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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Friend: Trump is Considering "Terminating" Mueller. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 12, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:03] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
We begin with what could be the rumblings of yet another major event in the Russia investigation. "Newsmax" editor-in-chief Christopher Ruddy, a close friend of the president, came out of a meeting at the White House late today, went on "PBS NewsHour" and said this about special counsel Robert Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he is weighing that option. I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake even though I don't think there is a justification. And even though -- I mean, here you have a situation.
JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR: You don't think a justification for?
RUDDY: For a special counsel in this case. But I also -- I mean, Robert Mueller -- there is some real conflicts. He comes from a law firm that represent members of the Trump family. He interviewed the day before a few days, before he was appointed special counsel with the president who was looking at him potentially to become the next FBI director.
That hasn't been published but it's true. And I think it would be strange that he would have a confidential conversation and then a few days later become the prosecutor of the person he may be investigating. I think that Mueller should have not taken the position if he was under consideration and had a private meeting with the president and was privy maybe to some of his thoughts about that investigation or other matters before the bureau.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, the man who fired the man investigating him possibly weighing also firing the man investigating him for that.
That's not the only big breaking item this hour, but it sure is a start. So, let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta with more at the White House. What is the White House saying about this comment?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're not saying anything yet, Anderson. That's not -- that's not too surprising given the level of questioning and cooperation that we get from this White House.
But I can tell you, Anderson, that Chris Ruddy was here at the White House earlier today. I saw him coming out of the West Wing. So, it is very likely he was talking to officials, high level officials inside the White House, perhaps even including the president.
But I am told by a source close to the president that the president is receiving advice from, quote, many people, not to take this drastic step and fire the special prosecutor Robert Mueller. So, it appears once again, we have sort of a tug of war going on behind the scenes as to what the president might decide to do next with respect to this Russia investigation. If the president is indeed considering something like firing the special prosecutor, this is -- this is akin to events that we saw during the Watergate era and it is going to conjure up those kinds of memories.
But I can tell you from talking to a source close to the time to pay tonight, he is receiving counsel from all sides not to do this.
COOPER: Sean Spicer was also asked again today about the existence or lack of existence of tapes. We know that, you know, president had tweeted out raising the possibility that there might be tapes. The president's says that what Jim Comey testified to under oath was not true in terms of conversations. What did Sean Spicer -- what did the White House say about the tapes.
ACOSTA: Well, remember, Anderson, on Friday, the president was asked about this a couple of times at the press conference. And he said, well, you'll all find out shortly. Today, the president was asked when he was meeting with his cabinet, he did not answer that question as to whether or not he has tapes of his conversations with people here at the White House.
And then, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was peppered with three, four, five different questions about this. And he simply said, well, the president will announce this, quote, soon. And that basically he will do it when he feels the time is right. But, Anderson, as you know, of course, this is just a yes or no answer.
Now, we should point out sometimes, Sean Spicer does not know very much in terms of what the president is doing or, what he is up to. We saw that in recent weeks when he it comes to climate change and all these different -- you know, whether the president has confidence in Jeff Sessions and so on. The press secretary simply couldn't answer the questions because he didn't have the information and we may be in another situation here. But Sean Spicer simply did not answer that question today. It was another dodge.
COOPER: Did the White House today have anything to say about Jeff Sessions' testimony tomorrow? ACOSTA: Well, that was another question that came up was, will the
administration invoke -- assert executive privilege and try to block the attorney general from answering some of these questions tomorrow up on Capitol Hill. Sean Spicer said to that question at the briefing today, well, it's going to depend on what the question is. And that he is not going to get into hypotheticals.
And so, we say see a scenario tomorrow, sort of like what we saw with the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who was just sort of frustrating his former fellow senators around the dais and not cooperating and not responding to these questions. The attorney general may find himself in the very same position tomorrow. And the White House was just not answering that question as well today.
We are in a period right now, Anderson, either the White House is not answering questions or the press secretary is claiming he doesn't have the information to answer those questions. And so, really, we're just living through in minute by minute.
[20:05:01] But if the president were to go to a dramatic move like firing the special prosecutor, that is going to be something unlike we've seen around here in decades. Yes, certainly since you and I were a little younger than where we are today.
COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. We'll continue to check in with you.
Let's bring in the panel. Matthew Whitaker, Jeffrey Toobin, Ryan Lizza, Kirsten Powers, Christine Quinn, Jason Miller and Matt Lewis as well.
Jeff, I mean, the president does have legal authority to do that, doesn't he, to fire a special regulator?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, under the regulation, this is how it works, is that if he wants to get rid of the special counsel, it actually has to be a decision by the attorney general. The attorney general is the one who has to fire him.
The attorney general presumably, Jeff Sessions is recused here. So, it would be up to Rod Rosenstein who was the person just appointed Bob Mueller a couple of weeks ago.
So, the question would be, would Rosenstein accept an order to fire Mueller? Or would he, like Elliot Richardson did and then William Ruckelshaus, his deputy, did in the Saturday night massacre, refuse and resign? And would the order be followed by someone lower down in the hierarchy in the Justice Department?
But that's -- it's technically up to the attorney general.
COOPER: Matt, is that -- do you agree with that legal assessment?
MATTHEW WHITAKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FOUNDATION FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND CIVIC TRUST: I do, because the special counsel is just an attorney in the Department of Justice. It's appointed. There's no statutory construction like we had with the independent counsel law that expired in 2000.
You know, let's remember, though, that Bob Mueller does have ethical duties as an admitted lawyer to practice law, and so did Jim Comey. So, there are other rules, in addition to the DOJ rules and regulations. And if Bob Mueller had these conflicts, which were described in the beginning of the segment, that could raise some situations that I hope he's analyzed before he's accepted this position.
COOPER: Jeff, do you agree with that? If his -- his law firm apparently represented some members of the Trump family and he had a meeting with the president.
TOOBIN: I -- you know, I would have to know more. I mean, certainly, it's a big law firm. And there are often theoretical conflicts that are not real conflicts when you have many, many lawyers one has nothing to do with the other. But certainly, they should be all be investigated and aired out. And if there is a genuine conflict, then he should act to address it.
COOPER: Jason, I mean, as an ally of the president, would you advise him to do this?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's good to see workforce protection week getting off to a good start.
MILLER: On a serious note here, I mean, this would be bad idea genes all the way around. I mean --
COOPER: You're referencing an old "Saturday Night Live" skit. If memory serves about ten years ago or so.
MILLER: There is -- look, the president is on a roll right now. It might not seem that way to partisan opponents, but I don't think that last Thursday's testimony from director Comey could have gone any better for the president, helped to galvanize the Republican base. You saw folks like Senator Rubio, Senator McCain, Senator blunt, people who aren't necessarily strong supporters of the president, at least not vocally out there taking a strong position to help him during the hearing.
This would move the other direction. All the senators who I just named would automatically go a different direction on this. I think a lot of goodwill that I think the president has built I think would work against him.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It would be horrible if the goodwill he's built up went against him because I don't see a lot of goodwill.
Look, I take this seriously. Chris Ruddy is a friend of the president's. Remember, a couple weeks ago, Jay Sekulow comes out of a meeting with Donald Trump, starts attacking James Comey. It was obviously a harbinger of things to come. It was obviously orchestrated.
COOPER: And there were a number of conservatives who've been on, you know, on FOX News and elsewhere speaking now who were speaking for Mueller before who are --
LEWIS: Exactly, right? And we've seen it with -- Newt Gingrich is a prime example with these tweets, you know? A couple weeks he said, paraphrasing here, James -- that Mueller is, you know, beyond reproach, highly respected, bipartisan. Every senator should support him and be thankful he is there. And now, he's saying --
COOPER: In fact, let's just put up those just to give you a sense. This is the before tweet. We're going to put up first. Republicans, OK, no, this is today. That's before.
Robert Mueller is superb choice to special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.
And then latest his tweet on this: Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair. Look who he is hiring. Check FEC reports, time to rethink.
LEWIS: Well, I think people like -- what Jason is doing is a service right now, because we keep in mind that Donald Trump has a pattern of doing certain things like this, the Judge Curiel thing. You had the firing of James Comey. Those were surprises to us. They just happened.
You know, the tweet, the Curiel tweet and the firing of James Comey pretty much happened without any warning. In this case, we have a -- what could serve as a trial balloon. Maybe Donald Trump is putting the idea out there. He is going to hear from some of his friends and allies, that it's a very bad idea.
[20:10:01] And I think that would be really good for the country if he takes that message.
CHRISTINE QUINN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Or maybe it's not a trial balloon. Maybe it's a direct attempt to intimidate the special counsel.
Now, I'm not saying that's doable. But here you have the president of the United States leaking -- we know how he feels like leakers. But leaking stories, right, that are getting put out about what he is thinking about Mueller. We have clearly somebody within the party -- I'm not saying in an untoward way -- organizing people like Newt Gingrich to change their position.
I think this is -- he may end up firing him which we're bringing people together I agree would be a terrible idea. But I don't want to underestimate that he could be doing this purposely because he thinks it can have an effect.
MILLER: My sense here is this is probably a group of passionate supporters who are taking this upon themselves to go and do this. I hope that that's the case.
And, look, there's a big difference between Director Comey and Director Mueller. Director Comey had already received a ton of criticism for his mishandling of the Clinton investigation last year. So, they were already people that once they were reminded of these things. And, of course, we saw at the hearing, the Loretta Lynch story, we see the leaking, all of this. Completely separate from someone like Mueller who has a pretty sterling reputation.
COOPER: Kirsten, it's also possible that -- Kirsten, it's possible that the president saw people on FOX talking bad about Mueller and is kind of -- to --
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's possible. I think it's probably more likely that this is some sort of concerted campaign to demonize him. And this would not be a new thing. I mean, when we had Ken Starr going after Clinton, there was a orchestrated campaign to demonize Ken Starr. And you could say that's fair or unfair. I'd probably say it was fair.
But, you know, I think the Trump supporters probably realized that if -- they don't want him to look like a fair arbiter in the situation. They want him to look like somebody who is tainted, who maybe has conflicts. You know, but if he is really the person that Newt Gingrich said he was, it seems like he would have probably disclosed this meeting that he had with the president and let them know and make them decide before he was appointment. So, we need more information about the meeting.
COOPER: Ryan, it does seem just politically -- I mean, to Jason's point kind of incomprehensible idea.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And Trump may be thinking what's even worse is if this investigation goes on and he is in serious legal jeopardy.
But one major difference between firing Mueller -- excuse me, firing Comey and firing Mueller is there is evidence of potential crime since Mueller's dismissal, right? When -- excuse me since Comey's dismissal.
When Comey testified, he added some new facts to the record the other day, right? And he said that it is now Mueller's job to decide whether obstruction of justice took place, right? So, if the president is going to fire Mueller, he is firing a person that is looking into whether he committed obstruction of justice or not. And that is a -- to me is a far worse potential abuse of power than firing his FBI director where he certainly has more discretion.
TOOBIN: What makes anyone think the Republican Party base would be upset about this at all or the Republicans in Congress? I mean, what has the Republicans in Congress ever objected to that Donald Trump has done? You know, John McCain will hold a press conference to say, I'm very
concerned about the firing of Robert Mueller. And then he'll move on and then they'll repeal health care. I mean, I just -- I don't see any real dissent from the Republican Party.
LEWIS: I completely agree. I think that conservatives -- that tomorrow, Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse and Paul -- anybody who cares, small-R republican, anybody who cares about the rule of law, separation of powers, the values that conservatives ought to care about, should say, if he fires you know this director -- the special counsel, then we are going to go back to the -- to the old rule where we'll vote for independent counsel.
TOOBIN: But they won't say that.
LEWIS: They said. I'm saying that they should.
TOOBIN: Well, I don't give politics advice.
LEWIS: An independent counsel.
TOOBIN: But, I mean, you just look at how Republicans have acted so far. And anything he's done, you know, has basically gotten you know some throat clearing, oh, that's too bad. But then, you know, everybody is marching in lock step.
LEWIS: But where do you to get your reputation back if his presidency guess down the drain, and you're ostensibly a conservative who cares about limited government, separation of powers, rule of law?
WHITAKER: What will get Republicans worked up is if we suddenly have a Department of Justice in chaos, where not only do you try to move to eliminate the special counsel in Bob Mueller, but maybe Rod Rosenstein says now, he and I serve as U.S. attorneys. I mean, he has a grate reputation.
And what happens if, you know, we already heard rumors on the wind about Sessions' tenure? And so, suddenly, we could have a president that understands that if I control the Department of Justice, I control this investigation and that's going to be -- that could play out in the weeks ahead, if it all --
LIZZA: Can I just add one other wrinkling to that? We know that Sessions has recused him, right, from the Russia investigation. Rosenstein may have to recuse himself if Mueller is pursuing obstruction of justice case against the president, because Rosenstein was involved with the firing of Comey.
[20:15:03] He met with Trump the day before it happened. He is a witness if there is a obstruction of justice case. And if Mueller pursues that, then Rosenstein has a conflict and I don't know what happens --
(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: There is no --
LIZZA: After Rosenstein, there's nobody --
WHITAKER: There's assistant attorney general.
TOOBIN: Yes. There is associate attorney general. There's no solicitor general but I guess the associate attorney general would be next.
WHITAKER: Well, and this would be -- part of the Republicans should understand, the president should understand is eventually this puts it in the hand of the career professional at the Department of Justice, which is not what this president wants for sure.
COOPER: Jared Kushner could take it over.
COOPER: He's got a lot on his plate.
TOOBIN: Middle East peace he's taking care of.
COOPER: We got to take a quick break.
Coming up next, we're going to revisit the White House's latest answers when asked about tapes the president hinted he may have of conversation with James Comey.
And later, remember last week when White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president is not a liar. Tonight, court proceedings in which then Donald Trump is a civilian under oath was caught in one full statement after another. We'll show you those records when we continue.
COOPER: Well, on top of the breaking news about the president contemplating or at least completing another big firing of Russia probe special counsel, Robert Mueller, there is also the tale of the tapes, if they exist of the conversations between the president and the FBI director that he fired.
On Friday, when asked, the president was coy about when he would reveal them if, in fact, they exist.
[20:20:03] Today, he didn't answer, but later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave a series of what might be called non-answers on the subject. The question is, why wouldn't the president reveal them if, in fact, they confirm his version of the conversations he had with Director Comey, if in fact if he exist.
Back with the panel on that.
Jason, I mean, again, it's a pretty simple question whether or not the tapes exist and the White House -- I mean, they just went round and round on it with Spicer basically saying, you know, the president said what he said and we'll wait to see what he does.
MILLER: Well, I don't have any inside knowledge into this. I would assume the conversations with foreign leaders and foreign officials would be recorded, out of a matter of protocol. I'm assuming or guessing.
QUINN: You could cut things now the 21st century you can pick which part.
MILLER: I would assume conversations in the Oval Office are not recorded. Again, no inside knowledge, but that's what I assume. But again, as we talk about the leaking and what this goes back to, I mean, the two big things that really came out of last week were, of course, the Loretta Lynch news that we got, but again, the Director Comey had leaked the memos. And I think there are a lot of further questions about what else was leaked. Were there additional memos --
MILLER: -- who all were they given this to? That's probably --
COOPER: But it's the president of the United States who raised the issue of tapes through one of his tweets that he likes so much. So --
QUINN: Or before the hearing.
COOPER: Yes, before the hearing. So, why not -- I mean, why not just you know answer the question whether or not you actually have tapes, not to you, but to the president? Why can't one of the president's spokespeople actually just ask him and then -- asked and then answer to the press corps.
MILLER: So, on this particular one, I'll have to say I'll defer to the White House and let my good friend Sean Spicer answer that one.
COOPER: Matt, does it make any sense to you?
LEWIS: No, it doesn't make any sense. But the president has been very clear about the fact that his -- the two weeks I think he is going to tell us whether or not they were taping.
I don't think they were taping. I suspect that he was trolling James Comey when he said James Comey -- he tweeted he better hope that I wasn't taping things. Maybe it was to send him a message.
But let's remember the ramifications that that had probably inadvertently, that caused James Comey do leak the memo which caused the special counsel. And so, it very well could be that Donald Trump's tweet sort of I think probably erroneously suggesting that he was taping the conversation could end up having causing major problems for Trump. TRUMP: I mean, Donald Trump does -- I mean, as a citizen, you know in
the business world, he certainly had a habit of sort of hinting at things or pretending he had done things and sort of kicking the can down the road when asked for actual details. I keep thinking about -- you know, I remember interviewing him where he claimed he had investigators on the ground in Hawaii who were finding out really surprising stuff that he was going to reveal at sometime about President Obama's birth certificate.
You know, there is no evidence to this day he even had investigators on the ground, let alone obviously finding --
POWERS: Yes, I mean, it's a little reality TV like, right? Sort of teasing people for the big reveal down the road. And maybe the reveal is going to come and maybe the reveal isn't going to come. But I mean, it seems sort of strange that our best case scenario at least based on what you were saying is that the president of the United States is trolling people, you know?
I -- this is -- you know, that's our best case. And our worst case is scenario is that he is taping people without letting them know they're being taped and is hiding it from us. And then there is a bunch of other things in between those two things. Obviously, he is the one who brought it up. He should just like a grownup answer the question and let us know. I mean, I don't know that there is another good explanation for what's going on.
TOOBIN: "The Wall Street Journal" filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Secret Service, asking for any sort of tapes.
COOPER: They have no evidence of any recording.
TOOBIN: Right, which is not the final, definitive answer, but it's a pretty good hint.
COOPER: Although it could him using an iPhone --
TOOBIN: It could be a phone, yes, right. I mean, that's just --
COOPER: I recorded all our conversations.
LIZZA: It's probably legal. I believe.
TOOBIN: I think actually any record these on the air.
WHITAKER: You know one party consent --
LIZZA: One party consent in D.C., the journalist.
QUINN: But it does show though if there are any tapes -- who knows?
LIZZA: Come on, there are no tapes. There are no tapes. QUINN: Look, I put --
LIZZA: This White House --
QUINN: I put nothing above (ph) this president.
LIZZA: -- can barely put together a senior staff. And everything leaks out of the White House. If there were tapes, we would know about it.
QUINN: Well, but look, if he --
LIZZA: I mean, he told us he was going to have a health care plan he never produced, a tax reform plan he never produced, investigation into vote fraud that he never produced, tax returns that he never produced. Investigators about Obama's birth certificates. There are no tapes.
QUINN: But let me say two things. One, if they are, they are on his cell phone which is crazy talk because he is like instituting something in the Oval Office that the Secret Service doesn't authorize, no one authorizes. But, two, if they're not, which I think is more likely, it's just another example of the president engaging in -- some alternative universe or purposeful smoke screen, which keeps the focus of the press and the country on these --
MILLER: Although Comey went and leaked -- Comey leaked.
QUINN: Comey leaked because he felt that the White House and the president was going in a direction that was dangerous and wanted there to be a special counsel.
[20:25:04] He did nothing illegal and nothing wrong.
But the point is, it's all the side shows which pull us away from what is the truth and out of the rest of the investigation -- health care and taxes, stuff that's life and death for America.
LEWIS: During the campaign, Trump -- it was perceived that Trump was playing this three dimensional chess, and he was doing this psychological warfare, and he would throw out something and that would cause other people to overreact. In this case, I would have to say, I don't see how the scenario helps Trump. I would say that the fact that he sent that tweet led us to having this special counsel -- if Trump was trying to sort of -- to cute by half if nothing else.
COOPER: Yes, we got to take a quick break. More with the panel ahead. We have breaking news from Capitol Hill. We'll tell you who walked into a closed door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee tonight. And we'll find out what lawmakers want to hear from Attorney General Jeff Sessions tomorrow.
And in an administration of first, this was definitely one of them. An on camera cabinet meeting really like no other. Hard to explain it. We're just going to have it to show it to you and you'll see what -- see what we mean. Be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: The possibility of President Trump taking steps to get rid of the special counsel investigating him is reverberating around Washington right now. The capitol was already buzzing about tomorrow's testimony by the attorney general who recused himself from the entire affair.
And on top of that, the NSA director, Admiral Mike Rogers, was spotted going into a closed door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
CNN's Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill.
So, Rogers is in a close door briefing right now. What do you know about it?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, it's happening, yes, indeed, still, ongoing late evening session. This, Anderson after last week when Rogers testified in the public session, but would not answer a number of questions from lawmakers, specifically a key question, whether or not Pres. Trump asked him in anyway to tamp down stories about potential collusion between Trump associates and Russian associates, now this has been reported that Rogers was asked by president of the United States to tamp down those stories but he refused to talk about that in an open session, saying that he would be more willing to do that in a classified session.
I talked to a number of senators who have left this briefing but still on going. They are refusing to talk about it tonight. They're saying it is classified. We cannot go into the details. But some appeared pretty frustrated. As they left these hearings of unclear, Anderson, whether they've got to have any more answers to that question, they asked last week if there was an effort by the president to interfere in any way with these Russia and Trump stories and the investigation as well, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you know as (inaudible) coats is going to be called in as well, because he also didn't answer.
RAJU: He also did not answer. He has not at this specific briefing, but we do know that he agreed to testify in a classified session. We don't know when that's going to happen, but it could happen perhaps as soon as this week, Anderson.
COOPER: And on sessions, what have committee members been telling you they want to hear from the attorney general tomorrow?
RAJU: Well, a number of things, talking to both Republican and Democratic members of this committee. They want to hear about these meetings and interactions that sessions apparently had during the campaign season with Russian officials, as well as those two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, two meetings that he did not initially disclose during his confirmation proceedings, as well (inaudible) there was a third meeting last year with the Russian ambassador that he also did not disclose. Expect those to be a significant line of questions, but that's not it, Anderson. Questions about whether or not there was a taping system in the White House, whether or not Sessions could confirm that, but -- James Lankford of the Republican, senator from Oklahoma told me that he wanted to ask about, as well as Jeff Sessions role in recusing himself from this Russian investigation and his role at firing of James Comey, whether or not that was appropriate.
And, Anderson, those are all just part of a number of issues that they want to hear, as well as -- they could -- whether or not Sessions could corroborate any of James Comey's old testimony including when he said that he asked, Pres. Trump asked Sessions to leave the room where he have that one on one conversation with James Comey, did Jeff Sessions corroborate some of those key aspects of Comey's testimony? That is what we'll hear tomorrow, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Manu Raju. Manu thanks very much. Back now with the panel. Just in terms of Session's testimony tomorrow, I mean how important do you think it is? And there is also the question of is it possible that executive privilege will be an issue?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I think it's really important that the executive privilege is -- the issue, because if you invoke executive privileged then we obviously aren't going to find out very much. If he's forthcoming, then we can potentially get some information to fill in some of the gaps of things that we don't know the answers to, in particular, you know, about him leaving the room, what's his memory of that, did it just comport with what Comey said? There kind of things where we now have maybe another person who is a witness to what happened, either a corroborating witness or somebody who's actually going to challenge it. So --
COOPER: If there was a third meeting with Kislyak at the, I think the Mayflower hotel, is the report. Is that a big deal? I mean, Matt, do you think that's a big deal, because that's a meeting that Sessions has not talked about previously.
MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Right and if you go back to his original confirmation hearing, he said he had no interactions with Russians. And this could be not forgot one time, not forgot twice, but, oops, forget three times, having said that, it would have been with the same guy and he would argue of course that it was done, in his capacity as a senator, not in his capacity as a surrogate for Donald Trump.
Ultimately, I think that it would -- for me, it would call into question his -- the voracity of his testimony. But I think that in terms of the political, you know, fallout of it, I don't think it would be that bad, because he's already recused himself from Russia. I think in the scope of all the things we're dealing with right now that would be like a (inaudible) like a one day story.
COOPER: Jason, I mean some -- you would argue in his favor, that he wanted apparently, according to his spokesperson, he wanted to be in a public hearing, he wanted the public hearing not to be behind closed doors. JASON MILLER, FORMER SR. COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: And I think we also have to give credit to Atty. Gen. Sessions where he could have gone into this appropriations meeting where -- we has supposed to go to initially, but he moved that to the Intel Committee and insisted that this is going to be public. But he needs to set the record straight in advance of tomorrow as far as this whole talk of meetings and Kislyak and all these.
The first one that the senator now attorney general is being accused of, after he finished his speech in Cleveland, the RNC convention, he came down and shook hands with a couple of dozen different ambassadors, and foreign emissaries. There was no sit down meeting. It was a, you know, a handshakes and hi, it was nice to see you.
[20:35:10] The second -- or supposed -- so that wasn't really a meeting, the second one was in his senate office, so he wasn't acting as an ambassador of the campaign so to speak, or as a representative of the campaign, there was no third sighting or appearance or anything. That accounts say that he met with Ambassador Kislyak at the Mayflower just a plain false. That did not happen. And so I think that's what you'll hear from the attorney general tomorrow. But I think when you see the willingness from the attorney general here to go in and make sure they're setting the record straight. I think with regards to Russia, this is going to be a big nothing burger, just like that hearing with Dir. Comey last week. Now with really caution people and getting too farther with their skis before the attorney general testifies tomorrow.
CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER NYC CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: You know, or we disagree and let the Comey with a nothing burger, but I don't think tomorrow is going to be (inaudible).
I mean first of all if he invokes executive privilege, that he was just, you know, full of it when he said he wanted to be in a public hearing. Why? Two, it really does in tracks with Donald Trump's theory that you don't need , you know, the Fifth Amendment (inaudible) you have done nothing wrong, so why would Comey even need executive privilege if he didn't do anything wrong.
And, you know, I've been through (inaudible) acting attorney general, but other processes to get appointment. You are encouraged to over disclose, anything you remember to put down. So it just seems odd to me in this climate at this moment, that you would have potentially three interactions of a sort with the ambassador of Russia and you would not put them down. And then --
MILLER: But there was -- there were kind of --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Can I just say one thing --
TOOBIN: -- about executive privilege. Executive privilege does not belong to Jeff Sessions, executive privilege belongs to Donald Trump. And so Sessions cannot on his own just say I invoke executive privilege. He has to say the president has asked me to invoke the executive privilege. So the real question is, has the Trump administration ordered him to invoke executive privilege?
COOPER: Or he could do what Dan Coats did and Rogers did, which was executive privilege hasn't been invoked by the president, but I'm just not going to answer because I don't feel comfortable giving up details of a conversation.
TOOBIN: And there's nothing the Senate Intelligence Committee in a practical sense can do about that. If he doesn't want to answer questions, he's not going to answer questions. In theory, they could go to court, you get him (inaudible), but if tomorrow he doesn't want to answer questions, he just not going to answer.
COOPER: All right, we got to take a quick break. Coming up, the president is being sued over his businesses the Trump Hotel in Washington and beyond by two attorneys general to say he has violated the constitution. I'll speak with both of those attorney general next.
Also, the cabinet meeting you got to see to believe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENT: -- working every day and we've been working very hard together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:41:28] COOPER: The State of Maryland and the District of Columbia are suing the president. The lawsuit filed today in Federal Court says the president is violating the constitution particularly the emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign governments. The sued is referring to the Trump hotel in Washington and his other hotels and golf courses where foreign governments are already spending money to try to curry favor in their opinion with the president, according to the lawsuit.
Shortly before air I spoke with the two attorneys general behind the lawsuit, Karl Racine of Washington, D.C. and Brian Frosh of Maryland.
COOPER: Attorney General Racine, what are the ways you're your sue differs from others that have been filed over the president's businesses is that you're arguing that the Trump organization hurts businesses that Maryland and D.C. either own tax or license? How does he do that exactly?
KARL RACINE, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, the simple fact is, Anderson, that the Trump businesses have an advantage, a very significant advantage, and that is that every single foreign government entity knows that if they want to curry favor with this administration, take their business to the Trump hotel. And the evidence shows that that's what they're doing. COOPER: And that hurts businesses that the government owns or that the state owns in Maryland or in the city in D.C. because people aren't staying, what, at businesses that are owned by Maryland?
RACINE: Well, the District of Columbia has proprietary interests because we, you know, actually support our hotel and hospitality industry and specifically with respect to the D.C. convention center, there is some competition, in regards to meeting space, and rooms. And that competition we allege is going to the Trump hotel.
COOPER: Attorney General Frosh, the White House is pushing back on your claims, obviously. Sean Spicer was asked about it today. I want to play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not hard to conclude that partisan politics maybe one of the motivations behind to scene. The suit is filled. We had two Democratic attorney generals, the lawyers driving the suit are an advocacy group of partisan ties, it actually started with a press conference as opposed to filling it which is interesting. And the suit challenges the sort of business transaction that everyone from (inaudible) serve in the last administration and others have engaged --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Attorney General Frosh, how do you respond to that?
BRIAN FROSH, MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, first of all our outside counsel is new and they are the former ethics counsel to both George Bush and Barack Obama. It's hardly a partisan effort. This is about presidential corruption, the emoluments clauses, prevent the president from taking contributions, payments, gifts from foreign governments and from United States or any of the United States. And our concern is that the president, Pres. Trump with his extensive business holdings is tangled up with United States policies and the people of the United States don't know whether his business interests come first or whether the business of the United States comes first.
It really is an anti-corruption provision, anti-corruption protection in the constitution that we are seeking to vindicate.
COOPER: To Sean Spicer's point, I mean if this was a Democratic president who was in this situation, would you be filing this lawsuit as well?
FROSH: Yes, if there were a Democratic president who were marketing, who was marketing his business interests to the diplomatic community, who was taking payments from China, taking payments from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and many other countries, it would give me very serious concerns about his or her ethics.
[20:45:09] COOPER: Attorney General Racine, I mean there has been -- there's belief that this suit is basically an exercise to force the release of the president's tax returns. Is it? RACINE: I think the tax returns issues, you know, certainly are relevant to the lawsuit, but the lawsuit is not purposed in order to get the tax returns. We need financial information to get a sense of the entirety of the president's businesses. That's the only way we're going to be able to know the full scope of foreign countries contributing moneys to the president.
COOPER: So you do plan to seek the president's tax returns as part of the lawsuit?
RACINE: No doubt.
COOPER: The -- this part of 70 page Department of Justice brief that was released on Friday are response to another sue over the president's business. The Department of Justice, attorney stated the quote, "Were plaintiffs' point interpretation correct, presidents from the very beginning of the Republic, including George Washington, would have received prohibitive emolument," I mean are they right about? I mean how president throughout history receives so called emoluments?
RACINE: Let me take that Anderson.
RACINE: They are completely wrong on that. And if you read the Department of Justice papers very carefully, you'll see nowhere in their papers do they allege that George Washington or Pres. Jefferson receives moneys from foreign governments. Nowhere in their documents is that alleged. We allege because it's true. And we allege that receiving moneys from foreign governments for a private business is inconsistent with being president of the United States, the constitution foresaw this, and that's why the constitution bars it.
COOPER: Attorney General Racine, Attorney General Frosh, appreciate your time. Thank you.
RACINE: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, up next, a cabinet meeting like -- really like no other we've seen, simply called a love fest? We'll explain it as best we can next.
[20:50:51] COOPER: President Trump, of course vowed to do things different. And he certainly lived up to that today against latest cabinet meeting. The president began with a typical opening statement. Then things changed bigly (ph). Nearly every cabinet member spoke and seemed to praise the boss quite strongly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) U.S. VICE-PRESIDENT: Greatest privilege of my life. To serve as vice-president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's an honor to be -- I able to serve you in that regard. You sent the exact right message.
TOM PRICE, HHS SECRETARY: The president, what an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can't thank you enough for the privilege that you have given me.
ELAINE CHAO, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: I want to thank you for getting this country moving again and also working again.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: A great honor traveling with you around the country for the last year. And even greater honor to be here serving in your cabinet.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, joining us now our CNN Senior Political Analyst David Axelrod, a veteran at the Obama White House and also Former Congressman Mike Rogers who served the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It is a blessing to have you both here.
David, I mean how unusual is that? I mean you work -- is that what happens -- it was the first full cabinet meetings, is it normal to have --
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is not unusual if you live in North Korea. But here in the U.S., that is very unusual. I attended cabinet meetings. I've never seen anything like that. Usually, the president gives a short statement to the full (inaudible) that's there. They leave. And then there's business. And you go through the cabinet and the cabinet reports on the business that they're doing.
But this, you know, look, you have an embattled president who wants to change the narrative. And he enlisted his cabinet to do that. And -- but I think at some expense to them, because they look so servile that it was absurd.
COOPER: Chairman Rogers, do you see the same way, I mean does it strike you as odd?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Odd and a bit clumsy. Matter of fact, it reminds me of that old will Rogers saying, "It's like feeling you get when a baby gets ahold of a hammer." It just feels really, really odd. You are not supposed to laugh at my jokes.
COOPER: It's really funny. I hadn't heard that.
ROGERS: I will tell you the one thing that bothered me about it is that the adulation -- this was the first big formal cabinet meeting which is normally a substantive meeting that you would hope gets on to a more substantive conversation. But this whole thing it just seemed so clumsy. If they're going to do then adulation is a big part of American politics. You see everyday on the House floor, they say, you know, Mr. Speaker, -- and my great and good friend on the other side of the aisle who I will proceed to, you know, rip their face off here in a few minutes. This has all been part of politics. But what was a little odd about this today was it was -- it was clearly scripted. And it was a very clumsy way about saying, hey, no problems here, we're doing great things. I just -- it just didn't rise to the level of a presidential appearance not only for the cabinet but for the president himself.
COOPER: Well, it's interesting, David, particularly that we've now had Dir. Comey testimony under oath that he was asked for personal loyalty --
COOPER: -- to the president, allegations that, you know, similar things have been made to others as well. I mean no one pledged loyalty here directly to Pres. Trump. But it came close to that of sort of, honor and --
AXELROD: Yes, it was kind of competition to see who could be more obsequious. And, so -- yes, you know, when the president says I wouldn't think of asking people for loyalty pledges, but this was, in a sense, asking for a loyalty pledge and asking them to parade in front of the cameras and offer testimonials. It was an embarrassing thing.
The thing that interests me the most was the one cabinet member who was most muted in his comments was Gen. Mattis, the Defense Secretary, who I think has a real sense of propriety and institutional --
[20:55:08] COOPER: He praised service members --
COOPER: -- but not the president.
AXELROD: Yes, which was a departure from everyone else. I think he was the only one who emerged with his dignity.
COOPER: Chairman Rogers, I want to play a clip of something that's Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted out shortly after the president's cabinet meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: I want to thank everybody for coming. I just thought we go around the room. Lucy, how did we do on the Sunday show yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your tone is perfect. You were right on message.
SCHUMER: Michelle, how did my hair look coming out of the gym this morning?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have great hair. Nobody has better hair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we go further, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean when Chuck Schumer is, you know, scoring laughs putting out videos, that's not -- that's not what you want to have happen after the first cabinet meeting, I guess.
ROGERS: No, it's not a great thing. But I'm not convinced that that hasn't happened in a Chuck Schumer -- along the way. I was -- again -- it is -- the whole thing is just so -- and it wouldn't be necessarily odd. I do think if you're going to come be a change agent, you have to mix things up. That's always going to be a little hard. But this was so misplaced and the timing of it so -- I think just poor.
And as I said, it's almost sophomoric in the way that we're going to show the world that we're all getting along and we just love our president. We can't wait to get up every day and work for him. You would expect that anyway for them taking the oath of office to do those important jobs.
ROGERS: And it just came -- it just didn't look that serious to me. And it didn't -- it just looked so odd. I thought, this is a terrible way to try to correct your problem. Why don't you have a staff meeting and then come out with some great proposals and work with Congress to get something done in a meaningful way?
SCHUMER: That will go so much further than these kind of -- I don't know what you call them.
COOPER: Yeah. Well, I'll leave them. Mike Rogers thank you very much, David Axelrod as well.
Coming up next, more repercussions from our breaking news, word from a friend of the president that president may be thinking about firing the Russia special counsel. We have reaction from the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, more on that and a comment from the White House as well ahead.