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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Trump Tweets About Nuclear War With North Korea; Fusion GPS Founders: Steele Dossier Shocked Us. Aired 9-10pm ET

Aired January 2, 2018 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:00] SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We may have seen calm recently. But remember, this is the president who has decided he is going to push the envelope when it comes to Kim Jong-un.

He's certainly not going to shy away from comparing the size and effectiveness of buttons, I guess, in this case, but also from personal insults in the past. Remember when the president was abroad on his Asia trip. He tweeted, why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me old when I would never call him short and fat?

Not exactly the kind of diplomacy that we're used to seeing, but perhaps, not a surprise from a president who build himself during the campaign, and certainly since he's been in the White House, as someone who is going to be unpredictable. And I think that's certainly what we've seen.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And it is certainly a ratcheting up of the rhetoric when it comes to North Korea.

MURRAY: Especially when you consider what we've heard from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Remember, we've heard from Tillerson a number of times that the U.S. might be willing to come to the table to have conversations with North Korea.

And we've seen North Korea say maybe they're willing now to have talks with South Korea. But, the president to White House, they basically contradicted Tillerson on that, saying now is not the time for this.

And certainly, when you look at tweets like this, when you look at rhetoric like this, it doesn't look like the U.S. and North Korea are going to be coming together for one-on-one talks anytime soon.

But again, I understand this is -- this is coming from the president on his twitter feed. It'll be interesting to see how the people who are in charge of our diplomacy are grappling with this tonight and then the days that come.

COOPER: Yes. Sara Murray, thanks very munch.

Joining us now, CNN Military Analyst Retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and CNN National Security Analyst Kelly Magsamen, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

General Hertling, you've conducted military exercises in the Korean peninsula. What do you make of this tweet tonight?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Anderson, I'd suggest that it's not good to address complex international engagement issues on twitter. Diplomacy is not meant to be done on that kind of a device.

And especially when you're talking about posing the world's most powerful man, President Trump, the leader of the free world, with a guy who's really a third-rate dictator, you're putting them on an even keel and allowing them to be seen by the entire world going at this schoolyard bullying fight.

Having conducted exercises on the Korean peninsula, if this comes to a catastrophic war or some type of conflict, it is going to be like nothing we've ever seen before, especially if it's some type of nuclear exchange, which is what's been in these tweets.

So, I don't see any of this as contributing to a diplomatic solution or some kind of peaceful solution to what's going on in the Korean peninsula. And that's my primary objective as a former soldier, hoping that diplomacy wins out before military action.

COOPER: Kelly, certainly many of the president's supporters will say, look, that you know, this is a sign of strength by the president who doesn't use the kind of diplomatic language that's been used in the past, that he would say, to not great effect.

I'm wondering what you make of that because General Hertling is saying essentially this is lowering -- President Trump lowering himself to the level of Kim Jong-un and sort of getting into this war of words on the same level.

KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, frankly, when I saw the tweet tonight, I was pretty shocked. You know, as a national security professional that has dealt with North Korea for many years, I personally just was aghast at what was said on Twitter. And I suspect that Secretary Mattis and the rest of the Trump national security team right now is pondering what to do about it.

You know, I think the general is right. I mean, the chances for miscalculation right now on the Korean peninsula are very, very high. I think Trump's tweet like this is not very helpful. Certainly coming -- especially on the heels of the news of potential South Korean diplomacy, it could potentially undermine that. It could also potentially goad Kim Jong-un into additional provocations and provocative actions.

COOPER: Kelly, and do you think this was, in some way, reaction to North Korean move to South Korea to have some sort of talks or (INAUDIBLE)? I mean is that something, obviously, the language South Korea has been using vis-a-vis North Korea is much less bellicose than the language the U.S. has been using?

MAGSAMEN: I mean, certainly, it could be a reaction, which I think is highly problematic. I think the most important thing that the Trump administration should be doing and the president frankly should be doing right now is standing by our South Korean allies in their efforts on diplomacy. It's very important that the United States and the South Korea stay on the same page when it comes to dealing with North Korea.

COOPER: General Hertling, there was a new year's message yesterday from Kim Jong-un who said, quote, the entire mainland of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear weapons and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office.

I mean, certainly inflammatory. But I mean, I guess some might argue par for the course for North Korea's leader.

HERTLING: Yes, I think it's goading. And Kelly would probably confirm that, that this is what we're used to with this guy. He's looking to pull senior level or higher level leaders into a fight with him so he can look really good.

[21:05:00] Here's the other thing, Anderson. A smart guy once told me that whenever you're dealing in international relations and you're dealing with one country and you're attempting to keep it transactional, you always have to consider the rule of five. And in this particular case, the other four are Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea.

And in the case that we're talking about, Russia and China want us to look somewhat like the irrational actor. South Korea wants our support in what they're doing. We have to consider those things and not be as -- I would suggest Mr. Trump should not be as transactional, one-on-one with North Korea as he should be consideration -- in considering the entire region and what's happening there.

We do not want to be responsible as the ones that start a war that would be cataclysmic in terms of hundreds of thousands of casualties.

COOPER: General Hertling, Kelly Magsamen, appreciate your time.

I want to bring in our panel now. Kirsten Powers, Scott Jennings, Molly Ball, James Schultz, Symone Sanders, and Gordon Chang.

Gordon, I mean you're studying North Korea for years. How surprised were you by the language of this tweet and what effect do you think it has?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Extremely surprised. And the reason is if you go through the policy options that President Trump has, those policies he's pursuing those he could pursue. This tweet doesn't help any of them.

You know, you've been asking tonight, OK, previous policies haven't worked, maybe something like this will. But as you go through those options, you can see that it doesn't help. And that's really going to be the test.

It doesn't help coercive diplomacy sanctions. It certainly doesn't help, you know, trying to talk to the North Koreans now. It gives us problems with South Korea. And it says Moscow and Beijing, look, United States is crazy so we should be helping North Korea. And that is really going to be the test. That we're not going to get Moscow and Beijing. Hard to do in any case but much harder now after this tweet.

COOPER: I mean it does seem from the president's tweet that a lot of it is not necessarily he thought out in general. It's more reactive and emotional.

But for supporters who would say, well, you know, there's the crazy man theory, the idea that he's unpredictable is a good thing and maybe this adds to it.

CHANG: Yes. The crazy man theory works if you're a country like North Korea. It doesn't work if you're the United States because the rest of the world looks to you for security. The rest of the world looks to you to enforce the international order. You can't be the crazy one.

And so, that's really where this breaks down. So, if you're North Korea, yes, look a little crazy, it helps, but not if you're the U.S.

James, you worked in the White House. What do you make of this?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I think he's speaking to the American people trying to project strength. I don't know he's doing it effectively when it comes to diplomacy with North Korea.

But he's certainly speaking to, you know, his supporters, the American public trying to project strength at a time when the North Korean leaders taking their shot at us.

COOPER: But just in life, does anybody, anybody in life bragging about the size of anything, does that really project strength to anybody?

I mean it's just from like as Congressman (INAUDIBLE) was saying earlier, from the schoolyard bully to anybody who's bragging about the size of anything. Doesn't that project weakness, really?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it does project weakness. You have to remember that North Korea has a history of making provocative comments. They're not just making them now.

And Barack Obama used to ignore them and that's what most presidents do, they ignore these comments. Whereas Donald Trump is sort of projecting insecurity by having to respond to this and then sort of do this one-upmanship of mine is bigger than yours.

And then also putting something in there, you know, that it is provocative in its own right in saying, and mine works, right? So it's almost like baiting him to say yours doesn't us that it works. I mean, this is not a game. We're talking about some, you know, nuclear war here.

COOPER: Scott, you worked under George W. Bush. SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIALIST ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: General Hertling said something that reminded me of a thought I used to have during the Republican primary. And that's the thought of President Trump, then candidate Trump punching down.

You know, back during the primary, he would frequently punch down candidates who barely registered in the polls. And clearly, he's not someone who is content to let, what General Hertling called, a third- rate dictator get away with an insult.

He's not going to let Kim Jong-un have the last word on what it means to have nuclear weapons. And we can debate. I'm sure the media is going and the political, you know, sort of opinion leaders are all going to judge, this was a terrible idea.

Here's what I think we should be focused on tonight and that's what should come next for the purposes of educating the American people. Kim Jong-un says, I've got a nuclear button that works. President Trump's tweet suggest that we don't think it doesn't work.

We've all seen the missile tests. What we've not seen is a clear national address on exactly what North Korea can do and what our capabilities are of stopping it.

So, moving in from this tweet, moving forward, I'd love to see the president here stop punching down and tell the American people whether North Korea can actually fire a nuclear weapon at us or not.

COOPER: Symone?

SYMONE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I actually think that education needs to happen on behalf to the president of the United States on why these tweets are not only problematic but dangerous. And what the real-life implications are, not just for American citizens but our allies in South Korea are with tweets such as these.

[21:10:01] Furthermore, I have questions for Twitter. And the president's tweets in my opinion clearly violate the standards. And so, how long are we going to allow the president of the United States to act as a, just, a reckless bully on the internet, a bully that has the power to bring us into a nuclear war like this?

COOPER: I got to say it. Those tweets violate, there's Twitter standards, like 90% of the tweets I see seem to violate --

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: They do -- probably. So I mean, look, they're removing people up Twitter for things every day. But I think Donald Trump's Twitter account is a little bit different. He could literally start -- it's not a nuclear war, at least an arm conflict.

JENNINGS: He can't start a nuclear with a tweet. It takes --

SANDERS: OK. JENNINGS: -- a whole military process. It is ridiculous, in my opinion, to think that a corporation should be reining in the president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Well, who then would you like to reign in the President of the United States? Because it seems as though --

JENNINGS: Reign him in from what? Reign in him from what, making the statements that he think are in the US' best interest? We may disagree with that. But asking a corporation to check and balance the president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Scott, do you -- do you believe that these tweets or tweets like this is something that he has thought out or maybe run by some folks? Or is this just something he saw on TV or read something or he just got whatever, just in the moment?

JENNINGS: No, I don't think he necessarily thinks these tweets out. But clearly, his posture on North Korea has never changed. He doesn't want them to have nuclear weapons. He hates it when Kim Jong-un or anyone else taunts him. And he lashes out this way on Twitter. This is nothing new. His position on North Korea is nothing new.

I think the concept of reining him in or checking and balancing him needs to go somewhere else, not a corporation.

COOPER: Molly?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: I mean, even his level of rhetoric doesn't strike me as that new. I mean the raising -- explicitly raising the prospects of nuclear war perhaps. But, you know, he's talked about fire and fury. He's repeatedly doubled down on this rhetoric.

It's not new for him to issue these sorts of provocations. I think he does do it impulsively. There isn't a grander strategy of the Pentagon, you know, war gaming out, what tweets are going to provoke, what response from the North Koreans.

But I do find the suggestion that he's speaking to the American people very weird because that would indicate that this essentially a domestic political play by the president. And if he is speaking to the American people, I think he's scaring the crap out of them.

COOPER: Let's take a quick break. We'll continue this conversation. Obviously, it's an important one. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, General Hurtling called conducting nuclear diplomacy on Twitter problematic. Here's the presidential tweet that we've been talking about tonight, quote, North Korean Leader Kim Jong- un just stated that the Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.

[21:15:02] Will someone from his depleted and food starve regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works.

Back now with the panel. Gordon, I mean, to the extent that -- I mean it's hard to predict how North Korea responds to anything. But how does something like this do you think get interpreted in North Korea, if that matters?

CHANG: Yes. It does matter because we're trying to influence North Korea into a certain course of action which is to disarm. And I think the North Koreans are going to look at this and say it really elevates Kim Jong-un because now he's on the same level as the president of the United States.

COOPER: Which is something they wanted for a long time.

CHANG: Which is something they wanted for a long time. And our foreign policy is really to build coalitions. If you look back at prior tweets on North Korea, the June 20 tweet, the tweet last week, those actually were coalition-building messages to people. This one is a coalition destroying message.

And when the U.S. has been successful when we've gone into battle, it's with a coalition. So for instance, the Gulf War. And that's exactly what we need to do. We need to not only have our allies, Japan and South Korea, but we also got to neutralize Moscow and Beijing.

And a tweet like this does absolutely the opposite. So he squandered, President Trump has squandered an opportunity.

SCHULTZ: But we didn't see that effect with the fire and fury that you mentioned earlier and the rocket man comments before. As a matter of fact, it really drew more attention to the issue and the United States stepped up its diplomatic engagements after those comments were made via Twitter.

And I think most folks are going to say that Twitter isn't the best way to conduct diplomacy. But I think the book is getting rewritten on that. The 280 --

SANDER: No.

SCHULTZ: -- character sound bytes are certainly something that now politicians and world leaders are using time and time again.

BALL: Well here, I -- actually, I agree with the idea that the tweets before did not have the kind of cataclysmic effect that some predicted. But I think that that speaks to a different sort of effect that these tweets are having, which is a sort of numbing effect and people starting to ignore the things that are said by the president of the United States.

What we're seeing all around the world, whether it's our European allies or China or North Korea, the president can sort of pop off like this and people just sort of brush it off. And that itself I think is dangerous when actually he's not taken seriously.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: As the spokesperson and a press secretary for people, I want to dispel the myth that all of a sudden all of our messages are moving to Twitter 280 characters. That is not how effective principles, candidates and politicians communicate.

And Donald Trump's Twitter diplomacy is dangerous. And for anyone to assert otherwise I think is just crazy.

SCHULTZ: I think the 2016 election would say otherwise on how effective it is.

SANDERS: No. Twitter didn't get down -- let's be really clear.

JENNINGS: You know, I wonder if this Twitter episode, and this is a question more than a comment. But I wonder if the president believes his messages to North Korea are not being received.

If he believes his secretary of state is not delivering messages, if he believes his government apparatus as it sits is not effectively showing his anger, and so he says to himself, what's the most powerful communications tool at my disposal? This Twitter account.

I don't know if that's true but I wonder --

COOPER: Well, I mean it is a really interesting question. And also one goes back to the night we were all in Washington for, I guess, it was the United Alabama election where Secretary Tillerson made this speech in which he seemed to indicate the U.S. policy was totally reversing itself and that he was willing to sit down and talk with North Korea one on one. It could be about anything, about the size of the table he's at.

And I mean I remember when we were announcing this because it was breaking news, we were cautious in saying, look, we don't know if this is actually White House policy or is this just a government which is not all on the same page. And Gordon, it does seem like that was a -- an outlier comment.

CHANG: Yes. I mean, administration's had a problem with message discipline. And it looked like they actually got this problem under control when you had Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson with that op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

That actually looked like they were getting things sorted out. And then you have the incident you talked about where, you know, Tillerson says something which clearly is not the president's policy. You know, people can blame Tillerson for this, but really the responsibility belongs to the president because these people work for him.

And so, when President Trump needs to get a message across, whether he does -- and I have no problems with Twitter. But when he gets a message across, it's got to be clear and consistent. People have got to understand that all the United States is behind it. And it's also got to be a message that goes to our allies and this one certainly didn't.

COOPER: We're going to have much more ahead tonight, including new reporting on the campaign adviser and cooperating witness in the Russia probe with the White House is long down played? Was he in fact a lot more important than they have been saying? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:23:20] COOPER: In addition to President Trump's salvo in his Twitter war with Kim Jong-un and the media and the Justice Department, there was this reporting on one part of the genesis of the Russia investigation.

Also, new call from the president to investigate in jail a top Clinton campaign adviser, Huma Abedin. The New York Times reporting that one driving factor in the FBI's decision to launch its probe did not come from the Steele dossier that the White House claims.

Instead, according to the Times, the spark came when an Australian -- when Australian officials told American officials about a drunken evening Trump Advisor George Papadopoulos had in London with a top Australian diplomat.

Referring which, according to the Times, he quote, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain, Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

The story also cast out on the White House's characterization of Papadopoulos as a glorified campaign go for coffee boys and then call them separately today.

President Trump tweeted this signaling where he thinks the focus should be, quote, crooked Hillary Clinton's top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail. Deep State Justice Department must finally Act? Also on Comey and others.

We're now on all of this from someone who was at the center but all back in 2016, Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Director Clapper, you were the director of National Intelligence when the FBI launched its investigation to Russian meddling in the election. Was George Papadopoulos a major factor in the launch of the investigation?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, not to my knowledge contemporaneously. George Papadopoulos was a name that was not on my radar scope at the time. [21:25:04] And the first I knew about him and his role was when the plea bargain was announced. So, short answer to your question is no, it was not a name known to me at the time.

COOPER: So obviously, I know there's a lot you obviously can't say. But so there were other factors that launched the investigation, not George Papadopoulos, if you've never heard of him?

CLAPPER: Exactly. I think there were a number of factors that I think probably influenced or stimulated the FBI to initiate the investigation. So I don't he -- I think this was certainly a contributing factor, but I don't think it was the exclusive or first reason why the investigation was launched.

COOPER: You know, President Trump decided the Steele dossier as the reason the investigation was launched. Just last week he tweeted, quote, they use this crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump campaign.

Was the Steele dossier a major factor or a factor at all?

CLAPPER: Well, not actually, it was not. And when I say that, I'm speaking specifically about the intelligence community assessment that we, I say we, the FBI and the CIA along with my office put together the assessment that we published on the 6th of January and then briefed then President-Elect Trump on.

The dossier was briefed to him separately by director -- then Director Comey only for the purpose of telling him about it that it was out there. But it was not an integral part, an organic part of our assessment. There was lots of other evidence that we used which we had very high confidence in to compile that assessment.

COOPER: About Papadopoulos, that the Times report read in part, he was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influenced operation.

From what you know about Russian tactics in influence operations like that, would he be a prime target?

CLAPPER: Absolutely, he would be. I mean the Russians would look and apparently did look for anyone they felt they could ingratiate themselves with by offering, whether valid or not, information or dirt on Hillary Clinton.

And so, someone who professed to be a part of the campaign as a foreign policy adviser, this would be an ideal target for the Russians.

COOPER: And from every intelligence official I've talked to, Russian specialists, they say that they would launch multiple probes. That it wouldn't just be Papadopoulos. They would try for as many kind of entree into a campaign as possible.

CLAPPER: Absolutely. And it appears to me that's what they did. They would put fillers out to extend their tentacles to everyone and anyone who would talk to them.

COOPER: I want to ask you about something else that the president tweeted. He wrote, quote, crooked Hillary Clinton's top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail. Deep State Justice Department must finally act? Also on Comey and others.

The idea of a deep state is another idea the president, his family, his allies had been pushing for a long time, but lately especially. When you hear about a -- you know, whether it's the Deep State Justice Department, this notion of a deep state?

CLAPPER: Well, I think it's, to me, it's absurd. I guess what this refers to is a conspiracy somehow among careerists in the government who are in opposition to President Trump or probably more accurately, who are not seen as sufficiently loyal personally to President Trump.

COOPER: The idea -- I mean that word careerist is used by a lot of Trump allies in a very negative way. To you, what is the value of having career professionals who have devoted their entire lives to a particular subject working in the government?

CLAPPER: Yes. Well, first, I guess this qualifies me at least as a former member of the Deep State if you buy that absurd proposition. I think there's tremendous value to the career employees throughout the civil service in our government.

This is one of the, to me, one of the strengths of our government because it provides continuity, it provides knowledge, an expertise regardless of what administration is in office.

And many, many Federal -- loyal Federal employees who were patriots were there to serve the country, not an individual.

[21:30:04] COOPER: Director Clapper, appreciate your time. Thank you.

CLAPPER: Thank you.

COOPER: We have yet more breaking news tonight. The founders of Fusion GPS have just weighed in. We'll tell you about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More now on the Russia probe. The role, large or small with George Papadopoulos. And just now, new insight into the firm behind the Steele dossier.

The founders of Fusion GPS just now weighing in with an op-ed in the New York Times. It's linked they want to read you some of the key passages.

Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch write, in the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier, the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump's ties to Russia, the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia.

Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

Under treatment from Congressional investigators, they write, Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm's testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It's time to share what our company told investigators.

Steele and Fritsch continue saying, yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question, why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun? What came back shocked us.

[21:35:03] Mr. Steele's sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive, and now confirmed, effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the FBI.

It also says, we don't believe that Steele dossier was the trigger for the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources including one inside the Trump camp.

The founders of Fusion GPS back with the panel. Joining us as well is Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff, what do make of this statement?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think this is the defense they have put out before. I think what's news in this op-ed piece is the idea that one person, it says a person in the Trump campaign who was cooperating or talking to the FBI at this very early stage.

COOPER: Right. I just want to read that. Sources said the dossier was taken so seriously by the FBI because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources including one inside the Trump camp.

TOOBIN: I'm certainly unaware of who inside the Trump camp was dealing with the FBI. But certainly, I think we all would want to know today who was talking to the FBI within the Trump campaign.

COOPER: Now, we don't know that that is actually occurred. This is just based on sources, unnamed sources to the founders of Fusion GPS.

TOOBIN: Correct. And so, we don't know if there is such a person. But if there is such a person, we'd want to know who it is and why they felt compelled to go to the FBI in the middle of the presidential campaign to talk about possible relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia.

BALL: Well, and in light of the Papadopoulos news that we've been talking about as well, it raises more questions about when this investigation got under way and how and how extensive it already was long before the election.

POWERS: Well, and also, I think what it's focusing on is the Republicans' lack of interest in really investigating this. I mean we see the president doesn't want any kind of investigation.

And then you have Republicans on the Hill who are -- you know, has spent all this time, with 21 hours worth of, you know, transcripts of time, you know, in hearings and yet they're not following any of the leads that the Fusion GPS people suggesting that they follow.

COOPER: Right. They say that they gave records from Deutsche Bank.

POWERS: Well, they suggested that they pursue Deutsche Bank records which Mueller has since subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records. I don't know if that's the same thing. But that they're not --

COOPER: They also talked about questionable property deals.

POWERS: Yes. And instead of investigating what they're telling them to go after, they're just basically going after Fusion GPS. And this has been something that we've seen Republicans doing over and over, attacking the Steele dossier, even though by all accounts, he's a highly respected person, you know, and he's very trustworthy. Everyone is focused on delegitimizing, you know, the investigation.

TOOBIN: And by -- I'm sorry to interrupt. But another, you know, large question that is raised by this, the FBI was obviously deeply involved in investigating the Trump campaign during the Trump campaign.

The public was advised that the FBI was investigating the Clinton campaign, but we never were told that they were investigating the Trump campaign given the incredible political damage done to Hillary Clinton by the FBI, and by its investigations, and by James Comey.

The idea that this investigation was going on so extensively for so long and we knew nothing about it, that's a real important post-script to the 2016 campaign.

SCHULTZ: You know, as a PR professional, I read this op-ed and I wonder what the Fusion GPS people are going to do next because clearly this is how they wanted to frame exactly.

They say they want the full transcript of their interviews released. If the Congress won't release them, it makes me wonder if these guys' going to hold a press conference and submit themselves to media scrutiny? That might be a wise tactic if their lawyers would allow it.

One thing I think we have to think about as Republicans in the congressional investigation, however it turns out, is the issue of meddling versus the issue of collusion. Mueller is investigating the collusion.

I think the Republicans would be wise here to acknowledge and get their arms around meddling occurred. And it's fine to think no collusion occurred, but acknowledge the meddling and then set forth some parameters on how we're going to prevent it in the future.

That's the responsible governing move here. And if you're looking for a positive outcome out of a congressional investigation, that would be it.

SANDERS: But if that is then the case, is there a chance that the meddling lends itself to attempts to collude? Like, I think that's a very interesting semantics, really. It's just about the types of words that you're using.

But I don't think the congressional investigations should limit themselves to one particular area of which they should look at. I think our tax dollars has been on a very extensive investigation. And so like anything that comes before the committee that is incredible should be investigated, how -- investigated.

[21:40:01] How far down does the rabbit hole go? And so if they find collusion, if they find attempts to collude, if it is just meddling but then is meddling then attempts to collude? It's very confusing as you can tell.

So, we should not be suggesting that the congressional committee should limit themselves because that's not in the best interest of the American people, finding the truth. That's actually just in the best interest of the president.

COOPER: James, does anything stand out in this op-ed from Fusion GPS or?

SCHULTZ: Look, I think that Fusion GPS advertisement, if you will, is their attempt to -- look, they entered the fray of politics. This is the game that they're involved in. This is the business they're involved in. It's a high-profile business and they got caught.

And congressional -- members of congress, chairman of the judiciary committee, the chairman of the intelligence committee are asking questions and they don't like it.

POWERS: What did they get caught doing?

SANDERS: They didn't do anything -- what did they got caught doing?

POWERS: Because they're opposition research.

SCHULTZ: That they got caught in the fray of politics.

POWERS: They're allowed to research presidential candidates.

SCHULTZ: They got caught in the fray of this --

POWERS: It's not unethical. It's just normal behavior. I mean I don't understand.

SANDERS: This is what opposition research firms do.

POWERS: Yes.

SANDERS: They're usually higher opposition research firms. Every campaign has one. Sometimes you have a research person on staff and they go out and they find information about your opponents.

Now, usually, caveat, you don't get that information from a foreign entity. And you don't mean what the Russians or anybody else to get it. So, I'm just trying to figure out, I think it's reckless for you to suggest that they got caught doing something wrong.

SCHULTZ: I didn't say they got caught doing something wrong. I said they got caught in the fray of a political campaign that's now being exposed and questions are being asked. And they're not happy about it. It's a business. So this is what you see.

BALL: But you know, I have heard a lot of Republicans say essentially what Scott was saying, which is, you know, the president could take the high road here. He could say, I deplore any attempts to meddle if they occurred. We are going to get to the bottom of this and we're going to make sure it doesn't happen again.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been following the Trump presidency? Are you waiting for that?

BALL: I'm not. But he takes this issue so personally that he can't do that and that has caused a lot of this muddling that we're having now.

JENNINGS: But even if he can't, congressional republicans can. And ultimately, I think we're all wondering, I know we have reports today, we're going to see dueling reports out of the Democrats and the Republicans. That's the way congressional investigations go.

But to me, you could really get ahead of this thing if you're the congressional republicans by showing the American people a forward- looking way to stop meddling in the future. Because I think that's what I want to know. Can they do this again in a midterm or presidential?

POWERS: But don't you still want to have to see the transcripts? I mean why can't they just release the transcripts?

JENNINGS: Yes, I do.

POWERS: They spent 21 hours with them. Why can't see what's --

JENNINGS: I do want to see the transcripts. However, I wouldn't want it to, if releasing that kind of information would impede Mueller, which is something we don't know and I think Jeff could weigh in on that. If there's some interconnectivity there we don't know about, you wouldn't want to mess up something Mueller's doing.

TOOBIN: That won't take long, no.

SANDERS: So we should remember that this is a question about if, like, Russia clearly did meddle in our election. The influence that that's not a democrat or republican issue, it's an American people issue that I think we should all be concerned about.

And folks have said that Russian can and probably will do this again. Midterm elections are coming up and I think we should all want to know what happened and, as you said, how to prevent this in the future.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. More ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:46:21] COOPER: Tonight's big breaking news, the founders of Fusion GPS speaking out tonight. And the question of collusion, something they talked about in their New York times op-ed, quote, the intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign.

Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

Back now with the panel. Jeff, you were saying something.

TOOBIN: Well, I think they raised a very good question of why haven't their transcripts been released. You know, usually when a witness testifies before a committee under seal, it's to protect either their individual's privacy or classified information.

They obviously have no objection. There is no privacy interest here. And also, they had no security clearances, so there's no issue of classified information.

I think they are calling out the committees for a certain degree of hypocrisy because it is true they have leaked certain parts of their testimony to sympathetic news outlets. But, you know, why not let the chips fall and let's see if there were any allegations of impropriety. And they were challenged how they responded to it in front of Congress.

COOPER: This access to transcripts of testimony, I mean I guess anybody on the committee, right?

TOOBIN: Committee and staff.

COOPER: And staff.

They wouldn't have a copy of their own transcript.

TOOBIN: No. I mean that's -- they've asked for it. COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: But they have not gotten it.

JENNINGS: The only thing I wonder about though is clearly these guys know stuff. I don't know what they know, 21 hours worth of stuff. If I were another independent investigator and I were questioning other witnesses or other potential targets about what these guys may know, I'm not altogether certain I would want everything they know out in the public domain.

Clearly, they wanted it out in the public domain because it's good for their own PR. But as an investigatory matter, wouldn't it be better in some ways for the other independent investigators to keep some mystery about what Fusion GPS told Congress? Are we trying to trap people into obstructions?

SCHULTZ: Well, can you gather facts and evidence and then come to some conclusion and that's when you'll see the reports come out. And I think then you'll see some of this become a little more public.

COOPER: But would there be any legal jeopardy if these two founders of Fusion GPS held a press conference, Scott, to your point and just they gave their testimony?

TOOBIN: That's what this op-ed piece is. I mean I think they are saying, look --

COOPER: But in a greater level of detail, obviously, then that this is op-ed.

TOOBIN: These are available people. They are not hiding.

COOPER: But would they be in any kind of legal jeopardy?

TOOBIN: Not at all. I mean, you know, even in the grand jury, grand jury proceedings are secret. Everybody knows that. But if you are a witness in a grand jury, you can walk out in front of the courthouse and say, I told the grand jury the following ten things.

There is no prohibition on individuals talking about their own testimony. They simply would like the full transcript because they feel like they have nothing to hide.

POWERS: Well, and I also think they feel like the Republicans aren't taking the investigation seriously, right, so they want the transcript to come out so we can all see. I mean I'm just taking what they wrote in this piece, that so everyone can see what they have shared with Congress, and that Congress has not really been taking this seriously even though that they have given them a lot of evidence and things to follow up on. That was sort of a point they're trying to make.

TOOBIN: There's a pretty amazing fact in here which, again, assertion, I don't know that it's a fact. That the only bank records subpoenaed by the entire house intelligence committee are GPS' bank records. Not Donald Trump's bank records. Not Jared Kushner's bank records. Not Paul Manafort's bank records. But GP -- you know, Global GPS'.

I mean that suggests that they are out to get these people, not out to get the facts of the underlying investigation.

[21:50:01] BALL: But I think it's been clear for a while though that this committee was not going to be the one that got to the bottom of the Russia investigation. I mean there has been concerted effort for quite some time and we've seen now even some Republicans become uncomfortable with the extent to which it's gone. That the House committee is seeking to shoot the messenger and discredit a lot of the investigation or turn it towards Hillary Clinton and toward the Democrats.

The Senate committee seems to be doing more serious work in the ultimate arbiter of all. This is the Mueller investigation. That is going to be, to my mind and most of the people watching this, that the most serious and nonpolitically biased investigation.

SCHULTZ: The only person that has the full picture of this Mueller. I mean the Senate committee doesn't, the House committee doesn't.

COOPER: So when the White House were to say that they believe or when the president says they believe the end on this is in sight, I mean they talked about new year, even Thanksgivings, they talked about New year. Do you believe that?

SCHULTZ: I think the only person who knows that is Robert Mueller. I mean you could surmise based on information that they've requested and how many -- and how much is still coming in terms of requests. But there's no way of telling when he's going to be wrapped up.

COOPER: Do you agree with that Jeff?

TOOBIN: Totally, absolutely. I mean there is a major trial scheduled for May of 2018, the Manafort and Gates trial. So it certainly is an ending before then.

But I mean if you look at the volume of material they have and much of which -- and we don't know, a fraction of it, there is a lot to assimilate. You know, the White House lawyers have made much of the fact that the first round of interviews has concluded that the White House has produced all the documents that they have requested. But that usually only means a first round is concluded.

COOPER: There'll be other rounds?

TOOBIN: Presumably. I mean that certainly -- I mean worked on the Iran-Contra investigation and just because you interviewed some people once does not mean that you were not going to interview them again.

SCHULTZ: And look, the Democrats' motivation on this, on the House and Senate side are the upcoming elections, right? They want to try to continue to drag this out as long as they can to try to impact the 2018.

SANDERS: Do you think that's true? Because Russia has not -- the Russian investigation has not necessarily merged us in the current issue. Any of the following that I've seen, any of the actual focus groups that I've been in and with some clients and folks that we've conducted, no one has said that I'm going to the polls on Russia.

I think the Democrats on the House and the Senate side are interested in the investigation because we need to know what happened.

SCHULTZ: I'm sure it's all moral high ground.

SANDERS: OK.

SCHULTZ: There's got to be politics involved.

SANDERS: No, no. (INAUDIBLE) But what I'm saying is (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: OK. We, we got to -- we got to take a quick break. Everybody on the panel, brace yourselves, the unforgiving cold striking much of the U.S. Could become much more miserable later this week. A monster storm threatening a large part of the U.S. Weather system you've never even heard of or at least I've never heard of, called a bomb cyclone.

I feel like weather will make this thing up. But we'll get the latest -- we'll tell you what that means and get the latest forecast from CNN Weather Center. That's Niagara Falls. Wow. Be right back

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:34] COOPER: The punishing chill that's impacting much of the country is expected to get even worse in some areas later this week. The brutal cold is even tormenting parts of the south. Here's a water fountain frozen in Pensacola, Florida. It's not the bombing weather you certainly expect to see in the sunshine state.

And later this week, a monster winter storm could strike the east coast, from Georgia to Maine, with freezing temperatures, ice and snow. In some parts, there's the potential for damaging winds, so much so that it would resemble a winter hurricane, turning to a rare weather phenomenon known as a bomb cyclone.

CCN meteorologist, Tom Sater, joins us now from Weather Center with more. Tom, what are we expecting in the coming days? What is this bomb cyclone thing?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is when the pressure of a storm system actually drops 24 millibars, Anderson, in 24 hours. But we're expecting this one to be twice as bad, nearly 50 millibars. That's like super storm Sandy.

Every state in the U.S. hit the freezing mark today. All of the lower 48 had wind chills in the teens. Notice in white, Anderson, these are the departure from normal, about 16 degree difference than the high temperature from DC, to nearly a 30 degree temperature, off what is average in Dallas.

In Atlanta this morning, 13 degrees. At the same time in Anchorage, it was 39. In fact, the high temperature in Anchorage at 30 -- 47 degrees, was warmer than Panama City, at 44.

The NASA Mars rover on the surface of Mars recorded a temperature of minus 2. Look at the wind chills. It's colder in Chicago than on the surface of Mars, at minus 15, as well as Detroit.

But again, you showed this temperature of this frozen fountain. We're going to have significant icing occurring in northern Florida, sweet freezing rain. We're talking about i-10, i-95, interstate 75.

How about this? To give you an idea, put it in perspective, snow in the last few hours making its way off the coast of Texas, the parishes of Louisiana.

But now, we're going to really get into the storm system now. We've got warnings. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Winter storm warnings in northern Florida extend all the way up the coastline. It's not just the icing. It's going to be heavy snowfall.

The watches in the northeast will change to warnings as we get into Thursday. But here's where the bombing takes place. This area of low pressure after dropping a few inches on the beaches of south and north Carolina will create hurricane force winds.

Right now, if the system stays well-off the coast, it'll just be tropical storm force winds, Anderson. But it's trending closer to the coastline, which even without maybe 8 to 10 inches of snowfall, heavy wet snow, the winds alone could knock out power to thousands. And then we're going to have, because of this broad circulation, the coldest air of the season moving in back behind it.

COOPER: OK. First of all, it's colder in Minnesota than on Mars?

SATER: It is.

COOPER: OK. That's enough.

SATER: Right now, yes, it's not good.

COOPER: And when you talk, that all the snow in the west coast -- on the east coast, when is that supposed to happen?

SATER: All right, well, tomorrow morning, it begins really overnight tonight into tomorrow morning for northern Florida. Then we'll see the 2 to 3 inches in parts of Georgia, South and North Carolina.

It's really Wednesday night in the Mid-Atlantic area. I think the snow is going to stay east of Baltimore and Washington, DC. Of course that trending westward is not good.

But then we could see upwards to a foot of snow, parts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Eastern Massachusetts and toward areas to the north. But that air moving in is going to be even colder. I know you're just now getting the feeling back into your ears after enduring the coldest New Year's Eve drop, you know, in 100 years.

[22:00:00] But that temperature you endured with, Andy, at 9 degrees and a wind chill of minus 4, I think the high temperature in New York on Saturday may be 9 or 10 degrees. So, it's really going to be massive.