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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Adds New Lawyer, Intensifies Attacks on Mueller; Interview with Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut; Mueller Gives Trump Lawyers More Details of What They Want to Talk to President About. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 19, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight keeping them honest, with the president's recent actions aimed at undermining the institutions that he believes threaten him. It's a pattern, of course, we have seen before. In fact, it's President Trump's go-to move and has been dating back to before the campaign, when a person or institution stands in his way, he seeks to diminish or delegitimize or otherwise dirty up that person or institution.
Which is one thing when you're calling gossip columnists from Trump Tower pretending to an a publicist named John Baron or John Miller. It's another thing when you're attacking the country's bedrock institutions from the White House as president. That's when it goes from amusing to arguably dangerous, especially when lawmakers choose not to use the power the voters have given them to address that danger.
Republicans, mostly, who have chosen only to talk about it, not act. And that's where we are tonight.
When we left you Friday night, Attorney General Sessions had just fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director, who was about 26 hours short of retirement. Now, it remains to be seen what Mr. McCabe has done wrong. The inspector general's report has yet to come out, though a recommendation to fire him did come from within the FBI.
What followed McCabe's firing was the president of the United States, for all intents and purposes, doing a victory dance on the man's professional grave and using McCabe to try to discredit James Comey and the Mueller investigation.
Andrew McCabe fired, he tweeted late Friday night. A great day for the hardworking men and women of the FBI, a great day for democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choir boy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI.
Shortly after that, the president's lead personal attorney call for acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to follow up on what he called the brilliant and courageous firing of McCabe, with action to end special counsel Mueller's entire investigation. And with that, the president was off to the races, for the first time
attacking Mueller by name. Saturday evening, he tweeted, the Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a fake dossier paid for by crooked Hillary and the DNC and improperly used in FISA court for surveillance of my campaign. Witch hunt.
Sunday he tweeted: Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big crooked Hillary reporters and zero Republicans. Just quickly, according to a fact check by "The Washington Post," 13 of these 17 members of Mueller's team have previously registered as Democrats while four had no affiliation or their affiliation could not be found.
Robert Mueller is a Republican as is Rod Rosenstein, as is Andrew McCabe, as is James Comey and current FBI Director Chris Wray. Nine members of Mueller's team have donated to Democrats. Our own reporting reveals that the biggest donor to Democrats on the team, Attorney James Quarles, also gave to Republicans, Jason Chaffetz and George Allen. And as a private citizen, Donald Trump gave money to then-Senator Hillary Clinton.
In any event, attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the investigators, it shouldn't be surprising. He's been undermining the larger institution now for months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's a shame what's happened with the FBI, but we're going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever. But it is very sad when you look at those documents and how they've done that is really, really disgraceful. And you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it. It's a very sad thing to watch. I will tell you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was back in December and the pattern of course continues. Today, he brought in a new member of his legal team, Joseph diGenova, who you might remember for pushing some conspiracy theories about the FBI trying to prevent the president's election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH DIGENOVA, ATTORNEY: They tried to frame an incoming president with a false Russian conspiracy that never existed, and they knew it, and they plotted to ruin him as a candidate, and then destroy him as a president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Which is essentially the president's complaint. The investigation of him, his campaign, his administration isn't a reflection on any facts in the case, all the indictments and guilty pleas notwithstanding. Instead, it's about the essential corruption of the organizations investigating him. The system he says is rigged, and you might have heard that before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The process is rigged. This whole election is being rigged.
Watch the polls because this is part of the crooked system. It's part of the rigged system that I've been talking about since I entered the race. I understand it. It's a rigged system. They put out phony polls.
I'm afraid the election's going to be rigged. I have to be honest because I think my side was rigged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the system is crooked, he said. The system is rigged. The way we've elected presidents for two centuries is now something to be doubted, to be questioned, minus any actual evidence all because one candidate at one moment in time was afraid of losing, part of a pattern, just as it was with another institution, the press, which literally made Donald Trump famous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The media is really the word -- I think one of the greatest of all terms I've come up with is fake.
[20:05:02] I guess other people have used it perhaps over the years, but I've never noticed it. And it's a shame. And they really hurt the country because they take away the spirit of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, candidate and now President Trump, unlike any president since Nixon, really has loudly and publicly tried to delegitimize the press. He's tried to delegitimize the intelligence community over the assessment that Russian meddled in the election. He first cast doubt on and then cast off his secretary of state and has presided over a blood bath in the diplomatic corps, the president has savaged his own attorney general in tweets and, of course, in public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have quite simply picked somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, the question is, do the non-political professionals at the FBI, the Justice Department, and all other agencies look at all this and get a certain message, that they are in so many words illegitimate or even subversive. And against that backdrop of alleged plotting against the president and the president's pattern of behavior in response are his new attacks on Robert Mueller really so surprising?
I mean, today, one of his spokespeople tried to tamp down concerns that the president is gearing up to actually fire Mueller.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It's pretty clear that there are no conversations or discussions about removing Mr. Mueller. At the same time, there has been no collusion. The president has said multiple times.
Obviously, I think what you guys have seen is some well-established frustration on behalf of the president. More than a year this has been going on. He believes this is the biggest witch hunt in history.
But again, I refer you back to the statement. The president is not moving to get rid of Robert Mueller.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the president's tweets belie that, so does his hiring of Joseph diGenova. More importantly, so does his long-standing pattern of behavior and so does the reaction from fellow Republicans who warned it would be dangerous or even politically suicidal to fire Mueller, but who are doing nothing to actually stop it.
That includes the House Intelligence Committee, which pulled the plug on their investigation without questioning some of the key players. On top of all that, there's breaking news about any interview with Director Mueller, the president may eventually submit to. CNN's Gloria Borger has it. She joins us on that shortly.
Joining us right now is Democratic Intelligence Committee member, Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut.
So, Congressman Himes, when you look at these criticisms from the president, do you think he's laying the groundwork to fire Mueller?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You know, I very much worry about this. We've seen this pattern over and over and over again, which is you get the denial right up until the moment it happens. It might be the firing of Jim Comey or any of the other, you know, firing of Tillerson. They're always prefaced by tweets primarily.
And, you know, as much as I appreciate the staff members at the White House saying that there are no plans to fire Mueller, I think it's well-established at this point that the staff doesn't know what the president is going to do during executive time in the morning when he's watching TV and has his fingers on a tweet. If the White House stories are to be believed, Tillerson got fired by Twitter without much consideration.
So I don't put a lot of stock in the notion that there aren't conversations at this point. COOPER: You know, last news when it was reported that the president
was thinking about hiring another attorney, I think he tweeted out it was fake news. Now we know he's hiring this lawyer, Joseph diGenova, who is being added to the president's legal team. What do you think his hiring signals, given the kind of conspiracy theories he's peddled in the past about the Mueller investigation?
HIMES: Yes. Well, when you listen to this attorney, diGenova, you know, conspiracy theories is exactly right. And all I can surmise -- and this again is part of a pattern with this president -- is that he is looking to surround himself not with people who would tell him what Trey Gowdy suggested, my friend Trey Gowdy, Republican on the Intelligence Committee, when he said, if you're innocent, act it.
I think he's looking for people who will buttress his pre-existing ideas. And I'm not sure that's a healthy thing, particularly on your legal team.
COOPER: Senator Lindsey Graham over the weekend, as you know, said that if the president were to fire Mueller, it would be, quote, the beginning of the end of his presidency. I mean, is there any real appetite you're hearing from your Republican colleagues to actually take legislative measures to protect the special counsel?
HIMES: No, there isn't, and I really worry about this, Anderson. You know, the dynamics are very clear.
All of my -- not all, but almost all of my Republican colleagues recognize that if somebody were to do the courageous thing and come out and say this is completely unacceptable. We're a rule of law country. As a Republican, as much as I admire, the president, I will support the special counsel's office, that's a tweet the next morning that guarantees that that Republican probably loses a primary.
And, of course, we're in primary season. So the politics right now are such -- and I'm not usually a pessimist, but the politics are such that if this president were to do what you need to do to fire the special counsel, I'm not sure you would see a reaction from the Republican Congress.
COOPER: I mean, lastly, what is the status of the final House Intelligence Committee report on Russian meddling and will the Democratic findings be a part of that report or a separate Democratic document?
[20:10:005] HIMES: Well, it's fluid still, Anderson. But we are supposed to meet this week to vote on the release of this report. I understand that may happen Thursday. I imagine that will be a party line vote.
I have read the report almost in its entirety, and it was not something we participated in. I think it's not a fair document. I think it's full of factual errors. So, I think it will be a partisan vote.
And then, of course, there is a process of declassification. That could take weeks if not months to convert this report into something that can be issued publicly.
COOPER: Congressman Himes, appreciate your time.
In a moment, we'll talk to a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, who joins us.
But first, our own political and legal team. Nixon White House counsel and former Watergate defendant, John Dean, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and investigative reporter Carl Bernstein.
So, Gloria, I understand you have some new information on the legal team?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we do. My colleague, Pamela Brown, Kaitlan Collins and I have discovered that for the first time in a long time, the two sides, Mueller's team and President Trump's legal team, sat down last week. And what they discussed really added some granularity to what Mueller is interested in. And this may well have been what set the president off.
Of course, we know they've always been interested in the firing of James Comey, but this time around, for instance, we've learned that the prosecutor said that they would ask the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' involvement in the Comey firing and what the president actually knew about national security adviser Michael Flynn's phone calls with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. That was in late December 2016.
So, you can imagine that this was not sort of welcome news from the president, and it really makes it clear that Mueller's team is not wrapping up their investigation.
COOPER: Anytime soon.
The -- I mean, it's interesting the president's tweet -- this weekend tweet, the statement by John Dowd, now the addition of diGenova, what do you make of it?
BORGER: Well, I think Dowd first of all would not have tweeted that without the president knowing about it. I think it was one of those trial balloons that fell flat.
And I think it reflects that the strategy may be moving into a new phase. You have an increasingly agitated president. We've reported that he's calling friends, and he's upset, and he doesn't -- he thinks his lawyers got it wrong. And he wants to know how to fight back.
DiGenova is a former U.S. attorney who is very aggressive. John Dowd has been, let's cooperate, let's cooperate, let's cooperate. So I think this takes us into a new phase and the president clearly wants to start punching.
COOPER: Carl, I mean, do you believe the president is laying the ground work to dispute the conclusions of the Mueller probe or laying the groundwork to trigger Mueller's firing before he's even able to conclude? CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's really the people
who know him best, not me, that we want to listen to here. And the people I talk to who know him best believe he is determined to shut down this investigation, to ultimately see that Mueller is fired. But more than that, that there is no report that really goes to the heart of his conduct, Trump's conduct, the conduct of his family, the conduct of business organization.
He wants this to go away on his terms. He sees this as part of a great battle in this cold civil war going on in this country today. And this is a great battle about the survival of his presidency from his point of view, and he knows it.
And he is waging a scorched earth battle to make sure that he prevails here with his base and that the Republicans in Congress particularly inspired and held hostage to some extent by the base, hold the Republicans in Congress to the fire.
COOPER: John Dean, I mean, occasionally we've raised the specter of what President Nixon would have done with Twitter. Are you surprised President Trump has now started going after Mueller by name?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I am not. What I think we're witnessing is a very public obstruction of justice. He, as I see it, has already exceeded everything that Nixon did. He's really much more intimately involved than Nixon ever was in the cover-up. Nixon, the first eight months of Watergate just learns a little bit now and then from his Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman. He doesn't have -- he's not really in it. It's later when things get hotter that he gets hands-on.
But Trump, from the very beginning, he's involved in this. And so, I see a very different profile, and the big difference being Nixon was behind closed doors, so everyone was surprised when there were recordings of it. Trump is just right out front on it, and he's doing it very publicly.
COOPER: That's a pretty stunning statement that your -- I just want to have you repeat that. You're saying in your opinion, Donald Trump has gone farther than Richard Nixon did to obstruct justice?
DEAN: That's exactly what I'm saying. I think Trump is Nixon on steroids and stilts.
[20:15:04] COOPER: Carl -- Carl, I got to get you in. Do you agree with that?
BERNSTEIN: I think there is no question that he has presided over a cover-up from day one. The question is, what is the criminality of the cover-up that he is presiding over? And that's why we have a special prosecutor.
But there is no question whatsoever that he has sought at every turn. Look at the lies that he has told from the beginning. He has rarely been truthful about any matter involved in the whole Russian investigation. Trey Gowdy has got it exactly right. Mr. President, if you are innocent, including of collusion, why are you acting the way you have been acting?
And so, his only recourse and what we are seeing now is to go to his base and get them exercised that this is a witch hunt, which it is not.
BERNSTEIN: This is a legitimate investigation. And really, if there were a witch hunt going on, there are plenty of provisions that after this investigation is over, if it is allowed to run its course, there ought to be any serious punishment should happen for malfeasance or misfeasance, including going to jail for investigators in the FBI or the special prosecutor's office who have abused their authority. But that's not where we are.
COOPER: I got to get a break in. We're going to continue the discussion next, and Gloria as well.
Later, word that a major American city, Austin, Texas, is now under attack from what authorities call a serial bomber who seems to be on a deadly learning curve with bomb number four.
[20:20:13] COOPER: The breaking news in the Russia probe which Gloria Borger just reported, attorneys on both sides sat down last week in a rare face to face discussion about the topics, that Robert Mueller's investigators could inquire of the president. Also, you just heard John Dean say he now believes that President Trump's obstruction of justice outdoes President Nixon's in a big way. He called it Nixon on steroids and stilts.
Back now with the panel.
Gloria, I mean, you were talking about this during the break. You know, Nixon, really didn't learn about it until the tapes --
COOPER: -- and it was all in private. This is --
BORGER: I mean, this is different. I mean, this is Donald Trump publicly saying what he's telling his advisers privately. There's no -- there's no secret here that he wants Mueller gone. I mean, they are holding him back, but he wants him gone.
And so, the question is when you talk to attorneys, you talk to people, well, A, he's allowed to fire these people. And, B, he's not quietly -- you can obstruct in public, I presume. But he's doing this -- he's doing this very publicly.
There may be other things he's doing that we don't obviously know about, and that is what Mueller is looking into, particularly in these questions, for example, about what Trump knew about General Flynn's conversations with Ambassador Kislyak. Did Trump try and cover that up when he said he first learned about those conversations from the vice president, Mike Pence? So, this has to unravel here.
COOPER: John Dean, I mean, when President Trump uses the term witch hunt, I talked about this with Carl and Bob Woodward a couple of weeks ago, I just want to put up one of their headlines from "The Washington Post" from July of 1973. Nixon sees witch hunt, insiders say.
I mean, what parallels do you draw? As we've said before, President Trump according to Michael Wolff's book goes into a sort of rage whenever he sees you on TV. Perhaps you want him directly, I don't know.
COOPER: But what sort of parallels do you see here?
NIXON: I tweeted that when I saw that headline too. What I see, as I say, one is private. The other's public.
You've got to remember, Anderson, that the obstruction statute, if you're looking at the criminal law, is an endeavor statute. All you have to do is have a corrupt motive and a corrupt intent and make overt acts towards that intent, and you're on the wrong side of that law. It's not very hard.
Trump is going to be judged not only that, but on a political standard. And if I look at the bill of impeachment that Nixon was held up to during the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment proceedings, you'll see right now Trump is far more aggressive than Nixon in what's listed in that bill of impeachment.
COOPER: Carl, I mean, you have Congressman Trey Gowdy, arguably one of Hillary Clinton's GOP foes, saying President Trump is not acting like an innocent man. It's interesting what Republican member who's aren't running for re-election like Gowdy, are willing to say compared to, you know, the majority of others who are.
BERNSTEIN: The terrible thing is that the Republican Party in Congress has been craven throughout this administration about saying we believe in the rule of law above partisan and ideological politics. The result is that this president is taking the country headlong toward a constitutional crisis. That's where those around him once again believe he's willing to provoke a constitutional crisis. He's willing, if need be perhaps, to face impeachment because he does not want the truth to come out about what has occurred here.
And it's not just about obstruction. There are suggestions in what we've seen so far from the indictments and other information that there may well have been collusion. We don't know to what level it rises and whether it rises to the level of Donald Trump or his family. But certainly, the special prosecutor is putting dots together. And why we should believe at this point Donald Trump when he says there's been no collusion when everything else practically that he has said in this matter has been shown to be false goes back to Trey Gowdy's statement.
Act like an innocent person. Say, I'm an open book. Let's have this investigation run its course. And when it's finished, there ought to be an investigation of the investigators because they've abused their power. If, indeed, the investigation is allowed to go forward and the facts come out.
BERNSTEIN: He does not want the facts to come out because so far, as we have seen, they are very, very damning about his conduct.
BORGER: But, you know, he has said -- and this is what's so interesting. He has said, you know, I want to testify. I'll be happy to testify before the special counsel.
What are his lawyers doing right now? They are trying to narrow that testimony if they let it go on at all to fit through the eye of a needle because they do not want the president to answer multiple questions because they think he might lie.
[20:25:01] And so, what -- you have a president saying, I've got nothing to hide. As Carl was saying, he is saying that, except that's not how they're behaving. So, what he's trying to do is discredit Mueller because if you discredit Mueller, then he can say, why would I sit down with that guy?
BORGER: He has no credibility. The FBI has no credibility. This has been a witch hunt all along.
And then he can take that to his base, and he can take that to voters, and he can say, you know, I really wanted to, but why would I cooperate with an investigation that's completely corrupt?
COOPER: Yes. Gloria Borger, Carl Bernstein, John Dean, thanks very much.
Up next, reaction from Capitol Hill. I'll speak with a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee about whether he thinks the president is laying the ground work for firing Mueller.
COOPER: A company that the Trump campaign used is under scrutiny tonight as is Facebook after a bombshell report that the company, Cambridge Analytica, secretly collected information about millions of Facebook users.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin tonight has more.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The data firm hired by Donald Trump's presidential election campaign used secretly obtained information from tens of millions of unsuspecting Facebook users to directly target potential American voters. And according to a whistle-blower now coming forward, the entire operation centered around deception, false grassroots support, and a strategy that seems to border on electronic brainwashing.
Whistle-blower Christopher Wylie says the idea to politically weaponize data taken directly from Facebook users came from the former vice president of Cambridge Analytica and former top Trump campaign aide Steve Bannon.
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, FORMER CONTRACTOR WITH CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: Steve wanted weapons for his culture war. That's what he wanted. And that's -- that -- we offered him a way to accomplish what he wanted to do, which was change the culture of America.
GRIFIFIN: The personal Facebook data came at first from people who were paid to fill out a personality test through an ad. What they didn't know was the (INAUDIBLE) researchers to penetrate not only their personal data but then exploited a loophole to access their friend's data. And from that they built psychological profiles of 50 million Facebook users. Facebook now says it was misled, told the information would only be used for academic research. Instead it was downloaded by a company that worked with Cambridge Analytica. Listen to how the CEO of that company describes its work.
ALEXANDER NIX, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: By having hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans undertake the survey we were able to form a model to predict the personality of any single adult in the United States of America.
GRIFFIN: Cambridge Analytica claimed it didn't use any of the Facebook data in the 2016 presidential campaign but heir entire enterprise was funded by the political conservative Mercer family and run with help from Steve Bannon. And people inside the firm said the data did indeed help then candidate Trump shape his strategy and according to "The New York Times" which then helped break the story, "Cambridge performed a variety of services that included designing target audiences for digital ads and fundraising appeals. Modeling voter turn out buying $5 million in television ads and determining where Mr. Trump should travel to best drum up support.
Christopher Wylie says it's time for Facebook to become clean and for Bannon and Cambridge Analytica to be outed for potentially trying to brainwash the American election.
WYLIE: We were looking at, you know, things like draining the swamp, we were looking at imagery of laws and how people engage with that concept. We were looking at, you know, suspicions about the deep state. We were looking at all kinds of things that at the time, you know, in 2014 would have sounded slightly fringe or crazy for any political candidate to go on. But what we were finding were, you know, cohorts of Americans who really responded to some of these things and this all got fed back to fed back to Steve Bannon.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Drew Griffin joins me now. Facebook announced today that it would launch an independent internal audit with Cambridge Analytica. I understand that's already run into problems.
GRIFFIN: Yes. Over the London offices of Cambridge Analytica, Anderson, the auditors from Facebook were there when they were told basically to stand down. The U.K. Information Commission wants to do its own investigation, a government investigation, announced it was seeking a warrant and basically told Facebook investigators to stand down, get out.
COOPER: At this point, is any U.S. government entity investigating what happened?
GRIFFIN: You know, it's very partisan with the U.S. we're getting mostly reaction from Democrats. Adam Schiff wants Cambridge Analyitca's CEO back before the House Intelligence Committee. But Senator Ron Widen of Oregon sent a very pointed letter, Anderson, to Mark Zuckerberg turning the attention to Faceback itself. Very pointed questions asking how this could have happened, what Facebook is going to do to protect people's privacy in the future and it looks like there's pressure building to bring Mark Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill to answer some of these questions.
COOPER: Drew Griffin, appreciate it. Thanks. Fascinating report.
Coming up next, we're joined by Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who says the firing in the FBI Deputy director as justified and says there may be a cabal of FBI agents working against the President.
[20:37:22] COOPER: Again, the breaking news despite a task on the special counsel, his team and the President's team are talking, discussing topics that investigators might ask the President. Meantime, more reaction to the Andrew McCabe firing, a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee says it was "wholly justified," that from a statement from Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida.
As we reported, the President spent the weekend tweeting not only about McCabe but special counsel Mueller and his team, once again raising the specter that he has set his sights on firing him. We spoke with Congressman Gaetz just before airtime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Congressman Gaetz, do you believe that Robert Mueller should be fired, and you don't think the President himself should do it. Can you explain that?
REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: I can. I think that the President firing Mr. Mueller would create a series of conflicts and other downstream effects to review that for the country. I think this is the job of the attorney general because there's been no evidence of collusion produced by the special counsel and because there's been a House finding of no collusion on the intelligence committee. I think the attorney general would be right to renounce his recusal to re- establish command of the Department of Justice and then to give Bob Mueller a time period to produce the evidence that he may or may not have regarding collusion, and if he doesn't produce it, let's wrap this up and move on to tax cuts and other important things for the country.
COOPER: But as you know I mean the investigation isn't over for Robert Mueller, so there's no reason why it -- I mean, again, we don't know if there was collusion or not, but there's no reason why at this point he would have charged something on collusion. He seems to be building a number of cases.
GAETZ: He certainly does. And, you know, Anderson we're 14 months into the Trump presidency. So let's assume that those who are the President's biggest critics are right and that there are -- was collusion, we shouldn't wait any longer to see the evidence. Let's find out what the evidence is as we stand here today. And if 14 months into this presidency there isn't evidence of collusion I think it's important to move on. But of course if the special counsel has evidence I every Americans should be eager to see it.
COOPER: I just want to play you something that your Republican colleague Congressman Trey Gowdy said yesterday about Mueller.
REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Given the time, the resources, the independence to do his job and when you are innocent, if the allegations collude you with the Russians and there is no evidence of that and you're innocent of that, act like it. Let it play out its course. If you've done nothing wrong you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thoroughly as possible.
COOPER: I wonder of what you make of his argument? I mean is the President acting like he's innocent in all of this?
GAETZ: I think he is particularly when he went and gave an impromptu interview to "The New York Times". On the Record recorded about his views of the investigation, that is not the behavior of guilty people, that's what an innocent person does when they're so frustrated by the fact there seems be a counter narrative that you want to go and set the record straight.
[20:40:04] And so I had every expectation that the President will be found innocent in any sincere and unbiased tribunal. But here you've got a group of people who seem to have bias against the President who have an unlimited amount of power to go after him and that's where the frustration bubbles up among many conservatives if not Mr. Gowdy.
COOPER: The new lawyer who the President has added to his legal team said that the Russia investigation was cooked up by a group of FBI and DOJ officials and in his words, trying to fame Donald Trump of a falsy created crime. Do you believe that's what's happened here, that there some sort of cabal at the top echelon of the FBI? Is that what you're alleging?
GAETZ: I think we need to look into that question. And the FBI and Department of Justice certainly can't investigate themselves, and so it's one of the reasons why I've joined Congressman Lee Zeldin and others in calling for an independent review of those activities.
And Mr. diGenova is certainly a very capable attorney, served as U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. and I think that there's also evidence in the Lisa Struck -- I'm sorry, the Lisa Page-Peter Struck text messages that would evidence Mr. diGenova's claim, particularly the assertion that there was an insurance policy being hatched in Andy's office, we assume that is Andy McCabe. And if those three were together manifesting their bias against the President then certainly what Mr. diGenova has said is true.
COOPER: Similar to the argument that you used to make about a secret society which was referenced in the -- one of those text messages as well, you now admit that that whole secret society thing wasn't seemed to be in jest, once more texts were released it was evidence that it was related to some Vladimir Putin calendars that were released, yes?
GAETZ: Well, I think that it's always reasonable to try to get more contexts to these claims. It's highly admiration that you've got two people engaged in an extramarital affair texting in real-time about an investigation of the President of the United States and about an investigation of a presidential candidate like Hillary Clinton.
COOPER: Right, but --
GAETZ: So again it's -- it was a reasonable question to wander why people at the FBI were referencing a secret society. While there may have not been some formal incarnation of that, you may have had the very informal cabal that Mr. diGenova referenced working against the President.
COOPER: You do admit with the fuller context it now just was a lighthearted remark, yes?
GAETZ: Well, look, there still are messages we haven't seen, So I think that before drawing those conclusions, we should have a full reduction of the text messages. There are over 1.2 million records the Judiciary Committee has requested. We've received about 3,000 of those records. So I think there's a lot more investigating to do, and it may very well be that you had an informal cabal functioning in secret with a societal goal of hurting President Trump without any evidence.
COOPER: That sounds like a massive conspiracy theory.
GAETZ: It may have been a massive conspiracy at play. That's why we want a special counsel to look at these things. Look, when you've got the FBI saying that you -- that it's wise to go on fire Mr. McCabe, who was one of the senior officials at the FBI you've got sufficient smoke to believe that there is fire that exists and that's why we're asking the tough questions, it's why we want to have an independent review of the activities of the FBI and Department of Justice, in the FISA process, and the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton e-mail scandals and I think that Mr. McCabe's firing validates many of the concerns that I've raised along with many of my colleagues. COOPER: You said the FBI can't investigate itself. As you just said it was an FBI review which called for McCabe to be fired.
GAETZ: It was. I don't -- but that was the office of the inspector general. The difference as it relates to the FISA matter, Anderson, is that there are -- there can be no charges brought. You see the inspector general cannot actually empanel a grand jury and bring charges. And so that's why we need a second special counsel potentially to be able to take the work of the inspector general, the work of the Congress and then to be able to present that evidence before a grand jury so that our justice system can work.
COOPER: So just to be clear, you want to shutdown the special counsel Robert Mueller who's investigating the President but create a new special counsel to investigate a potential cabal or secret society at the highest echelons of the FBI?
GAETZ: Correct. And the reason that I have those views is that the Mueller probe has so many people included in it that won't be able to see beyond their own bias. I'm not suggesting that Joseph diGenova or any major contributor supporter of the Trump campaign be appointed to go and look into the FBI or the Department of Justice. I'm seeking an independent review with people who have not manifested their political activity to the extremes that the people have or involved with Bob Mueller.
COOPER: All right. Congressman Gaetz, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
GAETZ: Thank you, Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We had to cut that interview down for time. We're going to be posting the entire interview online at ac360.com, if you go check it out.
Coming up, the search for a suspected serial bomber intensifying in Austin, Texas after a fourth explosion less than a month, the wanted attacker changes tactics. Has the city obviously on edge? I'll speak with the chief of police, next.
[20:44:01] COOPER: Most of the neighborhood in Austin, Texas is on lockdown tonight after a fourth bombing has put the city on edge. Police are on the hunt for a suspected serial bomber. I'll speak to the chief of police in Austin in a moment. But first, why the latest blast has deepened the concern and the mystery. The latest now from CNN's Nick Watt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're transporting a 22-year-old male patient, will you give me my closest trauma center? NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two more victims of what Austin police are now calling a serial bomber. Two men walking down a suburban sidewalk tripped a wire that triggered the blast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got trip wires there in the grass. They're going to retrieve and pull them back.
WATT: The sound of that blast was caught on a home security camera about a half mile away. The victims are described as white men in their early 20s. Both suffered significant injuries, leaving nearby residents in this affluent neighborhood shocked.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before we had to look for a package. Now, you have to look for everywhere. I mean it's harder to see a wire than it is a package, so that's very scary to me.
[20:50:07] WATT: This city is on edge. Three package bombs left overnight on porches have detonated since March 2nd, killing two African-American men and severely injuring an elderly Latina woman. It's thought those attacks could have been targeted and possibly racially motivated. But this latest blast appears indiscriminate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very concerned that with trip wires, a child could be walking down a sidewalk and hit something.
WATT: Police were already hunting a sophisticated bomb maker. The explosion on Sunday shows an even higher level of sophistication.
BRIAN MANLEY, AUSTIN POLICE CHIEF: We believe that the recent explosive incidents that have occurred in the city of Austin were meant to send a message.
WATT: What message, what motive still unclear. Just a few hours before the last bomb was set off, police appealed directly to the bomber.
MANLEY: And we assure you that we are listening. We want to understand what brought you to this point, and we want to listen to you. We want to talk to you.
WATT: Silence. Police are actively appealing to the public for help, raising the reward to six figures for information leading to an arrest.
MANLEY: We now need the community to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack, anything that looks out of place, and do not approach it.
WATT: Nick Watt, CNN, Austin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And joining me now, the chief of the Austin Police Department, Brian Manley, who you just saw in Nick's report. Chief, thanks for being with us. You say that at this point it's clear you're dealing with a serial bomber. Can you say what's led you to that conclusion?
MANLEY: You know, I think the fact that we've had these bombing incidents occurring in our community starting on March 2nd, continuing on March 12th, and then having another one last night, I don't see how we can't consider this a series.
COOPER: The change in the M.O. of this last one, it being a trip wire, is there -- I mean do you know what the significance of that is? Do you think that's just -- if it is the same person, that that person just felt they can no longer kind of continue the way they were before and to change? Is it a different kind of bomb?
MANLEY: You know, we do believe that it's the same person based on the components that are comprising the explosive devices across all four that we've had so far. So we do believe that this is the same person or persons that are involved in these. And using the trip wire on this one, the first three felt as if they were targeting a specific residence and possibly a specific person. The way this fourth device was placed in a neighborhood and left with a trip wire to really injure the person who randomly came across, it was very different than the ones that felt targeted in the first three.
COOPER: Sometimes in terms of terrorism bomb-makers have a certain signature people talk about. When you talk about similar components, do you see a -- is it more than just similar components? Do you see the way the bombs themselves are put together, are they similar?
MANLEY: You know, I know there are some similarities. The ATF is taking all of the evidence from all four blast scenes now. The prior three scenes are already in the lab at Quantico, and the evidence from the scene from last night is on its way to Quantico as well and they're looking at the devices. They're comparing them, looking for similarities.
And what I do know is they've let us know is the similarities they've seen to this point lead them to believe as we do that these are all being constructed by the same person or persons who are responsible for this.
COOPER: Do you have any suspects at this point? I know you're offering $115,000 a reward for tips. I would imagine -- I mean are you getting a lot of tips?
MANLEY: We've had a lot of tips come into the command center, and as each tip comes in, it gets assigned to either a team of FBI agents, ATF agents or Austin police detectives to do follow-up work on. And we will continue to follow-up on any lead that is given to us. And really, that's what we're doing, reaching out to the community, imploring them please come forward if you think you know something, no matter how inconsequential you think it may be, that may be the piece of evidence we need to link something together and hopefully to solve this before we have someone else in our community that gets seriously injured or killed. COOPER: When you're holding that press conference, you're clearly reaching out to this bomber to try to get in touch with you, to open up some lines of communication.
MANLEY: Yes. We are reaching out. We've been very vocal about that. Again, wanting to give the person or persons responsible for this an opportunity to come forward and to explain what their motivation may be, what it is that they are either upset about or angry about or whatever the reason is behind this, let us know because we've got to put a stop to the devastation this is causing in our community and the lives that we have already lost.
COOPER: Yes. What message do you have to residents in Austin tonight who are obviously, you know, frightened?
[20:55:04] MANLEY: You know, I absolutely understand their concern, and what we've been explaining is, it's important now to be vigilant. We have to pay attention to surroundings. Know where you are. Know if something looks out of place, and that's beyond just packages like we were talking about with the first three incidents. Know if something looks out of place. Really it's important too, know your neighbors. If you don't know your neighbors, get to know them.
This is something that we're going to have to work on together as a community because we need all the help from our citizens here giving us information, letting us know if someone, something looks out of place, to call us and give us that tip because we all have to work together to really do our best to identify this person or persons as quickly as possible. But the real message now is be vigilant, know your surroundings, and just pay attention.
COOPER: Well, Chief Brian Manley, we wish you and all your officers the best. Thank you very much. Good luck.
Up next, our breaking news from Washington. What President Trump's lawyers and the Mueller team discussed in a face to face meeting before the President's %witter tirade against the special prosecutor over the weekend.
COOPER: Welcome to the second hour of "360".
After a presidential tweet storm of the Russia probe and breaking news on the possible shape of presidential testimony in it, so on the table tonight, the President's new claim of witch-hunt, in all caps of course, his tweet storm targeting Robert Mueller and more. Also tonight, the lawmakers who say firing Mueller would be dangerous, dump politically, suicidal but are doing nothing to stop it. And later, a new twist in Stormy Daniels saga.