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House Judiciary To Take Next Step Toward Vote On New Impeachment Articles Tomorrow; Impeachment Articles Accuse President Trump Of Abuse Of Power, Obstruction Of Congress; President Trump Denounces Articles Of Impeachment As "Very Weak"; AG Barr Contradicts Key Finding Of IG Report On Russia Probe, Says FBI May Have Acted In "Bad Faith"; Fox News Hosts Go To Extraordinary Lengths To Defend President Trump, Diminish Inspector General Report. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 10, 2019 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Any citizen can say the president did something wrong, only 435 elected representatives have the sole right and the awesome responsibility for saying a president should be removed from office for it.

Today, some of the lawmakers spoke. They put it all on paper in formal articles of impeachment for only the fourth time ever. Nine pages containing two articles drafted by Democratic members of the House judiciary.

They accused President Trump of abusing his power, in the language of the drafters, to corruptly solicit election help from Ukraine and to obstructing Congress's investigation into the affair.

Now, tomorrow evening, the committee which is utterly divided along party lines will debate. By Thursday, they could be voting, setting the stage for the entire House to decide perhaps by next week whether to impeach.

And even as they weigh the next move, the president is lashing out. His attorney general is on the attack over the Russia investigation. Democrats in red districts are wondering how to proceed process. And, by the way, the Russians also happen to be visiting.

It's been a big day. It is a big night and I want to the start at the White House with CNN's Jim Acosta.

How is the president feeling tonight about all of this? Do we know?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, I think we have a sense. He's at a rally right now in Pennsylvania. He said that his supporters should not lose sleep over these articles of impeachment. He said that the articles of impeachment are the lightest and the flimsiest he has ever seen before.

And you're essentially getting the same take away from people inside the energies, inside the White House, talked to a senior administration official just a short while ago who said, listen, the president was unbothered by this when he was spotted leaving the White House just a short while ago heading out the door to go to this rally in Pennsylvania.

But despite all of that, Anderson, despite those claims he is not concerned about this, the president is continuing to mislead the public about what happened in that phone call with the Ukrainian president as he was talking to reporters leaving the White House earlier this evening, Anderson. The president said, well, when he talked about asking about a favor with President Zelensky of Ukraine, that he wasn't talking about himself. And as, of course, we all know looking at the summary transcript, he was very much talking about himself. He was trying to get information from the Ukrainian leader about his bogus conspiracy theory that the Ukrainians meddled in the election and, of course, trying to get information on Joe Biden.

So, he is continuing to mislead the public despite these claims that they're not really worried process it.

COOPER: And does the White House believe that impeachment by the House is pretty much a done deal at this point?

ACOSTA: They see it as a done deal, Anderson. They have moved beyond the House. They see the Senate trial as perhaps a place where they'll be vindicated in all of this. They like the fact obviously that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, will be running the show over there.

And just to show you how much they have given up on any kind of, you know, daylight in the House in terms of you know the president escaping impeachment, I talked to a senior administration official earlier this evening who essentially said, no, we are not even considering the idea of a censure of the president as a compromise that some of the moderate Democrats were talking about because they are concerned about other political future and some vulnerable districts.

And so, I think that is a very solid indication that, yes, at this point, the White House is already looking to the Senate.

COOPER: And they've certainly made it clear that, at least the president is looking for a defense to be mounted, a defense of himself mounted there.

ACOSTA: That's right. And I talked to the senior administration official this evening, Anderson, who said a lot of this is up in the air. It's unclear at this point. They do see the White House counsel Pat Cipollone as potentially leading the president's defense in a trial in the Senate. But they haven't ruled out the possibility of the president appearing himself as unlikely as it sounds. And there is also this continued talk of they may try to bring in other witnesses who have not been called to testify, sort of the Republican dream list of witnesses people like Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, the whistle-blower and so on. And I talked to a Republican official on the Senate side earlier today

and asked, you know, how likely is that to happen? And this Republican official said, well, it depends on if, you know, you can get 51 votes for that kind of an idea. And so, this could be wild and woolly, no doubt about it, when it gets to the Senate, Anderson.

And while the White House, while the president and his defenders seem to be welcoming this idea and relishing this idea of a Republican-led Senate trial, it does sort of open up the possibilities that they have they imagined at this point that other witnesses could be called to testify like Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani. So, you know, we're on the dark side of the moon if we get to the Senate. And I don't think anybody knows exactly how it's going to turn out at this point.

COOPER: Yes, a lot of unknowns.

Jim Acosta, thanks.

ACOSTA: You bet.

COOPER: Joining to us now is Judiciary Committee member, Eric Swalwell.

Congressman Swalwell, obviously, a historic day. I know you said you hoped to keep the articles as simple as possible.


Are you pleased that they remain so narrowly focused?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Yes, Anderson. I think they reflect, one, that this president in real time is jeopardizing our national security and the integrity of our elections. That's why they are written not with passive voice but actually with an active voice. And two, that as we sought to investigate -- investigate him, he has categorically refused to cooperate at all.

COOPER: Do you -- do you believe that every Democrat in the House will vote for them? And what message will it send if they don't?

SWALWELL: Well, it's my hope that every member would consider the evidence and vote for the articles, Anderson. But it is really truly a personal decision. And there will be no lobbying by anyone in leadership on this. This is a matter of conscience of your constituents and the Constitution.

COOPER: And opening statements they begin tomorrow night. Will all the members of the committee speak? Is there something specific, some overall strategy that you, other Democrats hope to accomplish in their -- in people's statements?

SWALWELL: That's the tradition of impeachment in the Congress. As you pointed out it's only the fourth time the Judiciary Committee has done this. In the past, Judiciary Committee members will lay out the case against the president. It will be very personal. And for me, what I will convey is that no one else in their life, at

their job, at their church, anything they do would be able to leverage their power over someone else for a purely personal gain. That's not how it works for any of us in our daily lives and certainly not how it should work for the president of the United States.

COOPER: Do you have any idea when the committee and then full House will actually vote on the articles?

SWALWELL: So, we'll begin tomorrow night. Of course, it could go into Thursday and even beyond. We're ready to do that. We are going to move expeditiously.

But it will be fair. And just so it's career, Anderson, the president has been invited to participate in this process and that at every opportunity, he has refused to show up. I think that goes to a very powerful consciousness of guilt on his part.

COOPER: And do you know about when the full House might get it?

SWALWELL: Well, as soon as we -- you know, vote on the articles of impeachment if they pass, the House stands ready. I can't speak to a specific date. But I know my colleagues are eager to participate and make sure we protect the integrity of the elections and our national security.

COOPER: And just looking ahead to the Senate trial, your name has been mentioned as one of the possible managers, essentially the people who argue the case on the Senate floor. Is that something you would like to have a chance to do?

SWALWELL: Anderson, I'm just interested in managing sleep right now. All of us on the committee, both Intelligence and Judiciary, put everything in into this. And so, it really just one day at a time, and I think it would irresponsible for anyone to look beyond the task ahead of us this week.

COOPER: And do you have any sense of how contentious it may be just in the next several days on the committee itself?

SWALWELL: Well, it doesn't have to be that way. And what's interesting is all of the fire coming from the Republicans is about process. You haven't heard anyone dispute the facts. And I tried to lay that out yesterday. You'll see that tomorrow and Thursday which is that there are about 12 key facts here that are just absolutely not in dispute. They're acts of the president.

And yes, there may be times we don't know what the president is saying. And in the history of crimes like this, no one has ever said I'm going to commit this crime in this way. But the acts of the president show that he used your taxpayer dollars, his office to ask a foreign government to cheat an eye election that would benefit him.

COOPER: And just finally, I know you said that, you know, obviously, how each member votes is personal. I just want to go become to that, are you at all worried that more than just a handful of Democrats might pull become and actually not vote for impeachment?

SWALWELL: Actually, Anderson, I'm encouraged that it was many vulnerable members when this call record was released about what the president was doing with Ukraine, people who had served the military and in the intelligence community who were in vulnerable seats. They were the ones who came forward, seven of them. They wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" saying that no one is above the law. And this offended sense of duty when they served and it offends them today as they serve in Congress. And that's how we've gotten to this point.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, appreciate your time. Thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

COOPER: Still to come tonight, more on the political calculations of the articles of impeachment. How solidly is the Democratic Caucus behind the strategy of its leadership?

Also, Attorney General William Barr's unprecedented attempt to distort and that really is the only accurate word to describe what he is doing, distorting intentionally, knowingly the conclusions of the FBI's inspector general's report and the origins of the investigation to Russian meddling in the election. We're keeping him honest just ahead.



COOPER: The breaking news at this time tomorrow night, the House Judiciary Committee will be debating articles of impeachment of President Trump and as the House proceeds toward a full vote likely next week, House Democrats must also justify the political calculations behind the decisions that they've made. Why, for instance, to include articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress but not obstruction of justice. Are they moving too quickly? Also, how to address the concerns of some members in swing districts interested in a possible censure vote?

Many today noted the timing of the announcement which occurred the same day as word that House Democrats has reached a deal for the trade agreement to replace NAFTA, something that could be popular with the same swing districts Democrats.

Let's talk about it. CNN political analyst and congressional editor for "The New York Times", Julie Hirschfeld Davis, joins us. CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN political analyst, journalist and author, Carl Bernstein.

Jeff, were you surprised that the Democrats went with two articles of impeachment narrowly focused on Ukraine as opposed to three articles of impeachment to include obstruction of justice?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Not really, Anderson. You know, I don't want to say the words don't really matter much. But, you know, the words don't really matter much. Does anyone really remember other than historians how many articles

there were against Bill Clinton? What everybody remembers is that he was impeached.


I mean, that's what matters here.

The fact that the Democrats decided to come to a consensus on the articles I think matters so much more than what precisely the articles say.

COOPER: Speaker Pelosi took this path at least in part in order to get the more moderate Democrats onboard, obviously, a political decision. Is that at odds with her constitutional duty which is holding the president accountable for his actions?

TOOBIN: Are you asking me?

COOPER: Carl. I'm sorry.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's perfectly consistent with her duties and to the Constitution. These articles of impeachment are very carefully and specifically drawn. And make it much easier to have a meaningful debate that shows how the president engaged in a conspiracy to undermine our free electoral system by soliciting the interference in the campaign of a foreign power, not only a foreign power but a foreign power at war with Russia.

Once again, the subtext, it's very clear through all of the articles drafted and the text. The subtext of all of this is about a president of the United States who continues to lie and to do the bidding of Russia and of Vladimir Putin. Why? That's still the question that we need to have answers to. And I suspect there is a lot more reporting to do for those of us in the press between now and the trial and further into this administration about now what happened in Ukraine fits in with the Putin agenda.

COOPER: Julie --

TOOBIN: You know, that's very high minded. But, you know, the Framers gave the power of impeachment to politicians, to the House of Representatives. There is always going to be politics involved. And of course this is partially political when it comes to Pelosi.

But, I mean, everything Congress does is political. And I don't think there is any point in pretending otherwise.

COOPER: Julie, I mean, the announcement of the articles of impeachment came hours before Nancy Pelosi announced a deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement. Pelosi said it wasn't about politics. It's certainly -- you look at that and say, well, that's certainly about politics, no? JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, absolutely. I

mean, it was very clear I think to Nancy Pelosi and to many Democrats in the -- in the rank and file that if members had to go home right after -- go home for Christmas and the holidays right after voting to impeach President Trump and didn't have anything to show their constituents for having the House majority, for having won that backlash there, that that could be a very difficult place for many of the Democratic members particularly those and some of them were in conservative-leaning districts where Mr. Trump has support to do.

So, clearly, there was -- a big incentive to get this done. They didn't necessarily time it to the day. But I do think there was a big push to be able to say they had gotten this accomplishment and able to still do business with the president even as they try to remove him.

I would also say in terms of narrowing of the charges, I do think part of the issue here in addition to the political dynamic, which is certainly been a big impetus behind the decision, is what they think they prove in a Senate trial. I think that there are a lot of lawyers working on this thinking a case including the obstruction of justice issues tied to the Mueller report would be more difficult prove and wouldn't be the strongest case. And they are looking in the end to see if they can't have influence winning over some Republicans in that process.

So, I do think that there were other reasons beyond just the politics which were clearly a factor here.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff, do you think there is any chance of winning over Republicans?

TOOBIN: You know, it depends what Mitt Romney thinks. But other than Mitt Romney, I can't imagine any Republicans voting to convict.

I mean, this -- as I have often quoted John Boehner, there is no Republican Party anymore. There's just the Donald Trump party. The team has assembled. And that's the way it's going to go.

COOPER: Carl, I want to play something, Carl, that Chairman Schiff said earlier during their announcement on the articles of impeachment.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The argument why don't you just wait amounts to this. Why don't you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?

That is what that argument amounts to. The president's misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 2020.


COOPER: Carl, I mean, Schiff is basically saying Democrats have no choice but to move quickly here with the election less than a year away.

BERNSTEIN: Well, the articles drafted talk about the president persisting.


I think the word used is persists. He continues to persist in trying to entice foreign entanglements into our election.

But more important, I think we need to look at not just the timeline but the question of the Constitution of the United States, if the Democrats and hopefully Republicans as well did not move to impeach this president, because of the grievous nature of the conduct. You know, in Watergate, Richard Nixon also tried to undermine free elections by massive campaign of political espionage and sabotage to try and run against the candidate he wanted to run against in the Democratic Party. Very much like here except Nixon didn't involve a foreign power.

But it was the abuse of authority, the corruption involved in saying our Constitution means nothing, you know, the impeachment clause was specifically drawn, George Washington, James Madison talked about the danger of entanglements in our elections from foreign powers. This is what was intended in the impeachment clause. And here, we have a very strong case of exactly what can happen when a president engages in this kind of basic corruption.

COOPER: Julie, you know, CNN is reporting that there is a growing divide between President Trump and Majority Leader McConnell on what the Senate trial should look like. McConnell apparently wanting to end it as quickly as possible and move on, while the president wants a, quote, dramatic event, with people like the Bidens or Schiff and teh whistleblower testifying. The president thinks a spectacle is his best chance to hurt the Democrats in the election.

Who wins that fight?

DAVIS: In the end, Mitch McConnell is the person who has to control this process. He is the one who is going to run this trial. Obviously, the chief justice of the Supreme Court will preside over it, but he's the one that's going to have to determine the rules. And he has said and other Republican senators, our reporting shows -- we reported over the weekend, have told Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel and other White House officials, they don't have 51 votes to call some of these edgier witnesses that the White House wants. There is not going to be 51 Republicans senators in charge of calling Hunter Biden for instance.

And so, in the end the rules of the Senate has to dictate and also politics for Mitch McConnell. He is very aware that he has some vulnerable Republicans who don't want a long drawn-out trial, a big spectacle many votes on the floor on this. They want to consider this, look like they are serious about it and then dispense with it.

And so, obviously, there will be more discussions. But I think McConnell is going to be the one in control here. COOPER: Yes. Julie Hirschfeld David, appreciate it, and Carl


Jeff, stick around. We're going to come back to you. We'll get your take on Attorney General Barr's latest attempt to distort the inspector general's report of the FBI's Russia probe.

First, it's been almost 21 years since the last president was impeached. And up next, two veterans of the Clinton White House will join me to talk about the road ahead for Congress, the White House, and the country.



COOPER: The similarities between the impeachment of this president and the one more than 20 years ago begin with this fact. According to "The Washington Post", 84 current members of Congress cast a vote in President Clinton's impeachment. One difference noted today by "The New York Times", back then, the Republican-led House voted on four articles of impeachment, but only succeeded in impeaching on two.

Still, the impeachment of President Trump is likely to wind up in the Senate, of course, as President Clinton's did. Here's a moment from that first day of his defense back in January of 1999.


GREG CRAIG, CLINTON WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: The president's defense is base on the grand jury transcript itself. I urge you to read that transcript. Watch the videotape.

You will see this president make painful difficult admissions, beginning with his acknowledgement of an improper and wrongful relationship with Monica Lewinsky. You will see that the president was truthful.

And after reading, seeing, hearing and studying the evidence for yourself, not relying on what someone else says it is, not relying on someone else's description, characterization or paraphrase of the president's testimony, we believe that you will conclude that what the president did and said in the grand jury was not unlawful and that you must not remove him from office.


COOPER: Well, two veterans of Clinton impeachment joining us. CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart, who served as White House press secretary back then, and CNN political commentator Paul Begala, who is a White House strategist.

Paul, I wonder when you watch the clip from the White House counsel at the time, Greg Craig, using the words difficult admissions by the president. Do you see that as a major difference in how the Clinton team approached things compared with the White House, President Clinton admitted making mistakes?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, yes. As Greg said in the statement, in the grand jury, the first thing Bill Clinton did was read a statement that he'd written, confessing to the affair, admitting that he lied about it.

All of us, nobody loves Bill Clinton more than I do. Joe does. We were angry and heartbroken and we were able to say that. Democrats on the Hill said that. It was not a cult of personality.

You know, so the defense was, he is a good man, did a bad thing but it's not impeachable.

The Trump defense seems to be -- at least from what the president seems to want is perfect call, I am perfect, nothing wrong. That just doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for frankly for sanity, for admitting, OK, yes, maybe it wasn't good but let's not impeach him over it.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Joe, Paul in the past has talked about, you know, in terms of lessons learned that there was sort of compartmentalization of, you know, President Clinton when he wasn't meeting with the people who are working on his defense, he was not talking about publicly the impeachment because he wanted voters and the Americans to know there was still business being done. That obviously seems not the system set up in this White House. What other lessons do you think there are that this White House should learn?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think -- I'm going to steal Paul's line here, which is for President Clinton the work was his therapy. It's how he got through this.

You know, I think there is the -- the similarity is that I think both our White House and this White House has said that the actual act is partisan. Where it breaks down, though, is that Democrats in 1998 took this process seriously.

There were moments in this thing that Paul will remember, particularly after the President addressed the nation the day of his testimony, where a lot of senators thought it was time for the President to leave. Dick Gephardt without being asked and said, you know, impeachment is a possibility here, we may have to do this.

Republicans from the beginning have basically said there is nothing to see here, there is no problem with obstruction. And I agree with Paul, there is no room for them to move if he doesn't acknowledge any wrongdoing or apologize like Clinton did.

And the last thing is the President was very clear at the end of the -- on impeachment day and at the end of the Senate trial, it was time for the country to move on and heal. This President was out tonight in Pennsylvania making it -- you know, saying I want to revel in this stuff. I want -- these guys are all -- he said the FBI is scum, the Democrats are crazy, they're maniacs. He is going to talk about this from now until Election Day.

COOPER: Paul, I mean, just in terms of mistakes, the Clinton White House might have made, what traps would you advise to this White House to avoid?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, first don't lie. It seems simple but, you know, you teach your children that, we should teach our presidents that. And President Clinton had to be pay an enormous price for lying about an affair, but those things are different.

I think what's -- the really interesting thing is Clinton has a strong economy. Back then everybody would say to people like Lockhart, well, you're just being saved by the strong economy. Well, we had a strong economy back then, we have a strong economy then and now. We have partisan impeachment then, we're likely to have a partisan impeachment now.

Clinton went to 73 percent, Trump at 43. What's -- how I do you explain the 30-point gap? It's because people thought that the offense Clinton committed was not impeachable at all, it was a sin not a crime. And second, he was working for the American people every dog on (ph) day.

And the President had a good win today on the trade deal with Mexico and Canada. I think it was good for the country. I'm glad Pelosi did it too, because it shows that the Democrats aren't obsessed with just impeaching this guy. But he needs a lot more than that. I mean it.

Free advice, Mr. President, join the gun bill. He said before he supported the background check bill on guns, support it now. Support the Democrats on these things like maybe childcare, maybe roads and bridges.

I mean, he could actually get a lot of stuff done right now. And maybe the trade deal begins to open it. Maybe he'll watch this after his therapy session tonight in Hershey and change his entire approach to presidency. What do you think?

COOPER: Paul Begala, Joe Lockhart, we'll see. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the attorney general's attack on the FBI, the inspector general's report, and as painful as it is to say his attack on the truth itself. Keeping them honest, next.



COOPER: Today, the nation's top law enforcement officer took aim at the nation's top law enforcement agency. Attorney General William Barr suggesting that the FBI acted in bad faith in the Russia investigation and that is unprecedented. But perhaps given the last 24 hours or so, it's not unexpected. That's because right after the Justice Department's inspector general report on Russia probe came out yesterday, Barr's boss, President Trump, was already denouncing it.

At the same time, Attorney General Barr began criticizing the work of the inspector general, his own agency's top independent, we should point out, watchdog, which is also unusual if not unprecedented. He pointed to a separate ongoing investigation that he himself commissioned and that too is certainly unusual. As is the U.S. attorney in charge of that investigation putting out a statement right after Barr criticizing, the inspector general report as well, which is what he did.

And now, there's more. Attorney General Barr sat down with NBC News' Pete Williams who asked him whether he stood by his claim that Trump campaign -- that the Trump campaign was spied upon.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It was clearly spied on. I mean, that's what electronic surveillance is. I think wiring people up to go and then talk to people and make recordings of their conversations is spying.


COOPER: Well, what the attorney general is doing here is blandly making two seemingly uncontroversial statements of fact that invite the listener to then draw a false inference that the campaign was spied upon.

Keeping them honest, though, he's smart enough to know better. For starters, the attorneys general do not call court sanctioned electronic surveillance spying or they haven't until now, precisely because it suggests bad behavior.

And although the inspector general did identify 17 separate problems in connection with some of the surveillance warrant applications, he didn't find the kind of politically motivated wrongdoing the President has alleged for three years. And that the attorney general is insinuating, no hoax, no politically motivated witch hunt were found, no informants inserted into Trump campaign.

As for wiring people up, the DOJ doesn't call that spying either. But whatever you call it, it's immaterial because it simply didn't happen. I'm quoting now from the inspector general report, "We found no evidence that the FBI placed any CHSs, which are confidential sources, or UCEs, undercover employees, within the Trump campaign or tasked any confidential sources or undercover sources to report on the Trump campaign."

And the funny thing is that Attorney General Barr doesn't actually claim this specifically happened either. He only suggests that it did. However, he did straight up saying this about the bigger picture.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARR: I think our nation was turned on its head for three years. I think based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press.


COOPER: The inspector general did not conclude the Russia investigation was built on a bogus narrative. Just the opposite, I'm quoting again from the report, "The FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire Hurricane to obtain information about or protect against a national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity." So, wait did someone say bogus narrative?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was an illegal investigation. It was started illegally.

They were spying on my campaign and it went right up to the top.

This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president.

This was spying on my campaign, something that has never been done in the history of our country. This was an overthrow attempt at the presidency.

Everything about it was crooked.

Comey lies and leaks. He's a liar and he's a leaker.

Some of the people at the top were rotten apples. James Comey was one of them.

The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

It's a total witch hunt.

It is one great hoax.

It's a Democrat hoax.

I call it the Russian hoax, one of the great hoaxes.


COOPER: That is the bogus narrative. In normal times, the attorney general would be congratulating his inspector general for doing a thorough and professional job after such an exhausted report. It took two years saying something like, I don't know, maybe like this. "Inspector General Horowitz a fiercely independent investigator, a superb investigator, who I think has conducted this particular investigation in the most professional way and I think his work when it does come out will be a credit to the department." Well, that sounds like a reasonable statement. And that's because that is what Attorney General Barr said about Horowitz, the inspector general, and his investigation just a few weeks ago before he suddenly didn't like its conclusions and then trashed it this morning.

Joining me now is Jim Baker, the former -- the FBI's former top lawyer and currently a CNN Legal Analyst. Back on us, our own top lawyer, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jim, I mean, the attorney general today, what is going on here do you think? I mean, what -- we're seeing statements from this attorney general unlike any we've seen from any attorney general in recent times.

JAMES BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I can't really explain it, Anderson. It doesn't really make sense to me. I mean, I think he is trying to help the President advance his narrative in order to help the President stay in power, which the President obviously desperately wants to do.

But I'm just like filled with sadness, frankly, about all of this, you know, because the attorney general has had a great reputation over the years of his career. And I think he is -- I just -- I find it sad to see what he is doing now. I thought Mr. Durham has had a great reputation within the department. I find that sad as well. I'm just profoundly sad about everything that's happening here and it's just really unjustified.

The facts do not support his assertions with respect to the investigation that we conducted. I was one of the people at the top of the FBI at the time and I know we weren't involved in some plot to overthrow the United States government, obviously. We were conducting lawfully authorized investigative activities to protect the country from Russia. The focus was on Russia. It was not on trying to get political information to hurt the President in any way. So, I just find this whole thing sad.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Spare me your sadness, Baker. The attorney general of the United States is a Fox News bot. And we have -- and it's just -- it's an outrage. I mean, just the first quote you started with, it's like, I think it's troubling when they wire someone -- you know, wire people up to go in a campaign. They didn't wire anyone up. It's a complete invention.

I mean, the -- you know, the justice -- I used to work in the Justice Department about 17 levels down from where Jim Baker was. But, I mean, it's just outrageous. It's not sad. This is what's -- I mean, the fact that the attorney general of the United States keeps demanding investigation after investigation until he gets the results that he wants, that's something that happened in the Soviet Union not in the United States.

COOPER: Jim, I mean, what message do you think it sends to everybody working in the Justice Department that their leader has chosen to support the President and his lies about the investigation over his entire department, including the FBI and the inspector general, who is an independent body within the organization?

BAKER: Yes, Jeff's got me worked up here, so I'll try to remain calm.


BAKER: But, so I think it sends a terrible message. Look, and the President's statements I think in his tweet, whenever it was about Director Wray, I mean the FBI is not a broken organization. It is not and has not been. It is a tremendous organization. It's out there every day defending America. So, the American people should rest assured that the FBI is there, it's doing its job, it's protecting all of us.


That being said, it's demoralizing, I think, when the attorney general makes these kinds of statements about the investigative work that we did and it certainly deters people from wanting to be involved in these kinds of cases. The FBI has a lot of stuff on its plate, a lot of sensitive matters that they need to pursue aggressively.

They need to be encouraged to be aggressive to protect us within the bounds of the law, but not to be commented on and said to be spying. Because if this is spying, then under the attorney general guidelines and the law of -- supported by Mr. Barr, then his Department of Justice and FBI are spying all the time because this is lawful activity, it's not spying.

COOPER: And Jeff, I mean, the President tweeted today, and I'm going to put it on the screen. He said, "I don't know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn't the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he'll never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men and women working there."

I mean, the only thing that Christopher Wray did was state factual evidence and the lack of factual evidence on the idea that Ukraine was interfering in the 2016 election. The FBI and others in the intelligence community say clearly it was Russia. The evidence shows that. That has now -- suddenly, now he is in, you know, the cross hairs of the President of the United States.

TOOBIN: Yes, the word that certainly jumps out at you in the tweet is current, you know, the current director of the FBI. And he could clearly be a former director before too long. I mean, the President has lied about this constantly. He's still lying about it. And the thing that is just so disgraceful is that he is being enabled, supported and endorsed by the attorney general of the United States who should know better.

COOPER: Jim Baker, Jeff Toobin, thank you very much. If you haven't to watch Fox News for a balanced explanation of the inspector general's report, well, you wouldn't get it. It was actually kind of remarkable to see. We'll have more on that when we come back.


COOPER: Some late word from the President's rally in Pennsylvania. The President attacked the FBI calling some members of the bureau, and this is the word he chose, scum. Chris, I assume you're not very surprised by that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Anyone and anything that is in the way of what he thinks benefit him loses. He lied about an inspector general report. He's lying because he believes people won't watch it. He'll lie and trash the FBI. He'll trash anybody. He'll trash you. Well, maybe not you, but he'll certainly trash me, anybody who is in his way. He will never surrender the me to the we. That's him. Move him to the side.

We're going to look inside these articles of impeachment. Is this the best case the Democrats could make or is it the safest case? So, we're going to test that with Hakeem Jeffries. There's word that he may be one of the managers, one of the House members that presents it in the Senate. Is that true? I asked him right off the top.

And we have a defender of this President. Why doesn't just admit what's obvious? Will this hurt them long term? And then, Russia in the House again, Coop. Why do they get the red carpet when they lie to our faces?

COOPER: Chris, we'll see you about eight minutes from now. We look forward to it. Appreciate it.

Attorney General Barr's repudiation of the inspector general's report, we'll see the rising reception on at least one cable news network. We'll show you how it was reported in what at times seems to be an alternative universe. That's next.



COOPER: Watching the Trump administration echo chamber on Fox News might convince you at times that day is night. Last night was an interesting example. As we mentioned earlier, the inspector general found in his report about the Russia investigation that while there were some serious issues along the way, the investigation itself was not as a result of political bias and was appropriate.

The folks at Fox spent two years promising it would find something completely different. So, listen to how the Fox News opinion hosts reacted last night and their new hopes for a new investigator.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: How can you determine there was no political bias in the FBI's handling of the FBI probe?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: His purview was limited. He was always sort of in a bubble the way I interpret it. INGRAHAM: Horowitz gave Democrats the talking point they craved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Horowitz couldn't find it. Perhaps Durham has been able to find it.

HANNITY: John Durham is now very strongly hinting the origins of the Russia probe weren't just wrought with inaccuracies and errors, but instead downright unlawful.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: With Durham, he's going to look into it more and we'll see what happens there.


COOPER: In case you don't know who that last person was, it's Stephanie Grisham, the White House spokesperson. You don't see her very much anywhere else but on Fox.

Joining us now is CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter.


COOPER: It is remarkable just -- given what they had been reporting for so long, how they then sort of interpreted this.

STELTER: Incredible and really disappointing for the people who work at Fox who are still reality based, who still want this channel to be, you know, as accurate as possible. Look, there's a difference between conservative and conspiratorial. There's difference between supporting Trump's agenda and just lavishly, blindly believing whatever he says. But unfortunately, that gets lost too often in this coverage on Fox. It's as if all nuances lost and nonsense wins out. And we're really seeing that vividly this week.

COOPER: Also, I mean, there is this sort of echo chamber that's been talked about a lot.


COOPER: But, you know, the President watching Fox. Fox being where the President is watching. The President criticizing Fox if he doesn't like a poll which, you know, is ludicrous the idea that they're somehow manipulating polls against the President.

STELTER: Yes. I've been talking to dozens of sources inside Fox in recent months. And lots of them describe a frustration that the network feels like it's surrendered to Trump. Not all of the show, not every hour, not every person, but there's a sense that Trump is in charge of Fox, at least parts of the Fox line up, and that's really troubling.

COOPER: Is it a financial decision or -- I mean, obviously there's, you know, some politics. Is it political purely or financial as well? This is --

STELTER: It's partly political. It's definitely also financial. Viewers -- Fox viewers expect a certain message. In some cases, Fox viewers reject anybody who's not delivering it. Look what happened with Shep Smith at Fox. You know, (INAUDIBLE) we're in a post truth inside and I don't buy that, Anderson, but we are suffering through truth decay.

And the echo chamber is a big reason why. It's like plaque that builds up and it's building up to the point we're not just getting cavities, we're getting root canals. It's getting worse and worse and worse and it's because of this echo chamber environment.

I kind of sometimes think that if Trump didn't have Fox, he'd have to invent it, you know, because it is the main thing keeping him around 40 percent in the polls. You'd wonder if he'd be at 20 or 30 percent in the polls were it not for those daily cheerleading sessions on Fox.

COOPER: Brian Stelter, appreciate.

STELTER: Thanks.

COOPER: Thanks very much. The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time." The articles of impeachment are out and will be debated by the judiciary committee starting tomorrow. We're going to ask a key player about the two charges.