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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

O.J. Simpson Granted Parole; WAPO: Trump's Lawyers Seek To Undercut Mueller's Russia Investigation; WAPO: Trump Lawyers Exploring Pardoning Powers; Reports: Spokesman For Trump Legal Team Resigns; Sen. McCain: "I'll Be Back Soon". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 21:00   ET

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


O. J. SIMPSON, INMATE: I've been pretty good with people. And I have basically spent a conflict-free life. I'm not a guy that ever got in the fights on the street with the public and everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, that is simply not true. Simpson has admitted to beating his wife and once pled no contest to spousal battery. A civil jury also found him alive all in the killings of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman, more on that shortly. First, let's go to CNN Sara Sidner who was at the parole hearing. So, did O.J. Simpson seem remorseful during the hearing?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did say that he was sorry a couple of times, but really he spent most of his time talking about himself and how wonderful he was doing in prison and how wonderful of a guy that he was in his life. And he blames others for some of what happened. Eventually he did take responsibility for, but he said that he didn't realize the guns were going to be there, he'd never touched the guns. In court, he didn't touch a gun. That was true. But he certainly planned it because there are audiotapes of the planning of the kidnapping and robbery that ended up happening. And he did say are you packing heat? So he clearly knew during the trial in 2008 that there were going to be guns involve in this.

Ultimately, though, the parole board decided after listening to his testimony, the testimony of his daughter and friend and looking at all the other factors that go into this, which is how he did in prison, did he cause any problems? Which he did not, he was a model prisoner according to himself and others at the prison. But ultimately they decide, look, he is going to be paroled, that will happen in October.

COOPER: Well, also the fact that he had somebody who was the victim of the robbery speak on his behalf, I mean, that doesn't happen every day.

SIDNER: That's absolutely true. It was actually extraordinary. I think the most emotional testimony really in this whole thing was his friend and the memorabilia dealer who had a gun to his head that O.J. Simpson was telling I want my stuff back. He was the guy that came forward and said look, O.J. Simpson made a mistake but I want him out. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE FROMONG, O.J. SIMPSON ROBBERY VICTIM: It's time for him to go home to his family, his friends. This is a good man, he made a mistake. And if he called me tomorrow and said Bruce, I'm getting out, will you pick me up. Sure, I'll be here tomorrow for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Clearly, the two are still friends. O.J. mentioned that as well. They have talked. He apologized to him and, for long, had apologized for having some of his stuff though he said he was not the person who took it from O.J.

COOPER: Sara Sidner, thanks very much. I want to bring in the panel, Jeff Toobin, Danny Cevallos, Kyra Philips, Gloria Browne-Marshall, and Mark Geragos. Jeff, I'm going into this, did you expect him to be paroled?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I did, you know, my understanding of the Nevada rules made it very likely that he was going to be paroled. And I also think it was the right decision, I mean, as much as I think that O.J. Simpson should be serving life in prison for the murders of Ron and Nicole, he was acquitted. And I thought this sentence was excessive. I thought this whole Las Vegas case was basically payback and much as I would have liked to have seen him convicted in the original case, that's not how I think the legal system should work. And nine years for that case I just thought was too much.

COOPER: And Dan, I mean, they look at whether you're a model prisoner or not? And certainly it seems like he was, and he also wanted great detail about the course that he had taken and whether he followed through on the promises he made on the last one.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I have to respectfully disagree with Jeff in that, I don't think this was a slam dunk, I think it was a close call. O.J., yes, his risk factors were low. His age, is a factor that -- in his favor. The fact that he did participated in programs but at the same time the severity of his crime was very high and that made this a situation where the board had to consider all the factors. It means under the guidelines that it really could have gone either way in this case. And then once with that in mind, O.J. opened his mouth. I think he was at real risk for getting parole denied in this case.

COOPER: Kyra, I mean you certainly covered this case --

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN HOST, AFTER O.J.: THE FUHRMAN TAPES REVEALED: Yes, two decades ago.

COOPER: Two decades.

PHILLIPS: You know, I saw the same O.J. here that I did 20 years ago. He's manipulative. He shows no remorse for what he does. He's self- centered, he's self absorbed. He was talking on an open mike joking around laughing making cracks about Trump. I mean, he's -- I think Jeffrey used a very good word earlier today. He is delusional. And I'm already making bets that he is going to somehow get himself in trouble. And we're going to be talking about him again.

COOPER: Gloria, I'm wondering how you saw today's hearing?

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROF., JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: We have over 2 million people in prison, in our jails and prisons today. And this system is one in which there are parole hearings taking place every single day. This makes the news because it's O.J. Simpson. We got to figure out what kind of standard we're going to have? He may not be the nicest guy and, as we said before, he was acquitted of something, and people want payback for that. But what are we going to do? Are we going to keep locking up everyone and keeping them everyone in doors?

[21:05:21] I think on the in-prisons, I think this one of those indicative example of what are we going to do with our criminal justice system, are we going to use it for social morality because we don't like somebody, we don't see him showing enough remorse, even though in Nevada you don't have to have remorse as one of the principal issues in order for you to get out. What are we going to do here?

I mean, he's been a subject that represents race, class. He represents the police department. His case represents all of these things and now it represents how the parole boards work.

COOPER: Mark, I mean to Gloria's point, there does have to be some reward for inmates who serve their time well and don't, you know, get into violent acts don't bring in contraband. And from all accounts he served his time in a very exemplary fashion.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I said before the hearing today that, to my mind, based on his low risk assessment, based on the factors that this was a slam dunk. He's 70 years old. He's been in for close to nine years. He's got no violations whatsoever. And mind you, I've had parole hearings where somebody took nuts out of the commissary and got written up and that was called a violation. So you really -- you have to admire the fact that the parole commissioners did their job. And I don't think it was that close. It was a 4-0 vote. You know, they had two people in reserve to kind of be a tie breaker. They didn't have to go to that.

He was offered two and a half years, originally. He never took the stand. So it's not something where a judge enhanced the sentence because he lied while he was on the stand which was usually what we call the trial penalty. He got tax, tip and service charge when he got sentenced to nine to 33 years. It was -- I think harkening back to what Jeff said it was a prosecution by proxy.

CEVALLOS: I have to jump in, because Jeff said that he was over- penalized and now Mark is saying that, but respectfully he was convicted of 11 felonies, some of which were class A felonies, the mandatory minimum in this case was going to be six years, no matter what. So this ends up being a reasonable sentence. I agree he may have been over-charged but when it comes to the actual penalties imposed I think they were reasonable.

TOOBIN: But when you look at the fact that the guys who had the guns got slaps on the wrist, probation, very little jail time, and O.J. was penalized just for knowing the others had a gun gets a minimum of nine years. That to me tells --

PHILLIPS: But he orchestrated the whole thing, Jeffrey, I mean, it was his idea. He's the one that made sure they were packing heat. And he was the one going after his memorabilia.

COOPER: Professor, do you believe that this was in terms of the legal system, some sort of payback for the acquittal of the murder charge?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: I think it's understood it was payback for the acquittal. I mean that is the underlying theme here, whether or not, yes, you know, we looked at the video when people saw the verdict and we had a whole discussion around the racial issue, why, you know, there are certain white jurors, who were very disappointed, black jurors who were jumping up and down, because the criminal justice system is so skewed when it comes to race.

I mean, he ended up being the poster boy for, you know, black injustice, which of course within the black community, hint, hint, give you a private conversation, we still are going back and forth and what he represents to the black community.

But, you know, but we have to agree that there was the sense of finally, you know, justice was delayed and now, you know, we're getting our justice in some way, shape or form. If he could have been in prison even longer, even the parole chairman said -- parole board chairman said, that all of these opposition letters came in and why were they opposing his parole. Not for this crime, not saying that he didn't serve enough time for this crime, but because of the acquittal in the past.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We're going to continue this discussion. More on the echoes of the Simpson murder trial and how they still resonate today.

Later, fallout from the president's headline making interview and his -- there are warning for the special counsel who is leading the Russian investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:13:14] COOPER: Before the break we are discussing whether O.J. Simpson was over-charged or over-sentenced for the Las Vegas crime, is that kind of karma payback for the murder acquittal. Now whatever you think of that notion, there were echoes from 1995 throughout the day. Just to refresh your memory, here is Ron Goldman's father reacting on Simpson's acquittal more than two decades ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRED GOLDMAN, FATHER OF RON GOLDMAN: I deeply believe that this country lost today. Justice was not served. I and my family will do everything in our power to bring about the kind of change that won't allow what happened today to ever happen to another family again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Back now in with the panel, I mean, Jeff, did you spent so much time on this trial and wrote great work on it. As you were watching this parole hearing, I mean, as you think back to that time 22 years ago what did you think?

TOOBIN: You know, I feel so contradictory about it because, you know, I believe with all of my heart and all of my brain that O.J. is guilty of the crimes, I mean of the murders. I mean, I -- you know, have absolutely no doubt about that. So -- but I always thought this Las Vegas case was just bogus at some level. That it was trumped up. That it was over-charged. That it was over-sentenced. And so I just felt so torn about it, because I do believe that the legal system has to operate on a one case at a time rule. And we don't, you know, use one case to punish someone for an unrelated other case.

[21:15:02] But, you know, I also think it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. And I didn't really shed any tears, the fact that he spent too much time for this.

COOPER: Mark, do you think this case in Vegas was payback in some ways?

GERAGOS: I think clearly it was payback, I think that you've got a situation like I say when the prosecutor offers you two and a half years and then you end up getting convicted and you get sentenced to nine years. And you have a -- as you saw today, you have complaining witness/victims who have already made amends. I mean it's clearly payback.

Jeff and I were earlier in the day kind of arguing and teasing each other but, you know, in a strange way the three things that you've seen, the criminal trial, the civil trial and now the parole hearing. To my mind, all three got the right result. Really, criminal trial was a standard beyond a reasonable doubt. He doesn't have to testify. And any time if you knew the criminal courts building back in the '90s and what was happening there and Johnny Cochran kind of in his own, that was the right result when you got a detective who is caught basically committing perjury. Civil trial with a lesser standard where O.J. can be called as an adverse party to testify and I think the jury there got the right result.

And today, I think the parole commissioners got the right result. So I'm not as disappointed in the justice system as a lot of others.

COOPER: Yes.

GERAGOS: And I'm famously one who believes that it's broken in a lot of instances, but I think in this case I think people have to understand what you're dealing with. COOPER: Professor Marshall, one of the parole commissioners addressed the 1995 trial. I just want to play what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN JACKSON, NEVADA BOARD OF PAROLE COMMISSIONERS: I'd like you to know that we receive hundreds of letters of support and opposition. And while we always encourage public input, the majority of the opposition letters are asking us to consider your 1995 acquittal and subsequent civil judgment, however, these items will not be considered in this case. Thank you.

SIMPSON: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That, I get, professor, I mean if he said something in this parole hearing which is demonstrably not true which I led a conflict- free life, is that something a parole commissioner should point out?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: I think it's something the parole commissioner could have pointed out and asked more about what he meant by that because he has a domestic violence offense as well. So, for him to say this is, you know, I think it's contradictory and I think, you know, she was within her right to ask him follow-up questions about that.

COOPER: Which she didn't do.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: She didn't do.

TOOBIN: And in fact, I thought they were unusually frozen, perhaps they were just freaked out by the attention. They didn't ask any follow-up questions. And why one of the parole commissioners felt obligated to wear a Kansas City Chiefs tie an NFL team tie.

COOPER: Yes.

TOOBIN: You know, I know O.J. didn't play for the chiefs but still it's -- there's lot of tie designs out there. I think he should have worn a different tie.

PHILLIPS: You know, everyday, he is obsessed with the tie by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: What if he wore a Buffalo Bills tie we would have a different discussion?

TOOBIN: It would be even more bizarre.

PHILLIPS: You know, you keep bringing up payback, we're having a big conversation about that and Geragos even said, of course, it was about payback and there were time about well, that wouldn't be fair. They didn't go by, you know, they shouldn't -- the judge shouldn't have done that, should just go by the law. But there was really -- there were a number of things that took place in this trial that people thought were not fair. There was a large part of this country and the world thought that it wasn't fair that he walked free when there was so much evidence that he killed two innocent people. And a lot of people still feel that race trumped justice in this case because of Mark Fuhrman, because of the those tapes recordings that were made.

COOPER: Professor, I know --

BROWNE-MARSHALL: OK. In my book, "Race, Law, and American Society: 1607-Present", we talk about 4,000 -- 5,000 black people that murdered in this country. And this one case, this obsession of so much of white America. We have police shootings taking place all the time and we don't see the same level of obsession. I'd like to know when we're talking about race trumping justice, where is all the outrage when race is trumping justice all around America. This is what gets me about this case, and within the black community, within a person who studies and writes about racial history, I don't understand this obsession and maybe that's why there was the split -- and maybe that's why we're still talking about it today.

PHILLIPS: Because it was the first, I mean, that televised trial changed our business. It created --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNE-MARSHALL: OK. I would say --

PHILLIPS: It should have been changed a long time ago.

CEVALLOS: If you could change --

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Yes and so --

CEVALLOS: It never has returned to the same.

PHILLIPS: So it was unique on so many levels which is why people are still obsessed.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: A black man with money paid high class attorneys and got the result that Klaus Von Bulow and many other whites with money had been getting and without money, for centuries and that just disturbs white America so much that they will not let this man rest. I mean I don't think that this one case should be what symbolizes our criminal justice system.

[21:20:16] COOPER: Well, also I think one of the things is, I mean so much interesting about what you say is that I think for so many people, they didn't see this case in contexts of what had come before in Los Angeles with the police department and the criminal justice system in African-Americans in America. And maybe, I think in the African-American community, they did see that context because many have, have people they have been living it. And I think that --

TOOBIN: Well, and one reason I think why last with the effect series in the ESPN documentary, you know, brought back so much attention was because it was in the immediate aftermath of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter. And just a reminder of how poisonous relationship been between African-Americans and the police for so long.

And 20 years later, when Johnnie Cochran took advantage of that relationship, you know, things alas (ph) have not gone a lot better.

COOPER: We got to get a break in. One went quick note here, full special report, "After O.J.: The Fuhrman Tapes Revealed" airs Friday, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We're going to look forward to that.

When we come back, tonight, the latest from the White House where President Trump's spokeswoman had to say today about whether or not firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller is even on the table.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:25:16] COOPER: The Breaking News in the Russian investigation, specifically the president's outside legal team, CNN just learned that it's Spokesman Mark Corallo has resigned. So far, he is yet to comment on his decision. I also want to read you from their reporting from -- this is from the "Washington Post" that we just got, me and our panel are just hearing it for the first time. So, I'm just going to read you the opening of this report. "Some of President Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III Russia investigation. Building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort. Trump has advised his attorneys about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump's lawyers have been discussing the president's pardoning powers among themselves."

The article goes on to say, "Trump's legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller's investigation. "This is not in the context of, I can't wait to pardon myself, a close adviser said."" Goes on to say, "With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump's lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel's work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller's alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump's legal advisers. A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job. The president is also irritated by the notion that Mueller's probe could reach into his and his family's finances, advisers said." The article goes on.

Just a quick note, and the spokesman as being reported in the "Washington Post" and "New York "Times that we have yet and we have yet to independently confirm that details, CNN being reported the "Washington Post" and "New York Times." Now this came at the end of the day that so the White House dealing with blow back with the president's interview with "The New York Times" and his bail threat for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Our Jeff Zeleny is in the White House with those for more.

Jeff, first of all, this red line and also this new idea from the "Washington Post" about the lawyers or President Trump talking about or looking into or trying to explore possible pardon.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's so interesting and it gives you a sense of how much detail and time and attention the president and his team are spending on this, visibly the rest of their agenda. This has in many respects consumed a lot of his schedule, a lot of his time. And they are having these active conversations. We have heard it from speaking with the officials sort of familiar with this as well.

But the red line is so interesting because in the interview last evening, the president was asked, you know, if the family finances, if that's what Robert Mueller started looking into, would that cross a red line? And the president said it would. But the question is, well then, what?

So at the White House briefing today, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked repeatedly, you know, would the president, you know, seek to remove the special prosecutor if that red line was indeed crossed and finances became an issue? And she said, no, he would not. But she said, look, it's supposed to be on Russian meddling. This whole investigation is on that. That would be outside the scope.

But Anderson, you're getting the sense this betting to be "follow the money" type of investigation here and that is obviously worrisome to many inside the president.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, I appreciate that one. Bringing our panel now, Paul Begala, Jason Miller, Bianna Golodryga, Brian Fallon, and Alice Stewart.

First of all, Paul, what do we make this "Washington Post", the idea that Trump has asked his advisor about his power to pardon aids, family members, even himself, but the one advisor, (INAUDIBLE) this is not a context of like, I can't wait to pardon myself.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's again astonishing. It's like they time it every night with your show Anderson. You don't look into pardoning an innocent person, if they've done nothing wrong. We're running out of benign explanations.

COOPER: But couldn't you make the argument, any president or Donald Trump, you know, has no experience to this, would just ask his legal advisers or, you know, if it gets to that and what are my options?

BEGALA: Look, oh by the day, how do I use this nuclear button? Yes. But we'd rather he not. You know, this is not -- I don't think this is just like, you know, how do you work the air conditioning system in the west wing? I think this is a man who is plainly acting like he knows that they're going to find something. He had never has release his taxes, he's never will. He flips out about the slightest question that Mueller might look at his finances. He goes on and on with Maggie Haberman, Peter Baker, Michael Smith about Russia. There's something going on here, pardon me. It looks like the guy is preparing to pardon himself and fire Mr. Mueller.

COOPER: Jason Miller?

[21:24:59] JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's a push back to that, I'd say, the story also very clearly mentioned that the second source said this is only being discussed amongst the lawyers. So, I think we need to tamp it down just a little Paul. But I think that we're getting the way from the broader point here, which is, Anderson, if you're wondering why Trump supporters are so distrustful of the establishment class in Washington it's this story and what we see going on.

Supposedly when the special counsel was announced it was purely about looking into this allegation, that there was foreign middling in our election and some sort of coordination through the campaign in foreign entity.

Now we're here in this news that they're looking into business dealings or business ties or different transactions from seven, eight, 10 years ago, nothing at all to do with the campaign. And so -- but I think it's time for a little bit of critical thinking here.

So, I think a lot of people are looking at this and saying OK, have they gotten to the end of the rainbow, and there is no coordination with the foreign entity. And so now they're looking for something else to try to get him. I think this raises a lot of questions.

COOPER: Joining us by the way on the phone right now is the "Washington Post," Carol Leonnig, who is involved in the reporting on this.

Carol, can you just explain what we read, several paragraphs of the report. But just, what are the main points because it seems like various number of people have talked about possible conversations going on among the legal team of the president and the word pardon.

CAROL LEONNIG, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Yes. So, two things are really going on here, Anderson. One, the president and his various teams of lawyers, remember, there's one on the inside now and there's one on the outside. They're all eyeing the fact that Mueller's investigation is not your average prosecutor checking into one thing. It's a sprawling investigation that could involve a lot of things. And also he is learning that it could involve his own personal finances.

So, each of the teams and lawyers have different perspectives, but many of them are urging him to not be on the defense but a little bit on the offense, looking at the conflicts of interest within the special counsel's office, Mueller -- Bob Mueller's own potential conflicts in handling this investigation. You know, you have read, of course, about members of the team that may have made relatively modest donations to Democratic candidates. You can expect the Trump team talking about that.

So it's an effort to really question the parameters as well of this investigation. You've heard the president say, in fact, to "The New York Times," the other day that, you know, this is inappropriate for him to be, Mueller, to be looking at my businesses.

In addition to that, the president has asked the question, in curiosity at the moment about whether he can pardon his allies, his aides, his family members, and himself, and lawyers on his team are looking at that.

COOPER: The -- It seems like one of the people in the article said this is not in the context of, "I can't wait to pardon myself," according to a close adviser that you quote.

LEONNIG: Yes.

COOPER: So as your understanding, it's -- the president has kind of just looked or raised questions about what are the parameters of pardoning?

LEONNIG: Correct, which is a pretty interesting thing for a president to be asking at this stage in the game and we thought it was newsworthy.

COOPER: Jay Sekulow is also quoted in your article, concerned they're talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago, which is something that we interview the reporter from Bloomberg who reported this today --

LEONNIG: Yes.

COOPER: -- that may be one of the things. They may be looking as far back as a purchase of a property 10 years ago or apartments that were purchased by Russians in the -- in a building that Trump built by the U.N.

LEONNIG: Yes, and I think that there's -- I think of what you can feel coming out of this White House is a tension and an anxiety about how far is this going to go? You may remember, I'm sure your viewers and you do, that Ken Starr's investigation into whether or not the president lied about a sexual relationship with the White House intern started with looking at some real estate --

COOPER: -- water.

LEONNIG: -- in a rural part of Arkansas that no one had ever heard of. And certainly, this team is mindful, that I've heard them discussing this like where are we going from here? Are we going to look at every condo in the unit as the president has remarked, that may have been purchased by somebody who was Russian? Are we going to look at the prices of all of those thing, were they fair market prices? Are we going to look at every bank transaction that involved a Russian bank or Russian oligarch in his funds to a German bank? I think that there's anxiety intention and that's part of what's going on here.

COOPER: Yes. In fact, in your article you quote one lawyer involving the case and saying, this is Ken Starr times a thousand.

LEONNIG: Yes, indeed, and we'll see if that bears true. But certainly --

[21:35:01] COOPER: That is what they want people to feel.

LEONNIG: It could -- times a thousand may be over-stating it, but remember this is a president who as a business person has acclaimed to be engaged in billions of dollars in deals. He's had five, four, or five different casinos in Atlantic City. He's been a major force in New York Real Estate, having all of those financial transactions scrutinized. I think that will be an interesting thing if that's what happens.

COOPER: All righ,t Carol Leonnig. I appreciate your reporting, thanks very much for being in with us. We're going to pick up the conversation with panel after quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Back now, talk with the panel talking about a late breaking news that we just got from the "Washington Post" and also by "The New York Times," about ways that the Trump team is exploring to try to undercut Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. As well, as looking to the president's power to pardon. Back with the panel, joined as well by a busy -- Jeff Toobin. Jeff, from a legal standpoint, what can the president do about pardons?

TOOBIN: He can pardon anybody he wants. One of the open legal questions that's never been resolved is whether he can pardon himself. But I got to say some of this I think maybe not so terrible and not, you know, and people -- and he gets -- there's a tendency to hyperventilate about this.

You know, when I covered the Starr investigation. I wrote a lot about the backgrounds of some of these prosecutors. Hickman Ewing and Jackie Bennett, Paul Begala will remember this people. They were politically conservative people who got involved working in this case. I thought it was appropriate, I thought it was interesting. If Trump supporters want to write that there are abundant Democrats on Robert Mueller's staff, I think that's fair game. This is, you know, this high stakes stuff. People's backgrounds are relevant. I don't think there's anything sinister inappropriate about that.

BIANNA COLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS AND FINANCE ANCHOR: I don't know, I think the timing in all. This is a bit curious both this "Washington Post" story and obviously "The New York Times" bombshell last night too, because remember what we've got next week we may or may not have testimony from Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, their interest are not necessarily aligned. And I think this could be an administration that's a bit worried about what they could be hearing if they do agree to testify. You hear the president talking about red line last night, there have been warning signs as --

[21:40:12] COOPER: Well, in fairness, and he was asked by "The New York Times," they used the term "red line", he -- I mean he agreed to it. But it wasn't like he that just came out and said --

GOLODRYGA: He said I'm not going to talk about red lines but he said anything that's not related to my business, and therein lies the issue. Because a lot of this Russia deal does go back to his business interests, his sons had boasted about it, in fact talked about the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had just last year that involved Russian businessmen that had apparently some inside scoop on Hillary Clinton. So it does go back to Russia, whether or not the president wants to acknowledge it or not.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think one thing that important to keep in mind is that the White House today was adamant and Jason alluded to it as well that the investigation is on Russian meddling. That's true, but you also have to go back and look at the original DOJ directive to Mueller back in May. It was a broad mandate. It was extremely broad and it said to look at any links and or coordination between the Russian government and the campaign. That is very broad. And often times in the states as, you know, you follow the money. And when we see linked between -- we've seen talk of SoHo Development, Palm Peach, and Ms. Universe moving to Moscow in 2013. These are all ties that need to be investigated. And I think, if they had nothing to hide which I certainly hope there is no there, there, and I think that's -- hopefully will be he case. They should open the doors wide open and he talks about pardons, I think a little premature, but open it all up, get it all out there and let's get it behind us.

COOPER: You could make the argument if there are longstanding ties between Donald Trump and Russian banks or, you know, whomever it is in Russia that may have been kind of the preamble to anything that happened later, I assume Democrats --

BRIAN FALLON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Think of what he is investigating, he's investigating this Russian meddling. And you have to ask yourself, what incentive would Russia have had to want to weight in to U.S. election in an unprecedented fashion to this extent on behalf of Donald Trump. What leverage does Russia think it has on Donald Trump that it went to such lengths to get elected? And so, of course, it's absolutely relevant to Bob Mueller, it's squarely in his purview to go back and look at this pattern of real estate sales where you have properties in Palm Beach they are selling for double their market value as a potential activity with respect to money laundering.

You have to go back and look at that because it may very well explain the motive here on behalf of the Russians, it may well establish a connection that would be entirely relevant to a collusion investigation.

I want to have one point about Mark Corallo, he was the spokesman until today, I guess, for the Trump legal team. Prior to that, a few years back he had the same job I had at the Justice Department, and I overlapped with many career officials that worked with him in the -- that were still there when I was in the Obama Justice Department. They all spoke tremendously highly of him. This was someone that was viewed as having a great amount of personal integrity and independence. I think it's perhaps very meaningful. Don't know directly but I suspect it might actually mean something that he's stepping back from this today.

MILLER: But I think Anderson, I mean, the whole -- when you look back at the headlines from when Mueller was announced, let's look at the ABC headline, Robert Mueller, appointed special counsel to oversee the probe into Russia's interference in 2016 election. You look at the lead for "The New York Times", Justice Department appoint to Robert Mueller, former FBI director special counsel to oversee the investigation and some ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian officials. This was clearly about trying to look to look to see if there is some sort of coordination --

COOPER: Right, but Alice is right, I mean, the headline, obviously headline doesn't include the entire purview, it's actually the next sentence in, you know, the directive to Mueller actually is very broad -- I don't, like --

MILLER: But I have it in front of me.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: -- any matter.

BEGALA: -- from nine years, previous.

MILLER: Any matter.

BEGALA: It has nothing to do with the campaign.

FALLON: If the Trump's -- Donald Trump Jr. himself said in 2008, you have -- we see a lot of money coming in from Russia. It may very well explain how they had the contacts such that Don Jr. was so easily able to set up these meetings, it may explain the (INAUDIBLE) to how they were able to -- so directly coordinate during June of 2016. It's absolutely relevant.

MILLER: So if they had all of these ties, why would they need to go and find this, like, 400 pound-like ex-music producer guy to go and try to make some introductions?

FALLON: I think of how they knew the ex-music producer --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: That's where the lawyer for the Russians initially said early on in the week, but then we learned -- actually they didn't really need it because actually there are connections between the Trumps and this family. And the family had a representative in this actual meeting. So the lawyer early on was portraying this as, this Russian attorney just used the pop star as -- because she was an acquaintance of his, turns out they'd actually, it's -- they're actually more involved in the -- the fact they sent a representative into this meeting, do you not find that curious?

[21:44:59] BEGALA: All roads lead to Russia --

MILLER: - solution in search of the problem.

BEGALA: Why is Donald Trump, our president, more loyal to Vladimir Putin than to Jeff Sessions, the politician who has been most loyal to him? Even Jeff Sessions, he is throwing under the bus when the heat comes up for --

COOPER: When you read the purview for --

BEGALA: The purview includes, "Any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation," now directly is important. We can't go fishing, we can't go like --

MILLER: We don't want him to go in deep sea fishing right now.

BEGALA: I don't think so.

GOLODRYGA: But the administration --

BEGALA: I think this is coming right the -- you know, my old mentor (INAUDIBLE) always told me. I hate all colors, OK, the reason Trump is reacting is because there are there, there is something about Russia with this man that sets him off.

FALLON: Or he simply making the point because no one else is going to?

STEWART: I think, another few words to right after Paul just said, matters that arose or may arise, I think the "or may arise" is going to be issue here because, I pray there is nothing here. I pray we can put this is our rear view mirror.

The problem is, history has changed so many times and that's what's going to get them moving forward if they change or the story changes, while, they're under oath, that's what got Bill Clinton and what potentially what could happen here. So the "or may arise" I think maybe the --

COOPER: We got take a quick, we got a take quick break. We're going to hear from somebody who's very extensively about the inner workings of the Trump campaign and get his reaction on the breaking news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're talking about late report in the "Washington Post" also in "The New York Times" about moves in the Trump legal team efforts to undercut Special Counsel Mueller, according to "Washing Post." I want to get reaction from somebody who is really extensively about the Trump campaign and Steve Bannon. Joining us now with Josh Green, author of the brand new book, "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon and Donald Trump and the Storming of the President".

Josh, first of all, what are your thoughts on the "Washington Post" reports and I bet among the Trump legal team there's been -- they're looking into, you know, just the legalities of a pardons and how it works and that the president according to one source has asked about that as well.

JOSHUA GREEN, AUTHOR, "DEVIL'S BARGAIN": Well, this has been a big fear of some people in the White House all along is that Trump would lose his temper and lash out at Bob Mueller. And that hasn't quite happened but it sounds like we're seeing some early rumblings.

I think it's a blow also to this outside legal entity that the White House set up, Steve Bannon, in fact, was set back from the president's foreign trip to Saudi Arabia back in May to kind of set up an outside operation of lawyers in a professional spokesman with experience in justice matter, Mark Corallo, who we just found out has resign tonight The idea was that if we could hide -- if the White House could hide off the Russia investigation and Mueller into an outside entity, it would free up the daily briefings and it wouldn't dominate the news in quite the way it has.

[21:50:25] So the fact that there's been reported tension between lawyers in the Trump outside legal team and now Corallo, himself, who has a lot of experience working in the Justice Department, the fact that he is resigned I think shows that the plan is beginning to splinter. And it's not really clear what's going to happens next.

COOPER: Well, it's also hard to keep it separate when the president himself gives, you know, a long interview with "The New York Times" yesterday going into details about it, and going after Mueller.

Attorney General Sessions, who he also, obviously, you know, seemed very upset about, was the first member of Congress to endorse then- candidate Trump, ended up being a big player for his campaign. You wrote about how Sessions knew there were big risks in doing so. What were his concerns initially?

GREEN: Well, there were. And Sessions really was a pivotal force in the rise of Donald Trump's presidential campaign because as he said, although Trump had won victories in New Hampshire primaries, he just won in the South Carolina primaries. At the time Sessions endorsed him at the end of February, he did not yet have the endorsement of any elected Republican at the federal level. So this was a big deal and it happened on the eve of a series of southern primaries. Most of which Trump wound up winning.

I tell the story in the book about how, once again, Steve Bannon spent months brokering this alliance behind the scenes. Bannon wasn't a member of the Trump campaign at the time. He was the publisher of Breitbart News, the right wing website. But he knew Sessions. He cared a lot about these issues. And he knew that Sessions was sort of the original Trumpian populist in the Senate before Trump ever came on the scene. And he knew it would be important to get that kind of endorsement, that kind of mainstream affirmation for Trump if he were going to go ahead and get the nomination.

And so, I lay out the scene of how Sessions essentially got cold feet at the last moment and sat in a rental car while Steve Bannon talked him off the cliff on his cell phone, and then lo and behold, he has a private meeting with Trump on his plane. And the next day makes a surprise appearance at a Trump rally and endorses Trump by putting a make America great again hat. So, this is big betrayal of somebody who's very important to Donald Trump.

COOPER: Were you surprised to hear the president's comments yesterday to "The New York Times"?

GREEN: I was. Yes. I mean, it had been clear for quite a while that Trump was unhappy about Sessions' recusal. But Sessions is a very loyal cabinet member, and he's instrumental to Trump implementing his agenda because he is the top law enforcement official in the land.

And so the things that Trump cares most about cracking down on immigration, criminal justice reform, policing and matters like that, and a lot of these executive orders all trace back to the attorney general, to Jeff Sessions.

COOPER: Yes.

GREEN: And so, right now, he has a loyal ally in that spot, but if he fire Sessions or if Sessions feels offended and resigns, Trump is going to have a real problem filling that role.

COOPER: Josh Green, again, the book is "Devil's Bargains". It's fascinating. Thanks for being with us.

I want to bring back in the panel. I mean, Jason, obviously, is a supporter and defender of the president. Do you wish he did not give that interview to "The Times" yesterday in which, you know, this is, you know, buy American weak or make American weak? And, obviously, to refocus things on, you know, going after Mueller and saying what he said about Sessions. It doesn't make, you know, people pay attention to what the White House wants them to pay attention to.

MILLER: I thought that the president's comments regarding Director Mueller I think were going to come at a certain point in advance of next week, whether they were in yesterday particularly or they're going to happen, say, tomorrow, for example.

COOPER: Right. Because he wanted to somehow -- why would --

MILLER: I think it was important to get that message out there as we're seeing this as we talked about in the previous segment, this mission creep (ph) as we see this moving away from this alleged coordination into business deals and such that don't seem to have anything to do with the campaign. But with going back to --

COOPER: So you think it's intentional that he made those comments about Mueller prior to the testimony of his son and of Manafort?

MILLER: Or as part of the new cycles that are coming up, I don't know the exact thinking. Obviously, I wasn't chatting with the president about that issue. But I think with regarding to General Sessions, I mean, look, I think the president is right in his issue about the recusal. But I wish he hadn't brought that up. One of the things that the president stepped on yesterday was an absolute mastery of getting the Senate reengaged on the health care issue. And back when the Senate -- when the health care bill was going through the House everyone said that it was dead. And the president got engaged and he's the one who got it across the finish line. He got engaged in that same way yesterday, both in style and in substance, really engaging the senators to do that.

[21:55:04] I think the timing in a -- wish he would have put it off by another day or two. That would have been my request.

BEGALA: And meanwhile, Brian Fallon or both Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, used the Sessions betrayal to lobby and to gig his colleagues on health care. He tweeted this out this morning, two words to Senate GOP. When Donald Trump says I'll have your back, when you vote to repeal health care, Jeff Sessions.

Great shot because he's telling them, and they know it. You, believe me, if you're in a foxhole with Donald Trump, write a will.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the president also threw Republican senators under the bus in "The New York Times" interview. I mean, they have a lunch about health care. And in the interview the president turns to Russia and said, oh, I talked to a bunch of these senators who all said that they too would have taken a meeting with these Russians had they gotten the e-mail that my son did.

So, now, they're in this situation where they're put in an uncomfortable situation, the president saying that they would do something that we all know most of them would have never done.

TOOBIN: Don't we have to have some humility about, you know, saying at this table as we said all through 2016, oh, Donald Trump said such a dumb thing, and, you know, he insulted John McCain, he insulted Megyn Kelly. It's going to be terrible for him and it never was. And so I just think, you know --

GOLODRYGA: Until it is.

TOOBIN: -- he may know something we don't know. About --

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Yes.

FALLON: But now, he's got to worry about an audience on Capitol Hill. I agree with you pointing the campaign, Jeffrey, because it was clearly as we saw all the way up to November 8, there was -- his base was loyal to him until the very end and they're remaining so even now, to a certain extent. Grant him that.

But he's got a constituency that he can't afford to offend on Capitol Hill. The example today, Chuck Grassley is going out there giving interviews to Manu Raju in the hallway saying he's going to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort if they don't voluntarily agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And send the marshal.

FALLON: This is a level of -- this is up in the antic from Congressional Republicans that we wouldn't have expected three or four months ago. And you can't disaggregate it from these comments that he makes against Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions was a colleague of theirs. They're loyal to him. They're offended by what he said about --

STEWART: And I applaud him for engaging senators yesterday on health care. I think that's smart because not only did they campaign on repealing and replacing Obamacare, he did too. So, all of them have a vested interest in making sure that they follow through.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. Up next, John McCain weighs in on John McCain. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before we go tonight, a word about Senator John McCain.

Last night, on this program, we reported the terrible news that he'd just been diagnosed with brain cancer. And almost immediately, of course, appropriately, the tributes and good wishes poured in. One person we didn't hear from last night was the senator himself. And that changed today in a tweet he wrote, "I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support, unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon. So stand by."

Senator McCain, we cannot wait for that. Thanks very much. Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump's lawyers reportedly seeking to undercut Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon.

The Washington Post is reporting the president is asking whether he can pardon aides, family, even himself. That comes as he doubles down on his warning to Mueller that looking into his family's finances would be a fireable offense. White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying Trump's warning made clear Mueller, "should not move outside the scope of the investigation."