marbles, you're losing yours. That is what the President should be doing.

Put on a Spock's sweatshirt. Get an assistant named Randy. Broadcast your quest to find out what the heck is going on with green onions. Social media glory may come and go but you can always roll like marbles before the parade passes buy on "The Ridiculist."

The news continues. Live long and prosper. "Chris Cuomo Prime Time" starts now.