Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued In Russia Probe; Phone Transcripts Reveal Trump Scolding Allies; Trump under Fire For Calling New Hampshire A 'Drug-Infested Den". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 21:00   ET

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


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: -- tower of June of last year. This is according to a person that I spoke with today familiar with the matter. And the subpoenas seek both documents and testimony from people involved in the meeting, as we know, as we saw in that bracket. There were eight people in that meeting. It's unclear exactly who special counsel wants to testify.

[21:00:18] But given the wide range of the investigation, it's expected that special counsel subpoenas will be or have been issued pertaining to other parts of this investigation just beyond that meeting.

But, Anderson, this development does tell us that Mueller takes the Trump Tower meeting seriously and he's doing things by the book making sure a Grand jury signs off on any records request and any testimony.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And was the Grand jury just recently impaneled? Do we know the timeline?

BROWN: I was told, well, we no know it was impaneled in D.C. after the -- the special counsel was appointed which was in last May. So it would have been the last couple of months. The subpoenas relate into that meeting at Trump Tower were issued just in the last couple of weeks and it shows that the special counsel probe began in May is entering really a new phase of the investigation. As we've reported, Anderson, previously, before the special counsel probe subpoenas have an issued an other aspects of this investigation such as business associates of Michael Flynn, former national security adviser.

At that time, investigators were using a Grand jury in northern Virginia but now everything is coming out of D.C. and that's where the special counsel's office is.

COOPER: And, that's closer to where -- yes, as you said, to where Mueller's office is. What's the reaction tonight from the White House?

BROWN: So the president's lawyer, Ty Cobb, reacted to this. And this is what he told reporters he said, "Grand jury matters are typically secret. The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. The White House is committed to cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Former FBI Director Jim Comey said three times the President is not under investigation and we have no reason to believe that has changed."

And Anderson, one way how source says that the legal team is, "highly content," about this development, which this source says is not causing any anxiety within the president's legal team. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Pamela Brown good reporting, thank you. With me now is Bianna Golodryga, Matt Lewis, Paul Begala, Alice Stewart, and Gloria Browne-Marshall.

Gloria, just from a legal standpoint, the formation of a Grand jury, it allows them to do subpoenas but it doesn't necessarily mean that they know that there is wrongdoing.

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: They are trying to find out if there's been wrongdoing. I mean, there are millions of dollars of resources at hand. So it's not as if they don't believe there is anything going on here. But they have to get to the actual evidence. That means they have a chance to call witnesses, to subpoena documents and to make sure that people are testifying and when they're testifying, they are not testifying with the lawyers in the room. They can go out in the hallway, talk to a lawyer and come back in but the lawyer is not in the room. It's not the testimony. It's whether or not they lie under oath. This is how people have gotten trapped before. It's perjury. It's obstruction of justice, intimidation of witnesses. All the things that the special counsel has authority to investigate.

COOPER: Alice, I mean, as a supporter of the president, does it concern you -- to you, does it seem like a bad sign?

ALICE STEWART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CRUZ CAMPAIGN: I think this is what everyone expected would happen. This is a natural course of events. And I was encouraged by the president's attorney saying we'll fully cooperate, we will help in any way we can, which I think is a far cry and a welcome direction from calling this a witch-hunt. But I think it is important to fully cooperate, put all of the information out there because more than anything we need to put this behind us. And I think the president has always had it in his mind any questions about Russia, Russia collusion, questions whether or not he won or not and that's certainly not the case but it's important as they are doing now, fully cooperating and this is an important step. This isn't, as you indicated, not an evidence of wrongdoing, but it's a part of the investigative process in order to get to the bottom of it.

COOPER: So what does this do in a White House when there's this kind of an investigation and a Grand jury? I mean --

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not crippling but close to it. And by the way, when this happened in the Clinton administration, we were in our second term. We knew what we were doing. We had a really tight team. There had been factions earlier in the Clinton's presidency. At this point there were none. We really got along. It was very tight and thank God. This team is brand new, which my heart goes out to them, it's a hard job to learn, and (INAUDIBLE) with factionalism. And on top of that, some of them are going to be hauled into this Grand jury. I mean --

COOPER: And nobody knows who is being hauled in or, of course, what they are saying, right?

BEGALA: Certainly don't know what they're saying. They're likely to know who. But they have real exposure in a way that we didn't in the Clinton White House. I didn't fool around with any of the interns, OK, I was like ever going to get me, but it still stressed me out, right? And this could impact the whole like -- those -- whatever young, talented aides helped craft the statement that later proved to be misleading about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting.

COOPER: Which now the White House now admits the president they say weight-in, and the "Washington Post" said dictated.

BEGALA: And the president is a big boy. He could take care of himself. But those young people are going to get dragged in. They're going to have legal bills. They're not going to be able to talk to each about what they said in the Grand jury, lest as Gloria pointed out, they be accused of either witness tampering or witness --

[21:05:08] COOPER: And they have to pay their own legal fees? This is not --

BEGALA: They do. And I have friends with hundreds of thousands of dollars. I'm with Alice. I like to hear the president's lawyer, Mr. Cobb, saying we're going to cooperate and it's an expected sign and maybe it's hopefully to get it wrapped up quickly. I don't like hearing other Trump surrogates saying, this is not a big deal or I think they are laying the predicate to fire Mr. Mueller. If he was -- well, I was talking to Jason Miller in your earlier hour. He was saying they're leaking illegally, which is not true, and that they're violating the scope of their investigation by looking at financial things, which also not true.

I think they're laying -- either they are going to go with Mr. Cobb who is saying they are going to cooperate or they're going to with others who are saying, I think laying the predicate to fire Mueller.

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: There were leaks just not in this story, the big leaks from the other story today about President Trump's private conversations with. And that's problematic and they'll try to conflate this. But I think it's part of the, you know, this week, the stock market hit a record.

COOPER: 22,000.

LEWIS: Tonight, the governor of West Virginia switching from a Democrat to a Republican. You've got a new chief of staff. So you've got a lot of good things happening if you're Donald Trump and if you're watching another network, may be that's all that you're hearing, probably that is. But on the other hand, you've got all of these other major problems. It's not a leak. It's a sive (ph). And you've got the fact that the government has unlimited resources, unlimited time. And somebody is going to go down, I think.

COOPER: Yes, and Bianna, there's no telling where this goes to.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS AND FINANCE ANCHOR:Right.

COOPER: -- Clinton starts off with Whitewater and ends up with, you know, the Lewinsky.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And his attorney can say all the right things until he's blue in the face. Ultimately, it's the president who is out there in West Virginia tonight, once again, calling this a witch hunt, saying it is fake news, saying that they should have been focusing on Hillary Clinton's e-mails and this continues to fester for the president. This is his constant go-to excuse. He has vilified and gone after Republicans in his own party, everyone else, the media, except for Vladimir Putin and look at where it's gotten him. He can't learn his lesson.

All that he has to do initially was say, yes, I agree with my intelligence agencies and we're going to make sure Russia doesn't do this again and we may not be in this situation. We may be talking instead about the stock market and infrastructure and instead the president seems to be shooting himself in the foot every day.

STEWART: And Anderson, I was in Little Rock (ph), as a journalist covering Whitewater when all of this was going on. So I see some similarities and the poll is going to come -- but if you also have to -- yes, that started off as a land deal investigation and led to Monica Lewinsky, but also going back to that time, if you recall, the Clintons and the Democrats really attacked Ken Starr and the way he handled it and called it a vast right-wing conspiracy. And we're seeing some signs of that with regard to this administration, just crediting Mueller and way the -- engagements are going. But I do think it is important take more of the Cobb approach to this and let's fully comply and let them do their job.

BEGALA: But there is a big difference. I need to defend myself and my colleagues. When Whitewater first had a special counsel, the counsel was appointed just like Mr. Mueller by the attorney general and it was a guy named Robert Fisk, a career prosecutor out of New York, a registered Republican but a career prosecutor. We never criticized Mr. Fisk, ever, and cooperated fully. He was pursing this and then a three-judge panel led by a guy named David Sentelle, sort of Jesse Helms protege, fired Mr. Fisk. We didn't. These Republican judges did. And then put in Ken Starr in there, a man who had never prosecuted a case in his life. And we still were silent. Carver wanted to attack him. Clinton told him not to. We didn't start attacking Starr until it became obvious that he was obsessed with Bill Clinton's sex life, and that was, I think, was special. If Mueller starts digging into Trump's sex life, too creepy to think about, I'll be the first to attack Mr. Mueller.

COOPER: But, Gloria, going back to just how a Grand jury works, would they -- I mean, I talked to Jeff Toobin in the last hour who said, they probably already have and they wouold want to have a certain amount of documents -- documentation before they actually interview, before they haul people in front of the Grand jury because they don't want to -- it's not like in front of the Senate where they're just asking random questions. They want evidence that they can specifically tailor their questions.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Yes, but they also want to substantiate what they already have. So they could call people in as witnesses. They can call people in as targets. We don't know which one you're going to be --

COOPER: They don't tell you?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: They basically don't tell you but you have an idea. You know, if they're calling in the brother-in-law, you pretty much know that's a target. But here's the issue at hand. Is once they get into that room and they start to testify, there's going to be a thread and if you go back even to Vince Foster and the suicide, there was a thread that they were investigating in the Clinton years, the suicide, which then leads a thread into whitewater and leads a thread into -- you know better than I do. But each time someone testify, there was a thread leading to another bigger part of the investigation and when you look at what Bob Mueller is able to do and it says and matters, it all matters. You know, that stem from this investigation. So despite what Donald Trump is saying, there is no red line that says that Bob Mueller has to stop at any particular place.

[21:10:14] COOPER: Right, his attorney is saying that they're basically exceeding their mandate. You're saying the mandate is actually pretty broad.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: It's pretty broad and it was pretty broad as the Nixon years. It was pretty broad in the Clinton years. It's very broad. And once they start to see something -- especially a prosecutor. Now here we have an assistant attorney general as well as the former head of the FBI looking at this, the antenna come up and there you go, OK, wait a minute, I just heard this person testify about this. I'm going to further and broaden my investigation, follow the money wherever it leads me and you don't know where this money may lead.

COOPER: Now that gets us to our next segment.

We got to take a quick break. More breaking news, CNN has learned the Mueller investigation is crossing the president's so-called red line following the Trump money trail for potential ties to Russia that may have exist along before the election. It had nothing to do with the election.

Also tonight, the leaked transcripts of the president's phone calls that Matt talked about with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. He claimed one of the calls was not contentious called it fake news, go attack the "Washington Post" for reporting it. Now we know for sure that's not true. We're keeping them honest ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation. CNN has learned how Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are on the money trail reviewing financial records tied to the president, the Trump organization and his family, according sources familiar with the investigation. Pam Brown is one of the CNN reporters who broke the story. She joins us again. So what did you learned?

[21:15:05] BROWN: Well, we've learned several things, Anderson. That the probe, the special counsel probe has expanded to look at President Trump's finances as well as the finances of his family members, his son, Don Jr., and even the Trump organization.

As you know, Anderson, this all started off as a look into whether there was collusion with the Russians and that probe has now expanded a year in to really focus on financial -- the financial avenue. As sources have told us, prosecutors and investigators look at that to be one of the most fertile avenues to go down if there is going to be prosecution and two of the main targets here are Paul Manafort, he was the former campaign chairman, of course, and as well as Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser. Anderson.

COOPER: You know, this was something that President Trump in an interview with "The New York Times" and said this was sort red line in answer to a question of theirs about, you know, their -- his kind of past financial records. What's the White House response been to this?

BROWN: Well, the White House response has been very stern. In fact, I spoke to Jay Sekulow, the attorney for the president who says that this is basically outside the scope of what they believe outside of what Mueller should be doing. He said, "President's outside counsel has not received any request for documentation or information about this," in terms of financial -- asking for financial records. He went on to say, "Any inquiry from the special counsel that goes beyond the mandate specified in the appointment we would object to." So making it clear their and echoing what we heard from the president that, in their view, this does cross the red line.

I should point out, too, that any lead that comes into the Department of Justice that has to do with any of Trump associates, including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, is directed to the special counsel probe. So even if it has nothing to do with Russia or the 2016 election, it will go to Robert Mueller and there's a couple reasons for that. Obviously, they want to investigate every lead they can but also it could be used as a tool to gain leverage in order to encourage cooperation among some of the subjects, Anderson.

COOPER: Pamela Brown, thanks very much. Actually stay with us. I'm just going to bring back the panel. Back in also join the conversation is Trump biographer, Timothy O'Brien.

Timothy, I mean, you looked into Donald Trump's finances for years intimately, you got sued for it by him. There's an irony here that this is sort of the one realm or this is a major realm that he has always refused to discuss, refused to go into and to refuse to his tax returns and this now seems to be an avenue that the investigators are looking into.

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION: THE ARE OF BEING THE DONALD": Yes. You know, I think the president can talk about red lines and witch hunts but Mueller is, well, within his rights to probe these issues. It goes to the heart, I think, of any quid pro quos that existed between the Trump organization and the Kremlin, the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, the Trump White House and the Kremlin. These are issues that have to get explored.

And I think the reason he's so focused on this on almost a daily basis for months now is because he's concerned about what he might expose. He's got past relationships in his business relationship with the Trump organization and relationships that I think came to the floor (ph) during the election that are very problematic for him.

COOPER: So to those -- I mean, the Trump supporters will say, look, this goes beyond the scope of what, you know, why is Mueller looking at, you know, financial transactions that may have occurred long before Donald Trump was even a candidate.

LEWIS: I think, look, if there are some sort of a quid pro quo with Russia, then obviously that is relevant. But, it's probably just as likely that you might stumble across some sort of financial irregularities that have nothing to do with Russia and then what do you do? I tell you, I think the American public, and not just Trump supporters but a lot of people, it would start to feel like the deep state. Like the game is red. Like this is somebody trying to overturn the election. So, you know, that's where I think it gets kind of messy.

BEGALA: But what should they do? First off, it's within the scope. The scope is broad. And that was set by the Trump Justice Department by a man Trump picked to be the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. He set the perimeters of this investigation. So in a sense --

LEWIS: Right. But remember with Bill Clinton, the public stuck with Bill Clinton. And they liked them --

BEGALA: Yes. And they're not sticking with Mr. Trump and that's a really interesting and important problem because part of this for him is political, should it ever get to impeachment, that's a political --

COOPER: But if prosecutors do stumble across some financial -- we don't know if there is, but some financial irregularity that has nothing to do with Russia or even with the election, would they pursue it, I mean, from a legal standpoint? Gloria, would they?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, it really depends on what it is. What happened with the Nixon years is that as they were investigating Nixon, they found all of these other irregularities and of course, obstruct justice, conspiracy. Obstruct justice is what was actually the charge. But the executive privilege issue was the issue that stopped them cold. So this issue of whether or not they could go after a sitting president for any other criminal reason was never decided. It was stuck in advance because they already had what they wanted which was the tape, you know.

[21:20:07] BEGALA: Here's what's likely to happen. The special council, let's say he comes across information that Trump was complicit in the Kennedy assassination, (INAUDIBLE) that was Ted Cruz' spot (ph), right? Something, I'm trying to pick something crazy, but that don't want to (INAUDIBLE) the guy, OK?

The special counsel knows this is outside of his mandate so he goes to the deputy attorney general and says, "You need to put the U.S. attorney your justice department on this Kennedy assassination problem." The deputy attorney general can then expand to include the JFK -- expand the Mueller probe to include the JFK assassination or he can turn it over to a U.S. attorney or DOJ. You can't just ignore a crime if you're a federal law enforcement officer.

COOPER: And I just want to reiterate for anyone about to joined mid- sentence, you were not in the -- you're using that as a ridiculous --

BEGALA: As a ridiculous, absurd --

BROWNE-MARSHALL: -- indict a sitting president for whatever it may be. That is the issue that is still open because it wasn't decided in the Nixon years. So, that is the major issues. So, whether or not they find the smoking gun with anything, whatever it may be, can we indict a sitting president? So far, that's unanswered. The Supreme Court hasn't gone that far.

STEWART: I think it's important, and we've all agree on this point, the mandate is broad and it deals with all matters that arose or may arise and I think as the more the story changes, Jay Sekulow says, it didn't help with drafting the statement and the way the story changes. That just gives another stone for Mueller to overturn and the question is, will they get their hands on those income tax returns? That will be a big -- that will tell a lot.

O'BRIEN: I'm sure he already his hands on being compassionate to --

STEWART: But I do want to say this, I think you say the public against Donald Trump. His base is standing firm. The rally tonight, --

BEGALA: Right.

STEWART: -- he brought up this topic. Russia did not elect me. You people -- my voters and my team does. His base is standing firm and they are standing behind him.

BEGALA: Yes, but that's not the public. That's about a quarter of the public. And they're wonderful people and we love them, but they're not analytically as interesting because they're not going to determine the president's ultimate success or failure.

GOLODRYGA: And it's not the legal system as well. The reason why Russia is of interest is because there's a real gray area between the private and public sector in Russia. You have billionaires in Russia that are constantly and forever tied to the Russian government. It's the Agalarovs are too. So, this isn't just your typical billionaire from any other country that comes in and maybe have some shady dealings with Donald Trump. This as we know now, from the paper trail, connects to the Russian government.

COOPER: It is interesting that he continues to, you know, go today he went after Congress, not Russia, for the low in what he characterizes, you know, the lowest Russian relations and I think he said in around years. I can't remember the time frame.

STEWART: Yes. One of his tweets today was that the GOP Congress is why the relations are bad when in fact we have bad relations with Russia because they interfere with our election and possibly --

GOLODRYGA: Which is exactly what Russia is trying to seize upon. They are not bad place and they're trying to make the best of it. And what they are doing right now is trying to do distance this president from Congress and try to drive a wedge and chaos between not only the president and Democrats but now we know the president and people within his own party.

COOPER: And Pamela, the president may not like that Mueller is digging into his finances but there's not much, I mean, he can do about it short of a size, make a reshuffling in the Justice Department.

BROWN: Right. So basically, he could ask Rod Rosenstein the deputy attorney general, to fire Robert Mueller which is bottom line will not happen unless there is cause. Unless Rod Rosenstein is trying things that there is a good reason he's come out, he sets on the Capitol Jill saying he sees no reason to fire the man that he's appointed to take on this role as special counsel.

And I've been told by people in the Department of Justice and elsewhere in the legal community here in Washington that if the president asks Rod Rosenstein to do so then he just simply wouldn't and would likely leave the department.

And so, of course there could be some moving parts. Who knows, we know the president has been threatening the attorney general. So, you know, barring a seismic shift, as you said, it's likely that Rod Rosenstein will not be firing Robert Mueller anytime soon, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, everybody we're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, what President Trump said tonight about the Russia investigation, how the West Virginia crowd reacted. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:28:00] COOPER: Tonight, President Trump spoke at a rally in West Virginia where he went on a long rift about the Russia influence in the election the lack of it, and the investigation to potential collusion with his campaign. Here's part of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians? They can't beat us at the voting booths, so they're trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They're trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Back now with the panel, you know, you were saying, Gloria, before that -- that people don't know -- necessarily know if they are the target of the Grand jury. The president's attorney said, we have no reason to believe that the president is being investigated and they pointed to the fact that Comey had told the president three times that he wasn't targeting the investigation. It's possible that has changed in the subsequent weeks and months. Is it possible that the president would actually be called to testify whether or not he was a target in a Grand jury?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, the president could be called to testify. I mean, Bill Clinton was called to testify. And but what we also have to understand is, this is going to go on for years and it can, the possibility that can go on for years. So he might not be -- Trump might not be the target now but we don't know who's going to testify about what.

But also, conspiracy to obstruct justice, conspiracy in regards to witness intimidation. So that could come further down the line when other people are called to testify and maybe Donald Trump, you know, tells them not to or threatens them in some way or somebody around him. I mean, it could go in many different directions.

COOPER: It is interesting, with just the cast of characters that the president has had around him who are no longer there and sort of the competing, you know, motives and the fact that many times the thing the White House has said or the president has said does not hold up to the light of day when it's actually leaked and then reported and then up to amend their statement.

[21:30:17] BEGALA: And when you go to a Grand jury that matters. It matters when it said to American people but it matters more at a Grand jury. That is a sacred place and you cannot lie or mislead there.

And I think the president is so telling, we always know what's on his mind. He again tonight, is pretending that Russia didn't play a role in the election. It doesn't mean that he did but Russia did and his own intelligence agencies say that. And, again tonight, he's casting doubt on that. It's a huge problem.

GOLODRYGA: It's as if he's watching R.T. before he goes out because this message is the exact thing the Russian T.V. That's exactly what's being played out in Russia that there's russophobia going on in the States when he said there any Russians in West Virginia. We know what he's talking about. His campaign is behind meeting Russians.

COOPER: You've actually -- correct me if I'm wrong, in the lawsuit you had with Donald Trump, he actually -- your side deposed him.

O'BRIEN: Right. We deposed him for two days.

COOPER: And can you say how he did under --

O'BRIEN: He did horribly. It's a public document. Actually, the "Washington Post" did a front page story about the deposition. I think the headline was at that time that, Donald Trump acknowledged lying 32 times in two days.

COOPER: Under oath he acknowledged --

O'BRIEN: Under oath he had to, because we had his tax returns, with his bank records, we had business records, we asked him about everything from his net worth to the resale value of his apartments and on and on and on, speaking fees. He lied about everything.

And it was really funny at one point we asked him how he calculated the value of his golf courses because he didn't have any sort of records in front of him. He said, mental projections. That's the term he used.

And I sort of think his life has been a series of mental projections. It's one of the reasons he's a survivor. He creates his own realities. And I think you've seen the speech in Virginia, he's very scared of the Russia investigation. It preoccupies him. And so, he's using another public appearance to cast doubt on it. And he's creating this other reality around it so he can move forward. But the reality of it is, it's not just going to insnare him potentially, it could insnare Jared Kushner, it could insnare other members of his family, Don Jr. And there's a lot of risk here for him.

STEWART: And he talked about mental projections. He truly believes what he said out there tonight. He truly believes any question about Russia is undermining his victory. And that's truly what he believes and those around him believe.

And he went on tonight at this event to say that the Russia probe that is distracting the administration is total fabrication. So here again, he's gone back to the total fabrication, witch hunt, which I think he should get back in line. I think he should, as with his attorney is doing. We're going to fully comply. We'll provide all of the information we can. That is the quickest way to get this in the rearview mirror and move on to the issues that Americans really care about.

COOPER: The other big story today, leaked transcripts of phone calls between the president and the leaders of Mexico and Australia. It's extraordinarily that these transcripts actually doubt.

We get another example. In one case, the president of the United States falsely attacking reporters for telling the truth about one of the phone calls. What he said then and what the reality is. We're keeping them honest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:37:20] COOPER: In the span of less than 24 hours, we've gone from the White House admitting that two phone calls, the president said he got -- he actually didn't get, the transcripts from two calls. It did happen being leaked and neither paints a very flattering picture of the president.

The "Washington Post" published transcripts from two calls the president had early on in his presidency with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. We're going to start with the Mexico call.

The president argued about paying Mexico -- about Mexico paying for the wall not unplanned or a principle but because it would make him look bad. Quote, he said this to the Mexican president, "The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say Mexico will pay for the wall and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to."

And why of course does he have to? Because he promised he would over and over and over. It was a mantra of the campaign, a claim shouted calling responds throughout the crowds all across this country for months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will build the wall 100 percent.

I promise, we will build the wall.

And who's going to pay for the wall?

Who's going to pay for the wall?

Who?

It'll be a great wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

Mexico will pay for the wall.

And Mexico is going to pay for the wall and they understand that.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Believe me, 100 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, in the call with the Mexican president, Mr. Trump asked him to stop saying Mexico will never pay for the wall. Mr. Trump says they should both just say the, "We are working it out."

Keeping them honest, what is interesting is that Mexico has never actually wavered in saying they won't pay for the wall but President Trump has wavered, not just in this phone call but to America tax payers. He says, the plan now is the tax payers will pay for the wall and Mexico will somehow pay us all back.

As he said to Mexico's president at the call, the funding, "We'll work out in the formula somehow. It'll come out in the wash." Meaning, it seems he wants Mexico to officially pay for the wall but they will get the money back through other means.

What's so interesting about this call is how concerned President Trump was about how this makes him look. The Mexican president says, "My position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall."

The president responds, "But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that."

The president also expressed his concern about how he appears in his leaked phone call with Australia's prime minister. The president argues to the prime minister about an Obama administration deal for the United States to accept 200,000 refugees subject to vetting.

The president says, "This is going to kill me. I'm the world's greatest person that does not want to let people into the country."

[21:40:04] The president says it makes him look bad and he hates it, "Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, and France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you. I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people."

The local milk people being, we assume, dairy farmers. I'm just assuming.

On the call, the prime minister tries to explain the refugees are mostly economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and been under Australian supervision for more than three years, and that there was a deal between United States and Australia. The president says the prime minister made a stupid deal.

What's so interesting about the transcript is that there were reports published at the time that this call was contentious. And, guess what, at the time, the president tweeted, "Thank you prime minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that fake news media lied about. Very nice!"

Once again, something the president called fake news turned out to be very real. Very nice.

Back now with the panel. How big of a problem -- I mean, Alice, do you think it is for the president that in just this week, you know, he made up two phone calls or made a mistake about two phone calls that he never received from the boy scouts and the -- what was the other one, I can't even remember.

O'BRIEN: From Mexico. From the president of Mexico.

COOPER: Yes, from the president of Mexico. That's right, yes. And now he's, you know, made it up about, you know, fake news, lying, going after reporters in a way that's just not true. STEWART: He has a distorted memory or recollection of events which is unfortunate. The problem with these calls, I view them as, is that these were -- these calls when he first, you know, took office and became president, these were to test his negotiating skills with his foreign counterparts. And, first off, with regard to Australia, this is an ally and he was having a, you know, confrontational phone call.

With regard to the president of Mexico, this should have been a call about policy. He was more concerned with his perception with breaking a campaign promise and that's unfortunate. Both of these, he was more concerned about his perception than discussing serious policy with these foreign counterparts and I think that is unfortunate.

LEWIS: I think the big story here -- and he's cynical, he cares more about appearances, he attacks the media for fake news when it's actually true. And I know that Trump people come on here all day long and all they want to do is say, they want to misdirect, they want to change the subject, they want to talk about the leaks.

In this case, the leak is the big story. It is incredibly dangerous that the president of the United States cannot have a private conversation with the leader of another country without somebody in the government, presumably, leaking that out. It sends a message to leaders of other countries, and that's incredibly damaging. And then --

COOPER: But what leader of another country is going to feel confident having a private phone call or a frank phone call with the president. And why would the president feel comfortable having a frank phone call with another leader if they all think it's damaging?

BEGALA: It's enormously damaging. As a former White House official, it's terribly damaging to our country. Not just to Donald Trump politically, I don't support -- but to our country for this to leak. It's a terrible breach.

These calls are on the record and the other head of state knows that. But in that, we have no takers. We have transcribers. The president knows that. Everybody knows it. It's a very on the record event. Because then that record is shared throughout the government. So he talked about trade with the Mexican president, the U.S. presumably, right, the U.S. trade representative needs to know about that so that when he's negotiating with his Mexican counterpart she says the president promised "x," they'll know.

It goes to the State Department, Defense Department, Homeland Security perhaps in the case of the Mexicans, has to go over the CIA, all around the government.

And these happen all the time. And they never leak because those are people with great integrity. Somebody really betrayed his or her country with this. I don't --

LEWIS: Yes, and I think there are occasions --

BEGALA: But, I do think you're right Matt -- LEWIS: I think there are occasions when civil disobedience would be

called for, right? There could be something going on where I think somebody --

BEGALA: Say the call with Putin.

LEWIS: Right. Sometimes you're a whistleblower, sometimes you're a leaker, right? But this is not that occasion.

Look, this is embarrassing to Trump. It shows that he's very cynical and -- but I don't think this does great damage to America and not -- this isn't the most important component. But one of the things it does, we're just showing what's happening in West Virginia --

STEWART: Right.

COOPER: It plays into the message that he's saying to his base which is --

LEWIS: That the game is red and they're out to get me.

STEWART: That they're out to get me.

LEWIS: And that's very damaging to America's democracy.

COOPER: They are not just out to get me, they're out to get you and deny your --

LEWIS: Yes. I don't think that's the most important story but it is part of the story.

BEGALA: He is in charge of the government. He does need to police and inspire and intimidate. He needs to stop this.

And this does say something about Trump. If ultimately, it says more about the leaker. But it is the president's job. He's in command to this government.

[21:45:00] O'BRIEN: And he had his problems from the beginning with leaks. You know, there's -- he has a poorly managed West Wing.

COOPER: Right.

O'BRIEN: There's very little loyalty. He is build, skilled or capable --

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: -- is this the president -- I'm sorry.

GOLODRYGA: No, I would just say not to excuse it because you're absolutely right, that the president has sort of over the past few months been leading us down a different path saying that, no, all of these conversations didn't happen the way the media is reporting but they did and they actually did happen the way they did. So, you know, my advice to him would be to stop lying or to stop tweeting about things that didn't happen. That doesn't negate the point you're trying to make as well because this is very dangerous.

LEWIS: My concern would be -- that I think everyone here is right. I think, like obviously Donald Trump has been kind of uniquely bad in a lot of ways and it very well could be that he is like, lost the faith and trust of people who work for him. And that they were good soldiers, they were lifetime bureaucrats, they, you know, did what they were told and now they feel like it's their responsibility to leak.

But does this set a precedent? What about the next president?

COOPER: Right.

LEWIS: Do they leak on the next president?

STEWART: -- (INAUDIBLE) if he had a pleasant conversation with Vladimir Putin -- I mean, if there's one takeaway here --

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: If there was ever a situation that was going to finally be the buck stops here with the leaks, this has to be it. And to Matt's point, this is damaging to the president and from our national security standpoint we're not going to -- foreign leaders aren't going to have these conversations. They are going to have one-off like he did with Vladimir Putin. And no one will ever know what was talked about in that conversation.

COOPER: We'll get another quick break. In one of those phone calls, President Trump said New Hampshire is a, "Drug infested den." We're going to hear from that state's former governor and current senator in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:50:27] COOPER: There's another nugget (ph) in President Trump's leaked phone call with the Mexican president that caused a stir. I'm talking about the need for a wall to prevent drugs from entering the United States. President Trump said that he won New Hampshire because it is a "drug-infested den."

Just for accuracy's sake, the president did not win that state in the general election. Obviously, I guess, he won in the primary, but I assume that's what he was talking about.

He's facing criticisms for his description of "The Granite State" among his critics, former New Hampshire governor and current senator, Maggie Hassan. We spoke earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, I was outraged and it's just disgusting. We are in the middle of public health and public safety challenge and crisis in our state. It's an epidemic and to hear the president of the United States characterize people with chronic illness and our state this way was just an outrage.

And so, I am urging the president to stop just talking about this issue, and actually help us deal with it by helping us get the resources we need to get people into treatment, to get the kind of work force we need. To help people get treated and then understand that this is a chronic illness that will require prevention treatment and recovery efforts for the long-term.

And one of the other concerns I have is it isn't just that the president hasn't taken action to actually help us with this issue. And it's not just New Hampshire, obviously, it's across the country.

But it's also that his actions since becoming president and advocating for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act for instance, which would repeal our bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, so critical to treatment in New Hampshire. And his budget which defunds programs that are also really important for prevention treatment and recovery, really are undermining our efforts in New Hampshire.

So, I just would like the president to stop throwing insults at people dealing with a chronic illness, and really help us get the resources on the ground that we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Back now with the panel. Obviously calling New Hampshire a "drug-infested den" is not the best use of words. But, you know, for the president's supporters, a lot of people like the fact he'S plain spoken and, you know -- well, I mean, is this really a big deal?

BEGALA: the opioid crisis actually hits -- if you think about it on a map, Trump country harder, perhaps than Obama country or Hillary country and it's not a partisan disease but just the way it is.

COOPER: And he did talk about it when he was in New Hampshire. He talked about it during the campaign not in those terms about it being a drug --

BEGALA: I was struck watching the campaign. Every one of those 30 people who ran learned a lot about the opioid crisis, One of the good things about having a long and difficult campaign.

But I think that it will hurt him frankly in New Hampshire where the Republican Governor Chris Sununu also said today that that was uncalled for. But he also said something else to President Pena. He described the wall as, "the least important thing we're talking about." That is not what his voters say.

LEWIS: No, no, he said it was payment of the law.

BEGALA: Thank you for correcting me, but still they cheered that.

COOPER: He politically, it's maybe the most important, but it's the least important. LEWIS: But, you know what, I'll say that the "Washington Post" they put up little teasers of, you know, of things, and the teaser they said, the wall is not the most important. But my interpretation, when you read the transcript, what he was just saying is, look, who pays for it is not that important. I'm going to build the wall.

BEGALA: But that's not what his supporters think because of what he told his supporters.

O'BRIEN: The reality is, the wall was this metaphor for what he was going to do about immigration, how he's going to tackle immigration, and ultimately wall off Mexico in the process. And in that call, he is backing off from it. Whether it's financing or building it, he's backing off from it.

COOPER: What's so interesting, Joshua Green reported in his book about Steve Bannon which was that, the whole wall idea was basically mnemonic device but was just a device for the president to remember to talk about immigration. Like they came up that it was Roger Stone, I think, and somebody else came up with the idea of the wall. Talk about that, and then it actually became an actual idea --

BEGALA: And also in Joshua's book, he reports that just a few months before he announced and when he announced, of course he said very controversial things about Mexicans. A few months before, he was still criticizing Mitt Romney for being against immigration. I forgot that's --

STEWART: You can also see the evolution of, we're going to build the wall and Mexico will pay for it. Whenever he would mention it, each time the crowd would get bigger and more involved.

If I can just say this one thing on the New Hampshire issue, during the campaign with Cruz, we had a round table on this issue, and it's such a serious, heartbreaking issue. The opioid addiction and epidemic in New Hampshire and many of these key states has -- and I understand what the president was saying, he said it in the wrong way.

[21:55:03] But if nothing else, hopefully out of this, we can really focus on this serious issue with opioid addictions and the funding of it. If nothing else comes of this.

Once again though, however, the president took something that was an important issue, and his point -- he had a good point, he went about saying it the wrong way. But he was trying to say, one of the main reasons that we need those wall is to stop drugs coming into this country. We have a terrible opioid epidemic.

COOPER: I should point out, he has -- had a commission that just put out a report with the bunch of ideas for what the federal government can do. And also declaring it national --

O'BRIEN: So Jared Kushner run that commission inside the White House.

GOLODRYGA: But unlike Cruz, most people never expected Donald Trump to be an ideologue. So this sort of confronted -- I mean, in the transcript that he's saying, you know, I say one thing to the crowd but you and I are going to talk about something else. It shouldn't come off as that big of a surprise.

And I think a lot of people both Democrats and Republicans thought, there is a great way for this guy to work with both parties. Unfortunately, he is sort of been mired in Russia and keeps digging himself deeper into the Russia hole. But I don't think this transcript revealed anything too surprising about what most people expect of him.

COOPER: Yes. Thanks everybody for being on the panel tonight. We're going to have more ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And that's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Chris Cuomo who's filling in for Don Lemon tonight. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you, Anderson. We got much more on major developments in the Russia investigation.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Chris Cuomo in for Don Lemon. And here's what's happening right now.