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President Donald Trump Makes His Case For Re-Election Amid Historic Pandemic And High Unemployment; Prominent Republicans Sponsor Ads Highly Critical Of President Trump; Established Republican Comes Out Against President Trump; How Will President Trump's Influence Shape This Historic Week?; Hurricane Warning For Part Of Gulf Coast As Back-To-Back Storms Take Aim. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 23, 2020 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening our second hour of a special edition of "360," less than 24 hours away from opening the Republican National Convention a historic moment in time, campaigns remade by a pandemic.

President Trump trying to keep some semblance of crowd chanting, an element of conventions past while also trying to surpass the generally positive reception of a Democratic Convention historic in its own regards and part for the placement of women of color on a major party's presidential ticket.

The president however, battling not only unprecedented pandemic but the historic, economic fallout. This hour we'll discuss what the presidential story and campaign veterans about how unique this moment is in time and what the president is hoping to do to reverse the almost universally negative polling off him and his administration?

We'll also spotlight the split in the Republican Party as members of previous Republican campaigns and some in conservative media focus their energies on defeating President Trump's attempt at a second term.

And our own Brian Stelter will join us later to talk about his new book on the relationship between Fox News and Donald Trump and that is playing out during the campaign. But we start with a preview of what we can expect to see the next four days and nights with our own Chief White House Corporate Jim Acosta.

So what kind of argument do you think that Trump campaign plans to make heading into this convention?

JIM ACOSTA, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes Anderson, heading into the Convention the president and his team insist they have an impressive record to run on for the president heading into this November election and heading into this convention the president out on the campaign trail the last several days pointing to what he considers to be his achievements from his first term? But Anderson, the theme of this convention is return to American greatness according to campaign officials. That is an acknowledgment that things are not great right now. The president has been insisting he has accomplishments to run on, but there's one big issue hanging over everything, and that is, of course, the Coronavirus.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to win four more years.


ACOSTA: Behind in the polls and weighed down by a deadly pandemic, President Trump is trying to pull off the ultimate sales pitch and convince voters his first term is a success story.


TRUMP: I'm the only one probably that ever ran for office in this country that's achieved more than I said I would.


ACOSTA: The way the president described his accomplishments in the Battleground State of Pennsylvania, it sounds like Mr. Trump should be coasting to victory.


TRUMP: We've secured our borders, brought back our manufacturing jobs, rebuilt our military, wiped out the ISIS caliphate 100 percent, killed our terrorist enemies, achieved American energy independence, and guess what, we're just getting started.


ACOSTA: But hold on. On the president's signature issue, the wall, there hasn't been that much winning. The administration has built less than 300 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, but most of that construction has replaced older barriers already in place. And no, Mexico did not pay for it as the president promised four years ago.


TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.


ACOSTA: Instead, Mr. Trump is diverting billions from the military to bankroll his pet project and he's floating out the idea of setting up toll booths at the border to somehow force Mexico to foot the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We're going to do a toll for money being sent back and forth.


ACOSTA: The president's claims on ISIS and energy independence are closer to reality, but on the economy, it's a mixed bag.


TRUMP: They said manufacturing jobs would never come back. Remember, you need a magic wand. Where's the magic wand? We have the magic wand.


ACOSTA: After inheriting a healthy economy from Barack Obama, Mr. Trump did precise over growth in the manufacturing sector but most of the gains have been in the south and out west while key swing states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin were losing factory jobs in the months before the Coronavirus.

Then COVID-19 decimated the U.S. economy under Mr. Trump's watch, sending the unemployment rate skyrocketing. Jobs have come back, but the current recovery is far from certain. Polls show most Americans have simply rejected the president's handling of the virus.


TRUMP: It will go away.


ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's months of predictions that the virus will just go away have fallen flat, much like his recommendations of unproven treatments like Hydroxychloroquine. In obsession he tweeted about once again over the weekend, questionable medical advice from a president who unforgettably suggested Americans inject themselves with disinfectants.


TRUMP: And then I see the disinfectant knocks it out in a minute, in one minute. There as there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning because you see, it gets in the lungs.


ACOSTA: The numbers are chilling. The U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 deaths despite making up only 4 percent of the global population more than 5 million cases, more than 170,000 Americans dead and climbing. When asked on Fox what he would do with a second term, the president failed to provide an answer.


TRUMP: One of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. The word experience is a very important word. It's an important meaning.



ACOSTA: With another four years in office, aides say he will continue his focus on immigration where his crackdown on the border has already resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their families.


ACOSTA: One area where the president would almost certainly leave his mark, the Supreme Court. Mr. Trump would have the ability to fill new vacancies on the high court, a tantalizing prospect for conservatives that comes with enormous consequences on critical issues facing the nation from gun control to abortion rights.

COOPER: Jim, what are you hearing from the president's advisers about his plans for the next four years if he gets re-elected?

ACOSTA: It's a good question Anderson because when the president gets asked this, he never really has a good answer. But when you talk to some advisers around the president, they do point to some of the talk that he has been advancing, that perhaps he might float a health care plan. Obviously the administration has been trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.

The president has been promising over the last several weeks that he'll come up with some sort of health care plan. He hasn't done that. The president and his team they've also talked about middle class tax cuts, but again Anderson the president talked about that during the midterm cycle in 2018, never delivered on all of that talk.

On the foreign policy front, one thing that we should keep our eye on, should the president win re-election and get another four years? He would like to have another summit with Vladimir Putin like you and I both saw in Helsinki, Finland that didn't go so well for the president.

But there had been talking around here in the last recent weeks the president would like to perhaps sit down with Putin before the election. Advisers say that's not going to but could very well happen obviously if he's re-elected and then inaugurated to a second term next year, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta thanks very much. As you mention the convention historic for many reasons, both in the way the virus has changed campaigning and for the problems particular running as a Republican this cycle.

Joining me to talk about it Douglas Brinkley Author History Professor and CNN Presidential Historian David Axelrod, Former Senior Adviser to the Obama Administration and CNN's Senior Political Commentator and Nia-Malika Henderson CNN's Chief Political Commentator. Doug, the facts convey a nation that's mired in tragedy more than

176,000 Americans dead from COVID, unemployment above 10 percent, nationwide protests calling for racial justice. Has the president ever faced a reelection like this?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PREIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Not that when you're down this far in the polls right now. I think he's modeled himself after Richard Nixon. He's been doing a lot on CNN about 1968, but I think Trump would like to be Nixon in 1972, the sitting president that's not very popular nobody really likes or trusts.

But the opposition in 1972, George McGovern was for acid and rock 'n' roll and Vietnam War draft dodgers in other words, a cultural war. And I think what Trump will want to do is try to portray him as being law and order in this convention, I stand for the men and women in blue for police officers against anarchy in Portland or smashed windows in New York City at Black Lives Matter rallies.

On that way I still think he's going to try to play a Nixon. On the other hand, this is going to be a telethon. I mean, the Democrats ran a virtual convention. This is going to be a pseudo convention just like you had a pseudo rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma City with Donald Trump, a pseudo 4th of July extravaganza now Rushmore this summer.

He's going to try to pretend that there's an audience to feed off of because even though the same Donald Trump has been the Teleprompter one, the one that seems to raise money for him is when he becomes unscripted and spontaneous in that way he can portray himself basement Biden versus Donald Trump is not afraid to travel the land and doesn't always wear a mask.

COOPER: David, there was an article in "The Times" this weekend about looking back in 1988 at how George H. Bush ran against Dukakis and eliminated Dukakis's polling lead very effectively after the Democratic Convention by focusing on crime, painting do you Dukakis as easy on crime seems like that's a potential playbook for this president to follow.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, clearly that's what he wants to do. It was a different time, obviously, when there was more fluidity in the electorate. Michael Dukakis was 17 points ahead after the Democratic Convention, and Bush over the next six weeks was able to eliminate that lead.

By the way, that was largely because of a negative ad campaign that was conceived and executed by Roger ails. I know you're talking to Brian Stelter later about Fox News. But we're in a different time now. George H.W. Bush was not the incumbent. Donald Trump is the incumbent.


AXELROD: He's in the middle of a, as you point out, serial crises, which he has not been deemed to have handled well. So it's much, much harder. He would like to be the insurgent candidate, but he's the incumbent in the midst of a crisis and that really changes the dynamic for him. But I think he will try to do what Doug is suggesting. One of the smart things that the Biden campaign did last week was really root Joe Biden in Middle America, family, faith, connection to the military, you know, working class roots in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the industrial heartland.

This is one of the reasons why Trump was so eager to stop Biden from becoming the nominee. He bought an impeachment trying to stop Biden from becoming the nominee because Biden is culturally inconvenient for him and it is hard to run that race. And then finally I would say voting begins in three weeks Anderson.

They spent $1 billion the Trump campaign and they spent a lot of money trying to define Joe Biden and they haven't had success so far. So if I were them, I'd be somewhat worried about where I'm sitting right now?

COOPER: Nia, to that point, President Trump throughout his entire administration but especially now talks as though what's happening in the U.S. as if he's an observer, as if he's not the president. He's presided over all of this and his rhetoric has obviously had an impact and his actions have had an impact on what has happened?

Do you think he can convince voters these things aren't his responsibility? That it's all the deep state or Democrats or whomever?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: We know he can convince his own voters, those base voters. What is unclear, and certainly I think what we see in the polls so far, is that people believe their own experiences. They're believing what they see in their own communities in terms of the economy they're believing what they are experiencing in terms of whether or not they can send their kids back to college or whether or not they can deal with COVID, a sick relative, things like that.

So I think that's going to be the real challenge for this president. Americans have experienced for the last five months, seen this president in all of his rhetoric around COVID, right? Whether it is him saying that schools should open even if there isn't a real plan, whether it's his waffling on a mask, whether its him talking about bleach and other unproven cures for this.

I think that is his problem, how can he erase that? I think kind of going into this there was thinking that, listen, there are many, many news cycles and you can sort of wash that away. But we had this unprecedented period where Americans were sitting in their living rooms looking at this president day by day sort of wish away this virus and it never happened.

That's not the approach that you can have with a virus in that sense. So if you saw what Biden was doing, he was, A, using regular Americans to tell his story, and he was also using regular Americans to say that Donald Trump didn't have empathy for regular people and that he was incompetent.

So I think if you're Donald Trump, you really got to figure out how do you do that? From what I can tell the sort of list of speakers so far, it doesn't seem like it's a lot of regular Americans. It seems like it's a lot of people who are sort of on Donald Trump's payroll or the White House's payroll, people who are his - people he hired so I think that's going to be a tricky thing.

How can they connect with average Americans, a sort of suburban housewives that he likes to talk about? That's I think the trick. They are in an advantage in the sense that they saw what Democrats did last week, but I think there's somewhat at a disadvantage because they clearly didn't prepare for months in the way that we saw Democrats do for this virtual convention.

COOPER: Doug, President Trump is going to accept the nomination from the White House, which obviously flouts all sorts of norms and ethical considerations. How much impact do you think it has that this president is willing to break tradition? Do people care?

BRINKLEY: We cared. I cared when he was going to do it for a while at Gettysburg National Battlefield where people died and now he's doing it at the White House. But due to COVID, he's going to get away with doing that.

He wants to show that he has power, that he has air force one, that he's the one who got two people on the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch and that there might be a third or fourth. He is going to win a lower back some of those Lincoln Republicans or some of the Republican types, Colin Powell and Governor Kasich and all who have signed up with Obama.

He doesn't want to hemorrhage the Wall Street Republican crowd, so he has got to kind of remind them it's not just me, if you don't like me. Think of how well, the stock market is doing and that I got a couple of Supreme Court justices in.

Again it's sad that to me he's using the White House as his prop because it's the people's house belongs to both parties. But Donald Trump has insecurity problems, can't go to any other venues and wants to kind of flex his muscle and remind people I am the president and things were good on the first couple years economically and it'll come back again once COVID blows through town.


COOPER: Douglas Brinkley, David Axelrod and Nia-Malika Henderson, thanks very much. Still to come tonight, during our special edition of "360" an examination of Republicans some who Douglas just mentioned determined to prevent a second Trump term and how their numbers have grown since four years ago?

Also the Trump/Fox News connections, the focus of a fascinating new book by CNN's Brian Stelter is going to joining us to discuss how the network shapes the way its audience may views the president, his convention, and the campaign ahead?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Convention week is generally a time when parties amend wounds and present a united face for it public. This year, an unprecedented pushes by former Republican operatives that showcasing division within the party the problem in 2016 that's only multiplied the last four years. Jeff Zeleny tonight has more.





JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As President Trump formally accepts the GOP nomination again this week; some Republicans are already speaking out.


ERIC, FORMER REPUBLICAN VOTER: I'm clearly ashamed to say I'm one of many who voted for the current President, Donald Trump.


ZELENY: Voicing their regrets.


SARAH, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: It's been worse than what we've ever imagined. We're farmers and, like I said, conservative Republicans.


ZELENY: And warning fellow conservatives.


ROB, TEXAS REPUBLICAN VOTING FOR BIDEN: You know deep down in your Sunday school hearts what kind of man Donald Trump is, what kind of Christian he is. You know, don't you?


ZELENY: These are some of the faces of the never-Trump movement, a small slice of disaffected Republicans, rank and file and former elected officials swimming upstream in Trump's party, homing to make him a one-term president.

After failing four years ago, the movement is multiplying. With the Lincoln project, Republican voters against Trump, and Bush alumni for Biden whose slogan is we work for W, we support Joe. This time they're using their president's words against him.


TRUMP: I'm dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers. We dominate the streets.


ZELENY: And hoping to get into his head, at least that's the goal of the Lincoln project whose videos made by former aides to George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney are design to mock and needle the president.

George Conway, the husband of Top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway is a cofounder. The president has long belittled never-Trumpers as his grip as steadily tightened on the Republican Party.


TRUMP: Some of these people don't get it. Never Trump. By the way, never Trump is disappearing rapidly.


ZELENY: The second act of the movement may be an uphill battle, considering 95 percent of Republicans in the latest CNN poll said they would vote for Trump again. His re-election campaign has already spent $1 billion, while these groups have raised only a tiny fraction of that. Yet two key points are different this time. Trump's record and Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton.


SARAH LONGWELL, POLITICAL STRATEGIST, REPUBLICAN VOTERS AGAINST TRUMP: Joe Biden just simply - he isn't as scary for them. I think women are going to lose this election for Donald Trump. I think that is going to be the decisive and defining group of people.


TRUMP: Sarah Longwell is a lifelong Republican and Political Strategist at Republican voters against Trump. She spent the last four years studying his supporters from 2016 and senses a different moment now amid the Coronavirus crisis and deep economic pain.


ZELENY: But at the same time, so many Republicans are still with him. Why is that?

LONGWELL: There's always going to be a core of support that's never going to walk away from Donald Trump. You see it all the time, these college-educated Republicans in the suburbs, women. Women are walking away from this guy in droves. Yes, does he have a base? Of course but you need bigger political coalitions to win elections and his political coalition is shrinking by the day.


COOPER: Well, Jeff joins us now. What's the potential impact of these Republicans speaking out against President Trump? As you say, it's still a pretty small number.

ZELENY: Anderson there's no question the vast majority of Republicans do support President Trump or certainly they're going to vote for him. But as we saw at the Democratic Convention last week, there were a growing number of prominent Republican officials and former officials who are coming out for Joe Biden.

But it is actually the rank-and-file voters, some of these individual testaments that these voters are sending in that strategists believe will have a bigger effect in these party officials because it offers a permission structure if you will to say look, I'm a Republican, I'm a conservative, but I don't like what this president has done.

There is no doubt that the Trump campaign has so much more money to spend than any of these groups, but they just need a sliver of Republicans in the suburbs, college-educated men and women to change their mind this time. So certainly if nothing else, this gets under the president's skin if you will and that is their plan this week. I'm told they have a few new ads and trips up their sleeve as well, Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny thanks very much. Coming up next, more on the anti-Trump sentiment within the Republican Party three Republicans and a Democrat weigh in. We'll be right back.



COOPER: We're now in the divide in the Republican Parties. We look ahead to their Convention this week. As Jeff Zeleny mentioned there's a prominent group of Republicans who have raised money and sponsored television commercials highly critical of the man and the head of their party President Trump.

They call themselves the Lincoln project. Among its founders is the husband of Presidential Councilor Kellyanne Conway, George Conway. They made sure commercials like this that get noticed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's morning in America and under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker and sicker and poorer. And now Americans are asking if we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?


COOPER: Really what kind of an effect can they have? Joining me now to discuss, CNN Political Analyst Amanda Carpenter, Republican Political Strategist Scott Jennings, Former GOP Senator Rick Santorum, CNN Senior Political Commentator along with Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Senator Santorum, anti-Trump Republicans are certainly hoping to pick off moderates that may have voted for President Trump in 2016 because they didn't want to vote for Hillary Clinton. Given the slim margin of victory in the states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan for President Trump, does his campaign need to appeal more to these moderates or women, suburban women, college-educated women and men?


RICK SANTORUM, FORMER SENATOR, PENNSYLVANIA: He's obviously clearly trying to do that. The whole focus on suburban women and the issue of crime and the weakness of Democrats and the defund the police, all those things are actually playing right into - look, the chance that Donald Trump has in this election is that the Democratic Party has gone very hard left, and Joe Biden has seemed to have gone along with them.

I know the convention was very much about trying to make him just the Joe we know and he's a good guy, but his policies have really thrown in with Bernie. That's the opportunity the president has. You're right that Joe is not as unpopular as Hillary Clinton. He's not disliked like Hillary Clinton. But Hillary Clinton's policies are actually much more moderate than Joe Biden's policies. And I think that's the opportunity the president has.

COOPER: Scott, I mean, you worked for President George W. Bush. Now he is not involved in any sort of publicly in the conventions. He isn't supporting President Trump's re-election at all. Senator Santorum mentioned about going after going after suburban women voters.

Does it help when the president is calling them suburban housewives and claiming that low-income housing is moving into their neighbors and is going to be run by Cory Booker for no apparent reason?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GOERGE W. BUSH: Yes. It struck me that what happened was some strategists gave him a meeting and said here's some data and here is how we've sliced and indices the electorate. And instead of sort of internalizing that and then messaging on it, he just parroted what he was told by a demographer or a strategist who was getting him some internal campaign data.

So no, it's not the way you do it. The way you communicate with groups of people is by talking to people about what they care about? What people care about, I think the contrast Donald Trump wants is public safety a return to a good economy and so on and so forth.

He can absolutely make that contrast by talking to them as human beings, his people, as saying I am in touch with what you want and I have policies that will get you where you want to go. That's how you talk to people in a campaign, as Senator Santorum knows.

And so that's what this convention needs to do this week, talking to people like they're some other demographic group in a spreadsheet is not the way to do it.

COOPER: President Trump didn't have the support of many establishment Republicans in 2016 either and we certainly know how that turned out. What do you make of what he needs to do or what he can't do? AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, I mean, it just seems like he's doubling down on the same failed strategies. He's going to launch another fear-based campaign. I'm sorry, suburban Republican women are not going to be scared of Cory Booker unless maybe he brought some yucky cupcakes to your house.

He doesn't - you can keep giving him this advice, but that's not who he is. Look at what happened in the 2018 midterm elections? Donald Trump tried to scare everyone and say a caravan is coming and I'm going to send the National Guard to the border to stop it and monitor it. And then Republicans got blown out. Democrats swept the house, flipped 41 seats by the biggest margin in history.

And still Donald Trump - now his big idea is to say well, I'm going to send law enforcement to polling stations to make sure there's no voter fraud. He can't get away from this fear-based campaign and its shrink the party. He hasn't grown the party.

And the evidence of that you saw at the Democratic National Convention where you have the Former Ohio Governor speaking out on behalf of Joe Biden.

COOPER: Governor Granholm, could the anti-Trump Republican support actually backfire? The progressive wing of the Democratic Party already has concerns about Joe Biden not being progressive enough. Are you worried about die hard liberals staying home on Election Day?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: No, not at all. I think it's not going to backfire. People are fired up. The enthusiasm - the poll that was out this morning noted it is up significantly after the convention.

That effort at trying to have a very broad coalition, which the Democrats did do at the convention by reaching out both to all of his former rivals in the primary as well as to Republicans. He had five high-profile republicans speaking - is exactly the kind of strategy that you use conventions for, which is, as Amanda was saying, to broaden the tent.

The independents are the largest bloc of voters, larger than Democrats, larger than Republicans. And so if people are categorizing themselves at independents and moving away from Republicans, that is a huge opportunity for the Democrats to continue to broaden their tent. And right now - there was a Georgetown Poll out last week that had independents supporting Joe Biden by 16 points.


GRANHOLM: So his strategy, if it is to base it on fear again, is really speaking to one segment. He is not building a coalition and it's a coalition that will be necessary for him and it's what Joe Biden has done.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, what do you make of the argument that "The Times" was kind of pointing to about what George W. Bush did in 1998 against Dukakis to destroy his large advantage in the polls after the Democratic Convention, Roger Ailes, very fear-based campaign. Is that a road - will that work this time?

SANTORUM: Well, let's just be frank about this. Both parties use fear. I mean, you know, they're going to take your social security away; they're going to destroy Medicare. The idea that the Republicans are the only ones - Donald Trump is the only one that uses fear is ridiculous.

The Democratic Convention was full of trying to scare people away from voting for Republicans and Donald Trump. I mean, look, I agree that it's important for both parties. You have a question about the other party, but I think the more important thing for this president to do is to paint a positive vision, how he's going to make your health care better? How he's going to, you know, get you--

COOPER: They don't have a health care plan at all. I mean, like, he's been promising this. How do you do that?

SANTORUM: Yes. Anderson, as someone who's been working very closely with the administration and others to craft a plan, there's a plan there. The president hasn't announced it yet. I'm hopeful he does.

But there is a consensus among Republicans for a consumer choice health care plan that is going to be an incredible improvement - over the current system and providing access to Affordable Care in high quality and choice.

The president has embraced the elements of it. I'm hopeful he'll be more comprehensive and come forward and support - or something like it that many members of Congress and most conservatives have embraced.

COOPER: Scott, this leaked audio of President Trump's sister saying that president is cruel and has no principles, I don't know what it says about Mary Trump that he's recording Donald Trump's sister and publishing this stuff.

I mean, that's, you know - that can be interpreted how far you want to interpret it. But she said what she said. Does it matter at this point? Are things so baked in - are the lines so clearly drawn that this is just, you know, for those who don't like the president, this is catnip and for those who do like him, this is just something to brush aside?

JENNINGS: Yes. I mean, this is more anti-Donald Trump porn for the biggest Trump haters out there. Look, the president is the president, so he's going to get elected, re-elected, or not based on his record.

I can't imagine the kind of person that would go around recording their own family members because they were upset about an inheritance and leaking it right after another family member died because they hated another family member. It seems rather empty and hateful to me.

But I do think that the lines are drawn, which means there's very little persuasion to be done, which means there's a lot of turnout to be done. And one thing I wanted to respond to Amanda, she was talking about the size of the party and I think that's a good point because one thing incumbent presidents have the time and resources to do. We saw this in 2012 with Obama and in '04 with George W. Bush a campaign I was part of. And that's use their time and resources to register new voters that you think are likely to vote for you. Studies have shown and our work has shown back in '04 anyway that if you register someone to vote in a presidential year, they're likely to cast a ballot in November.

So my suspicious is that if you believe that there aren't that many people to be persuaded by either party, what the Trump campaign and the RNC have been doing is trying to put new people in the pull, alter the composition of the electorate.

That would be a smart thing for them to be doing. There is voter register evidence out there that some Republicans are registering in some states. So that's one thing I'm watching in the fall is did they add new people to the pool that weren't around last time?

COOPER: Thanks to everybody. Up next on the eve of the Republican Convention, how Fox News has shaped the Trump era? What it may mean for the next 72 days ahead of the election? Brian Stelter writes about in a fascinating new book and he joins me next.



COOPER: Even though he's been critical of Fox News lately, it's hardly a secret that there's been an echo chamber between President Trump and his favored opinion hosts on the channel. There's a lot of course we don't know about what's been going on behind the scenes and that's the subject of a new book by CNN's Chief Media Correspondent host of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter.

It's called "Hoax: Donald Trump Fox News in the dangerous distortion of truth. Brian joins me now. It is really fascinating, I just began the book, Brian, but I mean, based on your reporting for this, what do you expect the convention to look like, particularly through the president's favorite media outlaws outlets like Fox?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Cooper. That's right, Fox's ratings declined during the Democratic Convention. Fox's viewers turned off Kamala Harris and Joe Biden speeches. Some of the audience did not even want to hear from the Democrats. That speaks to how, I hate to use this word Anderson but it is accurate, how radicalized some viewers have become?

We have seen the Republican Party move more to the right. President Trump has hijacked the GOP and he has also hijacked the Fox News, so what I expect this week, I think the GOP, of course, is going to put on a Fox News show.

We're going to see celebrities, internet personalities that are well- known to Fox viewers but are not well-known to the rest of the country. It will be very interesting to see how much the Republican Party tries to reach out to the rest of the country or only appeal to the Fox base. COOPER: I was talking to some of our earlier guests about "The Times" article pointing out the road map that the Republicans took in 1998 against Michael Dukakis that was very effective.


COOPER: It was pointed out to me that Roger Ailes, who created Fox, was one of the architects of that road map.

STELTER: Yes, and Roger Ailes is the ghost that still looms over Fox News today. He was forced out of his job running Fox during the last GOP convention, on the same night that President Trump, now-President Trump accepted the nomination and gave his speech in Cleveland.

Ailes was forced out, but you know what? People there feel like there's no leader now. I talked to hundreds of people in and around Fox News, because I feel like it is the most important untold story of the Trump years.

The president has his brain poisoned by the nonsense and misinformation that he hears on Fox. So what I wanted to know from sources inside the building was who's in charge? Who's making sure that accurate information gets to the president and millions of viewers?

And the unfortunate answer is nobody. The place is kind of - it's one of those situations where as a source said to be, the inmates are running the asylum. Yes, there are consecutives, there is - executives and a management team, but the place is run like serious of fiefdoms.

And that's not a good thing for the country because this is the highest rated network on cable most of the time. And there is not one person clearly in charge and you know what happened? Trump filled that vacuum it says if Trump became the president of Fox News because nobody else was really running the show.

COOPER: Yes, it seems like as you said to fiefdoms - I often think of it as city states. Where there are Tucker Carlson city states, there is Sean Hannity and whether they like each other or not - they each have their kind of power centers.

Your book starts and ends with a look at how Trump's messaging during the pandemic came from things he saw on Fox News. Coronavirus was such a big topic during the Democratic Convention. How do you think it will be addressed in the Republican?

STELTER: This is why it matters so much. Look, I was writing this book before the pandemic. I thought I was done when the pandemic upended our lives here in the United States. But Fox News downplayed the pandemic and misinformed the president and that had life and death consequences.

Throughout March, throughout April the rhetoric on Fox really did damage and I start and end the book for that reason but the pandemic because it is the crisis everyone feared that this president would face. Because he was so glued to the TV, he distracted the country. He got fooled by the hosts on Fox.

And that caused further damage. I think what we're seeing now from right-wing media, let's broaden out just beyond Fox, what we're seeing form right wing media is a real downplaying of the pandemic once again. They've moved on mostly to other stories.

That's what we're going to see at the convention as well. Certainly there will be acknowledgments of what's happened there are acknowledgments of the death toll. But we're not going to hear much about it compared to what we heard in the Democratic National Convention.

And remember this Fox is more anti-Democrat than they are pro-Trump more anti-Democrat than they're pro-GOP. So if Biden takes office in January, Fox knows exactly what it will do? It will pivot right toward those anti-Biden narratives that it's already promoting today.

COOPER: The name of your book is "Hoax" and you say he said that words some 250 times this year. You know I was interested to see that - I talked to the homeland security official who has come forward to reveal what he saw behind the scenes?

He worked very closely in the Department of Homeland Security with the president, with the Head of the Department of Homeland Security. One of the things he was saying is that Lou Dobbs was sort of for time kind of a de facto Chief of Staff that people fell like they had to watch Lou Dobbs in order to kind of know what the president was going to say because that's what the president was watching?

STELTER: Yes Lou Dobbs, who has a pretty small audience, actually, but he has a big audience with the president, and that's what this comes down to. Because - the presidency is so addicted to television, his aides have to watch as well, and then everyone else has to watch.

And it's this twisted version of a reality show that nobody actually signed up for, not even Trump voters. I don't think they expected the president to be this obsessed with Fox. But he is obsessed with watching and so are his aides as a result.

It's this twisted feedback loop, the likes of which you would never seen in America, and it's not good for Trump voters or it is not good for any Americans. I think, Anderson, the country deserves lots of versions of news coming from lots of directions, right wing, left ring, everything in between.

But Fox right now is more of a conspiracy network; it is more of a misinformation network because it's trying to please the president. And the big revelation to me is there are so many people inside that network who are uncomfortable with that. Who don't like the status quo? Who want it to change, who think that they're doing a disservice to democracy. That is what I think has changed in 2015 and 2020.

COOPER: Is that right? You really found that?

STELTER: I found this all the way from production assistants on the bottom floors to anchors on the top, at all levels of the network. [21:50:00]

STELTER: Even Hannity admits to his friends that the president is off his rocker sometimes.

COOPER: One of the arguments you make in the book is that President Trump filled the leadership void at Fox News, that when Roger Ailes resigned, do you him doing the same with controlling the focus on this convention? When he is essentially - seems like the executive producer, he wants to be on every night. He's going to be on every night.

STELTER: Right, this is the Trump show. We're going to see four nights of the Trump show. But it does seem like most of America is tired of the show. Even a lot of Trump fans are tired of the show. That's the interesting dynamic where you go deeper and deeper down a rabbit hole.

You've you talked recently about the QAnon and these ludicrous crazy conspiracy theories. Well, Fox doesn't pedal that stuff all the time. But they do hint at it. They do wink. They do nod it comes up once in a while. Fox mainstreams some of this stuff.

And that's what makes this channel not just, you know, something that might be, you know, foot pie on the dial. You see what's on the air. You just roll your eyes. No, it actually becomes dangerous when QAnon is talked about on TV on Fox or when the pandemic is down played.

That is what makes this actually a channel that distorts the truth in a way that is dangerous and I got to say, there are a lot of people inside Fox that know it. And Anderson I hope they start to speak out and tell the truth.

COOPER: Yes, Brian Stelter I appreciate it. A new book, "Hoax" fascinating. Thank you very much Brian.

STELTER: Thanks.

COOPER: Up next, more breaking news. As the Republican Convention takes shape so does a one-two punch headed for the U.S. Gulf Coast. Two hurricanes expected to strike an update from CNN Weather Center when we continue.



COOPER: Here more breaking news. Back to back hurricanes are expected to bring torrential rain, fierce winds and life threatening storms surge to pass the Gulf Coast. Tonight mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for parts of Louisiana coastline that could see the blunt of both storms.

Hurricane Marco that is now a category 1 and expected to make land fall tomorrow, then there is tropical storm Laura which is expected to become a hurricane could possibly be a cat #3 storms when it approaches Louisiana. Tom Sater is tracking both storms for us. He joins us from the CNN Weather Center. So what is the latest on Marco?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Very good news, Anderson. In fact, earlier today Marco was a category 1 hurricane expected as you said to make land fall tomorrow afternoon as category 1. I cannot recall a time when we seen such a dramatic change in the forecast in such a short period of time.

We'll get to Laura in a minute but Marco is undergoing some shear now, its winds coming in from the southwest. You can almost see how the cloud cover gets pushed to the north of this. That is starting to weaken Marco.

Now could it make land fall still in Southeast Louisiana as a category 1? It could. But right now it's looking as it gets closer to shoreline of Louisiana, more and more of these winds are going to become stronger and it's possible, it's possible it may not even make land fall and just kind of fizzle way making its way towards maybe the Grand Isle which both under mandatory evacuations.

Then start to slide along the coast line before it just erodes. That will be fantastic news. It doesn't mean they're not going to have some flooding and maybe four or six or eight inches of rain and a lower surge. But the track is now a little bit further to the south.

So it's possible it stays maybe off shore and then fizzles away still moves towards Eastern Texas but not much left to it. Now the forecast does still call for this hurricane warning to remain in place in red. And tropical warnings extended somewhat.

But with this shifting down southward, that is good news for all of the impacts. They are less in greatly, even though the surge is still four to six feet in some areas but probably toward the lesser end so that is the first bit of news which is quite promising.

COOPER: And tropical storm Laura?

SATER: Laura, this is a big concern. It has been surviving the high terrain of Hispaniola. Tremendous amounts of rainfall, terrible flooding, homes destroyed over half million lost power in Dominican Republic/.

Water rescues going on and flooding in Jamaica the Port of Prince and it looks like now it is pretty much over Guantanamo. If it stays south along the coastline and over water, the system is only going to get stronger. It's not that the mountains are not affecting it.

The longer it stays in these very warm waters and heads now towards the border of Texas and Louisiana, it may get even stronger than the forecast from the National Hurricane Center which called for it to be a strong category two.

If it does get stronger and stays to the southern end of that track, it could mean maybe a major category 3 or a four God forbid a category five. But that's what we're watching. So the watches and warnings are only for Marco now. That'll be extended in the days ahead. This would be Wednesday night. If it does get stronger, I fear massive evacuations in Galveston and Galveston Bay, Houston area up and toward that border of Louisiana. But again, you have got over 600 oil and gas platforms here. We've already seen over 114 of them evacuated.

But if Marco can just loosen its grip and undergo that shear, that is one bit of good news. But I really think Laura could be devastating in the days ahead. It's been a crazy season.

COOPER: Yes, a lot to watch for. Tom Sater, thank you very much. You can get all the updates on the storms, of course, on CNN as well as Republican Convention. Our special coverage starts tomorrow night prime time and all new episodes of "United Shades of America" starts right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Debbie Caldwell (ph) this episodes of "United Shades of America" from late 2019, months before the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the country and also months before George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police and the wave of protest that's followed. At the time I was welcomed into people's homes.