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Lewandowski, Dems Clash As Impeachment Hearing Goes Off the Rails; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is Interviewed About Lewandowski's Refusal to Talk About White House Discussions Despite Subpoena; President Trump Praises Ex-Campaign Manager As Lewandowski Stonewalls Democrats On Orders From The White House; Democrats Take Senate Floor On Gun Legislation, Demand Action; Source: "High Probability" Saudi Attack Launched From Iranian Base Near Iraq; Sean Spicer Appears To Invoke Christ To Get: Dancing With The Stars" Vote; Biden, Warren Show Biggest Gains In New NBC News/WSJ Poll. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 20:00   ET




A big night, including breaking news in the Democratic presidential race. New polling that could really shake things up. We'll have that.

Also, new word on what, if anything, Republicans, especially the president plan to do on gun laws. What the state of play now is and what a leading lawmaker has to say about it.

We begin, though, with this. The first within of the first hearings on impeaching President Trump is done testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Corey Lewandowski, the president's former campaign chairman, spent a lot of time saying very little today, except for claiming again and again what is a hotly disputed kind of executive privilege, as a justification for not answering questions from Democratic committee members. It earned him a warning about being held in contempt. It drew a string of frustrated responses from Democrats and attacks by Republicans on the proceedings themselves.

The president tweeted praise for him. He tweeted back, thanks. In short, Corey Lewandowski was the central figure today in a messy, very messy political drama or circus or witch hunt, depending on how you see it.

There's a small sample, including a key moment including Democratic committee member Hank Johnson, during which he confirmed that the president told him to order then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the Mueller investigation.


COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The White House has directed I not disclose the substance of any discussions with the president or his advisers to protect executive branch confidentiality. And I recognize this is not my privilege, but I am respecting the White House's decision.

As for actual collusion or conspiracy, there was none. What there has been, however, is harassment of this president from the day he won the election.

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): That's what he wanted you to deliver to Attorney General Jeff sessions, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: I believe that's an accurate representation.

JOHNSON: And he wanted you to deliver it to Jeff so that Jeff could say it to the people, right?

LEWANDOWSKI: I believe so.

JOHNSON: And you felt kind of squeamish, like that fish that you are trying to be right now, being scaled, you felt a little squeamish about delivering that message, correct?


JOHNSON: Well, why didn't you -- why did it take you so long and you never even delivered it?

LEWANDOWSKI: Correct, I never delivered the message.

JOHNSON: Yes, you chickened out.

LEWANDOWSKI: I went on vacation.


JOHNSON: You went on vacation. And so you put the message in the safe, in your safe, in your home, for safekeeping, correct? Before you went on vacation?

LEWANDOWSKI: I took my kids to the beach, Congressman. That was more of a priority.

JOHNSON: And President Trump was hounding you about, when are you going to deliver that message, correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: Completely inaccurate, Congressman.

JOHNSON: Well, he asked you about it a few times, didn't he?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, he did not.

JOHNSON: He never asked you whether or not you had delivered that message?

LEWANDOWSKI: Not on multiple occasions, no.

JOHNSON: One occasion, OK? He did mention it on one occasion to you?

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't know if that's in the report, sir, or not. REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): So the president asked you twice in the

Oval Office to deliver a secret message to the attorney general of the United States, a message that you quickly wrote down, word for word, at the president's direction, correct? Sir?

LEWANDOWSKI: I believe I wrote it down.

CICILLINE: And when you worked for the president during his campaign, did you ever ignore or disobey directions from candidate Trump?

LEWANDOWSKI: I didn't believe it to be in order.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): You didn't think that was illegal to obstruct justice?

LEWANDOWSKI: Congressman, the president has asked me to do nothing illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you lie, sir, in television interviews that you had asked to give interviews to the special counsel?

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't believe so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you deny that you didn't lie in public statements about --

LEWANDOWSKI: What I'm saying is, when under oath, I have always told the truth. I have no honest to be honest to the media, because they are just as dishonest as anybody else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're admitting, sir, that you were not being truthful in that clip.

LEWANDOWSKI: My interview with Ari Melber --


LEWANDOWSKI: -- can be interpreted in any way we like.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): So, Mr. Lewandowski, do you have a thought why we continue to engage in a charade that is overwhelmingly opposed by the American people and fundamentally misunderstood by any Democratic colleagues?

LEWANDOWSKI: You know, Congressman, I think they hate this president more than they love their country.


COOPER: Plenty to talk about. In a moment, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, who was also had a quite moment with Lewandowski.

But first, former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. senator, Rick Santorum, is with us. He's currently CNN senior political commentator. Also, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers, and CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff, what actually came out of this hearing today? Anything?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, not much that wasn't in the Mueller report. I mean, that was very much by Lewandowski's design. I mean, his invented legal theory was that he could only talk about what was in the Mueller report, but as that Hank Johnson exchange showed, the congressman from Georgia, the hearing -- hearing Lewandowski talk about how the president instructed him, word for word, writing down the instruction to go tell Jeff Sessions to ease off the Mueller investigation, it was -- it was dramatic business.


But it was not anything substantially new.

COOPER: And, Kirsten, I mean, the -- if the idea of this was to sort of open the eyes of the American public about what's actually in the Mueller report, I understand maybe some people took that who were watching it so closely, got that from those exchanges that we just cut together. But if you just tuned into this thing, it was a bunch of people yelling back and forth --


COOPER: -- and being passive-aggressive to each other and I mean, it didn't --


COOPER: It wasn't something that was, you know, informing the American public every second.

POWERS: Yes, it wasn't something that would inspire a lot of confidence about what's going on in Washington, I don't think. And I think this was predictable in the sense that, you know, anybody who knows anything about Corey Lewandowski, this is exactly the person that you would have expected to show up. You would expect him to be very pugilistic and behave in exactly the manner that he behaved.

So I think that, you know, and I'm not excusing his behavior. I mean, I particularly found his claim that you only need to tell the truth when you're under oath interesting. And that it's OK to lie to the media. That's kind of problematic.

And look, I think that he played an important role, certainly, you know, this sounds like obstruction when you have the president dictating to you to go and basically, you know, pass on this message to Jeff sessions that he didn't pass on. You know, to stop the investigation. So it's not unimportant, it's just, I don't think this was a very constructive hearing.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, I want to get your views on the hearing overall. And just on this executive privilege that is being -- I mean, if you had a -- somebody testifying before you, who was claiming an executive privilege, does Corey Lewandowski really have the right -- I mean, he doesn't work for the White House. Does he really get to just not answer questions?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I'm not -- first, I'm not an expert on executive privilege. I wish I had the opportunity to be able to exercise executive privilege, but I never got that opportunity. So I'm really not an expert.

But it doesn't seem to me, Jeffrey would probably answer it more definitively. It doesn't seem to me like he would be covered by executive privilege, but that doesn't mean that the president can't assert it and have it litigated. And in the meantime, Corey Lewandowski doesn't answer questions before the Congress.

And so, in sum, I think it was a very bad day for the House Democrats. It just looked desperate. It looked pathetic, frankly.

I thought it was a very good day for Corey Lewandowski, for what he wanted to accomplish there, which is, he hasn't announced he's running for the Senate, but if I was running for the Senate, I would want the opportunity to do what he just did today and to be able to raise a lot of small-dollar donations. He set up a website, which is "Stand with Corey", and I know they're raising money on that. So I think it was a very good day for Corey.

TOOBIN: Can I just address the legal issue for a second?

COOPER: Yes, please?

TOOBIN: I mean, this is an outrageous claim. The idea that a nongovernment official, someone who never worked for the administration, never worked for the government has -- is covered by executive privilege in his conversations with the president, no court has ever held that.

But it was even worse than that. It's that according to the White House's theory, which came out in a letter yesterday from the White House counsel, Lewandowski's conversations with other government officials in the White House is also covered by executive privilege. He refused to answer questions about that.

What he was planning on, and, you know, maybe this was good politics, is that the Democrats didn't have the energy or the time to find him in contempt, get the House vote, go to the district court, go to the circuit court, spend months to litigate this, but that shouldn't obscure the fact that the legal claim that the White House made was just outrageous and wrong.

SANTORUM: But finding Corey in contempt for -- I mean, Corey's basically going along with what he's been instructed by the president of the United States that he's dish mean, Corey -- I mean, I don't think Corey is the person that you go after here. I mean, the reality is that it's the president asserting this claim.

COOPER: But the president doesn't have any magical power over Corey Lewandowski, or he appears to, because Corey Lewandowski, you know, is not an employee --

SANTORUM: But he complied -- and he complied with it. I mean --

COOPER: But the -- you don't have to comply to a letter from the president of the United States. This is not yet a dictatorship.


POWERS: Also, does anybody really believe -- I mean, does anybody really believe that he didn't deliver the letter, because he went to the beach with his children? You know, that just doesn't pass the smell test. I think that Corey knew that there was something wrong with this.


And so, I think that he wasn't being particularly forthcoming. Anybody looking at this can see that there's something wrong with this, which is why you might try to pass it off on someone else who didn't want to do it because they recognized there was something wrong with it.

COOPER: It's also -- Senator, isn't it kind of a weird way to run for Senate by admitting that you're happy to lie to the American people? I know he was phrasing it as lying to the media, lying to reporters, but, you know, it's not as if the end result is you're lying to the American people. You are giving people false information. And you're fine with that? You have no moral problem with that?

SANTORUM: Yes, I think that was a little flippant on his part. I certainly wouldn't have made that comment. I don't think, particularly, if you're running for office, it's not a good thing for him to say.

I think he was taking the Trump approach, which is, it's different to -- you notice he pointed out the reporters' name, he didn't talk about lying to the public, he basically said, you know, I didn't tell the truth to this guy who doesn't have a right to hear the truth from me, basically. And I don't think that's a good line for him, and I would hope that he would, you know, go out and say, I'm going to tell the truth to the people of New Hampshire all the time.

COOPER: Right, but that doesn't seem to be -- Jeff, am I wrong, that doesn't seem to be his philosophy? He thinks -- I mean, he thinks everybody's a sucker, that they can be lied to, it seems like. I mean --

TOOBIN: But I think he has a lot of company in that view, in the Republican Party, and in the White House. I mean, he was playing for an audience of one, I thought. You know, he was displaying enormous contempt, not in the legal sense, but just in the personal sense for the members of Congress.

You know, baiting them, taunting them. You know, calling Eric Swalwell "President Swalwell" because Swalwell had an unsuccessful campaign for president. He was performing for Donald Trump and I think Donald Trump appreciated that. And I don't think Donald Trump -- it bothered him that Lewandowski

admitted to lying, because he lied to MSNBC. And that's like the belly of the beast for these people.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: So, I just -- I think, you know, the moral quality of the audience is appropriate.

SANTORUM: His audience was not Donald Trump. His audience were Trump supporters in New Hampshire. I would just --

TOOBIN: Far enough.

SANTORUM: -- beg to differ with you there.

COOPER: Although, he still -- I mean, he still wants to please daddy. I mean, there's no doubt he's still, you know --

SANTORUM: Well, I don't think he has any problem with that. I think he's trying to secure the Trump voters in New Hampshire, to get that primary win.


Rick Santorum, thank you. Kristen Powers, Jeff Toobin, appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up next, if -- as we've been discussing -- the goal was public persuasion, what do Democrats actually think they accomplished today? How are they going to say that they accomplished something? We'll hear from one committee member who'd her own confrontation with Corey Lewandowski.

And later, speaking of audience, as Jeff said, we'll talk to someone who, unlike Lewandowski, has broken with the president, Anthony Scaramucci, and loyalty, and what is it people like Lewandowski so loyal to the president when time and time the president has destroyed people who leave his inner circle.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: Well, Corey Lewandowski has finished his testimony, if it can be called that in front of the House Judiciary Committee. He was combative when pressed by Democrats on a day that was marked mostly by what he refused to say, which raises the questions if what, if anything, House Democrats will do in the face of what behavior that Committee Chairman Nadler calls, quote, completely unacceptable. That in turn may depend on what viewers made of the hearings and moments like this one with Democratic Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee and Mr. Lewandowski.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): The president knew what he was doing was wrong, because everyone else had already said "no". He called his White House counsel to fire the special counsel. McGahn said no.

He called the attorney general to ask him to unrecuse himself from the special counsel's investigation. Sessions said "no". His White House counsel said there should be no contact with Sessions, because of his recusal.

So what does the president do? He calls you in to do what everyone else wouldn't do. He called you in to do his dirty work in secret, because he knew it was wrong.

Well, we will expose the truth and the president cannot hide behind you any longer. And you should be here to tell the truth because the truth will set you free and the American people.


JACKSON LEE: I yield back.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The time of the gentle lady has expired. The witness may answer the question.

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't believe there was a question, Congressman.

NADLER: Very well.

JACKSON LEE: Yes, there was.

LEWANDOWSKI: Could you repeat the question? I didn't hear it.

JACKSON LEE: I'd be happy to repeat it.

LEWANDOWSKI: It was just a rant.


COOPER: Now, whatever you call it, as you heard at the top of the program, that was neither the first such utterance by a Democratic member, nor the first snippy remark from the witness. I spoke about it with the congresswoman just before air time.


COOPER: Congresswoman Jackson Lee, what, if anything, do you think today's hearing actually accomplished?

JACKSON LEE: Well, in fact, it was enormously valuable. Our mission today was to follow the obstruction of justice that was promulgated, promoted, enhanced, and encouraged by this administration. I think you're well aware, Anderson, that article III in the Nixon articles was the obstruction of Congress.

And clearly, today, Corey Lewandoski promoted and encouraged by a letter from the White House, clearly attempted to obstruct Congress and follow the obstruction that was again perpetrated in the White House, along the lines of dealing with the attorney general, Mr. McGahn, Mr. Dearborn, and Mr. Porter. That is clearly a part of our duty as we are in the midst of an impeachment investigation.

One of the questions in the Mueller report, of course, was what Congress would do next after volume II, where he laid out the obstruction and indicated that he could not exonerate the president.

COOPER: But if you're saying what Corey Lewandowski today was doing was obstruction, I assume you mean that it's -- orchestrated by the president or at the direction of the White House.


Is there anything you can actually do about that?

JACKSON LEE: Absolutely. First of all, we'll be reviewing the transcript and there's a question of whether or not Mr. Lewandowski will be held in contempt for obviously places on the record where he told an untruth.

In the last series of questioning by counsel, he clearly, in fact, objected to his own words. He objected to what was in the actual report that he obviously said to Mr. Mueller. And he also said in open television interviews that he had nothing to do or no one asked him to do anything with respect to talking to general sessions. All of that was untrue and he was under oath and --

COOPER: What do you say, though, to those who watched today's hearing, who tuned in and came away thinking that it just shows politics at its worst, both sides trying to score political points, talking past each other? I mean, is that the way it should go? What do you say to people who saw that and just think, OK, this is just sort of a mess?

JACKSON LEE: Well, we haven't been through an impeachment process now for almost two decades. I was here for the impeachment of President Clinton, which we know was brought by the Republicans, and the people remember, they were operating under the independent counsel, and I would say that they came with their minds already made up.

It's not a pretty process, but it is a necessary process and I think in the questioning of members on the Democratic side as we proceeded, and Mr. Lewandowski understood he was under oath and had to ask questions, there was some very vital line of questionings that went forward. And I think the record will show that unfortunately, we evidenced -- an effort by this administration, particularly the president, to do something that should not have been done, which is to try to get the attorney general to unrecuse himself.

COOPER: But we knew according to the Mueller report that Lewandowski had done this. Lewandowski talked to Mueller. Dearborn talked to Mueller.

So you didn't learn anything actually new today, did you? JACKSON LEE: Well, what we did have that is important is a viable

witness that gave substance to the Mueller report. This is a form of educating the American public. Remember, the Senate held hearings for about nine months, until the smoking gun of the tapes showed up.

And so this is to educate the American public, to show someone who is actually engaged in the actual receiving of a message, an interaction with the president, go do this. Go interfere with the Mueller investigation. I am the person who is asked to do it. There he was in living color.

Now, he would not answer, based on the letter that was given to him by the White House, which clearly was not one that was relevant to his testimony, but he kept using it, because he was not giving counsel to the president on any decisions that --

COOPER: But he's not a part of the White House staff, at all.


JACKSON LEE: And he never got into the White House, Anderson, as you well know.


JACKSON: So he couldn't be covered by that privilege, but he used it. That's obstruction. But also, he was the actual point person that the president used to sidestep the very persons on his staff, on the payroll that he could have asked directly, if it was in fact legal and the appropriate thing to do.

COOPER: Congresswoman Jackson Lee, appreciate it. Thank you.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having me.


COOPER: Up next, we get reaction from Lewandowski's contentious hearing from someone who did work in the Trump White House and no longer supports the president. Anthony Scaramucci joins me live. We'll be right back.



COOPER: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, when Corey Lewandowski was refusing to answer questions, President Trump was watching from Air Force One, tweeting his approval. Whatever else you might call it, it was certainly a display of loyalty and how highly the president values it, whether he reciprocates or not.

Joining us now is former Trump White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, who no longer supports the president.

I'm wondering when you watched Corey Lewandowski giving that testimony, can you explain to me why people are loyal to a guy who, if they leave him and say any little thing, any disagreement, not even big, just any little thing, he goes after that?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATINS DIRECTOR: You've got to be at 105 percent, or 13 for 12. And so, you know, Corey has made the decision that he wants to be in politics and perhaps is running for the Republican nomination for the Senate and he believes that he needs President Trump's support for that. And so --

COOPER: So, that's his calculus?

SCARAMUCCI: And, look, I like Corey. I get along with Corey. He's a friend of mine. So -- and I respect Corey.

But, I mean, the whole notion about the whole loyalty conflict, I get it. There's many, many people trapped in the Trump loyalty matrix, where you want to be a good person, you want to be loyal to a guy that you work for, you love the country, but then you have to stop and you have to weigh everything, OK?

What I would say to Corey or other people is you've got to focus on people as opposed to policy or your own personal agenda. And just step back and look at it from a personal perspective, about the harm that is now taking place to the civilization and the harm that is now taking place to the country.

COOPER: But does Corey Lewandowski -- I mean, if you look at President Trump's life, there's not a lot of people who had been in the -- in his life for a long period of time, who are really close to him, other than, I guess, his family members. Loyalty is not something he is known for, despite what he said.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: No. I was originally asked to serve in the OPL (ph) position as somebody I'm close here in New York, he said, remember, not one of President Trump's "longtime friends" are going into that government. They understand the nature of the beast. They understand the centrifuge and that whole diagram of people coming out on the conveyor belt and the backstabbing and all that sort of nonsense.

And so, he drops people like a hot potato because he's an incredibly detached guy. And so, you know, when he fired Corey, Corey had the opportunity to go negative on him, he decided not to. I respect Corey for that.

When I got fired, my instincts were to, you know, take a high road and try to help the President. I'm a Republican. I would like to see him do well. And certainly you want to see the President of the United States do well.

But when he's acting in this sort of way, with this level of mental decline, and he's literally disrupting the entire organism of the executive branch and you love the country, you've got to just step back and look at it for what it is and tell people the truth so at least there's a surgeon general's warning label from the people that know on the inside what is actually going on. COOPER: It was interesting to hear Corey Lewandowski just flat-out say, you know, when under oath that he has no problem lying to reporters, which is lying to the American people. He was talking about Ari Melber in particular, but lying to the American people in public statements that he makes on television which is, you know, obviously, look, the President has a problem with the truth.

SCARAMUCCI: The President praised him for that, right?

COOPER: Well, yes.

SCARAMUCCI: But, I mean, here's the problem, though. So, you know, it's like, you know, you know leadership matters. And obviously, the old proverb, the fish stinks from the head down. The President is giving a license to lie to people. He's giving a license for anger. He's giving a license for racial tension. He's literally tearing at the fabric of the American social society.

And so now there's a very wide berth and now he's praising people that are in his camp and he's denigrating the people that are not in his camp. And so, that's also a bullying process for the President. He's very, very low self-esteem. And so we have to do just the 100 percent agree with him, because God for bid you disagree.

And so when you think about leadership, you need people in a leadership position that are willing to accept dissent, you know, otherwise you can't get anything done. If you disagree with me, it may still be my decision if I'm the CEO, Anderson, but let's have the conversation so that we can figure out what we're doing from a policy perspective.

COOPER: When the President talks about being a great dealmaker, I'm wondering from your perspective, have you ever met somebody who is so easily flattered? Who actually sort of needs flattering and it -- have you noticed that?

SCARAMUCCI: But, you know, but I'll say something here. The flattering sort of doesn't work, OK, because he's such an empty vessel, he's such a black hole for this sort of stuff.

What actually works for the President temporarily is finding somebody like a Rex Tillerson who's had more august career than him and is way more respected than him, throwing him into the President's line of fire. That gives him like a temporary relief from the low self-esteem that he has. OK.

So, you know, what -- you know, you can flatter the President all day long, but he has such low self-esteem. He's not really buying into that flattering. What he's looking at it is from a transactional moment, Corey good, Corey helping me on T.V. right now, Corey blocking and defending me.

You know, the guy Matt, whatever his name is, I mean, he's sort of bizarre. I mean, he's like, we're like literally in bizarro-land. And so, they're blocking and tackling to the President. They're good. Other people that are telling truth to power the American people, they're bad.

COOPER: I just want to play something he said at a rally --

SCARAMUCCI: But I like Corey and I respect Corey. And I do think at some point people like Corey will say, OK, no mass. I do predict that.

COOPER: Yes, we'll see. In a rally in New Mexico last night, the President singled out Steve Cortes, who appears on CNN. He also said this. I just want to play it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He happens to be Hispanic, but I've never quite figured it out, because he looks more like a wasp than I do. Nobody loves the Hispanics more. Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics? He says the country, I don't know. I may have to go for the Hispanics, to be honest with you. We've got a lot of Hispanics. We love our Hispanics. Get out and vote.


COOPER: What does that mean?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, he's trying to make a joke there.

COOPER: No, I got the Steve Cortes and the wasp thing.

SCARAMUCCI: He's trying to make a joke. But I think what the problem is he uses that possessive thing, like you're my this or you're my that. It's a little bit demeaning. It's a little bit possessive. It's ordinate, too. He's trying to make sure you know that he's here and you're there, because he's very insecure about being there, OK.

The other thing he also said was about the rhinos, OK. But you've got Tinos, OK. You've got people that are Trump in name only, Anderson, you see what I mean? And so when that spell breaks, they're all going to break. OK.

It's like I said to you during the summer, it's the night king, it's the wicked witch. Once the water gets thrown on this guy and the perceived power that he has that's making those gray knights that have shaken their boots, once the green witch melt, the wicked witch of the west wing, when it completely melts, those people are going to be like, yes, I don't know what I was doing. I don't know why I was saying all of those things.

COOPER: As someone who believes --

SCARAMUCCI: You see what I mean? That will happen because the American people are on to it. The approval numbers are sliding. Also, the military is on to it.

[20:35:08] You know, you can't lie about the weather and be a general and say, OK, this guy is a commander in chief. He's going to lie about anything. OK. So, the military is on to it. The people that work for him are on to it. Many people inside the White House are on to it. Obviously the hills are on to it.

But they're clinging to it because they have a power base right now and it's about their personage as opposed to the American people. So my message to my fellow Republicans, think about the country. Put your patriotism first, your partisanship second, admit that there's a very, very serious problem and let's work on the problem --

COOPER: Is there any --

SCARAMUCCI: -- like every good business person would do.

COOPER: As a Republican who is obviously looking for an alternative to President Trump, is there a Democrat -- and I imagine there's a lot of -- certainly a lot of independents, a lot of folks in the suburbs, a lot of people who might be in your position looking for an alternative. Is there a Democrat in this field that you see that can match him?

SCARAMUCCI: So, listen, I'm an optimist. I think it's a little bit too early for me to answer that hypothetical. I only did --

COOPER: Well, I'm not asking you to endorse anybody.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, but I only did one White House press briefing, people ask me about that.

COOPER: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: But I don't want to answer them. He sort of (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: But when you see in general the Democratic field, what stands out to you?

SCARAMUCCI: Let's see what happens. Let's see who becomes the ultimate nominee and let's see what their real policy positions are and where they're attacking and where you think they're really going to serve the American people.

But if you believe that the President of the United States is in full blown mental decline, if you believe that he can't manage a process at the executive branch level, if you believe that he's disrupted the entire international military security complex around the United States, and he's weakened our power around the world, and he's weakened our regional power, if you really, really believe that, you're not going to vote for the guy.

OK, now, who you're going to vote for, we have to have that conversation. And hopefully, what will happen is those approval numbers will keep slipping. And then other people that would likely run in 2024 will get pulled into the race in 2020.

And what I would say to those people, what kind of standing are we going to have in America when you see everything that's going on and you can look at it analytically and objectively as a statesperson, you're going to say, I whistled past President Trump's graveyard.

COOPER: I think there's going to be a lot of folks in the Republican Party who --

SCARAMUCCI: What are they going to say?

COOPER: -- once the Trump time ends are going to distance themselves and say that --

SCARAMUCCI: Oh, they're going to distance and say, jeez, I'm sorry, I didn't want to get bullied by him. You know, he bullied Anthony Scaramucci's wife on Twitter because he's a low-life. I didn't want that to happen to me and my family. So, I'm now waiting here until 2024 and now I have standing to be your president. How are you going to pull that one off?

You've got to be fearless, Anderson. You've got to tell people the truth so that we can fix the problem right now, because it's a national and international crisis that could happen if we don't fix it.

COOPER: Anthony Scaramucci, thank you.

SCARAMUCCI: Good to be here. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Democrats on the Senate floor this evening, making pleas for gun control legislation. I'll talk with the Senator who helped organize the effort, next.


[20:41:35] COOPER: Breaking news tonight, Democrats on the Senate floor at this moment in a marathon session giving speeches on the impact of gun violence in their communities and the inaction on the issue from President Trump and Senate Republicans.

A Republican leadership source told CNN today, "Overall, there isn't widespread support and I don't see it changing enough for it to happen." Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell once again suggested he has no power over this issue, only the President does.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I want to know what the President supports. It's not unimportant to my members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you understand in the remaining sticking points?

MCCONNELL: And what I would like to know is, you know, what he thinks would make some progress and he would sign. And until we get that kind of guidance, we're in a holding pattern, so to speak.


COOPER: Joining us now is the Democratic senator who helped organize tonight's speeches on the Senate floor and has been one of the senators who stalled talks with the White House over gun control, Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Senator Murphy, what do you hope to accomplish tonight?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, listen, we're using every lever that we have to try to shame our Republican colleagues into doing something on an issue that is frankly not controversial anywhere but inside the United States Congress, right?

Background checks is supported by 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of gun owners. 70 percent of NRA members think that you should, you know, get a background check to prove that you're not a dangerous criminal before you buy a gun.

And so, you know, by being on the floor tonight, I think we're speaking to a lot of our Republican colleagues who, you know, maybe for a long time have known what the right thing to do was, but didn't think that they have the political space from the gun lobby to do it.

I have a lot of my Republican colleagues over the last week or so who have come to me and said, you know what, if President Trump ends up supporting something on universal background checks or expanded background checks, you know, I think I might be able to vote for it this time.

Now, I wish they didn't wait for the President to decide what there position is, but there's a moment here, there's an opportunity to get something done and we're going to try to capitalize on that this evening.

COOPER: It is -- I mean, is it just a strategy where Mitch McConnell saying, well, we're just, you know, waiting on the White House and word from the White House. I mean, we're talking about a coequal branch of government here that he is part of.

MURPHY: Yes. I mean, Mitch McConnell clearly has a different copy of the constitution than all the rest of us, because this isn't the first issue in which he throws his arms up in the air and says I can't do anything about it unless the President blesses it.

It's further signal that the Republican Party is basically just a political appendage of Donald Trump. They openly advertise that they have no interest in doing anything that he doesn't give them permission for.

But on the other hand, Anderson, I guess part of me does understand that the Republican Party that has been so intertwined with the NRA for so long needs someone to stick a wedge between the two and pry them apart. And that may be President Trump.

If President Trump were to come out in the next several days for expanded background checks, I think you'd have a lot of Republicans eager to rally around him, because they are deeply uncomfortable with how tied they have become to an issue, do nothing on the issue of guns in this country, that is unacceptable to their voters. COOPER: Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer, they told the President on Sunday that any propose gun control legislation had to include a House-passed bill to expand background checks for gun purchases. Now, some Republicans saying that demand did more harm than good in terms of get something, getting anything passed. Are they right?

[20:45:00] MURPHY: Well, as you mentioned, I've been in negotiations with the White House along with Senator Toomey and Senator Manchin. We are not going to be able to get the White House to agree to universal background checks. We may be able to expand background checks to all commercial sales. I understand that that's Senator Schumer and senator -- and Speaker Pelosi's position.

I, of course, would like to have a universal background checks bill pass the Senate, but let's see. If we can get a deal with the White House, let's put that agreement up on the Senate floor. Perhaps let's put it next to a universal background checks proposal and let's see what can get 60 votes.

COOPER: I also just want to ask you about the attacks on the Saudi Arabian oil field. Saudi and U.S. investigators now saying they have determined "very high probability" that the attacks came from an Iranian base near Iraq. How close do you think the U.S. is to an armed conflict right now or to some sort of armed response?

MURPHY: Well, what the United States of America should be doing right now is deescalating this conflict between the Saudis and the United States and the Iranians instead of escalating it.

Let's remember how this all started. It started when the United States pulled out of the Iranian nuclear accord and started sanctioning the Iranian oil economy. And so Iran has responded in kind by going after Saudi and American oil assets in the region.

It would be a disaster for the United States to pretend as if we have a defense treaty with Saudi Arabia and start firing missiles into Iran, causing a new regional war. I don't want to see how Donald Trump performs as a wartime president.

What we should be doing right now is engaging in diplomacy to ramp down these tensions and any alternative is ultimately going to be much worse off in the long run for us and our Saudi partners.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Chris Murphy, appreciate it. Thank you.

MURPHY: Thanks.

COOPER: Sean Spicer was the best dancer last night with the biggest audience ever, period. Not true. His night on "Dancing with the Stars" and the tweet he posted on it this morning invoking Jesus. We'll be right back.


[20:51:08] COOPER: Ladies and gentlemen, behold, Sean Spicer from "Dancing with the Stars."

The former press secretary put a unique twist on his "Dancing with the Stars" performance. It seems the spicy salsa he did last night. It wasn't enough, neither was the outfit.

He decided to push back on Twitter this morning after being the second lowest score of night when he responded to a tweet supporting his performance from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, father of course of former Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Spicer tweeted this, "Clearly those judges are not going to be with me. Let's send a message to Hollywood that those of us who stand for Christ won't be discounted." Spicer by the way has since deleted the tweet referencing Jesus Christ. He's replaced it with a more subdued, "Thank you, Governor Mike Huckabee. Really appreciate your support and prayers."

In case you were wondering the song he danced to, it was a Spice Girl "Spice Up Your Life." I don't need to tell Chris this. Chris, you know, your favorite lyrics in this are slam it to the left if you're having a good time. Shake it to the right if you know that you feel fine. Chicas to the front, ha, ha, hai si ja, hold tight.


COOPER: What are you doing at the top of the hour?

CUOMO: Well, I'm hoping I can stop moving. I mean, the dance is just infectious. And I haven't seen that shirt since you had it on, what was it like, two or three years ago --

COOPER: That's right. I know.

CUOMO: -- in the night we were out. I mean, I don't know where he found out your tailor, but it does not look as good on him, I'll tell you that right now and that's the straight truth.

COOPER: Yes. That's the gay truth, too, to be honest. I mean, it's not working for anybody here. If you think that's --

CUOMO: Listen, that shirt does not work for anybody.

COOPER: Yes. If he's thinking that's appealing to, you know, the 4 percent, it is not.

CUOMO: So, look, he made a mistake. I know where he got that play from about going to God the way he did. I've heard it before from his boss. I'll play it tonight.

COOPER: Oh, I remember, he said it to you actually.


COOPER: I remember that, it was off stage after a debate.

CUOMO: That's exactly right. COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: Look at you, I knew you cared. So, we're going to take that on tonight. We also have Andrew McCabe in his first interview here on CNN talking about the most recent allegations and his best defense. So we got that, too.

COOPER: All right. We'll be looking for that at about 7 minutes from now.

CUOMO: Cha-cha-cha.

COOPER: Yes. Shake it to the right or the left, depending on your point of view.

New polling revealing a changing Democratic race and why one of the most pervasive -- see, I'm a little flustered from that neon, pervasive forms of social media in maybe helping one candidate standout. We'll be right back.


[20:57:47] COOPER: There's breaking news in the Democratic primary. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have seen a jump in new polling from NBC News and the "Wall Street Journal." Biden and Warren are at 31 percent and 25 percent respectively, Biden up 5, Warren up 6. With third place Bernie Sanders virtually unchanged.

The poll also finds that Warren gets the most second choice support among the candidates and for the first time she beats Biden on enthusiasm among voters. The enthusiasm is certainly clearly at her events. CNN's MJ Lee has more.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll stay afterwards for as long as anyone wants to take selfies. Some things we just don't mess with.

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elizabeth Warren kept that promise Monday night after a campaign rally in New York's Washington Square Park. The presidential candidate sticking around for four additional hours for what her campaign calls the selfie line.

Thousands of Warren supporters waiting for the chance to snap a photo with the Massachusetts senator. The long queue wrapping around the park, well into the night. The campaign's tally from Monday night, 4,000 photos, bringing the total count this year to almost 60,000.

(on camera) Will you keep doing them if the lines keep getting longer as we get closer to Iowa?

WARREN: You know, the lines keep getting longer, that's a good thing. I put on my sneakers and a cooler sweater so that we could keep doing it last night, but it was terrific. It was being able to say heart to heart to people who came in from all around the area and who really are in this fight.

LEE (voice-over): Warren's own campaign manager telling CNN that he wasn't exactly sold when his boss first proposed the idea.

ROGER LAU, WARREN'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER: She said, what if we invited every single person who wanted to come to the stage to take a photo to come, you know, on stage? And I said, no, we can't do that. And she said, why? I said it's going to take forever and you're going to be tired and it's going to be exhausting.

LEE: But eventually he says she won him over.

LAU: If there's even a single person in that room that wants to say hello or who wants to take a photo who didn't get a photo, I will consider then it's a failure. So after that we decided to do it. We put together assistance to make it work and it turn out she's right.

LEE: And now the so-called selfie line has become a signature feature of almost every Warren campaign event. The campaign says an important way of growing grassroots support and spreading the word on social media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have friends who are at the Washington Square Park event last night and we did wait for a selfie for a very long time and it was worth it to them and they've gotten a lot of mileage on social media.

WARREN: It's selfie time.

LEE: MJ Lee, CNN, New York.


COOPER: All right. The news is -- let's hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris, I went home at 9:30. I live near there. There was still a line of (INAUDIBLE). I was like, what are this people waiting in line for? I thought it was like a new ice cream store.