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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Two Articles Of Impeachment To Be Drafted By House Democrats; Comey Vindicated By I.G. Report; Conspiracy Theory Debunked; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) Is Interviewed About The I.G. Report And The Administration's Response To It. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 9, 2019 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, BREAKING NEWS SHOW HOST: Good evening, 11:00 p.m. here in Washington. We're just hours away from learning the charges, the articles of impeachment against President Trump. CNN has learned from multiple sources now that there will be at least two, one on abuse of power. The other, the second on obstruction of Congress.

Discussions are still ongoing on how to deal with the Mueller report and whether a third article, obstruction of justice, would be added. Talks are expected to continue tonight and tomorrow morning.

An announcement is expected sometime in the morning and that's just a capstone to a day that also saw some of the president's best known conspiracy theories debunked in a report from Justice Department's inspector general.

And yes, that's where we are these days, with the president who has conspiracy theories in need of debunking. The bottomline, errors in the Russian investigation, but no bias against the president at the heart of it, no witch hunt, no deep state conspiracy, no treason no coup.

And yes, those are all terms the president himself has used to describe it again and again. We begin though tonight with what appears to be the final day of public hearings in the House Judiciary Committee and possibly more importantly tonight, where the process goes next. Both sides took their shots with observers from both sides saying no one really landed a knock out blow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL GOLDMAN, COUNSEL FOR HOUSE DEMOCRATS: We are here today because Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, abused the power of his office, the American presidency, for his political and personal benefit.

STEPHEN CASTOR, COUNSEL FOR HOUSE REPUBLICANS: To impeach a president who is 63 million people voted over eight lines in a call transcript is b baloney.

GOLDMAN: During that call, President Trump asked President Zelensky for a personal favor. To initiate the two investigations that President Trump hoped could ultimately help his re-election in 2020.

CASTOR: The call summary reveals laughter. Simply put, the call is not the sinister mob shake down that some Democrats have described.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Who asked President Zelensky for a favor?

GOLDMAN: President Trump.

SWALWELL: Who personally asked President Zelensky to investigate his political rival Joe Biden?

GOLDMAN: President Trump.

SWALWELL: Who stood on the White House lawn and confirmed that he wanted Ukraine to investigate Vice President Joe Biden?

GOLDMAN: President Trump.

SWALWELL: Who stood on that same lawn and said that China should also investigate Vice President Biden?

GOLDMAN: President Trump.

SWALWELL: As to anything that we do not know in this investigation, who has blocked us from knowing it?

GOLDMAN: President Trump and the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Again, we're expecting to see articles of impeachment tomorrow. CNN's Phil Mattingly is working late on that. All the rest joins us now at the end of a busy day. So, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, how settled is that right now that those will be the only two articles of impeachment from the Judiciary Committee?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, it remains fluid and I think this is important to know. We know for sure there will be two articles of impeachment.

On abuse of power they will stick very closely what Democrats have been laying out regarding the president's decision to withhold security assistance in exchange for political investigations into some of his rivals. That's what that will entail.

The obstruction of Congress, same thing, the ability of the administration to repeatedly defy subpoenas will be at the crux and at the center of that article of impeachment.

But as you noted, there are still ongoing discussions about a potential third article of impeachment related to obstruction of justice. Now, this stems closely to the Mueller report. Remember, the report laid out 10 different instances of obstruction of justice.

There have been several members of the Democratic Caucus who in closed-door meetings over the course of the last couple of weeks have been pushing to include that.

However, moderate members of the Democratic Caucus particularly front line freshmen members have said keep it focused, keep it narrow. So at this point in time, we know for sure there are two.

A third is still being debated at this moment. Tonight, staff working through the night on this issue, but still unclear whether or not that third will be included, Anderson/.

COOPER: And what happens after the articles of impeachment are announced?

MATTINGLY: Yes. Let me kind of lay out how this is going to work. So tomorrow morning, Speaker Pelosi will meet with her key chairman at 8:00 a.m. before they actually announce the articles to kind of walk through the actual process going forward.

At 9:00 a.m. they will announce the articles of impeachment. That will really kick everything off. Throughout the day on Wednesday, people will mostly go behind closed doors to prepare for what's coming on Thursday.

Thursday is House Judiciary Committee consideration, at least the start of the consideration of these articles of impeachment. Expect it to be long, expect it to be arduous, expect it to be rather in the weeds legislatively as they move forward.

But what this is all leading up to and this is the most important point of all of it. Democrats remain on the time line to vote to impeach President Trump before they leave for the Christmas holiday.

That means next week, that hasn't shifted and all that has happened over the course of the last 24 to 48 hours as made clear. They are still on that time line. That is still the plan. They will at this point vote to impeach President Trump next week, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thanks very much. Joining us now our political and legal team, Jeffrey Toobin, Asha Rangappa, Gloria Borger, Kaitlan Collins, Scott Jennings, and Paul Begala.

Paul, is this the right path for Democrats?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is. I think it's unlikely to include Mueller. I don't feel supporting it.

[23:05:00]

Just my own guess, knowing the Hill, but also knowing that the questions I think leadership is likely asking is does this get us more votes for impeachment? And it seems to be no. I haven't heard any people saying I'll be for it if you charge him on Mueller.

And second, does it help the vulnerable Democrats who are representing -- 31 of them representing districts Trump carried? The answer there is clearly no. They are saying we don't want this. So, I suspect you're going to see a more focused indictment when it

comes on just the Ukraine matter because it's a clear narrative. It's something almost every single Democrat in the House agrees on and I think that's the better way to do this.

COOPER: Scott.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I wonder what do they had to lose. I mean, they have come this far. I mean, they have been on this journey since Trump won the election and all the Democrats, are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet?

Now, the parents in the front seat can finally say, yes, children, we're finally here. We're impeaching the president. What do you have to lose? You've already decided to do it. You're going to pass these things on the floor. He's not going to get convicted in the Senate so why not go all the way.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: There's actually another reason why you would include obstruction of justice, because he obstructed justice.

JENNINGS: Well, there is that.

TOOBIN: I mean, you know, you look at the Mueller report.

JENNINGS: That's not all. There's plenty of other stuff too. Why hold back?

TOOBIN: If you look at the Mueller report --

JENNINGS: Why hold back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they don't want to lose those seats.

TOOBIN: We talk about this as if it is some strategic decision of, you know, independent of the facts. I mean, what is he doing when he's talking to Don McGahn and saying go fire Mueller and the telling Don McGahn to lie about whether he told him to fire Mueller. That is obstruction of justice. That's why you charge him.

COOPER: What's the difference between obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, they are -- I mean, you know, we're not in the realm of criminal law so we don't have individual statutes that it's violated -- that maybe violated, but they are different reasons to impeach the president. They are different violations of his oath of office.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's stonewalling. It is them saying can you come up to Congress? Can you testify? Most people we saw were under subpoena and they came and testified.

Others they decided not to offer a subpoena too because they didn't want to get into a protracted legal battle. But I want to remind everyone that during Watergate, Richard Nixon had people testify. Our colleague John Dean being one of them, but he wasn't -- John Dean was subpoenaed, wasn't he? Do you remember?

TOOBIN: He was subpoenaed, yes.

BORGER: He was subpoenaed. Ronald Reagan, Iran-Contra told everyone in the White House to go testify before Congress. Please go do that. This situation, Mueller report, yes we're going to cooperate.

And they did, and then they learned a lesson because it didn't work so well for them. And so now in the Ukraine matter, they haven't had anybody appear before Congress. That's the difference.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The other thing is, if you have been following both of these cases, they're not actually separate. The Ukraine narrative is really mutually re- enforcing to the obstruction of justice issues in the Mueller investigation, meaning, that the goal here was the same.

In Mueller, it was to prevent the investigation so that Russia wouldn't be blamed. In the Ukraine situation, it was after the fact, find someone else to blame so Russia wouldn't be blamed.

But I think that as Paul mentioned, as a political matter there's a lot more baggage that comes with the Mueller investigation and it's easier to bifurcate, but I think that it would be wrong to say as a legal matter they are separate. They are actually an extension of the same obstruction narrative.

COOPER: And Kaitlan, how is the White House planning for this? Do you know?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was interesting how they've shifted their thinking in all of this. Today, they really moved past watching what's happening in the House. The president is still paying attention. He's still very much involved.

But essentially they way they do it, they don't think they're going to have any kind of winning efforts really here. They thought the Republican counsel did a better job answering questions than he did asking them in the earlier hearings.

We saw where he was participating, but essentially they're looking ahead to the Senate trial full stop pretty much. They're thinking what their next moves are going to be, who they're going to try to call, how they want that to look as --

COOPER: Because the president I think tweeted like, I don't know if it was last week or this week that, you know, you're going to hear from Schiff in the Senate. You have Pelosi. Is that --

COLLINS: They still think that. Now, of course, a lot of that has to do with how they're going to work out, how is this actually going to look, what the Senate majority leader is going to dictate.

But of course, he's going to be listening to what the president wants. He's been meeting regularly and speaking regularly with the White House counsel. So, they still think they can have a heavy hand in what the Senate trial is going to look like. They think it will be a lot better for them.

COOPER: So, is that what you guys are offering? Is that actually not going to happen?

BEGALA: Well, it's got to be with Mitch McConnell. You tell us.

JENNINGS: I agree with everything you just said. The other school of thought I think in the senate leadership offices could be that perhaps while the presentations of the prosecutors and the presentations of the president's defense team are going on.

Maybe there will be a continuous whipping operation going on, constantly look for 51 votes to proceed. And if at any point during those presentations or at the conclusion of the presentations, they get to 51 votes to proceed, they'll just call the vote. I think there's a desire to let it --

COOPER: To get it -- so get it done fast?

[23:10:02]

JENNINGS: And that would proceed to the final vote, the vote on the articles of impeachment, maybe before witnesses were called. Now, the other thing that I think is an imperative for the Senate leaders is try to limit the number of motions and votes that the senators actually have to cast while all of this is going on.

So you limit the exposure of your members. Let the president's defense team put on a defense. But the minute you can get to 51 and advance the ball, don't call a time out. Just advance the ball and take the vote.

BORGER: How much of a defense though? Doesn't he have to talk to Chuck Schumer about witnesses and --

JENNING: They do.

BORGER: -- is there any consultation because I remember in the old days of Bill Clinton -- Trent Lott and Tom Daschle worked together.

BEGALA: All 100 senators agreed on the rules.

BORGER: That's right.

BEGAL: -- impeachment. All 100. They went in to the old Senate chamber, in a private session.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BEGALA: And (inaudible) and just -- and they decided together what would happen.

TOOBIN: Isn't it also possible that it is both in Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer's interest to have no witnesses at all? Just have the lawyers argue. Everybody knows they are not 67 votes to get this --

COLLINS: But there's one problem with that, and that's the president, because he does not want that. He is going to win. He says there is also a problem with the 51 votes.

The president wants democrats to vote against this. They're going to be looking for more than just having it along party lines. So the president wants witnesses and he wants some Democrats to vote.

JENNINGS: And if the president wants witnesses bad enough, to your point, he can probably find a few Republicans to oppose a motion to proceed to keep the Senate Republicans from getting the 51 they would need to move on if they -- if you wanted to add --

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We're going to continue this discussion past tomorrow. We'll also look ahead the impeachment vote, the Senate trial.

Later, conversation with former FBI Director James Comey. Now, the Justice Department's inspector general has debunked the president's charges against him and so many others.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:15:00]

COOPER: This is not a happy day. That's how one Democratic committee chairman put it after meeting with House Speaker Pelosi. Tonight, he went on to say, but I think we're doing what we have to do. Tonight, we now we know that will include two, perhaps three articles of impeachment of the president.

It's easy to lose sight of the how historically uncommon it will be when it happens or how inevitable it may feel given all that's transpired. Back now with our legal and political team.

Paul, I mean, Democrats they made their case. Do you think it's strong enough to actually sway American public opinion or is, you know, the lines are already just drawn in?

BEGALA: Well, both. It has swayed American public. We've gone from 36 percent supporting impeachment and removal a few months ago to 50 now. Let's put it into contest, only 43 percent want him to stay. They got 46 in the election.

So, 6.5 percent of the people who voted for Trump now want him gone tomorrow, not the next election, tomorrow. It's really astonishing that only 43 percent want the president to remain in office through his term.

Now, will that drop further? I doubt it -- not very much I think left to play in the joints. Going forward, if and when the courts do say that say Don McGahn has to testify, if the White House the president opposes a Supreme Court order to comply, I think that could change it traumatically. And this impeachment maybe done by then, but you know what, impeachment is not a single shot weapon. The Constitution does not say it's a one and done deal. This is not the last impeachment we will cover of Donald J. Trump.

COOPER: You would -- Sott --

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Impeachment today. Impeachment tomorrow. Impeachment forever.

BEGALA: Because it's criminality today, criminality tomorrow, criminality forever. The guy is a one-man crime wave.

COOPER: I mean, after a certain point, doesn't it, I mean, defeat the purpose? I mean, does it kind of have a losing value?

BEGALA: I think if he defies the Supreme Court order, it changes everything. I don't think 43 stick with him. Maybe 33, I don't know, but I don't know how many senators would back him up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We also don't know who's going to testify.

BEGALA: Now, maybe the Supreme Court will rule for him. That's more Ash and Toobin's world, it's not mine. But of the Supreme Court says your aides have to testify about this criminal matter, and then he says no -- didn't Andrew Jackson refused the Supreme Court order and nobody has since?

TOOBIN: Andrew Jackson did.

BEGALA: In a Georgia (ph) --

TOOBIN: -- has made his ruling, let him enforce it. In other words, he had no power to enforce it. But Richard Nixon in 1974 was told to turn over the tapes by the Supreme Court and did.

BEGALA: Right.

TOOBIN: And was, you know, and that was the coup de grace. That was the end of impeachment. Let's like slow our roll a little bit about him losing in this. So there's not even a case before the Supreme Court yet, much less a defiance of a losing case.

I mean, I think the overwhelming odds given the speed at which we're going is that we sort of have the witnesses we're going to have and these are the facts we're going to have and we're going to see what the result is.

COOPER: But I still don't -- I'm not entirely clear what this looks like in the Senate. I mean, how, day by day. What is this --

TOOBIN: The thing that's interesting about that is that it is entirely up to the Senate. You know, we have pictures in our head of what a criminal trial looks like, you know, prosecution, defense, witnesses, jury. That's -- the Senate can make no witnesses. They can have witnesses

who testify in the Senate chamber. What happened in the Clinton trial in 1999 was that there were depositions of about three or four different --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three -- Three.

TOOBIN: three witnesses who were examined by a handful of senators off campus and then the transcript was --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The house managers --

TOOBIN: But there were senators present.

BEGALA: Betty Currie, the president personal secretary, Ms. Lewinsky, Sid Blumenthal, a close aide to the president, Vernon Jordan, a friend of the president.

TOOBIN: Those four.

BEGALA: Those four.

BORGER: And they brought in cameras. They brought in big television screens

BEGALA: They were proposed on video and then they played the tape during the Senate trial.

COOPER: Why was it done that way?

BEGALA: Because they chose to. There's a lovely adjective in the Constitution, sole. The Senate has the sole power to try impeachment cases. They can do it any way they want.

COLLINS: And President Trump has made it sound like he wants these witnesses to be in person. He's made that pretty clear privately.

[23:20:00]

I think he said so publicly as well as opposed to having these recordings and depositions. But we have not heard the same from Republican senators who have said essentially no. They think that could get too out of hand. They favored of the video tapes. So that will be interesting to see.

COOPER: The thing the Republicans have not been really making an argument about the evidence. They have been doing process arguments by and large.

COLLINS: Right.

COOPER: I mean, are they going to be continuing to do that? I mean, it seems like the president wants them to be making actually, you know, backing up that this was all a perfect call. COLLINS: Yes.

JENNINGS: Well, I think some of the witnesses the president would want to call would sort of make the case around the idea that perhaps there was collusion, if you will, between the House Democrats and the whistleblower.

Maybe that calling witnesses to prove that the president had a point about the Burisma-Biden, you know, connection. Those don't have anything to do necessarily with the call or with the, you know, some of the issues that have been raised, but they are issues that the Republicans have raised that they don't think have gotten enough exploration in the proceedings.

BORGER: Yes. There is such a long way to go. This is Donald Trump who wants the political theater as Kaitlan points out. This is the United States Senate that does not want the political theater. This is Mitch McConnell -- you tell me, he does not want the political theater in this.

He wants it to go away and he wants to get it over with and do it quietly. They're going to have to sit in a room and figure out the rules as they did with Bill Clinton. We were just talking about this.

A hundred senators got together behind closed-doors and agreed on what the rule was going to be pretty quickly. I don't think that's going to happen this time, but they're going to have to come up with some kind of a process here.

And anything can happen. Is John Bolton going to testify? Will Don McGahn end up somewhere talking to someone? I mean, who knows at this point. And again, I remind you, it's Donald Trump. So we don't know because he's going to be running the strategy it seems to me from the White House. Who's going to represent him on the floor of the Senate? Is it going to be the White House counsel Cipollone?

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBON: Well, I mean, maybe Rudy Giuliani will be back from Ukraine.

BORGER: Maybe it will be Rudy.

RANGAPPA: Well, you know, it's just not really in his interest to have witnesses come forward because they don't have a substantive defense. And any defense that he places forward is actually self- defeating.

If he says that he had a good faith reason to investigate Joe Biden despite the fact that he got a personal benefit, the same thing applies to Joe Biden when he was vice president.

So there was no -- you know, like he doesn't -- there is a way in which there is an internal, inconsistency with any defense that he places -- that he tries to articulate because it would apply equally to the person who occupy his office or their agents before him. And that's not in his interest. TOOBIN: But you know that the two witnesses Donald Trump wants most

of all are Joseph Biden and Hunter Biden, and that could be for his benefit.

RANGAPPA: It's not going to go well for him. I don't know.

COOPER: We will take a quick break. Still to come, my interview with former FBI Director James Comey and his thoughts on whether he believes today's inspector general report from the Justice Department vindicates the FBI.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:25:00]

COOPER: Here are the big news tonight. The long awaited Justice Department report has undercut years of conspiracy theories spread by President Trump about the origins of the investigation into his 2016 campaign.

The Office of the Inspector General, which is independent within the FBI, writes, quote, "We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane," which is the name of operation of the investigation into Russian meddling.

Nevertheless, the president still calls investigation today, quote, "an attempted overthrow." While the report did criticize the FBI practices, many current and former leaders agreed with the report overall. Earlier, I spoke to former FBI Director James Comey about the findings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When you heard what the report said, did you think this is vindication?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It is. I mean the FBI has had to wait two years while the president and his followers lied about the institution. Finally, the truth gets told. I hope it's not too late. But on all the important things, it tells the truth.

COOPER: Do worry it's going to get sort of missed or re-characterized in a different way, obviously, the White House's argumentative statement?

COMEY: My worry is not it only going to get distorted, it's going to get missed by people in the rush of the other news we have. People have internalized the lies they have heard. Good people believed when a president says something. So, they have heard treason. They have heard spying. They have heard informants in the campaign for two years.

COOPER: The inspector general report did find serious problems, 17 specific incidents particularly about the Pfizer process. And from the report, it says that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate handpicked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI and then FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raise significant questions regarding the FBI chain of commands management and supervision of the Pfizer process.

COMEY: Yes. That's really concerning. You're right with the number. He found 17 significant errors in collecting information, in sharing information, in checking information and that's a problem.

COOPER: Do you take responsibility for these lower level issues?

COMEY: Of course. Yeah. As a leader, you have to hold yourself accountable and offer transparency in connection with that accountability. The director is responsible.

COOPER: It's hard to over say just how full throated a debunking of the conspiracy theories this inspector general report is. I mean, theories that the president has been pushing. His allies have been spreading for years and years and years. I mean there's no truth to what they have been saying according to this report.

[23:30:00]

COMEY: Yes. There is a risk we have become so numb to the lying, that we just move on to the next outrage. And we can't do that. For two years, the president of the United States accused our premier law enforcement agency of treason, of trying to defeat him, of trying to stop him. And it turns out that was all nonsense. That was all lies.

We have to pause and think about that because we need this institution. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, you need the FBI. You need to see it clearly. And it's human, it makes mistakes, but it's not engaged in treason or a coup or politically-minded investigation. That's just a lie.

COOPER: It's interesting because the president continues to talk publicly about, you know, Lisa Page and Strzok and e-mails and the lovers, he does dramatic readings. In this report, they found no evidence, that personal feelings of those two or even other agents who were pro-Trump and were texting about Trump and things against Hillary Clinton, that they found no evidence that the personal opinions had any implication for the actual investigation.

COMEY: Zero. Imagine you're those people. I was the director and so certain amount of fire directed at someone of my level is understandable. Take someone like Lisa Page. The president has not only lied about her but in misogynistic way attacked her, mocked her, belittled her over and over again. And it was all a lie. So where does she go to get that back? I don't know. We have to talk about it.

COOPER: Again, according to inspector general report, the details of it are really important. It said that information reasonably indicated activity constituting either a federal crime or a threat to national security or both may have occurred and maybe occurring which has what led to the investigation. So it is essentially saying that there was a reasonable basis for this investigation to be undertaken if they had nothing to do with the Steele dossier.

COMEY: Nothing. The facts were there and we should have been fired if we didn't follow up on the facts that we received in late July. And we followed up, as you know, quietly. We didn't reveal it to anyone. We didn't leak it to anyone. We conducted a professional investigation which is what the American people would have expected of us.

COOPER: From your experience in the Justice Department and the FBI, I mean, is Attorney General Barr working as the in the role that he should be? In his constitutional mandated role or do you believe he views himself and the president views him as the president's attorney?

COMEY: The attorney general has to be the steward of an organization that is apolitical. He has to be both apolitical appointee and a guardian of the apolitical nature of investigations. The justice statue wears a blindfold because you cannot be picking at your political boss or your friends when you're making decisions.

It's certainly hard to explain a lot of his conduct over the last year as consistent with that role of balancing the political and apolitical. It seems he leaned on the political entirely.

COOPER: Rudy Giuliani, you worked with him, you wrote him in your book. Can you ever have imagined the Rudy Giuliani who now currently exists today wandering around Ukraine looking for business and doing the president's work against the Bidens and other things? Does it make any sense to you?

COMEY: It makes no sense. In a way, it's sad because he's done such great service for the city of New York and U.S. Attorney's Office that I worked in, and all that is washed away by this. That's kind of sad.

COOPER: Director Comey, thank you very much.

COMEY: Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, still to come tonight, more on the inspector general report and President Trump conspiracy theories. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Mazie Hirono, joins us to talk about the report and the administration's response to it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Just a moment ago in the program, James Comey, the former FBI director, talked about today's inspector general report. He called it a vindication of critical FBI practices. The report found absolutely no foundation for the baseless charges by President Trump and his allies of a coup or treason.

The FBI, the report says, properly opened its investigation. Earlier, I spoke to Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, about the conclusions in the report, as well as the administration's reaction to it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): The inspector general report, I mean, if one believed what the president had been saying for the last several years and his allies on Capitol Hill --

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Mm-hmm.

COOPER: -- this is a complete debunking of all of the main points of what the president has been saying.

HIRONO: Yes. Yes, but not according to the attorney general, who once again acts like he is the president's attorney. The way he framed it was that the investigation was based on the thinnest of suspicions and an intrusive investigation. That is not what the IG concluded. Once again, Barr misleads and that's using a nice word.

COOPER: There are reasons to be concerned. There are 17 significant inaccuracies and omissions which is what the report calls down.

HIRONO: Yes.

COOPER: And particularly they point that the inspector general points out that if these inaccuracies and these omissions were made by three separate teams, you know, selected teams, you would assume they're the best of the bunch, in such a high-profile case in which it was going to be briefed to the highest levels of the FBI and the Justice Department, if mistakes were made, if there were 17 in these cases, what does that even mean for other less, you know, cases in which there would not be quite as much scrutiny?

HIRONO: That is why Chris Wray is making the appropriate changes that he needs to, and he said that these changes will make the FBI a stronger institution.

[23:40:02]

HIRONO: But the significant thing is that Chris Wray accepts the IG's conclusions and the conclusions are that there was no political motivation for this investigation.

COOPER: He also said today that they have no evidence of Ukraine --

HIRONO: That's right.

COOPER: -- attempting to influence the 2016 election.

HIRONO: Yea. And meanwhile, you still have Giuliani running around, in my view, like a really a loose cannon.

COOPER: How concerned are you about -- I mean, you are critical of Attorney General Barr.

HIRONO: Yes.

COOPER: He has his own investigation going on --

HIRONO: Yes.

COOPER: -- through Durham.

HIRONO: Yes.

COOPER: Both of whom put out statements. Durham put out a statement today essentially saying, well, we we're not limited to just information within the FBI, we have access to other information from overseas and elsewhere, and we will draw our own conclusions.

HIRONO: I think it's very strange and totally inappropriate for Durham to be opining, talking about an ongoing investigation that he's conducting. That is not what the FBI does. That is not what U.S. attorney's offices do. So, this is very much comports with what Barr is saying.

And it is also really untoward for Barr to do what he's doing because this is what he did for the Mueller report. That he came out and in a very deliberate way misled. In my view, he deceived the public.

COOPER: Do you think he is acting as the president's attorney --

HIRONO: Of course.

COOPER: -- and that this message is for the president?

HIRONO: Totally. That's why it's very dangerous. We expect the attorney general to actually uphold the law of our country and the Constitution. Instead, we have an attorney general whose first instinct always is to protect the president.

That should concern all of us. We have a Justice Department and we have the person who is the highest ranking legal person in our country doing the bidding basically of the president. It's just so scary.

COOPER: And yet today, the president came out and said that what this report says is that things were worse than even he anticipated. I mean, he essentially is --

HIRONO: Worse for him, maybe.

COOPER: He's spinning a different story --

HIRONO: False.

COOPER: -- essentially saying that, you know, I guess he is basing the idea that people will not actually read the report, but they will hear him saying that it's worse than --

HIRONO: And what the president hopes is that by continuing to lie to the American people as he does from day one of the presidency, that the American public will be fooled.

COOPER: Senator Hirono, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

HIRONO: Hope we can do it again. Aloha.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: For analysis, let's bring in former federal prosecutor and senior chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN national security analyst and retired CIA Chief of Russia Operations Steve Hall, and CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell, a former FBI agent, special assistant to former FBI Director James Comey. He is also the author of "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI."

Josh, I mean, for Director Comey, he says this is a vindication and certainly for the FBI, he says this is a vindication. Do you agree?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's a vindication of this narrative that we've heard for now over two years that the FBI was some a bastion of anti-Trump deep state, you know, this kabal (ph) that was out to get Donald Trump. That part, we know, is nonsense.

I think many of us knew that all along, this idea that the FBI would be weaponized by any politician, the claim here that Obama had gotten the FBI to spy on his behalf, which those of us who know these agencies know that that was nonsense.

But to hear an independent inspector general to now come out and say -- someone whose word, you know, he is credited highly within Washington and obviously other places -- to say, look, we didn't find this political bias, I think that's vindication for the FBI.

That said, I have to tell you that looking through the FISA portion of this inspector general report, it was a little disgusting. I mean, I know having been in the FBI, having worked these FISAs, they are obviously overseen at very high levels.

And every FBI agent knows that your work has to stand up on its own, you have to follow policies, and to see not one, not two, but I think over 17 different instances of everything from misbehaviour to outright abuse is pretty stunning. This isn't a political deep state that the president --

COOPER: One of the things the inspector general said about the 17 cases was that -- what was particularly troubling about it was that if there were these mistakes and manipulations in some cases from the three teams that were hand-selected, you would assume the best of the best, and that they knew that they would be reviewed at the highest levels.

If these incidents on those -- by those teams, then what does that mean for other cases that are being worked by FBI agents that are not going to get that kind of scrutiny? You wonder what kind of mistakes being done.

CAMPBELL: Can I just say quickly that as an FBI agent, part of the training for undergoing FISA actually includes, this is the truth, they actually tell you that look, every word you say might end up on the front page of The Washington Post and you do your job as though that's the case.

Some U.S. senators are going to hold up your FISA application in a hearing for all the world to see.

[23:45:01]

CAMPBELL: That is part of the training. This is why this is so antithetical to my experience in the FBI. This type of sloppiness you just don't see. Not a banner day for the FBI.

TOOBIN: It maybe that's the training. But one criticism of FISA all along has been it's not an adversary process. You only have the prosecutors relying on the FBI going to this court to get the authorization for wiretapping and bugs and all that.

And what makes it so worrisome when you have some sort of misconduct, malfeasance, and mistakes by the FBI is that there's no check. There's no defense lawyer there to cross examine. That's why it is worrisome.

COOPER: Steve, clearly, I mean, the headline from this, you know, beyond 17 incidents which are concerned is that all of this stuff that the president has been saying about witch hunts and bugging and that they put informants and spies into the campaign, that this was all based on the Steele dossier. That's how this whole investigation began. According to the inspector general, after two years of investigating, that's just not true.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Yeah, Anderson. You know, having worked on the opposite side of the FBI on this, you know, I think most CIA officers would look at what the president was claiming or pretended what was happening and say, oh, that is ludicrous. That could never happen. It's interesting to hear the legal folks talk about how important the FISA Court is. It is.

I can tell you from counterintelligence perspective, there were times in CIA when we would say, look, we have a lot of intelligence. We have the goods on this particular thing. Let's go. And what would happen is the lawyers and the bureau and everybody else would say, wait a second, we this FISA thing that we have to do.

And we were like, what is that? They were like, well, there's, you know, a bunch of very distinguished federal judges who are going to look very, very carefully at a lot of this information.

And having lived in countries like Russia where such -- I mean, Vladimir Putin's mind must boggle when he can think about things like a FISA Court. What is this? He wakes up in the morning and says go after that guy. So, in one sense, although yes there were certainly process fouls apparently in this process, it is good to see that our democracy takes a look at this and says, you know, we got to get this right somehow.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. More on these developments here in Washington and this report when we continue.

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[23:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's been another long day here in Washington capped by the release of that inspector general's report into FBI surveillance to the 2016 Trump campaign, a report that concluded there was no political bias involved and that the surveillance was appropriate.

Back with Jeff Toobin, Steve Hall, and Josh Campbell. One of the things that Director Comey was saying is that he worries that this is basically kind of going to get just lost in the wash of coverage of the hearings and the move for impeachment, and tomorrow morning there will be a headline about, you know, articles of impeachment and that this investigation and the lies that the president has been telling will essentially kind of remain.

TOOBIN: He might be right, especially when you have the president, as you said earlier, gaslighting about what the president --

COOPER: Right, coming out today and saying it's actually worse than I imagined --

TOOBIN: Right.

COOPER: -- which is just -- I mean, it's just not true.

TOOBIN: It's just not true. But, you know, one of the things Donald Trump understands is the power of repetition. Is that if you say over and over again it's a witch hunt, if you say that it was proved that the FBI behaved, you know, inappropriately or illegally, a lot of people are going to believe you even if it's not true.

CAMPBELL: And he has help. If you look at his own attorney general today coming out and saying that, look, the Department of Justice disagrees with this independent inspector general, which is something that I haven't seen certainly. I mean, I've seen a number of these inspector general reports.

Usually the agencies will come out and thank the attorney general for all the hard work and tell them they're taking this on board and they will make changes. This you saw on attorney general actually coming out and saying, no, we disagree with this, and by the way, we have our own investigation that is going on, which is looking even broader than the inspector general, that itself is troubling.

It is also interesting to see what the current FBI director did today. He came out and seemingly put himself at odds with the Justice Department by saying there wasn't political motivation starting these investigations. If you're inside the FBI, that is something that you want to hear.

Finally, to Jeffrey's point about the president continuing on with this narrative, I have to tell you that I talked to people inside the FBI all the time covering these agencies for CNN, and the one thing that still continues to hurt FBI employees is when they're at a party or they're talking to family and friends and they get the question, what the hell happened to the FBI? And they have to then put themselves on the defense trying to respond to that when they're responding to this gaslighting.

COOPER: Steve, as somebody who is an expert in Russian counterintelligence and Russian operations, I mean, this has been such a victory for Vladimir Putin for the last several years, to have the president attacking the very institutions of not only the Intelligence Community and the FBI. It's extraordinary.

HALL: You know, the hits just keep on coming for Vladimir Putin. The idea, I think, if you would look back five or six years ago and ask Vladimir Putin, do you think that you could have had this kind of success? Do you think that you would have the president of the United States standing up and condemning the FBI and condemning the very systems which we have in this country, which try to guarantee that you have rule of law and that we can legally get to the bottom of things?

And to tell Vladimir Putin, guess what, in just a few years, you're going to be able to split all of that wide open. You're going to get different Americans questioning whether the system works.

[23:54:56]

HALL: I mean, this is something aside from, you know, splitting NATO, which is another thing that Donald Trump has given Vladimir Putin as a gift. It is difficult to imagine a better Christmas for him. It's just amazing.

COOPER: Appreciate it all. Steve Hall, Jeff Toobin, Josh Campbell. We'll be right back. More ahead.

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COOPER: Big day here in Washington. Much more to come.