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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Campaign Distances from Data Group, Executive Says Otherwise; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Clinton Campaign Chief and then-DNC Chair Denied Knowing About Dossier; Thousands of JFK Assassination Files Released. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 26, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks.
As you just heard, we have breaking news. The JFK assassination files are out. We have them. We're sifting through them as fast as we can with a team of experts and historians. We'll talk about everything that we're learning later on. Not all of them, we should point out, have been released and we'll talk about that as well and explain why.
In the meantime, welcome back to the 2016 presidential election. At least it feels that way tonight with just a couple weeks to the anniversary of the most surprising election night in generations. Two campaign stories are dominating the headlines -- each an opportunity to refight the battle, each away for some to cast doubt on the outcome.
All the familiar names are present with a single question hanging over all of them and all of it, who is not telling the truth here? Are players in the Trump campaign being less than honest about the role a campaign data outfit played in their effort to elect President Trump? Now it's been revealed it reached out to WikiLeaks in pursuit of Hillary Clinton's emails.
And on the Democratic side, are former Clinton campaign chief John Podesta and former DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz being less than honest about their connection to the Russia dossier, each told Senate investigators they did not know who funded the opposition research that led to it, when in fact their respective organizations did.
We have new reporting on this tonight and on the WikiLeaks outreach as well as a larger discussion of how both stories have given the two sides of campaign 2016 the fuel to drag it nearly to the end of 2017.
William Faulkner was right. The past isn't dead. It isn't even past.
It's where we begin tonight. We're going to take you through both stories, lay out the timelines and tees out any inconsistency so you can decide for yourselves what to make of them and who to believe. Now, you probably heard each story described using words and phrases like convoluted and tangled web. We're going to try to detangle them, starting with a beat by beat account of the relationship between the Trump campaign and the number crunching operation that would eventually ask WikiLeaks about Hillary Clinton's missing emails. Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown reports.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eleven days after Trump's GOP nomination on July 18th, 2016 --
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the presidency of the United States.
BROWN: -- and two days after this now infamous moment.
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
BROWN: Donald Trump's campaign made its first payment to controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica on July 29th.
We're now learning that same month, according to "The Wall Street Journal" another infamous moment occurred. Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seeking access to Hillary Clinton related e-mails.
Also that same month, WikiLeaks began releasing hacked e-mails from the DNC.
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: We have more material related to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
BROWN: Cambridge Analytica was founded by wealthy Republican donors Robert and Rebecca Mercer in 2014. They began backing Trump after the GOP primaries in June of 2016. That same month, Jared Kushner took over all data operations for the Trump campaign. Kushner said once his father-in-law won the GOP nomination, the campaign used both Cambridge Analytica and the RNC's voter data saying, quote: We kept both data operations going simultaneously and a lot shared between them. And by that, we could scale to a pretty good operation.
JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: They had a team of Cambridge data scientists embedded in the Trump headquarters who were doing very sophisticated models work that helped to inform where the campaign was going to send Donald Trump.
BROWN: In August 2016, Steve Bannon became CEO of the Trump campaign. Before that, he was the vice president of Cambridge Analytica.
While working for the firm, Bannon had urged the Trump campaign to hire them as far back as April, according to "The New Yorker".
In September 2016, the Trump campaign made its biggest payment to Cambridge Analytica, $5 million, that's according to FEC filings. Those payments eventually totaled nearly $6 million. The payments listed by the FEC as being for data management services.
(on camera): The firm has offices in London, New York and right here in Washington, D.C., just three blocks away from the White House. CNN has reached out to Cambridge Analytica for a response in the wake of the revelations about WikiLeaks, but despite our repeated attempts, we have not heard back.
(voice-over): But in November, just before the election, Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix did speak to CNN about his data operation and the newly reopened FBI investigation into, you guessed it, Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
ALEXANDER NIX, CEO, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: Clearly, there are unknown knowns, you know, such as what's recently happened in the case of the Democrat's candidate with the release of the -- or the reopening of the e-mail inquiry.
[20:05:10] We can't predict that.
BROWN: As far as the Trump campaign, it released a statement distancing itself from the firm saying, quote: We as a campaign made the choice to rely on the voter data of the Republican National Committee to help elect President Donald J. Trump. Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false.
COOPER: Pam, would this be of interest to investigators for collusion?
BROWN: Sources I've spoken to say yes. They say that the idea that the data firm reached out to WikiLeaks alone does not mean a crime occurred at face value, but as one FBI official told me today, what it shows is an intent to go beyond normal proactive campaign tactics. And investigators would use this bit of information to see if there was any coordination, whether there was anyone from the Trump campaign who was intimately involved. As I said, the intent and mind-set and whether there was any sort of conspiracy.
You include this piece of a puzzle to Roger Stone, an advisor to Trump during the campaign, telling the Hill he had an intermediary who connected him with Assange. He also was briefly in touch with the Russian intelligence offer online, social media, under the guise of Guccifer 2.0, and then according to "The Wall Street Journal", there was an effort by opposition research working for the -- with people on the Trump campaign searching on the dark web for Russians who may have had Clinton's missing e-mails.
So, all of this would be taken into account. But we should note, there have been no accusations of wrongdoing, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Pam Brown, thanks.
Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the Judiciary Committee.
To you, Senator, what if any is the significance of Cambridge Analytica reaching out to WikiLeaks. SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It is significant because
it demonstrates evidence of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian interference. There's no question according to the intelligence community, that there was Russian interference. The president has called the special counsel's investigation and the investigation of the Judiciary Committee into that meddling and Trump collusion, alleged collusion with it as a hoax. But here we have more evidence of a pattern that has been established of collusion and perhaps of obstruction of justice.
COOPER: The statement put out by the Trump campaign saying -- basically distancing themselves from Cambridge Analytica saying, look, any suggestion that it was anything about RNC data, that's what we relied on most heavily. They didn't even mention Cambridge Analytica. Does that pass the smell test given that they're spending nearly $6 million?
BLUMENTHAL: Not in the least because they have spent $6 million to hire Cambridge Analytica as a consultant, as an agent, in that capacity. It was reaching out to WikiLeaks. In fact, reaching down into the gutter because remember, WikiLeaks' business model is to take information, stolen often by foreign governments like the Russians, and then publicly size it without any regard to the harm done to men and women in uniform or others who are cooperating with us abroad. And Cambridge Analytica well knew that business model.
COOPER: It's very possible, though, that it was just coincidence. Just coincidence that candidate Trump, you know, said this that press conference, Russia, if you're listening, you know, if you got the 33,000 e-mails, we'd love to see them or release them or whatever the actual words he said. Two days later, they start paying Cambridge Analytica and later that much they make -- Analytica makes the outreach to WikiLeaks.
That -- I mean, when you put out a timeline it looks like it's all one piece. It could be a coincidence. There's no evidence that President Trump or anyone else from the campaign said to Cambridge Analytica, reach out to WikiLeaks.
BLUMENTAL: Point number one, it could be all coincidence, but it has to be coupled with other circumstantial evidence. Like the Trump campaign welcoming the outreach from Rob Goldstone, saying he had Russian sources of dirt on Hillary Clinton. And Donald Trump --
COOPER: Government sources actually.
BLUMENTHAL: And Donald Trump Jr. saying I love it. The meeting on June 9th, the Air Force One statement doctored by -- and edited by the president of the United States.
There is a series of circumstantial evidence. No conclusion reached yet, but certainly a basis to investigate.
COOPER: I want to turn to the Trump dossier story. The -- you know, I asked you if it passes the smell test, the statement made by the Trump campaign. Does it pass the smell test to you that the head of the DNC, the head of the Clinton campaign are now saying they had no idea money was going through this law firm to pay for this dossier? I mean, if they didn't know, who would have known?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, the lawyer working for them was the one who actually began paying for this opposition research.
COOPER: But isn't that a little too cute? I mean, isn't -- I mean, if you're paying millions of dollars to a law firm, you probably want to know examine will know what the law firm -- the reason you do it through a law firm is to have deniability, I assume.
[20:10:10] BLUMENTHAL: Regardless of whether that claim passes the smell test or not, remember what the key distinction is. Here, the money was coming from the DNC and it was going to opposition research. It was not supported by a foreign government, not by the Russians. That's the key distinction.
COOPER: Isn't it possible, though, that Christopher Steele, who was getting information, possibly buying information from Russian sources who may have been duped by the Russian government or in collusion with the Russian government to give this -- I mean, that's the argument a lot of Republicans are making. The Russian government may have given disinformation about candidate Trump through Christopher Steele that was essentially being paid for ultimately by the Clinton campaign.
BLUMENTHAL: And it never had an impact on the campaign, another key distinction. But if it doesn't pass the smell test and it's worthy of investigation, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, will look into it. And bottom line, the collusion alleged between the Trump campaign and Russian interference, as well as obstruction of justice is under investigation and if there are other similar actions, they should be investigated as well.
COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
COOPER: Staying on the subject of the dossier that we just spoke about, CNN's Manu Raju joins us now with more details on that.
What are you learning about what Clinton's former campaign chief John Podesta told the Senate Intelligence Committee?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. That's right. Anderson, in September, behind closed doors, John Podesta actually met with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigators and towards the end of an interview that focused a lot on his hacked e-mails, a question was posed to him whether or not the Clinton campaign had any sort of contractual relationship with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that did produce the Trump Russia dossier, and he said he had no knowledge of it. Podesta saying, you know, I didn't know. I don't know if we have any relationship, nothing like that at all.
And this is significant, Anderson, because this is the first time that we have learned someone this high up in the Clinton universe sitting down behind closed doors with investigators on Capitol Hill discussing their knowledge about the ties with Fusion GPS, ties with that dossier. And even though he was not sworn in to formally go under oath, you cannot lie to Congress in an investigation. So, his testimony or his interview had to be truthful because otherwise, Congress will look into this further.
COOPER: Manu, I understand the one person who claims to know about this research is the attorney, Marc Elias, and he actually was at this hearing as John Podesta's lawyer. Is that right?
RAJU: Yes, that's right. In fact, he was sitting right next to him. He was representing John Podesta. Even though he knew at the time that his firm had retained Fusion GPS as its client to research these allegations and Podesta said he had no knowledge of it, Elias did not offer any information there at that interview that he was aware of this.
But he was there, just to be clear. He was not a witness during this interview. He was just there serving his client. But he very well could come back as a witness now that we do know that the Clinton campaign and the DNC were helping fund this research.
But, Anderson, in the aftermath of us learning about this, Elias's firm put out a letter saying that their clients only knew that they had this arrangement with Fusion GPS only recently, suggesting last month, John Podesta did not know at that time.
COOPER: What about former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz? What did she tell the Senate Intelligence Committee?
RAJU: Yes, Anderson, we're learning for the first time she did meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month and she made a similar case. She was asked directly about whether or not the DNC had these similar ties to Fusion GPS. She said she had no knowledge of that either. She said pretty clearly that she did not. First time we're learning that she even met with the investigators, let alone saying that there was no DNC connection.
But I can tell you, Anderson, now that we do there is some, there's a very good chance that she could come back for further questions because at that point, that was not a big bulk of the interview but it could be if investigators want to call her back for further questioning, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, appreciate that.
Coming up next, we'll hear directly from a former senior member of the Clinton campaign. Brian Fallon joins us the panel.
And later, the breaking news that's a quarter century in the making, with a big catch. As we reported at the top of the broadcast, the government releasing documents from the Kennedy assassination files. The president holding back some of them. The question is why? And will that fuel conspiracy theories that have been out there for decades? More on that, ahead.
[20:17:51] COOPER: Before the break, we laid out the two campaign stories, one from each side, that are driving the latest skirmish in the election campaign that seemingly will not end. The Trump campaign's connection to Cambridge Analytica, which CNN and "The Daily Beast" reported had reached out to WikiLeaks in pursuit of Hillary Clinton's emails, and on the Democratic side, former campaign chairman John Podesta and former DNC chief, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, denying knowledge of paying the firm behind the Trump dossier.
Joining us now Brian Fallon, press secretary for the Clinton campaign and now a CNN political commentator. Also with us, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and Trump supporter Ed Martin.
So, Brian, I know you said you did not know about these payments. If John Podesta didn't know and Debbie Wasserman Schultz didn't know, who possibly would have known within the DNC and the Clinton campaign because millions of dollars are being given to a law firm?
BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, but millions of dollars were given to a law firm to perform everyday legal work. I mean, the Perkins Coie firm would do things like our FEC compliance and internal vetting of people that would come onboard the campaign. So --
COOPER: They weren't asked to do opposition research?
FALLON: Well, they were, I guess. But the point is, that people -- I see people going around saying that there were millions of dollars spent on this. Those are line items from these FEC reports that capture all of the Perkins Coie --
COOPER: Right. But if millions of dollars are being spent and this firm is doing opposition research, someone has got to be saying, hey, what's the opposition research? Where is it? And how is it being how -- we're getting that?
FALLON: Right. And I don't know who was part of those conversations in April when the firm, the research firm Fusion GPS came to Marc Elias apparently and said, hey, a Republican had been funding this workup until now, we think you might be interested in it. I'm not sure who had the conversation that gave the green light and said --
COOPER: Somebody in the DNC or the Clinton campaign --
FALLON: Yes, clearly.
COOPER: -- had to know.
FALLON: And whoever that person is, I would shake their hand and offer to take them out to a steak dinner. I mean, I think that this was perfectly fine that this happened. I'm glad that somebody was taking ownership of making sure that we were trying our best to get to the bottom of Donald Trump's web of opaque business connections.
COOPER: Ed, it's sort of the Colonel Klink defense in "Hogan's Heroes". I see nothing, I don't know anything, you know?
ED MARTIN: Yes, but it doesn't pass the smell test. You know, Anderson, you know, I worked for Phyllis Schlafly. One of the things the late Phyllis Schlafly used to say was, one of the best things that happens to her was run for office and lose because you learn how campaigns work. I did too.
In campaigns, opposition research especially of the kind that was being sought is not something that's not on the radar screen of the top level people.
[20:20:06] So, maybe Podesta didn't know. Maybe Wasserman Schultz -- somebody knew. Somebody had to know.
You don't get -- you don't get -- spend that kind of money without the word coming back on what you've got frankly because if you've got nothing, you stop spending it. So, it doesn't make any sense.
And, by the way, it's been sort of covered up for months now. If it was such a straightforward issue, why not come out and say here's what we have.
COOPER: That is the other issue. I mean, if it is, as you said, a great idea, why --
FALLON: When the dossier came out in January, I said at the time, I had never heard of Fusion GPS prior to after the election and never heard of Christopher Steele and never seen the dossier. That was all true. If I had known at that point that we had paid for it, that was the work product of research that the campaign had sponsored, I would have been happy to admit to it, because there is no shame in this. This is, as you just mentioned, campaign opposition research is campaign work 101.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Can I just draw a distinction here? As I understand it, GPS did a lot of work, not just the dossier, for the Clinton campaign. The dossier, the last date on the dossier is December of 2016, a month after the election.
You know, everyone in the Clinton campaign at that point was curled up in a fetal position on the sofa. I mean, they were not involved in doing that. So I think it --
COOPER: At that point, it might have been the FBI.
TOOBIN: Well, it's not clear who was funding or why they were doing the research at that time. But it's not surprising that Brian and all of his colleagues didn't know what was going on in December. I don't think they were too involved.
COOPER: But before there was a dossier there were memos being written by Christopher Steele that must -- I mean, were circulating somewhere, whether to the attorney or someone else. I mean, it wasn't as if they were -- FALLON: Let me jump in here. It is definitely true during the months
of the fall, September and October, that I was aware and other members of the campaign were aware of many of the rumors that were circulating about Donald Trump and meetings that, say, Carter Page, who was a foreign policy advisory in the campaign may have taken in Europe. This was all swirling out there. We had multiple conversations about it, largely based on reporters calling us up saying, have you heard this? We're trying to run this down.
Now connecting the dots, I suspect that it was Fusion GPS that was briefing those reporters which in turn was calling us. So, we were familiar with this information. I -- there are a multitude of Democratic organizations on the outside, whether it's Priorities USA, which is an entity I happen to work for now or American Bridge that -- any number of which, you know, if you very well may have thought it was helping seed these stories and tipping off those reporters that were then calling us.
COOPER: But if Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS are briefing reporters, certainly they're giving memos to the lawyer who is paying them all this --
MARTIN: Someone knows. And by the way, the point here now is that Steele at least before this moment, Steele was talked about as someone who was getting information from the Russians. This is all a Russia push, right?
So, now, we have to find out who in the campaign knew or should have known and were they actively being told by Steele, hey, I've got sources in Russia that are pushing this story.
TOOBIN: I don't see how Steele could have been paid by the Russians. Steel was investigating the Russians.
MARTIN: No, Steele was over -- my understanding was s the allegation was he was paying sources in Russia and the Russian government ostensibly, this is what we're hearing, were feeding stories and pushing things this.
COOPER: Steele was hired because of his expertise in Russia. He did not go to Russia, but he still had contacts, we assume, with connections to the Kremlin or knowledge of, which is why some of the information in the dossier has turned out to be true. Other, you know, information has not been verified and seems pretty outlandish.
COOPER: But the allegation is that, is it possible that the Kremlin was giving disinformation, negative information about candidate Trump to Steele that he's paying for and that essentially ultimately the DNC --
FALLON: This that case he'd be the victim of a wild-goose chase. On the other hand, you have a set of actions that we know that the Russian government undertook, illegal acts that they committed in service or in furtherance of trying to help elect Donald Trump. There were no actions taken by the Russian government that helped
Hillary Clinton. All we know that the Russian --
MARTIN: How do we know? Maybe there were some. Maybe --
FALLON: They were feeding information to the dossier that would come out after the election, after Hillary Clinton had lost?
MARTIN: No, you already said Steele was talking to reporters, trying to put -- you know how opposition works. You get something --
COOPER: There's no evidence of this, but --
MARTIN: Everyone is denying it. When people are lying, they're usually lying as Trump said today it's like Watergate in modern times. There's a cover-up of some kind. What is it? Now, let's get to the bottom of it.
FALLON: If the Russians were trying to collude with Hillary Clinton, not with Donald Trump, query, why they were hacking John Podesta's emails, hacking the DNC, leaking them all out, trying to hack into election rolls in certain states, and -- but then leaving all this to Christopher Steele to carry out --
MARTIN: Well, let's get to the bottom of it. Let's get to the bottom of why no one in the campaign says they knew and whether they knew that they were getting information from Russians. Let's get to the bottom of it all. Why not?
COOPER: Jeff, the fact that no one in the campaign seems to have any idea about this, does that raise --
[20:25:03] TOOBIN: Well, someone has to have an idea. We've only heard from John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was completely on the outside and had nothing to do with anything. I mean, Robby Mook is the person you would want to ask, who was the campaign manager, who was the person who was actually running the campaign. He would certainly know if the campaign was spending this kind of money.
John Podesta was out raising money. He was not involved in day to day. Someone has to know.
And the problem that the Clinton campaign has here -- I mean, I think Brian, you know, alluded to it, which is, they -- I mean, they would admit to it. I mean, they would say, look, this is what we do. Campaigns do opposition research. This is how we did it.
We -- there's nothing to feel guilty about but the problem is they haven't said what the story really is. COOPER: All right. Well --
FALLON: Just a fundamental difference between the two stories that CNN is giving proper attention to both stories, but they're characteristically different. Here, even when we find out the whodunit and approved it in April of 2016, it still won't amount to much because there's no criminal activity afoot here. On the other hand, you have Cambridge Analytica admitting to reaching to Julian Assange for the purpose of trying to obtain illegally hacked emails from Hillary Clinton.
MARTIN: But that's not the campaign, right? We agree on that.
MARTIN: Just like the law firm. Just like the defense today, was that's a law firm.
FALLON: The point is that you have a contractor hired by the campaign in this instance that didn't engage in any illegal activity and the instance regarding Donald Trump, Cambridge Analytica was trying to make themselves to a party to a criminal conspiracy to illegally hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
COOPER: All right. We're going to take a break.
More on this in our next hour as well.
Breaking news: 54 years after John F. Kennedy was killed, some of the papers on the assassination are now public. We got a team going through them. What the records reveal and why not all the records were released as the president said he would.
Details on that, ahead.
COOPER: There's breaking news tonight. As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, formerly top secret documents about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are now public, 54 years after his death. It is just a fraction of the documents.
Today, President Trump delayed the release of many of the secret files following concerns from national security agencies over what should be made public. Now, they were all supposed to be released today, a deadline set by federal law, though there is a loophole to allow the president to delay.
Tom Foreman has been going through the files. He joins me now with a look at what's been revealed so far.
Tom, what have you and your team found?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have a lot of people looking at all this, Anderson. And I'll tell you, there is a lot to look at. I want to give you just a sense of this, almost 2,900 documents were released. This is just one of them, 14 pages of handwritten notes. Very hard to get through all of this.
What we have found so far, though, is intriguing. For example, there is a record of Oswald calling a KGB agent while he was in Mexico City a few weeks before the assassination, asking about something going on in Washington, D.C. This seems to have been tied to his attempt to get a Russian visa or a Cuban visa, neither of which he obtained. But nonetheless, this is some proof of something we've long suspected.
There's also a conversation we found with J. Edgar Hoover saying after Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby, he's saying that the FBI was directly warned. Somebody called and in a calm voice said that he was part of a group that was going to kill Oswald. Ruby said he was part of no group out there, but this is the first evidence we've had that the FBI was directly warned about that.
And one other interesting note, there is a conversation there, message that was sent to Robert Kennedy warning him that a book was coming out alleging he had an affair with Marilyn Monroe. So through these thousands and thousands of pages, Anderson, that's what we've found so far. We'll going to be going through it through the night. That would be a great deal, more found to be sure.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Can you just explain why all the material was not released?
FOREMAN: Right. It was not all released because at 11th hour here, it appears that CIA and FBI said there were concerns about national security. And it seems, in a more pointed way, to have been concerned about people who have been cited somewhere in here, who could either be known by name or could be sussed out based on information about what was gathered, that somehow this might put their families or any survivors in some bad position.
We don't really know what that's about, but that seems to be what the situation is. It does however, Anderson, I'm telling you, if anything is going to raise the concerns of conspiracy theories out there, here is something that's been on the books for more than 25 years, this release of documents. We've known it's coming. Everyone knew it was coming. And with less than six hours left, all of a sudden there is a new of sense we need to look at this further. We haven't had enough time to look at it. I guarantee you conspiracy theories are going crazy over that.
COOPER: Tom Foreman, I appreciate it. We got along that ahead.
Joining us now, CNN Presidential Historian Tim Naftali and CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who advice four Presidents.
David, does it make sense to you now that at 11th hour essentially it turns out they're not going to release everything?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a surprise certainly. The tweets coming out of the President over the last few days had certainly suggested it was going to be all. But in fairness to Donald Trump, he did say it may not be all. But I think the fact that we're getting down to 300 pages does give more weight to what most experts -- I had a chance to talk to a Pulitzer Prize Winning Historian here Fredrik Logevall last night. He is now writing a biography of John F. Kennedy. And his basic conclusion is, listen, big story, there're like -- not likely to be anything big major dramatic bombshell that would change the basic story line that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone.
The information may be new and revealing could be out of Mexico City where Oswald spent about six days, two months before the assassination talking to Cubans, talking to Russians and that where Logevall feel -- Professor Logevall feels may be the new story coming out of the documents released today.
COOPER: Tim, does it surprise you that they held back some documents?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, actually I'm not surprised. I mean, part of this story is that this is a product of the conspiracy theories of the '90s, when people were saying things like Kennedy might have been killed by the Mob, Kennedy might have been killed the Cubans, Kennedy might have been killed by the CIA.
And the assassination records review board pulled in all possible documents that might shed light on any of those possible theories. As a result they put together 5 million pages.
When the act was put together, I'm sure that the Congress didn't expect that there would be blanket declassification of 5 million pages in 2017. And to some extent they kept kicking down -- kicking the can down the road.
Some of the materials they've pulled together have nothing to do with Lee Harvey Oswald but have to do with U.S. covert action against Cuba, U.S. covert action against Kongo, against the Dominican Republic. And those involve informants and I was waiting to see whether we would get those names.
Now, what would getting so far are some very interesting details. I share Fred's view -- Fred Logevall's view that we were not going to learn very much of anything about Lee Harvey Oswald issue because there was serious nonpartisan board in 1998 that saw all of this material and they pushed for release of anything that really bore on the question of whether there was conspiracy behind Oswald. But there are other details.
For example, we now have materials regarding U.S. activities against Cuba that show that the U.S. government considered using chemical weapons and biological weapons as part of its operations to undermine the Fidel Castro regime.
And to know that this is new, you'll notice on these documents in some cases there are these marks on the side. And that shows you what used to be classified. So you can get a sense of what our government considered highly classified up to now. That's a big deal.
COOPER: David -- NAFTALI: It's very -- I have not seen that kind of thing before
[20:35:00] COOPER: David, I mean, is it possible that President Nixon and other politicians from the era essentially took secrets to their graves about JFK?
GERGEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm sure they did. You know, after all they had a lot of access to J. Edgar Hoover's files and they're all sorts of details there both, you know, governmental and salacious. And so I'm sure that they knew a lot more.
In fact I think Donald Trump knows a lot more than he's let on. He has access no doubt to these documents that are still hidden or at least that he is been given summaries. But we'll have to see what happens on this.
But I do think it going to go back to it, you know, the Warren Commission did apparently have access or at least member of the commission, some members of the commission to all the documents. And that was before they issued their basic report. So that's what gives some credence to the notion that there is unlikely to be a major change in the story. But we may learn important elements. What if the Cubans or the Soviets told Oswald there in Mexico City that they want him to go in or they unleashed him in some way or they're going to help him and so if we still think it's alone gunman but maybe he had encouragement, maybe it was money.
COOPER: It's fascinating to think about. Yes.
NAFTALI: I want to disagree.
COOPER: Go ahead, Tim.
NAFTALI: If I can disagree respectfully with David. The problem, the reason we have so much conspiracy thinking about the Kennedy assassination is the Warren Commission was not shown all the documents. They were not told about the assassination attempts against Castro. There were number of things they weren't told, which is one reason -- a number of people raise the issues. Well, how important was that information.
It was in '70s that the Congress, Senate and House got that information. And now we're seeing much of it.
COOPER: Yes, Tim Naftali --
NAFTALI: Good thing for us.
COOPER: Tim Naftali, I appreciate it, David Gergen as well.
When we back, the President's decision to release only fraction of the documents certainly won't help put the conspiracy theories around this assassination to bed. Our Randi Kaye is going to look at some of those theories next. Plus the latest from the White House on how the President made this decision. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[20:40:24] COOPER: More on our break news tonight, thousands of JFK assassination files are public but citing national security concerns the President decided to hold thousands of files back. CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta joins us now by phone.
Jim, why did the President change his mind?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN'S SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, basically, Anderson, what happened was -- and we're learning this from -- talking to our sources. This was a bit of a messy process. They were trying to get authorization and approval and the green light from these various national security agencies that the information that's coming out of this JFK files would not compromise them in any way.
And there were objections that came back from those various national security agencies. And so what the President decided to do -- and we're hearing that this was the decision that was made in the last several hours. It was essentially punt this off to six months from now.
So 2,800 files were released this evening, but the vast majority of those files are still undergoing interagency review the work. We're not going to see those files potentially until six months from now.
And Anderson, I think the question has to be asked, will these agencies simply raise the same red flags and objections six months from now and we're not going to get to bottom of these files?
I tried to ask the question on conference call with administration officials earlier this evening there, a conference call with reporters on this, is there any evidence of conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy and they said, we just can't comment on the content of these records. And so you get the sense when you talk to officials Anderson that as they are releasing these records to the public for the first time, keeping in mind that all big release, they don't even know what is in these files at this point.
COOPER: And obviously they're going to be reviewing that I guess in the months ahead. Jim Acosta, I appreciate it.
As we mentioned, holding some of those documents back is only going to fuel the fire for some conspiracy theories. Our Randi Kaye has look at some of the theories that are out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several thousand enthusiastic (INAUDIBLE) are on hand.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly 54 years since the day President John F. Kennedy died and conspiracy theories still abound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truth is Oswald killed the President.
KAYE: Oswald, as in Lee Harvey Oswald. The federal government says he shot the President and only him. Despite that conspiracy theories just don't buy it. They point to people like the man who came to be known as umbrella man, he was seen opening and closing his umbrella on grassy knoll on a perfectly sunny day. Some have argued for decades that the man was either signaling the shooter or shooting poison dart at President.
PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT": The umbrella man came forward, he actually testifies before Congress several years ago. There never was an incredible tying him to any conspiracy to kill the President.
KAYE: Yet many just don't see how Oswald, the guy with a $20 mail order rifle could bring down the most powerful man in the world. There must have been a more grandiose scheme, perhaps even one that involve former Cuban leader Fidel Castro who was often connected to Kennedy's assassination.
Oswald's trip to Mexico City just weeks before the assassination has long raised eyebrows. While there previously released government documents reveal he met with Cuban and Soviet spies.
SHENON: It appears that he actually made the statement in the Cuban embassy and Mexico City. I want to kill President Kennedy. I'm going to kill President Kennedy.
KAYE: And what about the CIA or the Mob, who was angry at Kennedy for crackdown on organized crime. Theories abound on their involvement too, even President Kennedy's own Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, could he have ordered a hit on his boss? Some conspiracy theories say yes.
Remember it was Johnson who set up the Warren Commission to put end to the chatter that he was responsible for the assassination.
KAYE (on camera): Still the chatter continues, much of it focused on the number of bullets fired that terrible day. The Warren Commission official 888-page report concluded that in all three shots were fired, all from Oswald's rifle perched on the sixth floor of the Texas school board repository.
The commission found one bullet struck President Kennedy and another known as the magic bullet struck both President Kennedy and also Texas Governor John Connally who survived the shooting.
KAYE (voice-over): Governor Connally had said he believed he was struck by a separate bullet which only fueled talk of second shooter at Dealey Plaza.
Skeptics wondered if there wasn't second shooter, how was Oswald able to fire fast enough to hit both President Kennedy and Governor Connally, given that Connally was seated right in front of the President in the car? Despite all the intrigue, both the Warren Commission's final report from 1964 and a review by the Justice Department in 1987 agreed Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
[20:45:23] Randi Kaye, CNN New York.
COOPER: Joining me again, CNN Presidential Historian Tim Naftali.
I mean, it is, you know, obviously the fact that these documents now have been delayed, it is just going to spur further conspiracy theory.
NAFTALI: Oh absolutely. Yes, but as I tried to lay out, that 5 million pages include things that are interesting to certainly to people like me about covert action but they're not directly related to the Lee Harvey Oswald story.
You know, I've always found it interesting Anderson, that many Americans on the left and the right consider their government to be inefficient. That's one thing both sides of the aisle agree on. And yet many Americans also at the same time believe that the government is so efficient that it could have murdered the President and kept it secret for so long. So I think that there's a dissonance there.
In 1998 we got the best information that the U.S. government had apparently on the Oswald issue. There are new details to come out and there are some leads that may not lead anywhere but they're worth looking at. What I believe this release is about though is that era, that era of secrecy, that era of covert action. And that's what we'll see more details of.
And what's being held back, I believe, are materials regarding foreign government assistance to us, materials about code breaking, materials regarding sources that are not directly related to what happened in Dallas but people run by the CIA elsewhere who might have provided a detail or two about Oswald's time in Russia or Japan. I think those are the details.
COOPER: So you were talking before about CIA covert operations in Kongo with I guess Lumumba, in Dominican Republic and elsewhere, there might be information there.
NAFTALI: No doubt about it. I mean, I'll give an example, still secret maybe I haven't been through all the documents. I only started going though them, secret was the name of the CIA man who brought that poison to Kongo to kill Lumumba, Patrice Lumumba, the leader. Well, some of the U.S. that he didn't kill him but the fact that matter is CIA person brought some poison to kill him. The name of the CIA person was secret. CIA will try to protect -- maybe it's open today but CIA tries to protect those names. That's the argument they're making to President Trump I suspect.
COOPER: All right, that makes sense. Tim Naftali, I appreciate it.
Up next, the other big moment today, the White House President Trump declared our nation's opioid crisis a public health emergency. His comments as what the First Lady said at the today gathering, and how the epidemic is unfolding on American streets when we continue. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[20:51:18] COOPER: This afternoon President Trump declared America's opioid crisis a public health emergency. Last year more than 60,000 Americans died of drug overdose largely due to opioids. At today's White House event both the President and the First Lady spoke about the epidemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: But what I found to be the common theme with all of these stories is that this can happen to any of us. Drug addiction can take your friends, neighbors, or your family. No state has been spared and no demographic has been untouched.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. Never been this way. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: For the President this was an effort to deliver on a campaign promise. And as you heard this is a crisis, we can find in any city or town tonight. We show you its grip near Boston this evening.
Our Gary Tuchman talked to some addicts walking the street. We want to warn you this maybe tough to watch but we think it's important to see how the opioid epidemic is unfolding in the U.S. Here's Gary's report.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To most people this is a neighborhood south of Downtown, Boston. To others, it's a living hell.
BILLY, OPIOID ADDICT: I'm a junkie. I've been shooting heroin for 16 years. I'm homeless, I live on the sidewalk. This is my life.
MEGAN, OPIOID ADDICT: I didn't grow up thinking I was going to be a heroin addict. Like this isn't exactly what I want to be in life.
TUCHMAN (on camera): What are your hopes and dreams?
MEGAN: To get sober, to have a family. At one point I thought I was going to and I lost the love of my life. We both overdosed and when I woke up he was dead.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Billy is 31 years old. He has a 5-year-old son. He wants to be a tattoo artist someday, but even while we talked he was looking for a vain.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Is it possible for you to stop shooting the heroin while we talk? BILLY: If I had gotten it in me, it would be but --
TUCHMAN: So that what I'm wondering like you feel such a strong urge you can't stop while we talk?
BILLY: Yes. Yes, there is nothing that would stop me. And that's how bad it gets.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Megan also lives on the streets and the sidewalks. You're about to reach your 30th birthday. And how long have you been addicted to heroin?
MEGAN: Since 19.
TUCHMAN (on camera): And how did you start the first time?
MEGAN: It was pills. Then pills became expensive, hard to get. And heroin was just extremely easy to get and a lot cheaper.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Like Megan, the gateway to heroin for Billy was also pain pills. He was 13 years old when he started.
BILLY: I was already using that prescription pills. I like the way it felt. So I found that heroin was cheaper than pills, but it was more intense so I began sniffing heroin and then shooting it was the next step from there and I would save money and I went right to shooting. The first time I shot it, I fell in love with it. It was like -- the only way I can explain is I met god.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Billy and Megan are joined in their opioid devotion by scores of other people who gather on the street. That happens to be near a hospital, methadone clinic and shelters, people who want to help, 40 miles up the road in the small city of Gloucester, Massachusetts police will not arrest you if you come to the police station with opioid looking for help.
The strategy of help, no hand cops, started here and spread throughout the country. But after a much publicized and encouraging start, the police chief here is facing a stark reality, things are not getting better.
[20:55:04] CHIEF JOHN MCCARTHY, GLOUCESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT: We've seen an increase in fentanyl. Fentanyl is a drug that is a 50 a 100 times stronger than heroin.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Like heroin, fentanyl is an opioid, hidden a tiny dose that can lethal. Craig uses fentanyl like everyone we meet on the street, he wants to stop, but says he can't.
CRAIG, OPIOID ADDICT: I'm addicted to opiates.
TUCHMAN (on camera): So what do you do on the street? What kind of opiates?
CRAIG: The thing is every -- all the opiates right now is fentanyl. So everybody is dying. TUCHMAN (voice-over): It's about to start powering here in Boston, these people who can't live without their pills in their needles will be sleeping in dirt that will turn into mud.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Are you afraid you're going to die from this?
BILLY: I know I'm going to die from this.
TUCHMAN: Are you afraid you're going to die from this?
MEGAN: Not really afraid. And honestly, sometimes it just -- death seems easier.
COOPER: Gary joins me now. You were able to talk to some of these people. What did they have to say about -- they talk about the announcement today? Is that is going to send on their radar at all?
TUCHMAN: Yes, Anderson, the people in the streets, some of them have heard a little bit about President Trump's declaration, no one heard any specifics. We filled them in a little bit. The consensus seems to be in if these results in more recruiting center and better treatment centers that would be good. But there's a lot of skepticism. I must tell you, I've interviewed many opioid addicts over the years, I've never interviewed who enjoyed doing this, they want to be cured, they want to be made better hope that this could work. Anderson.
COOPER: Gary, I appreciate you joined us. Thanks very much. Our team continues to look through the JFK assassination files, more than 28,000 records no longer secret. We have more on what our team is going to cover. And why President Trump decided to hold others back and not release them when we continue.