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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Meets with FBI Director Chris Wray, Deputy A.G. Rosenstein and Dan Coats; Interview with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), Connecticut; President Trump's DOJ Demand Threatens To Become Constitutional Crisis; New Danger From Hawaiian Lava; "New York Times:" Before Election Donald Trump Jr. Met UAE And Saudi Arabia Emissary Offering To Help Trump Campaign Win. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired May 21, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
Today, the president of the United States used the enormous power of his office to lean on some of the top officials in charge with enforcing the law and investigating him. There are a lot of new details tonight on the president's White House meeting with FBI Director Chris Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence. And all that led up to it, including the deal it ended with.
The question, being did the pit himself blink? Before we get to that, let's just take a look at what this incident, however it turns out, amounts to, because keeping them honest, we know what this is. We've seen this before from President Trump, his surrogates and supporters whenever Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes a move or some other damaging history hits the president.
So, here are the immediate details. Late today, the president met with Wray, Rosenstein and Coats about his demand that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated or surveilled his campaign.
And though it was scheduled a while back, this meeting, it followed this tweet yesterday from the president: I hereby demand and will do so officially tomorrow that the Department of Justice look into whether the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes. And if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama administration.
Now, the meeting ended with deputy attorney general, according to the White House, agreeing to a concession that he floated yesterday, to expand the current inspector general's probe of FBI and DOJ conduct to include the president's concerns.
Here's how the vice president responded to that concession.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president, I think, is grateful that the Department of Justice is going to have the inspector general look into it and determine and ensure that there was no surveillance done for political purposes against our campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Sarah Sanders also said, quote, it was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ and DNI, together with congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.
Keeping them honest, though, the claim of a spy within the Trump campaign comes with as of yet little or nothing to back it up and plenty to raise suspicions about its validity, including the central role of someone the president went out of his way to praise today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And a very courageous man, he's courageous, Congressman Devin Nunes. Thank you very much, Devin, for being here. Appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, he is, of course, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. And for weeks now, he's been seeking information on a top secret intelligence source who reportedly contacted two Trump campaign advisers and one official, including Carter Page, who was already under suspicion for contacts with Russia and George Papadopoulos, whose drunken boasting about getting Russian dirt on the Clinton campaign reportedly triggered the FBI investigation in the first place.
According to "The Washington Post," senior FBI and intelligence officials warned that providing the information could jeopardize the source and at least at that point, the president agreed. Then, some right-wing media got ahold of the story.
On May 10th, an op-ed ran in "The Wall Street Journal" titled, about that FBI source, did the bureau engage in outright spying against the 2016 Trump 2016 campaign? That same day, Rush Limbaugh talked about a spy in the campaign, also citing Devin Nunes.
And two days later, "The National Review's" Andrew McCarthy wrote and I'm quoting here, from painstaking research, Nunes and committee staff believe they have identified such a spy.
Then, last week, "The New York Times" did some very careful reporting, clearly not labeling the source as a spy sent to surveil the campaign, which Breitbart news promptly misrepresented under this headline, quote: Leakers to "New York Times" confirm FBI ran spy operation against Trump campaign.
So, that was last Wednesday, and by then, the president was pretty much off and running, tweeting the next morning, and citing Andrew McCarthy, saying, wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI spied on the Trump campaign with an embedded informant. Andrew McCarthy says there's probably no doubt they had one confidential informant in the campaign. If so, this was bigger than Watergate. By this weekend, he was making demands on the Justice Department. The
Justice Department was acceding to them. And late today, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told "Politico" the Department of Justice memos about the informant should also be made available to the president's legal team on a confidential basis, as he said. He told "USA Today," quote, I think they could help us if they show there's no original basis for the investigation.
Yet, he also told the paper that his client called the meeting to demand the documents not in his capacity as the potential subject of an investigation, but in his official capacity as president.
Now, keeping them honest, the president has been here before and Devin Nunes has been here before as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Today, I briefed the president on the concerns that I had about incidental collection and how it relates to President-elect Trump and his transition team and the concerns that I have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was back in March of 2017.
As we later found out, he briefed the president on information that he had gotten the day before from the White House.
[20:05:03] There was no substance to it, but for a while, the president was calling it a real scandal and demanding it become a focus of the investigation. The president rage-tweeted about it but never went quite as far about that as he did today.
More now on all this, from CNN's Jim Acosta joins us at the White House.
What more do we know about the president's meeting today?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we do know that officials were telling us before this happened that this was a prescheduled meeting. But it seems that when the meeting happened with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the FBI Director Chris Wray and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, that this was primarily about this demand that the president issued over the weekend, which a lot of people thought I guess that was somewhat disconcerting that the president would say, I hereby demand that this happen, but, of course, as you know, Anderson, this is par for the course over here at the White House.
But despite some pearl clutching here in Washington, the president essentially got what he wanted. After this meeting was wrapped up, the White House put out a statement saying that essentially, the Chief of Staff John Kelly is going to be setting up this meeting at the end of the week. We understand it's going to be at the end of the week involving some of these various officials and key lawmakers like the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. They'll be given the opportunity to review classified information, which, by the way, we should point, a senior administration official said Devin Nunes was invited to review some of this material last week and he did not respond to that invitation. But, apparently, he's going to get that opportunity this week.
Anderson, I should also point out, the president just wrapped up a meeting with a group of governors here at the White House. I tried to ask a question about Rod Rosenstein in this meeting that happened earlier today, and the president did not respond to the question.
They seemed pretty eager for us to get out of the room because a Secret Service agent tugged on my arm to pull us and the rest of the press corps out of there.
COOPER: Today was another day the White House did not have a briefing. Have they given an explanation as to why?
ACOSTA: No, no explanation why. They were taking our questions and our calls throughout the day as they often do, but there was no reason I don't think why they shouldn't have had a briefing today. The president did speak over at the CIA. Sometimes they say, you know, when the president is speaking they want that message to carry the day.
But, Anderson, we are seeing, and this may become a trend, but it's not certain as of yet, we're seeing fewer and fewer briefings. There were only two last week. And on Friday, for example, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, did not hold a briefing but somehow she had enough time to go on Sean Hannity for a pre-taped interview in the evening. She had time to do that but not to give us a briefing and there wasn't one today, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has joined the call for information on the Russia probe. In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he requested former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Orr's communications with Christopher Steele, who wrote that Russia dossier.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal who also serves on the committee and he joins us now.
Thanks for being with us.
How do you read the Justice Department is asking the inspector general now to look into the FBI and the Department of Justice tactics concerning the Trump campaign?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It's a concession to the president, a potentially dangerous concession.
COOPER: How so -- dangerous, how so?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, number one, the president is obviously trying to interfere with an investigation. It happens to be an investigation of him. So, it's a threat and potential intimidation.
Number two, there is no factual support. You said there wasn't a lot of facts to back it up. That's a charitable way of looking at I it. There is simply no evidence to support an investigation.
The FBI was conducting a counterintelligence investigation against Russian attempts to interfere with our election. In fact, they warned the Trump campaign about that effort to interfere with the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign well before any of this stuff happened. And so, the precedent is very dangerous that an investigation will be launched simply because a president wants to stop an investigation.
COOPER: There are some -- I mean, do you see this as Rod Rosenstein capitulating for the president or buying time for the Mueller investigation? I mean, if there's no there, there, what's wrong with having, you know, the inspector general look into it and, you know, settle it once and for all?
BLUMENTHAL: That's a really important point, Anderson. There is no there, there. And so, all of this is likely to be seen eventually as a sideshow. The Mueller investigation is proceeding, grinding along, bringing indictments and seeking and obtaining convictions.
But the point here is that the principal of the objectivity and independence of the Department of Justice has been compromised. It's a face-saving bone to the president but it has larger implications.
COOPER: The second thing that came out of this meeting is that Chief of Staff Kelly is going to meet with the FBI, the Justice Department and DNI with congressional leaders to review intelligence, highly classified and other information.
Does that concern you? I mean, is that appropriate?
BLUMENTHAL: I'm very concerned that information relating to a covert agent and informant may be made public, and some of it unfortunately already has.
[20:10:08] There are criminal penalties against that kind of disclosure -- 10 years in prison is the punishment.
But our credibility around the world depending on our ability to keep secrets is very much at risk here. There was a similar meeting last week, just as the inspector general investigation already is ongoing. So, the change here is not all that dramatic, but the disclosure of any of this classified information could be extremely damaging.
COOPER: I mean, you know, "The New York Times" is reporting that this was not a spy within the Trump campaign spying on the Trump campaign, that this was a person, an asset to meet with George Papadopoulos and Carter Page and Sam Clovis, according to "The Washington Post", was the third person.
Does that -- I mean, I can understand from Trump supporters why they're suspicious of, you know, the deep state and why should they take the word of what "The New York Times" has reported and what others have said?
BLUMENTHAL: There's no reason for them to take anybody's word. There is simply no evidence that that informant or agent acting covertly, seeking information about Russian interference in the campaign, was anything more than that kind of informant. Not a spy, not conducting infiltration or surveillance.
But ultimately, there will be no there, there, and I think that the inspector general investigation will vindicate that part of the investigation.
COOPER: The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has been claiming that the Mueller team hopes to wrap things up, their investigation, by September 1st. Again, that only comes from Rudy Giuliani. You can -- you know, viewers can take that for whether they think that's credible or not.
Does it make sense to you that Mueller would be able to wrap up by then?
BLUMENTHAL: You know, Anderson, when I was a federal prosecutor, I would often ask my agents or assistant attorneys general to complete an investigation by a date certain. And their response to me quite rightly was, we'll do our best, but we need to follow the facts and the law.
2And that's what the special counsel is doing. If he sets an arbitrary deadline and I have a lot of skepticism that he would have used Rudy Giuliani as his spokesman, even if he were going to do it.
COOPER: You think this might be a Giuliani trying to put pressure, public pressure on Mueller?
BLUMENTHAL: More likely than not, that's exactly what it is.
COOPER: When the president tweeted out that I hereby demand the DOJ look into the FBI, did that language, I mean, concern you as a former attorney general? I mean, he does have the constitutional authority to -- you know, he has wide constitutional authority.
BLUMENTHAL: He has constitutional authority to ask the Department of Justice to investigate. It's the circumstances here that are so concerning. Number one, no factual predicate.
You know, when an FBI agent begins an investigation, they sit down and they do a forum that says here's the factual predicate and the potential illegality involved or they tell their superior or special agent in charge what is the violation of law here, what's the factual predicate.
Again, no evidence whatsoever except what's going through the president's mind. That's one dangerous point. But also, we've been through some dark eras where officials asked or directed investigations without any factual basis, simply on suspicion or for political motives. And I'm afraid that's what's happening.
COOPER: Do you believe the credibility of the Department of Justice and the FBI is being permanently harmed?
BLUMENTHAL: I think it has been harmed. I say that with great sadness. And I've spoken on the floor of the Senate to say that there are dedicated hard-working people working in the FBI day in, day out, they make cases, they put their lives in danger, and the president's continual, consistent, relentless attack on this agency has had some effect.
But I think we can rebuild that credibility. When I say we, it's on us as public officials to speak out, and my Republican colleagues as well. The Republican Party used to be the law and order party. This is about our public safety.
When an FBI agent goes to talk to a potential witness and he or she has heard the president of the United States attacking the FBI, it undermines that agent's ability to do his or her job.
COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, what has the president played. We'll tell you what a conservative ally of his says about the deal that the senator a moment ago called a face-saving bone thrown to the president. The panel weighs in as well.
And later, an update on some stunning pictures today. Look at this lava spewing from a volcanic fissure on Hawaii's Big Island, creating a new danger.
That's ahead on 360.
[20:18:43] COOPER: Before the break, you heard a Democratic senator weigh in against the president's demand on the Justice Department. Moments ago, his Republican colleague, Jeff Flake, had this to say. It's not appropriate, it really isn't, how DOJ responds will tell if we're in a crisis or not. So, far it's held.
As for one of the leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, it takes -- his take seems to be that the deputy attorney general put one over on the president. Congressman Mark Meadows tweeting, Rod Rosenstein knows exactly what happened and what is in the documents requested by Congress. Either the matter warranted investigation long ago and he did nothing, or he's seen the facts and believes nothing is wrong. His belated referral to the I.G. is not news, it is a ruse.
Here to talk about it is Gloria Borger, Phil Mudd and Carrie Cordero.
It is interesting, both sides seem to think this is not appropriate. I mean, you have Senator Blumenthal saying he worries about this precedent it set of the I.G. now being basically pressured into looking into this, and the same from the president's supporters there saying the president got played. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean,
conservatives like Meadows, I mean, I talked to a conservative attorney involved in all of this today who said, look, this is just sweeping it under the rug because the inspector general, A, will take a while and, B, doesn't have subpoena power. So, they're saying how are you ever going to get to the bottom of this?
And they believe that Rosenstein was just trying to diffuse this, maybe save his job, and that the president eventually will get frustrated.
[20:20:06] COOPER: So, I mean, Phil, you worked in the FBI and the CIA. Is there precedent for this? I mean, you now have this investigation from the inspector general being expanded and you have Chief of Staff Kelly going to be going through some classified information with folks from the FBI, the DOJ, the DNI, and also congressional leaders.
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Yes, sure. But I remember talking to Vice President Cheney back years ago before the Iraq war when he was coming over to CIA headquarters saying what's the intelligence you have, what's the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. So, there is precedent for political involvement. I think the interesting story here and Gloria alluded to this is timing.
This is really fascinating from inside Washington. This might look like the deputy attorney general and the FBI director sort of capitulated. What's going to happen in the next two or three months? I would speculate that Mueller is going to come up with some of the final stages of the investigation.
If he goes where I think he's going to go, which is indictments that get closer to the White House, this issue falls by the wayside.
COOPER: So you think Rosenstein is buying time for Mueller?
MUDD: Yes, he's punting, buying time. Look at the alternative, he says no. What does the president do? More evidence collusion that there's collusion against me, not me against the Russians. More evidence that they rolled over on Hillary Clinton.
What was his option, to say no? It might have torpedoed the investigation, Anderson.
COOPER: Carrie, do you have any doubt that folks on Capitol Hill, the president's allies, they're not going to ratchet down their attempts to obtain information from the FBI and DOJ, they're going to have these meetings with Kelly. Do you have any doubt -- are they acting as private investigators on behalf of the president?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, you know, it really looks a lot like there is coordination between the White House and some of his allies on Capitol Hill to get access to information. I'm going to disagree with Phil a little bit in terms of I think there's a big difference between Vice President Cheney asking for intelligence information in the context of making national security decisions and the White House today demanding -- making demands about investigations that need to be expanded based on an investigation that targets individuals or has subjects or individuals who are affiliated with the campaign and who has interviewed many people affiliated with the White House. So, this investigation I think is very different than a national security activity.
With respect to the Justice Department's referral to the inspector general, there is no underestimating the extent to which an inspector general potentially can be disruptive to ongoing investigative activities. So, while I understand why the deputy attorney general went ahead and handled things in this way by saying, you know what, we're going to have the I.G. expand their look into whether or not there was any inappropriate political influence, I am worried that then that causes I.G. investigators, who are they going to be interviewing and who are they going to be investigating?
They're going to be investigating the FBI. And, you know, that is disruptive to ongoing operations if there's not a real reason to do it.
MUDD: And Carrie is right. I confess, I'm wrong on this one. But on the point of the I.G., that's right. People who look at this as sweeping this under the rug have never dealt with the I.G.
CORDERO: That's right.
MUDD: The I.G. is a sledgehammer. When they came after us, when I was at the bureau, if they're investigating you, they will find something wrong. It's like looking at an hour of an Anderson Cooper program and saying, was there ever 30 seconds that didn't go completely right? They're going to find something wrong.
BORGER: Look at Andrew McCabe. Look at what happened with Andrew McCabe. These are serious investigations that take a while.
And so, you know, there's the question, the president wants an answer tomorrow. And that isn't going to happen.
COOPER: Does -- you know, this whole thing of what's happened with this confidential informant, the president is alleging he's a spy targeted at the campaign, does it hurt other confidential informants who cooperate with the FBI or with the CIA who feel like, well, wait a minute, am I going to get blown?
MUDD: Yes, of course. If you walk into somebody -- remember, political corruption is part of the fundamentals of what the FBI does. Forget about the president. It's a city council in a city across America where one of the city council members is saying, I'm going to give you a contract because you're a friend of the family.
What do you do tomorrow if you're the FBI agent running that investigation? Do you say I guarantee you, we can protect your identity. One other issue and nobody has asked this question. I want to know the answer. Is the FBI or somebody else at the request of this individual who's been now identified in other venues, is the FBI because of what the president has done providing that person security?
Because that guy, I guarantee you, is at risk today. The president put that individual at risk because of the --
COOPER: At risk from whom, though?
MUDD: Oh, Anderson, how much hate mail do you get? I'm a low budget, third rate CNN commentator and I get hate mail of people saying I want to hurt you. Here's my cell phone number, I'm going to beat the crap out of you.
What do you think this guy is going to get and who's responsible because of what the president has done to protect him. Who now is providing protection and I bet it's the U.S. government.
CORDERO: Well, this is such a different scenario because in the past, people in the FBI or Justice Department or intelligence community, they're used to the media, for example, trying to dig at information and trying to, you know, find out sources and trying to dig behind investigations. What's different this time is that the impetus to out this individual is coming from the White House and congressional overseers.
COOPER: Not just the White House. I mean, the president of the United States.
CORDERO: The president of the United States. So, to the extent the DNI, for example, who was supposedly in this meeting today, whose statutory role is to protect sources and methods, to protect classified information, I would think that the DNI would have something to say about this exposure of this confidential source.
BORGER: And if you want to be conspiratorial about it, you could say this is a way for the president to push and push and push Rosenstein and push Wray until one of them decides they can't deal with it anymore and just quits.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, Phil Mudd, Carrie Cordero -- thanks very much.
Much more ahead. We're going to dig in to the legal questions about the president's demand that the investigators be investigated. Jeff Toobin and Alan Dershowitz join us next to sort that out.
COOPER: There are multiple legal questions to get into tonight surrounding the president's demand that the Justice Department look into whether there was FBI or DOJ surveillance of his campaign for political purposes as he said -- a demand in essence that the investigators be investigated. And just like that, the phrase "constitutional crisis" has been popping up again.
CNN's Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin has a new piece in "The New Yorker" about whether the fervor to impeach the president will start a Democratic civil war. He joins us now, along with Professor Alan Dershowitz, author of "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy."
Jeff, is there anything illegal about what the President is asking the Justice Department to do?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it's illegal, but I do think it's a violation of the norms that have been in effect for decades in terms of how the President deals with the FBI. We have a system in place where the President, though he is the head of the executive branch, allows the investigative functions of the FBI to function independently. This is especially true when the President is the subject of the investigation. It's entirely inappropriate for what the President is doing, but I think it's legal.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, I mean there may not be anything illegal or unconstitutional about the President ordering this investigation. It does go against decades of how Presidents have conducted themselves, would you agree?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, decades may be overstating it. It's certainly gone against some years. I mean obviously in early in our history, Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin, Delano, Roosevelt all -- John Kennedy, all instructed the Justice Department who to investigate, who not to investigate. But let's start with the back -- with the end. I think an investigation is warranted, whether the President was right in asking for it or not is a different question.
Whenever any undercover person gets close to a political campaign, it's worthy of an investigation. Remember, you need no probable cause to put an informer in a campaign. There's no judicial oversight. And there is the risk, the possibility that it may be done for an improper purpose or the agent may become an agent provocateur. It's worth an investigation. If it turns out there's nothing there, fine, let's be reassured that there was nothing there.
But I think doing an investigation by the inspector general is a good thing. I do agree with Jeffrey that it would be better if it didn't come in a self-serving way from the President. Though what the President did was perfectly legal and consistent with the role of a unitary executive who was also head of the Justice Department, but it does fly in the face of at least very recent tradition.
TOOBIN: But let's be clear. You know, Alan, you're throwing around terms like I was provocateur.
TOOBIN: There's absolutely no evidence that this individual function does it and I was like provocateur. And the mere fact that the President can call for and receive an investigation of what is to all appearances a perfectly legitimate investigation just shows why you shouldn't have this in the first place.
COOPER: But Jeff, I mean if there is no there, there what's the harm in having an investigation?
COOPER: What to settle it once and for all?
TOOBIN: I mean that's like saying, well, you know, if you have nothing to fear, isn't it OK if the FBI searches your home? I mean, the act of the FBI investigating has a chilling effect on people who are involved. It is deeply disruptive. It is time consuming. It is scary. It is not something that people should ordinarily expect. And just because it's ultimately -- you know, the FBI is ultimately vindicated doesn't mean that you should have an investigation in the first place.
DERSHOWITZ: But you're assuming without any evidence that there was a legitimate basis for putting an undercover agent into the campaign and having him had contact with some of the campaign aides. That may turn out to be the case. But I certainly don't assume that. There was no judicial intrusion, there was no warrant. This is just a decision that was made. And I think we're entitled to be assured that they were not inserted -- he was not inserted for an illegitimate purpose.
We know that agents aren't always passive. Once they're inserted, I've had a lot of experience with this in ordinary cases, they begin to do things beyond just collecting information and listening. Listening usually involves a two-way conversation. And I'd like to know and I think the American public would like to know what the basis was, was it legitimate. If it was, let's put it behind us. If it wasn't, let's know that.
COOPER: But saying that he was inserted into the campaign, it makes it sound as if, you know, he had an office in Trump Tower. I mean it sounds like he met with Papadopoulos, Carter Page and I guess Sam Clovis in some capacity.
COOPER: Overseas with Carter Page, according to the reporting by the "New York Times," the "Washington Post" and also with Papadopoulos, and basically asked questions that didn't seem to get many really answers.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, we don't know that. All we know is that he was sent to have contact with people in the middle of the campaign. Now, I have to tell you, if this had happened to Hillary Clinton, the ACLU would be jumping up and down the way they did when I was on the board of the ACLU when undercover agents were put into the anti-war movement, into civil rights movement. All they were there was to listen, into Muslim churches. Civil libertarians are generally a little bit suspicious when undercover agents go just to ask questions. And I think we as civil libertarians ought to be suspicious of this. Allay our suspicions and then we'll be fine.
[20:35:07] COOPER: But Jeff, I mean it didn't come out of nowhere. George Papadopoulos, according to all the reporting, had already voiced, you know, spoken to an Australian official which is what got this on the radar in the first place.
TOOBIN: This was a legitimate investigation.
DERSHOWITZ: We don't know that.
TOOBIN: I mean you have no evidence that it wasn't.
DERSHOWITZ: Let's find out.
TOOBIN: There was ample evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. That's what this whole investigation was about. So the idea that now the investigation has to be investigated, it just shows what happens when the President takes control of an investigation of him.
DERSHOWITZ: So now what you're saying is there was ready evidence of collusion, so it was legitimate to put an informer in the FBI to see if, a, there was enough evidence to warrant further investigation, maybe to ask some hard and provocative questions that would get them to give incriminating answers. That does sound like a pretty fulsome investigation. I want to know what the evidence was. No judges found probably cause.
I think the American public has to be assured that there was a basis. It's not enough for Jeffrey Toobin to say there was collusion already at that time. I want to know what the facts were that justify that.
COOPER: Hold on, Professor Dershowitz, well something ask, some of former FBI agents, I saw an op-ed piece by (INAUDIBLE) who's also appears on CNN, were saying that, this may have been actually a way to protect the campaign.
DERSHOWITZ: Yes, I've heard that before.
COOPER: Have they sent FBI agents to go talk to George Papadopoulos, to talk to Carter Page, that could be seen as more provocative than having some professor whoever this person was meet, you know, privately with these people.
DERSHOWITZ: When they sent agents into Martin Luther King during the Kennedy campaign, they said they were doing it to protect Martin Luther King from the influence of communists. They always say they're doing it to protect the good people from the bad people. That may be true. Let's get the fact. I'm not willing to accept an assumption that law enforcement is always legitimate, that without judicial oversight that what they do is always correct. I want to apply the shoe on the other foot test. If this had been an intrusion into the Hillary Clinton campaign, would people be saying the same thing or is this special lack of concern because it's Donald Trump. I just want to be assured.
COOPER: Jeff, are you just sucking up to law enforcement?
TOOBIN: Well, I am not sucking up to law enforcement, but, you know, the questions Alan has about this case, he could raise about absolutely any FBI investigation.
DERSHOWITZ: And I do. And I do. TOOBIN: And you do. And if there a presidentially directed investigation of the FBI agents in those cases? The answer is of course not, because what's going on here is that Donald Trump is trying to destroy this investigation. That's what's going on here, not any sort of legitimate inquiry --
DERSHOWITZ: Well, if he is, he's not doing a good job. This won't destroy the investigation, it won't derail the investigation, we'll just get some facts. If you are right, we'll all be satisfied.
TOOBIN: And right and if your department has nothing to fear, it's OK if the FBI searches the place.
DERSHOWITZ: Well and your -- they ouster that back at you, then why was there anything, you know, you can say they had nothing to fear of having an FBI agent intruder in the campaign. Privacy is important. Privacy is a legitimate concern. Whether you have something to hide or not.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much. Good discussion.
Much more ahead. More of tonight's breaking news. Claims of campaign spying, demands for investigation, so much jargon, it makes you want to hear from someone who I don't know directed the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus. Oh we have that person, James Clapper weighs in next.
Also an update on incredible images out of Hawaii. Those are live pictures of volcano spewing lava, forcing evacuations. Creating a whole new danger, ahead.
[20:42:38] COOPER: Still with the breaking news tonight. As we've reported according to the White House, the Department of Justice is asking its inspector general to expand its current investigation to, "include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's or the Department of Justice tactics concerning the Trump campaign. That's the White House word, tactics. Perhaps no one better to talk tonight about the Russia development than James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence. He's the author of a new boo, "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life of Intelligence." He joins me now.
Director Clapper, the President ordering the Justice Department to investigate this confidential source, is that appropriate?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I believe it is, at least as far as I can recall. It is a precedent and I think it's a rather dangerous one, although it looks to me like sort of a Solomon- like compromise was arrived at here by referring this to the inspector general, which is appropriate. The point I would make, though, that -- the objective here was actually to protect the campaign by determining whether the Russians were infiltrating it and attempting to exert influence. And we sort of lost sight of that point.
COOPER: So you believe -- you believe this was an effort to protect the campaign because clearly the Trump administration sees this as spying on the Trump campaign itself.
CLAPPER: Well, that's certainly the interpretation. But, you know, I'm very confident that the objective of the FBI was to learn as much as they could about what the Russians were trying to do. And frankly, I wish the President were as aggressive about doing something about the Russians undermining us as he is about this informant.
COOPER: Can you explain how important confidential sources are to the FBI, to the CIA, in terms of intelligence gathering, and do you think this is going to hurt that effort, you know, hurt the confidence of informants or assets leading down the road?
CLAPPER: In general, it's a very important source for the FBI. The FBI has lots of informants who give them very valuable information. And when they do so, they are assured of confidentiality. That their identity is going to be protected. And so this informant is -- I believe is at risk right now and of course I would guess this will have a chilling effect on other informants who already work with the FBI and certainly make it more difficult for the FBI to recruit other informants.
[20:45:12] COOPER: In your -- in the new book "Facts" -- in your new book, you talk about just the vital role of confidential informants. The book is "Facts and Fear", you say it's essential for people working in the intelligence community to stay true to the key tenets of intelligence work, serve truth to power even if the power doesn't listen to the truth. How can they continue to do though if -- as you say the power doesn't listen to the truth?
CLAPPER: Well, they have to keep -- the metaphor I've often used, the intelligence community needs to keep shoveling that intelligence coal down there in the engine room. And what -- this place is a great burden these days, I believe, on leaders of the intelligence community. Notably, for example, now Gina Haspel, now director of the CIA, to provide that top cover for the great men and women throughout the intelligence committee to continue to generate the facts and the truth to the maximum extent they can. And it's very important that the leadership, the intelligence community today provide that top cover, so that they can continue to do that.
COOPER: Director Clapper, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Coming up, a lot more ahead. A new report from the "New York Times" on a meeting that Donald Trump Jr. held before the 2016 election with a cast of characters that included an emissary who assured him the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates wanted his father to win the election. Details on that ahead.
[20:50:47] COOPER: With all the other breaking news tonight. The story -- this next story could fall under the category of any other day. On any other day this could be our lead story. The "New York Times" is reporting that before the 2016 election Donald Trump Jr. held a meeting with a small group that included a emissary from both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The goal of the meeting according to "Times" will help Donald Trump Jr.s father to win the election. One attendee the "Times" says even pitched the multi- million dollar proposal for his social media manipulation to help elect Donald Trump.
Joining me tonight, one of the reporters who shares the byline and the report, "New York Times" International Correspondent, David Kirkpatrick.
David, can you just explain what the purpose of this meeting was which took place three month before the election?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well the purpose was clearly to offer help to the Trump campaign to elect Donald Trump. The main organizer of the meeting was Erik Prince who at the beginning of the meeting appears to have said, you know, my friends and I are doing everything we can to get your father elected. He said that to Donald Trump Jr. And the most important person in the meeting appears to have been George Nader who was there as an emissary from the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in the UAE. And according to Mr. Nader, also from the crow prince of Saudi Arabia, and he said very explicitly that they wanted to see Donald Trump elected and they would do everything they could to help in that effort.
COOPER: And Donald Trump Jr. was he receptive to this outreach?
KIRKPATRICK: Well, he doesn't appear to have been to overtly negative according to people who present for the conversation that his -- he put out a statement and our request and we contact to him and said that he had not been receptive and the proposal hadn't gone anywhere. But what's interesting is this is the beginning of a long relationship for George Nader and the Trump campaign.
What happens next after that meeting is that George Nader, suddenly becomes a part of many meetings with senior figures in the Trump campaign including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and these meetings go on even after Trump is in the White House.
And then if we fast forward again, you see his patron, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed sneaking into United States in December for an undisclosed meeting with the Trump campaign during the transition not telling the Obama administration and arching them considerably.
And then even more mysterious, you see the same guy George Nader turn up again with Erik Prince in the Seychelles at Mohammed bin Zayed's second home or vacation home there, for a meeting that is designed to put together Erik Prince as a representative of the Trump campaign with a Russian businessman close to Vladimir Putin and also close to George Nader.
So whatever happened in that meeting on August 3rd with Donald Trump Jr., it was the beginning of something. We don't know exactly what, but something start that had day.
COOPER: And why exactly did Saudi Arabia and the Emirates want to help get Trump elected? Is that clear?
KIRKPATRICK: Well, they didn't like President Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East. They didn't like the Iran deal. They didn't like his hands off for Syria, they didn't like the approach to the Arab Spring. And to a large extent they thought that President Hillary Clinton would be an extension of those policies. They didn't much like the things she was doing and saying which she was Obama's secretary of state and they thought that Trump would be a stronger hand so to speak.
COOPER: It's important to know that the outreach through this emissary I mean continued after the election.
KIRKPATRICK: Yes, that is important -- that is important. And I think that's one reason why the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, has taken a keen interest in George Nader who's now cooperating with that investigation.
COOPER: And just -- I mean and just to be clear, I mean it is the illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involve in American elections.
KIRKPATRICK: Yes, it is, that's right. Now, George Nader is an American citizen, but he was clearly there on the behalf of Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. He made that evidence, the meeting he was showing off pictures of himself with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to try to convey his bona fides that he really was there representative.
[20:55:09] And the other gentleman he brought with him, he brought with him an Israeli technology specialist who was laying out the possibility of doing kind of online social media campaign with some fake avatar and Facebook pages for the Trump campaign. He was not an American citizen. He was an Israeli and that would also be illegal if that help were either given or accepted by the Trump campaign. Now, we don't know what happened, but as I say, it was the beginning of a long relationship.
COOPER: That's fascinating. David Kirkpatrick, I appreciate it. Thank you.
KIRKPATRICK: It's a pleasure.
COOPER: Well, coming up, the President demands of an investigation as the people investigating him. What the Justice Department is doing about it? Plus the latest reaction from the White House and Capitol Hill, next.
Also, the latest from Hawaii where lava is now oozing into the ocean producing a dangerous mist of lava and haze, a warning that new explosions would happen at any time.
COOPER: Investigating the investigators who are investigating him, that's what the President demanded in Russia probe and to some extent that's what the President got today from the Justice Department. In the house ahead, did the DOJ cave? Did it punt? Did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein perpetrate a ruse on the President as one conservative law maker complained today.
[21:00:05] We'll look at all the angles starting with CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.