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President Trump: I Made Clear Today A Wall Must Be Part of the DACA Deal; Top Democrat Defies GOP, Releases Dossier Interview Testimony; Interview with Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired January 9, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight keeping them honest with something we have not seen very often with this president, an opportunity to watch him doing more than just making a speech or signing a bill. This afternoon, President Trump let the cameras stay for a bipartisan meeting at the White House on immigration. It was to be sure carefully staged managed, there's no doubt about it.

It was also a bit of high wire act, showing this president work and command in the thick of top negotiations, on complicated issues and has potential and obvious pitfalls, but it was done, according to CNN's reporting, to counter the narrative that this is a president working and not a president cooped up in his residence and tweeting and his supporters certainly praising him for that tonight.

At the same time, for nearly an hour of what must be said was pretty gripping television, viewers, as well as the lawmakers in that room, also saw some of the president's other well-known characteristics, including his well-documented fogginess on policy details and his eagerness during face-to-face moments to be liked. We also got to watch someone who builds himself as a master deal-maker do what he says he does best.

And it really matters. On March 5th, a program called DACA expires. That's the program that gives people who were brought here illegally as children the right to stay and work here. As you know, the president has been trying to make funding for the border wall a condition of keeping DACA, sending Congress a long list of demands back in October, including 10,000 more ICE agents, also ending so- called chain migration, a crackdown on sanctuary cities and more.

COOPER: Keeping them honest, though, what emerged from the meeting today was basically confusion, because the president, whether you agree or disagree with him on immigration, was all over the place, from beginning to the very end when he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My position is what the people in this room come up with. If they come to me with things that I'm not in love with, I'm going to do it because I respect them.


COOPER: So, it was that kind of talk that drew sharp criticism from his right for caving to Democrats. Ann Coulter for instance tweeting that, quote, nothing Michael Wolff could say about @RealDonaldTrump has hurt him as much as the DACA lovefest right now.

Well, that said, it's hard to know what to think because what the president said depended largely on who he was talking to. And apparently, the extent to which he understood the details. For instance, at one moment in the meeting, the president seemed willing to deal with only DACA with no strings attached at all.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: What about a clean DACA bill now and with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure like we did back when Kennedy was here and it was really a major, major effort and it was a great disappointment that it went nowhere?

TRUMP: I have no problem -- I think that's basically what Dick is saying. We're going to come up with DACA. We're going to do DACA and then we can start immediately on phase two, which would be comprehensive --


TRUMP: Yes, I would like to (INAUDIBLE). Go ahead.

I think a lot of people would like to see that. But I think we have to do DACA first.


COOPER: All right. So there he's saying do DACA first, talking about a clean bill. The president agreeing, by the sound of it, to a bill with none of the other stuff the White House has been pushing for months and then simply to agree to comprehensive immigration reform on top of that.

But maybe not. Watch what happens next as House majority leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy jumps in, steering to talk back to those conditions that the president himself has been demanding in the past.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, you need to be clear, though. I think what Senator Feinstein is asking here, when we talk about DACA, you have to have security, as the secretary would tell you.


COOPER: So, and as Congressman McCarthy talked, the president began agreeing with him as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCARTHY: It's kind of like three pillars. DACA, because we're all in the room want to do it, border security, so we're not back out here, and chain migration. It's just three items and then everything else that is comprehensive has moved to the side. So I believe when --

TRUMP: And the lottery, if you can end merit basis.


TRUMP: I don't know who is going to argue with merit based.


COOPER: So, in the space of about two minutes, the president seemed to totally abandon his long held positions then re-embraced them, and then barely a minute or so later, seemed to flip back.


TRUMP: I think what we're all saying is we'll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon, OK? We'll take an hour off and then we'll start.


TRUMP: So, talking to Republican Kevin McCarthy, and the president remembers some of the hard line measures he's demanding and changed for letting several hundred thousand Dreamers stay in the country and talking to Democrat Dianne Feinstein, it's Dreamers first and then what he calls comprehensive immigration reform.

Also curiously absent from today's meeting, not a word about this.


TRUMP: We are going to build a great border wall!

And who's going to pay for the wall?

CROWD: Mexico!

TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?

CROWD: Mexico!


CROWD: Mexico!

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

Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

[20:05:00] Mexico will pay for the wall.

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

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


COOPER: Again, nothing at the meeting about Mexico paying for the wall. However, on that note, the president did tweet about the wall.

Jim Acosta joins us.

So, Jim, any mention of who pays for it in that tweet?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's no mention of Mexico paying for the wall in that tweet. Of course, the president has not said since he's been in office, neither has his administration said anything about how they are going to force Mexico to pay for a wall on the border. I think that's abandoned, and left for dead, although the White House press secretary said he still believes that Mexico will pay for the wall.

Putting that all aside, we should show this tweet because I think it offers some clarity, Anderson, to what you were just talking about a few moments ago, which is that the president was sort of all over the place at this meeting. The president tweeted in just the last several minutes: As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the wall on the southern border which must be part of any DACA approval.

And that was the question that we had all day long, Anderson, which is, would the president be OK with a deal that protects these Dreamers now, gets that off the table so we don't have 700,000, 800,000 kids brought to this country through no fault of their own and see them being deported on the evening news and deal with this wall discussion later. The president is now saying very clearly tonight in that tweet that that is not the case. He wants this wall.

Listen to this exchange I had with Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, earlier today as I was trying to drill down on that point.


ACOSTA: Part of a deal in order for these dreamers to have protection?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Border security does have to be part of this process.

ACOSTA: I mean, there's different --

SANDERS: I want to secure our border, I absolutely do because the safety and security of the people of this country are the president's number one responsibility and his number one priority when it comes to anything that he does. So, absolutely.

ACOSTA: I don't understand how the wall can be different than border security, Sarah. Border security can mean drones.

SANDERS: No, actually I don't.

ACOSTA: It could be agents, more fencing. It doesn't necessarily mean a physical wall.

SANDERS: And that's part of the negotiation that we expect Congress to have.

ACOSTA: You're saying that Democrats may not be in favor of this kind of deal?

SANDERS: If Democrats are in favor of protecting American citizens, then I think we've hit a sad day in American history, but I don't believe that to be the case because as we heard many of them say, as they sat around that table when several of you were in the room, they are committed to border security. They do want it and most of them have voted for it previously before this legislation hit the floor.

So, anything different is just --

ACOSTA: If they say thanks but no thanks for a wall --

SANDERS: Jim, I'm not negotiating with you. I'm going to let Congress take care of that.


ACOSTA: OK, Anderson. You had that exchange there.

And you heard Sara Sarah Sanders using border security, why she did not want to say that the president must have a wall. That's why that tweet is so important. I did talk to a senior White House official just a few moments ago who said that this wall has to be part of a DACA deal. It has to be part of phase one of this immigration two- step that they want to do over the next several months.

Anderson, these Dreamers are running out of time. The deadline for them to have this protection expires or begins to expire on March 5th. After that point, they could be deported or they could start to be deported in waves.

And I talked to a senior Democratic aide earlier who said this detail matters a whole lot. They don't think the president wants a wall from sea to shining sea, as this person put it, but if he wants a physical wall like we've all heard about during the course of the campaign, quote, that is ridiculous and they're not going to go for that and I think at the end of the day, this is going to come down to, will Democrats vote for a wall on the border and I don't know if they're there yet, Anderson.

COOPER: It's also interesting. The president kept talking today about comprehensive immigration reform. I'm not clear he's using that phrase in the way that it is normally used because that's usually talking about a pathway to citizenship --

ACOSTA: That's right.

COOPER: -- or trying to resolve what is going to happen to the 11 million people undocumented here.

ACOSTA: That's right. This has been a very complicated, thorny issue for the last 12 years and that is whether you allow the 11 million to 12 million undocumented people in this country to have a path to citizenship. The president was throwing around this phrase, comprehensive immigration reform today as part of this phase, you do DACA first, border security first and then you deal with the other issues like a pathway to citizenship.

But, Anderson, the "Breitbart" wing of the party, even if it's minus Steven Bannon is say, that is amnesty and that runs completely counter. Anderson, you remember, we had those rallies every night on your show. It runs completely counter to the campaign that the president ran for a year and a half.

COOPER: Right. Fascinating.

Jim Acosta, appreciate it.

For more on the political takeaway, as well as what it reveals about how the president thinks and operates, we're joined now by CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent.

Maggie, how do you interpret what we saw play out in the cabinet room today and frankly why the White House allowed us to watch it?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the why the White House allowed us to watch it is it was aimed at quelling these questions about not the president's mental fitness but whether he's intelligent.

[20:10:05] You know, that was one of the themes that ran through the Michael Wolff book with various aides privately saying that they do not think he is smart. The president is very defensive about his intelligence as we've seen over the last three years or so.

What you saw in terms of the four different answers that he gave at various points is what we saw throughout the campaign. He has vague, loose ideas. He can be swayed by whoever he last talked to. He doesn't know the details of these policies at all, and he will often take two different positions that are in conflict with each other in the same sentence.

You don't normally see it play out like this in real time. And the White House has done a lot to shield people from seeing what we saw today over the course of the last year. So, it was really striking watching this happen. What ends up happening is that the president says these different things and sometimes people pick one and say, look, that's what he said.

At the end of the day, to your point, he often says comprehensive immigration. He doesn't mean it the way we are used to people meaning that term. He means something else entirely. He doesn't totally understand the connotation.

The hardliners in his administration have asked him to stop using it over and over again. He still says it. I don't think you could say any more now than you could this morning about what exactly he wants.

COOPER: I mean, Gloria, it was just fascinating, to Dianne Feinstein he says one thing and Kevin McCarthy completely different and goes back to what he said to Dianne Feinstein.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you could see Kevin McCarthy trying to set the record straight and help the president out.

COOPER: Right, like I think you mean what you're saying is, that's not what he said.

BORGER: Here's our three things, we want DACA, we want border security, we want to get rid of chain migration and on and on. The president is sitting there nodding.

I think what we saw today was much more about pictures than words because they wanted to sort of counter the narrative of the president's empty schedule, which was written about. They want to counter the Michael Wolff narrative. They wanted to show him as somebody in charge. The president wanted to show himself as somebody in charge.

And what we saw there was a president who wasn't the master negotiator but who come out and said, look, guys, whatever you give me, I'm willing to sign it. And it was quite different from somebody who said this has to be in the bill, this doesn't have to be in the bill.

And I spoke with a senior White House adviser late this afternoon whose phone was blowing up by conservatives who were believing that the president had kind of sold them out on these key issues.

COOPER: Yes, Maggie, that was the other fascinating moment that Gloria alluded to, which is when he say, well, look, anything you come up with in this room, I'll basically agree with because I'll respect you all. I mean, that's -- if he's the master negotiator, I don't know if it's a negotiating technique or -- it does just sound like just throwing it up.

HABERMAN: It's outsourcing policy from his administration which we again have seen time and again, but which they have resisted when we have all written it. I mean, again, what I found strange about this event and the fact of it is that a number of people who helped set this event up had to have known -- I understand that they were placating him and making him feel better about -- to Gloria's point, these were set pieces and this was about changing the narrative on television in large measures and pictures above the fold of him in the cabinet room.

But it's very hard to spend a year telling people, no, he's not outsourcing policy, he's very interested in the details, he really doesn't understand this and then present this. I mean, as we have seen with Trump over three years now, you constantly get this, who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes.

And watch the tape. I would urge everybody to watch that entire meeting all the way through. To your point, Anderson, yes, at the end of the day, I think that was the most sincere point that he made and the one that will be the most troubling to his base, which is just do whatever and I'll put my name on it.

BORGER: You know, Anderson, it wasn't that long ago -- it was during the campaign -- that then candidate Trump derided Jeb Bush for calling immigration an act of love, and then today at this meeting, he called DACA a bill of love and so --

HABERMAN: It's great point.

BORGER: -- you could see Republicans just going -- rolling their eyes all around the country saying, what's kind of going on here? Who is this man?

And again, it gets back to Maggie's point and your point which I think is that this is a person who likes to tell people what they want to hear, which is why Republicans go crazy when he's in a room with Democrats --


BORGER: -- because he tells them what they want to hear and I think he wanted to tell the public, I'm in charge and I'm really a good guy.

COOPER: Right, which is why he tweeted out now, well, as I said very clearly -- which is not what he said.

BORGER: Not so clearly.

COOPER: Gloria, Maggie, thanks very much.

Jorge Ramos is going to join us as well on this shortly.

Next, more breaking news. What newly revealed testimony does to the president's claim that Democrats are the ones who collaborated with Russia.

[20:15:01] And later, breaking news and possible high-level departures from the White House.


COOPER: Dianne Feinstein made news from more than just turning President Trump momentarily perhaps into a Democrat in immigration, in her capacity as ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she took action that angered some of her Republican colleagues.

Keeping them honest, it also refutes to growing GOP counter narrative on the Russia probe, and that is breaking news.

What she did was release against the wishes of committee chairman Chuck Grassley the transcript of Glenn Simpson's testimony. Simpson is co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm first hired by conservative paper and later by the Clinton campaign to do opposition research on candidate Trump. As part of that effort, Simpson brought in former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who compiled that dossier which is a bunch of memos on citizen Trump and Russia.

Now, we're not reporting on any of the more salacious aspects of that dossier. We have reported on the parts that we and others have corroborated. We've also reported on claims by the president and his supporters that the dossier was concocted by Democrats and Russia to damage candidate Trump.


TRUMP: Didn't she spend 12.4 million on a dossier that was a total phony? Right?

I think it's very sad what they've done with is fake dossier.

I think it's a disgrace. It's just really -- it's a very sad -- it's a very sad commentary on politics in this country.

When you look at that horrible dossier, which is a total phony, fake deal, when you take a look at that and take a look at what's gone with that, and the kind of money we're talking about, it is a disgrace.


COOPER: Now, little of that made sense even before this transcript came out, the notion that Russia, which U.S. intelligence community had already concluded was working to defeat Hillary Clinton, was also helping her in the form of dirt on her opponent which the Democrats persuaded Steele and Fusion GPS to give the FBI, triggering their investigation. What emerged is instead from the transcript is something far simpler.

Christopher Steele, a highly regarded intelligence professional, uncovered things that pretty much freaked him out.

Here's a passage, Glenn Simpson being questioned by Heather sawyer, Democratic counsel for the committee.

Sawyer said, so after Mr. Steele found out what he put in these memos, the one dated June 20, 2016, he approached you about taking this information to specifically the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Simpson responded: that's my recollection. Sawyer said: So the best of your recollection, that request or idea came directly from Mr. Steele and not anyone else? Simpson said: That's right.

Now, if that testimony is to be believed, the claim that the Clinton campaign prompted Steele or Fusion GPS to go to the FBI doesn't necessarily stand up.

We also should point out here that despite a lot of misinformation by Republican lawmakers, the dossier did not solely spark the investigation at all. According to "The New York Times," one key factor, among others, was a Trump adviser getting drunk and boasting to an Australian diplomat.

As for Steele's motivation, here's what Glenn Simpson told the committee, quote: Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said he wanted to. He said he thought we were obligated to tell someone in the government, in our government, about this information. Perspective, there was an issue, a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed.

More on all of this from CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto who joins us now.

So, what are you learning about this concern that candidate Trump by -- concern by Steele may have been blackmailed?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you laid out there, the Trump line, the GOP line on the dossier has been that this was a purely political document drummed up by Democrats, pursued by Democrats, two political ends with really no credibility. But if you listen to Glenn Simpson's testimony here, which is I'll remind our viewers, a sworn testimony, when you're testifying on the Hill, you hear a very different story of this.

This is Christopher Steele, a former member of the British international services, the MI-6, who had served in Russia, new Russian intelligence techniques, who gathered this information and was concerned himself enough to go of his own volition to the FBI in June 2016, because he believed there was a national security threat here, the possibility of a presidential candidate being blackmailed.

And in addition to that, when he met with the FBI in September 2016, he was told that, in fact, the FBI had other intelligence in a similar vein, which we now know, as you referenced, Anderson, this meeting with George Papadopoulos, who told the Australian ambassador, that he knew that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. So, now, you have two individuals there. One, a British former spy and an Australian diplomat who felt compelled to go to the FBI because they thought this information was dangerous, important enough.

And I might remind or point out that when Donald Trump Jr. and others got that information to the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, none of them went to the FBI.

COOPER: Jim, I understand during Simpson's testimony, one of his attorneys actually said that a person had died as a result of the publication of this dossier. Do you know what he meant?

SCIUTTO: That's right. Let me quote specifically so our viewers know what we're talking about here. This is how Simpson related the story. He says that Simpson wants to be very careful to protect his sources. I should say Simpson's lawyer.

Somebody has already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier. No harm should come to anybody related to this honest work. Now, we've learned that in that comment, he was not referring to one

particular person that he knew was killed because of the dossier. But you and I have talked about this, Anderson. Nine or ten or so Russian officials in positions have died in recent months since the publication of this dossier, since it was made public, and there have been a lot of questions about why that was. Some of them connected to this dossier.

So, he was referring to that, making a supposition that people might have died as a result of this. Based on our own reporting, it's not clear that he had any hard information that one tech person was killed as a result of this.

COOPER: OK. Good to point out. Jim Sciutto, appreciate that.

So, with all of that as a backdrop, we're joined by a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.


COOPER: Some of your Republican colleagues have said that the dossier was solely a creation of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Do you acknowledge, based on this testimony by Simpson, that it was not, that Fusion GPS was initially hired by conservative media outlet, which receives of its backing from a Republican billionaire?

KENNEDY: Well, I -- let me say first. The substance of this, Anderson, bothers me less than the process.

[20:25:03] COOPER: How so?

KENNEDY: Well, it doesn't bother me that the American people are presented the facts of the testimony. I had not seen the testimony before this. I'm not happy with the process.

If I had been the senior senator from California, I would have asked to have the whole Judiciary Committee come together in an executive session and say, you know, here's why I want to release this document. What does everybody think?

But having said that, I've not read the full transcript.

COOPER: Do you think it should have been released?

KENNEDY: It doesn't bother me that it was released.

COOPER: Right.

KENNEDY: I know it bothers some. I think -- I'm not --

COOPER: It's not the standard protocol to release it which is why it bothers some senators.

KENNEDY: I understand. But it doesn't bother me to have the American people know the facts or at least the alleged facts. I don't think based on what I've read, that it's going to change the trajectory of western civilization.

I also -- I don't know Mr. Simpson and I don't know Mr. Steele. They may be perfectly credible. They also may be a couple of whack jobs. I don't know.

COOPER: Right.

KENNEDY: I'm going to -- I'm going to depend on the FBI and the Department of Justice to sort all of this out. I think eventually they will and once they do, I hope they will make an exception to their normal procedure and actually report the facts that they have found to the American people.

COOPER: Does it impress you at all -- and again, you said few people know Steele directly or Simpson directly. According to Simpson's testimony, Steele went to the FBI on his own volition out of concern that candidate Trump may have been blackmailed.

Does that impress you about Steele at all and do you think it undercuts any of the narrative that Steele's motivations were just political in nature?

KENNEDY: Well, I don't know if it's true. I'm not saying it's not. Mr. Simpson may be telling the truth. He also may be trying to cover his own rear end. I just don't know.

COOPER: Right.

KENNEDY: He has an opinion here. I don't know --

COOPER: He's testifying under oath here.

KENNEDY: I understand. People have been known to lie under oath around here as well. As we both know.


KENNEDY: This is just --


COOPER: So are you saying you don't believe him or you just don't know?

KENNEDY: I'm saying I have no way of knowing.

COOPER: Right.

KENNEDY: He may be perfectly credible or he may be a whack job.

COOPER: Right.

KENNEDY: I'm depending on the Justice Department and the FBI and Mr. Mueller to get to the bottom of this. And I think if we all let them do their job, they will eventually. I

hope they do it -- I'd like to see them do it sooner rather than later. I'm not -- I don't want to have a big fight with my colleagues like a bunch of kids in the back of a minivan over something that's already been done.

The transcript is out there and I don't think -- I think the sun will come up tomorrow.

COOPER: Let me ask you, Senator Coons, your Democratic colleague, told our Manu Raju that the release of the transcript shows that the investigation has reached an impasse, and that bipartisanship is effectively over for that panel.

Do you agree with that assertion? Because I mean, that's pretty -- a serious and kind of depressing assertion.

KENNEDY: No, I don't agree with that and I like my colleague and I don't know what the basis for him saying that is.

Most of this stuff has gone on between the chairman and ranking member, both of whom I have extraordinary respect for. But they each have one vote. I have the same thing, one vote.

I would have preferred if Senator Feinstein had called the committee together and said, hey, here's what I'm going to do. I want you to know about it. Here's what's in the documents I'm releasing, what do you think?

I would have extended her that courtesy. She didn't. It's done. You know, it's not the end of the world. That's my attitude.

COOPER: Well, Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

KENNEDY: You bet, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Ahead, talk about Steve Bannon, remember him, President Trump's key political adviser who is going to lead a populist revolution once he left the White House? Well, there's another chapter in his not-so long goodbye. That's next.


[20:02:40] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, annals of falls from grace, this one is pretty near the top. Former key White House adviser Steve Bannon is now out at Breitbart, the very conservative website that he helped catapult to fame. Bannon of course fiercely battled Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and much the Republican establishment, and he's the man whom President Trump said had quote, lost his mind after being quoted liberally and thoroughly in Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury."

CNN political analyst Joshua Green someone who knows a lot about Steve Bannon and wrote a book about him, he wrote "Devil's Bargain", the chronically Bannon's firriest send along side Donald Trump, he joins us now.

Josh, how much of this is as a direct result of the fallout from Wolff's book? Because the spin from the Bannon camp is because he wants to focus on politics.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the Wolff book was the straw that broke the camel's back. This has been in the works to split up for a long, long time going back.

COOPER: And he's anger over your book as well.

GREEN: Right, and I'd say it goes back even farther than that, I mean in the earliest weeks of the administration, when things started going off the rails after the travel ban, Bannon took a lot of blame for that and made him a lot of enemies in the White House. And yet he continued to talked to the press, obviously talked to me at great length for my book, to Michael Wolff a great length for his book. But what really I think bothered the president was the public perception that Bannon was the true architect of Trumpism and of the campaign victory, which he was, incidentally. But not Trump himself.

And I think Trump finally got tired of it and then when he had the comments about treason, the meeting between Don Jr. and the Russians that Bannon talked to Wolff about, I think that pushed to it to a level where people realized collectively around Trump -- that Bannon was really doing more harm than good.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, because, you know, the Bannon people are saying he wants to focus on politics and that's why he's moving away from Breitbart. That doesn't make much sense. I mean without the platform of Breitbart, how was Bannon going to get his message out. I mean if you want to get involved with politics, having the platform of Breitbart behind you or underneath you is a huge advantage.

GREEN: Yes, you know, Anderson, I was doing some reporting literarily right before we came on the air talking to people around Bannon and Breitbart and as recently as a couple of hours ago, Bannon thought he was going to be hosting his show on Sirius XM tomorrow morning. We found out this afternoon, Sirius sent out a statement saying, he was fired from that show too.

So when you remove the influential platform of Breitbart News and his national radio show, he no longer has any kind of an outlet to spread his message and to exert any kind of an influence.

[20:35:10] Bannon's plan over the last couple of days had been to, you know, issue this statement, trying to get back into Trump's good graces but to go out and to continue to kind of build this movement, give public speeches. I know that as recently as two days ago he was meeting with donors. So somehow or other he really didn't see the end coming, but it came today and it came very suddenly and swiftly.

COOPER: I mean just in terms of his relationship with the president, the White House says that there's no way back into the president's good graces. Do you believe that? Is the relationship you fully is ever?

GREEN: Well, you know, Trump is famous for firing people and then circling around and still talking to them. He did it with Corey Lewandowski, his first campaign manager, Paul Manafort, his second, and he did it after Bannon left the White House in august. However, none of those guys have been buried to the degree that Bannon has been buried, not just by Trump but by the Merscer family. He's financial benefactors, he's now been kicked out of Breitbart News which he did probably more than anybody else to kind of lift up into the right-wing power that it became in the election.

So he's pretty far down in a hole. It's really hard to see how he would maneuver his way back, you know, into Trump's good graces, you know, unless Trump were to run into some kind of a serious problem or he felt like the need to reconnect with the base was necessary that somehow Bannon could help him there. But without these platforms, it's not clear that Bannon himself is going to have anything like the influence that he once did.

COOPER: Yes, I mean the turnaround -- I mean it just kind of boggles the mind. Josh Green, appreciate it, thanks very much.

Coming up next, more breaking news, on which key staffers in the White House could soon be leaving the White House?


[20:40:30] COOPER: More breaking news tonight. The possibility a big White House departure, a source telling CNN, that aides have been told to decide whether they intend to stay or go. Jeff Zeleny is at the White House tonight, joins us with who may potentially be on the way out?

So what did you learn Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there's definitely a sense here that there's about to be a big, if not shakeup, certainly turnover before the second year begins and two senior officials of all those mentioned here are two people potentially being mentioned as names, that's Don McGhan, the White House general counsel. He of course is at the center of so much of the Russia investigation, how the president has handled it so much else of course judicial nominations.

Now we do not know if he's going to actually depart but he's certainly is a name being mentioned here. He's been at odds with the president on some matters so he is being mentioned as a possible name. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, someone else, we are told is at least being considered in discussions for potentially moving on. Of course, he's a three-star army general. He is a government employee, he is of course like most three stars would like to end a career with a fourth star. So that is potentially something that could happen.

But beyond all of that Anderson much more, the rank and file, national Security Council members, national economic council members, a lot of those senior administration officials we talk about so much will decide in the coming days if they'll take their leave or not. Chief of staff John Kelly wants it answered by the end of the month or sooner.

COOPER: Is that kind of turn over expected, I mean at the end of first or is this different. Because often in White House as you hear after the first year people, you know, are switching.

ZELENY: It's not uncommon but it's more than we've seen before. I remember the first year of the Obama administration, the first year of the Bush administration, I covered both of those White Houses and it definitely is more turnover than that. But Anderson, even more than that, there's not a bench that is it waiting outside of this White House, a Republican bench to come in and fill those positions. Simply, you know, several people don't want to endure the legal consequences potentially, the legal costs potentially.

So the turnover is somewhat common but more than we've seen in previous years but the big deal here is there's not a bench the president can turn to, to hire at least talented people in some of these top spots.

COOPER: And what about Bannon's former role, the White House? Are they looking for a replacement?

ZELENY: Well that's a key question here. He was a chief strategist. Of course that is a center player in the midterm election campaign. So I'm told that the White House is looking for -- if not a Bannon replacement, a strategist to pull up all together of a policy, politics and thing. So, that is something that the White House is looking for. We'll see who they can find to fill his shoes, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks. For the next few weeks, my buddy Chris Cuomo is taking over at 9:00 hour right here on CNN. So Chris, what should we expect tonight?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, we got a big show tonight my friend. We have former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. We just got lucky there. What a perfect guest to talk about Steve Bannon being out at Breitbart in this almost like amazing spell breaking we saw.


CUOMO: Once Bannon was out also, you saw a totally different Trump on an issue that was such a signature issue for him and Bannon. So, you know, we have this special just take a look at where things stand now at the end of the year. You picked the perfect night to start, my friend. And I have to say, I'm usually getting ready to go to sleep right now. I watch your clips in the morning. Your show was amazing live. I got to tell you, it's even better live.

COOPER: All right thanks very much. Good luck tonight. We'll look forward to it.

Coming up next, back to immigration, Jorge Ramos joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:48:06] COOPER: Well, back to our breaking news on immigration reform. At first President Trump tweeting tonight, "As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the wall in southern border which must be part of any DACA approval." Which of course he didn't actually say during that nearly hour long on-camera immigration debate today at the White House.

I talked with Univision's Jorge Ramos before the president's Twitter message.


COOPER: Jorge based on what the president said today on the meeting today, are you clear on where he stands on DACA right now?

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: No, I don't. I don't know exactly what the president wants. At some point he said he wanted the dream act, then he said that he wanted comprehensive immigration reforms. I don't actually knows, but that means legalizing 11 million people the same 11 million that he wanted to deport during the campaign. So I don't know exactly what President Trump wants. What I know for sure is that I cannot trust President Trump when it comes to immigration. I cannot understand how come the same person who ended DACA, hurting 800,000 dreamers, now says that he wants to legalize, the same person when the TPS, which is a program that protects people from El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua, the same person who did that now says that he wants to legalize 11 million? I don't understand exactly what he wants. Maybe, the only thing that is clear is that he wants a wall, a wall that is completely useless.

COOPER: When he talks about the DACA deal as a bill of law, you just don't buy that? That's just talk to you?

RAMOS: I don't trust President Trump. A little history lesson here. The president who established DACA was Barack Obama in 2012. The president who ended DACA in September 2017 is Donald Trump. That's what happened. Those are the facts. Now, it is very hard for me to understand that the same person who ended DACA now says that he wants to help the dreamers. I don't buy that. I hope that I'm surprised at the end, Anderson, but at this point I don't trust President Trump on immigration. And for that matter on almost anything else.

[20:50:07] COOPER: The Congressman Hoyer, is taking issue with the White House account in the meeting saying it laid out the Republican priorities not the Democratic ones. Does -- I assume this miscommunication doesn't surprise you at all?

RAMOS: Yes because what I heard from the meeting, which by the way was remarkable. Our presidente, he was fantastic just to listen to what they were saying, how were they would discussing all these important issues. And very important issues, DACA is really important. What they call chain migration which is really family reunification. Those are kind words from President Trump saying that he doesn't want more immigrants from Latin America and Asia. When he was talking about the wall. I think those are important issues. But I don't think President Trump has any credibility or whatsoever when it comes to immigration at this point.

COOPER: After the meeting the White House clarified what they say the first face of the negotiations would include. Border security as you said chain migration, to visa lottery and DACA. Is it realistic to think that they'll be able to come to an agreement and all that in time for the March DACA deadline?

RAMONS: Well, I don't think so. When -- I think it's a myth when we say that the border is more insecure. That is not true. There's no invasion coming from Mexico. The undocumented population has remained stable for the last decade. Mexico won't pay for the wall. So it's a big issue that won't be result.

I think they have to approve -- If they really -- look, Republicans control the White House. They control Congress. If they really, really want the D.R.E.A.M Act, if they really want to approve DACA, they can do it tomorrow. They have the votes to do it tomorrow, and they're not doing it.

So I don't think they have time to do that. And if the president wants to wall for the D.R.E.A.M Act, well, they can negotiate that. Look, there's already 700 miles of wall between Mexico and the United States. But it's a completely useless wall as we discussed in the past. Thousands of immigrants come by plane or with a visa. So if he says that he's a genius and really intelligent and he wants to waste $18 billion in a wall, let him waste that money, but let's just approve DACA.

COOPER: Well, it's interesting, because Hoyer -- Congressman Hoyer also said today that he believes President Trump uses the term wall when he's actually talking about border security in general, which is obviously different than what he was saying on the campaign trail if that in fact is true.

RAMOS: Yes, and the fact is the wall won't stop undocumented immigrants from coming here again, almost 45% come with the visa or by plane. One stop drugs because most of the drugs comes from ports of entry and through tunnels. And as long as you have about 25 million Americans who use illegal drugs in the United States, they're going to keep on coming. So a wall won't stop that. That's not a genius decision. It's not something that is a smart person would say, but if he wants a wall, let him have the wall. It's not going to stop anything from coming to the United States.

COOPER: Jorge Ramos, thanks.

RAMOS: Thank you.


COOPER: Well coming up, something to make you smile and some inspiration if you've been dealing with bitter cold. The Ridiculist is next.


[20:56:57] COOPER: Time for the "Ridiculist." And it's been so cold in many parts of the country. Tonight, we want to talk about the south. Take a look at these pictures from North Carolina, this is Shallow River Swamp Park, and yes you're looking at alligators snout sticking out of the ice. With the water frozen, the alligators poke their noses out to be able to breath and they're actually perfectly fine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, these guys are die-hard, just amazing survivors. And this is just one more example of that.


COOPER: Well, the alligators are broom mating which is kind of like hibernating but for reptiles in cold weather and yet it's a word I just learned today. It's not just the alligators that are adapting to the cold in ways that are both super cool and also kind of terrifying. In Florida it has been range frozen iguanas.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iguanas are not build for the cold. They'll fall out of trees, they'll end up in areas where cars are, parking lots, they'll seem them in a lot of areas where they're cold stunned.


COOPER: That's the reptile keeper at the Palm Beach County Zoo, who says don't worry, in most cases the frozen iguanas will be just fine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it's just for a day or two, they will just get to where they're completely frozen in time. And they're still able to breathe and do bodily functions, just very slow.


COOPER: So once it gets above 50 degrees, the frozen iguanas start to activate which sounds like a sci-fi movie I would actually like to see. And there is a way for humans to help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put them over to the size if you feel comfortable to put them in the sun or put them off the road so you're not running them over.


COOPER: It's good advice. Of course there's one advantage to a temporarily frozen iguana, namely, it cannot climb into your toilet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy. What I said, it's freaking huge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a lizard, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you drop this thing --





COOPER: Now it probably won't surprise you that we had to cut around the fair amount of cursing to show you that video. That was woman who called a friends help or with her very flirty (ph) and iguana in toilet situation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want him anywhere near me. The kids think its funny to try and draw mommy, I don't like lizards. So I'm assuming that's what (INAUDIBLE) because a lizard will be seating in.


COOPER: So much like thawed iguanas, brooming (ph) alligators and pretty much everything in life, this was a temporary situation. And there was a happy ending for the toiled reptile.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As for this tiny tail iguana, this is him. Justin Matthews with Matthews Wildlife Rescue, said he'd keep him.



COOPER: Flushy, yes. I think the point is there's always hope for even the most cold blooded among us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This week looks much better, buddy. It will be in the 60s. You'll be out in the sun, suntanning, and enjoying life.


COOPER: As Shelly once asked, if winter comes, can spring be far behind? And as Bill Haley in the comments once said, see you later, alligator on the Ridiculist.

And that's it for us. Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Chris Cuomo, "Cuomo Primetime" starts now.

[20:59:59] CUOMO: All right, thank you Anderson. I'm Chris Cuomo. We have the perfect guest to talk about the big Steve Bannon news, Anthony Scaramucci is here. Welcome to "Primetime".