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Carter Page Speaks Out; House Majority Leader: We Have Votes To Pass Health Bill; FBI Director Grilled About Trump Investigation; Trump On Mideast Peace: We Will Get It Done. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 3, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: --2016. You've repeatedly denied having any conversations in a lot of interviews about lifting sanctions when you were in Moscow.

You've denied this many times on this network and others. Then in an interview in April, you suddenly sound less than definitive. And I want to play what you said to George Stephanopoulos.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: It sounds like from what you're saying it's possible that you may have discussed the easing of sanctions.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: Something may have come up in a conversation -- I have no recollection and there is nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can't say without equivocation that you didn't discuss the easing of sanctions.

PAGE: Someone may have brought it up. I have no recollection. And if it was -- it was not something I was offering or someone -- that someone was asking for.


COOPER: So, it just -- it seems a little unclear. It does seem like you're changing your story. Somehow you said never one day in many interviews and then maybe another day. So, did anyone talk to you about sanctions? I mean, you were there for three days in Moscow.

PAGE: Anderson, listen, talking about sanctions in Russia with economists, et cetera, is like talking about the weather. It's been such a force --

COOPER: But a lot of people talk about the weather. So, are you saying --

PAGE: Yeah.

COOPER: Yeah, you talked about sanctions?

PAGE: But I did not talk about changing the weather. Let's just put it that way, which I think was the prior conversations we've talked about.

COOPER: But, I don't know what that means. So -- but just in general, in the three days you did have conversations with people. You said previously you talked to scholars, you talked to educators, professors. People talked to you about sanctions?

PAGE: I have no recollection, Anderson. And I'd be curious to hear what specific quote was so questionable that I said to you previously.

COOPER: Well, I'll play a couple for you right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there ever an offer that to help you --

PAGE: Never.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- lift the sanctions you'd get something out of it?

PAGE: If I were offered a prize of many billions of dollars, that would be quite an offer, but that was never dropped in my lap, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you answer that question? Was there ever any offer like that at all?

PAGE: No offer, whatsoever.

CHRIS HAYES. MSNBC HOST: Should any conversation you have while you're in Russia pertained to U.S. policy, to Russian vis-a-vis, particularly the sanctions or at the Trump campaign.

PAGE: Nothing about sanctions.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You never said that to anybody that you think that if Donald Trump won he might be willing to get rid of the Russian -- the sanctions against Russia?



COOPER: So at Chris Hayes you said nothing about sanctions, so.

PAGE: Exactly, yeah. Well, about U.S. policy related to it, right? I mean, it's a -- it is a factor in the Russian economy, right? So, I mean, this is kind of -- it's splitting hairs, Anderson. I mean, there's --


COOPER: Well, it's just trying to get facts. PAGE: Yeah.

COOPER: And, you know, you say you didn't have those conversations, but you haven't been really clear on what you did for the rest of the three days other than give a speech.

It would be quite understandable that after years of trying to, you know, drum up business in Russia, you know, a guy suddenly shows up in Moscow, you know, who's been approached by a Russian spy back in 2013 as a potential source. Suddenly you're back in Moscow.

You're now named as a top adviser to the Republican nominee. It would be hard to imagine Russians wouldn't talk to you about sanctions or U.S. policy that Russian intelligence wouldn't be interested. So, there may have been conversations.

PAGE: Anderson, in all instances, I told everyone that I was not there representing the Trump campaign as I think I've explained to you previously.

COOPER: Right, but you just say --


PAGE: And I made that very clearly. I made that very clear.

COOPER: -- but you were clearly invited to give this lecture because all of a sudden your star had risen dramatically from your previous experiences in Moscow.

PAGE: Anderson, I've been giving speeches in Moscow going back over a decade in all the top universities, basically. So, nothing --

COOPER: Do you ever talk to anyone in the Trump campaign about lifting sanctions on Russia, because you said he's in the policy papers.

PAGE: I have -- look, Anderson, I don't talk about internal discussions or things that may have been confidential internally.

COOPER: Because you talked about sending policy papers.

PAGE: I had no specific conversation that I can recall. Again, nothing that has anything to do with the -- what was discussed in the hearings today. So, -- and there's -- yeah, I think there's no --


COOPER: There's just a number of statements that you made that I'm just trying to, kind of, pin down because you have given seemingly conflicting accounts, the number of interviews you've done, which I've been reading out for awhile. I mean, look, I will get as your exact role in the campaign. That's also been in doubt.

You said in December, long after you were let go by campaign, in a press conference in Moscow to Russian reporters that you had a, "number of meetings with Donald Trump." Then when you and I spoke last you admitted they weren't -- you weren't in any actual meetings with Donald Trump. You never even met him. The meetings you were talking about to Russian reporters were public rallies attended by thousands of voters.

[21:05:02] So, it does sound like when you were in Moscow talking to reporters that you were playing up your credentials with the campaign. Is that fair?

PAGE: To the contrary, Anderson. At that particular speech that you referenced to the new economic school as well, I was very clear that I was not there representing anyone other than myself.

COOPER: Right, but in December in an interview -- in a press conference that I think at a Sputnik Institute, I believe it was called, you were questioned about whether you really had been in any meetings with Donald Trump and you said that you've been in many meetings with Donald Trump.

And then when you are on my show last time you said what you actually talking about is you went to public rallies, I believe, Bismarck, North Dakota was one of them. So that's -- when you said you were in meetings with Donald Trump that you were in the kind of rallies that we saw on television that we broadcast that tens of thousands of people went to?

PAGE: And I would say -- also I explained to you, Anderson, some smaller meetings as well. But, look, the bottom line --

COOPER: What does that mean? Because there's no -- because Donald Trump has said he's never met you. You say smaller meetings. I know you went to three -- according to "The Washington Post," you went to three dinner meetings for unpaid advisers on national security during the spring and summer of 2016. Is that the meetings you're talking about? And President Trump wasn't there.

PAGE: Anderson, all I know is that in the interview with Senator Feinstein with Wolf Blitzer a couple of hours ago, she was asked specifically, is there any evidence of collusion after her visit out to Langley.

And 10 months later, after allegedly having my phones tapped and the FISA warrant based on no probable cause and literally no real evidence, there's maybe plenty of false evidence, but after all that literally -- and I was very appreciative that she said in confidential meetings out in Langley, nothing has been seen. And you know why, Anderson, because there's nothing there.

COOPER: I just want to understand who you actually are, because -- I mean, everybody in the Trump campaign basically says you weren't part of the campaign. So, you never met President Trump, though you -- he named you as a national -- one of five national security advisers. Did you ever meet Paul Manafort?

PAGE: No, I never have. Yeah. And, you know, listen. And I --

COOPER: And Manafort's denied meeting you as well. You never met Jason Miller, did you?

PAGE: So, look, Anderson --

COOPER: Have you met Kellyanne Conway?

PAGE: Look, Anderson, the beauty of it is --

COOPER: She's denying meeting you.

PAGE: I mean -- well, she is -- well, listen. If you look at the statements by President Trump on election night, late in the evening, he was talking about this was not a campaign, this is a movement. I was very proud to be part of a movement.

COOPER: Well, I'm just trying to understand exactly what part of the movement you were, because you weren't in any meetings with the candidate. You were in public rallies where thousands of people were and I don't think those people could say that they had been in a meeting with Donald Trump.

And, you know, every -- most people in the campaign are denying kind of knowing you. So, I'm just trying to get, you know, you won't say who brought you into the campaign. You won't say what the topic of, you know, policy papers which you've said you actually sent are. So it's not clear to me exactly how real you were part of this campaign other than how you portrayed yourself when you were in Moscow.

PAGE: I think as I have explained to a number of people, Anderson, I was not a substantial part of the campaign. I've been very up front about that throughout. And the beauty --

COOPER: But you weren't upfront about that when you were actually in Moscow by saying you were all in these meetings with the president when in fact that wasn't the case.

PAGE: Anderson, I am a --


PAGE: -- listener. Anderson, I am a listener, because as opposed to someone just trying to get their two cents in. So, I was --

COOPER: I don't know what that means.

PAGE: Well, I listen very closely and I studied exactly his policies. And I think if you look at some of the changes --

COOPER: You listened closely at the rallies with thousands of other people?


PAGE: Well -- but I think really understanding what his agenda is and the beauty of it is after four and a half hours of the hearings today kind of going back over sort of these old conspiracy theories and trying to push these issues related to -- COOPER: The investigation is still going on.

PAGE: Yeah.

COOPER: We don't know what the result of it is going to be. But, the last time we spoke you told me that you barely spoke to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. at the Republican National Convention.

PAGE: Yes.

COOPER: I just want to play what you said.


COOPER: So you're saying you didn't speak to the Russian ambassador for more than 10 seconds?

PAGE: Never more than -- again, I don't want to talk specifics, but I can assure you, I've never spoken with Ambassador Kislyak more than 10 seconds. Yeah, that's a safe statement.


COOPER: So then about a month later in an interview with Chris Cuomo, you said that you had a more substantial meeting with the Russian ambassador. I just want to play that because it's confusing.


[21:10:05] PAGE: And several of the prior discussions, for example, with Anderson Cooper and others, is the constant questions regarding did I ever meet Ambassador Kislyak. And I had a -- I said a brief hello to him in Cleveland and maybe a few passing comments, never lasting more than just a few seconds. And it's interesting.

The reason why I didn't -- wasn't more forthcoming about that with Anderson about a month and a half ago is I never -- it was a confidential meeting. Everyone that was in that meeting agreed they would keep the conversations confidential and I was respecting that.

And so the reason why I can talk about it now is the Kremlin spokesperson, Mr. Peskov, has said that, "Yes, there were a various interactions between the supporters of the Trump campaign as well as the Clinton campaign."


COOPER: So, were you not telling the truth initially when you said you only met with him for 10 seconds?

PAGE: Anderson, you just said I just -- I was alluded to something more substantial. Didn't I just say to Chris last week that it was just a few seconds and passing comments? I don't see any inconsistency.

COOPER: You said that there were more meetings, actually. I can get the transcript of what you just said. I mean, just --

PAGE: I said it was a passing hello and a few passing --

COOPER: You said there were further meetings. You said that, "Yeah, there were discussions or there were various interactions between the supporters of the Trump campaign as well as the Clinton campaign," you (inaudible).

PAGE: Well, interactions, that's a few passing -- I mean there's nothing, Anderson.

COOPER: OK. So there were not various interactions? You said there were discussions. There weren't like significant discussions.

PAGE: No, nothing significant. Nothing significant, as Senator Feinstein correctly alluded to after her visit to Langley, so.

COOPER: All right. Carter Page, I appreciate you coming on. Thanks very much. We will get reaction from our panel, next.

Also ahead, the breaking news on Capitol Hill tonight, House Republicans say they'll hold a vote on the GOP health care bill tomorrow and they are confident it will pass. Details ahead.


[21:15:47] COOPER: Welcome back. Live from Washington tonight. Before the break, I spoke with former Trump adviser of sorts (ph), Carter Page, whose name came up in the Comey hearing today, which raised a lot of questions. With me now is Philip Mudd, Matthew Rosenburg, Gloria Borgia and Jim Sciutto.

Jim, I mean, I'm not exactly sure why Carter Page continues to speak publicly, because I don't know that he does himself a lot of favors doing it, because a lot of his statements are inconsistent over time. But the bottom line is the investigations are ongoing.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. I mean, there's an open question as to how significant a character Carter Page is in this whole story. And, you know, he clearly was trying to present himself, it seems, in Russia as a significant player.

It doesn't appear that there's a lot of evidence to back that up. That said, the Trump campaign at the time was a pretty threadbare operation so, you know, there were a lot of folks like that possibly in the orbit (ph), no questions as to how close they were to the candidate himself.

But in terms of what the FBI is looking into today -- and you heard this from Comey. Comey said it is still an active part of an FBI investigation was there collusion between Trump associates, whoever they are, including folks like Carter Page and the Russians. They still looking into that. They don't have an answer. They've been substantiated that allegation, but he confirmed today they are still looking at that. COOPER: So when you -- you know, when you actually start scratching away at the sort of the record of Carter Page and you've kind of, you know, talk to him bunch as we have now. Even if he did not have a real role in the Trump campaign -- I mean, it seems pretty clear to me at least that Donald Trump named him Carter Page PhD at a time when he needed to name some national security folks, because a lot of the national security establishment wasn't embracing him at this point. They got Carter Page's name.

Donald Trump never met with him. He never attended a meeting. He was never paid. And then gradually, he was basically let go and now they're all denying he was ever part of the campaign to begin with. Does that even matter, though, in terms of whether Russia might have seen him as somebody to approach?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think it does matter. And he is missing a key point here when he says there's no cause for people to follow me, including to get a FISA warrant. A judge isn't signing that if he's a peripheral player who spoke to a Russian professor at some point.

A judge is going to look at that and say, "That's the most intrusive technique we have, listen to somebody's phone or e-mail. I need something more than just a little bit of smoke and mirrors."

To your point of significance, there's a difference between somebody who is a recruit in an intelligence service and somebody who is an access agent. Access agent in my world is somebody who can -- who might be -- they might be a phone clerk. Incredibly valuable in my world, because they can say, "I can route you to the calls to the head of the intelligence service."

He might be the equivalent of somebody getting 12k a year. He still incredibly important because he can provide access. The access from Carter Page is really important. He might understand that dynamics of the campaign whose making this --

COOPER: Who's in-charge?

MUDD: Down to really basic questions. Where do they meet? Where do they have coffee? And lo and behold, a Russian ends up behind them is Starbucks and says, "How is your day going?" That kind of information might seem casual and significant, but in terms of an access agent, which he could have been, really important to an intelligent (inaudible).

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Only, he didn't have any access. But he could have portrayed himself to the Russians as somebody who did have access. You know, somebody who said, "Look, you know, you ought to pay me. I'm in Moscow all the time. I'm on this advisory board for Donald Trump. I met him." And they may have thought, "Well, you know, this is a guy we have to look at who can provide some access," even though he didn't have any.

SCIUTTO: It did show that the Russian spies talking about him and not the most glowing terms. BORGER: Right.

COOPER: I mean, in 2013 a Russian spy called him an idiot. But, nevertheless, was getting --

BORGER: But it doesn't mean he wouldn't have access.

COOPER: Right -- was interested in getting some sort of information.



ROSENBERG: -- the connection with Russia intelligence before. They've had dealings with him in this and he doesn't seem to care before.

COOPER: He is also -- I mean, will not say a negative word about Vladimir Putin or about Russia's international stance or human rights record or anything.

ROSENBERG: And when he does say anything, it's so unclear. I mean, he's one of a group of people. You ask simple questions like, "How did you get involved with the campaign?" I really shouldn't say. I mean, I can tell you, everybody who helped get me a job in my career and it's not a secret. So I don't get why these things are secret. And it all adds up to lots of unanswered questions and they seem to bristle all the idea that they should answer.

COOPER: Right. Or that whole notion of, "Well, I met the Russian ambassador only for 10 seconds at the Republican National Convention, but it was a confidential meeting."

[21:20:08] If it's a 10-second "Hello," I'm not sure how that's a confidential meeting. I mean, what's the significant, you know --

BORGER: Well, it depends how you want to portray yourself, you know. If you want to portray yourself to the Trump folks, you're going to say, "I have all these great connections and I know an off a lot about Russian politics."

If you want to portray yourself as someone in the know to the Russians you said, "Well, I know all the Trump people and I'm pretty, you know." And that may have been the game he was playing. I have absolutely no idea.

But as Phil says, if he is being wiretapped, if there was a FISA warrant, there's going to be a reason. It just doesn't happen and it isn't given out willy-nilly. There really has to be a reason.

COOPER: Or at least suspicion. I mean, it doesn't --


BORGER: A suspicion. A reason to have a suspicion. (OFF-MIC)


COOPER: Yeah. Matt, I mean, you've done some extensive reporting on Carter Page and his ties to Russia. What stood out to you?

ROSENBERG: I mean, his complete evasiveness is what stands out there. And like you said, his unwillingness to say, look, I was in Russia and -- yeah, he doesn't really know who he is meeting with there at best. The best case scenario is that there are people in the crowd who may be connected to Russian intelligence. But he doesn't seem willing to acknowledge that, you know.

And this is kind of -- I give a lot of speeches in Russia, but, oh, why would they be interested in me, you know? It just -- things that don't add up and you have to be -- why are you telling us any of this? Because what you're saying is like two plus two equals 28. And that alone kind of makes --

COOPER: Is he actually somebody, though -- I mean, from everything I've researched on him, it doesn't seem as if his business dealings are so extensive or high level. I mean, Merrill Lynch where he had worked, his former boss there says he has served exaggerated. At another company he worked, a former president of that company where he only worked -- he lasted for three months called him a wackadoodle. I mean, it's not clear to me how much business he actually generates in Russia. He clearly wants to, but I'm not sure --

ROSENBERG: Not really generates any significant business there. And what he does do -- he seems like a gadfly. You kind of flip on the edges, picks a little bit here, a little bit there, a payment for speech, maybe. I mean, we don't really know what he does.

SCIUTTO: And yet the president did cite him as a senior adviser at one point -- at least in one point in the campaign.


MUDD: Yeah.

COOPER: All right, thanks to everybody.

Just ahead, the latest on the breaking news on Capitol Hill. House Republican leaders say that they have enough support to pass the GOP health care bill and will hold a vote tomorrow. That breaking news is ahead.


[21:26:26] COOPER: Welcome back. We are live in Washington. After a very busy day, the breaking news tonight, House leaders plan to hold -- oh, here. I'm over here. Yeah. We have two cameras in D.C., don't we? House leaders plan -- we're in the big city. New York, we only got one. House leaders plan to hold a vote tomorrow on the GOP health care bill. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says they have enough votes to repeal Obamacare. We've been (inaudible) for days now with the fate of the bill very much in flux.

One of the major sticking points, protections for people with pre- existing conditions. An 11th hour amendment was aimed at addressing that concern. Phil Mattingly joins us now with the latest. Phil, how did we get here?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: About $8 billion really, Anderson. That is what turned from yesterday was a standstill, kind of a roadblock on a path forward to where we are now. They are planning to hold that vote tomorrow.

The $8 billion is coming in the form of an amendment to address those very concerns that you mentioned, pre-existing conditions. How the price protections related to pre-existing conditions that currently exist in Obamacare would actually be addressed if states decide to opt out of those protections all together?

$8 billion was the agreement from two no votes previously that they reached with the White House and that at least according to House Republican leaders has them close enough to take this to the floor. This is how House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy put it.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to pass it. We're going to pass it. Let's be optimistic about life. I think today that you all read the story of the health care pulling out of Iowa. We have 94 counties out of 99 that don't have health care. That's why we have to make sure this passes to save those people from Obamacare that continues to collapse, because they don't even have health care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have 216 votes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have more than enough votes for this to be able to pass?

MCCARTHY: We will pass this bill. I feel great about the bill.


MATTINGLY: Now, Anderson, it's worth noting, House Republican leaders said the first time around that they thought they had the votes and that they were planning to take this bill to the floor. They actually scheduled the vote and ended up having to pull it.

But it's also worth noting, House Republican leaders have been very clear both to us and to the White House behind closed doors, they will not put this on the floor until they believe they are there, until they have the 216 votes. I'm told that even tonight, this is still on a razor's edge. This is as close as it can get, but clearly, House Speaker Paul Ryan has made the calculation that it's time to go. COOPER: And, Phil, why isn't this bill being scored?

MATTINGLY: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the biggest questions out here is they're going to the floor without a CBO score, without an update at CBO score to detail any of the changes that have been made over the course of the last couple of weeks. Obviously, that first CBO score related to the initial iteration with this bill was devastating.

24 million people would be without insurance or lose insurance over the course of 10 years. We don't have an update on what that number would be under this plan. We don't have an update on what the deficit savings would be under this plan as well. That used to be a deal killer, not just for Republicans, but for Democrats as well. That's a huge political liability to vote on this without a score.

Also worth noting that the amendment text that apparently got them there just came out about an hour ago, so a lot of members are just starting to get their heads around what this would actually do. The vote will still happen tomorrow. What I'm told essentially from several members over the course of the last couple hours is, essentially this, it's time to move on. They've done this enough.

They recognize that it's clogging up the rest of the legislative agenda. They recognize this is a politically difficult vote, but they also recognize this is something they have campaigned on repeatedly. It's very likely, almost certain that Senate will change this in some way, shape or form. They just need to do something. So despite all of the kind of big problems that might actually come with this vote, they've decided it's time to move forward, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

A very busy night over the last few days, President Trump has been all in on the effort to lock down votes for the GOP health care bill. He made a lot of calls.

[21:30:07] Jason Carroll is at White House. He joins us now. So what is the White House saying about the vote tomorrow?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the White House is feeling optimistic, at least at this point that president and the vice-president making a lot of calls on this.

The real turning point at least symbolically or otherwise seems to really rest on the conversation that the president had with two people, Fred Upton and Billy Long. I mean, these two representatives were no votes. Real no votes, until the President was able to have a meeting with them. They were able to talk, talk about this $8 billion amendment to help cover people with pre-existing conditions. That was in some ways and to many people a real turning point.

And, Anderson, the president's supporters say if this goes through, the president really deserves a lot of credit on this one. The administration saying that the president today, all week, all night has been doing what he does best, and that's negotiate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president talked about this in the beginning that he wants to work with members to make it the strongest possible bill to have the strongest outcome for the American people in a health care system in which both the costs continue to go down. And I think that's one point, Alexis (ph), that we keep forgetting in this discussion. With what we're trying to do, it's not just replace Obamacare. Obamacare is dying on the vine.


CARROLL: Well, Anderson, when it comes to Obamacare, you remember that that administration was criticized for rushing through health care reform. This administration is being basically criticized for the same thing.

You heard Phil talking about it there just a little while ago. Some questioning why the Congressional Budget Office didn't get a chance to sort of look at this revised sort of bill and be able to sort of weigh in with any sort of red flags. That did not happened, this go around. It was very clear --


CARROLL: -- that this is something that the White House really wanted to move on.

COOPER: Jason Carroll, I appreciate it from the White House tonight. Thanks very much.

A lot to discuss, joining me David Gregory and Kirsten Powers, Gloria Borger is back, Dana Bash as well. It is amazing that there is no Congressional Budget Office score. I mean, in the past that was a big deal for all sides. Would there be one as the Senate starts to look at this?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can't imagine that there won't be. Look, I mean, I'm old enough to remember a Republican led House becoming a Republican led House with promises to read a bill for three days, never mind a CBO score. Meaning, they ran on the notion that Democrats push things through too fast and that's exactly what they're doing.

Now, Republicans argue and they're right about this, that this is not, you know, the gazillion page health care bill that Obama care was. It is smaller because they're -- if it takes pure words to write something apart, frankly.

But at the same time, they're going in blind. I mean, they just are. There was a score on the original bill, which did say that 24 million people who had coverage -- additional coverage because of Obamacare would lose that coverage. We don't know if that number is different or not, but they're just kind of take the plunge.

BORGER: And, you know, that's something -- BASH: Or not.

BORGER: And that is the large part what they did it in last time. So if you were being cynical here and far based for me to be cynical, but you would say that there is some incentive to get this done before you get the score because, of course, this includes the Medicaid rollback, which is one of the reasons those millions and millions of people were losing coverage under the original score by the Congressional Budget Office. And also, we don't know what this will cost. And so maybe there is a reason that they want to do this now.


KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is -- look, this is in a highway spending bill or even an infrastructure bill. This is talking about something that literally means life and death to a lot of Americans is that serious of an issue.

And so I think the way that they handled it is even more important. And the fact that we know so little about it, frankly, it makes it that much more troubling that the $8 billion won't even begin to cover pre-existing conditions, especially if more states decide that they're going to set up these pools more than -- just because the incentive of getting the money will make them want to do that.

It's not going to cover it. It expires after five years, you know, so what happens then? So they're taking away a fundamental protection that is very important. And it's a matter of life and death to people.

COOPER: And here's the process, David. I mean, the bill would need only, what, 51 votes to pass in the Senate because it's part of the reconciliation process, right?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And -- but there's still going to be a lot of different political cross currents in the Senate when they take a look at the ramifications of covering fewer people. At the end of this process, there are going to be fewer people who have health care insurance in the country.

And there will be conservatives who argue, yes, but that's a good thing because if you have the federal government trying to use all its leverage to get more people covered, it cause other problem, it causes premiums to go up and all these things.

[21:35:04] I just don't know that we have in Washington a good enough understanding of what's worked and what hasn't worked about Obamacare to then leap into this new area where fewer people are covered. It creates policy problems. And I think real political problems down the road, because conservatives more moderates who were balking at this didn't want to be responsible for leaving out the most vulnerable.

And we don't know whether this fix is enough to really deal with people who have pre-existing conditions. And that's why it's been so hard to get agreement. You know, we should remember, Obamacare was passed on a party line vote, no Republicans. This is going to be the mirror image of that on the Republican side. That's not good for our health care system.

BORGER: You know, all of the sort of large health lobbying groups, the American Medical Association, the Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, not to mention the AARP, they have all come out against this, even with the fix. And that's another thing you don't want to sink in to much before members go home to their constituents.

So I think the push to get this done is not in the interest of good legislating. It's actually in the interest of getting something on the record so they can have a win and also get something to the Senate.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody.

Coming up as we've been reporting, FBI Director James Comey said he feels mildly nauseous about the notion he could have affected the presidential election. We hear from a senator who grilled him today about why he talks about the Clinton investigation, but not the Trump investigation before the election. That's next.


[21:40:22] COOPER: Welcome back to "360." We're live from Washington. Tonight, where FBI Director James Comey said today that he stands by his decisions reveal 11 days before the election that the FBI was looking more e-mails related to the Clinton investigation.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey said it does make him feel "mildly nauseous," over his words, to think he may have affected the election, but that it was the right decision at the time.

Senators, including Chris Coons grilled the director about why he talked about the Clinton investigation before the election, but not one that was also going on, looking into whether then candidate Donald Trump's associates colluded with Russia. Listen.


SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I'm struck that you chose to make public statements about one investigation and not another. The investigation we now know that was ongoing into the Trump campaign and the investigation ongoing into Secretary Clinton.

I'm concerned about what the future practice will be? How has the approach taken with regards to the Clinton investigation been memorialized? And have you modified in any way FBI or department procedures regarding disclosure of information concerning investigations, particularly close to an election?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have not and the reason for that is everything that we did, that I did was in my view consistent with existing Department of Justice policy. That is, we don't confirm the existence of investigations except in unusual circumstances.

We don't talk about closed -- we don't talk about investigations that don't result in criminal charges unless there is a compelling public interest. And so those principles should still govern. We also, whenever humanly possible avoid any action that might have an impact on an election.


COOPER: I spoke with Senator Coons earlier today.


COOPER: Senator Coons, were you satisfied with what Director Comey told you about why he publicly weighed in on the Clinton investigation, but not the Trump investigation before the election?

COONS: I was not, Anderson. Director Comey articulated the principles that he followed in deciding that he was compelled to speak out publicly about a renewed investigation into Secretary Clinton's e- mails.

He said it was unusual circumstances. It was of compelling public interest. And those two things in combination made him override long standing FBI policy to not speak out publicly in a way that might influence an election.

In fact, Anderson, there were two presidential candidates under investigation by the FBI at the time, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And I suggested to Director Comey that the right thing to do would have been to comment on both investigations or neither.

COOPER: I mean, the director's argument is basically of the two investigations were apples and oranges. The Clinton investigation had been ongoing for long time. He had said, you know, that it was concluded and that he would update Congress if anything more developed. The Trump investigation was only a few months old and that factored into his decision. You don't accept that?

COONS: Well, that was his response to me. But he commented in response to my question that they only publicly notified about that Clinton investigation when it was three months under way. By his account, the Trump investigation was at that point three months under way. And I do think that he should have taken closer accounts of the impact it would have on the election and neither -- and should have neither commented on Clinton nor Trump.

COOPER: You know, when he said that had he not commented on the Clinton investigation, it could have destroyed the FBI. Do you think that is possible?

COONS: I think he really overstates the risk to the FBI of his not commenting, particularly given that the Clinton's e-mails that already been thoroughly and fully investigated and FBI investigators had concluded that there were no grounds for charge.

He could have said, "That I am abiding by long standing FBI policy and declining to comment this close to an election." And I think he would have been well regarded for doing so. COOPER: It was also interesting to hear Director Comey tell you that he offered to publicly speak out on the Russia interference since the election as far back this last August. But he said the Obama administration declines to take him up on that and that interference only became public in October. Had you heard that before and do you believe the Obama administration missed an opportunity?

COONS: I didn't hear that specific fact before. But I was struck that FBI Director Comey said in response to questions from several senators that the Russians continue to interfere in politics in the United States and in Europe. In particular, in France and Germany where they have upcoming elections and that Director Comey expects the Russians to try to interfere again in our 2018 and 2020 elections.

COOPER: I'm also curious what you think of President Trump tweeting late last night that Director Comey gave Hillary Clinton what he called a free pass for many bad deeds. How do you square that implicit criticism that director with Sean Spicer today saying that Mr. Comey has the president's confidence?

[21:45:07] COONS: I frankly think president Trump would be better served by putting the phone down and stopping his midnight tweets. He's got very difficult issues to confront. He met with the head of the Palestinian authority today. We've got a very tense situation on the Korean peninsula. And I'm not sure it's the best use of the president's time to relitigate the 2016 election.

COOPER: And finally, this word that Susan Rice is refusing to testify before Judiciary Subcommittee which you're on about Russia interference in the election. Her lawyer says it's because it wasn't a bipartisan invitation. How do you think, A, that's going to go over with allies to the president who've been after her for weeks about surveillance and unmasking?

COONS: Well, to be clear, she's following long-standing protocol, which is that witnesses come in response to bipartisan invitations. More importantly, Anderson, there's no evidence that Susan Rice did anything illegal or inappropriate. And I hope that we will have conversations among senators going forward about what unmasking is and isn't.

There were questions asked to Director James Comey about this today as well in the FBI oversight hearing. I don't think there's any compelling evidence that Susan Rice as national security adviser did anything wrong in the particular incident at issue here.

COOPER: So you don't think Democrats on the committee should take -- join hands with the Republicans and offer an invitation for her to speak, so it is bipartisan?

COONS: I'd have to hear a more compelling case made. And frankly, this is a decision made by the ranking Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse, and I'll support him in his decision.

COOPER: Senator Coons, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

COONS: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, just ahead of the program, over lunch today, the White House, President Trump, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talked about to solve Mideast peace process. President Trump suggests that solution might not be as difficult as many people have thought. Details on that.


[21:50:40] COOPER: In another big moment in Washington today, President Trump welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House. At a joint news conference, Mr. Trump out to help broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians saying, "We will get this done". Later, he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's a great honor to have President Abbas with us. We'll be having lunch together. We'll be discussing details of what has proven to be a very difficult situation between Israel and the Palestinians and let's see if we can find the solution.

It's something that I think is frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years. But, we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing. And if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal.


COOPER: That sounds familiar. It is not the first time that President Trump has said a complicated issue might be easy to fix, health care, for example. Back now with the panel.

Jason, when you hear the president -- I mean, this is arguably the most difficult contentious, you know, world issue on the global stage and has been for generations? I mean --

JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Centuries. I mean, of course, this is big and of course this is one of the great Gordian knots so to speak of international diplomacy. But there's the sense of optimism that at least he's bringing these two sides together. That finally, after the talks had stalled out, that somebody has bring them together and they're starting the conversation.

Now, obviously, they're not going to go and solved it overnight. And this is -- and who knows even if the president will be able to do it during his time in office, but he's trying and he's bringing them to the table. I think you have to give him credit for that.

And there's this overall sense. I mean, it's not just with this particular conflict. I mean, we even see with other air bleeders that are glad that we stood up to Assad and that we did something about his ability to hit people with chemical weapons and kill dozens of his own people. So, I think you have to give the president credit here for at least starting the process.


BASH: Definitely. I mean, he's engaging and that's something and it is important. He's likely to fall into some of the same giant areas of quicksand that so many others have in most recent times. Look who he is sitting with. He's sitting with Abbas who is the best thing that both Israel and the president have going now in terms of a negotiating partner, but talk to anybody who knows anything about the Palestinian authority and I tell you, he's not much Jews (ph).

So, let's just say he gets them to the table. To what end? You know, maybe he can be a strong leader that he hasn't been when using and having other partners both in Israel and in the White House in the past. But it's hard to imagine that things are going to suddenly change on a dime within the Palestinian authority just because president --

GREGORY: But it's also hard to believe that there's even condition to begin a peace process and it's actually a little bit early in the administration to try that. You see a lot of presidents get into it later in their second term to at least try to have some in print. And it's very important that the United States -- and that the President of the United States gets involved in the process even if it doesn't go anywhere.

But there's something else that you hear from President Trump that I think applies to different situations. He wants to -- whether he's meeting with strong man like Sisi from Egypt or if he, you know, in a dangles a prospect of meeting with the North Korean leader, that he thinks he has an ability uniquely to change the environment, to change the dynamic. And he's not alone.

You know, President Bush thought he was in the position to charm Vladimir Putin. It didn't workout the way he had hoped. So I think he's bringing-- he sounds as if there wasn't anything called history that happened before he got to office with this political conflict, but he is putting his political capital out there and I think he's interested in the hardest deals to try his office

COOPER: It's also interesting, Kirsten, because, I mean, he has said that Jared Kushner will kind of play the role, kind of fronting this for the White House. Obviously, you had Rex Tillerson there as well. I mean, oftentimes there are Mideast envoys who shuttle back George Mitchell famously for years and years and years, so.

POWERS: Yeah. I mean, there are usually people who have more experience than Jared Kushner has, obviously. So that -- it doesn't mean that Jared Kushner can't do a good job. But he-- this isn't an area where he has a ton of experience. The thing about Donald Trump that is just interesting is it normally you sort of, you know, under promise and over deliver sort of the key to success and he just constantly over promises.

[21:55:08] And he's done this on so many different things claiming that, you know, so many things are going to be so easy. He's just going to build that wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. Health care is going to be really easy and all these other things are going to happen. And then he picks the thing that really is the hardest thing and says, "I'm going to fix it and, guess what, it's not even really even that hard."

GREGORY: But another (ph) by Dennis Ross who, you know, we're gone at Clinton administration on these issues said, you know, "The thing about Jared Kushner is that he has Jews (ph) and the parties will know that he's close to the president." So, he doesn't have experience, but he it could be (inaudible).

COOPER: Why do you think -- I mean, I find it -- I think Kirsten's point is really interesting one. I mean, as a businessman in doing real estate in New York, it was very understandable that Donald Trump would be like, you know, this is going to get done. It's going to be the best building ever. It's going to be the biggest building. It's going to be the most glamorous building, whatever. As president, obviously, it's a different thing. But he still -- why do you think he continue-- do you think it's just inherent in him that that he's a marketer, that that's the way it is? I mean, he views it as --

MILLER: Look, if you're starting the beginning of this relationship, you have to make both sides feel good about the process. And I think that's a bit of what he's doing, helping to frame and then present it.

And the thing, too, is I think this is actually an asset that he's bringing up so early in his presidency for something that, again, too often gets pushed to the back office in one's administration. That he's going in with the optimism so both sides feel, you know what, maybe something can happen here. It's a long process. But I think it's great that he's having into it.

COOPER: All right, thanks everybody. We'll be right back.


[22:00:13] COOPER: Hey, thanks for watching. We will be in D.C. tomorrow night for the vote on health care. Time to hand thing --