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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sources: Acting FBI Director McCabe Opened Obstruction of Justice Probe On President Trump After Comey's Firing, Before Mueller Appointed; Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) California. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired December 6, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We have breaking news on the eve of what is already a big day in the Mueller investigation. New reporting tonight on the investigation we didn't know much about, an investigation launched in the days after FBI director James Comey was fired, but before Robert Mueller was named as special counsel. And we're getting new details on the frantic few days that led to that and ultimately, Mueller's appointment.
Our Pamela Brown joins us now with the breaking news.
So, explain what is this other investigation?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we have learned that in the days after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and top FBI officials viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in. They discussed a range of options, and they took the step of opening an obstruction of justice investigation on the sitting president, Donald Trump, even before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed.
This is according to multiple sources, and it was an idea we're told the FBI has previously considered. But the probe wasn't opened officially until after Comey was fired and before Mueller was appointed.
Now, the justification would be on Trump's firing of Comey, according to the sources, and also included the president's conversation with Comey in the Oval Office, asking him to drop the investigation to his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. But sources say the FBI would only take such a dramatic action if officials believed, suspected a crime had been committed.
But we are told that Rosenstein and other senior FBI officials had deep concerns as well about the president's behavior and thought that he needed to be checked, according to the sources. Now, as they considered various options related to the president in the hours and days following Comey's firing, McCabe and Rosenstein held a flurry of meetings to discuss the situation and that was when decision was made for the FBI to open up the case into Trump. We should note, "The Washington Post" first referenced the probe pre-
Mueller last year. But these new details about the genesis of the obstruction case into Trump that became a key element of the Mueller probe sheds light on the chaotic week, Anderson, following Comey's firing, and the scramble to decide how best to respond. And they also helped to explain the origins of the Mueller investigation that has stretched across 19 months now, that is consumed Trump's presidency, and is building toward a dramatic day of courtroom filings tomorrow. We should also note that a source within the Justice Department strongly disputed Rosenstein.
The idea that he sought to curb the president, emphasizing that his conversations with McCabe were simply about talking through ways to conduct the investigation. And the source saying he never said anything like that. And his spokeswoman for McCabe did not provide a comment for the story, Anderson.
COOPER: So wait. Is the spokesperson for Rosenstein denying an investigation was opened up?
BROWN: No, this -- the spokesperson for McCabe is not offering any comment for this story, is declining to comment. But if you look at the comment from a source in the Justice Department, this source only said that Rosenstein never said that he wanted to rein in the president. He was just discussing ways in which to conduct the investigation.
COOPER: Why would Rosenstein okay opening a probe when it was his own memo that the White House was using to justify firing Comey in the first place?
BROWN: Well, that's a good question, and it's a bit puzzling. For the deputy attorney general, this obstruction investigation into Trump and the appointment of the special counsel certainly turned his entire Justice Department tenure into the awkward role of supervising the Mueller investigation after he wrote the memo justifying Comey's firing, that sources say he crafted voluntarily.
Now, critics have argued that the Comey memo makes Rosenstein a potential witness in the obstruction case, so it is interesting to note, Anderson, then in the following days after Comey's firing, Rosenstein was involved in these discussions with other FBI officials and was at the very least aware that the FBI was opening this probe into Trump for the firing of Comey. It's not clear why the FBI first moved to open up this case just before the appointment of a special counsel. However, the investigation of the president could have been seen as an impetuous for having an independent team investigate, given the sensitivities, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Pam Brown, I appreciate this.
We should note, Rod Rosenstein is right now at the White House and that picture of a Hanukkah reception. We'll get reaction now from someone who had a front row seat to much of this drama, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for being with us.
What does it say to you that there was already an obstruction case opened before Robert Mueller was even appointed?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: They had good reason to be concerned. It looks like they were trying to prevent a five-alarm fire from turning into a six-alarm fire. The president at this point would have just fired the FBI director.
[20:05:04] We later learned that there were multiple versions of stories given as to why he fired him and then his own admission to Lester Holt was because of the Russia investigation. And so, thank God they were preparing to act, because we will later see the president continue to obstruct, tamper with witnesses, and just outright lie about the investigation. So, I think their cause was one that was rooted in real credible concern.
COOPER: I mean, the irony is, and it's not the first time we have realized this, that had the president not fired Comey, he might have spared himself the special counsel portion of this whole saga, if not this initial FBI investigation we're learning about.
SWALWELL: That's right. And, you know, again, the president's worst instincts continue, I think, to haunt him and will ultimately be, you know, what exposes him criminally when Bob Mueller finishes.
COOPER: How many times do you think the president can hear about the prospect of Rod Rosenstein wearing a wire before Rosenstein's job is in jeopardy again?
SWALWELL: Well, at this point, if Matt Whitaker is the acting attorney general, and we've had conflicting reports about who is overseeing the Russia investigation, if he's the acting attorney general, he's overseeing the Russia investigation. So, I think to President Trump, he's eliminated the threat, so to speak.
Now, that concerns me from a rule of law perspective, because a lot of reporting has suggested that the president and Whitaker have plotted for Whitaker to take over this investigation, and Whitaker, as we know, has already prejudged it. And, by the way, we're still waiting to see where is this ethics opinion that Whitaker apparently asked for, because I don't think there's any ethics lawyer at the Justice Department who can say that Whitaker is not conflicted based on his prior -- in the investigation.
COOPER: There was a lot of talk earlier in the week and some reporting that I think Michael Isikoff was having based on some sources who are saying that people around Mueller were saying that they were trying to kind of wrap it, trying to wrap things up. Given what we saw in the filing earlier this week, given that we're expecting tomorrow on Manafort and Cohen, do you believe that this investigation is wrapping up, or do you think there's a long way to go still?
SWALWELL: If you're looking at this as a traditional bottom up investigation, it certainly looks like it's reaching its end, because it started with Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos as the earliest people to be indicted. And then Paul Manafort, and now, you've seen Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer who lived in his personal world, his financial world and his political world, and you have to think if there are other members of the president's inner family circle who are exposed, that that would be what is coming next.
But, Anderson, I don't think a single person drives the direction of this investigation more than President Trump. He took over six months to turn in the questions that were already given to him. He's refused to sit down with the special counsel. If he wants to cooperate, I think he can see this investigation concluded much sooner than anyone else can drive its direction.
COOPER: And, obviously, you're not in the Senate, but I want to ask you about the reported front runner for attorney general, Bill Barr. He's an establishment Republican, he's respected, though he's also expressed sentiments about the Mueller probe and Hillary Clinton consistent with the president's own views, or at least adjacent to them.
He's hardly a member of the president's inner circle, which was of key concern of some people about whether or not whoever the president wanted could get through confirmation.
SWALWELL: I have an open mind to Mr. Barr. You know, he served in the H.W. Bush administration. I think we saw this week that was a president who led with dignity and honor and optimism. So I think that gives Mr. Barr a credential to be considered here.
Now, I am concerned about some of his sentiments about the Mueller investigation, and I think that would be something that would come up in a confirmation hearing. I just want to know, will he tell us if any promises were made to Donald Trump about the investigation, will he allow Bob Mueller to just follow the evidence, and will he allow Congress to see any Mueller report that is submitted?
COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, appreciate your time. Thank you.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: I want to talk to our legal analyst and former Nixon Watergate White House counsel, John Dean. Also our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. Also CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who just put on his glasses. He's a former federal prosecutor. So, is CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin who joins us, as well. He is, we should note, a former assistant to Robert Mueller.
So, Jeff, how significant is this that Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe were so concerned that President Trump's behavior was veering towards obstruction that they opened a case before the special counsel was appointed?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it shows how concerned they were about these confidences between the president and Comey, the ones Comey described so vividly in his testimony in his book where the president asked for loyalty, where the president asked for Comey to go easy on Mike Flynn.
[20:10:06] All of that was leading to this concern about obstruction of justice, even before Comey was fired. I mean, those conversations were so bizarre. Remember how Comey testified that he typed them up in his car, because he was so concerned about memorializing them. He wasn't the only one is what the message is of this development.
COOPER: You know, Gloria, the obvious pushback on this is that someone hearing the folks in the FBI and DOJ were talking about reining in the president, it's not the job of the FBI or the DOJ to rein if the president. They serve at his pleasure, not the other way around. The president's an animus towards McCabe is already well- known.
I mean, these are career law enforcement officials who according to, you know, to this reporting were considering doing this.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they do work for the country and for the American public, even though they are, you know, appointed by the president and serve at the measure of the president, obviously. But, you know, I think this raises interesting questions about what happens next with Rosenstein, because you have Rosenstein writing that memo saying that Comey should be fired. And he is a potential witness in this case that he's still overseeing it.
I mean, we have Matt Whitaker, but I'm not convinced that Rosenstein has withdrawn completely from this. And he hasn't. And so there's a potential conflict here for Rosenstein.
And from Pam and Jeremy's great reporting here, I think we get a sense of how frantic people were, frantic enough to be joking about wearing a wire. But also frantic enough to say this is out of control, and we need to investigate the president on obstruction. I mean, it must have been quite a scene inside the Justice Department. And now, very difficult I would think for Rosenstein to yet again have to explain what was occurring.
COOPER: Michael Zeldin, how -- the you put this in perspective how unusual it would be to have this conversation in the Department of Justice, the FBI about opening an investigation into a sitting president?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I guess I see it a little bit differently. You have Comey fired on the 9th of May. Then you have this seven-day period during which the FBI and Justice Department are trying to make a determination about whether or not what Comey wrote in those memos warrants an independent counsel or some type of inquiry. So, they open up a preliminary investigation.
But then Rosenstein, upon reflection, within this one-week period determines that, you know what? As he said in his statement, the public interest demands that a permanent special counsel be appointed. So in some sense to me, Anderson, it's not so frantic and unexpected that after Comey is fired, and these memos are revealed, that it would make a determination of what they should do. They open up a preliminary investigation and make a determination
within the week that we need a special counsel, because there's too much here that implicates the president and politics and the otherwise, so Mueller gets his job.
COOPER: John Dean, do you agree with Michael that sort of less frantic perhaps than thought?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I adopt almost everything Michael said, and I had the thought about the story when I heard about it, the timing is interesting, because we have Comey testifying tomorrow. And these are questions that are just perfect to be asked under oath before the House Judiciary Committee. So, I -- the timing of this is interesting.
But it's not surprising to me given the information Comey took back after his meetings, that the FBI would say, we've got to open an investigation.
TOOBIN: Anderson, can I make the case for hysteria?
BORGER: Yes, please. I will, too.
TOOBIN: It's like they were just deciding whether to appoint a special counsel. This was crazy what was going on in the -- it was insane. The president of the United States is asking the FBI director for loyalty. He's chewing people out of the room, so he can ask the FBI director to go easy on his national security adviser?
This stuff doesn't happen in ordinary administrations. I mean, even Richard Nixon didn't do stuff this crazy. And we have John Dean here to prove it.
BORGER: I'm going to agree with my counsel, Jeffrey Toobin, OK? Because this is not normal times. These people are saying, wait a minute, we have to open an obstruction of justice investigation into the sitting president of the United States?
I mean, you don't think that causes a little bit of consternation behind closed doors?
[20:15:03] Of course it does.
COOPER: Michael Zeldin, does it?
ZELDIN: Well, I'm not suggesting that the issues to be investigated were not unusual and were at the highest level of, you know, anxiety within the Justice Department. All I'm saying is that in the ordinary course, this is the way the Justice Department and the FBI proceeds.
TOOBIN: There is no ordinary course. This is not ordinary. ZELDIN: Jeffrey, you're conflating the unusualness of the issue to be
investigated with the ordinariness of the process. I think the process was more normal than you do, but we both agree that the circumstances of the investigation were unusual.
BORGER: How can you separate one from the other? What are they talking about?
COOPER: John Dean, where do you go?
DEAN: Yes, I would just like to expound on what Michael said and about the fact that they were investigating a president. This was not the first time, it was the second time. You had an independent counsel during both -- actually, several independent counsels.
So this was not as unusual a move for the FBI as is normal procedure. Having a president a target is not unusual today as it once was.
COOPER: We're going to talk more after the break about everything ahead. Tomorrow, we'll let Jeffrey Toobin's head explode and come back together. We'll talk more.
What we could learn from big court filings and Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.
And later, more signs that the White House wants to move past the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, and growing signs of pushback from within the president's own party. We're keeping them honest, ahead.
[20:21:00] COOPER: Well, new insight into the earliest days of the Russia investigation. The sense of crisis the top FBI officials seemed to have, and as John Dean noticed before the break, the timing of it is particularly interesting, coming as it does before James Comey's testimony and two big court filings.
Already this week, we've had the Flynn sentencing memo, of course.
We're back with our group.
So, Jeff, I mean, if the Flynn court filing gave us a better albeit heavily redacted sense of what kind of cooperation the special counsel has been getting from people in the president's inner circle, what do you expect we could learn tomorrow from the Cohen and Manafort filings?
TOOBIN: We could learn an enormous amount, particularly from the Manafort filings, because that's a factually dense issue. You know, what did Manafort say to the prosecutors? And what evidence do they have that shows that they believe he's lying? That's factually dense, that's very important stuff.
My concern is as a journalist is, I'm worried about the liberal application of toner, which was the -- which is what happened with the Flynn thing, where, you know, they blacked out all the most substantive stuff. I'm fearful that might happen again, and we would be tantalized, but not really illuminated very much about the evidence that Mueller actually has.
COOPER: Gloria, it will be interesting to find out what Manafort lied to Mueller about, and whether or not it has to do with any possible, you know, collusion between the campaign and Russia.
BORGER: Sure, whether it has to do with his business dealings, et cetera. But I agree with Jeffrey. I think, you know, we may come out of this particularly if it involves an ongoing investigation, knowing less than we want to know.
We might learn a little bit about the substantial assistance, if there was any on the part of Michael Cohen, and we might learn the scope of -- general scope of how much he's cooperating with Mueller and with the Southern District of New York. It may give us -- it may give us a hint of how valuable they think his information is.
COOPER: Well, John, I mean, to Gloria's point, when it comes to Cohen, we still don't know how much he's told Mueller, and about how many different matters he may have told them about.
DEAN: That is exactly right. We do know he's talked to him a number of hours, something like 70 hours it's been put out there. And the other thing that might change the redactions is we're in front of a different court than Cohen. He's up in the Southern District, and this is not in the District of Columbia or the Eastern District of Virginia, where redactions and national security issues tend to be much more sensitive.
So we might see more tomorrow just because of the fact that it's in a different court.
COOPER: Michael, Cohen's legal team is asking for no prison time. Do you expect that would be granted given what we saw with Flynn?
ZELDIN: I couldn't think so. Not because of the lies to Mueller's investigation, you know, the stuff before Congress, but rather because the charges that he pled guilty to in New York carry, you know, a pretty long sentencing guidelines, four to five years under the guidelines. It would be very surprising to me if Cohen was able to provide that much information as to, you know, resulting in a zero jail time sentence.
So I would expect he'll do time on the New York charges. But we'll see how it turns out.
TOOBIN: Anderson, one of the things that I find very strange about this Michael Cohen situation is that the prosecutor -- that Mueller and the other prosecutors are allowing him to be sentenced so quickly.
TOOBIN: You know, prosecutors always want to delay cooperator sentences, so they have something to hold over them. The Mueller office could delay this sentencing. You know, if Cohen wants it over, I find it very strange that this sentencing is actually going forward. And I'll believe it when I see it.
COOPER: Well, just explain -- go ahead, Michael.
[20:25:02] ZELDIN: I was going to say -- so, Southern district and Mueller both agreed to have the sentencing before the judge in New York, as John Dean said, and on December 12th. And I think that the view, by each of those offices, is they have gotten everything they need to get from Cohen and just as with Flynn, that's no need as a matter of protecting their investigation, to delay sentencing.
So, Cohen and Flynn sort of line up in the same way that they have given a lot of testimony. Prosecutors feel they have locked in to whatever they need to get from these guys, so there's no reason to delay the sentencing.
TOOBIN: I get that's their position. But Flynn pled guilty months and months ago. You can see why he was ready to be sentenced. Cohen only pled guilty to the second charge, the one in front of Mueller, just barely more than a week ago. I mean, it's a very different situation.
BORGER: Cohen is requesting this. Cohen is requesting this. He is driving this train or wants to drive the train. He wants to be sentenced and get it over with, and get on with the rest of his life and serve, if he is to serve, whatever he has to do.
So I think he's driving this. A lot of lawyers, like Jeffrey, thinks it's not the right thing. But that's what he wants.
COOPER: Let's see what we learn tomorrow. I want to thank everybody. Appreciate it.
There's more breaking news tonight to tell you about. New reporting that President Trump is expected to name someone with little foreign policy experience the next ambassador to the United Nations. Details on who it is, just ahead.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight. Sources say State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert is expected to be nominated as the next American ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert is a former Fox News anchor and has been serving as the State Department spokesperson.
Joining me now is David Gergen, who served in four administrations, on the phone, Jen Psaki, who herself was a State Department spokeswoman under President Obama, and CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter.
David, I'm wondering first of all what your reaction is to this reporting, given basically her background is -- she was at ABC as a correspondent for a while, but mostly at Fox News.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she looks like she has a fine resume as a journalist. She distinguished herself at ABC and Fox News, and then she was a co-anchor for "Fox and Friends," so she has big credentials at Fox.
In terms of what we normally look for at the United Nations, her resume is very thin. Her experience in diplomacy is nonexistence as far as I can tell. She is a spokesperson for the Trump White House. But traditionally, Anderson, maybe there had people with a lot of experience in international affairs and/or a lot of experience as academics.
You think of Adlai Stevenson as the U.N. ambassador under John Kennedy, or Daniel Patrick Moynihan who was there under Nixon, or Madeleine Albright who was there, you know, or the list goes on, Jeane Kirkpatrick who was there under Reagan.
And, you know, normally from a White House standpoint, from a State Department standpoint, you're not looking at the U.N. job certainly as a communications job. You're looking it as a place where we conduct active diplomacy with nations around the world, and that supplements what happens at the State Department itself.
It makes -- and, you know, normally when we -- in any emissaries now, we work with -- we call U.N. -- the ambassador of the United Nations to help us understand what world opinion is like, what would you recommend as a term of the policy. I don't see that happening here.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Jen, you know, when talk about Jeane Kirkpatrick, whether you agree with her policy or not, I mean she was an intellectual power house of, you know, with extensive writings. Is Nauert qualified for the role of U.N. ambassador?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (on the phone): Yes. I think a lot of what David said I actually agree with. I mean, there's no question Heather has briefed effectively representing the views of the President, but that's not what this job is. That's in fact a small sliver, a tiny sliver of this job and the most important part really happens behind the scenes.
Because historically, and in recent times as well, you know, this role has been a person who has really been meeting with other U.N. ambassadors who often are the highest level right before foreign secretaries from other countries, they're negotiating deals behind the scenes, they're really on the front lines of diplomacy for the United States. And they've also historically been the leaders unofficially of kind of the diplomatic core.
So this is a risky move for Trump, because this is a role now that probably will not be taken at that level of seriousness by other U.N. ambassadors and it really diminishes the effectiveness of the first -- you know, role of the U.N. ambassador in New York.
COOPER: Brian, another way to look at this is just through the lens of this is another example in -- a number of examples of the kind of extraordinary relationship between Fox News and this administration.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that merger that we've seen between Fox and Trump. It may be good for Trump personally, it might make him feel more comfortable with the staff around him, but I don't think it's good for America. Look at the way he's recruited, not just Heather Nauert, but others in his administration as well recruiting via television.
COOPER: Bill Shine who is the --
STELTER: Yes, Bill Shine being a great example, obviously I love television, but it may not be the best way to recruit leaders for the country. And you mentioned Bill Shine, there's interesting connection here. Shine worked with Nauert for many years at Fox.
David Gergen was talking about Nauert as a journalist. I think that's a fair characterism, but I think it's maybe better to call her a professional pundit. She was wanting to be a talking head in the '90s. At the 20 something she was a consultant and a lobbyist briefly, but really she just really wanted to be on television.
She worked with that for years. She was on a number of conservative talk shows. And then as David mentioned, "Fox and Friends" was that main job she had before going over to the State Department. So it is a very unusual resume indeed for this job.
COOPER: David, Nauert's predecessor, Nikki Haley, offer differed scene from the President on a number of matters, certainly in tone and tenure particularly when it came to Russia. It will be interesting to see how Nauert navigates, you know, what are very tricky waters.
GERGEN: Absolutely. And I do think going back to any comparison you want to make that Nikki Haley was, you know, she didn't have a lot of experience in diplomacy, but what she brought to that job, which is very important, was she had a very close relationship with the President.
And she could represent people when they talked to her and the U.N. knew that she was in effect talking for people in the White House and they gave her credibility and she's one of the few people that come out of the administration with her credentials in hands.
But, again, two people I left off the least earlier, think of Dick Holbrooke, how much experience he had when he went there or think of Samantha Power who just came out of the Obama administration, didn't have a lot of experience in diplomacy, but have Pulitzer Prize, you know, on the serious issues regarding genocide and was regarded as a human rights specialist and champion across the world.
[20:35:13] So using -- when you point to your U.N. person, that is somebody you think might eventually to become Secretary of State. Can you imagine that in this case? I don't think so.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Jen, the President made it clear that he doesn't really think very highly of the U.N. I mean, there was that awkward moment back in September during his speech at the general assembly. I just want to play part of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. America's -- so true. I didn't expect that reaction, but that's OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jen, I mean, do we have any idea at this point how Nauert feels about the U.N. as an institution?
PSAKI: You know, I don't think we know that, though, I will say that there's been certainly a change in the dynamics at the national security team since the appointment of Nikki Haley. Obviously she was on the front end.
But now you have Ambassador Bolton in there, who is by all account, you know, a hard charging, somebody with three decades of experience who -- if he not supported the Nauert nomination, he might be thinking I could control her, whether that's true or not, we'll see. This is a role that typically reports also technically to the Secretary of State, so Pompeo may also be thinking that.
So, what's -- we don't know at this point that you can kind of guess given the personalities of these players is that there's been a push to have somebody in this role that maybe the other national security players could control or could kind of move in their direction, given how much things have changed on the team.
COOPER: All right, Jen Psaki, David Gergen, Brian Stelter, thanks very much.
Coming up, a Republican senator says if you want to do business with the United States, "Don't chop somebody up in a consulate. That's not too much to ask." The question is, could a showdown between the President and the Senate be coming over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? We're keeping them honest on that, next.
[20:40:51] COOPER: The Senate is getting ready to confront the White House over its support for Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Senators are moving forward to what a floor vote next week to limit U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, Republican, said the President suggestion that arm sales are more important in a strong response to a journalist murder is "un-American."
The question is a simple one, what should happen when a journalist who lives in the United States and writes for "The Washington Post" is brutally murdered, and there is, according to senators briefed by the CIA, zero questions about who was behind it. It's the story the White House seems to wish would just go away.
And remember, the President won't even acknowledge any evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was definitely involved. Now in a rare parting with the President, Corker, another Republican lawmaker, is saying they have no doubt.
Meanwhile, the crown prince's brother, Khalid bin Salman, is back in Washington, resuming his duties as Saudi Ambassador to the United States. That's according to a Saudi official.
Now, whatever business as usual scenario, the President and the White House may be operating under that scenario is over for a bipartisan group of senators who introduced a resolution blaming the crown prince for "the abhorrent and unjustified killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi."
Here's what Senator Lindsey Graham said after the briefing from CIA Director Gina Haspel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw. You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS, and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi. Open source reports show that he had been focusing on Mr. Khashoggi for a very long time. It is zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A smoking saw, of course, is a reference to the bone saw that was said to be used to dismember Jamal Khashoggi. And here's what Graham said today when asked whether he thinks the resolution will change the administration's approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I don't know. I think it's going to define the relationship that I think is true. And, you know, we tolerate bad behavior, that's part of politics at time but this is an ally. If you get in the orbit of the United States, if you want to buy our weapons and integrate your economy and ours, there's a certain price to be paid, don't chop somebody up in a consulate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Senator Bob Corker said there's no question in his mind that the crown prince ordered the murder and monitored it. One would assume the President certainly has access to the same intelligence more than the senator had. So the question remains, why is this the President's stance?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They did not make that assessment. The CIA has looked at it. They've studied it a lot. They have nothing definitive. And the fact is, maybe he did, maybe he didn't. I hate the cover-up, and I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do. And they have vehemently denied it. The CIA points it both ways, you know. And as I said, maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now, Senator Chris Murphy, Democratic, Connecticut and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, when you hear the President say, "I hate the cover-up, but I can tell you the crown prince hates it more than I do," does that make -- I mean just any sense to you? I do not understand -- it just sounds ludicrous.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I mean, it makes just as much sense as most everything else out of the President's mouth on foreign policy. No, of course it makes no sense, why, because the Saudi royal family, the government of Saudi Arabia was lying to us and to the world for two straight weeks, right?
You can't paper over the fact that they said he left the consulate and that was what they told our government, the American public and the world for 14 days until finally they knew they couldn't get away with that lie any longer.
So the cover-up was run by the Saudi government and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, is effectively in charge of national security inside Saudi Arabia. So the cover-up was led by the Saudi royal family and everybody knows that.
[20:45:00] COOPER: Right. I mean, it's not like Mohammed bin Salman is just sort of on the sidelines and powerless in the face of this massive cover-up by unknown forces within Saudi Arabia. In terms of the bipartisan deal that you're working on regarding Saudi Arabia, do you think it can ultimately pass and would be enough of a direct punishment on the crown prince?
MURPHY: Well, the most important foreign policy endeavor of Saudi Arabia right now is the war inside Yemen. The war is going terribly for Saudi Arabia and, of course, even worse for the people of Yemen who have seen 100,000 die of either bombs or starvation or disease.
And so, our resolution pulls the United States out of that military coalition with Saudi Arabia. And given what a high priority that coalition is to the Saudis, it's probably the most important, the most impactful signal that you can send to them.
And additionally, you know, I think it speaks to what we're learning about the Saudis. For one, we have been in this coalition with them for a while because we believed them when they told us that they aren't intentionally hitting civilians inside Yemen with these bombs that we help support.
Well, the fact of the matter is all the evidence told us to the contrary it was true, that they actually were intentionally hitting civilians, and now having been lied to by the Saudis about Khashoggi for two weeks, I think a lot of senators are coming to the conclusion that they were lying to us about what was happening inside Yemen. So there is that direct link as well between these two stories.
COOPER: Is there enough bipartisan support, though, to stop a presidential veto if the resolutions do pass?
MURPHY: So we had 63 votes for this, which is close to enough to overturn a veto. Remember, there are other avenues that we can pursue. We also can use the appropriations process to cut off funding for the war in Yemen and the person in charge of that budget in the United States Senate is Lindsey Graham who right now says very clearly he does not want to support funding for the Yemen war, so long as Mohammed bin Salman is in charge of national security policies.
So, this resolution has close to enough support right now in order to overcome a veto, and then we'll look for other avenues as well to correct this bizarre U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia.
COOPER: Just last one, I want to get your reaction to tonight's breaking news that Heather Nauert is expected to be named the next U.N. ambassador.
MURPHY: Yes. So, I mean, I obviously like to see that announcement come from the White House before I react, you know, too seriously to it. But, you know, listen, our foreign policy is a mess, and the President was laughed at in his last speech before the U.N. And I'm not sure anybody would advise him that the way to correct all his mistakes is to put a "Fox and Friends" anchor as our top ambassador to the United Nations.
Heather Nauert, you know, has been at the State Department so it's not as if she has no experience, but she has no experience as a diplomat. She has no meaningful experience in the government. She is clearly not qualified for this job, but these days, it seems that the most important qualification is that you show up on Donald Trump's T.V. screen and if you're successful in that endeavor, then you seem to be a top candidate to get a whole bunch of top positions in the U.S. government.
COOPER: Senator Chris Murphy, appreciate your time. We'll continue to follow the situation. Appreciate it.
I want to check in with Chris and see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, pal, a lot of news tonight, new information about what the Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein, what the truth was of his level of concern about the President, his and others at the FBI.
Maybe they were joking about wearing a wire when they met with the President, but they weren't joking about starting an obstruction of justice investigation into him even before Bob Mueller. We got the details on that.
Of course as the announcement about Heather Nauert, the news personality, being put up to replace Nikki Haley, another eye-popping decision makes us wonder what is the President mean when he says only the best. It's like a princess bride, you keep on using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.
COOPER: Chris, I always like princess bride reference. We'll check in with you 11 minutes from now. I look forward to it. Coming up --
CUOMO: No more rhyming, I mean it. Anybody want a peanut?
COOPER: Two peanuts were walking down the atrocity (ph), remember that, the most dangerous joke (INAUDIBLE)? Anyway, Chris, I'll see you back at 11 minutes.
CUOMO: See you, pal.
The President's tariff man tweet confusion over the trade war with China and "Wall Street's" roller coaster continues now joining in on arrive the mysterious arrest of the CFO of a Chinese tech giant at the request of the United States. This is what the President meant by the art of the deal? We'll talk about that next.
[20:53:45] COOPER: Well, confusion is kin on "Wall Street" lately. The President, AKA the self-proclaimed tariff man, isn't helping at time. There's uncertainty about the U.S./China trade war and where that stands, things imparts to the President's tweets. And as one financial expert put it today, volatility is the new normal.
If you're watching the stock market today, you got whiplash. The Dow close down 79 points. It was down 785 earlier in the day and this didn't help either. Word today of the arrest in Canada that request the United States of the CFO of a Chinese tech giant.
The details of why are sketchy, the "Wall Street Journal" reported back in April that the Justice Department was investigating whether she violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Spokesperson for Canada as Justice Department willingly say the United States wants to extradite her and a bail hearing is set for tomorrow.
The President repeatedly took credit for when the stock market was consistently climbing higher, hasn't taken any blame so far for the current volatility.
Joining me now are Trump biographer and CNN Contributor, Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Shadow President," and Tony Schwartz who wrote "The Art of the Deal" for then citizen Donald Trump.
You know, Tony, the economy is doing well and certainly the President deserves credit for that. But as we're seeing now, I mean, his impulsiveness comes with a price.
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ART OF THE DEAL": Yes, it's a leadership issue, which is that he is so narrowly focused on his own self-interest that first in the face of something like the China situation at G-20, he's going to over hype it.
[20:55:12] And then the moment it seems like he might get blamed if it doesn't happen, he's now going to turn on it. And what he's incapable of recognizing is that the consequences to totally blow up the financial markets. And so the cost of that kind of narrowness is really extraordinary.
COOPER: It is interesting because, you know, he said recently that, you know, he follows his gut, and his gut can tell him more than anybody's brain can tell them.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, DONALD TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: Well, isn't that quite a statement? I think what Tony was saying about it being a leadership issue, though, is the crux of the matter that President doesn't seem able to acquire sophisticated knowledge of the economy and then consider the American experience.
You know, he's got soybean farmers who have lost 40 percent of their sales overseas. He's got factory workers who still haven't seen their jobs come back. So you wonder whose interest does he really have at heart or is he even aware of what the American interest is? And I'm not sure that he is aware.
COOPER: But it's interesting because a lot of his ideas on trade, on China, these are ideas he has held for a very, very long period of time.
SCHWARTZ: He held them in the most primitive way, so he held them at a maximum of three to four sentences, and so those are actually a function of his gut with some feeling.
COOPER: That America's being taken advantage of, they're laughing at of.
SCHWARTZ: Right. So that's a psychological response, that's an emotional response, that's an identification with the idea -- with other victims, not an intellectually thought out and reflected upon policy position.
COOPER: It's interesting what you say that it's sort of a psychological -- I mean, could that notion that keeps coming back to you that we're being taken advantage of, we're being laughed at, it is sort of a -- I mean, I don't want to -- I can't get into his head or psycho analyze him but you guys --
D'ANTONIO: I'm happy to psycho analyze him.
COOPER: But you're -- but I mean it is something, you know, somebody says who is worried about being laughed at.
D'ANTONIO: Well, it's very self-referential and he has always sort of equated his experience with the national experience. So when he talks about what's right for the country, he imagines that it's what right for him.
So as Tony was saying, this is a primitive thing that goes back actually to the early 1970s in the Arab oil embargo, then he was mad at the Japanese for their competition with Detroit. Then when Detroit was doing a little bit better, he was mad at Mexico and China. It -- one of the troubling elements of this is that his trade disputes tend to be with nonwhite countries. He's never really very mad at the E.U. He's never really very mad at Canada. But if people look different from what he imagines America looks like, there's a bit of xenophobia that he throws in there. So he's comfortable attacking these supposed enemies and really in a way that's ridiculous.
You know, the trade imbalance is in a serious problem for America. It's like us having a trade imbalance in the grocery store or CNN has a trade imbalance with you because they said you are jack. It's not really a measure of economic health, but the President doesn't look really at it that way.
COOPER: Has he always been susceptible to flattery? I mean because it does seem like that's an Achilles heel of him that if you just say a few nice things, he feels you're coming from a good place and kind of --
SCHWARTZ: Well, of course, after the last two or three years of talking about him, you know the answer to that question. Of course he was always susceptible to flattery, but it's interesting, only temporarily, because he is a professional victim and he is extremely paranoid. So even the immediate flattery doesn't last, nothing lasts for Trump. It runs through him and it's gone as quickly as it arrived, including any sense of self-worth.
The real issue is for us, for Americans, is that what we need in leaders right now are people who are grounded, who are rooted in core values, who in the face of all the tremendous pressures that they are under, leaders of all kinds, not only political leaders, but organizational leaders, corporate leaders, what -- with all those forces coming at them, it's only those who actually know deeply what they believe, who are not responding to the wind blowing in every moment or what they think expediently they can accomplish, they can get done, because it will serve them. Those are the only leaders who have the potential to get us back on course.
COOPER: Michael D'Antonio, Tony Schwartz, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you.
COOPER: Quick reminder, don't miss "Full Circle." It's our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. You get to vote on some of the stories we cover, you can get all the details. Watch it weeknights 6:25 p.m. Eastern, every weekday night at facebook.com/andersoncooperfullcircle.
News continues, I want to hand it over to Chris and see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time." We had really big developments that came late today.