Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Ex-Trump Campaign Adviser Sought Dirt on Clinton Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI; Manafort, Gates Plead Not Guilty to 12 Counts, Both Under House Arrest; White House Downplays New Charges, Guilty Plea in Russia Probe. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 30, 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.
There is breaking news on top of breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation. At the end of an extremely significant day, significant for this president to be sure, and significant in the history of the presidency. It is that big a day.
We're learning right now how the White House is really reacting to this morning's indictments of two former top campaign officials and the guilty plea of a third less known individual. It is not safe to say the calm, almost the type of response that we've been witnessing for most of the day the West Wing has.
We begin though with what everyone is reacting to. Not just a dozen conspiracy and money laundering charges against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associates Rick Gates, but also the surprise revelation that this man, former Trump foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to the FBI. His plea, his e-mails and other documents relating to his arrests that came out today tell us things we did not know until now.
What's more, they provided key new points along a timeline that special counsel Robert Mueller could possibly build into a case that team Trump colluded with Russia to win the election.
On top of all that, another document unsealed today suggests that George Papadopoulos barely on the radar until now, might have been wearing a wire. We have correspondents covering all the angles tonight on him, on Manafort, on the president as well as a team of legal and political experts.
We begin with CNN's Manu Raju on that one time mystery man George Papadopoulos who is right now front and center.
So, what have you been learning?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
As soon after joining the Trump campaign, Anderson, in March 2016, George Papadopoulos had a meeting with a London-based professor who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton's campaign. He had multiple interactions with this professor. And the professor's promise, actually, Anderson, came around the same time that John Podesta, the former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman, his server was hacked, his e-mails were hacked around the time that Papadopoulos was promised dirt from this professor.
Now, what we do know is Papadopoulos lied to federal prosecutors and admitted to lying these interactions with this London based professors and other Russian contacts. And in these documents that were unsealed today, Anderson, it turns out that this contact was not the only one. There were several others.
RAJU (voice-over): Papadopoulos admitted he lied to federal authorities when he said that contacts with the professor occurred before joining the Trump campaign. He also falsely told authorities that the professor was, quote, just a guy talking of connections or something when in fact Papadopoulos knew the professor had substantial connections to the Kremlin and had repeatedly sought to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials. Papadopoulos also downplayed contacts he had with a female Russian national when in fact she also had ties to the Russian government that Papadopoulos pitched to the Trump campaign as part of an effort to have Trump meet with Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Papadopoulos even described the woman to campaign officials as Putin's niece. A campaign supervisor praised Papadopoulos for, quote, great work. And in March, when he met with the woman and a professor in London, they talked about setting up a meeting they said that leadership, including Putin, is ready to meet with us. And Mr. Trump should there be interest, Papadopoulos wrote.
As he continued to work on arranging the meeting, the discussions reached the highest levels of the Trump campaign, with then chairman Paul Manafort and senior aide Rick Gates e-mailing to say, quote: We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.
And then in May, Papadopoulos forwarded an e-mail he wrote with Russia Updates to senior campaign officials in which he said: Russia has been eager to meet with Mr. Trump for quite sometime and had been reaching out to me to discuss.
But in July 2016, Papadopoulos said that a meeting between senior Trump officials with Putin aides, quote, had been approved from our side.
Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27th and later pled guilty for knowingly and willfully making materially false statements.
COOPER: And where is Papadopoulos now?
RAJU: We simply don't know the answer to that, Anderson. CNN has tried to reach out to him on multiple occasions. We have been unsuccessful in doing so.
And even the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have tried to bring him in for interviews and they have failed as well. But his attorney did issue a statement earlier saying that Papadopoulos will not have any further comment but probably some of his story would come out through the course of the campaign.
And, Anderson, even as the White House down played his role in the campaign, he graduated from DePaul University in 2009. He went to London, got his masters degree in London afterwards and later joined the Trump campaign after working with Ben Carson's campaign.
The president singled him out in a "Washington Post" interview, called him an excellent guy and pointed out to him, as one of several people on his national security team and he's also pictured in March of 2016 in a meeting with then candidate Trump -- Anderson.
[20:05:15] COOPER: Manu, it's also important to point out, I mean, after he was arrested and admitted that he had lied, he had cooperated with the FBI, right?
RAJU: Yes, and that could be significant. We don't know how significant quite yet. But the fact that he is cooperating with the FBI, it could signal that there's a lot more to this investigation going forward. We don't know the extent of his contacts with everybody in the Trump universe, but we do know we tried to a number of occasions to reach out to the highest levels of the Trump campaign and he also got some responses. So, his involvement may be more extensive than what we know right now, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, appreciate it.
Now, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. CNN's Pamela Brown has that side of the story.
So, what exactly are the allegations against these two?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, a 12-count indictment against the two men was unsealed today and it focuses on their years as political consultants and lobbyists working in Ukraine. The counts include conspiracy against United States, conspiracy to launder money and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. So, the court documents allege that these men, these two men were taking tens of millions of dollars from Ukraine while they were acting as agents for the country, and then hiding that money in offshore accounts to wash it and then they lied about it allegedly.
And the indictment details their lavish lifestyle, that they used this money from offshore accounts to pay for mortgages, luxury cars, clothing, home decorating, their children's tuition. So, while these charges don't relate specifically to the Trump campaign, the FBI says they were engaged in these activities from 2008 through 2017. So, while they were at least involved with the campaign -- Anderson.
COOPER: And what has -- has Manafort said anything or his attorney said anything about these allegations?
BROWN: Well, Manafort has stayed mum. He self-surrendered at the FBI's Washington bureau this morning, didn't say anything. But his attorney, Kevin Downing, spoke outside the building to reporters and said these charges are baseless. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: President Donald Trump was correct. There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort and the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And again, in this indictment, there is no mention of possible collusion with the Russians. Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty. Their bail was set to $20 million for Manafort, $5 million for Gates, and both then have been put on house arrest -- Anderson.
COOPER: And what about Gates? He's a long time associate of Manafort.
BROWN: Right. He was one of his deputies. He was his business partner. His spokesman released a statement saying that he won't comment until he reviews the indictment.
His spokesperson also said that the indictment was unexpected. Apparently, he was totally surprised by this. And he called it a hastily proceeding designed to accommodate perhaps political and press considerations. And he added that the fight is just beginning.
We should note that Mueller's team could add a superseding indictment, so it's entirely possible there could be more charges. This is just the beginning here, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Pamela, thanks very much.
The initial White House reaction to Manafort engaged indicted was that this had nothing to do with the campaign as you heard. As for Papadopoulos plea, it was more along the limes of George, who?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This individual was a member of a volunteered advisory council that met one time over the course of the year. It was a volunteer position. Again, somebody on a volunteer committee.
Again, he was a volunteer. He was not paid by the campaign. He was a volunteer on, again, a council that met once.
He was a volunteer on the campaign and a volunteer member of an advisory council. I'm telling you that he was a volunteer member of an advisory council that literally met one time.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So that was this afternoon. Right now, though, we're learning more about what went on behind closed doors at the White House and what's going on there tonight.
For that, let's go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. Do we know how the president reacted when he heard about these indictments?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we do. We know that he spent hours in the residence of the White House, not in the Oval Office but in the residence, watching all this unfold on television. I'm told he was seething at these reports. That's in the words of someone who spoke to him.
They said as he was watching all of this, he was expecting some kind of indictment on Manafort, but this Papadopoulos thing - surprised him entirely. He was watching this for hours. He did not arrive in the Oval Office for meetings until around noon or 12:30 or so, simply watching this all unfold as his lawyers were meeting with him. But entirely different and the White House was trying to portray it down below when they were saying, look, this is not connected to the campaign at all.
And as far as Sarah Sanders saying volunteer over and over and over, Paul Manafort indeed was a volunteer as well. Many people on these presidential campaigns are volunteers -- in a volunteer capacity. So, that does not necessarily mean much in this case.
COOPER: What is the White House strategy for dealing with Mueller and the investigation going forward?
ZELENY: Anderson, we found out after talking to a lot of people all day long that there is something of a tug of war going on here, if you will.
[20:10:02] There is one side of thinking the president's legal advisers saying that he should not aggressively go after Bob Mueller. He should, you know, if he wants to sort of make some attacks at the investigation, he can, but not directly at Bob Mueller.
But there's another side. Steve Bannon, that wing, of course, is leading that as well. He believes that the president's legal team has been too soft here and misguided here. So, he does believe that the president should go after Bob Mueller in an attempt to, you know, simply throw this all up in the air here. So, there is an internal discussion.
So far, the president has not for a while gone after the special counsel here. We'll see if he does in the coming days.
Anderson, all of this, of course, a major distraction as this week was supposed to be the time to talk about the tax reform plan. And, of course, he's leaving Friday for a foreign trip as well here. But this, of course, is so front-and-center tonight.
COOPER: Yes, it's fascinating, Jeff, that the president was actually watching TV, I mean -- ZELENY: For hours.
COOPER: -- for hours and didn't go to work until did about 12:00 or 12:30.
So, the Papadopoulos side of this, that came as a surprise?
ZELENY: It did come as a surprise. We were told by several people that he was simply not expecting this and, of course, most people around Washington weren't expecting this either because, you know, he, of course, had pleaded guilty more than a month ago and this was something that was sealed and kept confidential here. So, that was one of the surprises here today.
And, of course, no one knows who he spoke to over the last three weeks or so, as he was wearing a wire here. So, if anyone had a conversation with him, I can imagine tonight they're rethinking what they actually said to him, if they did, Anderson.
COOPER: Right. I mean, it does seem, you now, the number of people, those five people or so I think it was who were named to the president's, you know, foreign advisory council early on his campaign.
COOPER: It was a time when candidate Trump was under pressure because a lot of very reputable experienced people had said that they would not wok for President Trump. So, he needed to name some names, and that's when he came up with Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and some others. There are very real questions about how closely linked they were to the campaign though it seems like with Papadopoulos, according to these charges, that, you know, he was getting his e-mails returned from Manafort and others.
ZELENY: Sure. He was definitely trying to do something, trying to set up a meeting. But if you remember back in the time of March 2016, Donald Trump was still trying to convince Republicans here in Washington and elsewhere that he was a real candidate. So, he was trying to say, look, these foreign policy advisers, and they weren't exactly, you know, top flight advisers who were working on some of the other Republican campaigns here. So, it's unclear exactly how much the work was going on at the time.
But the president was certainly holding them up as examples of the fact that he was being advised here. So, the question here is -- I mean, it was a very small operation and he was getting his e-mails returned at the time. There were no meetings, of course. But this again is the beginning of this. How many others are out there, we'll find out as this investigation continues.
COOPER: Yes. Jeff, thanks very much.
Senior political analyst David Gergen joins us now.
David, as someone who has worked in a number of White Houses over the years, Republicans and Democrats, how serious do you think today's developments were?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Serious. Very serious. What we now know is that the government is charging that an unregistered foreign agent for Soviet stooge or Russian stooges was campaign chairman for President Trump. Not for very long, but an important period of time.
And that contrary to assurances from the president that there had been no conversation with the Russians or his campaign had nothing to do with Russians, we now know that at least one person who was recognized as a national security adviser by the campaign who at a meeting, attended meetings with the president was in active conversations with the Russians.
And what this suggests, Anderson, is that Bob Mueller now has this Papa -- this young national security adviser --
GERGEN: -- Papadopoulos, you know, he's now singing. That he's now giving evidence of higher ups, and that's how he got a plea barring today and pled guilty. So, I think this is quite serious.
COOPER: What's also interesting about this Papadopoulos development is that the exchange he had with this professor, Russian professor in London who reportedly has ties or allegedly has ties to the Kremlin who said that they had e-mails and dirt on Hillary Clinton -- I mean, that predates by several months the Donald Trump Jr. meeting and yet there's a lot of echoes in the Donald Trump Jr. meeting to what this professor was also saying to Papadopoulos.
GERGEN: Yes. That's absolutely right, Anderson. And also what we have here, two things. One, there was a clear desire on the part of people in the Trump campaign to get the dirt, whatever it was, whether it was e-mails or whatever else they might get from the Russians that they clearly wanted to do it, even though they didn't set up carefully, avoided setting up a big meeting with the Russians.
[20:15:01] They clearly wanted to send signals back.
And I think that's an important element of this in going forward. And we also know, Anderson, from the indictments there we're returned. And the plea bargain that's been made here by Papadopoulos that Papadopoulos was reporting to others, unnamed others, but they are singled out in the plea agreement that there was a campaign -- you know, there were two people high up in the campaign and one national, senior national security adviser. We don't know who that is, but the finger seemed to point perhaps at Flynn.
COOPER: Well, also, the other fascinating thing about this is both Papadopoulos and Donald Trump Jr. entertained this notion of getting dirt -- with the belief that it was from the Russian government. I mean, that's what Donald Trump Jr. was told in those e-mails and Papadopoulos, though he lied about it to the FBI then came clean to the FBI and said, yes, in fact, he knew --
GERGEN: Yes, that's a very good point, Anderson, because it's very clear that they were responding to signals from Russian operatives saying, we've got some stuff, do you want to talk to us? And yes, we do want your stuff.
Now, what we still don't know and it's a big don't know and it's very, very important for where this goes is whether these conversations led anywhere and did it actually led to cooperation with the Russians in terms of the meddling. That still is unclear.
But we know that's where Mueller is hoping to go or are least, he's going to investigate that to find out just what happened.
GERGEN: One last thing, Anderson, that what we've also been told tonight by the "Washington Post" is that Facebook is going to testify tomorrow that the Russian-based, Russian sourced materials put out in the campaign to meddle in the campaign may have reached as many as 126 million Americans. That's about the number who voted.
COOPER: Yes. CNN has confirmed that.
David, can you just put this in some historical perspective in terms of, you know, scandals in the White House, investigations of White Houses?
GERGEN: Well, it -- you know, we're at a situation where this is not Watergate and we are not at a point where the president of the United States is about to be shoved, you know, in terms judicially or politically. What we do know is that we now for the first time and this happens rarely, have criminal investigation which is creeping into high -- people close to the president or high up in his campaign and may well reach in among the people who have worked in the White House.
We haven't seen that since the Nixon days. Again, I stress this is not Watergate. But, you know, when you have criminal charges against people who were close to the president, that's very rare.
COOPER: David Gergen, we're going to talk to you a little bit later in the program.
Coming up next, our panel weighs in on where this leaves the White House and the president legally. And later, given the president's mood right now, we'll explore the nuclear option, firing Robert Mueller and the fallout that might bring.
[20:21:50] COOPER: We first learned who George Papadopoulos was in March of last year when candidate Trump briefly read a list of foreign policy advisers at a meeting with editors at "The Washington Post".
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Barely a sentence. Tonight, he's at the center of the storm now threatening the presidency.
With us now, Phil Mudd, Ken Cuccinelli, Michael Zeldin, Jeff Toobin and Laura Coates.
Jeff, Papadopoulos, how big of a deal is his part of this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's enormous and it's the big surprise of the day because he was a much lesser known figure, but his case involves the core of what Mueller was investigating, which is possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And the e-mails that are discussed in his plea agreement in the information to which he pled guilty suggests that this was an extensive effort between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to get together, including talking about thousands of e-mails.
And we don't know if they are the same thousands of e-mails, but the thousands -- there were thousands of Hillary Clinton e-mails that were later released. And any involvement of the Trump campaign in the release of those e-mails could be the basis for a very serious charge.
COOPER: We also now know that this information that's been unsealed in a July motion from the special counsel. I just want to read it. It says in part, public disclosure of the defendant's initial appearance however would significantly undermine his ability to serve as a proactive cooperator.
Proactive cooperator, what -- that means?
TOOBIN: That means wearing a wire to me. And I think this is so -- what a blockbuster possible piece of development that is, because he was arrested in July. He pled guilty in October. That period of July to October, just -- I mean just weeks ago, he was in a position to proactively cooperate, meaning, wear a wire, get admissions from people who perhaps are still serving in the Trump administration.
COOPER: Although, Ken, I mean, the question would be -- how connected was he? I mean, could he get his phone calls returned? He obviously -- was able to get e-mails returned when he was part of the campaign.
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, but when you look through the 24 pages, the -- I wouldn't say his e-mails under returned that quickly, he got them the next day and all the rest. Campaign pace is minute to minute. That wasn't happening.
And he was making the same request for five months. I mean, from the middle of March to August, in the statement of facts submitted with the plea is the first time you see any encouragement from anyone else in the campaign to Papadopoulos, why don't you go ahead and do that meeting if you can make it happen? In the next sentences, the meeting never happened.
So, yes, there was discussion in April of the e-mails, dirt on Hillary Clinton. And we see that language show up later, a couple months later. It's going to be real interesting to know who this specific individual's referenced are. You know, is the high ranking campaign official, Paul Manafort, or is it Steve Miller who was kind of running the whole, you know, policy operation?
[20:25:06] Steve Miller's in the White House. Papadopoulos was never going there. And his role here looks strange in one more sense, and that is, it looks like he was pulled out of the sand box and put into this campaign.
COOPER: Well, all those -- I mean, all those people, there were five people who Donald Trump named at the time, Carter Page, they were just kind of pulled out of thin air because the president was under pressure. He had to get some names.
TOOBIN: Papadopoulos graduated from college in 2009. I mean, that's pretty young.
COOPER: Fast mover.
COOPER: Michael, what do you make of Papadopoulos' involvement and how he's been used (ph)?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, ROBERT MUELLER'S FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT AT DOJ: So, couple things. First is at the sentencing or the plea, the prosecutor, Mueller's prosecutor, said this is a small part of the larger investigation. So, he's let people know this guy represents just the tip of the iceberg for his broader investigation.
Second is --
COOPER: Which is also interesting about that it's the tip of the iceberg no one saw. Usually the tip of the iceberg is the stuff that the media sees. He was arrested and nobody even knew about it.
ZELDIN: Well, that's right. And in some sense, that's testament to Bob Mueller and his team and the way they're operating.
Secondly, he's arrested and convicted -- or pleads guilty to lying. And what we did when he was first interviewed by the FBI was I think try to be protective of others. Maybe a foolish of himself, but protective of others.
So, I think that this guilty plea to lying has to tell anybody else who has been interviewed, or is going to be interviewed -- you better think long and hard about what you've said or what you're going to say to Mueller. You can't protect anyone but yourself, because if you do lie in an effort to protect somebody, a mistaken effort to protect somebody, you're going to end up with a thousand and one lying count against you, and it's a five-year felony and it's easily proved. So, that's sobering. COOPER: Laurie, you agree with Jeff Toobin. You think the big question here is whether George Papadopoulos has been wearing a wire for the government the past couple of months.
LAURIE COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, in fact, the idea of being a proactive cooperator, I think it gives too much, you know, or not enough significance to say that may be he was just wearing a wire. Proactive to me means that he was actively trying to have the discussions with people, to in some ways make Mueller's team aware of what had happened over the months prior to that. And so, being proactive, there are a number of people who could have had conversations with.
Remember, Washington, D.C. is one of those one party consent jurisdictions. Meaning, you could actually wiretap and you could have recordings of one side of the telephone conversation and include both parties, only one side agreeing to it. So, you could have videos, I mean, tapes out of there, of telephone recordings, information where there's actually the campaign people who are now in administration, perhaps with Manafort, perhaps with Gates.
And so, you have an evolving story here of what this person knows. And it must be reiterated that for over three months, this person escaped the scrutiny of the media and also escaped probably the key players who probably conversed with him, e-mailed, spoke casually and you don't have any idea what this man was able to accomplish before it went public.
COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We want to get to Phil Mudd right after we come back from the break. We'll continue the conversation.
I also want to get to one of the looming questions, can the president try to fire Mueller, would he? We'll talk about that, next.
[20:30:50] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Despite the President's tweets and the White House's Press Secretary assistant said there's nothing to see here, there is plenty to actually to see indictment against the Presidents former campaign manager, one of his top associates demand that President once calls the foreign adviser pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
Now with many questions, of course is, will the President try to impede the investigation going forward. The investigation is repeatedly called the witch hunt.
New reporting tonight from Jeff Zeleny says there's an internal fight over how aggressively the President should try to discredit Mueller. White House lawyers urge him not to directly criticize special counsel. Well, according to reporting other advisers including his former chief strategist Steve Bannon are suggesting he push back aggressively. As I said plenty to see, plenty to talk about as well with the panel. Phil, we didn't hear from you, what jumps out at you at this point, in all that we learned today?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What jumps out of me is I spent five years with Director Mueller. And what jumps out of me is what we're not seeing here. This -- we're going to violate the laws of nature because this manure is going to roll up hill.
He did not after 12 years as FBI director, that is Director Mueller, get into this business to indict people who are on the margins of the Trump campaign. And he did get into this business to come after somebody for a thousand one violations that he's line to a Federal officer and for money laundering.
When I saw this role, I mean guy is coming out with some of the most serious charges first, put charges on the periphery. What this tells me is he's now going to start rolling up. These people will talk about more significant players whether that's Don Junior or Jared Kushner, I don't know.
And the issues are going to get hotter and hotter. That is -- did someone actually take data from the Russians and it's serving in the campaign? This is just the beginning.
COOPER: You were also saying before when -- that the timeline of this is interesting without when -- you were kind of looking at the dates in when Comey was being asked for a loyalty test from the President, you believe they already had information?
MUDD: Yes. Look at -- Let's play detective here for a moment. You know they acquired data going well back to last year. That's financial data, that's the FBI. Financial data, e-mail, phone. So they are drawing a picture around somebody like the individuals who were -- who are in the beginning of prosecution this way. So they have the data.
We know also that some of the interviews were underway. So, the FBI is already comparing what the interview wee are saying. Whether they are lying and clearly some of them did, with the data. Let's put those together, what I'm saying is I suspect when Jim Comey walked into some of the conversations with the President. That he already knew some of the President's advisors had lied to the FBI, that's a federal investigation. He already knew the Trump team was in trouble.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Remember, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on January on 27th.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: July.
TOOBIN: No January 27. That's when he pleaded guilty in July.
KENNETH CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
TOOBIN: His statement to the FBI was in January, where Jim Comey wasn't even named until May. So, this investigation had been proceeding for months. And you have to give the FBI credit. They knew who to ask and what to ask way back in January. And, you know, that suggests that they had accumulated it, as Phil was saying, a good deal of information even before Comey was even hired.
CUCCINELLI: And one of the things I find interesting about this is that, if you were to pick someone in this whole picture that would be most likely to be at the center of Russia collusion to be Paul Manafort. And so, the indictment comes out today doesn't touch any of that. It's obviously uncovered 10 years of his wrong doing. None of it touching on what he was doing in the campaign, which is why I said earlier, it will be really interesting to know who that senior -- high ranking campaign official is. Because, I think, that tells us the next step in this story.
But realized there's a lot of speculation going on here. Collusion is not an offense, it's not a legal offense, what's being looked for here in terms of a criminal investigation is did people break the law in various ways. And we saw some of those examples today for three different people, actually, maybe four if you count Podesta, and Mercury LLC (ph) is the other one that's in the hot seat.
And I think, there maybe more to come. But we still don't have any Russian collusion here.
COOPER: Michael and then Laura. Michael.
ZELDIN: Yes, so there are couple of things. First is, collusion that word is not a crime. But conspiracy is a crime. And it is a crime to conspire to interfere with the federal election. And it is a conspiracy to violate the anti-hacking is. It is a crime to conspire to interview with an election. It is a conspiracy to violate hacking laws by cooperating with people who oversee this.
[20:35:06] There are conspiracy charges that reside in this case on the evidence that publicly available. Second, I think that "The Washington Post" has reported the communication's been Padopoulos was with Manafort and Carter. You can double check this.
ZELDIN: But I think that's what they have reported. So, we know who they are communicating with.
And so, I think that the financial transaction indictment against Manafort is the logical first step in leveraging Manafort to cooperate if he has information about collusion. Similarly with Flynn because the Flynn Intel group did almost the exact same thing I believe as the Manafort group did. Flynn did it with respect to Turkey. And for shorter period time Manafort in Ukraine for a longer period of time. But it's the same thing. And General Flynn has a son in the game and --
COOPER: And they'd go after his son as well.
ZELDIN: -- and they would go after his son. And I think it's, you know, sort of in the DNA of every parent to try to protect their child. And I think that's going to be part of the reason why we see the possibility of Flynn cooperating.
COOPER: Laura you wanted to say something?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, because of the time line here it can't be missed because the efforts by the White House are in there going to try to discredit Mueller and people who are believing that Mueller somehow was engaged in the witch hunt that was accused of him many, many months ago when he took the office in May.
But that timeline that Jeffrey was talking about and was obsess (ph) later on indicates that in fact, you have to discredit the FBI, not just Mueller and his team, but the investigation of the Counter Intelligence probe long before he even took the office of special counsel. And so to do that would have to derail the trust in the executive branches own agency, the Department of Justice and the FBI.
And you know, we are talking a great deal. I know on Friday about the issue of -- well, who is going to be the big fish? And we had the National Security Advisor, we had Michael Flynn, and we had Manafort, the campaign chair, we had other people, the son-in-law, the son of the President as well. But the issue was who was going to be the biggest of those fish. But the reality of today showed us it was the smallest of those fish, Papadopoulos, where we know that there was a bridge that was being built and constructed from the FBI Counterintelligence probe last year to now to fill in the gaps what you didn't have. And that's why Papadopoulos is so important. And how you know that context is going to be everything from Mueller's team.
COOPER: We had a lot more ahead including the stunning none reaction today from the man who's second in line to the presidency House Speaker Paul Ryan.
COOPER: It is a turning point in the Russian investigation, the first indictments, a guilty plea from a former Trump campaign advisor who admits he lied to the FBI about his contact to Russia. The reaction on Capitol Hill those shows how big this is with what Democrats are saying in how the Republican leadership is trying not to say anything. CNN Congressional Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty joins me.
[20:40:00] Sunlen, Republican leadership, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell how are they responding to all these?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, seeing the Republican leadership up here on Capitol Hill, Anderson, really are taking pains to avoid specifically responding to this indictment today.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell avoided press up here on Capitol Hill. He appeared at a press conference and last before he was able to be asks questions by reporters. And earlier today Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, was asked about the Senate event in Darien Wisconsin. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have nothing to add to these indictments. So, even this is what Bob Mueller was tasked to do. I haven't read the indictments. I don't know the specific details of the indictments. But that is how our -- that's how the judicial process works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: This is someone, as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is second in line to the presidency. And he was asked about this many hours after the indictments came out, saying it's remarkable he said, that he has not yet read this indictment. And he was also was asked in a radio interview about this today. All he would say, Anderson, is not going to derail the focus up here on Capitol Hill on tax reform. But it's certainly it's sucking up most of the oxygen in the room.
COOPER: Yes, what about other members of Congress, is it pretty much divided along party lines?
SERFATY: Yes, sure. We've heard from Democrats today saying that this is significant, applauding Robert Mueller saying that shows that the special counsel is doing his job. And we heard from Democrats today really essentially warning -- preemptive warning shot at President Trump saying -- warning him not to go on and fire the special counsel as has been talked about in recent days, that this could be a potential. Democrats saying you should not interfere with the investigation.
That's a sentiment that wasn't share exclusively among Democrats, one Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham moments ago saying that President Trump should stay in your lane and let these proceedings play out. So, he did add it's OK to talk to the Russians it's just not OK to accept help from them. Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Sunlen, thanks very much.
Well, the bombshell day for the President is coming at a time where his approval rate is tanking. It's the lowest point in his presidency according to the latest NBC Wall Street Journal Poll. Just 38 percent say they approve to the job the President is doing. It's down five points since September. The previous low for the poll was 39 percent approval in May.
Meanwhile, the latest Gallup tracking poll has met 33 percent job approval. That's from yesterday. And that poll was based on a three day rolling average.
Joining me now is Gloria Borger, and David Chalian, and once again it's David Gergen. So, David, Gergen, Speaker Ryan, should we expect more from him? I mean, he is second in line to presidency. He is essentially kind of brushing off saying he didn't look at the indictment which arguably the most significant development in this investigation.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, I'm sure he is distracted because he really does want to push tax reform this week. But I do absolutely think that Speaker Ryan owed more of a statement in these issues so far. I would think that the wise score would be to follow Lindsay Graham in saying the President should stay in his lane. You know, this is too serious. And be respectful of the process and let the process play out.
Speaker Ryan has as much of an interest as Democrats do and heading off any firing of Mueller.
COOPER: Gloria, I mean, I guess, arguably the biggest card in all of this is how President Trump continues to react to Mueller's actions.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLTICAL ANALYST: Yes, I've talked to multiple people today who are given me completely different stories. I have somebody who spoken with the President multiple times today, who said to he's completely cool. When he heard about Papadopoulos he said, who the hell is this guy, I don't even know who he is. That he expected clearly something on the Manafort front.
And then I spoke with somebody else who spoke with the President and I said, well, somebody described him as cool. And this person said, no, he's actually anti-cool. He is hot and bothered. And so, you know, you're trying to get a picture here of how the President is really reacting, and what the strategy is going to be going forward. Because, you know, they've been kind of playing nice with Mueller, saying that they're handing him all the documents he wants, and trying to get the President not to criticize Mueller in Twitter or anywhere else and that's been holding. But the question I think you have to ask is will the dam break?
COOPER: And David Chalian, I mean the White House is been trying to deflect and distract from the investigation really from day one. Is that an impossible mission at this point now that they are in indictments?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: For anyone who reads words on the page it's impossible because it's in black and white. I don't see anywhere and all the court documents I read today some effort of the Democrats to make an excuse for losing an election. That's the "hoax" that President Trump has argued this entire investigation is.
It does in old water, when Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary speaking on behalf of the President of United States, stands behind the podium and says; nothing that came out today had anything to do with the campaign. It's just completely not supported by the facts of everything we learned about Papadopoulos today.
[20:45:06] COOPER: Yes. And David Gergen, I mean according to the reporting by CNN, the President worries that the investigation could hurt his ability to negotiate with foreign leaders and believes, "the world is less safe because of this investigation and will remain less safe until it is over." Does that make sense to you?
GERGEN: It is only is less safe if he's deceiving leads to sort of reaction on his part. And impulse reaction and he's going to take action somewhere else to deflect attention and that's sort of thing. I do think it is awkward for the President to be going on this foreign trip which is a big deal, coming up to the end of this work for 10 days. You know, it's going to be hard to sort Have the White House maneuver through what could be, you know, very difficult terrain here. They have to navigate in a way that doesn't lose the public but at the same time tries to direct defenses. And that's going to take some very smart people.
COOPER: Well, Gloria, I mean to the point about, you know, the President being distracted, you know, but those who works in the Clinton White House, Paul Begala, used to say that when President Clinton was under investigation he was able to compartmentalize it. They had a group working on that and they had the group in the White House working on policy issues.
From Jeff Zeleny's reporting it sounds like the President has been, you know, this morning up until, you know, mid day essentially watching T.V. and film.
BORGER: Right. And you saw, you know, in the series of tweets this is sort of create to core from the President about Mueller and just being a host and everything else. And I feel like just reading him and I believe in Twitter is really a version of the true Trump. You do get the sense that this is a President who feels like he's kind of punching jell-O here, because he's trying to get true his message.
But how can he get it through when you have George Papadopoulos out there saying, oh, I was communicating with these people who were telling me yes, it sounds like a good idea for you to go to Russia. It doesn't make a lot of sense. And so while some people tell me he's cool, I tend to believe that the real Trump we see is the one that we see on Twitter and that is anything but cool. I think he is clearly fuming about this.
COOPER: David Chalian, I mean the other thing to think about is the impact these indictments and the Papadopoulos has on, you know, lower level staff in the White House who have to look over their shoulder and wonder what else, you know, what other e-mails are out there. And you know, have to hire attorneys of their own in great cause.
CHALIAN: Yes. And one Republican operative I think at "The Washington Post" tonight as in touched of people in the White House described as the walls are closing in. And then people feel that inside the West Wing.
There is no doubt -- as much compartmentalization as you would like to accomplish. There's no doubt that this just oozes through every aspect of what goes on inside the West Wing of the White House. Everyone is aware of it. It is impossible to remain its hard 100 percent focused on the policy initiatives because this is hanging over their head.
BORGER: You know, this President doesn't compartmentalize, he vents. And that's what we saw today, and we may see more of it.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, David Chalian, David Gergen, thank you. When we come back, the man at the center of it all today or one of people at the center former Trump Campaign Chair, Paul Manafort, we're going to dig into exactly who he is and exactly what he's accused of doing because it's very complex, next.
[20:52:37] COOPER: More now on the man of the center of today's big story, Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. As we mentioned after pleading not guilty in the Federal Court this afternoon Manafort is now under house arrest with a $10 million bond if he violates the court's terms. His passport has been confiscated.
Here is what Sarah Sanders describes the former head of the campaign today at the White House briefing when asked about the indictment this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President hired Paul Manafort to handle the delicate process, which he did, and he was dismissed not too long after that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. That is just not an accurate characterization of his role. Manafort was the one-time campaign chairman. He held the central place on team until he resigned in August of 2016.
Now, we knew Mueller's team had insights on Manafort, especially after that early morning FBI raid on his home past July. Now we do have a much clearer picture of the extent of his alleged crimes.
CNN's Drew Griffin has more.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The government's case that Paul Manafort and his partner, Rick Gates, pushed $75 million through offshore accounts and Manafort laundered $18 million of it. Both have pleaded not guilty. Most of the money came from the former government of Ukraine.
Manafort allegedly hit the money in overseas bank accounts and offshore corporations, then tried to sneak the money back into the U.S. He bought three homes in New York and Virginia for $6.4 million, then took out loans on those properties to launder the cash. And according to the court filing, never paid taxes on any of it.
Federal prosecutors detail a lavish lifestyle that went beyond properties, including more than $5 million paid to a home improvement company in the Hampton, $1.3 million to a home entertainment system company and hundreds of thousands for antiques, high-end clothing and cars.
The man on the other hand of that money most of it from political consulting deals that the Russian align the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych who is being tried for treason and now lives in exile in Russia.
In 2005 Paul Manafort says he began consulting with Yanukovych, advising him and his party through tumultuous elections that included a divisive campaign, allegations of corruption and for abroad. Manafort is credited with helping get Yanukovych elected President of Ukraine.
PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP FORMER CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We should be talking about --
GRIFFIN: In interview with CNN last year, Paul Manafort says the ideals he brought to Ukraine were pro U.S. and his job was focused on bringing Ukraine closer and closer to Europe and away from Russia.
[20:55:11] MANAFORT: As far as the Yanukovych administration is concern you will see if you do any fact checking that I was the person that negotiated the framework which is based upon which Ukraine is now part of Europe. That was my role, that's what I did.
GRIFFIN: But Yanukovych move closer and closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yanukovych's polices divided the Ukrainian people. Leading the riots, police killings, dozens were shot to death, including targeted killings of Yanukovych's political opponents.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych eventually fled his own country to Russia and to the safety of his friend, Vladimir Putin in February of 2014. All the while, continuing to be advised by Paul Manafort.
Manafort first hit the FBI radar when the agency began looking into possible corruption and money laundering involving Yanukovych. Federal agents also discovered Paul Manafort and two other consulting groups working with the Ukrainians failing to register that work with the U.S. government, a violation of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. Manafort eventually did filed the paper work in June and it showed his company was paid more than $17 million in just two years by the Ukrainian political party.
MANAFORT: I knew Donald since the 1980s and we talked about it and he felt I can help him, which I felt and he made the changes.
GRIFFIN: In March of 2016 Donald Trump brought his long time acquaintance Paul Manafort onto the campaign, soon promoting him to campaign chair. But within months, Manafort was gone. Political infighting along with renewed charges of secret payments from Ukraine and Russian oligarchs doomed Manafort's future with Donald Trump. On august 19th, 2016, less than five months after joining the campaign, Manafort resigned.
COOPER: And Drew joins me now, as you pointed out right, we pointed out right before the piece. The White House is saying basically the Manafort was just a small player in the campaign, which is pretty ridiculous. I mean, he was much more than that as you explain. GRIFFIN: He ran the campaign as chairman, Anderson, during that crucial summer months of 2016 that included becoming Trump convention manager, during the Republican National Convention when Manafort was really trying to convince establishment Republican to back Trump's nomination, it wasn't just a small role. It was a crucial role.
He had been hired on by Trump in March of 2016, eventually took over when Corey Lewandowski got sacked. We should also point out that these two, Donald Trump and Paul Manafort go back decades, and their first connection is none other than Roger Stone. Stone and Manafort ran a lobbying firm that Trump hired on several occasions dating back to the '80s. Paul Manafort even went on to buy nearly $4 million condo in Trump Tower. Anderson?
COOPER: Drew Griffin, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
We had exclusive information today. The question now is how all the details connect? We are going to lay out a full timeline for you right when we comeback.
[21:00:01] COOPER: Top in the hour, the Russia story we expected tonight and the Russia story almost no one expected. Two former top members of the Trump campaign now under house arrest. Their passport is confiscated.