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Pres. Trump Wanted Gag Order Lifted On FBI Informant; Trump Orders Some JFK Files Released, Holds Others Back; Trump Campaign Distances From Data Group; Exec Says Otherwise; CNN: Clinton Campaign Chief & Then DNC Chair Denied Knowing About Dossier Funding In Talks With Congressional Investigators; New Poll: Pres. Trump's Approval Rating Falls To 38 percent. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We begin the hour with breaking news. New information about what role President Trump played in getting a gag order lifted that allows an FBI informant to talk to Congress about the Russia-uranium deal. Gloria Borger and Evan Perez are here with the latest on their reporting. So Gloria what are you learning from sources?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm learning from sources that it was President Donald Trump himself who wanted this gag order lifted and that the president then directed his senior staff to, what one source said to me, was facilitate the Justice Department's full cooperation with Congress to lift the gag order.

And these sources then said that the White House Counsel Don McGahn then relayed the message to the Justice Department. And as we all know as you just stated the gag order was lifted.

Now the Justice Department insists that the decision was made independently, but now we know that the president of the United States wanted it done.

COOPER: Why is the president so interested in the uranium deal?

BORGER: Well, he's interested in it, as he called it one of the biggest stories since Watergate the other day. He's interested in it because it's -- his staff says, well, because he wants to be transparent. But we all know that there's a political backdrop to all of this. That there has been a story that's been going around for a long time that -- that the Russians paid what amounted to bribes in the eyes of some to the Clinton Foundation to garner some goodwill from Hillary Clinton to get this uranium deal. Clinton, of course, said she had nothing to do with the decision, she knows nothing about this. But this is a story, as you know, that the president keeps talking about.

Now his staff, as I was saying before said, they're doing this in the matter of transparency, that the president believes that Grassley, who wants to hear from the FBI informant is right that this person ought to be able to testify publicly and tell the full story.

COOPER: Evan, how unusual is this kind of contact between the White House and the Justice Department, or isn't?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is very unusual, Anderson, for the president to try to inject themselves or the White House to try to inject themselves into a decision that is a criminal law enforcement matter that the Justice Department is doing.

Look, this is something that there are rules at the Justice Department that are specifically designed to prohibit any interference from the White House in a criminal law enforcement matter.

And what Don McGahn and people at the White House counsel should have done if the president order them to do this, is that they should have said Mr. President we can't play any role in this, and it appears that that did not happen.

Now as Gloria mentioned, Anderson, the Justice Department insists that this was where they were going to go all along, that this was something that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general was going to do with or without any phone call from anyone. But the problem remain that the White House should never have injected itself into the decision and it's improper for the president to play any role in something that is a --specifically a criminal law enforcement matter.

COOPER: All right, Gloria, Evan, stick around. I want to bring up the panel. Dana Bash is here, Paul Begala, Ed Martin, Biran Fallon, Alice Stewart, and Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff, from a legal standpoint, I mean, is it OK for the president to do this something like this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's not against the law as far as I know, but it is against Justice Department policy. I mean, this is, you know, the classic example of why, you know, a president should not get involved in these sorts of details.

Look, let's be clear, this case is a Fox News obsession. It's constantly on Fox News, the president watches Fox News all the time. He wants to stir the pot on this case. That is exactly not how the system is supposed to work. It's not a crime, it's not illegal, but it is just not appropriate under any circumstances.

COOPER: Ed, you see differently?

ED MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, Jeffrey, and you might know this better but the rule is -- from the Justice Department is, if there's contact with the White House and the Justice Department it must go through the White House counsel's office. So that is the step that they took to send this message.

So, I mean, again. You said it, you're right. It's not illegal. It's also playing by the rules that are set. And remember, one thing I wonder we don't know, the Justice Department is a branch of the executive. It is run by the president, we have an election that put somebody in charge and if he says, it's my judgment that more transparency in this -- TOOBIN: But after Richard Nixon seek the IRS on individuals, the IRS

is also part of the executive branch, but we put systems in place so that presidents couldn't work out their --


MARTIN: He obeyed the system.


COOPER: And that is far from clear --


PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And here's the problem for the nation, for the president. The FBI has to be credible and nonpolitical. If the FBI looks It's political, that's terrible for law enforcement, terrible for country --

MARTIN: Comey already ruined that.

BEGALA: It happens. Yes, he did. He was a disgrace when he went after Hillary Clinton. Now I'm glad we agree.


[21:05:02] BEGALA: This happens a lot. This happens a lot. There's a terrible case for the local political department and communities are upset with them. They don't trust the local police department to investigate.

The Feds come in, the Justice Department comes in and people say, oh thank God, these are credible, nonpolitical people. If there are seen as Donald Trump's henchmen, that's terrible for the FBI, it's terrible for the people, it's terrible for Donald Trump.

COOPER: Dana, how unusual is this?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very unusual and you definitely deserve from people who are (INAUDIBLE) in Justice Department protocol. But I think if you kind take a step back politically, I think even somebody who hasn't studied politics more than five minutes would understand that this has been, as you said, maybe a Fox News obsession. It's certainly a conservative obsession. But more than that what you're seeing is Republicans finally trying to get their sea legs on these investigations that have been coming at them on Russian and other things and saying, wait a second, how can we push back or more importantly, kind of reach back in time, because that's what this is, to talk about things that they believe were unresolved during the Obama administration and when it has to do with Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, then that's even more of a kicker.

Having said all that I was just talking to a Democrat who was on the Judiciary Committee who said, you know what, regardless of how this informant was released to talk, they do want to talk, they do want get to the bottom of it. So -- COOPER: Right, I mean, if the Russian -- I mean, if there is

something not to worry --

BASH: If there is, exactly.

BEGALA: The transparency is good. It's the process that's political.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- if the goal here is transparency, let's put it all out there. And I think we have to also go back and remember, this is back during the time we were working on the Russian reset. It was different times with us on how we were communicating and dealing with Russia. This would probably not raise any red flags except for the fact the donations to the Clinton Foundation. That's where the red flags come up. Hillary Clinton says any kind of, say, allegation that there was some kind of ill intention is completely balony (ph), she talked to (INAUDIBLE) about this thing as balony, but if that's the case and she wants to clear the name and say, this is all false, then let's get it out there. Let's put the information out --

COOPER: Brian.

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I can speak to that. So I joined the Clinton campaign in April of 2015 and right after Hillary Clinton drove out to Iowa that month to announce her candidacy, we were greeted by the publication of a new book called, "Clinton Cash" which is since been fact checked to death and debunked thoroughly, but it was funded by the Mercer family as hit piece on Hillary Clinton, and this was one of the big chapters, one of the big smoking guns that they thought that they were going to nail Hillary Clinton with, and a thousand FBI investigations would launched from this.

And it was debunked because the main nexus (ph) that they tried to cite to connect Hillary Clinton to these donations to the Clinton foundation, there was a Canadian businessman by name of Frank Giustra who did make millions of dollars in contributions to the Clinton Foundation. He did previously have a stake in the company known as Uranium One. And so, the theory was that this gentleman was going to profit handsomely by the sale of Uranium One to the Russians. And so Hillary Clinton msut have greased the skids for the deal to be approved to help this Frank Giustra guy get a lot of money. He had divested his stake in the company three years prior to this. So he stood to gain nothing from the sale of Russians.

Hillary Clinton had turned out, had never been briefed, never given instructions on taking a position one way or the other on the approval of Uranium One. And the State Department for that matter was one of nine agencies on a panel and it was unanimously approved. So the whole idea that there's some (INAUDIBLE) to be had here is silly. So I'm onboard. Let the guy talk. Let the whistleblower talk. They're not going to find --

COOPER: The idea, though, that the Russians now have all this uranium that's from the United States, they don't have an export license, right? BEGALA: They can export. What I read, I don't know expert who have read this, they actually -- that company also had holdings in Kazakhstan, close to Russia that Russia wanted, but they can't get. They can't take the uranium out of the country.

COOPER: Out of the United States.

BEGALA: Out of (INAUDIBLE) the United States. And that's -- I think under played perhaps by some of people who are playing politics with this.

BASH: But, perhaps, but I think that the big picture, kind of potential got you that many Republicans think they have is what Brian was talking about, that at the end of the day, that the Clintons were, you know, trying to do pay for play --

COOPER: Right.

BASH: -- with the donor --

FALLON: That's what they say, Dana.

BASH: That's what I'm saying.

FALLON: That's been pretty thoroughly examined already and debunked.

BASH: Well, but that -- but I think the point is that just politically they're, you know, kind of bringing this back up. You have a --


COOPER: How is Devin Nunes now involved in this?

BASH: Well, Devin Nunes is involved because, as I was saying before, Republicans are kind of, you know, propping themselves back up and with the very intense encouragement of the White House and other Trump supporters saying, wait a minute, you know, you guys have kind been run over on this Russia investigation by Democrats, you got a lot of frustrated Republicans in the White House and in the Trump orbit thinking that the Democrats have kind of -- are the driver's seat both in the Senate and the House and the Intelligence investigations on Russia.

[21:10:05] And one, you focus on things that we care about politically. That's the bottom line. But I do think it's interesting that they're going to -- that this whistle blower/informant is going to talk to investigators. Because you do have a chairman, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley who has been obsessed with whistleblowers for years and years and years and I'm sure that that is a big part of this. Not so much with substance in the politics but just the notion of allowing somebody who is saying he's a whistleblower to come forward and tell the story.

COOPER: What's next happen, what's Jeff? TOOBIN: I guess, this guy will talk and, you know, Fox will continue to cover this extensively. But, I mean, you know, I don't know if many people are aware of this. Brian probably knows this. Hillary is a private citizen in Chappaqua, New York --

FALLON: Unfortunately.

TOOBIN: Why are they investigating private citizens in Chappaqua, New York? I mean, this is just totally --

BASH: Well, they say it's the Obama administration. Something that happened --

TOOBIN: He's a private citizen in Washington D.C.


BASH: -- during his time in government.

BEGALA: During his time in government, the Republicans controlled the Congress then and had an obligation and opportunity to investigate, but there was no there there.


FALLON: -- and to finish the thought for Jeff, I mean, what he can't say, but I will, is the Republicans control everything now.

BEGALA: Right.

FALLON: They're failing left and right, they're not enacting any part of their agenda, Donald Trump, I'm sure we're going to get to him later, saying there's a Fox News poll out that shows Donald Trump's popularity is sinking even with his own base, so they have no foe, they have no enemy, so they're trying to make Hillary Clinton a shadow president.

COOPER: All right, a lot more to talk about. Including what we're learning from the JFK assassination files out now for just a couple hours.

Also, the uproar over the president's decision to withhold some many of them at the last minute, we'll explain you why he made that decision.

And later, two new developments and two stories are kind of one-two punch in the ongoing battle over the last election.


COOPER: More breaking news tonight. Formally top secret documents about President John F. Kennedy assassination are now public, but not all of them are and that has the potential reignites some conspiracy theories that been summering from generations. So instead of one story tonight about possible answers to questions 54 years in the making, there's a second story, is President Trump's decision to hold some of those papers back. We're going to get to that in a moment.

But first, CNN's Tom Foreman with an earlier look at -- what we do know from documents that have been released. What have you found so far?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're digging through, Anderson, with a whole team and we're finding a lot of interesting stuff. For example, there was a conversation intercepted between two Cuban intelligence officers discussing Oswald and the assassination. And one of them refers to Oswald saying, basically, he must have been a good shot and the other Cuban intelligence officer says yes, he was, I know him or I knew him. So that's something that I'm sure many conspiracy theorists will really worked up about.

[21:15:23] There's a 1975 report in these files that was about the CIA attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro in Cuba by slipping him some poison pills into his drinks. And in this report there is reference to how Robert Kennedy said, "You got to be really careful about this because it's gong to be done with the help of the mafia," and Kennedy was saying, "If do you that," Robert Kennedy, the attorney general saying, "If you do that then it's really hard to prosecute them later," and then Gerald Ford in the same report saying, "No, under no circumstances should the U.S. government be involved in assassinating people." That shouldn't be happening at all.

And there are also were evidence of the agents following around an attorney very early on named Mark Lane, who was an early conspiracy theorist, right in the wake of the killing out there saying, you know, that he believed that Oswald couldn't have done it alone, he would have been found acquitted, there had to be other people involved, all sort of things like that.

And one more thing that was interesting, notes from the CIA director under Lyndon Johnson who took over as president after the assassination of President Kennedy. And the CIA director said that LBJ often said, that he thought LBJ was assassinated as pay back for the assassination of the president of Vietnam, making LBJ a type of conspiracy theories as well. Tons of tidbits like this, Anderson. And we'd be digging to it -- I think pretty much all night.

COOPER: I mean, are these documents likely to produce any evidence of the conspiracy theories that have been floating around for years?

FOREMAN: Well, I guess, it is how you read them. Think about what I've just said here. If you're a conspiracy theorist, sure, you're seeing plenty of stuff there that says, ah, another clue that fits into it. If you are somebody who is looking for hard, fast facts that proves there was a conspiracy, then no. So it's not really likely that after millions of documents have been out and scrutinized now for many years that these last ones will suddenly tip the scales, but we'll find out, especially when we get the final documents that they're still holding back.

COOPER: All right, Tom Foreman. Tom thanks.

Now the president's decision not to release all the JFK files, Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House. So explain the change of course and essentially the 11th hour tonight.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson, apparently some of these intelligence agencies, national security agencies that had some oversight of these files were raising objections with the White House as late as today.

And so the president, receiving those objections, decided late in the day from what we understand talking to our sources, to essentially punt this off for another six months, there were 2,800 some odd documents that were released through the national archives this evening, but many more were being kept hidden as of tonight. And that is a decision made by the White House, despite the fact that the president was saying in the last several days that he was going to try to get all of these files out there.

Now we do know from talking to people at the White House this evening that the president was not happy about this. Apparently he was pretty irritated that all of this came up at the last second in terms of these objections and so forth, but that is the decision that this White House has made to go ahead and allow this process to take place over the next six months where these agencies like the CIA, the FBI and so on will go through these records and sort out, you know, just what can be released.

So 50 years -- more than 50 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the public is still being kept in the dark and the president put out a statement this evening, Anderson, saying that he's lifted the veil on all this, the veil has not been lifted at all on what happened in Kennedy assassination. The veil is still in place courtesy of the federal government.

COOPER: The original reasoning behind releasing some of the documents, I mean, this wasn't something that President Trump just came up with on his own. This is something that had been determined, I mean, for years, correct?

ACOSTA: That's right, going back to 1992. This was going to be required essentially by law that these documents -- there was a deadline in place. But the president, you know, President Trump, as you know, Anderson, has engaged in conspiracy theories on his own. There's a part of his base, people like Roger Stone, for example, a friend of the president who talks to him from time to time, was delighted that the president was going to take this action.

Remember, it was during the campaign the president speculated at the time -- then candidate-Trump speculated that Ted Cruz's father was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Earlier this evening here at White House, administration officials held a conference call with reporters, I asked on that conference call and the files that are being released so far, is there any evidence of a conspiracy of behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Is there any evidence that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? And the answer that we got was that they couldn't answer our question. That they were not going to comment on the content of these files that are being released. [21:20:13] So the mystery in some of this continues, but when it comes to Ted Cruz's father, of course, that was just an unfounded claim that came from then candidate Donald Trump, and the White House, I suppose, is thinking that over the next six month that some of these questions will be answered by these various national security agencies that have some kind of say in all of this. But this is essentially becoming, Anderson, a promise made by the president. If all of those files are not released come the end of April 2018, the president will have a promise that he did not keep with the American people. Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Join us for his take in all this is CNN Presidential Historian, Tim Naftali.

Tim, I know you are interested to see these documents. What stands out to you? And what more do you think there is -- how much do you think the veil will be lifted?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I'm waiting to see if national security agency materials are open. The review board, in its final report said that they looked at national code breaking materials, decided they were not relevant to the Lee Harvey Oswald issue, but they were interesting nonetheless, decided to withhold their release but they are part of assassination collection.

One interesting document that I noticed, and I haven't looked at all of them, is a document from two days after the assassination. And if you want to see examples of federal bungling, this is a document that the House assassination committee found from apparently from J. Edgar Hoover where Hoover was explaining why he does not want an independent investigation of the Ruby's killing of Oswald and Oswald's killing of the president.

He says, "We were intercepting Oswald's conversation in Mexico City and we intercepted a male going to the soviet embassy in Washington, both of those had information relating to Oswald's state of mind and that information didn't go to the secretary service." By the way, you know, it's J. Edgar Hoover. So we also think that Jack Ruby is gay. I don't know why. But it's a very interesting document and it just shows you the level of federal bungling and the extent to which the FBI within two days of Kennedy's assassination was already thinking of a cover up, not because it killed Kennedy but because it hadn't done what it should have done to protect the president.

COOPER: J Edgar Hoover thought Ruby was gay?

NAFTALI: Yes. It's in the document. He says and Ruby is a known homosexual.

COOPER: I just want talk, though, --


NAFTALI: -- no, no. I mean, --


COOPER: I didn't know the guy personally, but from what I read --

NAFTALI: No, no. No, it's a throw away line for him. If he doesn't like someone that person is a known homosexual. But, the point is -- when you're looking for cover ups, there are sometimes big cover ups and small cover ups. Small cover ups are those to protect people's reputation, big cover ups sort of murder. What I'm seeing is evidence of small cover ups, government inefficiency, FBI bungling. That's what I'm seeing on the Oswald case at the moment. There's a lot of day, though. A lot to --

COOPER: But also in the last hour, you're talking about the possibility of more information about CIA covert operations in Central Africa, Congo, in Dominican Republic?

NAFTALI: That's a big deal. And I'm telling you, I've just seen references to the use of biological and chemical weapons as part of the mongoose program to undermine the Cuban regime.

You know, I haven't seen every document, the classified documents. I don't remember those being in the documents I've seen. But that's a big deal. Also, sabotaging airplane parts purchased from Canada by Cuba which presumably would lead to air crashes, I don't remember reading that before.

So there's a level of detail -- really dark detail about covert action which we're getting now, which we didn't have before. But that's a different issue from whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president.

COOPER: All right, fascinating. Tim Naftali, appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up next, new development and a continuing question, are players in the Trump campaign being less than honest about the role of campaign data, how (ph) it played in their wining election effort, more on that ahead.


[21:27:20] COOPER: New developments tonight in the story CNN and "The Daily Beast" first reported yesterday, one of the closes connection yet between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, the head of Cambridge Analytica, research company contracted by the Trump campaign, reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to get access to thousands of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. CNN's Pamela Brown joins us now with more on that. So, can you just take us through the time line of what we know how this came about.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I will, because the time line is important in understanding the relationship between the Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica. It seemed to begin June 2016. That was two days before the campaign made its first payment to the firm. Trump was on the stump as you may recall, Anderson, asking the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails. And now we're learning in that same time frame another infamous moment occurred. The head of the firm reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asking if he needed help with Clinton related e-mails. A request Assange said on Twitter that he rejected.

The firm was in part founded by wealthy Republican donors, the Mercer family, who began supporting Trump in June 2016 are on the same time started working together, the firm and the campaign also when Jared Kushner took the reigns of all data operations for the campaigns. He told "Forbes" magazine the campaign used both Cambridge Analytica and RNC data. Essentially the campaign paid the firm nearly $6 million. And here's what the head of digital at Cambridge Analytica said at a conference in Germany about the relationship with the Trump campaign.


MOLLY SCHWEICKERT, HEAD OF DIGITAL, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: We started working with the Trump campaign in about June of 2016. When it became obvious that a sophisticated data apparatus would be needed by ensuring that every campaign stop was driven by data and reflecting what was currently being seen in the field he was able to use his travel time most effectively.


BROWN: So despite what we just heard there in that time line, Anderson, the campaign released a statement yesterday distancing itself from Cambridge Analytica saying it relied solely on the RNC data information.

COOPER: Do we know what the investigators are interested in when it comes to this connection?

BROWN: What we know, particularly on the Hill investigators will use this information to see if there is any coordination, whether anyone from the Trump campaign knew to -- or to figure out the sort of the mindset, the intent, whether there was some sort of conspiracy as one former FBI official told me, this goes sort of beyond the typical proactive campaign tactics in terms of the data firm reaching out to WikiLeaks.

So this information will be part of a puzzle with other pieces, such as Roger Stone, an adviser to Trump during the campaign telling the Hill he had an intermediary who connected him with Assange, and then according to "The Wall Street Journal", there was an effort by an opposition researcher working with people in the campaign searching on the dark web for Russians who may have had Clinton's 33,000 missing e- mails.

[21:30:11] To be clear here, the idea that the data firm reached out to WikiLeaks alone, does not meet a crime at face value and we should note there have been no criminal accusations of wrongdoing, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Pam Brown, appreciate that.

Joining our panel tonight is also Josh Green. Josh, we talked yesterday, you actually wrote an article where you were eventually embedded, I think, with 12 days to go in the campaign, in the data operation of the Trump campaign. And you saw that -- Cambridge Analytica people there.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and I talked to some campaign officials with direct knowledge of Cambridge Analytica today and what they did in the campaign and confirmed the reporting of Sasha Issenberg, and I did in business way back in October. There were 13 people there as part of the Cambridge team, they all reported to the Brad Parscale, the campaign's digital director. They did three things, they basically polling, they are in hundreds of thousands of surveys, they helped ID potential donors and they helped ID persuadable voters, people who the thought were open to voting for Trump.

But the big takeaway from what I learned today is that the role was actually much bigger than the $5.9 million that they were paid by the Trump campaign because they also managed a budget, a digital ad budget of more than $20 million which was managed by Molly Schweickert, who we just saw in the previous clip. So their role was bigger than the public records indicated and certainly much bigger than the Trump officials who have came out and said yesterday as they tried to distance themselves from these charges.

COOPER: Right, I mean, the statement from the Trump campaign yesterday made it sound as if -- I mean, they made no mention of Cambridge Analytica.

BASH: Well, yes, and I've been doing some reporting on this as well today, trying to kind of figure out why and how they could claim that. And the answer is, and it's a little bit complicated, but if you think about it, it does make sense. And that is what the Trump campaign wanted to do was hire the talent from Cambridge Analytica. That there was one guy in particular that you probably worked with, he was the head of the data operation during the Scott Walker presidential campaign, which didn't last very long, and they really liked him, they wanted to hire him, he was under contract with Cambridge Analytica.

So they did a deal where they could get this particular individual and several others to work within the operation. Sort of what they're differing on is the data. And that really is key. Cambridge Analytica had a database that I know the Cruz campaign, your campaign Alice worked and used, where they would going to go through the psychological profiles of voters. What the Trump campaign says is -- they didn't use that. They didn't use any of the data. They used the RNC data, which they built up for like four years about the voter files and then they used the personnel to kind of utilize that where they would make --


BASH: -- digitalize graphics --

GREEN: Right, they used the RNC's database. There's no doubt about that. That was a bigger one. What Cambridge did was essentially they provided the brain power, they took that data, they ran it through algorithms and modeling script, and came up with everything from, you know, talking points to where --

COOPER: Surrogates --

GREEN: -- to where Trump should travel --


COOPER: -- Paul, to you, why does this matter?

BEGALA: This is my question, why? Why? I understand you got to hire all these (INAUDIBLE) power heads now in campaigns, why, and that's what they do, they crunch numbers.

BASH: Are you one of those people?

BEGALA: Yes, I used to be. But now the question is, what were they doing reaching out to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks?

BASH: That's different.

BEGALA: That's not --

BASH: That's different question. That's different question.

BEGALA: That's the question they're going to answer under oath in a grand jury.

BASH: -- the Trump campaign claims that the CEO who did that was the CEO of Cambridge Analytica but not directly working with the Trump campaign at the time. That's what they claim.

BEGALA: WikiLeaks has been described by our own Donald Trump selection to run the CIA, Mike Pompeo, as a nonstate hostile foreign intelligence agency.

BASH: Right.

BEGALA: Why is the Donald Trump's --

BASH: And David Clapper --

COOPER: Alice.

STEWART: -- also refer to them as the same, as Pompeo does. Here's the thing, Cambridge Analytica did a lot of the data work for the Cruz campaign. And once we got out they went over to the Trump campaign.

As Josh said, they did a lot of -- they did surveys, they did a lot of ad placement, they did a lot of analyzing the data and where the campaign, where to put your money.

COOPER: Right.

STEWART: How do we tell the fundraiser (ph). Here's the thing that's important to note, why did they reach out to Julian Assange, that's the big question. You also have to remember the Mercers were not just the head of Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon was as well. He was a chief strategist with the Trump campaign at the time. But, keep in mind, they asked Julian Assange for these e-mails, he said no. They never got the information, noting --

COOPER: Ed, to you. I just want to get your perspective on this. Do you believe this matters?

[21:35:00] MARTIN: No, not at all. I mean, it matter's -- look, I think that WikiLeaks, when President Trump ran when he talked like he talked on the campaign trail what he was saying to people was, you know, WikiLeaks, I think he was really joking about go find her e- mails, what he was underscoring is the e-mails were missing which --

COOPER: -- and he loved WikiLeaks.

MARTIN: Yes, I mean --

BEGALA: Hundred and thirty seven times.

BEGALA: You campaign and what it is you campaign in poetry and governor and pros. Here we are in pros. Pompeo is somebody who says, WikiLeak is a problem but -- there's nothing, there is no there, there. I mean.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break.

Up next, lingering questions for the Clinton team, to two top Democrats including her campaign chairman, deny having any knowledge about an arrangement top ay for opposition research, research tat led to that mow infamous dossier about President Trump. The breaking news on that in a moment.


COOPER: Well, we have breaking news right now in the campaign story that President Trump and his supporters consider evidence that the Clinton team collaborated with Russia. It involves the research firm Fusion GPS, the one behind the Russia dossier. CNN has learned that John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman and DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both told Congressional investigators they did not know about payments to the company. Back with the panel. We're joined by also by Ana Navarro.

Does that -- Ed, to you, does that pass the smell test that the head of the DNC, the head of the Clinton campaign would not have known?

MARTIN: Now, look, I mean, in every campaign, I mentioned this before, Anderson, (INAUDIBLE) one of the most important things was to be a candidate and lose. She lost elections for Congress as did I. When you ran a campaign you know the opposition research is something that the top guys in the campaign and gals that are running it know about. Especially if you're spending million of dollars, you know you're spending for something and you're getting updates. And the word in this now, the reporters are no better, Steele, the spy, was briefing reporters on it, you're not briefing reporters or pushing the story if you're not telling who's paying pay for. So somebody knew, if Podesta didn't know or (INAUDIBLE) know someone --

COOPER: Brian, you obviously you were a spokesman for the campaign. I know you --

FALLON: I bet you that there are e numerable firms and venders that we had that John Podesta has no idea we were paying.

COOPER: But somebody in the campaign --

FALLON: Somebody mail firms, data analytics firms, yes, but I'm saying that -- like, you ask if --

COOPER: Right.

FALLON: -- if it passed the smell test that John Podesta doesn't know. Absolutely it does.

MARTIN: But why didn't we know sooner?

FALLON: To me this is --

[21:40:00] MARTIN: Why was it covered up for so long?

FALLON: I don't know. I mean, there's no shame in it. And I would have happily admitted to the fact that we were behind this. I am glad that we did it. My only regret and reservation is that more of it wasn't published. And, you know, I'd like to trust my own skills as an operative that if I got my hands on that dossier, I could have gotten it published --


ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- somebody that's not terribly invested in either of these two candidates, the similarities between the stories is striking, right? On the one hand, the Clinton campaign paid Fusion GPS millions of dollars and nobody knew anything, and on the other hand, the Trump campaign paid Analytica millions of dollars, well, apparently do nothing. I mean, you two are like those little three monkeys statues, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.


FALLON: The difference Ana is that -- in our case, whoever authorized it was authorizing a traditional ordinary campaign tactics.

MARTIN: With the Russians.

FALLON: -- in the case of Cambridge Analytica, -- in the case of Cambridge Analytica you have potentially an instance of someone seeking to engage --

COOPER: But, I mean, Ed, I guess the argument is if there are allegations that Donald Trump has -- if Donald Trump has business dealings in Russia, as he said he did, the campaign is going to look for opposition research there and they hired this guy Steele who has contacts in Russia.

MARTIN: Fair enough. Fair enough. That's true. But in this case the whole reason it's come up because it's been covered up, there's been no one admitting that -- if Brian says be proud of it, well we did. And the second thing is the allegation is, that the dossier has some of it has been proven false, some of it has been -- and it sounds like, (INAUDIBLE) supposed to say the Russians were feeding information where they're feeding to the --

COOPER: Or disinformation.

MARTIN: Or disinformation.

BEGALA: That -- OK, that's so (INAUDIBLE), that's just nuts. Look, the difference is this. Apparently this firm was trying to investigate the Russians. So, of course, you're going to talk to Russians. On the other side, you have Russians trying to manipulate our campaign to try to elect Donald Trump. This is in the words of the Intelligence Community, by the way, General James Clapper who ran the Intelligence Community for many years, he said it doesn't matter who paid for it. It doesn't pass the so what test. But, yes, of course, now we know that the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign in the party did this. But I think we should focus on the findings, not the funding. There's really important allegations to know that our president has been compromised by Russians. It's a lot of --


BASH: -- also, look, it's put John Podesta and the Democrats in a very tough position. If you think about the fact that Podesta went before investigators to talk about all of this, sitting next to Marc Elias, who happened to be his own attorney, who happened to be the go between who helped pay for the dossier. And he's sitting there knowing that, but Podesta is asked about it and, you know, he has -- it does pass the smell test. I think it's totally fair that somebody that high up in the campaign doesn't know about this little oppo operation. But the fact that they're both sitting there is uncomfortable and awkward.


NAVARRO: -- I mean, they could have just said way, way, way months ago, yes, we paid for it. It's opposition research. It was legal.

BASH: Right.

COOPER: Right.

NAVARRO: There's nothing wrong with it. It's just, you know, -- it's been handled in a very clumsy way.


STEWART: True there are empty managers. Every campaign has dozens and dozens if not hundreds of venders and your campaign manager is not going to know about every one of them, same with the DNC and the RNC. That being said, this is not just a receipt for a bunch of pizzas, this is not an oppo research on Trump getting dui's when he's 16 years old. This is oppo concerning Russians and possibly connections with Donald Trump. Of course, they're going to know about it, of course they're going to talk about it. And for them to say that they didn't know about it then and still didn't know about it months later, it defies reality.

COOPER: We have to get a break.

Coming up next, a new polling on erosion of President Trump's core constituency, details on that when we come back.


[21:47:58] COOPER: It's been quite the night for breaking news. We got more right now. The president's approval rating is on the decline in new polling out from Fox News. According to the poll, the president has now a 38 percent approval rating down from 42 percent last month in the same Fox News poll. His approval declined even more steeply within his key voting block from the election, white men without a college degree, President Trump dropped a striking 12 points from 68 percent in September to 56 percent this month. I want to bring back in the panel.

I mean, Paul, you spent a lot of time looking at poll numbers is that significant?

BEGALA: It's very, very early, obviously. But, yes, here's the worry I think team Trump should have is like why. It could just be that uneven handling of the storms, I he did great in my hometown of Houston, who's going to win the World Series, but not very well in Puerto Rico. It could be hurting the feelings of a Gold Star widow and the different theory. Trump goes down every time the Congress tries to repeal Obamacare, because you don't (INAUDIBLE) you don't have, what you have till it's gone.

It's really popular among Trump voters. A lot of Trump voters are on Medicaid, a lot of Trump voters care a lot about that. And going after that, I don't think this tax bill is going to help him, they think it is. I think -- here's my prediction. Trump is going to go hard at divisive social issues. That always helps him. I think the NFL fight helped him. I think screaming about confederate statues helps him. He's going to look at those divisive social issues that gets -- white working class back.

MARTIN: Well, a couple things. One is, I thought -- we're talking about September and October. That NFL issue if that was going to work it would be working right now. It doesn't seem to work. I mean, the opioid crisis address maybe it changes it. I don't know. Two things I observed, one is -- I was here in this -- about a year ago, in this studio and across New York. And everybody sat, -- I think I sat with some of you all and the host said Trump is going to lose going to get killed, right. The polls are going to get killed. He's going to get killed. The polls were all wrong. They really were wrong. And I think that there's still some of that in this polling. But I agree with this, Paul, let the headline go forward. If they passed a tax plan that is a typical tax for D.C., Trump will lose even more vote. Because my wife who just -- is not particularly know said, is he really going to allow the 401 tax to be --

[21:50:04] BASH: No.

MARTIN: -- this is a swamp trap, the tax deal for the lobbyist and the --

COOPER: We should point out, 83 percent of the Republicans still, you know, high approval among 83 percent of Republicans.

STEWART: And I think that's key. And the fact that he has more confidence from voters that he can get things done as opposed to Congress, that gives him a little bit more fuel for the fire. I think this poll is troubling. Anytime you're under 40 is not a good thing. But I don't look up polls by the trends, and RealClearPolitics average trend, when he was first nominated, both disapproval and approval around 44 percent. As time has gone by, these approvals have gone up and the approval has gone down. That's not the trajectory that you want to go in. So I think a big factor in that is the inability to get legislative accomplishments done.

If he's able to pass a tax reform package that helps the middle class, I think that will help. I think if he's able to -- the economy stays strong, if he's able to do something with health care, I think that will help those numbers, but right now he needs to not only shore up his base but expand it.

BASH: If that's the big if. I think you're exactly right on the taxes. I mean, go up to Capitol Hill I was there a few days this week just talking to Republicans and there is just this feeling of doomsday. If they don't get tax reform done, they are done. They are done. They have proven that they cannot govern. They cannot deliver on their key promises. Having said that, the Trump coalition is not the traditional Republican coalition when you're looking at kind of tax policy.

COOPER: Right.

BASH: So if they pass a tax reform plan and the Trump voters don't feel better in their pocketbook, then they're going to say what's this about?

And I think that that really is -- I mean, there's such a blessing for Trump and that he has a different kind of coalition, it's more populist. But that's a potential big problem for him if it doesn't go his way.

NAVARRO: -- this, you know, this is a snapshot of a moment in time, and if we look at it, he has had a tough, tough month of terrible headlines and terrible perception. I tell you, it's amazing he's not lower than this.

You know, we've been talking about his secretary of state calling him a moron. We've been talking about his terrible handling of the Puerto Rico hurricane. We've been talking of his terrible handling and insults towards a Gold Star family. That's what this last month has been like and he's only dropped, what, single digits with white male voters? Well, you know, even white male voters have ears and eyes too.

FALLON: They remain loyal in terms of their support. I agree with Ana that they've been pretty stubborn and sticky in terms of sticking with him. But they may not be motivated and enthusiastic of turning out in the midterms, for example, about Congressional Republicans. And so, that's why this number may be troublesome. For our part on our Democratic, though, we need to make sure our people are enthusiastic and as much as they hate everything that Trump's doing, we get mix signals about how likely people are to turn out to vote.

NAVARRO: And need to put up some electable (ph) people.

MARTIN: This is going to surprise you. I think this has been one of the best weeks in a long time for the president. ISIS is getting defeated. The Chinese government is getting indicative (ph) for doing opioid stuff. We have the opioid crisis addressed. The president is leading on a whole bunch of stuff.

Look, where I am --

NAVARRO: And he's only offended the Gold Star family --



MARTIN: Most of the people looked up and thought I'll stick with Kelly and Trump when the congresswoman from Florida does politicize this. But my point is, for the Trump voters they're going to be more betrayed by a tax deal that pays off the lobbyist than they are with Congress failing --

BEGALA: And monkey around with the 401(k). They tried to monkey around with Medicaid. They monkey around with 409(k). That's the heart of the --


MARTIN: I agree.

COOPER: Coming up, something to make you smile at the end of the day. "The Ridiculist" is next. We'll be right back.


[21:57:24] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist". And tonight, yet another corner of the competitive sports world has been rocked by a doping scandal. Pretty remote corner, Alaska to be exact. That's right, a doping scandal has hit the Iditarod. A thousand mile dog sled race after some of the competitors tested positive for a banned substance and not the mushers either. We're talking about the dogs. Now you would think any of athletes would be pure as the driven snow, it would be these. But believe it or not, one of these competitors you're looking out right now could be the lance foster (ph) on of this sled race community.

The scandal goes all the way to the top, four dogs on the team run by Dallas Seavey tested positive for high levels of Tramadol, which is a painkiller. Now, Seavey is a big name in the sport. He's won the Iditarod four times.

He posted this on Youtube.


DALLAS SEAVEY, DOG MUSHER: I have done absolutely nothing wrong. I have spent the last 10 years becoming the best musher I possible can. I have done nothing wrong. I have never knowingly broken any race rule. I have never given any banned substance to my dogs.


COOPER: The video is about 18 minutes long. But let's just say that Seavey makes a very convincing case. His theory can be summed up by something the poets (INAUDIBLE) Mike D. in the late great MCA one said, listen all you all, this is sabotage.


SEAVEY: I believe this was given to my dogs maliciously. And that's one of the options. I think that's the most likely option. There are numerous ways that could have been done.


COOPER: Seavey points out there are people who are anti- Iditarod and it would be easy for them or another musher to drug his dog's food supply which may actually explain what happened to this dog who's never actually been in the race, actually that's my dog, but could easily win any sleeping competition. She basically sleeps all day long.

The mushing community which is a thing is standing Dallas Seavey. That community includes his father Mitch who is all a musher and won the Iditarod this year just ahead of his son.


MITCH SEAVEY, DALLAS SEAVEY'S FATHER: First of all, I absolutely support Dallas. He says he's never given a banned substance to his dogs. I absolutely believe him. And furthermore, it would make absolutely no sense to give a banned substance to your own dogs hours before a known drug test. That would be ridiculous.


COOPER: That would be indeed be ridiculous. And he also points out that the drug in question doesn't make any sense.


M. SEAVEY: It might be time to just take a step back and everybody kind of take a rational look at what's going on here. Tramadol isn't really a performance enhancer. Most likely it was given after the race was over anyway, so I wonder if we're all just spinning ourselves into a knot here and, you know, maybe there's no there there.


COOPER: Maybe so. We may never know what really happened because the runners, they're not likely to testify. But usually father knows best. So this could very well be mush ado about nothing on "The Ridiculist". Yes, I said mush a do about nothing. Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon, "CNN Tonight" starts right now.