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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Trump Attacks Dem Who Confirmed Vulgar Slur on Immigrants; Is Capitol Hill Buying President Trump's "Least Racist" Claim? Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired January 15, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a claim by the president of the United States, a claim that he is not, in fact, a racist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: President Trump yesterday.

But it should be pointed out he's had to make that claim on more than one occasion since declaring his candidacy. This time, of course, it was in response to racist comments he made last Thursday about Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa, and a meeting with lawmakers on immigration.

Now, keeping him honest, the president's racist remarks were confirmed by a Democratic and Republican senator who were at the meeting and now are substantially backed up by two more Republican colleagues.

A senior Republican source telling CNN that their defense and the president seemed to hinge on hearing him say the word house instead of hole, as in shit-house countries not shit-hole countries, as if whole were racist but somehow house is not.

Now, according to our source, that's the basis for Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue going on TV this weekend and denying pretty much the whole thing, house instead of hole. That's where we are today.

And on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday officially designated as the day of public service, which the president reaffirmed by the way in the official proclamation he signed on Friday, how did the president honor Dr. King. Well, he got in a round of golf, it's the 95th day of his presidency spent at one of his golf courses. Unlike every other president since 1994 when the holiday became a national day of service, this president did no public service that we know of unless teeing up your golf ball is now considered a public service.

He did however fire off a name-calling tweet that's related to all of this which we'll get to shortly.

First though, the president's claim which I just want to play again in case you missed it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Keeping them honest, I suppose the president's claim of being the least racist person reporters that I've ever interviewed depends on who exactly you've interviewed. Chances are, none of the reporters president ever interviewed the lawmakers from both parties who passed the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act. Those men and women, Democratic and Republican, might be able to claim demonstrably the claim that they are less racist.

So might the Freedom Riders, people of all races and backgrounds who risk their lives or gave their lives in some cases to end segregation. They too might be less racist. Or perhaps Richard and Mildred Loving who faced death threats and served jail time before going all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn laws against interracial marriage, including their own. They might be less racist.

Or Father Pfleger, Michael Pfleger, who I've had the honor of spending time with in Chicago. He's dedicated his life and priesthood to serving the African-American communities in Chicago and saving young black lives on Chicago's South Side. He might be less racist.

But perhaps that's settling the bar maybe too high maybe the question should be is the man who says he's the least racist person reporters ever interviewed less racist and say a real estate developer sued by the Justice Department for systematically discriminating against people of color. Is he less racist than the New York billionaire who took out full-page ads calling for the restoration the death penalty for five teenagers black and Hispanic convicted of beating and raping a white jogger then refused to concede their innocence even after DNA evidence exonerated them years later? Is he less racist than that guy?

Or how about the casino owner who one of our guest tonight tells us said this about his African-American chief financial officer. Quote: Black guys counting my money, I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money or short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Is the president less racist than someone who would say something like that or someone who would say this about the country's first African- American president?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Because I asked to see his college records because I'd like to see them. I'd loved his one-line called --

(APPLAUSE) There's one line called place of birth, I'd like to see what it said. Yes, it'd be very interesting.

I don't care what his marks were. I don't care if you had good marks. I just like to see place of birth, three colleges, place of birth. We'll have to see what -- you know, perhaps it's going to say Hawaii, perhaps it's going to say Kenya, perhaps it's going to say some -- I'd like to see place of birth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, to be the least racist person, you'd have to be less racist than that and less racist and the guy who said so many other things, including this about white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville chanting Jews will not replace us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

Look at my African-American over here.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

I would like to have him show his birth certificate.

When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.

[20:05:04] They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.

These judges of Mexican heritage, I'm building a wall.

You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, are those all things you would really file under things the least racist person ever says. If so, then you agree with the president. Not only are the president's recent remarks from last Thursday causing anger and uproar among our allies and countries whose help we depend on fighting extremism.

Back home, his remarks and put a compromise on immigration in jeopardy, and that could lead to a government shutdown. And as we said, the president poured gasoline on that fire in a tweet today, attacking one of the senators who heard him make his shithole comments. The president tweeting, quote, Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can't get made when there is no trust. Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our military.

More now from the White House, the president's back in -- CNN's Pamela Brown is there for us tonight.

So, this is not the first time the president has claimed he is the least racist person.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not the first time, Anderson. You pointed out several examples there where he was forced to defend himself against racist accusations more recently in the last few months in the wake of his response to the Charlottesville protests. And, of course, it is especially noteworthy today because it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day when the country celebrates the civil rights icon.

Now, of course, there is dispute as you pointed out about what the president actually said in the Oval Office, whether it was s-house, s- hole, but really it's a distinction without a difference because the sentiment is the same.

I spoke to one White House official tonight who said the president wasn't talking about the people, he was talking about the countries. And I really couldn't get a good answer on why the White House initially didn't deny that the president said this and then, of course, as you know, the next day the president did deny that he used that vulgar language.

There were lots of questions shouted at the president here tonight when he landed on the lawn, Marine One, of course, asking about those comments, asking about DACA, the controversy surrounding it and the president ignored reporters questions as he walked into the residence, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, we should point out the initial White House statement on that that very night when this story broke on Thursday, it seemed to basically back up what he said. I mean it didn't directly address the comments per se, but it talked about how he's defending America and that's a that's his priority and his concern over, you know, immigration.

BROWN: Right, and if you'll recall, a couple weeks before, there were similar comments that were reported in "The New York Times" that the president had allegedly said, reportedly said about Haiti and the people there.

COOPER: Right. According to "Times", he said that all Haitians had AIDS and he talked about everybody from Nigeria basically living in huts --

BROWN: Exactly.

COOPER: -- which the White House denied at the time. But now --

BROWN: Very strongly.

COOPER: Right. But it was mainly White House aides -- my understanding -- in that room. Obviously, these comments made in front of bipartisan lawmakers, harder for them to deny. BROWN: Yes. Exactly, and like I pointed out s-hole versus s-house really, you know, a difference without a distinction there and it's -- sort of, you know, as you pointed out you know Tom Cotton and Senator Perdue, but both Republican senators, initially said they didn't recall what was said in the Oval Office.

And then by Sunday, a couple days later, they were coming out and saying he didn't use that vulgar word. Well, it turns out according to our reporting, the word they heard was s-house versus s-hole. So, it sort of makes you scratch your head in terms of why they thought there was a difference there, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Do White House aides believe the president is going to be able to put this behind him?

BROWN: I spoke to one White House aide tonight who said that the White House is confident they'll be able to move forward. It's a busy week here in Washington with the government shutdown looming. They said they're going to focus on a clean budget deal. But the reality is that it's going to be tough for them to move past this controversy because Democrats are tying it in with the DACA deal, saying that it's going to make it harder for them to come to a deal on DACA, and that they're threatening to withhold their votes on funding the government by this Friday if a deal on DACA isn't done.

So, it's all sort of tied together here and the White House does acknowledge that, saying that DACA is, of course, a part of the calculus here. I can tell you there are several meetings phone calls set up this week here at the White House. It's going to be a very busy week here at the White House, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Pam Brown. Pam, thanks.

More now on how the president's remarks could make a government shutdown more likely, and his claim that if it happens, it'll be Democrats fault.

Our Phil Mattingly joins us now from the capitol.

This idea that there are Republicans on both sides of this essentially arguing about what the president did or did not say, what kind of effect do you think that's going to have on things tomorrow when everyone's back in from the holiday?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in a sense, it's kind of a microcosm of how this issue breaks inside the Republican Party. It's a divisive issue. It's a complex issue whether it's on the contents of the conversation, the policy itself, even the loyalty to the president. There is a sharp divide inside the Republican Party, inside the Senate Republican conference, inside the House Republican conference in terms of where they actually stand on this.

[20:10:03] And all of this kind of underscores the difficulty Republican leaders are facing right now. When it comes to this issue, there is a bipartisan deal that is on the plate right now that Republicans have rejected. The president has soundly rejected that idea. They want to move on to something else.

The real question is what and as they currently look at this week as Pam laid out so well, the difficulties -- the complexities that are involved with just trying to keep the government open over the course of the next four days, the reality is inside the Republican Party, there is no firm agreement on how to address the DACA issue. As long as there's no firm agreement on how to address the DACA issue, there is the real possibility that Republicans simply can't coalesce around anything at all. And if they can't coalesce around anything at all, Anderson, the question becomes, can they actually address this issue at all? And right now, when you talk to Republican leaders, they say, we want to, we need to, we understand this is something that's on our plates and that we have to take care of it.

Then you ask the follow-up question of OK, what's your solution to that? What's the answer going to be? They don't have one at this point, Anderson.

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

As we mentioned, the president went golfing today. We'll take a look at how his predecessor spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is designated as a day of service as we talked about.

Also ahead, how lawmakers are reacting to the president's claim that he's the least racist person, along with his attack on Senator Durbin, and the comments that started this in the first place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:15:09] COOPER: Well, this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the president isn't doing what his predecessors did. It's been a federal holiday since 1986 and 1994, an act of Congress dedicated as a day of service. Since that time, presidents of both parties have set an example of that day of service, joining volunteers from the public events marking the holiday remembering Dr. King's legacy.

President Clinton helped paint a high school and a senior center and spoke at schools. President Bush invited African-American clergy for lunch at the White House, helped paint a mural at a school. President Obama and his family worked at soup kitchens and shelters and did other community service projects every year on the day.

President Trump went in another direction. As we reported, he played golf today in Florida and no public events scheduled. On Friday, he called on all Americans to observe the day with acts of civic work and community service.

Joining me on the panel tonight: Rich Lowry, Bakari Sellers, Paris Dennard and Ana Navarro.

Bakari, when you hear the president say that he is the least racist person that reporters have ever interviewed, I'm wondering what you thought.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I think that when someone has to say that they are the least racist person that we know that we've seen, nine times out of ten, they're pretty racist. I think that one of the things that Donald Trump is having difficulty doing is understanding his past, understanding that many of us are not fooled by anything that he does today. I mean, his words about Dr. King, they fall on deaf ears because he doesn't understand Dr. King's legacy.

So, the fact that he's playing golf today, it doesn't surprise anyone. Dr. King's legacy was combating racism. It was combating militarism and it was combating materialism. None of that speaks to who Donald Trump is.

And so, Donald Trump is racist, let's not -- let's not get that wrong. But what we're trying to do is break down the systemic racism and oppression that permeates our systems in this country, not deal with whether or not one man says nigger or not.

COOPER: Paris, are you disappointed the president played golf today instead of you know performing something publicly?

PARIS DENNARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF BLACK OUTREACH FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, you know if I were there working at the White House, I would have advised to have some form of activity service or event on Martin Luther King Day to commemorate the day on the day.

But I was pleased to see that he joined Dr. King's niece and nephew in Atlanta and signed the legislation to expand the Martin Luther King historic site and making it the first national park in Georgia. I was pleased to see him sign the proclamation with Dr. King's nephew this past Friday, which I was honored to attend and give remarks. I was pleased to see that Secretary Ben Carson was in Atlanta at Ebenezer Baptist Church there, speaking on behalf of the administration at that event. I was pleased to see Secretary Zinke at the Martin Luther King Memorial today. I was pleased to see Vice President Pence go to the Martin Luther King memorial site and lay a wreath.

So, I think on in totality I was I was pleased to see what the administration did and the president's remarks and the weekly message, the tweets that he gave -- that he did and Mrs. Trump and Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and others in the administration did.

I think on whole, it was good. But again, if I had been there, I would have advised them to have done at least one of those things -- of all of the things that they did on today.

COOPER: Rich, in your opinion, is there a difference if the president said shithole or shit house?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes. No, I strongly believe from my understanding of the meeting that it was this house but it's a closely related vulgarity that it's not going to make it a difference to anyone. And, Anderson, I don't think a president should speak this way. It's vulgar. It's going to be gratuitously offensive to all sorts of people if it comes out. But I think the reaction has been over the top. I mean from my

understanding, the meeting wasn't saying vile racist things repeatedly the way Senator Dick Durbin alleges. He was reacting to a proposal on the visa lottery program which sort of randomly sprinkles visas all across the world to people with very little connection here, and the proposal on the table from Graham and Durbin was just to continue that program at least in part in a different form in sprinkled visas around to various countries.

And the president's position, Tom Cotton's position, the position of immigration restriction is as we should move away from a focus on countries of origin, instead go to a merit-based system, where it doesn't matter whether you're from an advanced country --

COOPER: Like Norway.

LOWRY: -- or a s-house or s-hole country. What matters is your educational attainment, you skills, your ability to come here.

COOPER: The examples the president used first of all talking about Africa as if it's one country, when in fact it's actually dozens of countries with various levels of economic development. But the example he used is Norway, which is overwhelmingly, you know, people of Norway presents (ph).

LOWRY: Well, I believe he used that -- the example of that country because it's a high-skilled country. And, Anderson, just realistically, the little proposal --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Many of the people who come from Africa as you know actually have college degrees.

LOWRY: Yes, two points: one, there's no proposal on the table to get a lot of Norwegians --

COOPER: Right.

LOWRY: -- into this country.

COOPER: Not yet.

LOWRY: If you move to merit-based system, it will move the stream of immigration a little bit more probably the South and East Asians. And you're right, you look at the immigration from Sub-Saharan Africa, there are immigrant groups from there they're doing really well -- Nigerians, about 60 percent of them are college graduates about percent of them or so or I think over 50 percent are in management positions when they work here. That's fantastic. Let's do more that.

Look at Indian immigrants. The median income of the household headed by an Indian immigrant is $105,000. That's amazing. That is the American dream that work.

And we're a position, Anderson, we can be a little bit choosy. COOPER: Right.

LOWRY: With so many people wants to come to want to come here. So, let's choose people who can almost instantly join the middle class in this country --

COOPER: I guess, Rich, do you have any example of any shithole country that the president referred to that is predominantly Caucasian?

LOWRY: Well, we don't know exactly what countries were specifically --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I believe El Salvador, Haiti, and all the countries of Africa.

LOWRY: Right, Somali, I not sure he called every single country in Africa an s-house or an s-hole.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Do you think it's a coincidence that the countries you were pointing out are predominantly people of color as opposed to --

LOWRY: But, Anderson, the proposal again the context of discussion is about the visa lottery.

COOPER: But the words he used --

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: Durbin and Graham, they weren't saying oh we're going to move the visa lottery to Norway, right? They said we're going to move it to underrepresented country.

COOPER: Right, but the president said, why don't more people come to Norway?

LOWRY: Hold on, can I finish?

Which usually means third-world countries, which aren't doing very well.

Again, I wouldn't speak that way about those countries. I don't think a president United States ever should speak that that way about those countries. But I think you have to interpret his remarks in the context of the underlying policy --

COOPER: OK.

LOWRY: -- which is an emphasis on merit.

COOPER: Ana, to you, is it in the context of the underlying policy or is this clearly people from -- people who are black, less people who are black, more people who are like white from Norway?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, the context of the conversation was that Graham and Durbin were offering an alternative for how to protect people with TPS, temporary protective status, and right now, that is Haitians and that is El Salvadorans, who have lost it because the Trump administration has terminated that status and they were trying to figure out a way to cover these people because most of them have been here now for almost 20 years and are a large part of our communities, including the one I live in.

Really, Anderson, this is such a silly discussion, whether it was shit house or shithole, what matters here is not the second syllable, it's the first syllable. And it's the fact that he could have had a discussion on the merits about immigration, but he chose to insert racism, inject division, hostility and this kind of color-based argument into the discussion.

And it is not an isolated act by Donald Trump. It is one more event, one more time one more statement. Look, I'm actually OK with him not having done anything today because I think you should serve and you should make it a date of service to honor Martin Luther King when it's in your heart, not because it's on your schedule, not because other presidents did it.

And if you don't have what it takes to recognize that counter posing a white country with people of color is, racist if you don't have what it takes to apologize for racist remarks, you don't have what it takes to commemorate Martin Luther King and put out statements and quote his beautiful words and pretend that you are a Martin Luther King apostle. You're not. You're a racist.

So, you know what, stay home, stay in your country club and go golf. That's fine with me.

COOPER: All right. We got to take a quick break. We're going to continue the discussion when we come back.

Also, reaction in Iowa to one senators defense of the president when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:27:31] COOPER: One of the Senate's staunchest conservatives and solid supporters of President Trump as well is hearing from constituents who are unhappy with president's remarks that he made on Thursday in his defense of places like Norway. Speaking yesterday in Red Oak, Iowa, Senator Joni Ernst's defense of the president drew laughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I don't respond a lot to what the president is saying because you know what if I'm going to talk, I want to talk about the things I'm working on and the things that are important to Iowa.

He is standing up for a lot of the countries that where we have seen --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Name a few. Could you name a few?

ERNST: Yes, you bet. Norway --

(LAUGHTER)

ERNST: Well, OK, how many of you -- you know you laugh at folks. Who borders Norway? Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You can see Russia from Norway.

Back with the panel.

Paris, I mean you hear your Senator Ernst there, Republican senator from key swing state getting laughs, not in not in a good way, unclear exactly who -- you know, what the makeup of the audience is in terms of their politics. But when -- she's getting laughs when she attempts to defend the president. Do you see his words or deeds as a as a problem for the GOP or do you think this is something that is just -- you know, this news -- this news cycle?

DENNARD: Listen, I don't think that anybody should go out and try to defend every word that the president of the United States says, or every tweet that the president tweets about. If Senator Ernst needs to go out and defend her record, she needs to defend what she's trying to do for her constituents in the state of Iowa and focused on that, and that it also includes not having this government shutdown.

And so, when you look at you look at 2018, you look at -- looking forward to how that's going to impact the GOP, I think this White House has to stay on message. This White House has to stay focused on the things that they are doing right, the things that this president is leading on when it comes to this economy and the tax cuts that are going to take place -- and you start to feel them in your pocketbooks next month -- and leading to infrastructure and all the other positive things in this administration is actually doing it should to get credit for.

Those are winning messages, and I think that's what they should focus on. And I think this too shall pass. Just stay focused.

COOPER: Bakari, will this pass?

SELLERS: I'm hesitant to say that it won't, it won't, just be a phase because everything we've seen in Donald Trump's trajectory since he came down the steps and called Mexicans rapists has been you know momentary, has been this day, then the next day, then there's another news cycle and another news cycle, and people are just getting exhausted. It's the equivalent to, you know, drinking out of a out of a fire hose. It's just very, very difficult.

But I don't think that everybody just has to be a coward. I mean, I think that you can have more people like, for example, Governor Charlie Baker who I was a part of a Martin Luther King Day program with him this morning in Boston, who spoke about the fact that his mother had Alzheimer's and he had a Haitian immigrant and an Ethiopian immigrant that cared for her. Understanding the value that they bring to the United States of America talking about the value of diversity.

Now we may disagree on tax policy but we understand what it means to be American. And, you know, that the irony in this is that rich was talking about a merit-based system and making $100,000 and this and that. And then I'm pretty sure that you go out and you quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which is the anticipate (ph) they're up. And so when people actually don't understand the essence of the day. When they don't understand the value of the moment that were in. And I'm not worried about the words of our enemies that quote Dr. King, I'm worried about the silence of our friends. And if Joanie wants to be an up right Americans, if she wants to stand for all the virtues of rich one to stand for all the virtues of being American, then now is not the time to be a coward. Now is the time to stand up --

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I don't understand what's un- American about celebrating Indian immigrants who come here and looks (ph) what's wrong with that?

Why are you laughing at --

SELLERS: Well actually --

LOWRY: -- that's a bad thing.

SELLERS: Well actually, what I was actually -- what I pointing to is the fact that we have vast income inequality in this country and that you don't have to simply make $100,000 to be welcome in the United States. In fact if you work with your hands, you're welcome in the United States.

LOWRY: Right.

SELLERS: If you're a nursing assistant, you're welcome in the United States. If you're a teacher and you're making $30,000, you're welcome in the United States.

LOWRY: This is part of the point.

SELLERS: And so -- no you don't have to have some merit this type to some to materiality.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: Yes, we have a problem with, we've seen it, you know, for 10 years more maybe going back 30 years, where is people lower --

SELLERS: What's the problem?

LOWRY: I'm going to explain. People lower down the income scale, both native and legal immigrants who have -- had a real problem with wage stagnation. And it's just a basic law of economics, supply and demand. If you flood lower down in that labor market with new immigrants, you're going to at least at the margins depress wages. So why are we choosing to do that when we have so many people who want to come here who can actually go with the system like Canada has, maybe -- do you think Canada is a racist country? They have a points base, large base system. Australia, I guess another close racist society, has a point based merit based system. Where you bring people in who could actually succeed when they first get here in a 21st century economy --

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: I need to clarify something. No one is calling the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Go ahead, Anderson, ask me the question.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: One at a time. I'm sorry just one at a time. Ana, what is wrong with that?

NAVARRO: Nothing is wrong with that. I mean it's a precise -- we need a modern day immigration system that addresses the needs of our modern day economy. The problem is that right now we are nowhere. Frankly, if Donald Trump wants to change the narrative that he's a racist, and you know, you asked the question, is it a phase, is this going to pass? It will pass, because we have limited attention span and also because Donald Trump is the bad skin robin of outrageous offensive comment, is that 31 flavors of outrage and offensive comments, he can go out. And so -- it will be another comment in a few days, but we will remember that he said look at my African- American over there. We will remember his statement after Charleston, we will be remember this shithole statement, it will all be -- it will -- it's all part of a narrative.

If Donald Trump wants to change this narrative --

COOPER: Right.

NAVARRO: -- what he should is act on immigration. Bring in those same senators and Congress people who were there at that meeting, and tell them let us work out a plan that can pass master (ph), Donald Trump needs to lead on this.

COOPER: I going to end there. Thank you all.

Coming up next, conversation with important House Republican about his take on President Trump, racism and what to do about DACA.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:37:45] COOPER: Members of Congress are still trying to digest President Trump's vulgar remarks immigration, one of them is Pennsylvania House Republican member Charlie Dent. I spoke with the Congressman just before we went to air.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congressman, today Republican Senator Lindsey Graham double down on his assertion, that President Trump called the handful countries in Africa shithole saying, "My memory hasn't involved, I know what was said and I know what I said". Do you have any reason to doubt Senator Graham, I mean do you think the president said that?

REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: I do not -- I do not doubt what Senator Graham has said. He was in the meeting and I accept him at his word. I think really the challenge for the president is -- we have this 20s, you know, here we go again moments. You know, the president has a history, you know, he made incendiary comments obviously about Mexicans, Muslims, he did immediately denounce state the Duke, of course there were Charlottesville and now this.

So people aren't getting to the president's benefit of the doubt on an issue like this.

COOPER: Right, and I mean the "New York Times" have reported, delivers about three weeks ago or three and a half weeks ago that the president had said that Haitians, they all have Aids and talk about people from Nigeria and people living huts. The White House denied, because there was in a small meeting if only White House personnel, obviously this was in a bipartisan meeting. I guess the question is, if one believes Senator Graham and Durbin what does that mean to Senators Purdue and Cotton are doing? Are they lying? Or did they mishear?

DENT: I can't speak for those two senators. I was in a meeting, I don't know what they heard or others in the meeting who've not responded obviously. So I don't know if they -- they had a different -- they heard something different. But I accept Senator Graham's and Senator Durbin's comments immediately after the meeting that this is in fact what the president had said. My bigger concern right now, is that his remarks don't blow up the Dreamer DACA agreement that I think we can reach. I think Senator's Graham and Durbin deserve a lot of credit for coming up with a pretty good bill in my view that could pass the Senate and the House right now.

So I -- that's my very concern right now, how is it going to affect that agreement and more broadly speaking Anderson, you know, I've been to Africa on several occasions and the people of sub Sahara and Africa generally have a very positive view of the United States. I'm concerned that his comments will set us back at least in the short term with regard to United States is perceive in that part of the world. All because of these unfortunate comments.

[20:40:08] After all the good work we've done on HIV, Aids, the president (INAUDIBLE) program under George Bush and followed by Barack Obama. All of that I'm worried that we'll be, you know, in danger because of these very unfortunate remarks.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Graham spoke about DACA as you mentioned, an immigration reform saying, "We're not going to get there", by the president tweeting, "We're not going to get there by him trying to blame Democrats. That's not going to work". I mean do you think this has derailed the plan?

DENT: I don't believe it has. You know, the Senator -- you know, this whole notion of accommodating the DREAMERS, along with responsible border security measures, cleaning up the diversity lottery visa program, even dealing with some of the family migration issues, all -- that's all part of the Graham/Durbin bill. And I think it's actually a very good compromise. Frankly, it goes further and I thought many Democrats will be willing to go. So I think as Republicans we ought to seize this opportunity right now and deal with it as part of either a stand-alone measure or as part of a budget agreement. I'm not saying as part of the continue resolution at the end of this week, but as part of a broader budget agreement that we need to reach within the next few weeks.

COOPER: Just, lastly, do you -- when the president says he is the least racist person, do you believe that?

DENT: Well, what I know is that the president from time to time has made racially incendiary and inflammatory comments, you know, back to the Mexicans and Muslims, you know, you got the Indiana Judge, Charlottesville, I mean we got a long list on these issues. And I can't speak, you know, whether or not the president is a racist, but I do know he has made, you know, racially incendiary comments that are very unfortunate and make life difficult for a lot of us who were actually trying to get some things accomplish live slightly (ph).

COOPER: Congressman Dent, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

DENT: Thanks. Great to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well just ahead, a Justice Department decision about Donald Trump's business practices are getting new look in light of his most recent comments. Did he discriminate against African-Americans in the 1970s?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:46:09] COOPER: President Trump continues to deny he's a racist. The record though says other things. Starting with citizen Trump was president of his father's real estate empire. More on that now from our Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 14,000 apartments and 39 different buildings, all mostly white tenants. That is until the Department of Justice took notice in 1973. And slammed Donald Trump and his father Fred Trump with a lawsuit. Trump Management was charged with discriminating against African-Americans and breaking federal law. Donald Trump then just 27 was president of the company.

(on-camera): The Department of Justice accused the Trump of violating the Fair Housing Act, arguing they were turning away renters base on race and color, who tipped them off? Lsocal activist, so-called testers. Posing as potential renters at Trump's buildings mainly in Brooklyn and Queens.

(voice-over): Elyse Goldweber was a lawyer for the DOJs Fair Housing section at the time. And was called on to handle the Trump case.

ELYSE GOLDWEBER, LAWYER, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: When the black pastors came, they were shown -- they may have been shown apartments through or told nothing was available. Whereas when the white testers came, yes, there were things that were available. That would be the norm.

KAYE (voice-over): And if the Trumps did rent to a black person, Goldweber recalls, they would do so only at one building in Brooklyn, reserving the other buildings for white tenants.

GOLDWEBER: That the white people would live in from village and the people of color would live in flat bush.

KAYE (voice-over): And according to the Justice Department, they even had a secret coding system to do it, a racial code. Here's how.

GOLDWEBER: Some of the application where marked with a C which we learned that it meant colored. So that the -- the perspective tenants who had come in, were noted to be colored.

KAYE (voice-over): yes, you heard her right. The Department of Justice alleged application submitted by perspective African-American renters were designated with a secret code. Such as C for colored to indicate a black person was looking to rent. In true Trump fashion, Donald Trump hit back calling the government's accusations absolutely ridiculous. And telling the court I have never nor has anyone in my organization ever to the best of my knowledge discriminated or shown bias in the renting of our apartments.

(on-camera): Trump's lawyer said the government sue failed to give names addresses or specific incidents of discrimination. Claiming the lawsuit cost substantial damage to their business and reputation, Trump took the most unusual step of suing the Justice Department for defamation. Seeking $100 million in damages. But that counter suit was tossed out by the judge.

(voice-over): Even so the Trump family maintained they never discriminated based on color. But were instead trying to avoid renting to people on well fare. Two years later, in 1975, Trump and his father settled the case agreeing not to discriminate against anyone. They also promised to advertise in publications aimed at minorities. Familiarize themselves with the details of the Fair Housing Act. And notify civil rights groups of apartment vacancies.

The Department of Justice claimed victory, but the Trumps never admitted any wrongdoing. Reportedly noting the settlement was in no way and admission of a violation.

Randi Kaye, CNN New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: More now on race and Donald Trump's record on the subject, it got from Jack O'Donnell, he's a former president and chief operator officer of the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, he's also the author of "Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump, His Canning Rise and Spectacular Fall. I spoke to him earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jack, in your book, you write about a conversation between you and then -- and Donald Trump who was then a citizen. Where he complained to you about an African-American employee in the casino's finance department. Can you just explain what happened?

[20:50:05] JACK O'DONNELL, FMR PRESIDENT & COO, TRUMP PLAZA CASINO: Sure. There was really a dialogue that we had over a couple of years, Anderson. But one particular instance where he referred to who was our chief financial officer, by the way, not just an employee. The top financial officer in the organization. And he complained to me that he didn't really like having a black guy counting his money. He went on to say what I want counting my money is short guys with yarmulkes on their head. So it was a pretty shocking conversation.

COOPER: Was this out of the ordinary for him to say?

O'DONNELL: Well, no. He had complained several times that he wasn't happy with this particular employee. But it was really the first time that he really honed in on the fact that he didn't like him simply because he was black because he went on to say in this conversation that he perceived this guy as being lazy. And then he said, but that's probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. So he made it very clear that this was a black issue.

COOPER: He actually --

O'DONNELL: He did not want --

COOPER: He actually spelled it out in exactly those words?

O'DONNELL: He spelled it out in exactly those words.

COOPER: What did you -- how do you respond to something like this from a guy who is obviously your boss?

O'DONNELL: Well -- yes. Well, Anderson, first off I was shocked. But I actually took the approach that -- I said, Donald, you know, first off you can't be talking this way. This is wrong. You don't want people to know you think this way or you would say things like this. And I tried to back him down from that perspective. But it was very clear that he wanted this individual removed from his job simply because he was black.

COOPER: When you hear the president now say that he's not a racist and that he is, quote, "the least racist person", knowing him, having worked with him, do you believe that? O'DONNELL: Well, I don't. And I do believe he's a racist. And further to the point, Anderson, I believe anybody that has spent a substantial amount of time around him in a casual atmosphere, whether it's business or at dinner or at lunch, I believe it would be very difficult that he wouldn't express these feelings to them over time. I just find it very hard to believe that there aren't more people who know him that don't believe exactly what I believe, but for one reason for another, they're not willing to say it publicly, that he is a racist.

COOPER: Do you think he realizes he's a racist? Do you think he knows it?

O'DONNELL: Well, listen, I think he's delusional, and so I think deep down in his mind, he wants to believe that he's not. But I believe that there's a pattern of conversation throughout his entire life where he has -- he has talked in racial stereotypes. I think he's also been denigrating toward women, and I think this is the way he believes deep down inside of himself. So, you know, does he believe it? I think at some level he has to know exactly what he is because he continues to present this image of himself.

COOPER: Jack O'Donnell, appreciate your time. Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: An important footnote. When the book first came out, O'Donnell, citizen Trump called him "a disgruntled employee". Then in a 1997 interview, he said O'Donnell's recollections were, "probably true". Two years later he denied it all.

Late last week after word got out about the president's racist comments about immigrants from Haiti and the continent of Africa, we reminded you about some of the Haitians my CNN team and I met when we were covering the earthquake eight years ago, including this little boy, who's name was Monley who survived being trapped under rubble for more than seven days.

Coming up next, we want to give you an update on where Monley is now and how he and his family are doing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:57:57] COOPER: Well last Thursday, the day the president said what he said about Haiti, I told you about the Haiti that I know, the Haiti I visited many times over the past 25 years, the place I've fallen in love with, the place that's poor economically but rich in many other ways, including the strength and the dignity and the courage of its people. I told you briefly about a little boy named Monley that we reported on after the earthquake. Monley lived for more than seven days buried under the collapsed house that killed his parents, surviving only on rain water. We happened to be at the hospital in Port-au-Prince when he was brought in, stunned but alive. Here's part of our report that aired that week when we first saw Monley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Monley Elysee was brought to general hospital by his uncle, who says he found him in the rubble alive after nearly eight days. Monley was covered in dust, weak, and limp. A doctor and a nurse quickly gave him an IV.

(on-camera): What's he saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He want to drink some juice? You want to drink some juice?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can tell he's very dehydrated by his skin.

COOPER (on-camera): Because his skin doesn't bounce back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it doesn't bounce back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is in something called starvation ketosis, so you have to be very, very careful as you start rehydrating from -- feed them again. So, I'm sure he'd love some food right now but we can't give it to him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well that was Monley in 2010. This, I'm happy to say, is Monley today. He's 13 now and not just surviving, but he's thriving with the help of the Organization Worldwide Orphans and Dr. Jane Erinson, he has been well cared for. As, you know -- as I said, his parents died, but he's living with relatives and his two brothers, Moises and Christopher. His favorite subjects in school are English and French, and he says he wants to be a doctor, like the doctors who helped bring him back to life.

Monley and his brothers, his whole family, their strength, their humor, their determination, they are the Haiti I know. The president is wrong about Haiti. The way this president described Haiti and previously described Haitians according to a report three weeks ago in the "New York Times" is ignorant for a man who claims to be like really smart.

[21:00:00] It was not just racist. His comments were really dumb. What the president has said doesn't reflect poorly on Haiti. It reflects poorly on him, on his intellect, on his experience or lack of it. And on what is in his heart.