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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
FBI Translator Goes Rogue, Marries ISIS Fighter; Latest GOP Health Care Bill May Not Have The Votes; Trump Doubles Down Andrew Jackson Claim; Trump Invites Admitted Killer To White House; Trump Would Be "Honored" To Meet Kim Jong Un; Arrest In Portland Protest; Why MS-13 Inspires So Much Fear; Trump Targeting Libel Laws. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired May 1, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORG HEIL, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: He is calling upon his followers to commit attacks inside Europe. He says, "Europe is a new battleground." He says, "Go and slaughter them. Ambush them, shed their bloods, take hostages, kill them."
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Daniela Greene according to people who knew her was born in Czechoslovakia, raised in Germany, met and married a U.S. army soldier. The U.S. army brought his husband to South Carolina where Greene enrolled in Clemson University's History Department seeking her masters degree.
ALAN GRUBB, CLEMSON UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Daniela was a very hard working, conscientious student.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Professor Alan Grubb was Greene's thesis adviser. And few years after graduation, the FBI hired Greene as a translator, assigning her to the Detroit field office. She was tasked with helping investigate a terrorist labeled "Individual A" in court documents.
CNN has learned "Individual A" is the German rapper turned ISIS fighter, Denis Cuspert. Greene was able to track the terrorist using three Skype accounts, but it turns out the FBI knew of only two. Greene had sole access to a third Skype account.
And in June 2014, Greene told her supervisor she was making a trip to Germany to visit family. Instead, she flew through Toronto to Istanbul, travels south the Gaziantep, Turkey, crossed the Syrian border with the help of the terrorist and disappeared.
There in ISIS controlled Syria, government prosecutors say Daniela Greene met up with the ISIS terrorist and not only married him, but told him she was employed by the FBI and that the FBI had an open investigation into his activities. Professor Alan Grubb says any tale involving terrorism simply could not involve that Daniela Greene he knew.
(on camera): So if I told you that she got wrapped up in a terrorist investigation where she's the target, I would assume that you would find that hard to believe.
GRUBB: I would be dumfounded by that. It would be hard to believe. I don't think there's anything in her background that would suggest to me or any of the people she worked with here proclivities in that direction. So, yes, I would be surprised.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Shortly after arriving in Syria, Daniela Greene had a change of heart and within weeks was sending e-mails back to the United States. "I was weak," she wrote in one. "I really made a mess of things this time."
The following day she wrote, "I am gone and I can't come back. I am in Syria. I am in a very harsh environment and I don't know how long I will last here, but it doesn't matter. It's all a little too late." She went on, "I will probably go to prison for a long time if I come back, but that is life."
On August 6, 2014, Daniela Greene left Syria, left ISIS and did return to the United States where she was immediately arrested.
(on camera): Unlike other terrorism related cases, Daniela Greene's arrest and plea deal would receive no publicity at all from the Department of Justice. The case is quietly hidden. Court records sealed for months. Even after her case became a matter of public record, still silence.
(voice-over): A look on the FBI and the Department of Justice website show page after page of press releases about similar terrorism arrests over the years, but this one stayed buried until now.
SCOTT GLOVER, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: This is a very wild tale involving terrorism, the FBI, matters of national security. And it's hard to imagine that there would not be public interest in it
GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN Investigative Reporter Scott Glover discovered the court documents.
GLOVER: I think it's a fair assessment to say it's embarrassing when an employee with a top secret national security clearance secretly travels to Syria and marries a terrorist who is the subject of the investigation that she's working on.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): What is even more stunning about the secretive case is how it ended. Greene began cooperating with the FBI immediately upon her arrest. She pleaded guilty to making false statements involving international terrorism, thought the government said she skirted a line dangerously close to other more serious charges.
The assistant U.S. attorney wrote, "The nature and circumstances of this offense warrant serious punishment." Similar cases have ended in sentences of eight, 10, 15 years in federal prison. Greene was sentenced to just two. According to prosecutors, it was because of her cooperation.
She's already out on probation, but free. As for Denis Cuspert, the German rapper turned ISIS soldier who married the FBI contractor, he remains at large and still a specially designated global terrorist.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Drew, this is an incredible story. What's the FBI saying about this, about how it all happened?
GRIFFIN: Really, Anderson. The FBI isn't saying much of anything about this case. What the bureau did say, though, only in a statement is that because of what happened here, the FBI took several steps to identify and reduce what they are calling, Anderson, vulnerabilities.
[21:05:12] COOPER: So no explanation either of why it appears this woman was given such a light sentence?
GRIFFIN: Well, that explanation came from the Department of Justice where an official told us that this two-year sentence is actually inline with other cases where you have someone lying to the FBI about terrorism, but then also providing what they're calling significant cooperation once under arrest.
I got to tell you, we were given no proof of that, no analysis of that and like we said in our report, most people facing these type of charges are getting much more severe sentences than this former FBI employee. Anderson?
COOPER: It's just incredible. Drew Griffin, thanks. Amazing, amazing story.
There are a lot of other stories to get to this hour. The latest Republican attempted health care reform looking like it may come up short on the votes it needs.
President Trump is standing by his claim that President Obama wiretapped him and that may not even be the most controversial thing he has said.
Recently, there's another matter that's making some people wonder if the president is up on a Civil War history. Jason Carroll reports.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump began the week making a series of comments that are raising more than a few eyebrows. The president drawing criticism in an interview he gave to the "Washington Examiner" where he questioned why the United States had a Civil War. He suggested former President Andrew Jackson could have prevented it.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart and he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War.
CARROLL (voice-over): About what have been impossible, why, because Andrew Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War even began. And the controversies didn't stop there. President Trump again re-visiting debunked wiretapping claims in an interview with CBS.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: But you stand by that claim of (inaudible).
TRUMP: I don't stand by anything. I just -- you can take it the way you want. I think our side's been proven very strongly. And everybody's talking about it. And frankly, it should be discussed. I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. I think it's a very big topic. And it's a topic that should be number one. And we should find out what the hell is going on.
DICKERSON: I just wanted to point out that you're the President of the United States. You said he was sick and bad because he had tapped --
TRUMP: You can take any way -- you can take it any way you want.
DICKERSON: But I'm asking you because you don't want to be fake news. I want to hear to President Trump.
TRUMP: You don't have to ask me.
DICKERSON: Why not?
TRUMP: Because I have my own opinions, you can have your own opinions.
DICKERSON: But I want to know your opinion. You're the President of the United States.
TRUMP: OK. That's enough. Thank you.
CARROLL (voice-over): All this as the GOP keeps pushing to make headway on one of Trump's signature campaign promises, repeal and replace Obamacare. This is GOP lawmakers' second swing at health care reform. The first version pulled in March after it became apparent the support was not there. This morning, a top Trump adviser sounded optimistic about getting a health care bill to the House floor soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have the votes for health care? I think we do.
CARROLL (voice-over): This evening, the votes are still not there. CNN's latest count shows as of now there are still too many GOP lawmakers who are either opposed to the new version or undecided. One sticking point, coverage of pre-existing conditions. Trump telling CBS the coverage is included in the new version of the bill.
TRUMP: Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I just watched another network than yours and they were saying pre-existing is not covered. Pre-existing conditions are in the bill and I mandate it. I said it has to be.
CARROLL (voice-over): Lawmakers who oppose the new bill say states can still seek a waiver which would allow insurers to raise premiums on those with pre-existing conditions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vice-president, do you have the votes?
CARROLL (voice-over): The vice-president stopped by Capitol Hill today to meet with lawmakers, but would not say if he managed to drum up more support for the new bill.
CARROLL: And, Anderson, just within the past few minutes, the president trying to clean up some of his comments that he made about Andrew Jackson. He tweeted the following. "President Andrew Jackson who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen."
It should be noted that history shows us that Jackson never really questioned the underlying difference between the north and the south during that period of time. That underlying difference, of course, being slavery. Anderson?
COOPER: Yeah, a major slave owner himself that I think more than 150 or so slave. Jason, where does the current whip count stand now for Republicans on health care?
CARROLL: Well, the numbers are looking tough. It's looking very tough and the GOP can only afford to lose 22 votes and still get their legislation passed. At last count that we have, Anderson, 21 have said that they would still vote against the legislation where it stands at this point and 18 are still undecided. They still have a ways to go.
COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll, thanks very much. Back with the panel away and after a quick break.
[21:10:00] Also ahead, President Trump invites a killer to the White House, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte who's crackdown on drugs that left thousands dead and who admits personally killing people while he was mayor.
COOPER: You heard before the break, the numbers are not looking good right now for Republican lawmakers' second attempt at health care reform. Major sticking point is you've changing coverage for people pre-existing conditions. Right now, by CNN's count there are still too many Republicans either opposed to the bill or undecided. Here is what Congressman Charlie Dent told me a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: There are probably few more no votes than 21 at the moment. I don't know what the exact number is. I've heard numbers saying that's within, you know, two or three votes and as many as 10. So, I would suspect this probably closer to 10 than two or three.
COOPER: So you know some people who are planning to vote no who right now are kind of not being counted?
DENT: Yeah, pretty much. That's correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: With me now to talk about it, Brian Fallon, Matt Lewis, Tara Setmayer and Jack Kingston. Congressman Kingston, you heard Congressman Dent saying there are no votes that are still not being counted. If this fails, what is that mean moving forward?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it would fail. I think --
COOPER: You don't think --
KINGSTON: We'll bring it to the floor.
KINGSTON: I think right now if --
COOPER: Which would be a failure. I mean --
KINGSTON: Well, if they have five to 10 unaccounted for people in terms of where they're going to be, they're not going to move -- the speaker can't afford to have this vote fail officially on the floor.
I think what they're going to have do is keep fighting and keep fighting and keep trying to get it done. But what I do know is every Republican, whether he ran for a dog catcher or school board or president --
[21:15:05] COOPER: They ran on it.
KINGSTON: -- of the United States, they all ran on repeal and replace. So they have to do something.
COOPER: Do you agree with that that they have to continue on, whether it's piecemeal or trying to do a whole big change?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think for the overall -- like Congressman Kingston said, because Obamacare was such a central part of what Republicans ran on since 2010 that resulted in huge legislative victories -- I mean, huge legislative elections, even on the local level for Republicans. People are expecting that.
But here's the problem, you have so many -- the demographics are changing in some of these Republican districts and they're more purple districts. So you have more of the moderates like Charlie Dent and others who are saying, this could -- people who -- this is going to take away the Medicaid expansion. We could lose our election. And this is a really difficult spot for them. Everyone remembers politics -- you know, Political Science 101 that every elected official is a single seeker of reelection. That's the number one priority. And I think that's what you're running into here with the speaker's inability to get the centrist Republicans to get on board because their districts are at stake here. Losing an election is at stake.
So if they don't -- if they risk it there, you might get primary by a Democrat. If they don't do it, then you might get primary by, you know, a more conservative member. So it's a quandary. But it's a matter of demographics in these districts --
SETMAYER: -- and the Medicaid expansion, people like that.
COOPER: And, Matt, there's also the issue of pre-existing conditions, whether that's covered. And the president says he's mandated that is in the bill. But people are opposing and they're saying that states can get a waiver to opt out of it.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And that's -- actually politically speaking, I think that actually might be a -- one of the few things about this bill that makes a little bit of sense. If you are a moderate Republican representing a purple state, that state is probably not going to opt out. If you're a Republican in New York State, you can say, "Look, we're not going to get rid of pre-existing conditions. We're not going to try to get a waiver to do that."
Now, if you're in another state, a deep red state, they very well may. So politically speaking, the fact that they have had this compromise, which allows the states to apply for a waiver to opt out, I'm a little surprised that it's not -- that they're not getting more benefit from that.
COOPER: Brian, I mean, how devastating would this be for Republicans if they're not able to get it this time around?
BRIAN FALLON, PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Right now they're experiencing the worst of all worlds. I thought after they had to shelf the bill the first time that it probably caused a lot of these moderate Republicans to breathe a sigh of relief, because they weren't going to have to be put on the record and take a vote on a very unpopular bill.
But the Trump White House so desperate for an accomplishment and to make good on the seven year promise that Republicans have been campaigning on, keeps bringing it up, keeps trying to poise some kind of new compromise on these Republicans. And it is creating an issue where it's constantly going to be back in the news for the next year and a half.
Democratic challengers that are running against this moderate vulnerable House Republicans are going to have an issue from now to November of 2018. And the president has actually made the predicament for this moderate Republicans even harder with his comments today because he's going around promising that the bill is going to be even better on pre-existing conditions.
SETMAYER: That's the problem right here. President Trump continues to not really stay on message. You know, when the Democrats passed this with President Obama, everybody was on the same page and he was out there as the biggest supporter for a year on the stump selling this -- the Obamacare bill and Democrats -- got the Democrats on board on message.
Republicans are all over the place on this and the president isn't helping the situation. He says one thing one week, promises something to another, depending on what audience he is in front of and it's making the House Republicans job that much more difficult because they can't get everybody on the same page because they don't know who's promising what.
And the timing of this is tough, because if they don't do this, then they're going to run into the budget reconciliation rules and what happens with the Senate in whether you need 50 plus one or 60 votes to get anything pass anyway, so it could be just symbolic in the House because -- it's dead on arrival in the Senate as usual.
KINGSTON: Well, they have to pass the bill. They have made too many promises and there's no escape --
COOPER: What about the idea, you know, that some supporters of people funded by the Koch Brothers had suggested of not going for an overarching bill and just try to do this kind of piece by piece by piece?
KINGSTON: I think that would actually be smarter. I think there are some that -- some things they could do through reconciliation, some things they could do by executive order through Tom Price or other things that they can do legislatively through the appropriations process, such as risk corridors, the so-called insurance company bailout.
That was an appropriation measure because I was involved in it and I know you can do things like that to direct the funding. But I do think they have to go home and say, "Here is what we did to address an issue in which we all ran."
COOPER: Do you think, Brian, that the piecemeal idea, the Koch Brothers may be supporting of it, it's not going to sell well to those who have been promise we're going to repeal this and replace it?
FALLON: I don't care if it sells well. If you're the Republicans, you don't double down on a mistake. When you're in a hole, stop digging. They may have campaign for the last seven or eight years on the idea of repeal and replace, but the fact of the matter is that's not what the public wants. What the public would be a lot more in favor of is something that President Trump himself has suggested an openness to, which is taking like say a one off step to address prescription drug costs. [21:20:05] There are Democrats in Congress that would work with the president on that. It would be an opportunity for him to put some points on the board on the health care issue. It would be popular and maybe able to move on and pivot.
We woke up this morning to comments where the president was saying he was going to put an infrastructure proposal out there in the next two to three weeks and I thought, all right, maybe after seeing all these bad press about the first 100 days he was finally going to pivot to an issue where he could find consensus. But he is right back in the mud again on health care.
COOPER: I mean if they did move piecemeal, is that something the president could support?
LEWIS: Yeah. I think it may -- we may end up doing that, right? And it lacks the panache of repeal and replace in having this grand Trump care.
COOPER: It's essentially -- or -- I mean, the flip side is just try to essentially fix what both sides can agree is broken.
KINGSTON: Right. But, you know, things like -- I can buy almost any product in the world in another state, but I can't as a Georgia -- Georgian buy health care from Alabama or from New Jersey. Allowing people to buy insurance across state lands increases competition, therefore, decreases premiums. That would be a win. And I think that would be very hard --
LEWIS: That would seem to be a bill they might actually be able to pass.
SETMAYER: Right. Nobody disagrees with that. The problem is you have a president that's uninterested in the details and he's not being a good salesman. He prides himself on being a deal maker, but he is uninterested in the details. He just wants a cheap win and this is too big to do that and Republicans --
COOPER: But the Andrew Jackson comment, is the president being fairly criticized? I mean, he sort of said two things. One, he said, you know, if Andrew Jackson had been around during the Civil War. Then he seemed to indicate Jackson was opposed to the Civil War. He's now saying he would have been opposed to the Civil War.
KINGSTON: You know, I think that if you look at history, Andrew Jackson actually intervened when South Carolina tried to succeed --
COOPER: Right. He talked about sending federal troops in the South.
KINGSTON: Yes. And he kept the union. And so I think it was an accurate historic reference.
COOPER: He was a major slave holder that moved from -- I think he inherited around 10 or so -- KINGSTON: But that doesn't mean he couldn't have prevented a war.
SETMAYER: Wait. Come on.
KINGSTON: He was there during the three to five comprised --
COOPER: Yeah. But if he was a supporter of slavery to the fact --
KINGSTON: That doesn't mean you can't work for peace.
SETMAYER: Wait -- OK. You honestly -- this is a nice try. And I've been watching Trump supporters all day try to candy coat this. It wasn't at the nine (ph) things for Donald Trump to say. I don't even know why he was weighing into this and going there with that with Andrew Jackson. I understand he's at this fascination because so many people compared his campaign to Andrew Jackson.
Let's be honest here. He say he was trying to project that, you know, Andrew -- if only Andrew Jackson could have fixed it, one person maybe -- if he had been there. Just like me, I could -- he is always saying, I can do it. Only I can do it. And historically, that is just so not true. The Americans -- our country for 30 years tried to prevent the Civil War with all kinds of different things that led up to it.
SETMAYER: Well, yes. What I'm talking about at least from where Andrew Jackson is going on from Missouri compromise that didn't work. Kansas, Nebraska, that didn't work. Dred Scott lit the fuse, (inaudible), all these things.
SETMAYER: One person could have prevented all that?
KINGSTON: I think there's a lot of fame indignation by Trump critics who found one more issue --
SETMAYER: Saying indignation, saying that one person who was a slave owner and that slavery wasn't the main reason?
KINGSTON: Oh, if Caesar was alive today or if only George Washington was here today --
SETMAYER: Why can't you guys just stop and say that what the president said was stupid? Why do you feel the need to just constantly defend everything this man says? It was ridiculous, a ridiculous statement. I mean, I don't get it.
COOPER: One second, Matt? LEWIS: I'm not a big fan of Andrew Jackson. I thought we should have replaced him, you know, instead of Hamilton on the $20 bill. And -- but -- and I don't agree with what Trump said, actually. But I think that it's an interesting point that he was trying to make. Like -- maybe it's better left for dorm room, you know, philosophy or whatever -- sitting around in dorm rooms saying this revision is history.
But I will say, you know, my son's named -- his middle name is Wilberforce, after William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who banned the slave trade in Great Britain. Great Britain was able to stop slavery. They didn't have a Civil War over that. Now, it just so happen America is a very different place, a different country. We are -- our history played out the way that it did. But --
COOPER: All right. I mean, do you --
COOPER: -- the south was built on the back --
LEWIS: A lot of the economic interest in keeping slavery going. So this is -- but I would just say this. I don't think it's inherently evil. I think Trump is factually wrong. I don't like his -- but I don't think it's inherently evil to say what he said.
FALLON: I just want to say that in 2017, I think it is surreal that we are -- that president is stoking a debate revisiting what caused the Civil War. He is your crazy uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table. He is not just ignorant. He is stubborn and willful in his ignorance.
[21:25:01] And while he is creating all of these self-inflicted wounds and needless diversions for himself, today he got his lunch eaten by congressional Democrats on the spending measure. His agenda is being -- is evaporating before our very eyes on health care, on the spending bill. He issued ultimatum after ultimatum saying that the border will have to be finance. Plan Parenthood had to be defunded. The health care subsidies had to be ended. Democrats won on all of those provisions.
KINGSTON: But he did win on --
FALLON: His political capital is being drained by the day while he's debating the Civil War.
SETMAYER: And instead of talking about those wins, he makes comments like that.
COOPER: That would be continued during the break, I'm sure. Up next, the surprising meet and greet options on the table for President Trump. He says he'd be willing to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and a confess killer, President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, another sign that the president likes to do things his own way to say the least. Latest from the White House in a moment.
COOPER: President Trump has vowed to do things his own way. He is proving it once again tonight. He's been praising two controversial leaders, including (including) killer and a potential nuclear threat, both of whom he says he would be willing to meet with face to face. More now from our Jeff Zeleny.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With a nuclear threat looming and tensions rising, President Trump declaring today that he would be honored to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
[21:30:07] TRUMP: If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely -- I would be honored to do it.
ZELENY: The president's choice of words raising eyebrows after praising the regime's rogue leader in a weekend CBS News interview.
TRUMP: At a very young age he was able to assume power. A lot of people I'm sure tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So, obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie.
ZELENY: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer offering an explanation for Trump's view.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He assumed power at a young age when his father passed away and there was a lot of potential threats that could have come his way. And he's obviously managed to lead a country forward despite the obvious concerns that we and so many other people have. The part -- you know, he is a young person to be leading a country with nuclear weapons.
ZELENY: Spicer then sought to temper Trump's compliment saying the conditions do not exist right now for the president to hold talks with North Korea.
SPICER: We've got to see their provocative behavior ratcheted down immediately. That -- those are -- there's a lot of conditions that I think would have to happen with respect to it's the behavior and it's -- and to show signs of good faith.
ZELENY: The president also stirring controversy after extending his hand to the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. He invited him to the White House despite a brutal human rights record.
The authoritarian leaders accused of killing thousands of his own people in his war on drugs. He also once called President Obama an expletive. One senior administration official told CNN the White House invitation was neither expected nor planned. It came during a weekend phone call between Trump and Duterte, which the White House described in a statement as a "very friendly conversation."
Democrats seized on the call saying an invitation to the White House amounted to an endorsement of the Philippine leader. Senator Chris Coons saying, "Trump risks giving Duterte's actions in his brutal human rights violations in American stamp of approval."
The president defended his decision saying in an interview at Bloomberg News, "You know, he's very popular in the Philippines. He has a very high approval rating in the Philippines." Spicer said improved relations with the Philippines were needed because of U.S. interests in the region.
SPICER: It is an opportunity for us to work with countries in that region that can help play a role in diplomatically and economically isolating North Korea.
ZELENY: And it's also the latest sign of the president's affinity for strong men.
TRUMP: It's great to be with the President of Egypt.
ZELENY: From inviting Egyptian President el-Sisi to the White House to praising the leaders of Russia and Turkey. Mr. Trump's words for authoritarian leaders drawing fire.
COOPER: And Jeff Zeleny joins us now from the White House. In the call with the President of the Philippines, what's exactly inline with past U.S. foreign policy, right?
ZELENY: Anderson, I tried at least recent foreign policy. Now, there has been a long relationship between the U.S. But, of course, that changed during the final months of the Obama administration, largely because of that expletive that the president referred to Mr. Obama as now. The Trump administration trying to reset all of that, they say because of the rising nuclear threat in the region there. They need the Philippines on board.
But, certainly, it raised some eyebrows here at the White House because as we talked to administration officials, the invitation at least was not a conveyed to some people in advance. They were indeed surprised by that. We'll see when and if that actually happens. The Filipino president said he's not sure if he could schedule this in. He has other trips planned abroad.
COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks very much.
Let's have the latest on May Day violence in Portland, Oregon where demonstrators set fires, broke windows, distorted police car. Arrests have been made. Plus, one of the most dangerous gangs in the country, MS-13 has members in 40 states. President Trump has spoken out against them. We're going to take a look at who are the gang members and why do they inspire so much fear?
[21:37:52] COOPER: A May Day Protest around the United States and around the world have been mostly peaceful. There have been some arrests in Portland where several protesters broke windows, set at least one fire and damage a police car. Local Freelance Journalist Mike Bivins is on the phone joining us now.
Mike, you were there in the middle of all of this. There was a larger protest, but then it was canceled, or the permit was taken away because of the actions of some of what the police call anarchists. Explain what happened.
MIKE BIVINS, FREELANCE JOURNALIST (via telephone): OK. So there was the annual May Day Protest which this year they had a march. Last year they didn't do a march. This year they decided to get a permit and march. And then this local, you know, anarchists, antifa (ph) Black Bloc folks or people, they decided to schedule their protest at the same time and place at the permitted protest support. They didn't get a permit.
And so when the permitted portion started to march, the antifa at the very front there was something called Rose City antifa, I guess it's some group. But anyway, they were -- something is going on here. They were -- whether it's the annual -- and did pretty much kind of like that in with those protesters and then, you know, we're like throwing stuff at cops and, you know, break the windows here and there.
And then eventually, the police canceled in the city just canceled the entire march, encouraged everyone to go home. And then the Black Bloc protesters just kind of kept going, winding through the city, downtown and with the police chasing them and, you know, they're throwing what are they like, like concussion grenades, you know, that make a huge loud boom. People were lighting fires. Eventually, the cops just kind of swarmed in and tackled them outside of city hall and made a mass arrest.
COOPER: And we saw some of the so-called anarchists throwing flares, one into a store after they broke through a window. We're seeing that video right now.
BIVINS (via telephone): Oh, I didn't see that one.
COOPER: Yeah. Also into a police vehicle which police put out very quickly. At this stage, has everything kind of calmed down and dissipated?
BIVINS (via telephone): I mean there isn't as great a number. But -- OK, let me tell you what happened. So there was the arrest outside of city hall. They put the protesters into a police van and then they basically drive them around the corner to the central precinct, you know, downtown Portland.
[21:40:09] And so the protesters, they followed the police through the central precinct and that's where we are right now, around the corner from city hall couple of second. And that has been basically -- I witnessed protesters being loaded on to a TriMet bus.
TriMet is the local transit authority, basically the public transit. So they're using these transits, this taxpayer funded buses to transport protesters around in. We're just kind of waiting here. It's a stalemate basically between a lot of police and protesters.
COOPER: All right. Mike Bivins, I appreciate you covering this with us. Thanks so much.
President Trump's immigration policies motivated some of the protesters who showed up at any of today's May Day rallies across the country. Over the weekend, President Trump repeated his promise to build the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
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TRUMP: We will build a wall, folks. Don't even worry about it. Go to asleep. Go home. Go to asleep. Rest assured. That's the final thing. We need it. We need it. And if the Democrats knew what the hell they were doing, they'd approve it so easy, because we want to stop crime in our country. Obviously, they don't mind illegals coming in. They don't mind drugs pouring in. They don't mind -- excuse me, MS-13 coming in.
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COOPER: It's not the first time that President Trump has mentioned MS-13, though reference might be lost on many people. If you don't know what MS-13 is from personal experience, consider yourself lucky. That said it's worth knowing who they are and why they inspire so much fear. Here is Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These two men smiling and waving at the camera were in court in March this year charged with killing a Texas woman in a satanic ritual. It's unclear if they did it, but police believe they are members of one of the most dangerous gangs in the country, the MS-13 gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha.
ALEX ALONSO, GANG HISTORIAN: The original kids that started MS were mostly stoner kids that were into heavy metal music. The MS-13 gang is an American creation. It was an American born on this soil right here in Los Angeles.
KAYE (on camera): The MS-13 gang began to take shape here in Los Angeles back in the late 1970s. Many of them settled here in an area just outside downtown called Pico-Union. They were mostly teenagers from El Salvador who would fled the growing conflict in their country and banded together here on the streets of Los Angeles forming the gang mainly to protect themselves from other street gangs.
(voice-over): Alex Sanchez is a former MS-13 gang member who now rehabilitates others. (on camera): Why do you think so many, like yourself, joined this gang? What were they seeking? What were they looking for?
ALEX SANCHEZ, FORMER MS-13 MEMBER: See, many of us had experienced violence in the home country. You know, on the way to school I used to see decapitated bodies and that's why the gangs became an option.
KAYE (voice-over): The MS-13 gang has been on the FBI's radar since the early 2000s. They're best known for savage beatings using baseball bats and machetes and cutting the fingers off victims. Even drug cartels sometimes hire them as their muscle.
The Justice Department believes there are roughly 10,000 MS-13 gang members in the United States, living in more than 40 states. As part of their MS-13 initiation, new members are often asked to commit murder and are subjected to a brutal beating by fellow gang members that last 13 seconds.
SANCHEZ: The 13 seconds is just an initiation in which a youth is willing to take the pain of it to be accepted, to be acknowledged, to be able to feel protected.
KAYE (voice-over): It's all part of the allure of MS-13 that has led to some 30,000 members worldwide.
(on camera): Back in the late '80s and early '90s, the U.S. deported MS-13 gang members back to their home countries, but many of them had come here to Los Angeles as kids and didn't know much about their own country or even speak Spanish. Once back home in places like El Salvador and Honduras, they gave rise to MS-13 in Central America.
ALONSO: They were embraced because being from L.A. is like being a celebrity.
KAYE (voice-over): Immigration and customs enforcement tells CNN, MS- 13 is now involved in cross border crime, too. Like human smuggling, extortion and drug smuggling. But according to former member, Alex Sanchez, all the government's talk about how deadly MS-13 is only adds to their appeal.
SANCHEZ: It feeds on the ego of the gang, because every gang wants to be number one. Every gang wants to be the top 10 lists, you know, of Los Angeles most dangerous gangs.
COOPER: Randi, in the intro at your piece, we played a bit from President Trump saying building the wall would stop MS-13 from coming in. Those were his words. From your reporting, is there evidence to support that?
KAYE: Not at all, Anderson. In fact, what we found is exactly the opposite.
[21:45:03] The experts we spoke would say that the wall at the southern border will do nothing to slow down MS-13. In that piece, we talked about this cross border criminal activity that ICE mentioned MS-13 is involved in. And, again, no evidence at all that that would stop.
You have to remember as we mentioned earlier, MS-13 was born here on the streets of Los Angeles. The United States exported those gang members and then it grew in Central America, so many of them are actually American citizens.
This is a gang that grew and got stronger in U.S. neighborhoods and in U.S. prisons, so not everyone, every member of the gang is an illegal immigrant. And now there are all this cliques of the gang popping up in cities like Fairfax, Virginia and Long Island, New York, not even close to the border.
And one more important point, Anderson, is if you listen to the FBI and you listen to the Department of Justice, they can't even put a real number on how many of these gang members are illegal immigrants and how many of them are American citizens, Anderson. So, the border might not even be the problem after all.
COOPER: All right, Randi Kaye. Randi thanks.
Just ahead, the White House says President Trump is considering revamping libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations. Is it just talked or could he actually do that one? We'll look at that ahead.
COOPER: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is taking heat for saying the Trump administration is considering trying to change libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations.
Here's what he told ABC.
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REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It's something that we've looked at and how that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere. It's a different story.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you think the president should be able to sue "New York Times" for stories he doesn't like?
PRIEBUS: Here's what I think. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news.
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[21:50:08] COOPER: No surprise that Sean Spicer was asked about those remarks at today's briefing.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just tell me the status of that, who is pursuing that?
SPICER: I think that the Chief of Staff made it very clear that it's something that is being looked into substantively and then both logistically how it would happen. But that's nothing new. It's something the president talked about on the campaign trail.
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COOPER: Well, that is true. Candidate Trump did talk about, "opening up libel laws," when he was campaigning. The question, of course, abound whether it would be doable? What would it mean for the press, which (inaudible) the whole politicians, including the president to account? A lot to discuss with Jeffrey Toobin, David Gergen, and Jeffrey Lord.
So, Jeff Toobin, just legally libel laws it's not enough just to be a public figure and because you don't like a story, you can't just sue somebody.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. Ever since 1964, the famous case of "New York Times" against Sullivan, the Supreme Court has said that public figures can't sue unless they can show basically intentional falsehoods or reckless disregard for the truth on the part of journalists, which is a difficult standard to reach.
And what I think is significant is that, you know, the Supreme Court is closely divided on a lot of issues, on abortion, on affirmative action. This is not particularly controversial. There are eight or nine votes for this -- the actual malice standard as it's called. So what the Trump administration would have to do to change this would be to amend the constitution. And that's obviously very difficult.
COOPER: So it has to be that -- not only is the story not true, but it also that there is malice involved. You knew it wasn't true and you went ahead and did it anyway?
TOOBIN: Exactly. And that's very difficult to prove mostly because journalists actually don't publish knowing falsehoods very often, notwithstanding what a lot of people think.
COOPER: David Gergen, I mean, this White House is not the first White House to consider actions against the media. President Nixon certainly, I think looked into the idea or was on tape asking about could "The New York Times" be prosecuted for the Pentagon papers?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, every president I've known has complained privately about the Sullivan case. Nobody likes it, but they never complain publicly about it, nor do they recommend or start stirring the pot and say, maybe we ought to do this at "The New York Times."
Bill Clinton and his team hated "The New York Times." They thought that they were so unfair. Then along comes George W. Bush, they hated "The New York Times," thought they were so unfair. Now along comes Obama, you know, at a certain point, that's the way the game is played. That's what is called like getting into the NFL. And there's an old saying from Harry Truman, "If you can't stand the heat, don't get in the kitchen."
COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, I mean as a Trump Supporter, would you like to see libel laws changed?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I want to be very careful about this, Anderson. As you know, I'm a First Amendment fundamentalist and I just think the First Amendment is to be all and end all of American democracy and free debate.
You know, I attended the White House Correspondents' Dinner the other night. They had a big banner up there that said, "Celebrating the First Amendment." But I've -- since I talked to some of my conservative friends, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Bob Tyrrell, my editor at "The American Spectator," all of whom can recount the fact that when their First Amendment rights were under challenge, liberals never bothered to defend them and even were helping and working to bring them down in their individual roles as talk radio host or magazine editor, et cetera.
I really think the American left has gotten themselves into a serious problem here. They are very intolerant. Those scenes just showing out of Portland tonight is indicative of the thought process here. So that in turn feeds the Trump situation which -- and I must say, he spoke to me about this a couple years ago before he ran for president, that he was very concerned about the libel laws. So, we do have to be careful here. But, boy, you know, I'm for the First Amendment, period.
TOOBIN: I think actually this serves Donald Trump's political interests pretty well. You know, on Saturday when he gave that speech opposite (ph) at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, a lot of it was about attacking the press.
TOOBIN: I mean his base really doesn't like the press so saying terrible things about the press is useful to him. But in terms of actually doing anything about libel law, it really is impossible.
COOPER: Is it just a media organization or -- for instance, the president says that the media is the enemy of the American people, is that something he could be sued for libel?
TOOBIN: No. I mean, I think -- you know, opinions are always protected. Now, it's sometimes difficult to draw the distinction between fact and opinion. You can be sued if you say someone is a criminal. But if you say someone is a jerk or a fool, those are always protected. And the fact enemy of the American people, that is in his opinion and it's clearly protected by the --
GERGEN: So you can't say crooked Hillary?
LORD: Jeff, is right otherwise I'd be a very rich man.
[21:55:00] GERGEN: So let me just go back this. I think, Anderson, it's also true that this effort to go after the press, talk about the libel law is part of a boarder effort within the administration that is -- let's say, with Steve Bannon, to undermine the institutions of democracy and to discredit them for a variety of reasons.
You know, Bannon faithfully believes they are corrupt and lead to fail this and all the rest. But I think you have to see these attacks on the press within that broader context.
COOPER: It's all part of that?
LORD: And clearly, Anderson, the kind of folks who turn out here in Harrisburg the other night for President Trump, they really do think that the press misrepresents. I mean, they totally believe this.
COOPER: Right. It doesn't mean they're right, though.
LORD: Well, there were lies the next 17 years of your show.
COOPER: 17? Why 17? David, all presidents do shape of the constraint of the powers.
GERGEN: Oh, yeah.
COOPER: Division of powers.
GERGEN: Absolutely, because they -- that's what accountability is all about. It holds you to go accountability, it holds you to transparency and there's tough that goes on. You know, if it weren't for the press, I can tell you this would be a much more corrupt country. If the press weren't in there -- when you're out of power, you always want the press to be the bulldog and they're talking a look and making sure things are --
TOOBIN: And the thing about being president is you always have access to the public so you can always respond, you can always get your version of the facts out, which is sort of how the First Amendment is supposed to work.
COOPER: All right, thanks everybody. We'll be right back.
[22:00:09]COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. So I'm handing things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.