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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New Connections Between Stormy Daniels And Trump Organization Revealed; After Campaigning Against Him, President Trump Embraces Democrat "Lamb the Sham;" Former Intel Chief on Intel Doubters; At Nationwide Walkouts, Students Demand Gun Control; E-mails Show Carson and His Wife Chose $31K Dining Set for Office. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 14, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
A great deal to cover tonight -- that congressional race in Pennsylvania and the nationwide wave of kids learning school to protest gun violence today.
We begin, though, with breaking news on the Stormy Daniels front. For the past couple weeks we've been focusing not so much on the alleged affair but more on who knew what, when, and the payout of the hush money, following the money as it were.
And tonight, new documents obtained exclusively by this broadcast suggest a deeper link between the Trump Organization and efforts to ensure that Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, Stephanie Clifford is her real name, keeps quiet about it -- her alleged affair with Donald Trump. And for the first time, evidence that another one of Trump's attorneys besides his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is involved in the ongoing legal battle.
Now, this is one of the documents. Take a look. It's a demand for arbitration filed in California by an attorney who works for a Donald Trump company. She lists her address as 1 Trump National Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, it's signed by an attorney named Jill A. Martin.
Now, that address also happens to be the address of the Trump National Golf Course not far from Los Angeles.
There's not much room for doubt that Ms. Martin has been an employee for Donald Trump. This is her LinkedIn page which identifies her as a vice president and assistant general counsel for the Trump Organization.
And here's her California state bar page also listing her address as the Trump National Golf Club.
Now, as far as the arbitration goes, in a declaration labeled highly confidential, it names Peggy Peterson, a pseudonym for Stormy Daniels as the respondent. It lists EC, LLC as the party seeing relief. Those initials stand for Essential Consultants, the company created by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to funnel cash payment of $130,000 to Ms. Daniels in return for a promise to keep quiet about the reported affair, which Ms. Daniels claims began in 2006 and lasted through 2007.
Now, as more and more comes out about the story, Mr. Cohen has continued to deny the affair ever happened, but has acknowledged the payment saying just last month, quote: In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was party to the transaction, and neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly.
The Trump Organization may not have been a party to that transaction, but it's pretty clear one of its attorneys is involved in this case, and it's certainly not the first time she's defended Donald Trump. In fact, here she is in October 2016 just after that "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced appearing on CNN's "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL MARTIN, VP AND ASSISTANT GENERAL COUNSEL, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: None of us would ever imagine he would do something like this. It's just completely inconsistent with his character and our own personal experiences. So, because of that, I believe him when he says he didn't do anything inappropriate with women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, back to the arbitration case, Ms. Martin did win a temporary restraining order because the nondisclosure agreement Stormy Daniels signed said an action could be brought against her, quote, without any advance notice. That's an assertion Ms. Daniels current attorney, Michael Avenatti, strongly disputes. We're going to talk to him in a moment.
We just received a statement from Ms. Martin. Here's a statement she gave us on the behalf of he Trump Organization. Quote: As previously reported, Lawrence Rosen, a New York attorney, is representing EC, LLC, in the arbitration, the Trump Organization is not representing anyone and with the exception of one of its California-based attorneys in her individual capacity facilitating the initial filing pending the pro hac admission of Mr. Rosen, the company has had no involvement in the matter.
Now we also should note that we've reached out to Michael Cohen, have not yet heard back from him.
Michael Avenatti joins us now.
So, explain this, because Michael Cohen all along has said the Trump Organization was not a party to this, have nothing to do with this. He's -- you've in the past shown that show that Michael Cohen has responded or has gotten emails from his bank to his Trump Organization email address, and then forwarded that to his private e-mail address to then communicate with Stormy Daniels' former attorney.
Now, this is a new Trump employee, Jill Martin, new to this saga, who was involved in this arbitration. What's the significance for you? MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Oh, what a tangle web we
weave when we practice to deceive, Anderson. This saga continues. For months, we have heard from Mr. Cohen and from others associated with the Trump Organization that there was no linkage between EC, LLC and the Trump Organization.
Mr. Cohen has maintained that he formed that LLC on his own, unbeknownst to Mr. Trump, unbeknownst to the Trump Organization, that he drafted the documents --
COOPER: That he did it just out of loyalty to his friend Donald Trump.
AVENATTI: Correct. He expects the American people to believe that he spent all this time and energy, hours upon hours, doing all of this work and the president never knew anything about it and no one in the Trump Organization ever knew anything about it.
[20:05:02] We've already produced and you've shown the documents on the show that the Trump Organization e-mails. We now have these documents.
The statement that was provided by Ms. Martin is demonstratively false. If you look at the first document that you showed your viewers, in the upper left hand corner, it designates Ms. Martin as a representative, a legal representative of EC, LLC. It's right there in the upper left hand corner.
COOPER: And she is a full time employee of the Trump Organization.
AVENATTI: She is a full time employee as evidence by the state bar page, as evidence by the LinkedIn page. She has no other job. She's a vice president and a general counsel of the Trump Organization.
And so, there can be no question that the Trump Organization was representing EC, LLC in connection with this arbitration and we need to remember the focus of the arbitration. The focus of this filing in February was to gag my client, put a muzzle on her and prevent her from speaking, and that's why they filed the arbitration, to obtain what's called a temporary restraining order.
So, this idea that there is a separation between EC, LLC and Donald Trump and the Trump Organization is a complete and utter fiction.
COOPER: So, I mean, I do not understand why Michael Cohen, if he was acting in his own capacity as a private individual and not as a member of the Trump Organization, (INAUDIBLE) why he would reach out to the general counsel of the Trump Organization to get involved in this arbitration. I mean, there's plenty of lawyers in L.A. he could have reached out to.
AVENATTI: Well, now, it's probably because there's only two lawyers in Los Angeles, myself and Ms. Martin. It's a big city but we only have two lawyers. Of course, I'm being facetious. I mean, we have more lawyers than you can imagine. In fact, some might describe it as a nightmare we have so many lawyers in the city. But it is bizarre to us that in fact they would reach out to Ms.
Martin if, in fact, the Trump Organization had nothing to do with it. It makes no sense.
The American people, Anderson, we are crossing the Rubicon now to a place where the American people are seeing documents. They are being presented with facts. They are being presented with evidence.
People are smart. They're not stupid. They can judge for themselves when people are being honest with them and when people are trying to pull one over on them.
COOPER: I want to bring in our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, I mean, does Michael's explanation makes sense to you. I mean, why would Michael Cohen, again, if this is a private matter, that he wants nothing, no involvement from the Trump Organization, and it's his, you know, money from the home equity line credit as he claims, would he go to general counsel, Jill Martin?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, part of this, undoubtedly, is that Michael Cohen, like his patron Donald Trump, is incredibly cheap and he didn't want to retain a lawyer.
COOPER: You really think that?
TOOBIN: I think that's part of it.
But the other part of it is this is a Trump enterprise to keep Stormy Daniels quiet.
COOPER: No doubt in your mind?
TOOBIN: I mean, it has to be. I mean, you know, the other thing that's worth noting here, I don't if we focus on it, there's a lot of, you know, facts and figures coming up. The signature that Jill Martin of this document is February 22nd, 2018. It's a month ago, not even.
I mean, this is a Trump enterprise ongoing from trying to keep Stormy Daniels from telling her story. February of 2018 she signed in this document. Michael Cohen is involved in this day to day. His lawyers are involved day to day.
This is a Trump project to keep Stormy Daniels quiet. I don't know -- I mean, obviously, I never spoke to Stormy Daniels. You all have. I don't know the underlying truth here of what went on between Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels if anything.
But what's quite clear is that not just Michael Cohen, but the Trump Organization is trying to keep her quiet.
AVENATTI: And let me add this, Anderson. I think Jeff brings up a very good point relating to the date of this document, February 22nd, 2018. The statement you placed before your viewers earlier from Mr. Cohen predated the statement, not postdated it.
COOPER: So, he had already gone on record saying --
COOPER: -- that this was not a Trump organization operation?
AVENATTI: Exactly. Weeks prior when he went on record, it was weeks prior to February 22nd, 2018. And weeks later, Jill Martin, a vice president and general counsel of the organization, signs this document.
COOPER: Let me put up this Michael Cohen statement again just for our viewers, OK? So, this is Michael Cohen before --
TOOBIN: It has a date on it.
COOPER: Yes, February, what is that, 14? Thirteen.
In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford.
[20:10:00] Neither the Trump Organization, and it continues, nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford and neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly.
So, the whole notion that the Trump Organization was not a party to -- whether it's to that or to this ongoing operation, certainly to the ongoing operation, you can't say that the Trump Organization is not a party.
TOOBIN: Not involved.
Now, what I assume Jill Martin would say is, I wasn't really involved in the litigation. She uses the phrase "pro hoc" which refers to -- the act of allowing an out of town lawyer to appear in your state. She will say, and that's implied in her statement, is that, well, I wasn't really involved in the litigation. I was just helping Mr. Rosen, the real lawyer, appear here because he is not a California lawyer.
But that goes to the question of, out of all the lawyers in California to help you get your point across, why you pick someone in the Trump Organization unless this is a Trump organization initiative?
COOPER: I suppose Mr. Cohen could also say -- and again we reached out to him and not heard back -- that because he wanted this to remain confidential, that's why he reached out to somebody in the Trump Organization. Would that make sense?
AVENATTI: Well, no, it wouldn't because there's something called the attorney-client privilege which mandates that attorneys that are licensed that are serving clients maintain the confidences of those clients. So, the idea that somehow this was the only attorney in the entire state of California that would maintain this confidence I think is nonsense.
TOOBIN: So, then -- and it would be the last person you would involve, is someone from the Trump Organization, if you were trying to wall this off from the Trump Organization. You would never go to a Trump Organization person. You would go to anyone but.
COOPER: But Michael Cohen, as far as I know, is a trained attorney. I mean, why would a trained attorney make this statement in early February, or mid-February, in 13th or 14th, saying the Trump Organization has nothing to do with it. And then after making that statement, it was not like it was a small statement. That was a big deal statement, got a lot of coverage. Why would any licensed attorney then reach out to somebody in the Trump Organization, even it was for a minimal role?
TOOBIN: I mean, again, to play lawyer here, I think he might say that that statement was only applied to who was paying. The Trump Organization didn't pay. This statement -- this is not an acknowledgement that the Trump Organization actually paid any money. I mean, I'm trying to torture the words.
COOPER: But they are -- but it is an example, according to both of you, that the Trump Organization is involved in this ongoing effort.
TOOBIN: It certainly is.
AVENATTI: Anderson, for all intents and purposes, every piece of actual evidence, separate and apart from what Mr. Cohen may try to tell the American people, every piece of actual evidence demonstrates that EC, LLC equals the Trump Organization/Donald Trump. That's what the evidence shows. That's what the emails show, that's what this document shows, that's what other documents show. It's that simple. There's no distinction.
TOOBIN: And the reason why anybody should care about, you know, these -- who these people are, is the question is, who paid this hush money and why? Why did Stormy Daniels get $130,000 on the eve of the election?
Michael Cohen has been saying this was just me. I -- the Trump, candidate Trump, the Trump Organization had nothing to do with it. These documents -- they don't prove but they certainly suggest that the Trump Organization has been intimately involved in the effort to keep Stormy Daniels quiet from the beginning.
COOPER: But you still don't know where the money came from, where the $130,000 came from? Michael Cohen says it's from his home equity line of credit.
AVENATTI: Not yet. But thus far when we have attempted to test the veracity of the statements of Michael Cohen, he's failed each time, and I'm highly confident that he is going to fail that one, too.
COOPER: Michael Avenatti, appreciate it. Jeff Toobin, as well. More to come on that, no doubt.
Next, the latest on the too close to call congressional race election in western Pennsylvania and White House efforts to paint a Democratic victory as actually a victory for President Trump. We'll show you how they do that.
And later, waves of kids walk out of their sculls in a nationwide effort to bring attention to gun violence and school safety. We'll show you where it happened and how big it was.
[20:17:04] COOPER: The president returns to a different White House tonight with a new economic adviser on the way in and a number of other officials potentially on the way out.
Washington also is facing a different reality tonight. A lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill very concerning about what they have seen in the race in Pennsylvania, a race which is still at this point too close to call, though it does seem as if the Democrat is in the lead.
I want to bring in Paul Begala and Steve Cortes, actually, I'm sorry, first, let's go to Jeff Zeleny who's standing by at the White House.
Jeff, explain the White House's reaction to this tonight.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there's no question, the White House quickly moved to distance itself from what appears to be a loss there. I mean the president, of course, was in Pennsylvania over the weekend talking about the fact that he won the district by some 20 points. Even as he was doing that, we were told he had a sense that it was not going in the right direction.
Now, they were afraid in the -- you know, about 24 hours ago of getting blown out there. So, they believe, you know, that his visit may have tightened it. But the reality here is the White House not surprisingly blaming it on Saccone, saying he was not a good candidate for this moment here, not taking any responsibility, though, for the fact that the president -- he may have helped drive some turnout at the end, but his policies over the last year certainly excited Democrats far more.
COOPER: Jeff, even as the president was campaigning in Pennsylvania last weekend for Saccone, the White House had already started to try to distance itself from the candidate.
ZELENY: I mean, they did. I mean, this is something we've seen. The White House has gotten a bit of practice at this Anderson, quite frankly, through special elections in Alabama, of course, you know, most prominently with that Senate race there. The president went all- in for Roy Moore. Of course, he lost.
So, the White House was doing a bit of that playbook here, distancing itself, blaming the candidate, again not talking about their own policies. But, Anderson, it's one of the reasons the president was raising money again tonight in St. Louis. I'm told some $2 million.
And the question here is, is he better off -- is a better use of his time to be at closed door fund-raisers, not big rallies because when he does these big rallies, he also energizes the other side, the Democratic base here. So, that is something we're going to be watching with much interest to see if this president is not in as high of demand as he hopes he might be -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jeff Zeleny -- Jeff, thanks very much.
Joining us, two political veterans, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes.
Paul, you wrote in a column for CNN.com, I want to get the title right. You said Republicans are going to need a bigger yacht, using the old line from "Jaws," because of the results. Why -- I mean, why should this send them into a panic? That's what you seem to be --
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because although President Trump is still reasonably popular in this district which he won by 20 points, he's still above water there, that is to say more popular than not. He couldn't save Rick Saccone. A lot of Democrats are saying he sunk him. I don't believe that, but he couldn't save him.
[20:20:02] It means if you're a congressional Republican, even in a district like this, which is 94 percent white, it's the seventh whitest congressional district in America. Three out of five of those white people in that district have only a high school education. Trump dominated there, and he couldn't save Rick Saccone. This happens a lot.
Barack Obama, very gifted politician, couldn't save Democrats in those midterms. The Republicans now face a terrible conundrum. They can try to run away from Trump, in which case they'll probably lose. Or they can embrace Trump like Rick Saccone, in which case they'll lose narrowly.
COOPER: But a lot of Republicans last night were saying, I mean, Jason Miller was making this point last nigh that after Trump spoke, actually, Saccone's numbers went up by five points.
BEGALA: So, maybe. He still lost. So, he lost a more narrow race. The notion that Trump could save these folks -- I mean, he ran --
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree. I don't think Trump could save him but I don't know he would have been in the race without Trump. So, I would echo what Jason Miller said.
BEGALA: (INAUDIBLE) I'd be in the race without Trump.
CORTES: No, I'm saying Saccone wouldn't be.
Look, I think what we learned from last night, you know, Tip O'Neill taught us all politics is local. And I think that's true. And what we saw last night is that Rick Saccone is not even close to the politician Donald Trump is.
But what we also saw on the Democratic side is Conor Lamb is a far better politician than Hillary Clinton was. Likable, moderate, worked hard, campaigned hard, did all the things that Hillary Clinton didn't do. Now, having said that, I'll be the first to say, am I worried about
the fall? Of course I am. You know why? History.
Let's put this in context, too. There's a lot of talk about losing seats. History says that's extremely likely. My colleague Paul knows very well what happened during the Clinton White House in the midterms.
The last three really popular two-term presidents, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan, all three of them had disastrous first midterms.
COOPER: But we heard from the White House saying the reason Lamb won is because he essentially is Donald Trump-light. That he embraced the president.
BEGALA: That's so dumb. What Steve is saying is really smart, which is --
COOPER: But he did run -- he said he didn't support Nancy Pelosi. He wanted to appear with an AR-15 in one of his campaign commercials. I mean, there are -- he wasn't out there talking about climate change and a lot of issues which Democrats make traditionally.
BEGALA: There are important lessons here for Democrats.
COOPER: Though he does support Affordable Care program.
BEGALA: Right, he ran a middle class economics. So he's pro-union, pro-Medicare, pro-social security. He also was pro-Roe v. Wade. He was pro-background checks, but not nearly as liberal --
COOPER: He said he was personally pro-life but would not vote that way.
BEGALA: Right, and there is a bill up in Congress that would have restricted a woman's right to choose. He gave an interview to "Weekly Standard". He said, no, I would vote against that. 2 So, he ran on a very Democratic -- the most important thing is he attacked the Trump tax cuts. Republicans came in and spent millions trying to make that an issue, and then they stopped advertising it. Why? Because they were losing on their signature accomplishment.
This is why smart Republicans are looking at this and they're saying, this is not heartburn, OK? This is a heart attack.
COOPER: Steve, are you arguing that along with the White House, that he's Trump-light, that he's --
CORTES: I wouldn't say Trump-light, but I think he's a sensible Democrat. But I'll also say this, there's not many sensible Democrats. You mentioned Nancy Pelosi. There's not a lot of Conor Lambs out there. There's a lot more within the Democratic bench, a lot more Nancy Pelosis and Elizabeth Warrens.
COOPER: Right. Had there been a Democratic primary, Lamb may not even been involved in the Democratic primary.
CORTES: You know, he made an interesting -- in his speech at 1:00 last night, which I was on CNN to listen to. He mentioned something about his grandparents' Democratic Party. It really made me think about my maternal grandmother. My maternal grandmother, Irish Catholic Democrat who loved FDR and JFK. The Democratic Party left that kind of voter clearly from the 1960s onward.
Conor Lamb is an attempt to try to get that kind of voter back.
CORTES: Tons of those voters in 18th district of Pennsylvania.
CORTES: But on a national level, to try to fix this to Trump, this is the point I want to make. I'm worried about the fall quite frankly. I am. And I think history tells you you should be.
COOPER: Because of Trump?
CORTES: No, more because of history, because of what happens generally in the first midterm.
But I'm not at all worried about 2020 with Donald Trump. The reason I say that is Trump -- if Trump were running in the 18th district, he would have won by 20 points again, I guarantee because of the kind of politician he is, and because of the way he excites that very base, that Lamb was able to win back.
COOPER: Well, Paul, what about Jeff Zeleny's argument that some people are concerned Donald Trump appearing, yes, he can energize the base but he also can energize the opposition to them.
BEGALA: That's the problem. Not just the opposition. The people who voted for Trump and now are disappointed in him. We do these endless stories and I read the book about Trump voters who would say with him even if Trump said, I'd shot a man on Fifth Avenue, they're still with me.
Those are interesting people, but not that interesting analytically. What's much more interesting is those Trump voters who have switched. Now they're Conor Lamb voters. And now, they're Ralph Northam voters in Virginia.
COOPER: -- Democratic Party? Because, I mean, to Steve's point, there's not necessarily a lot of Conor Lambs, or are there?
BEGALA: We just had a very talented moderate Democrat Doug Jones won in Alabama. Moderate Democrat Ralph Northam won in Virginia.
Here's the difference. The Democratic Party is a big tent. Conor Lamb proved, even though he wasn't for Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Party came in, the Democratic Congressional Committee spent a million dollars to support him. What Republican will break with Trump and still get support from the national Republicans? None because, the Republican Party has become a cult of personality. Democratic Party is learning that we've got to be about ideas and being for something, not just --
[20:25:01] CORTES: Well, tell that to Ben Sasse and Lindsey Graham and John McCain and all the --
BEGALA: Who the president cut off.
CORTES: -- constantly.
But, look, Conor Lamb -- here's why I'm not worried about 2020, is that Conor Lamb or a candidate like him can never win on a national basis in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party nationally is far too left, and their primary tilts far too left for somebody like him to win, instead --
BEGALA: I laugh because Steve is an acknowledged expert on my party.
COOPER: Well, I mean --
BEGALA: I study it quite a bit.
BEGALA: Bill Clinton, he won the Democratic nomination. Sometimes --
COOPER: Yes, but it was a while ago. Has not been Democratic Party moved to the left?
BEGALA: It waxes and wanes, absolutely, absolutely.
But the thing that's most impressive about Conor Lamb's victory, like these others I mentioned, in Virginia and Alabama, is people who voted for Trump who are already quitting on him. Those are the most interesting voters out there.
COOPER: And you see significant movement with that?
BEGALA: Especially with Lamb, mostly it's been college-educated white people in Virginia and Alabama. Here, the college-educated white people, who always have been Republican, always, are now -- they've been switching and they switched for Hillary. Now, for the first time, we're seeing some, not a ton -- it's a crack as Ron Brownstein wrote in "The Atlantic". It's a crack, not a collapse in their wall. But you're seeing some high school educated white people in this Pennsylvania 18th saying, you know what, I've had a belly full of Trump's tax cuts and his policies. COOPER: Is that based on policies or is that based on personal, on
chaos in the White House, things like that?
BEGALA: Chaos doesn't help. It doesn't. But I'm telling you, Democrats who run on Medicare and Social Security are going to win.
COOPER: Paul Begala, Steve Cortes, appreciate it. Thanks. Good discussion.
Coming up next, the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, on the House Intelligence Committee member who says he knows the raw intelligence on Russian election interference better than, well, James Clapper.
Be right back.
[20:30:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The House Intelligence Committee plans to vote next week in final version of its report on the Russia investigation. While at the same time, Republicans on the committee already hedging about their own conclusion.
So let's just explain the timeline and get it set here. Two nights ago, you may remember Monday night Republicans on the committee said they were shutting down their Russia probe after concluding that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And that message works at on Fox News where the story was just no collusion. Just like the President is off repeating to a mantra.
Now, remember this committee is chaired by Devin Nunes who was exposed working with the White House to cover for the President's false allegation that he was wiretap by President Obama.
Now on Monday night, House Republican said, now only was there no collusion but they reportedly didn't even believe that Russia's meddling had the purpose of helping Donald Trump as a candidate. Never mind that something intelligence community agrees on.
Then yesterday some key members of the committee already started backing away from that. We're talking about Trey Gowdy, who admitted it was clear, Russia was at least trying to undermine Hillary Clinton, Republican Mike Conaway, who was also on the committee said whether one concludes the Russian effort was design to help Mr. Trump get elected is a "glass half full, glass half empty" kind of thing. Whatever that means.
Now on Monday, I asked committee member Chris Stewart, Republican, why he doubted the intelligence community's assessment about Russia's motives, he basically said, he knew better than former Direction National Intelligence James Clapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS STEWART (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have done something now that he has not done and that is I have spent a couple days out to the CIA actually reading the raw intelligence, actually reading what we were basing this on. And when we release that report, we're going to be able to show, you know what, the CIA just got it wrong. Just like they did, by the way, in the Gulf War, where they said there was weapon of mass destruction that we didn't find.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So with me now is Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. So Director Clapper, I mean, is there any truth to what Congressman Stewart just claimed. Is he in a position to read raw data and interpret it more accurately than the officers or analysts at the CIA or the FBI or DNI?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, he is certainly entitled to access to anything he sees the need for. And I think this was done in immediate aftermath of the report that we did the highly classified version in January of 2017.
And I don't agree with his findings here. And I just take a moment to explain here how this was done. We put together a team of almost of 30 people compose of experts from the three agencies, NSA, FBI and CIA who are steeped in Russia and understand what goes on in Russia and understands Putin. And that was augmented by two or three people or so from my staff. And this put together this report. This was not done by Jim Clapper, Jim Comey, John Brennan and Mike Rogers.
So we had -- and these are professional civil servants career officers in the intelligence committee. And I don't know quite how Congressman Stewart whom I respect former air force veteran like myself but I don't know how he knows what I read or what I was exposed to 14 or 15 months ago and to say that I didn't read anything.
I reviewed this reporting in depth with John Brennan, the Director of the CIA at the time. And so it was a compilation of not just one reporting stream, which he seems to have focus on but a compilation of information drawn from all sources.
But let's just, for the sake --
COOPER: Sorry, when he says he went to the CIA and read the raw there you're saying -- the raw intelligence there, you're saying he got -- his access was only to CIA information that would have been at Langley not necessarily NSA information of FBI information?
CLAPPER: Well, that is what he said. I don't know he may have gone to NSA or FBI, or gained access to that information, I don't know. I believe the committee staff did a fairly detail wire brush scrubbing of report, which was heavily footnoted, so I think they check all the sources at that time. So here we are 14 plus months later. And the Republicans, at least some Republicans on the committee now are taking exception to conclusion we drew was one -- the Russians sought to so discord and discontent, which they succeed to it fairly well because of the strong personal animus to Putin had for the Clintons, both of them, particularly Hillary.
They did everything they could to hurt her and accordingly as time went on, drew the conclusion that candidate Trump would be much better for them than she would be. So but let's put aside for that single stream of reporting for the moment. And look at all the over evidence that where fingerprints of Putin are clearly there.
[20:05:07] So these instrumentalities like the Russian intelligence services, who are actively engage in this or the internet research agency as documented in the indictment of the 13 Russians. These things are controlled by Putin. Any big decisions in Russia are made by one guy, Putin. And the Russians are actively engaged in war against us in the information sphere. And Putin is orchestrating this. And he orchestrated the -- and you called the shots in -- during the run up to the election and he is still doing it.
COOPER: So I mean, Congressman Stewart also likened the situation to when the intelligence committee got it wrong when it came to Iraq with the WMDs. Is that a fair comparison? I mean, his point was, look, they got it wrong then, you know, maybe get wrong now?
CLAPPER: Yes, we did get it wrong. There's no question about it. And I'm very familiar with that since my fingerprints were on the infamous weapons of mass destruction, national intelligence assessment in October 2002. But believe me, the intelligence community is learning organization and we profited from that bad experience and built in all kinds of safe guards and checks and balances to ensure that sort of thing doesn't happen again. So yes, you can point to something we did 15 years ago but that's not necessarily relevant in this particular case.
COOPER: The way this investigation unfolded in the House Intelligence Committee, how does it undermine -- in your opinion, does it undermine the credibility of this report? I mean, do you think we can trust anything in the report?
CLAPPER: Well, unfortunately, and this is sad for me is that the credibility of the committee is basically about zero because they are so partisan. I have been around, Anderson, since those two committees were stood up. Let's say in 1976 and the Senate intelligence committee a year later.
So I've watched them over the years. And the only time the committees are effective is when they are bipartisan. And the House Intelligence Committee is paralyzed because of the partnership that is emerged over this and the politicization of intelligence which they are supposed to safe guard against.
COOPER: Director Clapper, I so gained some access to some raw intelligence tonight and I just want to wish you a very Happy Birthday today.
CLAPPER: Thank you, Anderson. There is no place I would rather be than here with you on my birthday.
COOPER: I'm sure, that's true. 29-years-old, congratulation, you're coming so much. Director Clapper. Thank you as always.
Coming up, students today across the country walking out of class demanding strict to gun control laws one month after the Stoneman Douglas shooting I talk to one of the students from Stoneman Douglas, David Hogg about remembering his classmates today.
[20:41:30] COOPER: In cities across the country today in waves as the clock struck 10:00 a.m. in local times in classrooms coast to coast, students got up and walked out at a class, demanding strict to gun control. The message, one month today after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, we stand with you. We're the future and we want change. Scott McLean reports tonight.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started in Florida on display today in schools across the country.
CROWDS: Hold hands. Not gun.
MCLEAN: Students in New York showing solidarity with students in Parkland, Florida. Washington students, most not old enough to vote, sending a clear message to the White House.
CROWDS: End gun violence.
MCLEAN: And demanding action from lawmakers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Parkland showed to us is that this could happen in any one of our schools and we as students can't take this any more.
(APPLAUSE & CHEERING)
MCLEAN: Some messages can only be seen from the air, a heart in Greenfields, Pennsylvania. In Portland, Oregon, a peace sign, and in Los Angeles County, California, the word "enough."
The walkout lasting 17 minutes, for the 17 victims in Parkland, in St. Louis, 17 empty chairs, another sign of those lost. Students at Columbine High School who weren't even born when 13 were killed inside of their school still feel the impact, 19 years alter.
ABIGAIL ORTON, COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Every time I walk into new classrooms, first think I do in here is to find the best place to hide and the door, in the case of an accident. It's just a sub conscious reaction, any doorway I walked, that's the first thing going through my mind, just in case, what if.
MCLEAN: These elementary students had a message in song.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Scott McLean joins us now from a rally in Colorado where students are gathered from a number of High Schools and including Columbine. So I understand students in Littleton have tried to steer clear of partisan politics?
MCLEAN: Right. Yes, Anderson, not only that but they are trying to make it clear that they still support the Second Amendment because they don't want to lose support for their cause from students whose families own guns. They say that if this debate becomes purely a partisan one, then nothing will get done.
That said, organizers here tonight say that they invited politicians from both parties so far only Democrats have shown up. Anderson?
COOPER: All right, Scott McLean I appreciate it. Thanks for joining us now.
One of the Stoneman Douglas High School student who emerge as a vocal advocate for change on gun control issues after the shooting in Parkland, David Hogg.
David, thanks for being with us. When you see the response from waves of high school students across the nation today, first of all, what goes through your mind?
DAVID HOGG, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I think it really shows that change is coming. Change is here. And change is here to say. It shows that we have a national movement of young people, future voters and the future of our country coming out and standing together with us because we have allowed this to happen to us as children, we're not going to allow it to happen to our children in our future.
COOPER: What about -- you know, you have heard the concerns of some students in Littleton who were saying they don't want people to think that this is against the Second Amendment and they don't want to sort of alienate kids of families who do own guns and go hunting and are supporters of the Second Amendment?
[20:45:06] HOGG: Exactly, and I'm one of those families. We have guns in my house. My dad is a retired FBI agent. There are multiple people in the Never Again Movement have guns in their house. And we are not trying to fight against the Second Amendment here. We're not trying to take your guns. We are trying to implement sensible gun legislation that prevents criminals, people that immensely unstable and people that shouldn't have a gun in the place from being able to get one. We're just trying to save our lives. We're not trying to take anyone's guns.
And really quickly I have a big announcement to make about the march. We are going to have four major independent women that are standing up and walking beside us. And those are Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato and they're going to be standing there with us and marching with us.
And there are some of the few people that are really coming out and stepping up with us tonight. I think that's part of the huge support that we are starting to see. We are not only seeing student that are stepping out, now we're seeing young Americans and young adults that are standing up with this. And that's how we're going to see this change.
COOPER: I wonder what your reaction is to the House today passing -- what they called, The Stop School Violence Act, authorizing money to help train students, teachers, administrators to identify and reports warning signs of violence, they say, got bipartisan support but the legislation doesn't tackle anything dealing with gun control?
HOGG: I am not surprised at all, you know why? Because these politicians are still owned by the NRA, so with Florida, but we're seeing in Florida that we can pass this some of form of gun legislation and seeing that has gives me hope that better gun laws can be passed in our country. But it's certainly a small step in a bigger movement. We need to see a lot more action.
We haven't seen any talk about the Dickey Amendment. We haven't seen any talk about just the digitalization of the ATF or even universal background checks to have essentially 100 percent support by constituent. How are we not talking about these things? Widespread political support and things that are sensible gun reform, not allow people to own a guns and saves lives.
COOPER: I imagine you are pretty disappointed in the President who seemed to be embracing some positions, certainly on bum stocks and raising the age to 21 for buying long ripples and other measures and then basically sort of stop talking about raising the age to 21, he is now saying, well, you know, let's look at some lawsuits and let's look at state by state?
HOGG: Now, I respect Donald Trump who is the President. But I think he needs to realize that if he wants to call out these people for being own by the NRA like he did in one of the White House meetings, he can't just step back and submit and bow to them. He can't. He is the President of the United States. He needs to show that he like these other politicians, is not owned by the NRA.
But what he does, when he makes these statements and then steps back on them after meeting people from the NRA and showing that he is intimidated by them as he makes us look weak as a country and that's not OK. We need to stand up and show that we are stronger than the NRA because we are the USA.
COOPER: You think he is intimidated by the NRA? Even though he was chiding Republicans for being intimidated by them?
HOGG: If he wasn't intimidated by them then, why would he step down?
COOPER: David Hogg, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.
Coming up, remembering when HUD Secretary Ben Carson said he didn't know anything about that $31,000 ding room set that was order for his office? Well, some new emails suggest otherwise. Keeping Them Honest, ahead.
[20:52:35] COOPER: Well, the tables may have turned for HUD Secretary Ben Carson over a $31,000 ding set that was ordered for his office. Now when word got out HUD spokesman said the Secretary knew nothing about the purchase.
Well, wow e-mails seem to contradict that entirely. CNN's Rene Marsh has details.
RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At HUD headquarters, the ding set ordered for Secretary Ben Carson's ding room may have been canceled, but the controversy is far from over. The $31,000 dining set included a mahogany table, 10 mahogany dining chairs, a sideboard, and breakfront.
A HUD spokesman blamed the purchase on a career staffer, but newly released e-mails indicate Secretary Ben Carson and his wife selected the furniture themselves.
An August e-mail from a HUD staffer with the subject line "Secretary's ding room furniture needed" refers to, "printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Ms. Carson picked out." It's that line that casts doubt on Carson and his agency spoke man's claim that he and Ms. Carson had little or no involvement in the purchase of the pricey furniture. American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group, sued to get the documents.
AUSTIN EVERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN OVERSIGHT: They lied. The internal e-mails show that he was intimately involved. His wife was intimately involved.
MARSH: A HUD spokesman told CNN last month that Carson had, "zero awareness of this purchase being made."
Later Secretary Carson painted a picture of limited involvement, saying, "I briefly looked at catalogs for ding furniture and was shocked by the cost." As for Ms. Carson, "My wife also looked at catalogs and wanted to be sure that the color of the chair fabric of any set matched the rest of the decor."
But in another e-mail, Carson's scheduler writes, "Hi, Ms. Carson, and invited her to visit HUD and meet with a designer about possibly redecorating the Secretary's office and bringing in new furniture. It's unclear if Ms. Carson accepted the invite.
EVERS: I don't think there's any doubt that Mrs. Carson, who is not a public employee and faces no accountability, has a very large amount of power at HUD, and that's not how we should run our government.
MARSH: Carson is already facing questions about his son's involvement at HUD. Ben Carson Jr., who is not a federal employee, helped organize a listening tour for his father in Baltimore despite agency lawyers warning it could violate ethics rules because of Carson Junior's personal business dealings in the city.
[20:55:14] HUD's Inspector General is looking into the matter. The agency's furniture spending came to light after HUD Employee Helen Foster Filed, file a sworn whistle-blower complaint with the office of special counsel. Foster says she was demoted in part for telling her bosses she would not ignore a law that limits Carson's office redecorating budget.
HELEN FOSTER, HUD WHISTLEBLOWER: $31,000, in my mind, for a dining table for an agency that's cutting billions away from poor people is, you know, poor judgment no matter who made it?
COOPER: And Rene Marsh joins us now.
So, are we learning anything new in regards to Secretary Carson's standing with the President in light of this new reporting?
MARSH: Right. So we reached out to the White House today and they are not commenting officially on this whole incident. But the President is frustrated with all of the negative headlines involving his cabinet secretaries, and when it specifically comes to Carson, an administration official tells CNN White House producer Kevin Liptak that President Trump is disturbed by the bad headlines surrounding Ben Carson.
Trump has made it known across the cabinet that he has no tolerance for this sort of ethics scandal and people inside the West Wing believe that he is ready to clean house. But the caveat, Anderson, the timing and the precise shake-up will happen when one man wants it to happen, and that one man is President Trump. Anderson?
COOPER: Rene Marsh, thanks very much.
Coming up, whether it's getting fired by tweet or resigning in scandal, it's the White House shake-up that never seems to end. We'll talk about who may be next.