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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sources: FBI Used Trump Dossier To Help Get Secret Wiretap Warrant On Associate In Russia Investigation; Polls Close In G.A. Special Election With National Impact; China Approves Trademarks On Day Ivanka Trump Met With Xi; W.H. State Dept. At Odds Over Turkey's President. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 18, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:02] EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The FBI used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification to get approval to secretly monitored Trump associate, Carter Page. FBI Director James Comey have cited the dossier in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks as one of the sources of information that the bureau has used to support its investigation.
Now, this includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, to monitor Page's communications. To obtain court permission to target Page, the FBI and the Justice Department would have to present probable cause that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power, including possibly engaging in Glenn Dunstan (ph) intelligence gathering for a foreign government.
Comey and other top Justice Department officials would have had to sign off on this application. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security, though they have since said that he had limited interaction with the campaign as a volunteer, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, how surprising is it that this was done?
PEREZ: It's actually quite surprising. Comey's briefings to lawmakers stand in contrast to efforts in recent months by the FBI and by U.S. intelligence agencies to try to distance themselves from this dossier.
The U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have told us repeatedly that U.S. investigators did their own work, separate from the dossier to support their findings that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. Comey hasn't mentioned the dossier in all of his lawmaker briefings (inaudible).
COOPER: And Carter Page himself would not have been aware that this was happening, that they had gone to the FISA court?
PEREZ: Right, that's correct. You recall, though, that Page has been scrutinized before by the FBI. A 2013 investigation of a Russian spy ring included descriptions of interactions that he had with one of the alleged spies. Page denies that he knew these were Russian agents by the way. He also gave a speech in Russia last summer that drew the attention of the FBI.
Now, Page says that he took this trip independently. He says that he expressed his own views and that overall he has disputed anything that anything illegal was done in his interactions with these Russians.
In a statement to CNN, Page said, "I look forward to the Privacy Act of 1974 lawsuit that I plan to file in response to the civil rights violations by the Obama administration appointees last year. The discovery process will be of great value to the United States, as our nation hears testimony from them under oath and we receive disclosure of the documents which show what exactly was done in 2016."
Anderson, bottom line here, as he says that it's the Obama administration officials -- from the previous administration that have been pushing this Russia allegations.
COOPER: All right. Evan Perez, appreciate the reporting. In the meantime, Carter Page remains nearly as puzzling a figure as he was when his name initially surfaced. Much of what he said has been cryptic, incomplete or inconsistent.
So as our understanding of his role if any in the campaign, is he as Churchill (ph) one set of the Soviet Union a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma or is it more like a shadow wrapped in a smokescreen inside a forest? More from our Randi Kaye.
COOPER: Basically Russia?
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: Yeah, yeah.
PAGE: I get by. I can understand what's happening in meetings.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of those meeting may be exactly why the FBI and the Justice Department are so interested in communications between Carter Page and Russia. Page is a former foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump's campaign.
PAGE: I was a junior member of the campaign's foreign policy advisory group.
KAYE (voice-over): That's what he says. But for months now, President Trump's team has been struggling to define his role, even going so far as to deny he was part of their circle.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He's not part of our national security or foreign policy briefings that we do now at all.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Carter Page is an individual who the president-elect does not know.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't think I've ever spoken to him. I don't think I've ever met him.
KAYE (voice-over): Carter Page admits he never briefed the president personally, but there's no doubt he was part of the campaign and he looks to be part of the investigation into Trump associates' ties to the Kremlin before the election.
(on camera): Carter Page has history with Russia goes back to 1991 as the Soviet Union was breaking up. He had reportedly become interested in the region as a young boy and later enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy. After working in arms control at the Pentagon, he moved on to investment banking, lending a job at Merrill Lynch in London. Years later, he was tapped to open the firm's office in Moscow.
(voice-over): There, Page advised executives from Gazprom, the Russian-controlled energy giant now run by a former associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And even though Page moved back to New York a few years later to start his own global energy investment firm, he never severed ties with Russia.
Just months after Page was named as a Trump adviser, he praised Vladimir Putin at this policy meeting in Washington, D.C., even suggesting a Trump presidency would be good for U.S./Russia relations.
PAGE: Thank you very much.
KAYE (voice-over): A month later during a trip to Moscow to give a speech, Page allegedly met with Russian nationals who had been sanctioned by the U.S.
[21:05:08] (on camera): Did you have any meetings last year with Russian officials in Russia, outside Russia, anywhere?
PAGE: I had no meetings. No meetings.
KAYE (voice-over): What about Igor Sechin, a Putin ally and the head of Rosneft, the oil company owned mostly by the Russian government and sanctioned by the U.S.? Page denied meeting him, but an unverified dossier later made public claims that Page secretly met with Sechin in Moscow and discussed the deal that Trump would lift sanctioned if elected and in exchange Page would get shares of the oil giant, in effect, profiting for acting as a go between
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there ever an offer that it helped you --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- lift the sanction you've get something out of it? Was there any offer by them at all?
PAGE: No offer, whatsoever. No hint of an offer. No pathway to anything resembling an offer or even a discussion on this range of issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd get something if you got the sanctioned lifted.
PAGE: Not something, you know, not something worth a dollar, let alone something worth billions of dollars.
COOPER: Any allegations that you coordinated or colluded with Russians during the campaign, you deny.
PAGE: Not only deny, it's just so false that it's, you know, completely -- it's a joke.
KAYE (on camera): In fact, despite the intelligence community's finding that Russia did try to influence the U.S. election, Carter Page said no one in Russia ever spoke to him about hacking or deal making.
He called the allegations a political stunt and wrote a letter to the Department of Justice alleging the Clinton campaign took part in hate crimes and human rights abuses against him during the election season.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: We're going to talk about more of this. Joining us is former FBI and CIA Senior Official Phil Mudd and Steve Hall who run Russia operations at the CIA.
Phil, the fact that the dossier was part of the justification to get approval to monitor Carter Page, what does that say to you?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It doesn't tell me much at. If you want to go to a FISA court judge with a FISA package, that's viewed as one of the most intrusive investigative mess that's at the bureau. Remember what we got in this dossier, we have a British agent, former British agent talking presumably to a source in Moscow who might be talking to a sub-source.
In this game of telephone, we're taking another step to get to the FBI. Before you go to a judge, you've got to have corroboration of some of that if you're going to use it in a package, a FISA package to apply to listen to somebody's phone and e-mail. Otherwise, that judge is going to say, "I got to have more, that's not enough."
COOPER: So, Phil, just to be clear, you're saying the FBI would have to have some sort of corroboration of stuff was in the dossier? They wouldn't have just used, you know, unverified information of the dossier.
MUDD: Not some sort of, Anderson. I'm saying this could at best be supporting to a FISA package that had much greater specificity about who the source of the information was and got much closer to the target than three or four steps away from Moscow. You can't use that as primary evidence in a FISA package.
COOPER: So, Steve, do you agree that that the FBI would have had to have fully verified what the dossier said about Page? Or could they just have verified -- well, I guess they could have just verified part of it and still cited it in the FISA court.
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Anderson, Phil is absolutely right. I mean, the bottom line is, in our government you can't just willy-nilly spy on American citizens. You have to have a whole lot of proof and you have to get passed a federal judge who -- and a lot of people I know will probably look at this cynically and say it's a federal judge as part of the government.
But the bottom line is these federal judges are very professional. They've been on the court for a long time. They're experienced. A lot of them came in during the Reagan administration. So there's really no politics here at this level. You've got to convince a judge beyond (inaudible) beyond a reasonable doubt as probable cause. It's a technical matter. But Phil is right, you can't just go in with some unconfirmed dossier like the Steele report is and say, "How about it? Is this enough?"
Now, you've got to have a lot more than that. There's been times in my career when I've said, "Come on, we've got to be able to get some sort of coverage on X, Y, or Z person." And the judge has always said, not so fast. We have, you know, we have a threshold here and you've got to get by it before we can allow this.
COOPER: So, Phil, even if the FBI had corroborating information about some things that were in the dossier, that doesn't mean that all points in the dossier are also valid, correct?
MUDD: That's correct. I think if you're looking at this from an investigative or analytic standpoint, I'm walking through that package in saying, is there anything new that I can validate with my own sources? And second, generally, am I learning something, for example, on an intercept? And this says exactly the same thing from a human source of Mr. Steele on the U.K., which suggests that there might be some fire behind the smoke. This dossier alone doesn't get you there, Anderson.
COOPER: So, Steve, how often does something like this happen, that the intelligence community would use something like this information from an outside intelligence source that's not in, you know, FBI report or CIA report or whatever, an intercept to form the basis of their own investigation? Is that fairly common?
[21:10:13] HALL: Well, it really depends, Anderson, on whether you're talking about a law enforcement matter or as an intelligence matter. I mean, there's an intelligence matter that you have to remember that a lot more is based on analytical, you know, presupposition and probability. And there's no real, you know, legal. You're not prosecuting something. You don't have to -- in the intelligence world, you don't have to stand in front of a judge and convince them beyond a shadow of a doubt or for probable cause or anything like that.
So, an intelligence system just sort of vacuums up as much as it can and then tries to analyze, you know, what it has. In the case of the Steele dossier, you've got a guy who is, you know, a former intelligence officer, former British intelligence officer and he's written a very interesting document that one of the things that's making it very difficult for journalists and others is that he has written for what we call source protection.
He specifically gone to great lengths to try to disguise who he got this information from, probably because a lot of them are in Russia and stand to get into a lot of trouble or worse, you know, end up dead, if people find out who they are, which makes it difficult for the legal system and, you know, and for journalists as well. But, you know, as a legal matter, you want as much as you can and this probably as Phil indicated, is not enough. There's got to be more there than just this dossier.
COOPER: Appreciate it. Phil Mudd, Steve Hall, thank you.
Just ahead tonight, Ivanka Trump, a question about her business ties with China. And also next, we'll take you live to Georgia Sixth Congressional District for late results in the election that is being followed closely by national Democrats and the President of the United States. Here are the numbers as they stand right now. They've been fluctuating. Votes are still coming in. The latest, right after this.
[21:15:21] COOPER: We got breaking news tonight. In a special election that could decide who replaces Tom Price who left the House to become Health and Human Services Secretary, now ordinarily that would barely rate a mention. The seat outside Atlanta once was held by Newt Gingrich has been safely Republican for decades. (Inaudible) going to be voting today, the front runner was a Democrat and if he gets more than 50 percent of the vote tonight, he could take the seat without a runoff.
CNN's Manu Raju joins us now from Georgia Sixth Congressional District. So what are you seeing coming from the ballot returns, the latest coming in right now?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I can tell with you 45 percent of the vote coming in right now, Jon Ossoff is at 57.8 percent of the vote, the next closest candidate, the Republican Karen Handel at 15.2 percent.
And I can tell you this, Anderson, I've been talking to top Republican and Democratic sources tonight. What they're saying is that they are seeing Jon Ossoff do better than they expected, particularly among the early vote in Cobb County, which is, of course, a Republican stronghold in this district.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to get to that 50 plus 1 percent just getting over 50 percent to avoid the runoff. But, he may. It's very possible. It's still early and as one Republican told me just moments ago, grab some coffee. This just could be a late night, Anderson.
COOPER: Obviously, the president has been tweeting trying to get people to come out to vote. Just how much concern is there from Republicans about their base showing up today?
RAJU: It's like very significant concern, Anderson. There's worry that there's apathy within the base right now. I talked to Karen Handel, the candidate who is at number two right now and she said, let's put anxiety within a ranks over congressional inaction, particularly over Obamacare.
She said that the theme that they have heard over and over again and that's one reason why you've seen President Trump not just issue those tweets, but also tape robocalls and try to convince voters to come out and vote. As a result, this could be a referendum on him, particularly if he falls short and Democrats get that 50 plus 1 percent and Jon Ossoff become the first Democrat to hold this seat in 37 years.
But, Anderson, again, a caution, a long way to go, lot of the votes we're still expecting, but Ossoff is doing better than what many Republicans and Democrats thought so far, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, we will see once all the votes are counted. Manu Raju, thanks.
I want to bring in CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our Political Director David Chalian. So much attention, David, being -- I mean, to this one district in Georgia. Can one really read so much into the results from this election? And obviously, Democrats, you know, if he wins, you are going to, you know, be spinning this as a huge blow to the president.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. I can certainly tell you, Anderson, that both sides are going to over interpret these results no matter what they are. And I think you raise a really good point. I do think we need to be little careful about extrapolating this one night into, "Oh, now we know how November 2018 is going to go." We won't.
But it is correct that if indeed the Democrat wins outright tonight, what that does is that is going to rattle the Republican Party in such a significant way that it may impede Donald Trump from being able to get his legislative agenda through, which by the way hasn't been easy so far. So, it really does have the ability to shake the Republican Party into a fearful place about what Donald Trump means for their electoral process.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. And it would -- and Democrats will feel emboldened, because this is just the kind of district that they are looking to flip in 2018 because it's younger, it's more diverse, it's better educated and it's wealthier. And you put that all together and they believe if they can win here, then there are a lot of other districts that they can flip. And I think it would be an earthquake to a degree.
COOPER: Although, Gloria, I mean, this is not a district where the Trump base is very strong. He only won the district by 1 percent, where is Romney won it by 23 percent in 2012. BORGER: Right. It's more establishment Republican, Anderson. And establishment Republicans were much more attracted to someone like Mitt Romney. But don't forget, Tom Price who just left the seat, you know, wasn't a conservative and won with 62 percent of the vote. But he wasn't a Donald Trump kind of conservative as long as voters in this district felt. So, you know, I think this isn't natural terrain for Donald Trump by any stretch of the imagination. But, it isn't necessarily a Democratic district either at all.
CHALIAN: No. What we're seeing if -- and hearing Manu's reporting and I have sources on both sides telling me also that they think that the early vote has gone better for Ossoff than they expected. The energy, the energy that we saw in Kansas, even though they fell short, the energy right now in American politics is on the Democratic side and it's an anti-Trump energy.
[21:20:07] COOPER: David, the president though, I mean, it's obviously taken a special interest in the election tweeted about it a robocalls. Is his interest an indication of how important the race is?
CHALIAN: I think his interest is more in trying to place a bet here that a Republican district will stay Republican and he will look like he had something to do with that is why I think we saw him sort of send those tweets today. And the robocalls is to show he's going to be there for the party.
I think, Anderson, if this does go into a runoff, one of the most interesting things to me that we would be looking for is how much does President Trump get involved then when it's one Republican versus one Democrat. Do we see that Republican nominee calling President Trump into the district, flying Air Force One in, campaigning as a full embrace? Or do we start to see a Republican who is somewhat concerns that Trump may cause more harm than good in this district?
COOPER: Gloria, is there any answer to that? I mean, as you said, in terms of demographics, 60 percent in the district as voters have a college degree, nearly twice the national average. It's also relatively affluent, pretty close the very blue city of Atlanta.
BORGER: Well, yes. And I will say that Republicans during the primaries last year -- I mean, Rubio won here. So Rubio is a real favorite so when you look at Rubio and you look at Donald Trump, they're not particularly alike. These are conservative establishment Republicans. And as David was saying, if there is a runoff -- I mean, I think this is Ossoff's best chance, by the way.
BORGER: Because if Republicans unite and have one candidate, not a handful, they have one candidate to be behind, the Republicans may just decide that they don't want this kind of an earthquake and that they're going to ban behind their Republican candidate and defeat Ossoff who by the way is inexperienced.
You know, he's 30 years old. He doesn't have any legislative experience. He worked a little bit in politics and doesn't even live in the district right now. So, you know, I think this is his shot tonight. And Democrats -- I talked to one of them just now who said she is keeping her fingers crossed.
COOPER: All right, we'll continue to follow it very closely. Gloria, David, thanks.
Just ahead, new details tonight about the trademark that China granted Ivanka Trump's company the very same day she was meeting with the president of China at a summit hosted by President Trump.
[21:26:21] COOPER: We give you a quick update in that race in the Georgia Sixth House race with 48 percent now reporting Jon Ossoff is down to a little more than 55 percent of the vote.
Meantime, new details tonight about the expanding portfolio of trademarks the Trump family businesses have secured in China. That's right, China, the country candidate Trump hammered throughout the campaign accusing of monetary trade practices and currency manipulation among other things.
Ivanka Trump is now an official adviser, of course, to her father within office in the west-wing and virtually unlimited access to the world leaders who visit her father, including Chinese president who came to Mar-a-Lago for recent talks. Tom Foreman explains more.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The China/U.S. summit, a glitzy diplomatic affair in which Ivanka Trump and her husband both advisers to President Trump sat near the Chinese president. But that same day, Ivanka's company was getting some big business back in the People's Republic.
IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER AND W.H. ADVISER: White diamonds, (inaudible) stone on other side and its set in 18 karat yellow gold.
FOREMAN (voice-over): According to the Associated Press, once again, her business was granted a trademark approval by the Chinese government. The third one this year adding to 16 she already holds. True, she was hiring Chinese labor and expanding before the election.
ZHANG HUARONG, CHAIRMAN, HUAJIAN GROUP (through translator): Ivanka is a very good client. Of course, I never imagined her father would become president.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Still, since the start of the year, her father's companies have seen 35 other trademarks preliminary approved by China too. Ivanka says --
I. TRUMP: Any growth is done with extreme caution.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Her company will neither confirm nor deny those numbers to CNN, instead issuing a statement saying, "We have recently seen a surge in trademark filings by unrelated third parties trying to capitalize on the Trump name and it is our responsibility to diligently protect our trademark."
I. TRUMP: Happy shopping --
FOREMAN (voice-over): Nonetheless, that's big business, especially considering how much the Trump family has repeatedly brushed away concerns about politics affecting their financial interests.
I. TRUMP: I don't think it matters. This is so much more important and more serious and so that, you know, that's the focus.
D. TRUMP: I think what Ivanka is trying to say, who cares? Who cares? This is big league stuff. This is our country.
FOREMAN: An attorney for Ivanka Trump says she has nothing to do with trademarks and it's worth nothing that when she became an official member of the White House staff, even an unpaid one, she officially put all of her business into a trust so she would not have a conflict of interest problem.
But, while the president has legal protection against such claims, that's not true of his staff. If she were to step across any line, she would certainly come under very harsh scrutiny. Anderson?
COOPER: All right, thanks very much.
I want to discuss this now with Richard Painter, former White House Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush who teaches Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota.
So, Richard, regardless of where this falls ethically, just the optics of Ivanka Trump sitting with the Chinese president the same day her business is getting these trademarks, how does that appear to you?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER W.H. ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it's very clear the presidency is a wonderful business opportunity for the Trump family. They're going to be ranking it in and we see that foreign governments all over the world are going to like to do business with the Trumps, particularly the Trump children, in order to please the father, and this is just one more example.
The question is whether this is in the interests of the American people. The founders did not intend to set up a monarchy in the United States where a king and his family would reap financial benefits from ruling the country.
[21:30:10] This is a representative democracy and I don't think the Trump family has recognized that yet. And their job is to represent the American people, not themselves.
COOPER: Well, Ivanka Trump --
PAINTER: And that's not what I see going on here. COOPER: Ivanka Trump supporters are saying, "Look, she's put her assets into a trust, so how much of this can she be really held responsible for?"
PAINTER: Well, she is the beneficiary of the trust. The assets going into a trust doesn't do anything to remove the conflicts of interest. And these trademarks are coming in and her father is getting a lot of trademarks.
So, the real problem is not Ivanka Trump, it's her father and his attitude. And he's setting the tone here. He refused to divest his assets to create conflicts of interest. He has refused to stop taking payments from foreign governments that violates the emoluments clause of the constitution. And he is out there showing for her products.
He slammed Nordstrom for not carrying her products. He's made it very clear that people deal with his children will be seen favorably in his eyes. And that's what's happening. He has not set an appropriate tone for this administration.
COOPER: Now that Ivanka Trump is a federal employee, she is held to ethical guidelines and rules, rules that her father doesn't even have to adhere to, right?
PAINTER: Well, some of the rules, he does have to adhere to. For example, the emoluments clause prohibiting foreign government payments, that both of them have to adhere to. But there are other prohibitions such as the Criminal Conflict of Interest Statute that does not bind the president, but does bind Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner and everyone else in the executive branch, the president and vice president and that's going to shut them out of some matters.
They cannot participate in matters that have a direct and predictable affect on their business holdings. And that includes, of course, the trade with China when she's importing a lot of clothes from China. She and Jared cannot participate in that. They also can't get into things that affect real estate, such as the tax code, which could have all sorts of goodies for real estate, always has, and banking regulation.
COOPER: All right, Richard Painter, I appreciate your expertise. Thanks for being with us.
Coming up, President Trump as he praised on conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones who said countless horrifying things, including that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax. Now, he's sending admission that not even Jones himself believes some of the ludicrous things he says. Details of that ahead.
[21:36:29] COOPER: I want to update our breaking news tonight, the special House election outside Atlanta with a little more than half the precincts reporting, Democrat Jon Ossoff is holding a lead over his Republican rivals. However, he is slipping ever closer to the 50 percent mark at or below which he's going to have to fight it out in a runoff. More on this throughout the hour.
Turning now to Alex Jones. Over the years, he has pushed outrageous conspiracy theories. He screamed his opinions on the radio and online. One of the worst involved, the kids who were killed at the Sandy Hook School shooting. Alex Jones claimed the whole incident was a hoax. He has millions of followers and fans, fans that include the current President of the United States. But now his lawyer in a custody dispute says Alex Jones is just a character and that it's all performance art. Brianna Keilar has more.
ALEX JONES, HOST, INFOWARS: They're freaking inter-dimensional invader, OK. I'll just say it, make fun of me all you want on CNN or whatever --
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's perhaps the most famous and influential right-wing conspiracy theorist, infowars.com's Alex Jones.
JONES: This is the InfoWars. All I know is the official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
KEILAR (voice-over): Ridiculous, yes. Outrageous, of course. But guess who also knew that theories like that and others were only for shock value? Alex Jones himself. Now embroiled in a custody battle, Jones' lawyer says his client is a "character and performance artist". It's a stunning admission from a man who's been peddling wacky theories for years, like this one about the 9/11 attacks.
JONES: I want to go over 10 smoking guns. There's over 500. You can type in the smoking guns of 9/11. You'll see different compilation, some 500, some 300, some 100. There are over 300 of them are absolutely iron tight proof that the official story is a fable and that an inside job is the only explanation.
KEILAR (voice-over): That is not true and Jones doesn't even believe it if you believe his lawyer. But the Texas-based syndicated talk show host just created a massive following by appearing to believe what he says. He said Donald Trump should say this to Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
JONES: Listen, you son of a (inaudible). What the (inaudible) is your problem? You want to sit here and say that I'm a (inaudible) Russian? You get in my face with that I'll beat your (inaudible) you son of a (inaudible).
KEILAR (voice-over): Schiff never said Trump is a Russian. He raised questions about his associate's ties to Russia. But, again, maybe Jones actually knows that. With more than 0.5 million Twitter followers and over 1 billion views on YouTube, he counts among his fans the president himself. That's right. Donald Trump lavished praise on Jones as a candidate.
D. TRUMP: I just want to finish by saying your reputation is amazing. I will not let you don't. You will be very, very impressed. JONES: Well, I'm impressed. I mean, you're saying you're fully committed. You know, there's no future if we don't take this country back.
KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton took aim at Trump's association with the talk show host.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know what happens in somebody's mind or how dark their heart must be to say things like that. But Trump doesn't challenge these lies. He actually went on Jones' show and said, "Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down."
KEILAR (voice-over): And Jones often claims credit for Trump's rhetoric. Here he was three months before Election Day.
JONES: It is surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word for word hear Trump say it two days later. It is amazing. And it just shows how dialed in this guy is and that's why they're so scared of him.
[21:40:06] KEILAR (voice-over): He's backed up many of Trump's bogus campaign claims including that Muslims were seen celebrating on rooftops in New Jersey after the World Trade Center collapsed. Fact check, false. And, again, Jones' lawyer says he's just playing a role.
JONES: What the hell is going on?
KEILAR (voice-over): Apologies are rare. But Jones did issue one after he falsely repeated claims that a D.C. pizzeria was a front for child trafficking know as Pizzagate after a man inspired by the conspiracy theory open fire there shortly after the election.
JONES: I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis' Comet Ping Pong or his employees. We apologize. To the extent, our commentaries could be considered as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing.
KEILAR (voice-over): Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, just ahead, the White House says President Trump stands by his congratulatory call to Turkey's president even as the State Department is sending a much different message about the autocratic leader.
COOPER: Lead numbers right now in that race that's getting national attention, including from the President of United States, Democrat Jon Ossoff leading the race still for the Georgia House sit formerly held by Health Secretary Tom Price and for years by Newt Gingrich with 52 percent of precincts now in.
[21:45:12] Ossoff has 53.9 percent or just shy of four points more than the 50 percent plus one vote he need to avoid a runoff. We continue to follow this. There's still more votes to be counted.
Meantime, tonight, the White House is defending President Trump's congratulatory phone call to Turkey's president who won a controversial referendum Sunday that expanded his powers, international monitors of alleged voting irregularities and they say the vote took place on an uneven playing field.
President Trump is the first, and so far the only western leader to congratulate the president whose government as you may know has been wildly criticized by western nations for his first crackdown after last year's failed military coup.
Now at the same time, the United States needs Turkey's help in the fight against ISIS, which certainly makes it complicated and puts the White House and the State Department at odds over Turkey's president. Michelle Kosinski tonight has more.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Turkey's President Recep Erdogan's divisive razor-thin national referendum win now means he has sweeping powers. But he tells CNN in an exclusive interview he is not a dictator.
PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKEY (through translator): For a dictatorship to exist, you don't necessarily have to have a presidential system.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): Outside observers though suspect a rigged election and that this was more about Erdogan gaining power than improving Turkey's political system. Only western leader to call Erdogan and congratulate him, Donald Trump.
No mention of concerned observers have that ballots were manipulated or illegally counted, that there was intimidation, that the election happened during a state of emergency after last year's coup attempt during which Erdogan's government fired or suspended more than 100,000 people, including teachers and journalists, jailed tens of thousands of others.
Today, a Trump administration official tells CNN, "The president is aware of all of that. On the other hand, Turkey is vital NATO ally in the counterterrorism field. If your policy is America First and protecting America, there are times when you're going to be picking from some imperfect options."
Still, zero European leaders joined Trump in contacting Erdogan. Others who did congratulate him include Hamas, Qatar and Bahrain
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: There are political consequences of this, but I think the president obviously made a decision to continue to reinforce our relationship with Turkey given the circumstances of facing ISIS on the ground.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): In an odd sort of good cop/bad cop dynamic, it was the president's own State Department that sounded the alarm about democracy in statement, "concerns include observed irregularities on voting day and an uneven playing field. We look to the government of Turkey to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all its citizens, commitment to the rule of law and a diverse and free media."
The White House is saying the president supports democracy, but wanted to focus on working together and let the State Department bring up the referendum. Trump though has praised other strongman type leaders, Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
D. TRUMP: I respect Putin. He's a strong leader, I can tell you that.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): Earlier this month, a warm welcome at the White House for Egypt's el-Sisi and critics question whether Trump's own business interests in Turkey prevent him pushing back against Erdogan's tactic. Trump admitted in the 2015 interview with Steve Bannon at Breitbart News --
D. TRUMP: I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul. And it's a tremendously successful job. It's called Trump Towers. They're incredible people. They have a strong leader.
KOSINSKI: Erdogan actually attended Trump's event in Turkey. Ivanka Trump tweeted about it in 2012, "Thank you Prime Minister Erdogan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of Trump Towers Istanbul" And that too raises the question, does that prior business contact or friendliness affect what the president might say in such a phone call or even as to whether he makes that call at all? Something that many other world leaders obviously have chosen not to do, at least until they get the full report from observers on whether that referendum was contacted fairly, Anderson.
COOPER: And, Michelle, even though the State Department said one thing, just to be clear, the White House, what, they continue to defend the president's call tonight, right?
KOSINSKI: Yeah. Asked by reporters, they say they don't regret it at all because they say the president was just asking -- acting in America's interests when he focused on ways that the U.S. and Turkey can work together to fight terror.
COOPER: All right, Michelle Kosinski, appreciate the reporting tonight.
Lots to discuss with the panel. Joining me, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Tony Blinken and Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
Fareed, the White House is saying this whole lack of coordination was actually on purpose. Is that possible?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": It is highly impossible to me. I mean, it's also frankly would -- it's surprising something like that hasn't happened earlier. You have the thinnest staffing of an administration I think that I can recall. It might even be in history. You have hundreds and hundreds of positions that have not been filled in the Defense Department and the State Department.
[21:50:03] You have a scout and crew. You have a president who frankly does not pay an enormous amount in this regard to the factual accuracy of statements and therefore, you know, perhaps there was an urge to do something, to show that they were doing something, to send a signal without making sure they had all their ducks in a row. It's possible that this was planned. It just would seem like a very weird plan, frankly.
COOPER: Tony, how do you see this? I mean, is it possible this whole kind of good cop/bad cop theory is real?
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Again, it is possible but I would agree with Fareed it's not very probable. Now, what I heard is that the State Department's statement had to be elicited by reporters from the department. In other words, it didn't put it out affirmatively, which suggests that if they really were doing a good cop/bad cop, it's a strange way to do it. You'd think you'd want to get your good cop -- your bad cop statement out there and then have the president follow-up. So, I don't know.
But it a sense, it doesn't matter because ultimately what people are looking for is what the president says. And as important as the State Department is, the authoritative voice really is the president. And the fact that the president chose not to say anything about the referendum vote in terms of the irregularities that went into it and then the substantive result which was the total consolidation of power in the president's hand in Turkey, that speaks volumes.
COOPER: You know, Fareed, there are those who believe this president sort of has a pension for strongman for overseas, for whether it's Sisi in Egypt or here in Turkey.
ZAKARIA: I think clearly that's the case and it's very unfortunate. Actually, there's a very interesting moment that's taking place on the Turkish referendum. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, calls to congratulate Erdogan, fulsomely no qualifications that we know off, just told him, you know, this is great and this is really the most serious descent for Turkey into authoritarianism.
Since out of Turks (ph), since the 1930s, this was the one, you know, Muslim Middle Eastern country that had established a kind of secular liberal democracy. It seems to be unraveling. And Trump's response was to simply congratulate the strongman.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel with her foreign minister issued a joint statement saying to Erdogan, "You know, this was a very divisive referendum. You won very narrowly. You really need to pay attention to the opposition. You need to pay heed to minority rights."
So, what you now have is a bizarre situation where the chancellor of Germany has become the leading, you know, proponent of human rights and democracy and liberal constitutionalism and the President of the United States is saying, you know, just way to go. I mean, this is true for Sisi. It's true for Erdogan. It's true for Duterte in the Philippines. It's true for Putin, of course, in Russia until he's, you know, been forced to pull back a little.
It's very disturbing because, you know, the great victory of the United States in foreign policy in a broad sense over the last six, seven decades has been to spread stability along with a certain set of values and here you have them unraveling and the President of the United States is cheering him on.
COOPER: Tony, we did hear echoes of that during the campaign from Donald Trump about, you know, not -- sort of not pushing the U.S. values on the rest of the world, but to hear the president -- I mean, it's rare that you have a president who is kind of not at least paying lip service to those traditional values.
BLINKEN: Especially when actually those values are absolutely necessary and central to having the stability that the president and we ultimately want, because in the absence of that, you're actually going to have countries that at least in the short-term may seem stable because they are basically suppressing any difference or any descent, but eventually better ups and it creates far more instability and far more conflict.
But there are may be something else going on here, Anderson, which is this. The president is very focused on the Islamic state and a big part of finishing the job against the Islamist state in Syria is dealing with Raqqa, its strong hold in Syria. And there, he needs to find a way to get on side with Turkey.
The best way to deal with Raqqa, liberating it is using a force on the ground that's dominated by a Kurdish militia that Turkey hates. And it may be that what the president was doing in playing nice with Erdogan was trying to get him a little bit of space so that we can come back and say, "Hey, guess what, we have to use this Kurdish militia to take Raqqa even though we know you don't like it."
So there's a lot going on here that may be a reflection of the president's focus on dealing with the Islamic state.
COOPER: All right, Tony Blinker, Fareed Zakaria, thank you both.
Well, before we take a quick break, one more look at the special election we've been following tonight. The numbers are tightening down in Georgia Sixth Congressional District. Democrat John Ossoff now just 1 percentage point above the run off level. The margin has been slipping all night as more votes are counted. It looks like it's heading towards a run off. We will continue to follow as the votes come in.
[21:55:01] One Republican telling "The New York Times" they can now start to exhale tonight, but the margin as I said is very tight. This is a die hard GOP district. We'll be right back, first to look at new CNN series premiering this Thursday, a musical journey through the songs that defined history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Music is an explosive expression of humanity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every movement has to have a song.
GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD U.S. PRESIDENT: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.
DWAYNE JOHNSON, ACTOR: The music will always remind us that it is possible.
NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: One small step for man.
RANDY JACKSON, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: That is what anthems are made of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about standing up for your rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were killing our own children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought, what the hell are we going to do that for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a cultural political statement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Music is a vehicle for revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That kind of courage changed how I viewed human beings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aftermath of 9/11 everybody was in it together.
JACKSON: Somebody has got to put this into words and emotions for everyone to hear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is how we remember history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Soundtracks: Songs that Defined History" premiers Thursday at 10:00 on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's all the time we have. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. See you tomorrow.
[22:00:08] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight, a fierce battle is underway in Georgia and it could have major implications for President Trump and the Republicans. Results are coming in, in this --