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President Trump Defends Epstein-Clintons Conspiracy Theory; Uproar Over Trump Aide's Remarks About "Give Me Your Poor". Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 13, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Is it just me or does the current president of the United States have a lot of time on his hands? Like more time than any president I've ever heard of. I mean, we know he watches a lot of cable news early in the morning, seemingly all night, even on the weekends between rounds of golf, which is hard because he plays a lot of golf.

I know the enablers of the White House called the giant blank spots on his schedule executive time, but can you imagine any real executive at any reputable company sitting around watching so much cable news and tweeting so much made up stuff and then retweeting other people's dribble?

This is not a new question, of course, it's been asked before but I bring it up tonight because the president once again have been playing one of his favorite games -- suggesting a conspiracy exists without any proof and with the intention of hiding any potential blowback on his own possible actions.

Today, the president defended his new conspiracy mongering by falling back on one of the lamest excuses he used time and time again. So, I just want to quickly give you the back story you probably know shortly after pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead, a comedian who according to his website doesn't actually have any upcoming dates but does sell t-shirts and ring tones and has appeared on Fox News sent a tweet essentially suggesting the Clintons were somehow involved in the death of Jeffrey Epstein. No evidence. No facts, just this guy tweeting it out.

Now, if you were the most powerful person in the world and had briefing books to read and you had decisions to think about and grieving families of victims of gun violence to call and console, or even I don't know, a wife and young child to maybe spend a little time with, what would you do when you read that tweet? I mean, you might read it and if you were, even on Twitter, that's to say and then you would probably go about your important work.

But this president doesn't think that way, and apparently doesn't have either the courage of imagination to come up with this sleazy, unfounded conspiracy theory on his own. So instead, he takes the time to retweet the sleazy unfounded tweet, OK, which is fine. It's something he did in the spur of the moment and maybe thought better of it and moved on and felt bad about it beneath the dignity of the office, all that, not presidential.

But no. Not this president. Today, in fact, the president defended his conspiracy mongering by describing the source of the tweet and how respected he is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a very highly respected conservative pundit. He's a big Trump fan. That was a retweet. That wasn't from me. That was from him.

But he's a man who has half followers, a lot of followers and he's respected.

The retweet, which is what it was, a retweet, was from somebody that is a very respective conservative pundit, so I think it was fine.


COOPER: OK. He's a self-styled comedian. So, two things are sad I think about this response. One, the president thinks because someone has half a million Twitter followers, they are respected or they're legitimate. That's how he judges legitimacy in his own mind.

The size of your crowd, your Twitter following, your rating, fine. We know this. It's sad. It's shallow, but it's nothing surprising.

The second thing to note is his "that was a retweet" defense. This is a personal favorite of mine for quite sometime going back to the campaign because for all his talk about being tough and taking the heat, that was a retweet is like when you're 5-year-old blames his 4- year-old brother for hitting him first and claiming he started it if.

Can you imagine if the president was hauled in for questioning on something, he would turn on a dime? Wasn't me. It was him. I just retweeted what he did. He used this excuse a couple times before.


TRUMP: I mean, they made a big deal out of that and I just don't see it. That was a retweet.

I did a retweet. You know, a retweet -- sometimes you do retweets -- when you do your own tweeting or you do your own social media, it's fine. When you do retweets, they can cause problems because you never know who is doing it to start off.


COOPER: Sure, but don't let that stop you. You don't know who is doing it but, you know, you can claim they are a respected conservative pundit later.

The president even pushed the conspiracy theory further today, referring to something a fringe news site has raised. Now, the site only arrived on Twitter according to the account just months before the 2016 election and its run by, quote/unquote, independent journalist and that's all we know about them from their site, but the president felt the need to repeat accusations, as well, today.


TRUMP: And then the question you have to ask is -- did Bill Clinton go to the islands? Because Epstein had an island. That was not a good place as I understand it. I was never there.


COOPER: OK. So did you notice what he did there? Because this again, it's just classic. It's a classic Trump.

He made the acquisition which a Clinton spokesman has denied. We'll go into that a little further detail later about the former president possibly going to Epstein's island and as of now, there is no evidence he did.

[02:05:02] And then unprompted, the president said and I quote, I was never there. Which is kind of weird, right? This other person did something horrible but, by the way, I wasn't there.

Why would the president want to reflect and raise this point that he was never there? Perhaps because he told "New York Magazine' in 2002, quote, I've known Jeff, meaning Jeffrey Epstein, for 15 years, terrific guy. Terrific guy Jeffrey Epstein.

The future president then went on to say and I quote, he's a lot of fun to be with. It's even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do and many of then are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his essential life. Well, he certainly did. Not a lot of other people did but he certainly did.

In fact, we have tape from a decade earlier showing Epstein enjoying his social life with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. NBC News first broadcast this tape. At one point you can see him gesturing toward a woman and appears he says to Epstein, look at her back there, she's hot. Classy.

Now by any legitimate standard, none of that means the president is involved with Jeffrey Epstein's crimes. But by the standards of our own president, it does kind of raise questions, doesn't it, by the Trump standard. Does the president believe any of this about the former President Clinton? Probably not. That doesn't matter to him or to the harm it might do.

Does he believe the Clinton's killed aide Vince Foster as he suggested or Ted Cruz' dad was involved in the JFK assassination or the Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered. He was found with a pillow over his face according to Trump.

All we know is these theories about murder become more prominent as we get into election season. This is the way he connects and solidifies support among his base like what he told reporters about whether his base could accept background checks. I don't know if he believes it or not. All we know is these theories

about murder become more prominent as we get into election season. This is the way he connects and solidifies support among his base. It's like what he told reporters about whether his base could accept background checks.


TRUMP: I think my base relies very much on common sense and rely on me in terms of telling them what's happening.


COOPER: They rely on me in terms of telling them what is happening. No, Mr. President, all of America used to be able to rely on the president to tell them what was happening, particularly times of crisis but you know what? It sure feels like a long, long time ago.

Before we talk to our guests about all this, I do want to read precisely what Clinton's spokesman said back in July about his travels with Epstein that the current president is now eluding to and building off of.

And according from the spokesman in 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein's airport, one to Europe, one to Asia and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of Clinton Foundation. Staff, supporters of the foundation and his Secret Service detail traveled on every leg of every trip.

He had one meeting with Epstein in his Harlem office in 2002 and around the same time made one brief visit to Epstein's New York apartment with a staff member and his security detail. He's not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade and never been to little St. James Island, Epstein's ranch in Mew Mexico or his residence in Florida, end quote.

Joining us now, CNN presidential historian and Rice University history professor, Doug Brinkley, also CNN political commentator and former Clinton White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart.

So, Joe, you know, again, I feel like we say this on many a night but again, this is the United -- the president of the United States once the most, you know, probably still the most powerful office in the land, most powerful person on the planet used to be a respected office held with reverence by all Americans or most Americans. But now, this is the president defending a conspiracy theory about the Clintons push by a comedian I've never heard of -- again and no disrespect to him, I wish him a great success, but, you know, he's got no actual standup dates according to his website, being involved in Epstein's death.

The irony here, the president often questions his own intelligence community and his own Justice Department, which is now investigating the whole Epstein death, but he's perfectly fine taking a comedian on Twitter at his word and retweeting it to 60-plus million people. JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, that's been

his game plan since the very beginning, to use whatever method he can to spread this information, to keep his base happy whether he's telling the truth or not telling the truth. We know now that he's not told the truth, you know, 10,000, 11,000 times according to "The Washington Post", which, you know, take a breath there.

That's a staggering piece of information. The president has lied to 11,000 times in less than three years. You know, I think one of the things that gets missed here and maybe this is why Trump is -- acts the way he does towards former President Clinton, if you look at the trips, I've been on a bunch of trips with the former President Clinton.

When he goes to Asia, when he goes to Africa, when he goes to Haiti, the job he's doing is helping people save their lives whether it's rebuilding a Haiti, whether in Africa, it's clean drinking water.

[20:10:02] Whether it's AIDS drugs that have saved tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people's lives.

This is something that Trump doesn't understand. You know, his foundation is under investigation for self-dealing. They don't help people. They help themselves.

So, I guess, you know, there is some sort of envy in there but, you know, the president's team now has been clear that there's nothing to this. And you've got to -- you know, you've got to wonder and I think you alluded to it. I don't play the conspiracy game.

So, I don't know what Trump's involvement if any in any of this is, but you have to wonder why he's pushing so hard to deflect and to project this on to someone else.

COOPER: Doug, the president continued to insinuate that the Clintons could be involved in a murder. To say that it goes far beyond presidential norms, obviously would be an understatement. Does -- I mean, is there something comparable in presidential history you can think of, Twitter was not involved but just pushing, you know, a president so quick to essentially amplify the conspiracy theories of random people who he may not even know?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, I mean, this is the death of the so-called ex president's club. I mean, he despises Barack Obama. He doesn't like George W. Bush and he uses Bill Clinton as kind of a punching bag.

I mean, the very fact of the matter is he was beat by Hillary Clinton by 3 million votes. That sticks in his crawl. He almost was undone by the "Access Hollywood" tape at the last minute he didn't bring those three women accusers of Bill Clinton into the limelight again to try to say -- well, he's worse than I am on this front.

So, he's using Bill Clinton as just his foil in 2020. It's been a staple of talk radio. Rush Limbaugh does it and Michael Savage does it. And it's something that Donald Trump feeds off of. He's got 63 million Twitter followers and that's his base.

COOPER: Well, Doug, do you remember when Nancy Reagan got pilloried for, I guess, consulting a psychic because she was concerned I guess in the wake of Reagan being shot or maybe it was before. I remember as a kid, listening to this and people were, you know, people's heads were exploding that she consulted a psychic.

Essentially, Donald Trump could retweet a psychic. I mean, there is no -- there is not a lot of filter in terms of who he's retweeting or who he's reading, if he retweeted, you know, if he was sort of backed to some psychics, if he backed Walter Mercado's theory of something, I guess he would -- you know, I guess the Republicans in Congress would go along with it like that's fine you're backing a psychic.

BRINKLEY: Well, exactly. You know, I once wrote a little bit about Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and I used to be shocked that Truman said Eisenhower knows more about politics than a pig knows about Sunday. That's like scandalous lying in presidential history. With this retweet, you have the president of the United States charging a former president to be part of a murder conspiracy. He also charged Barack Obama with bugging of Trump Tower.

I mean, you're charging or intimating felonies against former presidents with zero evidence and in this case, by your Justice Department is supposed to be investigating it. It's such foul play. It's so disgusting.

I have to teach history for a living. We have young people that don't think Neil Armstrong went on the moon, that 9/11 didn't happen. Instead of a president bringing clarity to history, he peddles in this muck of conspiracy theories that confuses our country.

COOPER: And, Doug, I meant no disrespect to Walter Mercado, who's an excellent psychic if you go for that sort of thing.

Joe, we don't have time but this, you know, you and I had discussions about the importance of White House briefings in the past. This is one of those cases where if there were actually still White House briefings, which there are no longer, this is the kind of thing you could question the White House about but that's gone. Those days are gone.

And again, nobody seems to care that much about it, but it's yet again an erosion of a norm which has actually a purpose. But I'm sorry, we're out of time. Doug Brinkley, thank you. Joe Lockhart, always appreciate your time.

Still to come tonight, given your tired, your poor, your income base changes to legal immigration. We'll discuss how the Trump administration is trying to rewrite the inscription you can find on the Statute of Liberty and inspired millions of immigrants not that just come to this country but millions of citizens in terms of how we view and they view the United States.

And later, President Trump blinks on tariffs, why the Christmas spirit hit him in the heat of August in his fight with China. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:19:02] COOPER: When presidents talk about the sonnet attached to the Statute of Liberty, Emma Lazarus' poem that adorns the statue's pedestal and contains those immortal words, give your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, they have done so in reverence.

The poem which is actually called the "New Colossal" wasn't originally a part of the experience of visiting the statue. It was written in the 19th century to help raise money for the pedestal, only years later was it rediscovered and allowed to give meaning to the statute. It was not simply a symbol of democracy, but a beacon of hope to huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Normally, when presidents of the United States quote the poem, this is how they sound.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: From her beacon-hand glows worldwide welcome. Keep, ancient lands, your storied palm.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.


COOPER: The Wretched refuse, send them, we said.

That's the reverence and respect the presidents both Republican and Democrat gave those words at the base of the Statute of Liberty. But that was in normal times and what will be the under statement of the night, these are not normal times.

So, with that in mind, listen to what President Trump's new acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said on NPR today defending administration's new policy for green card and visa holders, legal immigrants that in effect will likely mean fewer such legal immigrants from poor backgrounds will be able to get here and get citizenship, in the process providing a rewrite, Cuccinelli, did of the words of Emma Lazarus' poem.


NPR HOST: Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus' words etched on the Statue of Liberty -- give me your tired, your poor -- are also part of the American ethos?

KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: They certainly are. Give your tired and your poor who stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.


COOPER: That is the Trump rewrite.

To discuss all of this, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra state where two counties just hours ago sued to block administration's new immigration policy. I spoke to him before air time.


COOPER: Attorney General, I want to talk to you about your fight with this rule in a moment. But first, I just want to get your reaction to Ken Cuccinelli's quote essentially rewriting the poetry of Emma Lazarus. Ken Cuccinelli saying, give your tired, and your poor who can stand in their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.

XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'd invite Mr. Cuccinelli to meet my parents who have lived the words of Emma Lazarus, who believe in the Statute of Liberty and who probably would not have qualified over the interpretation of Mr. Cuccinelli. But they have been nothing but great Americans, and they have built this country, and thank God that those words are etched in bronze below the statute and thank God we don't rewrite history so cavalierly as we just heard Mr. Cuccinelli try to.

COOPER: I mean, you know, essentially that is what this administration with this effort is trying to do. I mean, they are fundamentally trying to change a stance that this country has taken and been proud of and not just, you know, a position they have taken but something that the United States has promoted generation to generation throughout the world as a beacon of hope to people who are in difficult circumstances who come here and can start a new life and make something of themselves and we all stand on their shoulders.

BECERRA: And that's what has made American great. We don't just say give us the folks who've already proven to be the top performers, that's all we want. We want people who have to struggle and show that they want to make a difference when they get to America, and that's what the Statute of Liberty represents. We know that from adversity comes some of our great achievements. And if you only take the winners, those who always had the chance to eat the cake, it would be a very different America and fortunately, most people know that our way of life is not going to change because someone says it should.

To me, those words are in many ways un-American that were articulated and thank God that we have documents like the Constitution, words like the Statute of Liberty that have out lasted statements like that.

COOPER: Two counties in California brought the lawsuit against the rule. I know you vow to fight it, as well. So, what steps do you plan to take?

BECERRA: We're preparing to file, as well. We think it's un- American. We think it's unlawful and we believe it would destroy good portions of our economy if we allowed a rule like this to take effect, because we rely on hard work of people who understand what it means to toil and to somehow overcome to be able to have a state like California that's become the number one state economically for this country and the fourth largest -- fifth largest economy in the world.

We need people that want to show they earned a place in America.

COOPER: And just finally, if this policy is allowed to stand, what does it mean for California or frankly, any state? The long-term effects that this administration either has considered or hasn't considered.

BECERRA: Anderson, this policy won't stand. I can say that to you as not just the attorney general from the state of California, I say it to you as an American, I say to you as a son of immigrants.

COOPER: You say it's illegal. How is it illegal?

BECERRA: The process by which it's being implemented is we believe illegal. The terms it would impose on people we believe are illegal and we also believe that it violates the Constitution's equal protection.

[20:25:4] So, under the laws of this country, we don't believe that rule will stand.

COOPER: How much of what administration is trying to do do you believe is based on their vision for what they want the American population to look like and be like in the future.

BECERRA: It wouldn't surprise me if this administration has sights set on what it would like American to look like. And obviously, from the president on down, we got a pretty good idea on what he and they don't like.

And again, there is a difference here. Presidents come and go. But the United States and our democracy continues, and so, as long as the Statute of Liberty can stand tall and free, we'll make sure she gets to do that.

And I will tell you that I've seen too many people who have struggled coming from foreign lands here including people like my parents and I've seen the hard work that they provide to this country. I see the effort. This type of hurdle is something they know they have to overcome. They know they have to prove them shelves and they will and we will overcome but we continue to have this. We'll put up a fight.

COOPER: Attorney General Becerra, appreciate your time. Thank you.

BECERRA: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, coming up next, President Trump has toted his plans for Chinese tariffs, so why has he blinked and delayed them? We'll explain ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:30:27] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. President Trump spent the past few months trying to convince everyone tariffs on China not only are good for the economy but also will not cost American consumers much of anything. Well, today, that changed.

The President blink in the trade, deciding to delay a new round of tariffs until after the holiday shopping season because of the pain they'd cause shoppers, despite saying earlier that none of that was actually happening. In fact, he said China was paying for the tariffs, which was never true, either.

Some perspective now from David Gergen who served four presidents and a CNN Senior Political Analyst, along with CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, let me just start with the President's explanation about the reversal here. What did he have to say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the President almost did something remarkable today. He almost admitted he was wrong. The President said, as you were just saying a few minutes ago, that they are postponing these tariffs because he doesn't want to have an adverse effect on the Christmas shopping season, saying that essentially he doesn't want consumers to be impacted by these tariffs. Well, that runs contrary to everything he's been saying up until this point.

He's been saying that U.S. consumers are not affected by these tariffs when, in fact, we know that they have been. And I talked to a source close to the White House earlier this evening that essentially the Trump administration is allowing the President to rig a lot of this policy without admitting that he made a policy mistake here.

COOPER: So that's as close as he came -- I mean, he didn't actually acknowledge the discrepancy, he just stated it.

ACOSTA: That's right.


ACOSTA: And he once again said, well, they're not feeling the pain from these tariffs, which of course is not the case. But this was as close as he's come to essentially acknowledging that these tariffs are to some extend being passed on to consumers.

If they're buying the smart phones and toys that come out of China later on during the holiday shopping season, potentially if these tariffs were to in a place in September instead of December, consumers would have been affected.

COOPER: David, this is a strategy we've seen before, when the President says or does something negative effects or maybe more intense than expected and then he finds a way to basically shift course without ever admitting he's responding to pressure or even shifting course. DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a very familiar pattern by now, Anderson. Often he surprises us with impulsive decisions getting out in front of his advisors, not listening to his advisors, throwing something out there and then when he gets a lot of push back, he blinks, you know. And it goes back to the old -- back to the Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. We went eyeball to eyeball and they blinked. It makes a big difference who blinks on this one.

In essence, though, Anderson, I think it is good policy. If he's going to probably avoid a recession, you know, we're going to have a pretty good Christmas sales very likely. He would be warned that unless he changed course here, he could have a very bad Christmas season and that the chances of a recession were 1 and 3 this coming year. So I think he made the right policy, but its terrible politics.

When you flip like this so easily, when you go up against the Chinese, there's one thing to go up against Mexico and make them and bully them into going along with your policy. It's a very different proposition to go up against China and China didn't blink here. They outlasted him and they will take their measure, again, future negotiations thinking if they just hang tough, they can get him to blink on other things.

COOPER: To that point, Jim, I mean it seems like most the President's advisors, as well as analysts outside the White House, were in agreement that the tariff plan was bad news for the U.S. markets.

ACOSTA: That's right. There were economists saying -- heading into the deadline for these tariffs to go into effect that this could send the country into a recession. And as everybody knows in Washington, President Trump is riding on a good economy right now. It is essentially the trapped door that is under his feet right now.

And if this economy were to head south and spin into a recession, that would obviously put his reelection prospects into major jeopardy, because on almost every other, you know, measure, he is in big trouble with a big part of the electorate.

The other thing I should say, Anderson, just to jump off of what David was saying, keep in mind, President Trump for the last few weeks has been going off on vice president -- former Vice President Joe Biden saying he's not the kind of guy who can go toe to toe with China.

Well, here is an example where the President took things to the brink on this trade policy with China and then he was the one that blinked. And so he is giving his opposition here some thought or heading into the 2020 campaign, no question about it.

COOPER: David, Jim mentioned one economist. Another reacted to the tariff news saying that even from the perspective of political self- interest, the tariff threat was suicidal, which was his word. Do you agree? I mean, was there no other way out of this for the President?

GERGEN: I think that the real question is why he got into it and it just wasn't thought through. They don't -- to this day, they are continuing to act very tactically when these issues come up.

[20:35:04] They don't have a long-term strategy and that's where we're dealing with a super power in China that has a long-term strategy for a couple of centuries looking -- you know, looking ahead. And we're trying to make it from day to day. And they -- as a result of that, they're playing the game better. They hold lower cards than we do, but they're playing the card better than we are.

COOPER: It's so interesting about the timeframe that they are looking at, you're so right. David Gergen, thank you, Jim Acosta.

President Trump ramping up his trash talk about the man who used to speak for his entire White House. Up next, the newest chapter in his clash with Anthony Scaramucci, what it means as yet another high- profile loyalist turns on the commander-in-chief.


COOPER: President Trump is again lashing out at his biggest enemy of the moment, not a foreign dictator, not a terror group leader, not what the Democrats is trying to replace him. We're back to the leader of the free world ripping his own former White House communications director.

Today, the President called Anthony Scaramucci a "nervous, neurotic wreck." This program last night and elsewhere, Scaramucci explained how he no longer supports the President's reelection bid after calling his trips to El Paso and Dayton a catastrophe. So once more, a alum of Trump world becomes scorched earth in the President's eye as he told reporters in New Jersey today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anthony was a guy who worked for me, who really didn't have a clue. He worked for 11 days. He made terrible statements and gestures and everything to people that worked in the office.

[20:40:02] I think Anthony is really somebody that's very much of out control. And he doesn't have what it takes. I mean, he really doesn't. Anthony is upset because he wanted certain things. The main thing he wanted was to come back into the administration. And as you remember better than I do, he was a disaster for the 11 day.


COOPER: Always hires the best. With me now, Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist, author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies," also Jim Schultz, a former Trump White House attorney. Appreciate both of you being with us.

Rick, you wrote a book about this very thing. I mentioned it last night because it's always in my mind, because I think the title is really so kind of fascinating, the idea that everything Trump touches dies. Nobody really survives with reputation in tact or even in the President's good graces, their interaction with Trump ultimately it all turns out in, you know, career death or with the President turning on them.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure. Anderson, this is a pattern that is repeated and repeated and repeated. You know, when I wrote the title of the book, I thought, this is a kind of principle that seems to be applying. Well, now, it's to the point where it's basically like a natural law and it will always happen no matter who they are, no matter how secure they think they are unless their last name is Trump, eventually he will turn on everyone.

He will get board or restless or angry or they'll say something with us and tell of independent thought or he'll get this idea in his head that they're against him and it's over. And whether they die slow or fast, it's one -- it's still an open question. But, you know, Scaramucci, it took him a long time to finally figure out that this guy's knife was in his back and his footprints were all over him, you know, and realize that this is actually a bad guy.

And, of course, Trump is going to play the game he always plays, saying people are desperate to be with me, you know. So, you know, I think that Anthony is in a weird spot in his life, but he's on the right side of the argument at long last.

COOPER: Jim, do you think it is kind of personal at this point between these two?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Yes, this isn't policy, this is personal. No doubt about it.

COOPER: Because Scaramucci is Republican and still believes in the President's agenda and many of the things President has done.

SCHULTZ: No doubt about it. So, this is no question, a bare knuckle brawl between two New Yorkers who are having a disagreement and its out -- and it's going outside the bar and into the street at this point in time, right? So that's what we're seeing.

And, you know, Anthony Scaramucci is a tough guy. He's going to stand his ground. The President is going to punch back when he gets punched and that's just the nature of both of them.

So, I think you have two big personalities clashing here and then, you know, we'll see how it turns out. But, you know, I think it's more of a personal issue than it is anything principled or policy at this point.

COOPER: You know, Rick, it's interesting that when -- I happen to see like a few seconds they were talking about Scaramucci on Fox and I turn up to sound in my office and I don't know who it was, but it was somebody on one of his round table shows and they were saying that basically -- essentially Scaramucci is putting his finger up in the air to kind of see which way the wind is blowing and he's decided which way it's blowing so that's sort of why he's jumping off the Trump train. Do you think there's an element of truth in that or do you see this as somebody who has, you know, decided, you know what, this guy has gone too far? WILSON: I think Anthony gambled went all in on Trump. He spent the last year and a half trying to find a way back into, you know, a sense of having Trump's ear. And of course, once Trump had shanked him, he was shanked, it was done. He was bleeding out on the floor. He never going to come back.

And so, you know, is it putting your finger up in the wind? I don't know. But as Anthony found the shocking revelation that Donald Trump is a faithless person in every dimension -- I mean, the guy has cheated or shanked every person in his life, wives, contractors, business partners, clients, the country.

And so, you know, the shocking revelation that Trump is a bad dude, you know, maybe Anthony is not that quick. But he's finally realized that there's no coming back after this guy puts you in the dirt. And after you've committed everything to him, you're going to get screwed over.

And, you know, it's ironic, Anderson, because I was against at some Fox clips from when Anthony was named as communications director and they thought he was the greatest thing since prepared mustard. They thought it was going to be an amazing change, this feisty New Yorker. Well, now, he's an unperson.

COOPER: An unperson.

SCHULTZ: No. I think it's more -- I think the guy -- I think the only thing he got right is the feisty New Yorker part. I think this is really about two feisty New Yorkers kind of having it out in the public domain, not really the place to be doing it, not the way to handle it, but that's the way it plays out now with -- on Twitter and through the social media. So, we'll see how it plays out.

COOPER: You know, my guess is Scaramucci is the on one who is actually ever been in a fight. I don't think -- I doubt President Trump has ever, you know, hit anybody. I don't know if Anthony Scaramucci has.

[20:45:08] But I would, you know -- my money would be on -- if I had to hide somewhere on a fight, I have to hide behind Anthony Scaramucci. I would not hide behind --

WILSON: You can tell by looking at that, Donald Trump is a soft- handed man baby. He's never taken a punch or give what you want.

COPER: Jeez. Wow.

SCHULTZ: This has really digressed.

COOPER: Yes, no. I don't even know -- I'm trying to understand what that visual even means, soft-handed man baby, gosh.

Jim, you were at the White House when Scaramucci was there. You know, he's a likable guy whether you believe in his politics or not. You know, he's certainly a very New York character. There's notion that, you know, Republicans are going to speak out against the President, which is Scaramucci saying.

Essentially he thinks there may be this change on Capitol Hill among Republicans which, you know, a lot of people may -- a lot of Democrats maybe have been wishing for, but there's really no sign of it.

SCHULTZ: Yes, I don't see a ground swell of support for that. The President's numbers among Republicans continue to be very, very strong. Again, I think this is a war of the words and Anthony coming out against the President and taking his punch if you will with the war -- in the war of the words. I don't see any grounds well for, you know, Washington Republicans turning their back on the President or revolting against the President. There's just no indication of that.

COOPER: Rick, what was that, soft-handed what?

WILSON: Soft-handed man baby.

COOPER: OK, I just got to write it down so I can think about it. Rick Wilson, thank you, Jim Schultz as well.

Coming up, is it all or nothing now in the conservative movement when it comes to this President? If you push back on racially charged policies or racist statements, you'll be shunned by other conservatives. It's happened to Max Boot. He says the Trumpification and "corrosion of conservatism is why he left the right," and he may have another new chapter to add to his book. We'll explain why, ahead.


[20:51:14] COOPER: My next guest has been writing a lot these days about race, hatred in America, the debate over the President's role in stoking the flames. Now, he's being accused of fanning them himself by a long running conservative publication that he says he once revered. So the question is, why is the "National Review" taking on "Washington Post" columnist, Max Boot?

He wrote a column last week that apparently touched a nerve with at least one of its writers. In it, Max argued that President Trump was playing on a sense of white victimhood in America. He wrote, "Get a grip, white people. We are not the victims."

The writer from the "National Review," John Hirschauer, fired back with a column of his own titled "Max Boot Fans the Flames of Racial Hatred." We invited him on the program. He declined that invitation, but Max Boot is here.

He accused the "National Review" of standing behind an article that employs the language of white supremacists. He's the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right," as always, welcome.

First of all, just talk about the argument that you were making in the piece that you wrote about victimization and victimhood.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: My article was really a response to a public opinion poll that came out last year, Anderson, which showed that 55 percent of White Americans think that white Americans are just as much the victims of discrimination as African- Americans and other minorities. All of that is ridiculous. That is absurd.

We know that there's real bias against minorities in this country. We know that they suffer. White people, who are the majority, do not suffer in that way and yet there is this victimhood complex which has taken root among many people, many whites, a lot of supporters of Donald Trump, he plays on that complex masterfully.

But it's also -- you see that with the El Paso gunman, for example, also feeling that whites are being persecuted, whites are the victims. And all I was saying was snap out of it, whites are not the victims here. We need to escape this victimhood mentality because it is very dangerous.

COOPER: It's also interesting because conservatives used to make fun of, you know, Democrats and liberals for a victimhood mentality.

BOOT: Yes, yes, absolutely.

COOPER: I mean, when I was growing up, that was the huge charge against Democrats and liberals by conservatives and now they do seem to be -- at least, you know, certainly Trump and others are stoking this idea of, oh my god, everyone is discriminating against us and it's so hard to be, you know, a white male today.

BOOT: Exactly. These -- I mean, Trump really indulges in this victimhood complex. Even as president, he always feels like he's a victim of everything and he feels like white people in general are being victimized by Latinos, by Muslims, by other minorities. Yes, there is this victimhood modern (ph) complex out there, which I think is very dangerous because it is really at the root of a lot of white racism.

COOPER: So this guy who wrote this article about you, he basically, again, declined to appear tonight, which is unfortunate. But he's basically saying that you are fanning the flames of race hatred. It's interesting because he doesn't accuse President Trump at all of fanning any flames, but somehow you are the one fanning flames.

BOOT: Right. This is the -- this is kind of the double talk that Donald Trump himself engages in where we know that he engages in racism all of the time and then he says, oh, no, anybody who calls me out, you're the racist, I'm not the racist. You're the racist.

So this is kind of an example of that same sort of reasoning and it's also something that you see, frankly, among white supremacists because this writer accused me of being a self-loathing white. You know, somebody who basically doesn't like my race. I mean, that is a kind --

COOPER: That is classic sort of --

BOOT: Right.

COOPER: -- white nationalist talking point.

BOOT: Yes, exactly. That is something you expect to hear from a follower of Richard Spencer, not of William F. Buckley Jr.

COOPER: If that's the end and sort of the companion piece, so that is they always say, I'm not a racist, I just love my race.

BOOT: Exactly.

COOPEWR: I don't hate black people, I just love my race.

BOOT: Right, and that's kind of the vibe that you get from this article. I mean, I've never been accused, you know, by a mainstream publication before of being a self-hating white.

[20:55:04] I mean, this is the kind of stuff that I hear on the dark corners of the internet from actual white supremacist. And so to see this actually, this kind of filth directed at me from the "National Review," which is then, you know, a publication that has defined American conservatism since the 1950s, this is a --

COOPER: Yes, William F. Buckley.

BOOT: Right, William F. Buckley, and this is a magazine I grew up reading, Anderson. I mean, I got a subscription in the "National Review" when I was 13 years old. It shaped my world view.

COOPER: You got a subscription when you were 13.

BOOT: Yes. I was a super nerd, that sort of thing (ph), yes.

COOPER: Wow. That -- I mean, you know what, it doesn't surprise me, but I kind of love that idea that at 13 --

BOOT: It explains a lot, doesn't it?

COOPER: Were your folks like, OK, sure.

BOOT: No, it was really my father who got his subscription --

COOPER: Oh, he did. He did.

BOOT: -- and he said you need to read this and I did. And, you know, Bill Buckley became one of my heroes. So it's heart breaking for me to see what is happening to this magazine, which once chase John Bertus (ph), an anti-Semites, out of the conservative movement. And now it is indulging in this kind of white supremacist rhetoric.

COOPER: The other thing that this writer wrote is, I honestly didn't understand it, was -- he said that you had demonstrated that you hate yourself and that your writing was boutique and performative, which -- I mean --

BOOT: I don't know what that means.

COOPER: I don't know what that means. BOOT: Right.

COOPER: Boutique and performative.

BOOT: It was a very strange article, because basically it was saying that, you know, Boot attacks, you know -- attacks on white people, you know, are basically driving them into the arms of the white nationalists and they're forcing them to choose between the white nationalists and Boot and his self-loathing whites. I mean, this kind of bizarre moral equivalent.

COOPER: All of those people are reading "The Washington Post" and your column and going to white nationalism.

BOOT: Right. It doesn't make any sense. But it's just incredibly shocking and offensive for me to see this kind of language appear in what is a mainstream publication. And it's sadly, I think, as a reflection of how even mainstream conservative publications are being Trumpified and are going down the same road that you see at Fox News.

COOPER: Well, in order to survive, I mean, that -- you know, I think for many it's an economic decision, certainly, with some of his people.

BOOT: Right. No, they don't want to go the way of "The Weekly Standard," which collapsed. But, you know, to my mind, it's tragic because, again, I revered "National Review."

I thought as if for something better and sadly I think it's a sign of how far over the edge Donald Trump is leading, not just the Republican Party, but even the conservative movement, even the intellectual gatekeepers who I think have a lot to answer for in opening the gates wide open to the kind of racism and xenophobia that Donald Trump represents.

COOPER: Yes. Max Boot, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.

BOOT: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, a killer's path, police in Dayton, Ohio releasing surveillance video. New details about the gunman who murdered his sister and eight others.