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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview with Rod Blagojevich; Sanders Briefed By U.S. Officials on Russia Trying to Aid His Campaign; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) is Interviewed About Trump Dismissing Intel Assessment of Russian Efforts in 2020 Election; President Trump Dismisses Intel Assessment Of Russian Efforts In 2020 Election As "Another Disinformation Campaign"; Michael Bloomberg Will Release Three Women Who Made Complaints Against Him From Non-Disclosure Agreements; Wash Post: President Trump Says Bolton Is A "Traitor" And Should Not Publish Book Until After 2020 Election Because Talks Are "Classified". Aired on 8- 9p ET
Aired February 21, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with my conversation with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. President Trump this week commuted his 14-year federal prison sentence. He was convicted of a string of charges, including wire fraud, attempted extortion and conspiracy to solicit bribes.
Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois state legislature back in 2009 and a year later declared his innocence during a brief appearance on "Celebrity Apprentice" hosted, of course, by Donald Trump.
His commutation has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans in Illinois familiar with his record.
I spoke with the former Democratic governor who now calls himself a Trumpocrat just a few moments ago.
COOPER: Governor Blagojevich, there's obviously been criticism about the president's decision to commute your sentence. It's certainly within his power to do so.
I guess what interests me is that since you've been out and the statements you've made, you've shown no remorse for the crimes that you were convicted by a jury of and you're portraying yourself as a victim of persecution by prosecutors.
Just about everyone though that's actually looked at the evidence against you says that that's just false.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: Well, I don't think they've looked carefully because I am a political prisoner. I was put in prison for practicing politics -- (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: Wait a minute. You're a political prisoner?
Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner. Political prisoners have no undue process and are unjustly jailed, you had a jury convict you.
You had appeals courts looked at your sentencing and you even try -- you even appealed to the Supreme Court twice and they refused to hear you. So, you're hardly a political prisoner.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, first of all, Nelson Mandela went before a court. He was convicted in a court of law. I had --
COOPER: By a racist segregationist -- right, by a racist apartheid government.
BLAGOJEVICH: That's correct.
COOPER: And not a jury of his peers.
BLAGOJEVICH: But if you were to ask him -- I bet if you were to ask Nelson Mandela whether he thought the process was fair back in the early '60s in South Africa, he would say what I'm saying today --
COOPER: So, you're portraying -- I just got to stop you. I'm sorry.
As someone who's worked in South Africa --
COOPER: -- and saw apartheid, the idea that you are comparing yourself to somebody who has actually been railroaded by an apartheid system is just nuts and, frankly, like offensive.
BLAGOJEVICH: You're the one making the comparison, not me. I didn't bring up Nelson Mandela. You did.
COOPER: Right. You're saying like him, you were railroaded by a -- an all white jury who for an oppressive regime?
BLAGOJEVICH: No. No, here again, you're putting words in my mouth. I never said that either.
BLAGOJEVICH: There were -- there were -- the jury was -- had -- you know, some representation from African-Americans, though, what I'm saying is I was thrown in prison and spent nearly eight years in prison for practicing politics, for seeking campaign contributions without a quid pro quo, no expressed quid pro quo.
And if I was given the same standards Senator Menendez was given, I could very well have been in the U.S. Senate instead of where I was.
Now, I'm not complaining that I'm not in the Senate, but I am complaining that I was sent to prison by a handful of corrupt prosecutors who are abusing their power, they're uncontrolled and they're the ones that Chief Justice Breyer talked about when he said that our country is in trouble because of these uncontrolled prosecutors who can do just about anything they want to do and are using their power to go after government officials for what he called routine practices.
COOPER: Let me just ask you --
BLAGOJEVICH: That's what I went to prison for.
COOPER: OK. Let me just ask you that. So, you're saying it's corrupt -- you're saying it's corrupt prosecutors. Do you know who the guy is who actually approved the wiretap, the phone tap on you was?
It was Michael Mukasey, the attorney general at the time. He's actually a Trump supporter now and a Trump defender.
COOPER: He was a George Bush appointee. So, the idea that --
BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, I'm not --
COOPER: -- he's one of the corrupt prosecutors, the guy who actually tapped your phones and actually gathered all the evidence against you?
BLAGOJEVICH: No, I'm -- no, I think he -- I think he got -- he signed off on what the Prosecutor Fitzgerald --
COOPER: So, he was fooled by corrupt prosecutors?
BLAGOJEVICH: I think that he was given some information and he agreed to do the wiretaps and then they had wiretaps that if they played all the tapes which they didn't do, they put a seal order on the tapes, wouldn't allow me to play tapes in court. Tape recordings that they made that proved everything I'm saying --
COOPER: So, all right.
BLAGOJEVICH: -- is true about what they did to me --
BLAGOJEVICH: -- I think the result would have been very different.
COOPER: So but, OK, here's where your argument to me doesn't really hold up. You're saying it's these corrupt prosecutors who tricked the jury, you know, who didn't --
BLAGOJEVICH: They lied to the jury. They gave a fake call. They lied to the jury.
COOPER: You're the one who's actually been convicted of lying to the FBI, though, by that very same jury.
But just -- just hear me out here. What I don't understand is, let me just remind you, it wasn't just -- it wasn't -- it wasn't prosecutors who convicted you, found you guilty. It was actually a jury who found you guilty and that's our system.
You also then were able to appeal and you appealed to the circuit court, and twice I believe, and they actually upheld your conviction. So, other judges, a higher court, the U.S. 7th Circuit, they looked at the evidence again, they said it was overwhelming. That's a quote. They upheld your conviction.
And then you twice had the opportunity to apply to the Supreme Court to hear your arguments and you know what? They refused because they said your argument doesn't hold up, the very argument you are making right now was looked at by the 7th Circuit, by the Supreme Court, it was heard in the courtroom and no one bought it.
The Illinois Senate unanimously voted to remove you. Everyone in the Illinois House also voted, Democrats and Republicans, to impeach you except for one person.
You know who that was? Your sister-in-law. I mean, give me a break.
BLAGOJEVICH: OK, that -- I hear what you're saying, but let me -- let me fill in some of the --
BLAGOJEVICH: -- facts that you don't seem to have.
BLAGOJEVICH: First and foremost, when a prosecutor comes out and arrests a sitting governor with a SWAT team and announces a big lie, the sale of a Senate seat, which incidentally was reversed by the appellate court.
BLAGOJEVICH: They ruled that the discussions about the Senate seat were routine politics logrolling, OK?
COOPER: Correct, they still upheld your conviction, though.
BLAGOJEVICH: They upheld three --
COOPER: They upheld your conviction.
BLAGOJEVICH: They did not. They reversed those charges --
COOPER: Those charges -- you know what, you had like, what, how many charges you have against you, like 15, 16? Yes, they threw out a couple of charges. There were still enough charges --
BLAGOJEVICH: OK, and so --
COOPER: -- for a judge to then look at it and say you know what? The sentence still stands, but go ahead. I interrupted.
BLAGOJEVICH: Let me ask, do you know what the charges were that were upheld? Do you know what they were and what they involved? They involved -- do you, Anderson? Because I can tell you if you don't.
The fact is they were requests for --
COOPER: I actually do, but go ahead.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well -- requests for campaign contributions. Nobody has promised anything.
COOPER: Right, extorting a children's hospital --
BLAGOJEVICH: It's extortion if there's evidence of a quid pro quo, of an expressed quid pro quo, of threatening somebody, or promising someone --
COOPER: You know what, you don't -- come on. You're a smart guy.
BLAGOJEVICH: -- none of that was in the evidence. Go ahead.
COOPER: To extort somebody -- to extort somebody, you don't have to say, I am now extorting you. I am now going to threaten you. I am now going to promise you something, a quid for a pro.
I mean, it doesn't work that way.
BLAGOJEVICH: It does work that way. The United States Supreme Court in 1991, the highest court in the land, Anderson, established the rules for fund-raising and they said that routine political request --
COOPER: That was the argument you made in court that this was all routine fund-raising.
BLAGOJEVICH: It's only bribery or extortion --
BLAGOJEVICH: It's only a crime if there's an expressed quid pro quo, one thing for another. There was never evidence of that.
BLAGOJEVICH: They never proved that. They simply said that if there's a connection in the mind of somebody, that that then is the standard.
COOPER: But, sir, you know the jury --
BLAGOJEVICH: I have to make this point.
COOPER: OK, go ahead.
BLAGOJEVICH: The jury made the right call based upon the fake law that the prosecutors gave them. They -- they used a standard against me that the Supreme Court in the McCormick case said was not the law. Think about that.
BLAGOJEVICH: They used a standard the Supreme Court said was not the law. How different is that from using -- from a dirty cop planning a murder weapon to frame an innocent man?
COOPER: All of this sounds good -- OK, all of this sounds good on TV.
BLAGOJEVICH: It's all true.
COOPER: OK, it all sounds good on TV --
BLAGOJEVICH: It's all true.
COOPER: -- and to people who haven't actually live to this.
But you know what? The jury actually looked at the evidence -- actually, you had two juries looking at evidence. You also have now had the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals looking at the evidence and they said it was overwhelming against you. And they do know the law.
And on top of that, the Supreme Court was looking at this great injustice that you're talking about and they said, you know what, twice, we're not going to look at this because you know what, it should stand.
BLAGOJEVICH: Can I answer that?
BLAGOJEVICH: The Supreme Court only takes 2 percent of the cases. It's very hard to get into the Supreme Court. Now, with regard to the appellate court, shockingly disappointing that
they would uphold an unlawful standard.
I would simply say to your viewers and to you, take a look at the McCormick case, 1991. It establishes the standard.
Senator Menendez was given the lawful standard and his case was ultimately thrown out by a judge. Me, they used the standard the court said was not the law and that is basically a dirty cop planting a murder weapon to frame an innocent man.
And then you talk about the primacy of the Supreme Court, let remind -- let me remind you that in 1857, the best judge in America, Chief Justice Taney, said that Dred Scott, a black man was not entitled to the same rights as anybody else.
And so, they don't always get it right either.
BLAGOJEVICH: And I've learned something in these eight years and that is we have a racist and corrupt criminal justice system in many areas.
BLAGOJEVICH: And this is why I hope one day, maybe you'll join me in the fight to reform our criminal justice system and actually do something --
COOPER: Let me ask you about that.
BLAGOJEVICH: -- about the problem of over-sentencing blacks and Latinos.
BLAGOJEVICH: I learned that when I was there.
COOPER: OK. Well, what's sad is you hadn't actually learned that when you mattered, when you actually were the governor. You work -- you talk about working for the criminal justice reform. There's a lot of people in Chicago, there's a lot of people in Illinois who actually like spit up when you say that, because when you were actually in power, when you were actually governor and you could have helped thousands of people with clemency cases, you blew it off.
The governor after you inherited a huge backlog, nearly 3,000 clemency petitions that you failed to review. In fact, you were sued by -- you were sued as governor by Cabrini Green Legal Aid to try and pressure you to actually pay attention to clemency cases instead of extorting people for money and campaign contributions.
So, it's a little ironic and frankly a little sad and pathetic and hypocritical. You talking about, you know, commuting -- getting -- you get a commutation of a sentence which is within the president's right, but you ignored a whole hell of a lot of other people who were hoping you would give them clemency when you actually mattered.
So, actually, you know what, I'm happy -- it wasn't a question. It was a statement. I'd be happy to work with people on criminal justice reform but I wouldn't work with you.
BLAGOJEVICH: OK, can I answer that statement and question?
BLAGOJEVICH: OK, I'd like to address that.
Look, when you've been put where I was and you have all the time that I was given to think and look back on some of the things you might have done different, that's certainly an area you talked about that I certainly wish I would have done more on. There's no question about that.
COOPER: Fair enough.
BLAGOJEVICH: That's among my biggest regrets.
I didn't know how corrupt the criminal justice system was until it did it to me, and that was a wake-up call.
Having said that, I want to say one thing about me as governor -- when the cases came to me and I was given files about people who were seeking clemency or pardons, I acted appropriately.
COOPER: Actually, no, they sat on your desk and that's why you were sued. I mean, that is the case.
BLAGOJEVICH: But I did clemencies and I did pardons. I didn't do nearly enough. It wasn't a priority. I would acknowledge that.
I didn't go to the office every day doing that. Instead I was giving health care to all the children, free public transportation to our seniors and to the disabled.
COOPER: Actually, you were holding up money to hospitals in order to get campaign contributions but what, listen, Governor --
BLAGOJEVICH: See, that's -- that's a business lie. They got $8 million from me and I was sent to prison --
COOPER: They got it after you had left. They got it after you had left.
BLAGOJEVICH: I promised -- I ordered it before that happened, and it did -- they got it while I was governor. That is not factual.
COOPER: OK. Governor Blagojevich, I do wish you the best. I really am glad for your family that you're out and I --
BLAGOJEVICH: I don't know, by the way you were asking me questions. I'm sorry, Anderson. I appreciate you having me on. Yes.
COOPER: But just honestly, I just -- look, I have no problem with you getting out. I think, you know, the president can commute whoever he wants. I just think -- I wish you're besmirching prosecutors who actually -- who are no longer in government but, you know, prosecutors are important in our system and you were going after the very basis of our justice system which has plenty of problems.
But, you know, part of the thing is you got out, you do have an obligation to at least admit what you did wrong and you refuse to do that and you're creating a whole new alternate universe of facts and that may be big in politics today but it's still frankly just bullshit. We got to leave it there.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, no, it's not bullshit. I lived it myself. It's not bullshit at all.
COOPER: Thank you, Governor.
BLAGOJEVICH: OK, thank you.
COOPER: A lot more ahead tonight, much of it is breaking news. What the president said about Russian interference to help him win re- election in spite of what his intelligence officials are telling him, which is that they are indeed interfering, as well as new reporting about how Russia is working to help Senator Bernie Sanders as well.
Also, I should probably say I'm sorry about saying the B.S. word.
Also ahead, breaking news that could change the course of the Bloomberg campaign, a chance for women who signed nondisclosure agreements to talk about their complaints against the candidate.
COOPER: More breaking news. Tough words for Vladimir Putin from a man whose 2020 campaign the Russians are trying to help, according to U.S. intelligence. That man, however, is not President Trump. In this case, he's Bernie Sanders.
Shortly after "The Washington Post" reported today that he'd been briefed by intelligence officials on the interference, Sanders had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people, whether you're Republican, Democrats, independents are sick and tired of seeing Russia and other countries interfering in our elections. The intelligence community has been very clear about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, according to "The Post", it's not yet clear what form the interference has taken or what final end though in 2016, you'll recall, the Russians were involved in sowing dissension within the Democratic primary to help get candidate Trump get elected in the general election.
We already know the intelligence community concluded they are working to do it again on the president's behalf, which keeping them honest brings us to President Trump's reaction, because regardless of who you think should or shouldn't be president, it is self-evident that any president or any candidate faced with such a challenge would say something similar to what Senator Sanders said today and in a sitting president's case would actually act on it.
Well, as we've been seeing play out, the president has indeed acted on it but not in the way you would think any president would. He's fired his top intelligence official, acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, for having the temerity to allow the House members who actually have oversight responsibility in the matter to be briefed on all of this. Figuratively speaking, the president killed messenger, at least fired him.
As for how seriously he takes the threat to the country and democracy, well, we'll let the president speak for himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see these phonies, these -- the do-nothing Democrats, they said today that Putin wants to be sure that Trump gets elected. Here we go again. Here we go again. Did you see it? The story.
Aren't people bored? I was told a week ago they said they're trying to start a rumor, it's disinformation. That's the only thing they're good at. They're not good at anything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, he also once again called this all a hoax which at least means he's consistent. Here he is two summers ago reacting to reports at the time from his own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, that Russia was still undermining our democracy while standing next to the perpetrator himself, Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Not only did the president publicly side with Putin over Coats and the intelligence community, he ultimately got rid of Dan Coats. He's also at odds on this with his handpicked FBI director and his handpicked former acting attorney general and his former Russia expert whom he fired after she testified in the impeachment hearings and warned against falling for Russia's cover story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER NSC TOP RUSSIA EXPERT: There's some questions and tapes I've heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason, Ukraine did.
This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the president as you know has been pushing that exact same cover story, the question is why? You've heard his defenders say it's because he cannot tolerate any suggestion his election was tainted but with all due respect who cares? He didn't take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the purity of his victory or his own feelings, it was to protect the Constitution, and so too the public servants that he's fired apparently for nothing more than trying to live up to those same words.
Joining us now, a lawmaker who was in on the briefing that apparently cost the acting DNI his job. He's Connecticut congressman, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes.
Congressman, you see the president calling his -- this assessment from his own intelligence officials a disinformation campaign. I know there's a lot you can't say, but how do his comments square with what you have been told about the facts?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes, well, Anderson, I can't talk about what was said behind closed doors. There's, obviously, a lot of media reports out there.
I can certainly say, you know, the way the president articulated it, blaming the Democrats for another hoax -- again, I can't confirm who said what, but I can promise you that the Democrats aren't saying anything here. You got a bunch of news reports about what might -- what might have been said in that -- in that meeting.
But, look, we should unpack that a little bit, right? What was or wasn't said in that meeting isn't all that important. And we can come back to that.
We can talk about why the Russians might have an interest in Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. It's not about them as individuals. It's about creating schisms, about creating divisions in our body politic.
But what's really important is what you were talking about there. That the president in the Oval Office, and I obviously wasn't there, may have berated his chief intelligence official for telling him something he didn't want to hear and, Anderson, we've seen this movie before, when presidents or when people in power want the intelligence community to say something.
We saw it under the Bush administration in which the CIA and George Tenet, the director of the CIA, famously characterized the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a slam dunk, because that's what the vice president, Dick Cheney, and the president wanted to hear. And there are thousands of Americans and many hundreds of thousands of people who paid with their lives for that bastardization of intelligence.
So, that's really the concerning thing about this story.
COOPER: There is reporting that Republicans on the committee challenged the conclusions from intelligence officials. That would obviously be consistent with the interference that some of them have run for the president since he took office.
How seriously do you believe House Republicans are taking this?
HIMES: Well, you know, it's a -- it's serious thing for them, right? You know, we saw in the impeachment proceeding how all of the Republicans in the House and almost all the Republicans in the Senate are cowed by this president. They need to do what this president wants them to do or they lose their jobs. That's the dynamic on Capitol Hill right now.
Many of these folks are good people who behind closed doors express some -- a lot of concern about what the president does. But they know that if they step out the way Mitt Romney does, they will be treated by the president and by conservative organizations the way Mitt Romney was -- was treated.
So, but, again, this really isn't about Donald Trump. This isn't about Bernie Sanders. This is about the fact, I believe, to the core of my being that the Russians are going to try to do exactly what they did in 2016 again in 2020, and why wouldn't they? The president of the United States didn't hold them accountable for it.
You know, there's really never been any accountability other than a few indictments, other than the intelligence community sort of showing that we know what happened and the president then denying it. There's really never been accountability for the Russians for what they did in 2016.
COOPER: Yes, and doing it again apparently.
Congressman Himes, appreciate it. Thank you.
HIMES: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: The former director of national intelligence joins us next. We'll be right back.
COOPER: More on tonight's breaking news. Retired Admiral William McRaven, former commander of U.S. Special Operations, has just weighed in on the firing of Acting DNI Joseph Maguire. He writes, quote: As Americans, we should be frightened, deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can't speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security, then there's nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.
Joining us now is former DNI James Clapper, who I should point out has served under presidents of both parties. He's currently a CNN National Security Analyst. Those words, I got to say from men like McCraven, I mean, that's terrifying.
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, they're pretty compelling, Anderson, and I think he has a point. Now, clearly, I think he's affected by very close friendship, long-standing friendship of decades that he and Joe Maguire have.
But he makes a good point about here is the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joe Maguire, an honorable man who served his country with great distinction in the Navy as a SEAL and didn't campaign for this job and then just tried to do his duty as he saw fit living up to his oath of office and was trying to convey truth to power and his reward for that was he got fired.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, he wasn't attacking the President. He wasn't, you know, speaking behind the President's back. He was reporting to Congress, which is what the job is.
CLAPPER: Exactly. As required in the law, you know, you're supposed to keep the Congress fully and currently informed. And that's what the Office of Director of National Intelligence was doing. Now, as I'm hearing, the purge is under way at ODNI, the purge of the professionals. And so, I think the objective here is to neuter ODNI as much as possible.
COOPER: You know, it seemed like, I don't know, a year -- time seems to all blend together now. But, you know, it wasn't so long ago that, you know, advisers to the President in the White House were -- you know, would go on T.V. and say, well, look, the President -- you know, this administration is taking the, you know, concern about Russian interference incredibly seriously, et cetera, et cetera.
The President continues to publicly -- you know, he's calling it disinformation. He's now fired the guy who is reporting to Congress about it and a lot of the people who were saying, you know, this administration is taking it seriously, they're gone too. They're all out. I mean, how concerned are you that this threat is not being taken seriously by this administration?
CLAPPER: Well, I'm very concerned about it. And the threat that we portrayed in our assessment of January '17 still holds. The Russians on the heels in the wake of their success in 2016 clearly they're going to do it again in 2020. And they really don't care about anyone. Their objective is to sow as much discord and distrust and dissent in this country as they possibly can and they're already excelling and, you know, the election is months away.
COOPER: The idea -- I mean to that point, it's also a point that Congressman Himes made moments ago on the program, which is that this isn't about, you know, Russia backing Sanders or backing Trump. It's about -- or I mean it may be, but it's certainly about sowing dissension. You can look at it in different ways. But the idea that regardless of who they're supporting, the end result is to sow dissension.
CLAPPER: Exactly. And that was their objective in '16 and always has been their objective. I mean, they have a long history of meddling in elections. There's another peoples. And we have a history of it going back to at least the '60s, just the magnitude of what they've lately done notably in social media.
And I suspect the reason for -- I'll use air quotes here, supporting Bernie Sanders is that's a way to promote divisiveness within the Democratic Party. And it's just their cynical analysis of how to sow discord in this country and they excel at it. They have a very sophisticated understanding of our political landscape.
COOPER: Yes. General Clapper, appreciate it. Thank you.
Up next, more on the political and legal dimensions of all this as our breaking news continues in a moment.
COOPER: Before the break, you heard a frankly chilling warning tonight from the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations about the stakes of suppressing facts and the truth in democracy.
Let's get some perspective now from "New York Times" contributing op- ed writer, Wajahat Ali. He's a CNN Contributor. Also, CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. With us as well, CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero who served at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Senator Santorum, shouldn't the President be concerned that Russia's meddling in the 2020 elections just like they did in 2016 and kind of calling it a Democratic hoax?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I think he should be concerned and I believe he is concerned. I think he's concerned that this information is being fed out there and that it leads to exactly what your previous guests had talked about, you know, dissension and conflict between Democrats and Republicans.
And I think the President unfortunately played into that. I think you've seen Democrats react just the same way, some, at least the ones in running for president the same way, sort of trying to sew dissension which accomplishes exactly what the Russians, you know, hope to do, which is to sew doubt about the validity of our elections.
COOPER: Right. Wajahat, the President called this idea disinformation essentially. He was saying that this is misinformation. And the information he is upset --
SANTORUM: Well, the specific thing about helping his campaign. I don't think he's saying that there's -- that the Russians are involved in trying to affect the election as disinformation. I think everyone accepts that as the truth. I think it's part about him helping this campaign specifically.
COOPER: I mean, he said he told Vladimir Putin he didn't --
WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Trump doesn't accept it. Trump doesn't accept it.
COOPER: He told Vladimir Putin he doesn't understand why they would be involved.
ALI: I mean, remember when he was standing next to Putin in Helsinki like an impotent lap dog just agreeing and nodding his head what Putin said? He threw his own intelligence agencies under the bus for the past four years. Donald Trump --
SANTORUM: But that's not what he's been complaining about. He's been complaining about the fact that they talked about this campaign being out.
ALI: Rick, let me just bring the receipts. Give me 30 seconds to just bring the receipts and then let's see -- let's debate it out, all right? The reason why Trump is a Russian asset is trending is because Trump behaves like a Russian asset. Trump has said that his own intelligence agencies are part of the deep state.
He throws them under the bus. He doesn't believe all over intelligence agencies that have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Instead, he believes Vladimir Putin. He promotes pro-Putin talking points. He attacks all of our allies, the EU, NATO, Open Skies Treaty.
He is sending Attorney General William Barr on taxpayer dollars all around the world to gather evidence to promote a Russian conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections. And he sits here and he says that there's all this deep state conspiracy theories. And instead of doing something as our commander in chief and promoting the election security build that the House passed, he fires DNI Maguire for simply presenting him information. And if Putin's goal is to cause dissension, if Putin's goal is to weaken democracy, if Putin's goal is to hurt our institutions, Trump is Putin's asset.
SANTORUM: Yes. The reality is that that Donald Trump has been tougher on Russia than any president in recent history. Obviously, look at what he's done with respect to Ukraine and supporting them in the process, as well as a whole host of other things that --
ALI: And Blagojevich is a political prisoner. OK.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Anderson?
SANTORUM: So the idea that Donald Trump is objecting this is that Russia wants him to win, that's the objection.
COOPER: Carrie, go ahead.
CORDERO: Anderson, OK. So we've outlined what the problem is, which the problem is that Congress needs to be able to obtain and the public needs to understand exactly what the Russian activities are with respect to threatening and conducting activities to interfere in the 2020 election. And we have a President who is hostile to the intelligence community and doesn't accept or even want to be discussed with Congress that intelligence information.
The way that we need to fix that problem is the intelligence committees need to schedule the worldwide threat briefing. And instead of conducting these hearings, even though normally intelligence committee hearings would be conducted behind closed doors, the worldwide threat briefing needs to be conducted like it is every year, in public.
And they need to call the intelligence chiefs, including whoever happens to be the Acting Director of National Intelligence on that day, along with the chiefs of the other intelligence elements who have information about the 2020 election threat and they need to testify in open session.
And what that will do is to drive two things just quickly. One, it will produce a written statement that the White House will see ahead of time. So there won't be a surprise about what's in the written statement. The second piece is that then members of Congress in open session can ask these officials under oath what the actual intelligence is.
Now, the risk is that the President might not like what is said in open session and he might even fire people. But if that's what happens, then that will be information and a data point that the public will have to understand why he doesn't want this information out. COOPER: Senator Santorum, I mean, does it concern you that the President fired Joe Maguire, I mean, for it seems like doing what was his job, which is reporting to Congress. No?
SANTORUM: Again, I mean, you know, I've got -- there's been lots of reporting about what was actually said in that hearing and the amount of evidence that actually supported the idea, or intelligence that supported the idea that President Trump's campaign specifically was being helped. And I think that was the real concern.
And of course, you know, look, let's just be honest. I mean, the intelligence committee is where the impeachment -- and Adam Schiff is where the impeachment came from. And so that's obviously a very sensitive point on the part of the President that this what seems to be shaky information, that they did not get a heads up on, was briefed to the committee that was -- that started the impeachment against him.
COOPER: Yes. But where else are you going to go? I mean, there is the intelligence committee.
SANTORUM: I guess there's protocols to, you know, if you're going to brief this to a committee that just impeached the President, you might want to let the President know what sort of -- and give him the backup as to why they're going to say those things. And so I sort of -- you know, I can sort of understand why the President was not happy with the way things went down.
COOPER: But -- yes. Wajahat, I mean, it seems -- it's hard to imagine that the President was not also given the same information and informed whatever Congress was informed of that that it would have caught the President by surprise. I mean --
ALI: Yes. I mean, I just want to remind everyone that the President was impeached for trying to abuse his power to force Ukraine to interfere in our elections. He in an interview with George Stephanopoulos said he is open to foreign interference. He asked Russia in 2016. Russia, if you're listening.
And so the question I have for Republicans and Donald Trump is why are you not protecting U.S. elections from Russians interference? Why are you against an election securitable (ph)? Why are you spending money for space force? Why are you spending money to bail out farmers that's socialism, by the way? Why don't you spend money to actually help our elections?
And another thing, if Donald Trump is watching, you criticized literally everybody. You criticized the movie "Parasite." One tweet to criticize Vladimir Putin. I dare you to criticize him just once. Give me one tweet to prove that you're against too.
COOPER: All right. I got to leave it there. Wajahat Ali, Senator Santorum, appreciate it, Carrie Cordero as well.
More breaking news straight ahead, involving Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg in non-disclosure agreements with several women.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight, this time from the Michael Bloomberg campaign. He says he will release three women who made complaints involving him from nondisclosure agreements. This after fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren first raised the issue on Wednesday night's televised debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The mayor has to stand on his record, and what we need to know is exactly what's lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign non-disclosure agreements, both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace.
So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements so we can hear their side of the story?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just last night in the CNN Town Hall, Senator Warren offered this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: So I used to teach contract law, and I thought I would make this easy. I wrote up a release and covenant not to sue, and all that Mayor Bloomberg has to do is download it, I'll text it, sign it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In a tweet late today, Bloomberg says his company identified three NDAs signed over the past 30 years and women who contact the company, he says, will be released from those three.
Speaking with reporters tonight, Senator Warren says the release "is just not good enough." Bloomberg, she says, needs to do a blanket release.
Joining us now is Bloomberg senior adviser, Tim O'Brien, an author and a biographer of President Trump.
Tim, first of all, what changed? Twenty-four hours ago Mayor Bloomberg said on the debate stage that he was sticking with the non-disclosure agreements, that the women wanted it that way, that all the parties wanted it that way.
TIM O'BRIEN, SENIOR ADVISER, MIKE BLOOMBERG 2020: Senator Warren is an insightful, courageous and admirable public servant, and I think it's wise for us to pay attention to anything that she highlights, and that's what Mike is trying to do here. I think I'm disappointed in how Senator Warren chose to put this on the stage. She made comments about -- she quoted things that Mike allegedly said that he didn't. I think she knew that.
I think she's highlighting this issue to distract from the fact that Mike Bloomberg has a very admirable record in total around women in the workplace, women in his philanthropy, women in his campaign. Our campaign platform is all about empowering women in all of those spheres, but obviously we can do better.
I think a lot of the spin around this issue with sexual harassment, you know, there are headlines that 40 or so women had sued Michael Bloomberg for sexual harassment. And I think some of the innuendo in all of this, about the total number of NDAs, was meant to focus in the idea that Mike Bloomberg had personally been involved in dozens of cases of sexual harassment --
COOPER: All right. So you're saying there's just three?
O'BRIEN: -- which can be further from the truth.
COOPER: Three cases that NDA --
O'BRIEN: So over 30 years there's --
COOPER: Go ahead.
O'BRIEN: Yes, three signers and three cases over 30 years that Mike was involved directly and he's willing to lift the NDA on those because he's one of the parties involved. His hesitation in the other cases is that other people were involved.
COOPER: And you're saying the other cases at Bloomberg were related to Bloomberg as a company, not to Michael Bloomberg specifically?
O'BRIEN: Correct. And a lot of these headlines -- and look, I think this is an important issue for us to focus on in the me-too era. Men have had their foot on women's necks for quite a long time and we all need to be better around this. And I'm grateful to Senator Warren for flagging it. But I also think it's done an incredible disservice to what is true about Mike's record with women over dozens of years.
I think the women who worked for him, by and large, the vast majority of women who work for him know what he's done in terms of his respect for them in the workplace, his respect for them on this campaign, and his respect for empowering them in a time when Donald Trump is obviously on the other end of the spectrum.
COOPER: Right. Can you guarantee that those three are the only NDAs involving Michael Bloomberg? Because the language is very specific in the mayor statement saying that these are NDAs -- that these are NDAs pertain to "complaints about comments" people say that he made. So just to be clear, are there are any NDAs involving the mayor and matters besides language he allegedly used, do you know?
O'BRIEN: I think it's my understanding from our lawyers looked at this extensively that over the last three decades these were the only three that involved Mike directly.
COOPER: And Senator Warren said tonight, this isn't good enough, that the mayor should sign a blanket release now. She says don't put the onus on the other party to seek release from the company. Why have you set this way that if the women contact -- those three women contact the company, then that's the process?
O'BRIEN: Well, you know, Senator Warren is a lawyer. She represented a lot of companies that sign NDAs. I think she understands that in many corporate cases, there a standard way of trying to resolve litigation outside the court system, and it protects all the parties involved not to release all of them on masse.
I do think, however, that there's a concern that these have been used to silence women in the workplace, and I think that's a valid and important concern.
And, in fact, what Bloomberg LP has decided do is to not use NDAs going forward at all in any sexual harassment claims that come up in the company. And I think we're grateful to Senator Warren for highlighting that. I think she's done a disservice to actually presenting an accurate portrayal of who Mike is over his life with women and women's issues, but we'll go forward on this.
COOPER: Tim O'Brien, I appreciate your time. Tim, thank you.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up, new details about John Bolton's book when we come back. We'll be right back.
COOPER: On a very busy night, there's yet more breaking news. "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that the President has "directly weighed in" on the White House security review of John Bolton's upcoming book. The "Post" citing two people familiar with the conversations reports the President is telling staffer that he views Bolton as a "traitor," that he himself will try to block the book's publication. Stay tuned on that.
A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," our digital news show that gives a chance to dig in some important topics and have in-depth conversations. You can check it streaming live, weekdays, 5:00 p.m. Eastern at cnn.com/fullcircle or watch it there anytime on demand.
The news continues, a lot more ahead. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Primetime." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."