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President Trump Pledges Support for "Meaningful" Background Checks; Father of Shooting Victim Reacts to President Trump Giving Thumps Up in Photo with El Paso Orphan; Foreign Service Officer Blasts President Trump's "Toxic Agenda" In Announcing Resignation; Ex-Foreign Service Officer On Resignation: There Is No "Deep State," There's A "Complacent State"; Park: Trump Administration Showed "Naked, Unapologetic Cruelty" With Child Separation; EPA Dropped Salmon Protection After President Trump Met With Alaska Governor. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:21] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight by recognizing what a difficult week this has been for so many people and how tough the days ahead will be as more funerals are held in El Paso and Dayton. More moments for a parent or child or a childhood friend to face the sadness of feeling the word is when it comes to a loved one give way to "was". My grandpa was. My child was.

So many people are facing that now. So many who lived those moments already at Sandy Hook and Parkland and Orlando and Pittsburgh are reliving them yet again because in many respects, there is sadly nothing new here, whether it's the weapons used, the first responders, the heroes heartache. Nothing new in the call for change or what feels like the endless, fruitless battle between the forces of gun control and gun rights.

In some ways, though, we've really never seen anything like this. We've never seen the president offer vision to the hurting, instead of unity or use the visit meant to console, to settle scores and air grievances, some of them entirely made up, or be the focus of questions whether his racist statements gave an already hate-filled person another reason to kill.

And today, the alleged El Paso gunman made it clear admitting he was the killer and that he specifically targeted Mexicans. Nor have we seen as has been reported tonight in "Axios", a president's campaign official saying having the president of the United States called a racist could be politically good for him. That's where we are. That's how this week is ending.

It's also ending with the president making claim that he's made before about action on gun restrictions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we can get something really good done. I think we can have some really meaningful background checks. We don't want people that are mentally ill, people that are sick, we don't want them having guns. Who does?

But we'll see where the NRA will be. But we have to have meaningful background checks.


COOPER: Now keeping them honest, we've already seen where the NRA says it will be against them. They've just said so, warning the president his base would not like them and saying in a statement, quote, the NRA opposes any legislation that unfairly infringes on the rights of law abiding citizens.

Now, remember, the president talked tough about his willingness to challenge the NRA before. He did it after the Parkland shootings, including at a gathering of bipartisan lawmakers where Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy put the challenge to the president.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Mr. President, it's going to have to be you that brings Republicans to the table on this because right now, the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks.

TRUMP: I like that responsibility, Chris. I really do. I think it's time. It's time that a president stepped up and we haven't had them -- and I'm talking Democrat and Republican presidents. They have not stepped up.

And they do have great power. I agree with that. They have great power over you people. Thy have less power over me. Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified.

They want to do what's right. And they're going to do what's right. I really believe that.


COOPER: Well, he alone could take on the NRA was the message except he didn't and wherever you stand on gun regulation, that's just a fact. Talk is easy, doing something that might upset the powerful NRA and some of his base, perhaps that is tough.

The president likes to talk about being tough and being powerful. He sure seems to shrink in size when the NRA starts whispering in his ear. So, yes, the president has talked about tougher, stronger, meaningful background checks before.

He is singing that song again only this time as it was during his trip to El Paso and Dayton, he's largely singing it in the key of me.


TRUMP: They supported me early and that's been a great decision they made. The NRA made a great decision in supporting me, and nobody else would have won. You know, they supported me very early, far earlier than anybody thought possible. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, the NRA loves him, he says, but this isn't about the NRA, he claims.


TRUMP: This isn't a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat. I will tell you, I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board. He said I've been waiting for your call. He's totally on board.


COOPER: And keeping them honest, he's not on board, not even a little. The Senate majority leader said he'll take up the issue and only after the summer recess perhaps because that's when maybe anger over the killings in Dayton and El Paso might have calmed when people might not pay such close attention.

As for the president, well, he just left town for his own summer vacation, first at the Hamptons and to his golf club in New Jersey.

As for winning over Democrats, the president expressed optimism there as well, but he couldn't stop himself from digressing as he did in this moment from the subject at hand to a note to himself.


TRUMP: And Chuck Schumer in particularly loves my China policy, as you probably know.

[20:05:00] I said I can't believe it. You actually like something that I'm doing. He said not like, love.


COOPER: So much love for the president and his policies from Schumer, from the people of Dayton and El Paso, two rock star-kind of love according to some in the administration, respect the office, love.

Flushed with all that love, the president went on to say that he's, quote, winning and winning big, unquote, with China before getting back to background checks and the nice new letter Kim Jong-un sends him, and basically wherever you stand on gun legislation getting any legislation through divided Congress, that is hard enough. It takes persistence and focus and clear determination to keep at it.

Today, the president claimed he's got all that but he couldn't make it through a sentence without verbally wondering off to flatter himself, which is the week has gone is pretty much par for the course.

Some perspective now on the news and this whole week of news, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman. So, the president is saying meaningful background checks, not exactly

sure what that means, but it is very reminiscent of the language he used in the wake of Parkland.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is, and at that time, his aides said he was there on background checks. So, that's what he wanted to do, and then the NRA intervened. Depending on which aid you talk to, he has been there all along for background checks and just sort of got cold feet when he was talking to the NRA in the last round. Other aides suggest that he had a push to get there but he's been discussing it since Saturday.

Again, to your point, we have been there before. And not only have we been there before on background checks, we've been there before on legislation where the president has insisted there is an appetite for a deal on immigration, on a number of other things, and there isn't. And so, the proof is going to be in the pudding. Could this one be different?

It might be, but so far, the signs that would require that such as Mitch McConnell bringing the Senate back, having the immediacy of action around what just happened in Texas and in Ohio. That hasn't happened. And so, is there still going to be an appetite in a few weeks when the Senate returns? We'll see.

COOPER: Right. I mean, it sounds -- you can just as easily make the argument Mitch McConnell is trying to slow-walk this and, you know, push it to the time something else came up and people are no longer as fired up about it.

HABERMAN: Mitch McConnell and the president spoke several times this week, I'm told by a couple of people, and they talked on this topic. And basically, McConnell's view point was that he's going to be -- he's going to do what his caucus wants, but the president is going to be the one who gets the votes, and so far, I understand he's had conversations with folks like Lindsey Graham, and he's had conversations with Pat Toomey.

But so far, there is not really a sense that he's doing the kind of arm-twisting that say we saw on the tax bill in 2017 and until we see that, I don't think this is going to happen.

COOPER: It would -- I guess I shouldn't be surprised and stuff but it's normal when a powerful human being who's the president of the United States says something that you're sort of supposed to believe what they say and has meaning and might follow through.

When the president, you know, mocked the other Congress members for being scared of the NRA and said he's not and that, you know, he'll take it on, and they want to do what's right and then does nothing, and then yet again now is saying it's not about the NRA, I don't know why -- I mean, it's like we're rationally sitting here saying, well, you know, maybe this time will be different. We don't know.

HABERMAN: We don't know. Here is the reason why the president has said to aides that this will be different in terms of the NRA. The NRA is in a substantially weakened position that has an enormous amount of internal turmoil.

So, the president has privately said to advisors that he thinks the NRA is going to go bankrupt and they're not going to be able to come at him the way that they might otherwise in terms of financial support and wouldn't be there to with hold the support anyway. Remember, they were a huge outside funder of his election in 2017 in terms of being supportive.

So, he thinks that he's got the upper hand and he tends to look at things that way, but what other advisors have said to him is he's misreading this, although I don't think they necessarily put it that way. But they said the NRA is going to remain powerful through the election and their members, many of them are your voters are. So, they are still going to have a voice. When they start really -- the NRA hasn't really come out pushing back aggressively yet.

COOPER: Uh-huh.

HABERMAN: I'm told that is coming. If that comes, we'll see what the president is saying.

COOPER: There was reporting about a phone call from Wayne LaPierre from the NRA.

HABERMAN: It was actually -- it was in the other direction. The president called Wayne LaPierre on Tuesday.

COOPER: Oh, really?

HABERMAN: Yes. And he was talking about how it's time. We're going to get this done. There is going to be a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden and LaPierre was pretty clear with the president, I'm told, that that is not something the NRA is going to support just based on what they are describing.

Now, again, we have no idea what the details are. We don't know what we're talking about. There is no actual legislation.

COOPER: Again, he's saying meaningful background checks, that could mean anything.

HABERMAN: The statement is not meaningful because we don't know what he's talking about in a sentence before he said that, he said we don't have specifics. The president also said he had spoken with LaPierre several times this week. As I understand it, they had only spoken on Tuesday. So, there are a lot of things being said that don't check out. We will see where we are in a few weeks.

This is all -- unless there is a push to build support for this by the president and maybe there will be, but unless there is, this is unlikely to move forward.

[20:10:07] COOPER: I'm smiling because the phrase you used, I mean, that could be chyron on most days.

HABERMAN: What did I say?

COOPER: The statement is meaningless because we have no idea what he's talking about. It's a fascinating -- it's true.


HABERMAN: I used the word meaningful. So, I was just saying.


COOPER: I know. It's accurate.

HABERMAN: It's -- look, I think that most of the president's crisis that he has dealt with in his administration and time as president have been of his own making. This was not one. This was one.

I understand that pointing to the rhetoric and the manifesto that the alleged shooter in Texas used, that people have connected to things that the president has said. But in terms of just sort of being at the president's own hand, this was not something he did. This is something he's had to deal with and this is over the weekend when this was all developing, you know, 31 people at the time it was I think 29 but 31 people dead in two different cities.

This was a huge crisis and a lot of his advisors will privately admit this was a commander in chief moment that he did not meet in real time. So I think --

COOPER: Right. In fact, he -- to your point, he ultimately made it a fumble of his own making. I'm wondering what you're hearing about what are people in the White House actually saying about, you know, the rock star tweet and the president talking about Beto O'Rourke and crowd size.

HABERMAN: He has -- the president, most of his aides will say the same thing they said after every single one of these moments, it's not like we're unused to hearing the president talk about himself or talk about his rally crowds. He does this in almost every setting he's in. He turns it into something about himself.

It's glaring when it's something like this that's supposed to be about the victims and people who are suffering during these attacks. And so, his aides had hoped to get him in and out with sort of minimal contact with both the people he was seeing but also minimal opportunities to go off-script. The press the not invited into the hospital at Dayton.

And to be clear, press is often not brought into those kinds of settings, as you know.

COOPER: As they should not be.

HABERMAN: Right, that was --

COOPER: But there was reporting that the president was annoyed --

HABERMAN: He was annoyed. He wanted them brought in. His staff had been working with the hospital and they had understandably not done that and then he either didn't know that or didn't understand it or -- there is a gap between what he thinks the media is supposed to be doing with his experience in, you know, reality television and business in real estate and what being president is and what the press around -- and the responsibilities around that relate to. And he just doesn't understand it.

COOPER: I actually was giving him credit when there weren't cameras because I thought oh, this is actually -- this is how it should be. He should be privately meeting with families and first responders and --

HABERMAN: He wanted -- he has a thing about believing that he should get positive press for things he should get for moments like address that he gave on Monday, where he, you know, denounced white supremacy, or after Charlottesville.

COOPER: And all supremacy.

HABERMAN: And all -- right. Every supremacy, or after Charlottesville when he eventually gave that speech. That was more condemnatory.

And then when he doesn't get the coverage he thinks he deserves, he lashes out, and this is following that cycle. So, it's not a surprise, but the volume of it I think was the surprise.


HABERMAN: And the degree to which he was ordering aides to push out positive images about, you know, himself and what he was doing. It was just jarring.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Some of what we've been talking about with respect to the president's behaviors , actions and the tone he is setting are having effects beyond the West Wing. Just ahead tonight, an exclusive interview with a career foreign service officer who just quit in a very public way, with an op-ed. He says he left fed up with what he sees in the White House and being part of what he calls the complacent state that enables the president.

Coming up next, the photo out of El Paso that is also stirring controversy. The president and infant who is now an orphan. That little boy, whose name is Paul, his parents were killed at the Walmart. The question of whether it's an appropriate photo, the president giving a thumbs-up, we'll ask the father of a wounded survivor ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:18:19] COOPER: As we reported at the top of the program, the El Paso shooter has admitted that, quote, I am the shooter. That's according to his arrest affidavit released today, and in addition chillingly it reads, quote: The defendant stated his target were Mexicans. Two of his victims died protecting their 2-month-old son.

And tonight, a photo of the boy set off some controversy over what is appropriate and welcome presidential behavior and what's not. The photo was posted by the first lady's office on her official account yesterday shows her holding the 2-month-old whose parents were taken from him, murdered at the Walmart in El Paso.

President Trump smiling giving a thumbs-up gesture, something he does routinely. We should mention the little boy's family welcomed the president's visit and are pleased with the photo. Others are not, saying it shows a lack of empathy.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports that the baby's name Paul has been discharged from the hospital but brought back with an uncle to meet the president. The uncle told "The Washington Post" he is a Trump supporter.

As you may know, many of the wounded survivors at two El Paso hospitals said they did not want to meet the president. One is Michelle Grady, daughter of Pastor Michael Grady, and he joins me now.

Pastor Grady, it's good to see you again. First of all, how is Michelle doing?

PASTOR MICHAEL GRADY, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: Michelle is doing well today. She had surgery earlier today. She came through with flying colors and so the doctor did a marvelous job with her hand and finger.

She's not going to lose her fingers. We're grateful for that. And the surgery went well.

She's resting now and getting ready for the next surgery down the road.

COOPER: When you and I had talked earlier in the week, I think she had had a tube removed, which is painful thing and that hurts. Is she able to talk more than she was?

[20:20:02] I don't mean necessarily about what happened but just talk to you and your wife?

GRADY: Yes, she's been communicating well. We've been with her all day, as you know, and last evening when she returns from the surgery on yesterday. Once she came out of the anesthesia, she was talking and laughing and feeling much better.

COOPER: That's great.

GRADY: So we're grateful for that. The doctors have been excellent at UMC. They have done a marvelous job alleviating the pain that's caused by the assailant's bullet and we're just praying and thanking God for the miracle.

When she first came in, it looked like she would lose the finger. But now, she's going to have her finger and I believe she's going to make full recovery, Anderson. Thank you so much.

COOPER: I want to remind the viewers, your story is extraordinary. She was shot outside, Michelle was shot outside Walmart as the gunman walked in, and she was able to call your wife on the phone -- and correct me if I'm wrong or FaceTime -- I think calling and your wife got in the car, drove to the Walmart, got there in like six minutes, and got to your daughter and then you drove there, too. You got there and ultimately there was so many people in need, you got your daughter into a cart with the help of someone else from Walmart, wheeled her up to where the ambulances were and you-all had to use your preacher voice and get attention to -- I'm being polite there and get her into an ambulance.

I mean, were it not for that, for the bravery of you and your wife and the quick thinking, who knows what would have happened?

GRADY: Yes. That's correct. Michelle had the presence of mind after she had been shot to call her mom and stay on the phone with her mom until my wife arrived. Then my wife called me on her way here and she was able to get a Walmart employee to assist her in getting Michelle on the cart and pushing her all the way down here to the --

COOPER: It's incredible --

GRADY: -- to the standing area. My wife did a marvelous job convincing folks Michelle was not only necessary but it was necessary to get her the proper help.

COOPER: By the way, if -- I would like to get your wife's number because if I'm ever in trouble in any capacity, she's the person I want to call first. But listen, I want to ask --

GRADY: I make sure I get it to you.

COOPER: I want to ask about your decision not to meet with the president. I'm wondering was it a decision you, your daughter struggled over? And what was your thinking on it?

GRADY: Well, it was not really any struggle whether we found out the commander in chief was coming to El Paso, and might visit the University Medical Center. We made a decision as a family, we asked Michelle about whether she wanted to see the president and she said no and we made a decision that we did not want to see him as well because I had already spoken out of my passion the night before.

So, it was a conscious decision that we would put a sign on our door, please do not disturb. And so, I'm grateful that we made that decision. I don't think it would have done any good and not have been healthy for Michelle, definitely not healthy for us. And so, I think it was a great decision to make.

COOPER: The photo that we showed earlier that's been people have a difference of opinion about it and the president and the first lady with Paul, the 2-month-old baby and the president giving thumbs up.


COOPER: I'm wondering when you saw that, what did you think?

GRADY: When I saw the picture, again, I thought about what I said a couple of nights ago again that words matter and now symbols matter because usually when you have a thumbs up, you're applauding or agreeing to something.

I didn't see anything to applaud. I didn't see anything to agree. Those children are orphans that lost both parents and shows a lack of empathy and sympathy in the situation, and again, it shows that the commander in chief is more concerned about himself than the people of this nation in trying to heal and to restore us to a place of honor and dignity and be a blessing to that family.

It turned out to be just another photo op, no seriousness about the real gravity of the situation.

COOPER: You know, the president is saying for the second time that, you know, he wants meaningful background checks, not clear what meaningful means in his mind. It's similar to what he said after Parkland and then the NRA seemed to have changed his mind. I'm wondering if you think there's going to be change and what your message is.

You had a very strong message to the president earlier in the week. I'm wondering what your message is to him tonight in terms of what you have seen over the course of this week and how you're feeling and what you think needs to be done.

GRADY: But again, I speak with clarity that I believe that president of the United States when he makes promises, -- I come from a faith works base mentality and the Bible says faith without works is dead.

[20:25:11] So he can speak a thing, but until it manifests, he has no real power. The challenges before this administration could not only be to legislate but to model, a real genuine concern for the safety of cities and the safety of those members of the United States from a broad perspective. And so, I'm not too convince that things are going to change because we've heard rhetoric before.

But again, I'm from the show me state. I'm from St. Louis, Missouri, and I'm waiting to see rather than hear this response, whether it's going to manifest any real, tangible change in the nation and how we deal with violence and weapons of mass destruction that are on our streets and our communities. So I'm waiting to see if it's going to be real but at this point, I'm not convinced.

COOPER: Well, Pastor, Pastor Grady, I appreciate your time tonight. I'm really glad to hear that Michelle is on the right road to recovery, and my best to your family and to your wife -- thank you.

GRADY: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you very much.

COOPER: You take care.

A long-serving foreign service officer quits and made no bones about the reason in a very public way.

Coming up, I'll speak with him in his first television interview.


[20:30:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: In a scathing op-ed in "The Washington Post," a career Foreign Service officer explains why he resigned in protest of President Trump. His name is Chuck Park and spent 10 years serving in various countries for the United States.

He wrote in part, "I came into the government inspired by a president who convinced me there was still some truth to the gospel of American exceptionalism. A child of immigrants from South Korea, I also felt a duty to the society that welcomed my parents and allowed me and my siblings to thrive. Over three tours abroad, I work to spread what I believed were American values, freedom, fairness and tolerance. But more and more I found myself in a defensive stance, struggling to explain to foreign peoples the blatant contradictions at home."

He goes on to say, he never saw an anti-Trump deep state in the government or resistance. He calls what he saw a complacent state in a state where political appointees contributed to incompetence and contradictory policies that the President would then sometimes change on a whim without any notification.

Chuck Park joins me tonight for his first T.V. interview about his high profile resignation. So, explain why you decided to resign.

CHUCK PARK, FORMER FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER: Sure. So, let me start off by saying this is absolutely a personal decision for me. It was really difficult for me. You know, I don't mean to project my own values and the limits of my own conscience on the entirety of the federal bureaucracy.

COOPER: Right.

PARK: So, let me first say that. There are thousands and thousands of federal employees who did not make the same decision I did and they are absolutely working to prevent this freight train from going off the rails and exploding. OK, so respect for them.

But, and I think this was the real kind of -- one of the core messages of my op-ed. If you're a concerned American and you're hoping that some elected officials somewhere or a cabal of civil servant somewhere will resist this President and fight his policies from within the government, then you will be disappointed.

COOPER: You never saw any resistance or deep state?

PARK: I certainly saw people's personal reservations. I never saw a deep state, that's right. What I did see was people kind of really weighing this thing. And if I can use an analogy, working as a diplomatic overseas as a Foreign Services officer feels kind of like, you know, watching your home from a distance.

So, you know, even under the prior administration, and I mentioned this in my op-ed, I absolutely could see visible cracks in the walls, maybe even the foundation of our nation, or our government at least. The past three years have felt like the house is on fire. And not only is it on fire, but there is a man purposely lighting more fires.

And so, you know, when I see -- when I talk to my colleagues, it's not that they don't feel the same distress that I do, they absolutely do. It's not like they're not as concerned as I am about that house on fire. It's not that they don't have compassion for the people in that house who are being hurt. It's that they decide to keep their distance and hope that the house is still standing afterward, and for me, that is the definition of complacency.

COOPER: You in fact say that there is no deep state, there is a complacent state. So explain -- I mean, because look, Foreign Service officers are working for the American people. They're working representing America overseas. They're not representing any particular administration.

There is an ambassador who's appointed usually, sometimes its career foreign service person, sometimes it's some donor who knows nothing but has given a lot of money. And yet, plenty of people serve overseas in administrations they don't like. They don't agree with the policies, but they faithfully execute the policies as is their job.

PARK: That's absolutely true.

COOPER: Is that complacency or is that service?

PARK: So, let me come back to that particular question. But what I'll say is, I thought about this for a long time, you know, at least two and a half years, not more than that. And what I'll say is, I rationalize to myself using the same words you use, you know, I swore my oath to the constitution.

You know, I serve the American people. I don't swear an oath to a particular president or a particular party. And that's true, but that's really abstract. So when you read the commission of a Foreign Service officer of a diplomat like me, you'll see that it's written there explicitly. We serve during the pleasure of the president.

[20:35:00] And so what that means is the way we serve the constitution, the way we serve the American people is by working for the president that they elected. And right now, that president is Donald J. Trump.

COOPER: So did you -- were there specific events in the United States or specific policies that you just felt you could no longer essentially be the face of in a foreign land?

PARK: You know, there is no single kind of straw that broke the camel's back. There is a slow buildup and maybe I'll call it moral distress kind of -- with each successive kind of tweet or action. I mean, it started with the Muslim ban, the executive order in January 2017. And then defending white nationalist after Charlottesville, it will stand the separation. It was revelations about squall (ph) detention centers. It was -- was it just yesterday a federal agents kicking down doors and arresting parents on their children's first day of school.

So, what's different about this administration for me, and I only worked under two but, you know, at least in my lifetime I've seen a number of presidents. What's different is kind of the naked unapologetic cruelty, that's the first thing. The second thing is, you know, the sheer kind of managerial incompetence of this administration. The rollout of that Muslim ban, that executorial was disastrous.

You know, in Vancouver for example, we had, you know, we had a docket of interviews. That was my last for posting, I'm sorry, the consulate of Vancouver. You know, our consulate officers and kind of all the employees that had prescheduled interviews for many of the nationals from countries, from which travel is ban, that morning, they -- many of them are caught mid-conversation with people when the news came in via cable. But even then, there is no forewarning. We had no idea this was coming. We might have even seen kind of the White House statement and then the cable.

I'll give you another example. You know, this is an experience I've had personally and I think I'm absolutely sure many of my colleagues had the same one. You know, every morning we kind of read our cable cue, this -- again, this inbox of guidance straight out of State Department headquarters drafted by -- at least cleared by with the direction of political appointees.

And, you know, an example, a cable will contain talking points for the day, let's say on trade. And I am, you know, tasked with memorizing those talking points, you know, and finding meanings with senior foreign officials, delivering dutifully those talking points. And it is happened to me that in a meeting with a foreign official kind of mid-sentence that official that I'm talking to will pick up their cell phone and point to a tweet from the President that directly contradicts what I'm saying in person. So --

COOPER: So talking points that the administration, State Department --

PARK: Yes.

COOPER: -- sends to you in the morning, sends to the embassy in the morning and you go and do your duty and start having a meeting about it with a foreign official, the President tweets in the middle of that meeting coincidentally and the foreign official says you don't know what you're talking about.

PARK: That's exactly right or, you know, it used to be the case that any pronouncement or public statement by the President or the secretary of state, whether by Twitter or Facebook, public statements, public remarks, are policy. Now, this is true under President Obama. If I had some tweets or something, if I saw a press, a statement on the White House website, I could repeat those. I didn't have to ask for permission. I knew that was my guidance. Under this President, that is not the case.

COOPER: So, when you're in a meeting like that and you're trying to maintain legitimacy, you're trying to maintain that you are expressing your speaking for the State Department, speaking for the United States, I got to say if I was in a meeting with somebody and that happened, you know, and I was that foreign leader, I'd be like, why am I even wasting my time talking to you?

PARK: That's exactly right. It's embarrassing.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have more with Chuck Park in a moment.


[20:42:46] COOPER: We're back with former Foreign Service Officer Chuck Park, who's just resigned from the State Department in a very public way with criticisms of what is going on with the State Department and this administration.

Look, plenty of -- there's a long and proud tradition of -- in Democratic and Republican administration of people, Foreign Service officers and others saying I can no longer stand by and do this job and I resign.

It's rare that people then write an op-ed and it's a very public resignation in the way that yours is. Why did you want to write an op-ed and send a very strong message about why you were leaving?

PARK: So, you know, I've been asked a bunch of times over the last 24 hours whether I'm calling people out. The answer -- short answer is yes. But, I'm not calling out my former colleagues in the Foreign Service. I'm not calling out other civil servants in the federal bureaucracy. They're doing their jobs and they're working hard. I am calling out the American people.

If you are concerned with what's coming out of this White House, if you're disgusted, dismayed by images of, again, children in squall detention centers, if you don't like your president using rhetoric that emboldened white nationalists, then it's up to you to resist. And you can resist by protesting, you can publish an op-ed, you can run for office or you can vote. And so, I hope to do one or more of those things now that I'm out of the government.

COOPER: You were in for 10 years. You were doing -- you know, you knew what the job was. You knew that you might be working for an administration that -- with different politics than your own and plenty of people work for administrations with different politics, but if everybody resigned every time there was a new president there would be chaos.

PARK: I completely agree. So, you know, I'm not advocating that, you know, every president should bring in an en entire new bureaucracy every time there was transition. That would be chaos.

[20:45:04] COOPER: And you would get people with no qualifications and no experience.

PARK: That's right, yes.

COOPER: I mean, as much as people to ride in this administration, to ride career civil servants, calling them bureaucrats, these are people who develop an expertise in what they are doing.

PARK: Absolutely. So all I can say to all the acquisition (ph) is that I couldn't do it anymore for myself. And to me, it felt like kind of this President and working for this President was an extreme, kind of frustrating, kind of outrage inducing experience almost on a daily basis. And I'm referring mostly to domestic policies than the foreign policies that I had done.

COOPER: The President often says in the prior administration, people around the world were laughing at us. No one is laughing at us now. Is that your experience? Because I hear -- I mean, in my travels overseas, I hear a lot of laughter and it's not like laughing with us.

PARK: I'll be able to respond to that. So, It's really -- I've been in meetings where people didn't know that I was the U.S. diplomat in the room, and it's really interesting to hear what other nations say about us, behind our backs when they think we're not listening. And it's not all positive. There is still a belief in America, so let me reaffirm that.

And kind of-- just to circle back to the kind of core job of a Foreign Service officer, of a diplomat, is to represent America overseas, to explain it and to defend America. I'm not sure right now that there's a coherent America to project the world. There is an America I believe in and I came home to fight for it.

COOPER: Chuck Park, thank you very much for talking to us. Appreciate it.

PARK: No, thanks a lot. It's a real pleasure. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, up next, exclusive new reporting that for the first time ties a controversial EPA decision involving a copper and gold mine to President Trump.


[20:51:13] COOPER: For the first time, President Trump is now directly tied to a controversial reversal on a major U.S. environmental decision. There's exclusive new reporting tonight by CNN's Drew Griffin detailing a conversation the President had regarding a decision that could up end more than a decade of scientific warnings involving Alaska's pristine Bristol Bay. Drew Griffin has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The meeting took place on the tarmac during an Air Force One stop over, June 26th. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, a pro-mining, pro-business, anti-EPA governor, met with Donald Trump for nearly a half-hour.

GOV. MIKE DUNLEAVY (R-AK): I just got off of Air Force One with being with President Trump.

GRIFFIN: Dunleavy has been pushing for approval of a massive gold and copper mind known as the pebble mine, plan for Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed, home to the breeding grounds for one of the world's largest and most pristine sockeye salmon fisheries. And after his meeting aboard Air Force One, Dunleavy said this about the President.

DUNLEAVY: He really believes in the opportunities here in Alaska and he's doing everything he can to work with us on our mining concerns.

GRIFFIN: Inside EPA sources now tell CNN the very next day, June 27th, top EPA officials in Washington held an internal video conference with Seattle and told the staff that EPA was removing a special protection for Bristol Bay. And in essence, clearing the way for what could be one of the largest open-pit mines in the world.

That internal announcement was a total shock to top EPA scientists, sources told CNN, because their environmental concerns were overruled by Trump political appointees. Bristol Bay and its tributaries are regarded as one of the world's most important salmon fisheries. Roughly half of the world sockeye salmon come from here.

It's been protected since 2014 when after three years of study the Obama era EPA used a rare provision of the Clean Water Act to basically veto any mining that could pose a threat. EPA scientists writing a mine "would result in complete loss of fish habitat that was irreversible."

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: It's mind-boggling that it's still being considered at all.

GRIFFIN: Christine Todd Whitman is a Republican, a former New Jersey governor and under President George W. Bush ran the EPA. She has joined several others former EPA chiefs to publicly oppose the mine.

TODD WHITMAN: The potential damage is so overwhelming. The opposition to it up there is amazing. Over 80 miles of streams, thousands of acres could be damaged from this project.

GRIFFIN: This is the second time during the Trump administration the political appointees at the EPA have decided to remove special protections for Bristol Bay to pave the way for this huge mine.

In 2017, President Trump's first EPA administrator scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt canceled the protections after a private meeting with the mine company CEO. After a CNN report exposed the meeting and the lack of scientific debate behind the reversal, Pruitt backed down and put the protections back in place. Now, another private meeting, this time with the President himself has led to yet another win for the mine and removal of environmental protections for this pristine watershed.

TODD WHITMAN: One of the most troubling things about this administration on the environmental side is this disregard of science. They're gutting science across the agencies, across the department, across the government.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): Even if scientists at the EPA are advising you, Mr. President, this is very dangerous to the environment, to the fisheries, to the state of Alaska. If the President decides, that's the decision?

TODD WHITMAN: That's the decision.

[20:55:01] GRIFFIN: And the only recourse then is for environmental groups to sue.

TODD WHITMAN: Environmental groups, Native Alaskans, you'll have a host of lawsuits, I am convinced.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Alaska's Governor Mike Dunleavy, elected last fall, is a huge Trump supporter. He's met with President Trump multiple times, sent this letter to the President asking for a long list of EPA reversals, including what he called the Clean Water 404 veto, a direct reference to pebble mine.

A member of his staff used to work on the pebble project in public relations. And at EPA headquarters, Andrew Wheeler, the former coal company lobbyist who now runs the agency, has a tie to pebble mine too. He has recused himself from decision-making on the project because his former law firm represents the mine.


COOPER: Drew Griffin joins me now. I mean just, you know, even saying a former coal company lobbyist, coal industry lobbyist is now running it, you know, that says a lot. We've seen so many of these decisions, favors really to put developers or mines or drilling rigs ahead of the environment. So, is this a done deal? I mean, will this mine be built?

GRIFFIN: Well, pebble mine must still have its permit application approved. But our EPA sources, Anderson, say this is basically a done deal. The EPA says that those Obama era protections were just outdated. I'll tell you, Anderson, the government scientists we've been talking to, don't believe that for one minute. They consider this mine terrible dangerous for the Bristol Bay watershed.

COOPER: There's no doubt this was a decision by those Trump appointees, not scientists, correct?

GRIFFIN: Yes. Matthew Leopold, the General Counsel for EPA made this decision. At first the EPA denied that this meeting, the day after the governor's meeting took place even happened. Not true. When we confronted the EPA with our own evidence, they admitted that this meeting did take place. It's in this meeting, one day after Trump met with Alaska's governor that those EPA scientists were basically told the decision was made. And as one EPA official told us, Anderson, we were told to just get out of the way.

COOPER: Again, a government agency, they deny a meeting took place and then you show them what you have on it and then they're like, "Oh, yes, that happened."

GRIFFIN: That's right.

COOPER: Drew Griffin, I'm glad you're doing this job. Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Thanks.

COOPER: Coming up, President Trump takes hit from the 2020 candidates after his trip to El Paso. We'll talk about that with presidential candidate Julian Castro, and whether he thinks the President is honest when he says he wants to do something on background checks.