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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Mueller Charges 13 Russians with Interfering In 2016 Election; Honoring the Fallen; Remembering the Victims; Pres. Trump, First Lady Meet with Survivors of School Shooting; FBI Admits It Failed To Act On Tip in January On Killer; Report: Former Playmate Claims She Had an Affair with Trump Years Ago. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 16, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It says nothing about whether or not the President obstructed justice and he certainly doesn't not suggest the investigation is over enough by a long shot, in fact, just the opposite. More on what the indictment does say from CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who joins us now. You've read this backwards and forward you've been covering all this. Kind of walk us through this.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN JUSTIC REPORTER: Right, so this is a pretty detailed 37-page indictment listing everything from the money that was used, how the money was obtained, the fake -- the stolen identities from Americans that the Russians used to open PayPal accounts that they then used to buy ads on Facebook and Twitter, other social media avenues. The person who was funding all of this entire operation, which was almost like a business -- they were running it as a business, and all the purpose was to create this information warfare to infiltrate to -- the U.S. really our country, o infiltrate our country and to infiltrate our election process.
COOPER: And it did begin back in 2014 according to the Department of Justice.
PROKUPECZ: That's right, it did.
COOPER: So even before Donald Trump was announced as a candidate, they wanted so sow discord, they wanted to impact the election.
PROKUPECZ: That's right. And the Russians have been known right, we know -- this is what they wanted to do. And it also shows you how the FBI and gives you a window into an FBI counterintelligence investigation and the resources that it takes, the money that it takes, the manpower it takes. I mean they were able to infiltrate this organization every which way possible.
COOPER: It says a lot also about the Mueller investigation. I mean we've been hearing now for months from the President's attorneys who say by Thanksgiving it looks like it's going to be winding down. By New Year's -- I mean it doesn't seem like it's going to be winding down. This indictment is very specific that just -- it keeps saying about this indictment, indicating there could be others. PROKUPECZ: That's right. And Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said that in this indictment there are no Americans who we're charging. There's nothing to indicate that the special counsel investigation is coming to an end anytime soon. We know just based on our own reporting Steve Bannon was in with the special counsel this week, was interviewed. We know other people have been in there this week to interview. There's still the obstruction case. That is a large part of what the special counsel is still doing, and there is every indication things are just moving forward and that nothing is coming to an end anytime soon.
COOPER: Yes, Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it.
I want to go next to Florida. CNN's Jeff Zeleny with more on the President's evening.
Jeff, has the White House had anything else to say on these indictments because first the President, you know, let loose a tweet which basically just referenced himself, and the White House did put out a statement allegedly from the President shortly after.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDDENT: Indeed, Anderson. Just those two brief statements, that's all we've heard officially from the White House, but I can tell you this has been a big topic of discussion behind the scenes. And I would almost wager a bet that it was also a big topic of discussion as the President flew down here to Florida. Of course he's spending a three-day weekend in Mar-a-Lago. He spent a little bit of time earlier this evening with the shooting victims of that horrific Parkland shooting.
But as he was flying down here, he was with his chief of staff, John Kelly, of course embattled, other top advisers. So there's no question this is on the President's mind, but let's unpack a little bit of what he has said. Let's look at that tweet first and foremost, Anderson. It's pretty telling when you sort of look at it. He says this. He said, Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong. No collusion.
Now the point here is he's acknowledging in there that this has been going on since 2014. So even by saying that, he's doing something that he has rarely said, acknowledging that Russia did meddle and has been meddling in U.S. elections. But simply again, not calling it out or not seemingly make a big deal of the fact that this is, indeed, an act of war, at least in this, you know, cyber age, super information world if you will. But then when you look at the President's statement that was sent out through the White House press secretary, even more interesting, Anderson. He says this. He said, it's time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks. Wild and false allegations and farfetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors like Russia and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions.
So interesting in that, that he calls out the bad actors, in his words of Russia, but then goes to say farfetched theories. When in fact of the matter is the U.S. Department of Justice had an indictment -- enough information they believe that could stand up in a court of law to issue to these indictments today. So hardly farfetched theories. The President, of course, has had a sound track for more than a year saying the Russia investigation has been a hoax. He's called it a witch hunt from rallies to the Oval Office to television, to social media.
Again, though, today was probably the biggest quieting of all of the fact this is a hoax. The U.S. Justice Department said it's not indeed. It is a very, very real thing.
[21:05:02] COOPER: Well also, Jeff, I mean we heard recently from Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, when asked, testifying in front of -- on Capitol Hill saying that, no, the President had not directed the FBI to do specific things in order to combat meddling in the next election. The reporting, I think it was from "The Washington Post," "The New York Times" months ago whether there hadn't been any cabinet meeting devoted to what to do about Russian meddling, and obviously you've had all the President's denials, calling it a hoax, calling it a ruse, and the President's refusing to impose the sanctions which were passed by really unanimously, almost unanimously, overwhelmingly by both Houses in Congress. There really is nothing the President has said about how the U.S., how he is wanting people and this country to defend against this the next time.
ZELENY: Anderson, you're right. If there's been one consistency, one consistent theme throughout the first year and a month or so of this Trump presidency, it's been that he has consistently denied or declined to talk about Russia's meddling in the election. You mentioned sanctions. That is a very key point.
There are very few bipartisan things that happen, unanimous things that happen in this United States Congress. Almost nothing. The Russian sanctions that was one of them an overwhelming vote in the House and the Senate by Republicans and Democrats. More than 500 members of Congress voted to impose tougher sanctions on Russia. Just a couple weeks ago, the Trump administration declined to impose those.
So there has been a reluctance on the part of President Trump to go hard after Vladimir Putin. In fact, I remember last November when he was traveling in Vietnam at the APEC Summit, he had a brief meeting with Vladimir Putin, and he said -- the President said he believed the denials of Vladimir Putin that he did not meddle in the election. So, Anderson, as we end this, you know, one more interesting, troubling week on many fronts here, I'm struck by the fact that this is the beginning, not the end, as Shimon was saying earlier.
ZELENY: Keep in mind one thing, Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, spent more than 20 hours this week with the special counsel. He told Michael Wolff in the book "Fire and Fury". Fury it's about money laundering. So that 20 hours certainly will come out potentially in indictments to come, potentially not. But to this Anderson this seems to be just the beginning. COOPER: Yes. Jeff Zeleny appreciates the reporting. We're joined now by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who serves on the judiciary committee. Senator Blumenthal first of all I'm just wondering what your first reaction is to this indictment.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: I was stunned, Anderson, by the massive detail, really chilling facts, and we're dealing here with real facts about real criminal action by Russians, doing real harm to our democracy. And the President may choose to believe Vladimir Putin, but these facts are provable beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the standard for bringing this kind of indictment.
And the people involved in this indictment, some of them are very close associates of Vladimir Putin, and they run companies that are slush funds for the Russian government. So the involvement of the top Russian leadership, including Putin, is virtually undeniable. What we need now is those sanctions to be implemented vigorously and strongly and to send a message to the Russians that they're going to pay a price for what they did.
They're going to be deterred if they continue to do it as they are now doing it. And the intelligence community testified just this week in the Senate that they are, in fact, continuing to do it. So that's a terrifying blueprint.
COOPER: It was stunning to me that in the President's initial tweet, it really was all about the President and how he believes this vindicates him, that there's no collusion talked about in this indictment. Nothing about the informational warfare which is being waged, and that's the term the Department of Justice used, by the Russians against the United States, effectively an act of war. And any outrage about it or what he is going to be directing our government to do about it.
BLUMENTHAL: What Donald Trump says or does is, in my view, less important than what the American people say and do. They ought to be outraged and furious. It was, in fact, informational warfare.
That's the term the Russians used to describe it, and it's repeated in the indictment. And it went on for years. So unfortunately Donald Trump evidently is still about himself, perhaps not surprisingly, but the American people have to worry about this repeated attack on our democracy, trying to sow discord, suppress voter turnout by using money laundering, fictitious identities, as well as identity theft, a raft of criminality that is real.
[21:10:05] COOPER: It was interesting to hear Rod Rosenstein specifically say that there was nothing in this indictment that any Americans, you know, willingly colluded or dealings with Russians. This indictment, he kept saying.
BLUMENTHAL: A very good point. The indictments to come and probably convictions, criminal pleas, will provide more details very likely about that topic. And I think it is almost certain in my own view at least, that there will be more indictments and convictions relating to the Russian interference and attack on our democracy and also potential collusion involving the Trump campaign.
Investigations proceed in stages. They focus on different facets. Just because this indictment has no mention of collusion or of knowing participation by Americans doesn't mean it isn't going to happen in the next indictment, and the involvement, even if the term "unwittingly" is used to describe it at this point of Americans its very, very telling.
COOPER: Does it -- Some Trump supporters have been saying, well, look, the Russians were pushing some support to Bernie Sanders, talking about Jill Stein. They had a rally for Hillary Clinton allegedly conducted by American-Muslims with some signs which would obviously be damaging for Hillary Clinton about Sharia Law. There was an anti-Trump rally after the President was elected, and they point to all those things and say, well, look, it shows that the Russians were not pushing for Donald Trump to win the election.
BLUMENTHAL: The conclusion of the indictment is that they were, in fact, pushing for Donald Trump predominantly. They were, in fact, seeking to disparage -- that's the indictment's term Hillary Clinton. And they may have embarked on these other ventures perhaps with the idea that they would aid Donald Trump. But clearly the overall objective was to aid him.
And it is such a massive and sweeping plot and conspiracy to sabotage our elections. I've been calling it an act of war for some time. I think this indictment clearly shows that this informational warfare was an attack that constitutes an act of war, and we need to meet it effectively.
COOPER: It's also just interesting how limited, in fact, this indictment was, as stunning as it was, to use your term and shocking to some people. It was nothing about the DNC hacks, it was nothing about John Podesta -- the hacks of John Podesta's e-mails or any coordination in how that information was released.
BLUMENTHAL: That's a very good point, and it ought to be a sobering moment for the Trump sycophants and surrogates in the Congress who have been attacking the special counsel, trying to discredit the FBI and the Mueller team because clearly he is proceeding in a very methodical and systematic way to build a series of cases in stages as the best prosecutors do given complex facts and law. That kind of approach will eventually rebut and refute these politically motivated, reprehensible attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI.
COOPER: Senator Blumenthal appreciates your time. Thank you.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, what the Kremlin is saying about the indictment. We were live in Moscow for that.
And later we learn more about the lives taken by the killer in Florida. We want you to hear their names, of course, to learn how their loved ones will remember them.
[21:17:19] COOPER: Today's indictment of 13 Russian nationals in a massive scheme to interfere in the 2016 election and help candidate Trump is certainly being felt here. The question and this one way don't always get a good answers too is what the reaction is in Russia. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in Moscow for us tonight he joins us. I understand some of the 13 Russian nationals named in this indictment have actually responded.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They responded, Anderson. And they responded very quickly. And, you know, there's one name that really sticks out in that indictment, and that is Evgeny Prigozhin.
He's the one who's the head of the vast business empire which this troll factory was a large part of. He came out with a statement very quickly after this indictment with issue. I want to review a part of it. He said, quote, "Americans are very impressionable people. They see what they want to see. I have great respect for them. I'm not at all upset that I'm on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see one."
Now, if that sounds to you like someone who's not really impressed to be on that list, it certainly seems that to way to us as well. And, you know, one of the things Anderson that we have to keep in mind is that a lot of these oligarchs who want to impress Vladimir Putin, who want to show that they're loyal to Putin, they wear an indictment like this almost like a badge of honor. It's really interesting to see, especially with Progozhin that since all this happened with the election, he's actually been able to expand his business empire here in Russia rather than facing any sort of consequences here, Anderson.
COOPER: What has the Russian government actually said?
PLEITGEN: Yes, that was the other interesting thing that we saw as well is that the Russian government came out very quickly in the form of the foreign ministry and its spokeswoman. Her name is Maria Zakharova. These really happened only minutes after the indictments came down. She said, I'm quoting again, she said, "13 people -- of course 13 people listed in that indictment, intervened in the elections in the U.S., she questions. 13 against billion dollar budgets of special services against intelligence and counterintelligence, against the latest developments and technologies absurd, she says, yes. Also goes on to say that she believes and this is part of what she called the political culture currently -- prevalent in the United States.
So the Russians really brushing this off. And one of the things that we've seen over the course as we've been dealing with the Russian meddling and the aftermath in the U.S. election in 2016 is them saying they believe that this is part of anti-Russian propaganda that's going around in the U.S. And of course they're using that term of a witch hunt as well, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen, again thank you very much. Joining us now is Josh Campbell, Anne Milgram, Carl Bernstein, and Phil Mudd. I just want to quickly get everybody's kind of quick takes because I know you've all been reporting over this indictment all. So Josh, let's start with you. What stands out?
JOSH CAMPBELL, FMR FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: What, you know, the revelations are stunning. I think as you indicated earlier, it really starts to show why Mueller picked the people that he did to serve on this team, people with diverse experiences. You know, when I was at FBI headquarters, I had the honor of working for Jim Comey. And after he was fired, I couldn't go work on the special counsel team because I was conflicted.
They don't want to hear it's a bias. But those of us who didn't go work the case would kind of look around and see our friends kind of disappear. You know, this person is leaving and wonder, I wonder why that Person is there.
[21:20:15] You really start to see that picture. OK. That person had cyber expertise. This person has white collar expertise. And so, as you look through the indictment you see the diverse charges, and you the diverse charges that we see. You just really start to paint that picture.
I think the one question that I have is, has Mueller held off on including any Americans who were witting in this operation? He wouldn't necessarily need to include that substantial discharge --
COOPER: You're saying he might have intentionally held off.
CAMPBELL: Correct. And that's the question I have. Is there another indictment coming? Is there more information? He wouldn't need to indicate that here, he's not going to tip this on (ph). But that's the one big question I have.
COOPER: Josh, I mean, I know, you were in the indictment as well. I mean, they do keep talking about, you know, in this -- sorry, not Josh, Carl, you know, they talked about in this indictment, to Josh's point, about raising questions about possible other ones. If you --
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If just that, the granularity of the specificity in the whole indictment and the trade craft involved, but just as significant is watching Rod Rosenstein, who Trump has been firing off missives to his assistant, saying, "We have to find a way, even in the last two weeks, to get rid of Rosenstein. We have to bury the Mueller investigation." Today this investigation is in place, and it is going to be almost impossible, I think we can say, for Trump to make it go away.
So there is that additional significance to these seismic events today. And also it's very much about the dereliction of duty by the President of the United States, who takes an oath to defend and protect the United States from enemies foreign and domestic and has done nothing but demean, diminish and obstruct this investigation rather than try to protect us from further encroachment on our democratic processes by the Russians. It's extraordinary. It's dereliction. That's not the criminal part.
BERNSTEIN: But also other shoes dropping. You now hear for the first time from other lawyers involved in this today, they see other shoes coming.
COOPER: And Anne, in your long career, you formerly were with the Department of Justice. To you, what stands out, and what was left out?
ANNE MILGRAM, FMR NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: So there are a couple of things. I think first at a really high level, you know, the special counsel's mandate is to look at whether or not Trump and his campaign conspired with the Russians to influence the election as well as to look at obstruction and other charges.
But when we start to think about whether or not there could have been a conspiracy, the first question you have to ask is, were the Russians actually influencing the election? And so we've seen the intelligence community say, yes, that they had hacked the DNC e-mails. We've seen public statements to that effect. But this is the first time we've seen pure factual evidence, really methodically put in where people are being charged with a crime of conspiring to defraud the United States.
So that, to me, is -- in order to prove there was anyone who conspired with the Russians, we have to improve the Russians were engaged in this behavior, and this indictment is really just an astounding statement of that behavior.
COOPER: Phil, I mean, as a former FBI and CIA official, I mean, just the trade craft involved in this, that the amount of effort put in, although relatively low cost, I think about $1 million a month which in much given the returns that they actually got on this investment from a Russian standpoint, do you think they saw this as a successful operation?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Successful? This is brilliant. Starting in 2014, a foreign intelligence entity was so successful with hundreds of people and maybe tens of millions of dollars that they not only placed ads on Facebook, they participated in supporting political rallies on the soil of the United States of America. A pissed (ph) dictatorship did that to us.
I think if you look at this from the Russian perspective, just the effectiveness of the action was incredible, but there's another piece. If you look at both the beginning of the indictment, which talks about support for the Trump campaign, and the undervalued end, which talks about after the Trump election, continuing to try to sow discord America by saying, "Hey", the quote I have here is, not my president.
They were supporting not my president operations after the election of the president, which tells me they wanted to cripple the American political apparatus by creating friction between Democrats in America and Republicans.
The success of this operation in sowing discord in this country with just hundreds of people and tens of millions of dollars, incredible. It's just incredible.
COOPER: Yes, and Anne had a couple points. The indictment refers to Russians working with other, "persons known and unknown to the grand jury". I'm wondering what you read into that, that the special counsel is referring to other people, they are not naming it this time?
MILGRAM: Yes. And that's a common thing to have unnamed co- conspirators or to have unnamed parties who are involved in transactions. And so, you know, I think Josh maybe right that there are other shoes that are going to drop related to this. And it's very possible, though, just to be forthright, sometimes they don't drop.
[21:25:12] Sometimes there are just people who are involved, who we name because they're a part of the story and they come, they may or may not testify at trial. But I think that this could go either way. But there are certainly more evidence here that there's an incredible amount here, but there's certainly more we don't have.
COOPER: Carl, what does this do to -- for Robert Mueller in terms of, you know, all the criticism that's been leveled against him by some Republicans on Capitol Hill? Does this buy him time? Does this give him cover? Does this get him protection by some Republicans maybe who weren't offering him protection before?
BERNSTEIN: All of the above and in spades. Take a look at what Paul Ryan, the speaker said today for the first time unequivocally, instead of trying to defend Trump and go the witch hunt way, he said we have to follow all the facts here. This is a seismic shift. I'll use the term again, and we're starting to see it, I think, on Capitol Hill where there is now recognition perhaps by some Republicans that they can no longer blindly follow Donald Trump in characterizing this investigation as a witch hunt, as a ruse, as the conduct of the FBI is what is at issue here, not the conduct of the Trump campaign, or the Trump family, or the Trump organization, all of those things are being investigated by the special prosecutor. And it is going to be very difficult for many Republicans to continue to blindly follow Trump down this dark alley in which he yells, "Oh, the conspiracy is against me."
COOPER: Josh, I mean, do you think there is an investigative strategy in terms of when the special counsel releases an indictment like this?
CAMPBELL: Yes, I think there is. I mean, I highly doubt that this document was released today simply because it was ready to go, it's raised, you know, go out the door. I think if, you know, Bob Mueller, he's someone who's intelligent, he's someone who is circumspect and someone who is very strategic. So, I would imagine that this is part of some larger investigative strategy on timing of the release.
COOPER: Phil, do you agree with that? MUDD: I'm not sure I do. I worked for him for 4 1/2 years. I work with Josh, who is a friend of mine. I'm not sure I agree with that. I mean, Robert Mueller, I completely agree with Josh, he's incredibly shrewd. He's also not a player. I never saw him play the media in terms of saying, "How do I leak something?" I never saw him play the Congress.
I suspect maybe it's not 100% of this, but at least part of this is the investigation on the Russia side was concluded, so let me roll it out. But let me be clear, this is not an indictment that relates to whether the investigation has concluded on whether campaign officials did something inappropriate. And I think the President's comment on that was totally off the mark. This is simply 13 Russians got indicted. The rest of the investigation about the American side is not complete.
COOPER: Phil, you know, as somebody who worked on national security and with the CIA and FBI, I just got to ask you personally what was your reaction to the President's initial tweet because, again, you know, informational warfare is the term the Russians use, the Department of Justice referenced said in this indictment, essentially an act of war against the United States. And the President in his first tweet, it's really just all about himself. He can't seem to separate himself and his fears of that this somehow weakens him or somehow makes his election illegitimate, which there's no evidence of, from an attack on the United States.
As somebody who has worked in national security, I'm wondering what do you make of that. And what -- Is that appropriate?
MUDD: No. The President has a responsibility to sublimate himself to the national need. The national need in this case is very simple. A foreign intelligence adversary participated in the most sacred thing we hold in this democracy. The right of 330 million Americans to vote free and fair in election. The first tweet should have been simple, a foreign adversary tried to affect an election. I will do everything I can to stop this again in 2018 and 2020.
The first tweet we got was, I didn't do anything wrong. "I" is not the answer. "We" is the answer. We got burned, and he should have talked about it first.
COOPER: Carl, I keep thinking about, all those, you know, how many conversations we had about is this thing wrapping up. You know, we heard from the, you know, team Trump that, well, maybe by November, by Thanksgiving, oh, by New Year it's going to be wrapping up. I mean you read this indictment, there is no indication, there was nothing about the Trump Tower meeting. There is, I mean if anything, we learned today about how little we actually know about how much Mueller knows.
BERNSTEIN: That's right. And there have been no leaks out of Mueller either. The leaks -- of what so-called leaks we've seen have been through lawyers in the case. But the timing of this that you've mentioned is so clever on behalf of Mueller and Rosenstein. [21:30:01] Because a few days ago, there were an awful lot of people in Washington and in the White House who really believed that Trump was going to succeed in shutting down this investigation and getting rid of Rosenstein especially. He has talked about it incessantly in the past few weeks according to people in the White House. That is off the table if you talk to people there today.
What Rosenstein did, Rosenstein, who was not familiar to the American people, got up and addressed them today. And the subtext of what he was saying is, the President of the United States is not above the law. I believe that there is an element of that that goes through everything that we've seen today. This investigation is sacrosanct. That is part of what we heard and saw today. And I think some Republicans were beginning to get the message that it has to be sacrosanct, particularly because the stakes involved, the foreign power and what they've done here.
MUDD: Time out, Anderson.
COOPER: Sorry. Go ahead, Phil.
MUDD: Let me make a 15 second comment. If you really want to time something, you don't do it Friday afternoon in that nasty shark tank of Washington, D.C, you do it Monday morning, because then you own the news cycle for the week and not the weekend.
COOPER: I don't know, Friday afternoon seems to be the new Monday. I got to tell you.
MUDD: Not in my world, dude.
COOPER: I know, I know. We got to leave it there. I go tot get a short break in. I appreciate everybody.
Just ahead, a look at some of the things the President Trump has said about the Russian investigation. A spoiler alert. It's going to sound pretty familiar. More news ahead.
COOPER: Hello again. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals, three Russian entities for allegedly meddling the 2016 election. As you know President Trump, his repeal, he said, in effects, "Move along, nothing to see here. It's all a hoax." Here some brief sample.
[21:35:09] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.
This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.
The entire thing has been a witch hunt.
How many times do I have to answer this question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you just say yes or no on it?
TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.
I've been in office for 11 months. For 11 months they've had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government. It's a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election that, frankly, the Democrats should have won because they have such a tremendous advantage in the electoral college. So it was brought up for that reason.
COOPER: I'm joined now by Jack Kingston former Republican congressman from Georgia, also Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager in 2016.
Robby, I mean, someone who obviously run the campaign, I'm wondering what your reaction was to these incredibly serious allegations. And very limited in scope? It's not talking about DNC e-mails. It's not talking about Podesta e-mails.
ROBBY MOOK, FMR CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, in some senses this wasn't surprising. We knew that the Russians had meddled. We knew they were pushing propaganda. What was particularly new to me here was that agents were actually dispatched into the United States for the express purpose of, you know, organizing the scenes.
COOPER: In key states also.
MOOK: Yes. I mean it's honestly, in a way, it's kind of like what you do on a campaign. You send people out into the field. You collect information on what messages might be salient. At every point in this entire investigation, we've just gotten closer and closer to the worst possible outcome, honestly. This brought us another step closer.
The other thing I'd say is there were a lot of questions, well, could any of this really have ever been illegal? Could there really be campaign finance violations. This was legal. You know, there were financial crimes, but this also established for the first time that they were actual violations of campaign law.
And the last thing I would say, that was really chilling here was, we heard kind of rumors that maybe they were trying to suppress certain segments of the electorate. It seems like that was an overt objective.
COOPER: Right. Suppressing African-American vote --
COOPER: -- was talked about. Also support for Jill Stein, other third-party candidates, Bernie Sanders in some cases.
COOPER: And also even after the election, I mean, Jack Kingston, that was one of the things. After the election, having anti-Trump rallies to just continue kind of fomenting dissent in this country. This was, you know, an incredibly detailed indictment, Jack, and, you know, with extremely serious allegations. Can the President at this point continue to call Mueller's investigation just a hoax and a witch hunt?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think when he says that -- and it depends on, you know, who you ask. But when some people hear Russian investigation, they think, ah, Trump collusion. When others hear it, they think Russian interference. So, I think the President is more concerned about the suggestion of collusion that he is about them interfering. And I don't think there's any question about their interference.
COOPER: Let me just stop you right there because first of all, what you just said is pretty damning of the President. He's more concerned about allegations of collusion. And he is about an act of war by Russia against this country. I mean you're essentially saying he's more concerned about himself than he is about the country.
KINGSTON: No, I think in the political sense of the Russian investigation, but obviously he's very concerned about Russian interference, and I think that's one reason.
KINGSTON: Well, one reason he moved NATO troops up to the Baltic's, which no other --
KINGSTON: -- President has done, one reason why he bombed, I think, in Syria was to show Russia, we're not afraid of you. And so, and you know --
COOPER: You're talking about bombing the airfield. Let me ask you, if he's so concerned, though, Christopher Wray says he hasn't directed the FBI specifically to do anything about continued meddling. According to "The Washington Post", I think, or "The New York Times" months ago, he hadn't held a cabinet-level meeting. He hasn't imposed the sanctions that were basically, you know, passed by both Houses of Congress overwhelmingly.
Can you -- and even today, his first tweet said nothing about, you know, that this country has been attacked, and we've got to do something about it. It was about me, me, me.
KINGSTON: Well, but let me say this. I certainly hope he doesn't take Barack Obama's lead, who under his watch, this started --
COOPER: Oh, OK, again, you're changing the subject.
KINGSTON: No, I'm going to answer it, Anderson. But Barack Obama was told about this by the CIA in August 2016 and did not take any action on it. So, I certainly hope President Trump does not follow that lead, but the other thing he's made clear about is --
COOPER: OK. But what you just said makes no sense because he's now been President for a year, and he actually -- if you can be critical (ph), you would say he has followed that lead because he hasn't done anything. What has he actually done?
KINGSTON: Well, the other thing he has said is that he doesn't want to orchestrate to the enemy what his plans are. So, I do absolutely believe that behind the scenes he is taking action on this. And I don't --
COOPER: So, wait, let me just ask you, so when he said that he believed Vladimir Putin, when Putin said to his face, "Oh, no, I didn't meddle." Do you think that's part of like a secret -- double secret covert operation mind meld?
[21:40:11] KINGSTON: I think it could be part of a diplomatic two step where you kind of agree with somebody publicly but behind the back, you say go after them and break this.
COOPER: OK. Jack, but if that's true, how come that he then backtracked after there was outrage about what he said, and he said, oh, well, I believe that Putin believes that, but of course I side with the Intelligence Community. So if it was a rope a dope or a two- step, he then nullified it a few, you know, hours later.
KINGSTON: Well, I think there's this old expression, confusion to the enemy, but let me say this. The good thing about today's indictments, is it gives Robby and me, both Hillary and Obama -- Trump supporters, something to say, you know what? This is serious. We've got to unite. We need to quit the circular firing squad. We need to be on the same side as against the Russians.
I mean, think about the 80 employees and a $1 million a month budget, I mean, this is such a serious thing that I would think everybody in the United States Congress would come back to Washington on Monday and say let's do something about this and let's do it now and quit pointing fingers.
MOOK: Right, but now --
COOPER: Haven't they done that?
MOOK: No, with the sanctions, not on our commander-in-chief -- when the man who is in charge of our national defense will not simply say that this happened, that it's real and that it is warfare, I mean you used the right word there. This is part of the Russian view of warfare. It's on that spectrum. We were attacked. They can -- this is the big thing today. They came into our country. They organized an effort to -- and this is the other thing that doesn't get recognized here. They attacked Hillary Clinton because she went after Putin repeatedly. This is revenge by Putin. I believe this was personal by him to get back at her.
COOPER: But also one thing we also didn't mention, the reporting is that national security officials are known not to bring up Russia to the President because he will view it as some sort of personal slight. So if the national intelligence apparatus doesn't want to bring up Russia to the President, how does anything --
MOOK: And I hate to say this because I don't want to, you know, light my hair on fire. It's dereliction of duty. Duty number one, President of the United States, defend the nation.
KINGSTON: But, Robby --
MOOK: We cannot even get our own President to declare --
KINGSTON: But I mean, you know, I'm kind of hearing a little partisanship here, and I say that's sincerely because do you really think the President is not doing anything about Russia and that he's going to give them a pass on this?
MOOK: Jack, he is not.
KINGSTON: No, he is not going to orchestrate.
COOPER: Jack, if he's not getting briefings on it, if he doesn't have cabinet level meetings --
COOPER: -- if he hasn't told the FBI specifically things to do, if he doesn't even use his bully pulpit which he seems to use quite willingly for just about criticizing, just about every thing, this is the only rope a dope he's playing, it seems, because he's throwing all his cards on the table on just about everything else.
KINGSTON: Well --
COOPER: We've got to take a break.
KINGSTON: Stay tuned because you're going to see some action.
COOPER: All right. Jack Kingston, Robby Mook. Appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Coming up, we remember more of the young men and women who lost their lives on Wednesday's high school mass murder in Florida.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:45:59] COOPER: The President and First Lady began their Florida weekend with a surprise visit to a hospital treating survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Also today we learned more about the lives of some of the 17 who did not survive. We began telling you their stories last night with the information that we had.
It's one of the saddest duties that we have, yet it's also the least we can do. In just as well as after the mass murder in Aurora, we're reminded of a vigil that was held there and the crowds rallying cry as each name was read. We will remember, the crowd said.
Tonight we remember Peter Wang, who was in ROTC. His parents owned a local restaurant. A friend who took cooking lessons with Peter wore a shirt today from the class they shared.
She says it's hard to not have him in the hallways anymore because she and he used to laugh with each other. He used to make me smile, she says, and now he's gone. Peter Wang was 15 years old. His friend will remember, and we will remember.
Alex Schachter was in the marching band in the orchestra. His band director says he had quite a future as a trombonist. A scholarship is being created in his name to help other students experience what he loves so much enjoy music. Just 14 years old. Alex Schachter, we will remember.
Meadow Pollack was college bound but staying close to home at nearby Lynn University. A friend tonight says please say a prayer for the family that an amazing girl I got to call my best friend growing up. Her life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels. Rest in peace my beautiful angel. She was 18 years old. We will remember Meadow Pollack.
Carmen Schentrup was a national merit scholar semifinalist. One of only (INAUDIBLE) this year at school, future that seemed was all hers to write. She was 16. Carmen Schentrup, we will remember.
And Gina Montalto, like Alex Schachter, was in the marching band. She was also a member of the winter color guard, an instructor calling her the sweetest soul ever and saying my heart is broken into pieces. She was just 14 years old. Gina Montalto, we will remember.
Today there was news that's likely making the suffering harder for the families and the entire community. A startling admission from the FBI just six weeks ago a caller to their tip line warned them about the shooter and his gun ownership, his desired to killed people, erratic behavior, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting. The FBI apparently did nothing about it.
Joining us now is Mark Kelly. You of course remember he's the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who was critically wounded in the shooting in 2011. And after the Sandy Hook School shooting they started an organization to fight the gun violence epidemic. Captain Kelly joins me now from Arizona. Captain, I'm wondering when you saw in over the last two days so many of the young kids from that school coming out and being very vocal about what they want to see change in terms of gun laws in this country, something I don't think we've seen after a school shooting, so quickly after a school shooting among the young people who suffered from the shooting. I'm wondering what you thought of what you heard and what you've seen over the last several days.
CAPT. MARK KELLY, CO-FOUNDER, GIFFORDS: Well, Anderson, I can't recall having seen this before with, you know, young people of that age. It's kind of a unique circumstance. I mean it was, you know, one of the most horrific mass shootings we've had in our country's history, and you have, you know, older teenagers having had to experience that.
They were incredibly articulate. I remember seeing one young woman. I think her name was Isabel or Isabella Gomez --
KELLY: -- speak after the President gave his remarks. And she -- you know, she was -- she had it spot-on. She had it figured out.
You know, she noticed there weren't a lot of solutions there. She had some ideas of her own. And I think what we're going to see here over the -- And I hope, you know, over the weeks and months, that these kids, young adults stay engaged, push their communities in the right direction, hold their elected leaders accountable. They're going to be voters here, a lot of them. Some of them might be voters already. And that they vote on this issue and demand for change.
[21:49:58] COOPER: Do you worry that some may seize on the mistake by the FBI, which is clearly horrific and obviously going to be investigated and blame the shooting solely on that rather than looking at any kind of legislation that could also have prevented it?
KELLY: Well, there are certainly, you know, people that are elected to Congress in Washington D.C. that I'm sure you're, you know, you've got this figured out, but that's probably going to happen. I was happy to see that the FBI has such a professional organization to own this. You know, the fact that they missed it, they realized they missed it, they owned up to it. I'm sure there'll be an investigation. There will probably be people held accountable as they should be. But they didn't run away from it.
We've seen a lot in government, especially recently individuals groups of people that have just not, you know, owned mistakes and problem. So I'm glad that the FBI stood up and said that this was something that they missed and I'm sure they're going to fix it. Hopefully it doesn't happen again.
You know, they're dealing with an incredible difficult situation in our country with so many firearms and the ability for people that shouldn't have them to get their hands on them. It makes their job incredibly difficult. But, you know, somebody should be held accountable.
COOPER: Clearly there were mental health issues with this person who committed this mass murder, and a lot of people obviously have focused on that. Is that fair to focus on? Do you worry that that's focused on at exclusion of focusing on guns as well? There should -- does it have to be either or?
KELLY: We have an incredibly high rate of gun violence in this country over 100,000 people are shot every year, you know, 38,000 die from gunshot wounds. It's not for one single reason. There's not one button we can push and -- or lever we can pull to fix this problem. You know, dangerous people getting hold of firearms is an issue. We see that occasionally with these mass shootings. We need to address that.
At the same time, the ability for felons suspected terrorist, domestic abusers to get their hands on incredibly powerful weapons without a background check is just crazy. And the sad thing is about this entire situation is we know what works. We know that in the states that have stronger gun laws there is significantly less gun violence. But the problem is, we elect people to Congress who are supported with a lot of money from the corporate gun lobby, and it paralyzes them.
They will -- I mean, we saw it just in the last couple of days. United States senators speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate and on the floor of the House of Representatives that barely will acknowledge that we have a gun violence issue in this country.
COOPER: Is there really a chance for change, though? I mean, look, after New Town, there was so much talk of change. People saying enough is enough. After Las Vegas there was talk of, you know, bump stocks, which a lot of people hadn't even known about prior to the Las Vegas shooting. There seemed to be bipartisan support for that. Nothing came of it.
KELLY: But we're holding elected leaders accountable across the country. We're getting people to vote on this issue. We passed 200 pieces of legislation in 45 different states. Washington D.C. admittedly is incredibly difficult. But we are gradually changing the politics on this issue. If you look at the vote on the concealed carry reciprocity bill about a month ago in the House of Representatives, it passed. But there were a lot less Republicans that voted for it.
Well, and actually, a lot more Republicans that voted against it then in 2012 the same thing on the Democratic side. A lot of Democrats who voted before in 2012 did not vote for it in 2017. So we are shifting the politics. But, you know, the gun lobby has been at this a long time and have built an incredible amount of influence. But we really need people, you know, to support candidates that will try to fix the problem. It's a tough problem, but as a nation, you know, we're pretty good at solving hard problems.
Anderson, you know, we sent people to moon in the 1960s. I mean, we're pretty good at this. So, you know, I've been at this now since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Gabby and I. And, you know, it's devastating to see these mass shootings. But we just have to hold people we elect to office accountable to do something, and I think these kids are going to make a difference.
COOPER: Captain Mark Kelly, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. Wish you the best. We're back in a moment.
[21:57:25] COOPER: Another day, another report of a pay off to a woman in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Donald Trump. First it was porn actress Stormy Daniels and now it's a former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
In the "New Yorker", Ronan Farrow report that the affair began in 2006 when Trump had been married for less than two years and Melania Trump had just given birth to their son Barron. The report also detailed the alleged effort to keep McDougal quiet, the White House says, "The President says, he never had a relationship with McDougal." Certainly (ph) put a chill on the beginning of the first couple's trip to Florida.
More now under days, CNN's Kate Bennett joins me. So the First Lady interestingly decided to go to Andrews Air Force Base separately from the President, earlier today driving there, I believe it was the President took the helicopter. Do we know why that was and when the decision was made?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Her office is telling CNN the decision was made because her schedule does made it easier to meet the President at the plane. However, there was nothing public on her schedule today. We've learned about this change in the guidance for the two of them leaving the White House very quickly before it actually happened, not a lot of notice. So clearly this was a decision made at the last minute for the First Lady to ride separately in a motorcade and for the President to hop aboard Marine One doing that self lone walk from his office to the helicopter by himself.
COOPER: And was we've seen there, they did appear together coming off the plane and at a hospital. It's impossible to know what goes on in someone's relationship. We've seen some nonverbal cues with the First Lady and the President. Do you make anything on what you saw today?
BENNETT: I think we have to look at Melania Trump and see these nonverbal cues. She is very mysterious, very private. We certainly haven't heard a lot from her in the beginning of the year -- year of 2018 when some of these headlines have really must be a difficult situation for her, from the Stormy Daniels scandal.
You know, she did cancel that trip to Davos, again citing scheduling. She did slip off to Florida sort of unannounced on her own a couple of weeks ago. She did go with the President to Cincinnati the other week, but she did attend his speech. She did her own event at a children's hospital. She spent Valentines Day this week at another children's hospital on her own.
So, clearly we're looking at a First Lady who is independent, who is not speaking on this topic but who is asserting her independence and breaking with tradition.
COOPER: Kate Bennett, appreciate it.
Thank you very much for watching 360, more reporting now. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon, "CNN Tonight" starts right now.