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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Bloomberg Makes Debate Debut; Democratic Candidates Slam Bloomberg As He Makes Debate Debut; Former Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Previews What's At Stake In Tonight's Nevada Debate; President Trump Nominates Ambassador, Loyalist With No Intelligence Experience As Next Acting DNI; White House: President Trump Has A "Good Relationship" With Barr. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 19, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:18]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from Las Vegas.

There's breaking news tonight. The president choosing someone to oversee the intelligence community and with it the nation's security who has no real intelligence experience. We'll have that story ahead.

We begin, though, right here in Las Vegas at a key moment in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Michael Bloomberg, who is not even on the ballot in this weekend's caucuses in Nevada, will be on the debate stage here tonight, which means that millions of voters who may only know him through the campaign ads he's already spent more than $400 million on will finally get to see how he thinks on his feet. He could be in for some tough questions, there's no about it, about his record with respect to stop and frisk and his alleged sexist comments in the past.

He's already taking hits from his other rivals, some who say he's not even a true Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is he's basically been a Republican his whole life. The fact of the matter is, he has -- he didn't endorse Barack or me when we ran. This is a guy talking about, you know, he's using Barack's pictures like, you know, they're good buddies. I'm going to talk about his record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Just quickly, that's largely untrue. Bloomberg was a long time Democrat who changed party affiliations to run for mayor of New York and then became an independent before finally returning to the Democratic Party.

So he did not endorse President Obama in 2008, he did in 2012.

Bloomberg was also taking hits from Elizabeth Warren and frontrunner Bernie Sanders who both say he is trying to buy the nomination. But instead of focusing on that, a Sanders spokesperson today picked a fight with Bloomberg over 78-year-old candidate was healthier, just a day after Senator Sanders who recently had a heart attack told me he would not be releasing his complete medical records.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think the American people deserve to know more about his health going forward?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY, SANDERS NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: I think the American people deserve to know exactly as much as every other candidates has released in those raids currently and historically. And what you're seeing right now is really reminiscent of some of the skepticism campaigns that have been run against candidates in the past, questioning where there from, aspects of their lineage et cetera, et cetera.

And it's really telling given that not the same concerned is being demonstrated for Michael Bloomberg, who's the same age as Bernie Sanders who had suffered heart attacks in the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Bloomberg camp fired back, pointing out that Bloomberg has never had a heart attack but he has had a stent inserted in 2000, 20 years ago, to open a blocked artery. A spokesperson has walked back her earlier remark, but it was the political story of the day today and perhaps the night as well.

Joining us now is CNN Political Director, David Chalian.

David, just how much criticism do you think Bloomberg is going to face tonight and not only questions from the moderators but from the other candidates?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I would say a lot. I think he's going to be the center of attention even though it's Bernie Sanders who's in the driver's seat right now for this nomination race. He's the clear leader in the race right now, Anderson, but Bloomberg is the new entrance and he is stepping out from behind in the television screen, if you will, of all the paid ads that has been his main presentation to voters to date and is going to stand on the stage as an equal with his fellow competitors for the first time and they're eager to take him on.

Just last night, you saw when you are moderating those town halls. I mean, Sanders and Buttigieg and Klobuchar all went after him. They are eager to try and bring him down to the reality of being a candidate in the mix.

COOPER: It's going to be so focus -- so fascinating tonight and Bloomberg has not been on a debate stage at this level ever and it's been quite a while since he's frankly been in the rough and tumble of a daily political race. It's -- if Bloomberg is the sole focus, Sanders then arguably would be a beneficiary of that if not -- if it takes all the intention off of him and other candidates challenging his policies or his proposals.

CHALIAN: It's such a good point, Anderson, which is why I'm eager to see what do the likes of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren ,are they going to just not spend their time taking on the current front runner Bernie Sanders because they are so focused on the rise of Michael Bloomberg? And if they're dividing their time, is it as affective of a chance to try and halt Sanders momentum?

I do think you raise a really good point, especially as you know that more moderate side of the equation, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden, Bloomberg is all splitting up a big chunk of the party right now.

[20:05:04]

They -- somebody is looking to consolidate that and the folks who have been in a race are trying to make sure it's not Michael Bloomberg, but you can't -- you can't just step away from Bernie Sanders and let him run away with this think without being touched.

COOPER: The sparring that sick place today between Sanders and Bloomberg campaigns over their respective health histories, what's the strategy behind that?

I mean, I guess it began with the Sanders spokesperson this morning on CNN's new day alleging that Bloomberg had had heart attacks, plural. The campaign says that's not the case. They're both 78 years old.

What does this conversation get them?

CHALIAN: Yes, I thought the Bloomberg campaign response was really interesting Anderson. I think it's a key strategic point. They said that's not true and obviously the spokesperson said she misspoke, but they said it was Trumpian in what they were doing.

This is the Bloomberg campaign strategy and how to deal with Sanders right now. They're trying to paint him as a sort of the ilk of Donald Trump. More of a divider than a uniter within the Democratic Party, and, you know, they were going on a frontal attack on a couple days ago, about some of his online supporters and some of their bullying tactics online.

Now they were trying to say, that they deliberately went on deliberately and was lying about Michael Bloomberg having a heart attack and calling it very Trumpy.

I think this is a clear shortage from the Bloomberg campaign to try and halt some of that Sanders momentum right now by sort of painting him as an outsider and a divider, which, of course, is precisely the opposite message Sanders is trying to paint for himself.

COOPER: Yes. David Chalian -- David, thanks very much.

More perspective now from our political professionals, David Axelrod, Van Jones and Gloria Borger.

Gloria, it's impossible to say how much dynamic the race could shift in whether it's in Bloomberg's favor or against him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's going to shift dramatically because what we're going to see tonight and I think David was talking about this, we are going to see a public event think of Michael Bloomberg, and the other candidates they're including Bernie Sanders according to try and disqualify him while he is going to try and come out behind the $400 million curtain of glossy ads and introduce himself to the American public.

The public really doesn't know who he is or how he will answer questions or how he will stand up against these other candidates. I was speaking to a source on the campaign today who said he is ready for everything that's going to be thrown at him, but they are just nervous he does not get aggravated by all of these attacks on him because he is not used to it and he's going to get it.

COOPER: Yes, David, there is plenty billionaires who are not used to having people basically go after them and nitpick and critique not only very understandably their past but also, you know, most recent comments they've made. What is a win, David, you think look like for Bloomberg tonight?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think if you walked out on his own power that will be good. I mean, I think he's going -- look, first of all you mentioned earlier one of the things that to be concerned about if I were his team was all the candidates on the stage are in mid-season form.

They've been through a debate and have gotten better over the course of those debates. They're accustomed to pressures of being in this debate although this one is perhaps more pressure than the others, and he comes in without any spring training and he's never been a particularly noteworthy debater or speaker, and now, he's going to be under siege. And I think that's very difficult.

One thing that I would say where all the guards will be thrown, if you're a moderate and one of those center left candidates, I'm not sure the way you get to where you want to go is by going after Michael Bloomberg. The way you may get will be going after Bernie Sanders because the question right now in the Democratic Party is who is going to run away with this nomination because the moderate wing of the party is divided, much as Donald Trump ran away with it 2016, so you want to score points with those center left voters, it may be better to focus your attention on Bernie Sanders, and it will allow Elizabeth Warren to focus on Bloomberg.

COOPER: Van, what do you make of that? I mean, as much as Sanders has a lot of stake tonight? Certainly, if everybody is focused on Bloomberg, it does essentially let him continue the momentum.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, we're in this phenomenal period in the history of the Democratic Party. The main line Democrats, the ones who've been a part of the party, loyal to the party, are being squeezed out by a bottom up in certainty from the left outside the party.

[20:10:02]

You know, Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat, powered by millions of people, and now by this top-down incursion from the right which is Bloomberg, who is, you know, sometimes Democrats, sometimes not. So you have these two forces, both kind of outside Democratic Party that now are dominating the discussion, Sanders and Bloomberg.

Now, Sanders would be quite happy for everybody to go beat up on Bloomberg, because he is just sailing to the nomination. I don't know why we're ignoring this, but this guy is at the top of the polls. I was talking to a cousin of mine in Tennessee who said he was for Biden but Biden looks like he was very weak, so he switched from Biden, a moderate, to Bernie.

He's picking a black vote. He's picking votes everywhere. The best thing to happen to Bernie Sanders right now is Bloomberg coming in and absorbing all the fire from the moderates if that happens tonight.

COOPER: Gloria, Sanders' spokeswoman walked back the claim about Bloomberg's health today. I mean, is that really a conversation the Sanders campaign wants to be having right now? I mean, he had promised to release his medical records. He has now said he's not going to release any more than he already has, which is three doctors note and we're going to talk to Dr. Sanjay about -- about that a little bit later on. There's a lot of information in those moments.

But, you know, is that a debate Sanders wants?

BORGER: No. Not -- not at all. I mean, do you want to have a debate between septuagenarians about whose heart is in worse shape? I don't think so. I don't think that does Bernie Sanders any good at all and quite frankly doesn't do Michael Bloomberg any good at all, and I think that this was a mistake on the part of the Sanders campaign.

They did back off, but you have to pay attention to the fact that these -- that Bernie Sanders had a heart attack just months ago and look at him. He looks great. He looks terrific on the trail, but I think when people are making a decision about the president, they need information. There is a precedent here for no information and that's Donald Trump.

And that is why folks now say, well, you know, I've already released a lot more than normal. It used to be, even when John McCain was running and he was a cancer survivor, you know, thousands of pages of doctors' notes and we're not seeing that anymore and I think it's an unfortunate trend that honestly was started with Donald Trump.

COOPER: Yes, we're going to pick up this during the break, after the break. We're going to work on the audio issues with David Axelrod. Apologize for that.

Also, when we -- when we come back tonight, a closer look at Mike Bloomberg's past debating records for clues at what may have been tonight.

And later, the breaking news, the president's choice to fill a job that was created after 9/11 to prevent another 9/11. How his pick defers from all the distinguished and highly intelligence professionals who held the job before. We'll have that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:04]

COOPER: We're talking about tonight's debate and how it may be different from the eight that have come before. Bernie Sanders, the front runner, facing Mike Bloomberg, the newcomer. Seasoned campaigners like Sanders, Warren, and Biden facing someone who hasn't even debated in more than a decade. That said whatever he lacks in recent experience, Mike Bloomberg also brings considerable talent to bear as a look at his past debate performance shows.

More now on that from Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to now apologize for or recant any or all of these four very interesting statements?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Mark, you've taken all out of context.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they all accurate?

BLOOMBERG: They were certainly said, but -- but out of context.

And it's a typical smear when the time gets close.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was Michael Bloomberg back in 2001, debating his opponents in the race for mayor of New York City.

Now almost two decades later, the stakes are much higher.

BRETT O'DONNELL, COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: He's both confident and arrogant on a debate stage because he does have such a command of facts.

KAYE: Debate expert Brett O'Donnell says it's critical that Bloomberg connect with the audience instead of just spewing facts.

O'DONNELL: He thinks if he unloaded bunch of facts and figures, he'll get the audience to make a decision just like he would make as a business person. The problem with that is it's devoid of any contact and connection with an audience.

KAYE (on camera): O'Donnell says it's clear from watching Bloomberg debate that it's not something Bloomberg enjoys. Despite that O'Donnell says during debates, Bloomberg manages to stay low-key and tries not to do any harm.

(voice-over): Bloomberg looks to avoid any major conflict, though, he still gets combative with opponents. BLOOMBERG: I think everyone does know what my opponent stands for. He

stands for complaining. He stands for identifying problems and never coming up with solutions, and that's different than governing. It's easy to be a critique. It is very hard to lead.

O'DONNELL: In the past, Michael Bloomberg has always returned fire when fired upon. So, he is not afraid to counterpunch his opponents. I think he functions under the premise that the best defense is a good offense.

KAYE: O'Donnell says Bloomberg is known to fire back, like when his opponents suggested he made charitable contributions only to get something in return. Here's Bloomberg putting his opponents in his place.

BLOOMBERG: I'm proud of our philanthropy and just let me get this -- he is getting money to his campaign and I'm giving money out, unless I miss what you describe.

KAYE: Don't expect Bloomberg to raise his voice O'Donnell says and don't expect him to make things easy for the moderators either. This was him in 2009 answering a question about diversity in Spanish, much to the moderators' dismay.

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you feel Latinos --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: With some downplaying expectations, we'll see if Michael Bloomberg comes ready to play.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[20:20:02]

COOPER: Well, there's certainly plenty to talk for the candidates tonight and for us well.

Back with us is David Axelrod, Van Jones and Gloria Borger.

David, you see Bloomberg's past approach to debates, what are you anticipating tonight. Again, he hasn't done this for quite a while.

AXELROD: Yes, well, I think you'll see some of that. I think the greatest challenge for him is that he has kind of reinvented himself for this race. He walked away from the stop-and-frisk policy that he defended for a very long time, and you know, he is now -- he's fashioning himself as a big -- as a very close ally of President Obama, which wasn't true. They worked together. They weren't by any means close buds. And there are a series of things like that that he's trying to clean up for purposes of this Democratic race. I think the leading indicator in presidential race is authenticity. One of the reasons Bernie Sanders is doing well because he's been saying the same things for 50 years. And Bloomberg now is stepping out from behind these ads and he's going to have to defend some of those past statements and convincingly persuade people that he has gone through a metamorphosis on some of these things.

I think that's very difficult that he will be hammered by his opponents on these points.

COOPER: Van, if this becomes a race of Sanders versus Bloomberg, I mean, you couldn't pick two more different people. Sanders is the exact -- Bloomberg is the exact kind of person Sanders is running against, even before Bloomberg was in the race.

JONES: Yes, I mean, he was talking about the billionaires, the billionaires, the billionaires, and now he's going to have one of the biggest billionaires in the world on stage with him.

You know, I think for a Bloomberg, in addition to what Axelrod was saying, you know, there's something about not just debating on stage. There's something about those town halls, there's something about those living rooms. You watch Elizabeth Warren just become an incredibly good presence, an incredibly good on the mic and in the debate stage. Why? Because she was listening for months and months to ordinary people.

He has not done that, Bloomberg. He has not been in those living rooms. So, this is a very, very risky kind of a moon shot move to be like me trying to run a marathon having not gone to the gym. You just -- it's just some thing that is hard to pull.

If he pulls it off, though, if he's able to literally come off the couch and stand with these folks and actually, you know, distinguish himself, it's going to be a real boost to him and it will be a shock to the field. But this is -- what he's trying to pull off is very, very hard to do.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria, I mean, it is -- Van's analogy I think on a marathon is pretty apt.

BORGER: Well, yes, and don't forget, he skipped the first four races. And so, he is sort of parachuting in right now at a late date. And talk to his campaign, what they're saying is a couple things. First of all, not only does he have to introduce himself but they want him to figure out a way -- and I don't if you can do this, forgot would tell his life story.

This is they see somebody not born someone, who made his home money, comparing him to Donald Trump obviously, and they want him to tell the American public say about where he came from and why he is where he is. And then the other goal they have is that people can see him as a president on that stage tonight. Voters size up people and say, well, is this the person that I can see

as presidential? This is the person I can trust. This is the person who's going to represent me and my interests, and as Van was talking about, that is very diverse in the Democratic Party right now.

And so, he has these big hurdles that he's got to cross and a question is, how does he do it? He's not a warm and fuzzy guy as we all know, so how does he appeal to the public and say I'm the pied piper, follow me, you really should follow me?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes, Gloria Borger, Van Jones, David Axelrod, it's going to be a fascinating debate.

Go ahead, David.

AXELROD: I think he's going to take a page from Biden here and hope it works better for him and say, I'm the guy who can beat Donald Trump.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Yes.

AXELROD: And, you know, I'm tough enough, I'm well-funded. I'm well- fortified, I'm experienced. I think that's what you're going to hear from him tonight.

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: Yes. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, Andrew Yang, he left the race after New Hampshire, he has since joined us at CNN as our latest political contributor. We'll talk to Andrew in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:29:00]

COOPER: So, what do these candidates need to do in tonight's debate to maintain viability?

As a Democratic presidential candidate, my next guest, Andrew Yang, had plenty of time on the televised debate stage throughout the first stages of the primary battle, and it's safe to say, he's gotten to know most of the candidates pretty well. Andrew Yang left the race after the New Hampshire primary. But proof there is life after politics, he's joined CNN as a political commentator. We're happy to have him and I'm happy to discuss tonight's debate with him.

Andrew, welcome to CNN. We're happy that you're joining us.

This is obviously the first time that we're going to see Michael Bloomberg on the debate state. What are your expectations of that? ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is essentially the Bloomberg debate, Anderson. The fact is the other candidates have had eight debates where they've had their talking points essentially heard wired in, it's almost second nature. Whereas for Mike, this is going to be his first time.

He's not accustomed to getting hostile questioning on a regular basis. He's not accustomed to getting his past comments on sex and race dragged.

[20:30:00]

So, it's going to be a real test of temperament and even humility for Mike tonight. And the question is whether he can take the slings and arrows that are coming his way in stride.

COOPER: That's one of the things, I mean, that people don't realize is being -- I mean, running for president, as you well know, it makes you -- you get better at it as you go, going -- you know, being in town halls in New Hampshire and Iowa and elsewhere and being on debate stages and, you know, it teaches you a certain amount of humility and you're taking questions from all sorts of people and reporters. Mike Bloomberg hasn't done that for a very long time and he's been in somewhat rarefied ecosphere of a multibillionaire. Do you think he knows what he's getting into?

YANG: Well, he has a very, very strong team. And if I'm his team, I've been coaching him to take hostile questioning with ease and coolness and then pivot to talking points about his record and his message. If I was at his team, I'd be playing him like that Zen, like Om music before he gets on the debate stage just to try and chill him out. Because the big challenge for him --

COOPER: You wouldn't go for like Metallica or, you know, Nine Inch Nails or something?

YANG: No, no, no. He has to try and be presidential and keep his cool through everything for him to pitfalls or if he expresses irritation or contempt. And the fact is he's going to have a lot of contempt directed at him. He has to react with the opposite.

COOPER: What does it say to you about the support for Bernie Sanders that Mike Bloomberg without actually being in the race, although spending a huge amount on television commercials in two new national polls is right behind -- is behind Sanders, is in the number two spot.

The fact that somebody who hasn't even really been running is supposedly, according to these two polls on the national level, number two, what does that say about the support for Sanders and the concern --

YANG: Well, after all of the attacks that are going to be leveled against Mike tonight, the second target is going to be Bernie, because he's the frontrunner at this point. He's almost certainly going to win Nevada. And the other candidates are going to try and bring down the frontrunner. I'd expect attacks on Bernie tonight on his electability, his health, the online followers of his that have some bad tendencies, even his family's financial histories or dealings. Like anything is going to be fair game, because many of the other candidates are being told that it is not acceptable to have an OK debate tonight, that they have to draw blood on either Mike or Bernie or produce something spectacular in terms of a moment. Because the other candidates can see if Bernie wins Nevada, which he's expected to, it's going to be harder and harder for them to make the case.

COOPER: If this boils down to a race between Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg, I mean, it could not be a more stark -- I mean, it sort of if you were writing this as a screenplay, you know, the guy who's campaigning against the impact of --

YANG: These would be the characters, yes.

COOPER: -- yes, the impact of billionaires on our system and to have a billionaire being the one running against him dropping huge amounts of money in the race. Do you see Sanders supporter -- I mean, Bernie Sanders has said, look, he'll support whoever is the Democratic nominee.

He said that before Bloomberg was in the race, but subsequently he says he's still would support Bloomberg. But clearly that would be a tough pill for him to swallow and do you think his supporters would come out and vote for Bloomberg?

YANG: Well, I think you're right that Bernie and Mike represent in some ways the two extremes of the party, and I think it's going to be tough to galvanize Bernie supporters behind Bloomberg and vice versa.

Certainly, I'm going to support whoever the nominee is and I think that both Bernie and Mike have said they would do the same. But its one thing to say you're going to support the nominee into another four-year millions of supporters to go out to the polls and fight as hard as they would for you.

So I think this is going to be a real issue for the Democratic Party and I think there's going to be a lot of soul-searching in the days ahead trying to figure out how to bring the party together regardless of who is the nominee. And of course, you can't rule out the other candidates. But right now, Bernie is the frontrunner with Bloomberg coming up quickly.

COOPER: Andrew Yang, it's great to have you with us and thanks so much.

YANG: Thanks, Anderson. See you soon. It's great to be here.

COOPER: Coming up next, the President's choice for a top leadership job in the intelligence community. The choice is raising some eyebrow, his candidates' lack of experience in intelligence. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:38:28]

COOPER: As we mentioned at the top of the program, there's breaking news tonight. President Trump says that he will name the current American ambassador to Germany as the Acting Director of National Intelligence. He's Richard Grenell, a staunch loyalist to the President and certainly a controversial choice even amongst some Republicans.

Joining me now is CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. So, Jim, what's the thinking behind this move, because this is not someone with an intelligence background?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- Capitol Hill covering national security. They're all talking to their sources and we're all hearing basically one thing, that Rick Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, who's going to be the Acting Director of National Intelligence may start as soon as tomorrow was a fierce loyalist, is a fierce loyalist of the President and is expected to behave as such in this capacity even though the Director of National Intelligence position was created in the aftermath of 9/11 to be sort of an a political position.

But look at the case of the current acting or outgoing Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe Maguire. He testified during the impeachment inquiry that the whistleblower at the center of all of this did the right thing, that he took the right steps in blowing the whistle on the President's phone call with the leader of Ukraine on July 25th. The President obviously didn't like that.

And in the words of one former senior White House official I spoke with this evening who's been keeping tabs on the situation, the President is essentially, and his team is essentially is filling the gaps, finding people that weren't viewed as sufficiently loyal and replacing them with fierce loyalists. And that's what's happening right now, Anderson.

[20:40:01]

COOPER: So if he is just the Acting DNI, does he -- he doesn't have to go through Senate confirmation. How much support does he have among, not only members of the administration, but congressional Republicans?

ACOSTA: Well, certainly inside the White House, among the political advisers who talk to the President on a regular basis, around the President on a regular basis, they like this pick. They see Rick Grenell as being one of them.

But when you talk to a Trump adviser, like I talked to a Trump adviser earlier this evening, Anderson, who said, listen, Rick Grenell is a polarizing figure. This is somebody who is in addition to, you know, being somebody who rubs people the wrong way up on Capitol Hill and diplomatic circles and so on because he has sharp angles, no question about.

According to this one Trump adviser I spoke with earlier this evening, he's viewed as being kind of out of his league when it comes to this position of being the Director of National Intelligence. I talked to a senior Republican congressional aide just a short while ago who questioned whether or not Rick Grenell could actually be confirmed as the permanent Director of National Intelligence and said to me earlier this evening, Anderson, that this pick is obviously not going to go over well with some members of, you know, National Security Committees, related committees up on Capitol Hill. So it remains to be seen how well this pick does.

I talked to a congressional aid earlier this evening who compared this to what happened with John Ratcliffe. Remember, John Ratcliffe was picked, the congressman from Texas was picked to replace Maguire and Dan Coats over the summer, the former Director of National Intelligence. And when it was found that Ratcliffe has exaggerated some of his bona fides, his nomination was pulled.

And the concern is, and it's already bubbling up, Anderson, that Rick Grenell could go through a similar experience if the White House does not handle this perfectly in the coming days, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Jim, thanks. For some perspective on the Grenell appointment and why it is polarizing, take a look at the prior intelligence and leadership experience of the men who've held that same position under President Trump.

The current Acting Director Joseph Maguire is a Navy Vice Admiral and former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Indiana Senator Dan Coats served on the intelligence committee. And here's the experience level of some those who held the same job since the agency was created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

James Clapper, the Air Force Lieutenant General, ran the Defense Intelligence Agency. Dennis Blair was head of the Navy's Pacific Command. In each case, people steeped (ph) in either -- in the intelligence community itself or in roles overseeing it.

Some perspective now from former Republican presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. He's a CNN Senior Political Commentator. Also, CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero who served as senior associate general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

So Carrie, first of all, is Ambassador Grenell qualified to be acting Director of the National Intelligence?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He's not, Anderson. This is a pretty outrageous appointment as acting DNI. If we look at the past -- the five Senate confirmed individuals who served as Director of National Intelligence, they had decades of intelligence, military, or diplomatic experience, some of those different characteristics combined. They were individuals who were extremely knowledgeable about the intelligence community.

You know, this is -- the intelligence community is a $60 billion plus enterprise. It's not something that one just picks up as you go along on the job and really his qualifications, he's currently the ambassador, so he has a little bit of experience in terms of being a consumer of intelligence. But beyond that, as my understanding of his resume, is that he's basically a communications professional and someone who would be more attune to being the spokesperson for the DNI and not the actual Director of National Intelligence.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, is that fair? I mean, if you were in the Senate, would you be comfortable with the appointment even on an acting basis?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, look -- well, first off, on an acting basis, I don't have any say in whether the President keeps them on an active basis because there's no confirmation. And that very well maybe what the President has in mind is just to have someone who's in that position who has his back in many respects.

COOPER: But would you be comfortable with him being the DNI, acting or not?

SANTORUM: Look, I have concerns about his qualifications. I don't think anyone can look at his qualifications and say, well, he's clearly, you know, the most qualified person for this job. The question is, you know, what's he trying to accomplish for Donald Trump. And what he's trying to accomplish for Donald Trump, I think, there's a couple of things.

Number one, I think he's going to be a disruptive force. And he's going to be a disruptive force at a time when the President feels like there are people in, you know, in and around who have, you know, not had his back and not been fair to him -- not had his back, that's not fair -- have not been fair to him. And so I think you're going to see Grenell be disruptive.

Having said that, you know, the DNI was a position -- I remember voting on the law that created the DNI. The DNI was created because we had lots of intelligence that was not being shared among agencies and this was the guy who was going to sit on top and bring everything together.

[20:45:12]

I'm not sure that that's actually what's happened. But that's really what the role is, is to help coordinate intelligence. And I'm not sure if you look at this guy's, you know, resume, his ability to sort of work with other people and bring things together and coordinate, I'm not sure that's his strongest, you know, asset.

COOPER: Carrie, I mean, if he is a disrupter and by all accounts that I think Senator Santorum is right about that, that is not the job description necessarily of somebody who brings people together and coordinating intelligence.

CORDERO: It's not. The Director of National Intelligence sits atop the other 16 intelligence community agencies and elements and the director coordinates the budget and coordinates policy. He's not responsible for the actual operational activities. And so much of the role of the DNI and certainly the DNI that I

worked for in the last decade was coordinating those other agency heads and getting people to come along with ideas and ways to move the intelligence community forward.

You know, in addition, the intelligence community is supposed to be and operate in a nonpartisan way. It's really critical for the trust of the intelligence community and for the public's trust in the community that it be viewed as one of the entities in government that is not partisan, that is not the agency that has the President's back or that is doing his political bidding.

And to put a person in place who does not have the qualifications, does not have the experience and is known as a politically polarizing figure is deeply unfair to the workforce of the intelligence community, and is really unfair to the public which needs to have confidence in the agency's work.

SANTORUM: Yes. I would just add, look, I don't have any problem with someone -- in fact, I support the President on having people who are loyal to him in positions that are important positions in his Cabinet. I mean, you don't want people who are disloyal. And I think he's had -- at least in his own mind, he's had some problems with some of his -- of those people within his administration. And so I have no problem with a loyalist.

You know, I do have questions, I think a lot of Republicans have questions about, you know, whether his demeanor is the right demeanor, whether his experience is the right experience for this job. And I think it's a legitimate question to have. I don't think, you know, anyone should -- I think Republicans will rightly question this choice based on those characteristics and not really focus too much on the whole loyalty issue.

COOPER: Yes. Rick Santorum, I appreciate it, Carrie Cordero as well, thank you.

Still to come tonight, Attorney General Barr and President Trump at the White House saying all is well with their relationship despite the President's interference in the Roger Stone case. One source tells CNN the opposite. More just ahead.

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[20:52:19]

COOPER: Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: How you doing Coop? All this talk about what's going to happen with the Stone case, obviously, there'll be a sentence tomorrow. It'll be delayed. But we have one of the jurors from that trial with his first reaction to the President, basically, saying they didn't do their civic duty.

Then we have one of the President's big defenders on Capitol Hill coming on to say how these pardons and what just happened with the Director of National Intelligence is OK for this country. We'll take it on tonight.

COOPER: All right, Chris, see you then just a couple of minutes from now.

Just ahead, Bill Barr's relationship with Donald Trump may be tested again when Roger Stone is sentenced tomorrow. As Chris just mentioned, we'll have more on that when "360" continues.

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[20:56:38]

COOPER: The President today in a series of retweets embraced the notion that he should, "clean house at the Justice Department". At the same time, the White House insisted the President and Attorney General Barr have a "good relationship". And that's in the wake of a source telling CNN that Barr has considered resigning. So the question is what to make of it all.

Joining us is CNN's Chief Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin. So, Jeff, Attorney General Barr made it very clear, the President's tweets -- or at least he said the President's tweets make it impossible for him to do his job. The President just this morning was tweeting again about the Justice Department.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: But Barr is a toady. I mean, Barr is doing what he's told. You know, he had this one statement to Pierre Thomas of ABC News that, oh, woe is me. It's hard for me to do my job when the President tweets. But do you see him doing anything? Is he really going to resign? No way.

He is doing the President's bidding. He is reviewing all of Mueller's convictions. He is, you know, going outside the norms of how the Justice Department is supposed to behave in line with the President's wishes. So, I think all of this talk of resigning is just a big show to make him look more independent than he actually is.

COOPER: And that's what you think it is, a message not only to the public but to people within the Justice Department to at least give him some cover that he has their back, that he cares about independence?

TOOBIN: That's it. I mean, it'll -- you know, talk is cheap. You know, leaks about threats to resign, you know, are very -- have no cost to him and no impact on the Justice Department. I think it's just to show of no consequence.

COOPER: You know, given all the noise around the Stone sentencing and the President continuing to weigh in on what he thinks should happen, is the judge being put in a no-win situation?

TOOBIN: You know, I think this is one of the most unpredictable difficult sentencing I've ever come across. Most judges sentence within the sentencing guidelines. They're not required to, but they usually do. And the way the -- or guidelines were originally calculated here, it was seven to nine years. That's what set off the President and that's what made the Justice Department say, well, we're going to leave it all up to the judge.

Seven to nine years does seem like an awfully long time. It's an unusual guidelines calculation as far as I can tell. But the question is, is Judge Amy Berman Jackson going to go outside the guidelines and look like she is caving to the President's demands?

I think she's a very conscientious, strong judge. There's a reason why federal judges have lifetime tenure. So I wouldn't be surprised to see her go outside the seven to nine years, but there are a lot of variables here and I think it's a very unpredictable result tomorrow.

COOPER: And then, of course, I mean regardless of whatever the sentence is, then there's the possibility of a presidential pardon.

TOOBIN: I would say the odds of a presidential pardon are close to 100 percent. I mean, if you look at what the President has said about Stone, about Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor, he has said over and over again he thinks these are unfair prosecutions. The only question is, is it before Election Day or after Election Day?

I think the President has these people's backs like he had Mike Milken's back, like he had Bernie Kerik's back, and Rod Blagojevich's back. I think regardless of what the sentences are for both Flynn and Stone, they're going home by the end of the year.

COOPER: Yes, Jeff Toobin. Jeff, thanks very much. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

Chris?