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Aired September 18, 2019 - 20:00   ET




We begin tonight keeping 'em honest with a top official in the Trump administration defying Congress. He may also be violating the law. The question is why?

There's breaking news on that tonight. And there could be even more in the hours and days to come, but first, I just want to get you quickly caught up on the background. Joseph Maguire is the acting director of national intelligence, or DNI. According to Congressman Adam Schiff, who's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the DNI, the acting DNI, is refusing to turn over a whistleblower complaint to his committee.

Now, the law requires that the intelligence community's inspector general report all credible complaints involving urgent concerns to the director of national intelligence, the Acting Director Maguire, which according to Congressman Schiff, the inspector general has done.

Now, we don't know what this whistleblower complaint is. Neither, apparently, does Congress, but the inspector general does and according to Schiff, they judged it to be both credible and urgent. According to the law, once the inspector general has reported the whistleblower complaint to the director of national intelligence, the statute says, and I'm quoting, the director shall within seven calendar days of such receipt forward such transmittal to the congressional intelligence committees together with any comments the director considers appropriate.

And that's what Acting DNI Maguire is refusing to do. He's refusing to turn over the complaint from the inspector general that the inspector general has already signed off on to the congressional intelligence committees.

Now, again, we don't know what the nature of the complaint is, but if Congressman Schiff is correct, the inspector general thought it credible and urgent. And the law is very specific. It even defines what an urgent concern is. It's, and I'm quoting now, a serious or flagrant problem, abuse,

violation of law, or executive order or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the director of national intelligence, involving classified information.

I know it's confusing, but it continues. The inspector general reports this urgent complain to the DNI, but the DNI is refusing to inform Congress about it, as required by the law.

Now, his office last night told the House Intelligence Committee it does not meet the definition of urgent concern, because it doesn't relate to activity under his supervision or doesn't involve conduct by a person in the intelligence community.

Now, we have no idea if that's true or not, because we don't know what the complaint is about. What's interesting, though, is that over the weekend, Congressman Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, had another explanation about why the acting DNI is not complying with the law. Listen.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): According to the director of national intelligence, the reason he's not acting to provide it, even though the statute mandates that he do so, is because he is being instructed not to. Now, this involved a higher authority, someone above the DNI.


COOPER: So the idea that he's being -- that the DNI is being instructed not to, that is Chairman Schiff's account.

The DNI in a letter to the committee said that the complaint involves, and I'm quoting, conduct by someone outside the intelligence community and involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the executive branch.

So, there are a lot of questions tonight without a lot of answers, but we might soon be getting them because tonight, just a short time ago, Chairman Schiff announced that the acting director will testify in public next week and the intelligence community inspector general will be testifying tomorrow behind closed doors.

Joining us now, a member of the committee, Democrat Jim Himes of Connecticut.

Congressman Himes, this is confusing certainly to follow. In tomorrow's hearing with the intelligence community's inspector general, who forwarded this report, saying it was an urgent concern, what exactly is the inspector general going to be able to talk about? I know it's behind closed doors, but is he going to be able to tell you what is actually in the complaint or who is instructing him or who's instructing the DNI not to hand it over to your committee, if that's what's happening? REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, yes, I think he will be able to discuss

what's in the report. Remember, the law requires him to forward that complaint to the relevant congressional committees, to my committee.

This idea that the DNI has the authority to say, no, I disagree with the inspector general's decision is lawless. It's made up out of whole cloth. He does not have authority to do that.

And the reason that's important, Anderson, and people need to understand this, because it's not that complicated. Remember, a whistleblower is someone within an organization who says, something's going on here that isn't quite right. The idea that the boss of that organization, in this case the acting DNI could say, sorry, we don't agree that this should be dealt with outside, that betrays the whole purpose of having a whistleblower.

Imagine this whistleblower right now is thinking to themselves, all the protections that I have, the whistleblower protections that I have by law, are now at risk because the boss decided lawlessly to stop this from happening.

[20:05:12] So, at some level, it's pretty simple, Anderson.

COOPER: So let me just clarify that. Because this is interesting -- this is a real key point.

You're saying under law, if the inspector general has forwarded this whistleblower complaint, as deemed it of urgent concern, deemed it a real issue, has forwarded it to the DNI, you're saying the DNI does not have the legal authority to say -- to not forward it on to Congress? The DNI's only option is to forward it on to Congress and they can add comments if they want, saying, I don't think this is valid, I don't think this is under our purview. But he has to forward it to Congress?

HIMES: That's exactly right. And you said it exactly right, that the DNI can add explanatory comments. But in this case, the DNI appears to have consulted with the Department of Justice, which has no role under the law in this determination and is acting on the face of it. You don't even need to be a lawyer to understand this. It's acting illegally in doing this.

By the way, quite apart from the law, which is pretty important in the United States of America, in the history of these referrals, there has never been a case in which the boss, in this case, the DNI, has overruled an inspector general or said that this is not a meritorious decision. It has never happened before.

And the reason that's really important, quite apart from the rule of law, is that, again, think about the whistleblower. If the whistleblower doesn't know that they have the ability in a protected way to go to the congressional committees on things that are profoundly serious. I don't know what's in this complaint, but remember, the intelligence community takes lethal action. It surveils, it does really dangerous things. Inside the intelligence community, if someone doesn't believe that

there is a legally protected route to get to people like me in the Congress, behind closed doors, what happens? They go to the press. They do an Edward Snowden and they decide that that's the best way to blow our secrets out into the public.

So, while it may seem complicated, at some level, this is very simple. There is a law that determines how somebody who thinks that there has been wrongdoing can come to the Congress and the DNI is right now illegally standing in the way of that process.

COOPER: But just to be clear, I mean, in terms of what this whistleblower has raised or alleged whistleblower has raised, at this point, we don't and you don't know what is contained in that complaint? You don't know what this complaint is about at all, is that correct?

HIMES: Well, that's right. We do have a little bit of a hint. And you alluded to this in your opening.

The DNI in the letter to the committee said that this involves other executive department equities of people that quite frankly, when you read the language, would appear to reference the president, because there aren't other people other than the president of the United States who have privilege in the executive department. The president does have executive privilege.

But again, there is no provision for the DNI to make that determination. It is an illegal determination, standing in the way of a process that is essential to making sure that the intelligence community, you know, behaves itself and abides by the law.

COOPER: So just in terms of what's going to happen -- I mean, tomorrow you have the inspector general testifying behind closed doors to you. Next week, acting DNI Maguire is agreeing to testify in open session. Certainly, you know, as we saw yesterday with Corey Lewandowski, just because someone agrees to appear to a hearing these days, it doesn't mean they're actually going to answer the question's questions.

Do you have any guarantees that he'll actually be forthcoming in his answers?

HIMES: Well, inspector generals, of course, by their very nature are supposed to be independent, they're outside of the hierarchy, they can't get fired by the boss, in this case, the DNI. So I do anticipate that the inspector general, I hope the inspector general will tell us what the substance of the complaint is.

Look, maybe there's nothing to it. Maybe there is -- maybe there is, maybe there isn't. We don't know. It appears to involve maybe the president of the United States, but we just don't know that.

So, but we do need to know that and we need to make sure the integrity for whistleblowers is there. And then, by the way, Anderson, we watched Corey Lewandowski yesterday simply refuse to answer the questions of the Congress.

So, there needs to be accountability here. And it is time for the Congress of the United States to start asserting its authority, probably through mechanisms like inherent contempt, where we start fining people and making people very, very uncomfortable when they thumb their nose at the elected representatives of the people of the United States of America. So this DNI, Corey Lewandowski, and all of the other people who have come before Congress and said, hey, guess what, I'm not answering your questions because Donald Trump doesn't want to, they need to be held accountable.

And look, this is ant Democratic anti-Trump thing. Our country doesn't work if the Congress doesn't have the ability to do oversight of the executive branch. And my Republican friends need to remember that there will be a Democratic president some day and they will rue the day that they supported a Republican president in thumbing their nose at the Congress of the United States.

COOPER: Yes, whoever's in power, we have checks and balances for a reason. And clearly, if this is a break -- this seems to be a breakdown, at the very least, not only in whistleblower protections, but in checks and balances, whatever the complaint may be.

[20:10:01] Congressman Himes, appreciate it. We'll learn more, hopefully, tomorrow.

I want to get some perspective on all of this from CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, who is also a former FBI special agent.

Jeff, obviously, look, Democrats, we're hearing from Adam Schiff, from Eric Swalwell, Congressman Himes there. They are, you know, raising alarm bells about this. The bottom line is we have no idea if this is a legitimate complaint. We have no idea what this complaint is even about.

Are they making too much of this or is this serious?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think we have no idea. We have no idea of the substance, but we know it's not a frivolous issue. I mean, the inspector general of the intelligence community has said, it is urgent. It is an urgent matter. So, it's not just some crazy person, you know, with -- wearing a tinfoil hat.

Now, whether it implicates the president, whether it actually is a substantive legal, important issue, you know, we don't know that for sure. But this is not a frivolous issue.

COOPER: But, Jeff, couldn't it be a personnel matter, a sexual harassment matter of people who were working in the intelligence community? I mean --

TOOBIN: Absolutely. It could be something that is very specific to one person, not something that is, you know, related to policy. But it also, you know, given what the DNI has said, director of intelligence, it does appear to involve someone very high ranking, someone with a privilege, someone -- either the president or someone in the White House complex.

All of that, you know, suggests that they should just follow the law. Maybe it's nothing. If it's turned over and we learn that this is a personnel matter or a minor matter or a, you know, simply incorrect whistleblower complaint, fine. But the law is clear that the Congress should be informed when the inspector general says it's an urgent matter.

COOPER: And, Asha, the law is clear, I assume, as Congressman Himes is pointing out, and correct me if this is wrong, that the director of national intelligence actually has no legal authority to not forward this. That according to the law, the DNI has to forward it because the inspector general has ruled this is an urgent concern. Is that correct?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONALA SECURITY ANALYST: That's right. The way the statute is worded, the DNI is basically performing kind of a -- just a procedural function. He doesn't have the discretion to determine whether or not something is urgent. That is placed in the discretion of the I.G.

The definition of whether something is urgent is whether there has been some kind of abuse or violation of law or, you know, illegal order or something like that. So it does have to meet a certain kind of definition. But once that determination is made, it has to move forward.

So, the issue here is that, that the DNI has taken on this veto power. And I would also say that I would question the assertion of some privilege, because, you know, we've seen that this White House has a very expansive view of privilege. It may not be a senior person. I mean, it could be Corey Lewandowski. It could be Ivanka's next-door neighbor.

I mean, you know, they are willing to claim privilege for many people who don't have it. So I also wouldn't necessarily say that it's the president or even somebody super senior, given how they've used that term.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, Chairman Schiff has said that acting DNI Maguire told him he wasn't handing over the complaint because someone above him was instructing him not to. I'm not clear exactly who's above -- I mean, DNI is sort of an amorphous -- I mean, it's an unusual position in that it actually has no, you know, they're not collecting intelligence, they're not heading an agency, they're overseeing the coordination of the intelligence community.

TOOBIN: Right. But, you know, the DNI is subject to Senate confirmation. So, you know, the only person technically he reports to is the president. I mean, if you want to be literal, I believe, on an organizational chart, the only person above him is the president of the United States.

COOPER: Asha, what about the rationale for not turning over the complaint. That it doesn't meet the definition of being an urgent concern, that it doesn't actually involve an intelligence activity or somebody in the intelligence community.

RANGAPPA: Well, the substance of the complaint is going to be kept opaque until it finally reaches Congress. Remember that this particular statute is sort of the alternative mechanism for whistleblowers when it involves classified information. That's why there's this whole separate process that's set up.

But ultimately, the idea is to get this complaint, make sure that it's credible so it goes through this process and get it to the intelligence committees. It's just giving it to them for their attention.


It doesn't mean it's going to become public. And I think it's really undermining their oversight authority.

And I should add, Anderson, that the reporting requirement is not just for the House Intelligence Committee, but also for the Senate Intelligence Committee. So it will be interesting to see whether Senators Warner and Burr also, you know, stake out some kind of interest in getting this information as well.

TOOBIN: To that end, our colleague, Ted Barrett, just spoke to Senator Warner, who's the ranking Democrat on Intelligence, and he said that he thinks that there will be some resolution of this next week. We'll see.

COOPER: All right. Asha Rangappa and Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.

Still to come tonight, did Iran commit an act of war? The secretary of state thinks so. His boss, President Trump, less so, it seems. The disconnect on national security, next.

Also, after a week of stumbles and unforced errors, we'll examine whether the Democrats are hurting themselves in their confrontations with the president.



COOPER: Just prior to landing in Saudi Arabia today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, quote, an act of war. He also reiterated in no uncertain terms Iran was responsible for Saturday's attacks.

It doesn't seem to be the same language that President Trump is using. The president announced new sanctions were forthcoming on Iran, but didn't go nearly as far as Secretary Pompeo saying, instead, there are, quote, many options to deal with Iran.

He's also been far less clear than Pompeo about Iran's alleged responsibility. Appearing with his new national security adviser, the president also hit back at Senator Lindsey graham, who had suggested on twitter that the president's previous responses to Iran had shown weakness.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But if you ask Lindsey, you ask him, how'd it go going into the Middle East, how'd that work out? And how'd going into Iraq work out? So we have a disagreement on that. And you know, there's plenty of time to do some dastardly things.


COOPER: Joining me to talk about it, Fareed Zakaria, CNN host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Certainly, I guess you could say, mixed messages from the secretary of state and the president. And it's so fascinating, because we're really seeing you know, despite the president's often tough talk, there is a real streak of not wanting to -- you know, it's an understandable position, not wanting to get involved in another Iraq, another conflict in the Middle East.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": You know, there's a kind of fundamental incoherence in Trump's foreign policy, which is he is, himself, fairly cautious. He really doesn't like the idea of getting into wars. That's always been his position. But he's surrounded himself with these super hawks, and at times listens to them.

So if this was his position, why would you withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal which had put Iran in a box? Iran was abiding by it. Everyone said they weren't acquiring nuclear capacity, and you could work to deal with their other actions.

By withdrawing from the deal, we've set in chain a sort of series of actions, because what has happened here is Iran is now struggling to figure out what to do. The U.S. sanctions, the fact that the sanctions are so tight, that no one else can do business with Iran are strangling with Iran. So the Iranians are sort of searching for some path.

They first went to the Europeans and said, can you give us relief? Can you find a way to do business with us? The Europeans tried, can't. The dollar is too strong. You have to use the dollar to do international deals.

So, this is their other path, which is, OK, you put maximum pressure on us, we are going to show you, we can put maximum pressure on you. And the single here is crucially, if you want a war, this is the kind of response we could do. We could shut down Saudi oil production. This one strike shut 50 percent of Saudi oil production down.

COOPER: Which is something Saudi Arabia seems very aware of, the Saudi prince, CNN's reporting tonight that Saudi Prince Khaled Bin Salman actually met with U.S. officials at the end of August, essentially saying, Saudi Arabia does not want the U.S. to get into an armed conflict with Iran. They don't want Saudi Arabia to get into an armed conflict with Iran.

ZAKARIA: Exactly. The Saudis appear to be backing off as well. Everyone has been sobered up by this, because you suddenly realize the stakes have gotten very high. And again, what's puzzling is, why did we go down this path? You know, what was the point of trying to strangle Iran, without a clear strategy?

And this is where I think Trump is beginning to realize that he's been ill-served by the advisers he had. That's perhaps why he fired Bolton. That's perhaps why he's now essentially directly contradicting his closest ally in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, and seems to be contradicting Pompeo, who inexplicably is taking this almost independent line, independent I mean off the president.

COOPER: So if it's true that Iran is just sort of sending a signal with this, look at what we can do, do they want war? If they're being strangled in sanctions, obviously a war is costly not only in human lives, but, you know, for a country being strangled, it's not an easy thing to wage a war.

ZAKARIA: It's not, but I think they're feeling as though they're getting strangled anyway. They're in a bad situation and wherever you put a country under that much pressure, they have less to lose. Also, I think what's going on is there's an internal dynamic here in Iran.

COOPER: Right.

ZAKARIA: There were people in Iran who told Rouhani and Zarif, the president and foreign minister, don't trust the Americans and don't do this deal. This is all played in Iranian parliament.

COOPER: Don't do the nuclear deal?

ZAKARIA: Don't do the nuclear deal. The Americans will double cross you, they'll draw, they'll put sanctions back and we'll destroy our nuclear facilities for nothing. And that's essentially exactly what happened.

So, the supreme leader is now listening to the hard liners. He's listening to the hawks, the people in the Revolutionary Guard, and maybe this is their preferred tactic. They've always wanted a little bit more of a sense of, we can fight back, we've got proxies all over in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq.


COOPER: Right.

ZAKARIA: Even in Afghanistan, why don't we use them?

COOPER: It's so fascinating to see what happens next, given if Pompeo saying this is an act of war and Iran, you know, that sort of leads down one path, we'll see where the president decides to go.

Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much. Coming up next, the latest salvo in the president's war with

California. His push there to let cars pollute more and the politics of being at odds with America's biggest electoral prize.


COOPER: President Trump visited the southern border today in a state, California, that he's now at odds with on two key issues, addressing homelessness and clean air. On clean air, the president today said he's revoking California's waiver with the Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the state to set more stringent vehicle emission standards. They've since become the de facto national standard among carmakers and carmakers who have shown no appetite for changing that and building two types of cars.

Now, that said, the President sees it otherwise, tweeting, "Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more jobs, jobs, jobs. Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business." Again, automakers seem to disagree and clearly so does California's leadership.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We're winning and that's the frustration he's having. We are winning. He is losing. And we're winning because we have the law, science, and facts on our side. And we have not only the formal authority, we have the moral authority. And that is something missing in this White House.


COOPER: Well, this could get very messy in the legal dimension for a very long time. It is also playing out in the political arena, where California makes a convenient culture war target for the President and vice versa for Governor Newsom.

More on all of this now from CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Obama White House Adviser David Axelrod and "New York Times" White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman, who also happens to be a CNN Political Analyst.

Maggie, what do you think the strategy behind this is for President Trump?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's a combination of factors. I think your point that this is a good target for the President in terms of the culture war is certainly one of them. It's also a way for him to look as if he is being tough in terms of ending the regulatory state, which we know has been a big piece of his administration -- his campaign promises and then something that Don McGahn and others, Steve Bannon and the White House said about trying to do. And I think this is about reminding his base.

I don't think you can divorce any of this from the fact that the state of California had tried to make being on the ballot conditional on releasing your taxes. And that was aimed squarely at Donald Trump.

COOPER: And you think this is payback for that?

HABERMAN: At least in part. I don't think it's the only motivation, but I certainly think that it's impossible to look at anything going forward between Gavin Newsom and President Trump as away from that.

COOPER: David, how much of this is also the President -- Governor Newsom getting under -- Governor Newsom getting underneath the President's skin?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I'm sure there's some of that. I think what Maggie said makes great sense. You know, that was an assault on the President, the demand for his tax returns. But, I do think this serves his larger political project.

You know, California is a symbol of liberalism and he wants to make the case that, you know, out of control, liberalism is what he is fighting and, you know, the homeless problem. You know, he didn't -- he really wasn't talking about solving the problem.

He really went to exploit it and he went to exploit it by saying, you know, everyone else is being victimized by these homeless people and this is what you get under this kind of leadership.

And that serves his -- everything the President does politically, to my mind, ultimately boils down to trying to drive these big cultural wedges in our political environment and in our society and he exploits them and this was part of it.

One thing I want to say, though, on the fuel efficiency standards, you know, I'm old enough to remember when the Republican Party was a free trade party for balanced budgets and for federalism. And this is a huge intrusion on California's prerogatives that the President is engaging in --


COOPER: But California made a deal with -- right. California made a deal with a number, I think it was four, automakers about standards. So you're saying essentially that this is an intrusion on California's ability to do that?

AXELROD: Well, it's just on their rights as a state. We should note that the Justice Department then opened up an anti-trust investigation against the four automakers for cutting the deal with California. So, this is a full-scale war on the state of California. And 13 other states have followed California's standard.

A third of the country lives under these California standards, so it would be a huge setback for the fight against climate change, tailpipe admissions being the chief cause of these greenhouse gases if the President were to prevail here.

COOPER: It's also, obviously, for Governor Newsom, there is an advantage beyond just the environmental interest and the politics of it all going toe-to-toe with President Trump and beating him on some issues.

HABERMAN: Which he said. I mean, he made very clear, we're winning and he's not and that is getting very frustrating to him. I think that Gavin Newsom has had higher office ambitions for a very long time and I don't think that this is divorced from that. I do think it helps him.

I think that at a certain point it is going to come potentially at greater and greater costs to his state and I don't know what that looks like going forward. I would say I am struck watching this, particularly less about the emission standards and more in terms of the homeless crackdown that they're talking about in very vague terms.

But what has been striking about the Donald Trump presidency is that he is making it more parochial. And this is like something you would see in a mayor's race or possibly a statewide race. But the way he is targeting this state's homeless problem as if there is nothing else nationally is fascinating to watch.

[20:35:01] COOPER: Right. Also, if you just look at the homeless populations, New York is the -- I think the last numbers, that there were national numbers, New York is the largest, L.A. is second, Seattle, I think was third, although they said there have been an 8 percent drop over last year. There's obviously, San Francisco is -- you know, there's a huge issue on the West Coast, but it is a nationwide issue. And it's not something -- there is no easy solution to this.

HABERMAN: No. And to your point, I mean, it certainly is right at home for the President in his hometown. It's not something that we've heard him talk about other than taking a disparaging shot at Bill de Blasio, the mayor, from time to time. But it is strange watching him approach it this way.

COOPER: David, I mean, it's interesting that the President is -- obviously, it's one of those things that people see homelessness, and therefore it's something that I guess he wants to be seen as doing something about. But again, it is not -- I mean, if there was an easy solution to homelessness, it would have been solved already. It is a very complex thing and there are many different kinds of people who are homeless for many different reasons.

AXELROD: It is a complex thing, and his administration has taken some steps at it that in many ways have affected it negatively. I don't think this was about solving a problem, Anderson. I think this was about exploiting a problem.

His message to the rest of the country is, this is what these crazy left-wing liberals and radicals produce with their dissolute policies and this is what I'm fighting. I think he was using the homeless as a backdrop for his political project here, you know. He's never evidenced any interest in the homeless before.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, David Axelrod, thanks very much.

Just ahead, are Democrats their own worst enemy when it comes to running against President Trump? Two former presidential candidates and governors, Howard Dean and John Kasich are next.


[20:40:33] COOPER: There's concern among some Democrats that they've done a good job this week of making President Trump's case for him on a number of issues, starting with the impeachment investigation.

The House Judiciary Committee's first big televised hearing fizzled after Corey Lewandowski successfully stonewalled. Likewise, Beto O'Rourke's comment at last week's debate that he would take away all AR-15s is now being used by President Trump to backtrack on gun control legislation.

He tweeted today, "Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal. Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away. Will continue forward."

And then there's Brett Kavanaugh, many Democrats, including some presidential candidates called for Justice Kavanaugh's impeachment after a new allegation of sexual misconduct was published in a "New York Times" essay.

The essay was adopted from a forthcoming book by two "Times" reporters, however, it was missing key details found in the book that severely undermined the impact of that new allegation.

I want to get some analysis to former Democratic presidential candidate and DNC Chairman Howard Dean and CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Governor Dean, all of this taken together. I mean, are Democrats making the President's job easier for him here?

HOWARD DEAN, (D) FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: You know, I'm not sure what they're doing. In terms of the impeachment stuff, look, you have to get to the bottom of what really happened and you need the facts. So, I don't think Kavanaugh is going to get impeached. I think people are upset the -- what's happened with the Supreme Court over the last 20 years.

71 percent of young Americans, 35 and under, believe the Supreme Court is more interested in politics than they are the law. That's a big, big problem for the country. So the Kavanaugh stuff is a symptom of that, certainly not the cause.

COOPER: Governor Kasich, I mean, how important -- obviously, this is very early stages in this election, but how important is it that the Democrats at large or any party is cohesive in its message, or at least not making unforced errors as it, you know, heads into an election year?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, first of all, I always like being with Howard Dean. He's a smart guy and he's, you know, he's got a lot of wisdom, to tell you the truth.

Look, I think Howard would agree with this. This is going to be a mammoth turnout. So when people worry, are you kind of stoking the other side -- I mean, Anderson, there's no more stoking the gun people. I mean they're as stoked as you can get them. So the question is turnout, and I think it's going to be enormous. The question is, will the Democrats be able to talk a little bit more about bread and butter issues at the family table?

That's what -- I had a Democrat call me last night. I was saying, what's going on in your part, part of Ohio that's been heavy Democrat, that's voted for Trump? He goes, you know, sometimes I feel like they're talking to the professors at the university rather than to our folks who are really caring about the kitchen table issues. I think they have to be careful about that.

COOPER: But Governor Kasich, I mean, if Beto O'Rourke is saying, you know, I'm going to -- yes, I am coming for your AK-47s, I am coming for your AR-15s, I am coming for your guns, I mean, that -- I can't believe that that doesn't stoke up some people who, you know -- doesn't it confirm every far-right conspiracy theory that the Democrats want to take your guns?

KASICH: Well, you know, I think it was a crazy statement, but that brings us to the craziness of these debates. These parties, look what happened to us in '16, it's happening now. These debates are not serving the selection of our best leaders. They drive people to the extremes.

And so, you know, Beto, when he was running for the Senate said, oh, I don't want to take your guns, now he turns around and says he has to because he's got to get attention. I mean, does that mean that the pro-gun people are more stirred up because of what he said? No, some of them will run around and say, see, I told you so.

But do I think that it stoked them up anymore? No, because they're all going to turn out and vote, and so are the other people, the people who are not -- who are in favor of reasonable gun control. They're going to turn out and vote.

It's going to be, I believe, a mammoth turnout. And so, you know, when we think about, are they stoking them up, you know, maybe a little bit on the margins, but they're all coming. It's going to be some election.

COOPER: Governor Dean, do you agree with that? I mean, the Beto O'Rourke comments, the Lewandowski hearing yesterday, which, you know, was sort of hyperpartisan spectacle, it didn't seem to produce really all that many results or new information, certainly, and polling shows the majority of Americans don't even favor impeaching the President and the Democrats can't even decide what their investigation should be called. I mean --

DEAN: Well, let's first talk about the guns. Most people, like about 68 percent of people believe that assault weapons should be banned. That's pretty stunning.

[20:45:04] COOPER: Right. But that's different than taking, you know, a forced buyback, which is essentially, you know, confiscating --

DEAN: Well, banning, it is -- what's difference? I mean, at least you get money with they do the buyback. You don't get anything if they just ban them.

COOPER: Right. But, a ban like the last ban was, as you know, just for new weapons. It wasn't taking weapons that were already out there.

DEAN: Right. But, I mean, look, I'm just telling you what Americans believe. They believe assault weapons ought to be banned and high- content magazines ought to be banned. So, you know, I don't think that hurts Beto at all. I mean, this is just -- I never read the President's tweets, but apparently he tweeted about that. You know, so what?

OK, John is right, and I want the Democrats to listen to this. If we are talking about Donald Trump with three months to go, we lose, period. This campaign cannot be run on what a jerk Donald Trump is. It has to be run on what the Democrats are going to do that is going to be better.

And so Trump will say this, Trump will say that, Trump will remind everybody every day why they don't like Donald Trump. We cannot play that game. We have to talk to ordinary Americans about what we're going to do to make this better.

KASICH: Anderson, sometimes, you know, social media is not accurate. You know, sometimes social media is -- a lot of times, it's by, you know, activists and people who have great passion. But, you know, everybody's not watching this. There are people like getting up and going to work and going home and having dinner and, honey, how's it going? And you know, those are things -- that's where people live. They don't live like on Twitter. I mean, I like Twitter, you like, we all do, but --

COOPER: Actually, I don't, but --

KASICH: -- don't take that as a sense of where people are. Well, you know, Howard, you're own Twitter, you know. I mean, you're good at it.

DEAN: I am.

COOPER: Yes. No, that was me. I'm on it, but I've given it up. I try not to even look at it. But do you guys agree with -- you know, David Axelrod wrote this thing essentially saying, look, let Trump -- Trump will destroy himself just by being himself. Don't focus on that. Governor Dean, do you agree with that idea?

DEAN: I essentially do agree with that. Trump has already destroyed his presidency and I think he'll destroy himself, but we have to give him the rope to do it. If we fall into the trap that all of the Republicans did in 2016 and let Trump be the issue of the day, we lose, because he's really good at that. He's a narcissist.

KASICH: I don't agree --

DEAN: He's really good at that.

COOPER: Governor Kasich?

KASICH: Anderson, I don't agree with that that he'll self-destruct. I don't agree with that. But I think you have to have a refrain. I think you have to go back to it all the time. This is what you promised and what did you deliver? You didn't deliver bubkes (ph). That's what it's got to be back and forth.

But he's not just going to just fall apart on the stage. You know, I was on the stage with him a lot of debates, I never took the bait. Of course, I didn't win. But there's a lot of reasons for that as well.

COOPER: Yes. Governor Dean, Governor Kasich, really good discussion. Appreciate it. Thank you.

DEAN: Thank you.

KASICH: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, what Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is saying about a photo that just surfaced of himself looking like this.


[20:52:00] COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. Canada's prime minister says he made a mistake when he wore brownface makeup at a party at a private school where he was teaching in 2001.

"Time" magazine broke the story after they obtained a year book photo showing Trudeau at was described as Arabian Nights themed events. This is a tweet "Time" posted of the photo in question.

Trudeau who launched his reelection campaign last week has apologized saying he made a mistake when he was younger, adding he's worked all his life to fight intolerance and discrimination.

I want to check in with Christ to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We have Chelsea Handler on the show talking about her new documentary about white privilege, and it really is an ambitious journey that she goes on. And she confronts not just the obvious issue of endemic and cultural racism, but where is its source and where is solution and what is the ability of white Americans to look at themselves? That's deep. It's good to have her here.

We have Beto O'Rourke on the show, Coop. A lot of Democrats are talking. You just had a great panel discussion on your show about whether or not what O'Rourke is pitching is good for him or good for the chance of a deal.

And as for Trudeau, you know, look, we don't like that kind of behavior, but it was in 2001. And we're dealing with this culturally all the time. How do we judge today what people did in the past?

COOPER: Yes, a lot to cover. I look forward to that Chelsea Handler interview as well. Chris, thanks very much. See you in a few minutes.

Is this truth really out there? This is a fascinating story. See what the U.S. Navy says about UFOs and maybe some videos that you haven't seen before.


[20:57:40] COOPER: The U.S. Navy has finally acknowledged that videos appearing to show UFOs flying through the air are real. They don't call them UFOs, they call them unidentified aerial phenomena.

These -- the several videos they're talking about were recorded years ago by fighter pilots. Then in 2017 they were made public by "The New York Times." More now from our Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Images of that rotating thing captured by U.S. Navy Aircraft, sensors locking in on the target. Commander David Fravor saw it firsthand during a training mission, describing it like a 40-foot-long tic-tac maneuvering rapidly and changing direction.

COMMANDER DAVID FRAVOR, U.S. NAVY PILOT (RET.): As we both looked out the right side of our airplane, we saw a disturbance in the water and a white object, oblong pointing north.

KAYE: The object was first cited in 2004, then similar objects again in 2015. Footage of the citings declassified by the military weren't made public until December 2017 by "The New York Times" and a group that researches UFOs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a whole fleet of them. Look on my SA (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My gosh. They're all going against the wind. The wind is 120 miles to the west.


FRAVOR: This was extremely abrupt like a ping-pong ball bouncing off the wall. The ability to hover over the water and then start a vertical climb from basically zero up towards about 12,000 feet and then accelerate in less than two seconds and disappear is something that I've never seen in my life.

KAYE (on camera): The Navy says its still doesn't know what the objects are and officials aren't speculating. A Navy spokesman simply confirming to CNN the object seen in the various clips are unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs.

(voice-over) The UFO reports were first investigated by a secret $22 million program, part of the Defense Department budget that investigated reports of UFOs. The program has since been shut down, but it was run by a military intelligence official who told CNN they found compelling evidence that "may not be alone."

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: That blows my mind. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris, I find it terribly exciting that those things are real, that those videos are real.

CUOMO: It's clear. Look how effusive your emotion is.

COOPER: I rarely get this emotion.

CUOMO: I mean this is crazy. You're blowing my mind here.

COOPER: You don't think it's --

CUOMO: I do. I do. I'm right there with you.


CUOMO: Everybody shows it in different ways. I'm just sitting here basking in your light, brother, basking in your life. Anderson, have a good night.