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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Mueller Team Cites Text Messages, Emails and Tax Records as Evidence that Manafort Lied; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Attorney General Nominee: "I Will Not Be Bullied". Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired January 15, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Washington.
Two big stories tonight, and even if they're not interconnected, at least not quite yet, chances are they soon will be. The Russia investigation and the man who will have the final say in it once the Senate has the final say on him. We'll have plenty tonight on William Barr's confirmation hearings and how the president's pick for attorney general acquitted himself today.
First though, we have breaking news on the Mueller probe. A new court filing from the special counsel that conceals quite a bit but also speaks volumes at the same time.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has the latest. He joins us now.
So, talk about what's in this filing.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: There's really a lot, Anderson. You know, we say they have redacted a lot of information, they have concealed a lot of information but when you read through these documents it's 80 pages of exhibits and evidence essentially against Paul Manafort and then 30 pages of an affidavit from an FBI agent that really gives you a blow by blow list of how Paul Manafort lied to the special counsel.
And one of the things that we learned is that he lied about the frequency of contacts that he had with this Russian by the name of Konstantin Kilimnik, that the FBI and Mueller's team has accused him of working for the Russian government, being an intelligence official for the GRU. So, we have that. You also have things about business dealings. Paul Manafort's business dealings, meetings he had. There's information about another DOJ investigation that we know nothing about, that Paul Manafort was asked questions about.
And then, of course , there's information in there about Rick Gates. This was Paul Manafort's deputy during the campaign. He's cooperating with the Mueller investigation. He gave over a lot of information concerning Paul Manafort.
But one of the central things in all of this is that this shows us the grand jury here in Washington, D.C. still very active and at the center, perhaps in all of this in this collusion investigation is this Russian Konstantin Kilimnik. COOPER: And part of the filing today revealed that Manafort began
communicating with Kilimnik on August 2nd, 2016 while he was still campaign chairman to then candidate Donald Trump. And that's important because for a long time now, a lot of the president's supporters and from the White House we've been hearing, well, whatever Paul Manafort did, it was long before he had anything to do with the campaign.
PROKUPECZ: Right. And that clearly tells us that that's not the case. This is also the person, Konstantin Kilimnik, that Paul Manafort shared those secret internal campaign polls with during the campaign. Other information, he's met with this man several times.
It would seem through these documents that Konstantin Kilimnik is still very much at play in all of this and that the grand jury is very much still investigating him and he could potentially face more charges. I think this is very important in terms of what this Russia investigation is and what Robert Mueller has been mandated here to do, which is to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
COOPER: And we learned today also, that according to Mueller, they need more times with Rick Gates, like another 60 days.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, absolutely. He was due for a sentencing update, a report from the Mueller team. Today, they asked for an extension, 60 days, as you said. And the significance of that tells you that they're just not done with him. He's still cooperating. He's still providing information. And these documents lay out what some of that information is.
But also what it could tell us is maybe this is not going to wrap up as quickly as we thought because they're not ready to sentence him and they now need two more months.
COOPER: Yes, Shimon, thanks very much.
As that was unfolding, President Trump's choice to run the Justice Department went before the Senate Judiciary Committee. William Barr has certainly been there before. He was attorney general during the first George Bush administration.
He's known and respected in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, and perhaps under different circumstances his confirmation hearing would come and go without much attention. But keeping them honest, it's simply not possible now. It's no exaggeration to say that when and if Mr. Barr is confirmed, he'll take the job at most consequential moment for the rule of law and the constitution probably since Watergate.
In that light, given those stakes, his nomination has generated equal measure of relief and concern. There were plenty of supporters and skeptics alike today. The nominee assured senators he would not terminate Robert Mueller without in his words good cause and vouch for the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Do you believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt against anybody?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I don't -- I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: However, later in the proceedings after much of the live coverage went dark, the nominee without prompting returned to that subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Are you concerned, having written about morality and consensus in our society, are you concerned about the way Donald Trump undermines the institutions in our society that help us to maintain a moral consensus?
BARR: No, Senator. And I'd like to make a point about the witch hunt, which is we have to remember that the president is the one that, you know, has denied that there was any collusion and has been steadfast in that.
[20:05:12] So, presumably he knows facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, on the other side of the ledger he also said he won't be bullied by the president but he neither pledged to necessarily recuse himself if advised to by Department of Justice ethics professionals nor did he commit to making any upcoming Mueller report public only to provide, and I'm quoting now, as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.
So, obviously, supporters and skeptics alike have plenty to choose from in that one.
A senator on the skeptical side of the room is Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Here's what he told CNN's Manu Raju during a break in the proceedings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: What I'm seeing is the possibility that he could invoke unknown rules and regulations that would permit him to say no to a subpoena, no to an indictment, no to resources, no to an additional area of investigation that is directly related to Russian interference in our elections or obstruction and conspiracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Senator Blumenthal sits on the Judiciary Committee and tonight, he's sitting next to me.
Senator, thanks very much for being with us.
I want to get to what we heard today from Barr, but just about Shimon Prokupecz was reporting about what we learned today about Manafort and this guy Kilimnik. How serious do you think that is?
BLUMENTHAL: It is very serious because it relates to a key figure in Vladimir Putin's orbit and a potential Russian agent. But equally significant is the clear sign that this investigation is far from done.
COOPER: Right. If they need 60 more days just for Rick Gates, there's no telling what the timeline is.
BLUMENTHAL: Exactly. And I've been saying for some time that Robert Mueller has miles to go in this investigation. Anybody watching it, seeing all the leads that are uncovered, the additional witnesses that he is using and he's using Rick Gates because obviously the agreement with Manafort fell apart for his cooperation. But 60 days is in my view just the beginning of the amount of time that's necessary.
And the reason why it's so important is it goes back directly to the lack of a specific commitment, ironclad and strong commitment that he would protect against any attempt to restrict subpoenas or witnesses, scope of the investigation, resources. These questions are all very relevant.
COOPER: You heard too many -- in your opinion, there were too many kind of loopholes Barr gave himself in his testimony today.
BLUMENTHAL: Too many loopholes and lawyerly gaps. For example, on the recusal issue. He's written a memo that basically would put the president above the law against any obstruction charges. And he refused to say that he would recuse himself if ethics officials and experts of the Department of Justice advised him to do so.
And most important, here's the key gap in his testimony. We will never see the Mueller report. Neither Congress nor the public will ever see the special counsel report if William Barr is confirmed and he carries out the scope and approach that he took today.
COOPER: He essentially said he wants to be as transparent as possible under the law.
BLUMENTHAL: As transparent as possible under the rules and regulations. And clearly now in my view, Congress needs to mandate more transparency for this report, because what he intends to do is to take the Mueller report and then issue the Barr report. And he refused in response to my questions to commit that he would tell us even what he is deleting or editing out of that report.
COOPER: You also asked him if a sitting president could be indicted. I want to play just a short clip of his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: You know, for 40 years the position of the executive branch has been you can't indict a sitting president.
I actually haven't read those opinions in a long time, but I see no reason to change them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That is, I mean, the widely accepted policy. I think Mueller seems to be working under that guideline as well. But that concerned you?
BLUMENTHAL: I'm concerned because my own view is that a president can be indicted. There's nothing in the Constitution to prevent it, and it may be necessary to prevent the statute of limitations from running on a very serious charge like obstruction of justice.
COOPER: You say it's not in the Constitution. But if there's precedent and this is kind of widely accepted precedent, isn't that important?
BLUMENTHAL: There is no precedent. There is an Office of Legal Counsel opinion. There may be two of them.
They are as Mr. Barr said today quite old.
[20:10:02] They have never been litigated. And in my view, the better view of the law is the president can be indicted.
COOPER: I'm curious -- I mean, President Trump has made very clear his opinion on Jeff Sessions, even though Jeff Sessions was a guy who was executing his policy on judges very effectively. For obvious reasons, the president's very upset with him.
Why do you think the president has gone for William Barr? Because a lot of the commentary today was, well, if the president thought Barr is a patsy here, that he's just going to go along, that's not the impression you that a lot of observers got. Why do you think the president picked Barr?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, I think one view is that he gave a signal in that memo that he wrote that the president cannot be charged or perhaps even accountable for crimes like obstruction of justice because of the view that the president has control over the entire executive branch. It's this unitary view of the executive branch that in fact would put the president above the law. And he has a great deal of credibility by virtue of his experience and his expertise that would enable him to take that very constrained and constricted view of the law and yet make it saleable and credible.
COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, I appreciate your time. It's been a long day. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
COOPER: Joining us now is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
Jeff, do you agree with Senator Blumenthal, Mr. Barr leaving wiggle room in his testimony?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a lot of wiggle room on the issue of the disclosure of the report. I thought it was as close to an ironclad commitment as possible that he won't fire Mueller. I just don't think that is in the cards.
But on the report it was very, frankly, confusing testimony. And there were several places where he did even suggest that he might only release a summary of the -- of Mueller's report, which I think would be totally unacceptable to the House of Representatives. And that would certainly lead to litigation between the House and the executive branch.
COOPER: But he has the power to do that?
TOOBIN: He seems to under the regulation. The regulation itself is pretty vaguely and oddly written. So it places a lot of power in the supervisor who is the attorney general. So I was certainly struck by the weasel words used in terms of the report --
COOPER: Is that a legal term?
TOOBIN: Yes, that's a legal term. I went to a fancy law school. I learned all this stuff.
But as for firing Mueller, I think it's really not going to happen.
COOPER: Gloria, you know, there was a lot of focus on this unsolicited memo that Barr sent earlier to the Justice Department basically saying that the Mueller investigation was fatally misconceived. Democrats pushed back a lot on this. Barr seemed to say, you know, this was not an audition for a job.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He said that was ludicrous, and of course it wasn't. By the way, he not only sent it to folks at the Justice Department but he also sent it to the president's lawyers, you know, the Raskins and Jay Sekulow. And even if he didn't give them the piece of paper he certainly discussed with them what was in it. And I think the president knew.
And, you know, he recalled today that the president actually at one point had tried to hire him as his personal counsel, they had a meeting, and the president raised, you know, what do you think of Mueller? And at that meeting he said, I said he's a straight shooter and he should be dealt with as such. And the president asked him about Mueller's integrity.
So we know he didn't hire him because he thought Mueller was a good guy and straight shooter. There had to be another reason. Well, the reason was this memo which said that one particular case of obstruction was a case that Mueller should not make, and it wouldn't stand up and he went into great detail on it, which I think would please the president.
COOPER: I also want to bring in former senior Justice Department counsel Carrie Cordero. Also, former Trump campaign aide David Urban and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.
Carrie, I'm wondering overall what you made of what you heard from Barr today.
CARRIE CORDERO, FOMER SENIOR JUSTICE DEPARTMENT COUNSEL: So, a couple things. First I thought that he conveyed he's going to bring back regular order to the Department of Justice, that he's going to follow the rules and the norms and that he believes in the integrity of the department and the institutional independence. So, I thought that was a really positive sign for people in the Justice Department and for Justice Department watchers.
And the second thing is I did hear him say things that indicated he believes there is some limit, an outer limit on the executive powers in that he conveyed that the president can abuse executive authority in some way. And the way that he described that pertained to the pardon power, where he said that if the president used the pardon power in a way that would be trying to tamper with a witness or obstruct a witness, that that would be an example of the president actually abusing his power.
[20:15:08] And for somebody who subscribes to a strong executive power legal interpretation, I thought that was an important thing for him to say today.
COOPER: David, this is in support of the president, do you think Barr is the person the president needs?
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, just to drill down on that ill conceived notion of the Mueller investigation and that one line, if you read the reports of this matter -- I've not read Barr's memo, but what he's speaking about is if we're going to remove this president, it should be for something that is actually -- a duly elected president of the United States to be something that's really -- that everybody agrees is a crime, and that Barr says, look, this notion that somehow he may have obstructed because he fired Comey, that's not clear cut enough in Barr's mind to remove a sitting president who was duly elected. That's what he's really speaking about if it's ill conceived.
So, it's a fairly narrow if you look at it and drill down on it, it's fairly narrow. Whether he's the guy that the president needs in this case, yes, I need a strong hand of the Department of Justice. Whether the president knows what he's getting, I think what -- Gloria said he went in there, he's like what do you think of Mueller. Mueller's a straight shooter, and should be dealt with that way.
He told the president they're friends, the Barrs and the Muellers are friends. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he brought this attorney general.
COOPER: Paul, what do you make of the fact that earlier in the day, Barr said he didn't believe Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt. Later in the day he sort of defended the president used the term saying presumably he has a better understanding of the facts. PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's playing to two
audiences, right? The first I think is the committee. And he did pretty well. Doesn't matter what I think. I talked to Democrats on the Hill including some members of the committee who thought he did pretty well. Particular when Senator Feinstein very directly, make sure Mueller has enough resources? Would you fire Mueller if you -- no, no, no. So that was very good.
Then the other audience is the president. And that's I think why he weaseled on recusal. The attorney general has to step aside if it involves directly the president. That's a pretty common standard that's been happening for many times in other administrations. He weaseled on that, of course, because that's why President Trump fired Sessions. He couldn't bear that Sessions didn't keep control of the Russia investigation.
The second thing I think is a bigger problem is that he wouldn't commit to releasing the report. Jeffrey talked about that. That's politically untenable. Seventy-five percent of Republicans want that report released.
In fact, NPR did a poll on this. You know what percentage of Americans think it would be a good idea for the Trump administration to take the report and then release what it wants? Six. OK, come on. Six percent.
That's untenable politically. And I think it would be explosive if the attorney general of the United States, if Barr becomes, stands up and says I've got the report but I'm only going to show you what I want.
BORGER: It'll get leaked.
URBAN: There's national security concerns. There's privacy concerns. There are legitimate issues here at play.
TOOBIN: There are legitimate issues here but there are much bigger issues compelling the release.
URBAN: But not in whole cloth. It will be redacted in portions.
Chuck Grassley, you heard what he said. He thinks it should be released.
COOPER: Let's hold this. We're going to continue the discussion pick it up after the break. We'll also play what William Barr says he told the president, which you'd think would be the one thing the president won want to hear from his future attorney general about Mueller.
Later, one of the most divisive figures here in Washington, Congressman Steve King. What could he possibly get almost every single one of his colleagues to agree on? Find out ahead on 360.
COOPER: One of the questions hanging over William Barr's nomination for attorney general is what President Trump thinks he's getting out of it. On the one hand which we discussed before the break, there's the memo that Barr wrote which is sympathetic to the president's point of view. But then again, on the other side of the ledger, there's this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: It was a very brief meeting where essentially the president wanted to know -- he said, oh, you know Bob Mueller. How well do you know Bob Mueller? And I told him how well I know Bob Mueller and how the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this is all over and so forth. And he was interested in that and wanted to know what I thought of Mueller's integrity and so forth and so on. And I said Bob is a straight shooter and should be dealt with as such.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Does that sound like the kind of person who would endear himself that a president who has this to say about an investigation and the people running it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on.
I think we've wasted enough time on this witch hunt.
It's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt. I've been saying it for a long time.
The entire thing has been a witch hunt.
This is the most conflicted group of people I've ever seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Plenty to talk about. Back with the team.
Jeffrey, it is interesting he was asked during the hearing if he's concerned with the way the president has undermined institutions and he said no.
TOOBIN: He said no, and I thought Barr had a great argument that I had never heard before. Confirm me because I'm so old. He said I'm 68 years old. I'm not going to mess with this stuff.
You know, it's like if he starts behaving, you know, badly, I'm just going to walk out the door. I'm not angling for another job. And he sort of said, if I were 45 or 50, maybe I would, which was sort of interesting about why there are people who are 45 and 50 working for the government.
But he really seemed like a guy who was trying to be a straight shooter and do the right thing. COOPER: David, why do you think the report should not be made public?
URBAN: No, I think the report should be made public. I think there are certain portions of the report for national security reasons, for -- I don't recall the exact legal term, but people who were involved that were innocent shouldn't be dragged in the mud. So I think there should be portion that's should be redacted but I think the American public --
COOPER: Do you agree with Paul that if it is not in fact released in a redacted form or whatever that politically that's not tenable?
URBAN: Yes, it's not tenable.
[20:25:01] America deserves to know what the president did or didn't do, right? It may completely exonerate the president. I think -- listen, the reason this president in my opinion is so upset with this investigation is that he believes it undermines his election, that he was elected by the American people and he believes somehow that this is -- it undermines -- that he really wasn't and the Russians elected him, it didn't really happen. And so, if Bob Mueller comes out and says hey, look, there were some irregularities here, the Russian this, but at the end of the day, Donald Trump was elected, America deserves to hear that.
BORGER: I think a lot of Republicans agree with you. You heard Chuck Grassley today say they spent $25 million, the American public has spent $25 million on this.
URBAN: They deserve.
BORGER: They deserve to --
COOPER: They've also recouped I think more than $25 million from Manafort.
CORDERO: Here's the thing about the report. The regulations actually don't specify watt report is going to look like. So I think it's very unlikely, knowing how Bob Mueller works and how he would adhere to the role of a prosecutor, I think it's unlikely we're going to see anything that looks like a report that came out of the Starr inquiry.
It's not going to necessarily be an entire narrative written with a bow wrapped around this that says here's the entire thing with the press conference -- it may not be that.
URBAN: You look at the statute. The statute says that's not how it's going to be. Presented to the attorney general --
CORDERO: It could be a memo -- that's part of why the nominee today was reluctant to commit to what he would then provide, because he doesn't know if that's going to look like a prosecutive memo that recommends here's the charges we brought, here's the charges we couldn't bring. And so he's not going to do what Jim Comey was accused of doing, which was providing derogatory information about someone who was not worthy of being prosecuted. BEGALA: And Barr raised that today, because it was an outrage for
Comey not charging Hillary Clinton but then trashing her. And to his credit, Barr said that was bad.
The case with Trump is very different because Barr said he cannot be indicted and the office of legal counsel has for many years said he cannot be indicted. So they cannot speak through an indictment against President Donald Trump.
They have to speak through this report. And he better put everything in it and we'd better see it.
COOPER: Although -- go ahead.
CORDERO: The format necessarily isn't as relevant as the fact that then if they adopt the Department of Justice long-standing legal position that the president can be indicted then what they would do is lay out the facts, here's what a case would look like, because of this legal interpretation we're not going to actually take it to a grand jury and then they refer that to Congress.
COOPER: But there have been some who have been saying that Mueller in some of the court filings has been giving more information than normally a prosecutor might and the supposition is that he's essentially trying to get that information out into the public if it may be hidden in the report. Is that true, do you think?
CORDERO: I don't know. Some observers I know feel that he's speaking through all of these different indictments. I'm inclined to think that he's bringing the cases he's bringing because he believes that those are the -- that's the venue in which to do it. So he's putting the things in the indictment --
TOOBIN: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. The two points you're making are not contradictory. I mean, the fact that he's trying to tell the story but he's also trying to bring these cases.
Look at the example. I mean, Anderson, the point you made about he's trying to tell the story through his legal filings I think is absolutely true. Look at the case against the social media case against the Russians, the hacking case against the Russians.
BORGER: The Russians in particular.
TOOBIN: Those are stories that he is telling through the indictment that he will probably never get to tell in court. I think that was intentional.
BORGER: And I think he can do that -- and I think he can do that in his final report. This isn't his first rodeo. He knows what's going to be redacted and what's not. So what if he writes a report with an annex at the back that includes the national security stuff but the report itself is written as a story for the American public to read and there is nothing -- COOPER: Carrie, and then we go ahead.
CORDERO: The one difference I'll point out with the case that Jeff has mentioned which I agree on the Russian cases, those are never going to go to trial. So, the only venue that there is for those in a court pleading to be demonstrated is through those charging documents. A referral to Congress for the president would be something different.
COOPER: We'll see some of you again shortly on another subject. Right now, Senate lawmakers including Republicans challenging the president on sanctions against Russians, taking a harder line than the president wants.
Sunlen Serfaty is at the capital, joins us right now.
So, there was a vote and it was basically a rebuke to the Trump administration not just from Democrats but notably from some Republicans. Talk about what was voted on. What's the latest?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
A very rare rebuke, I should note, Anderson, coming from Capitol Hill Republicans tonight. Eleven Republican senators tonight, they broke ranks and voted with Democrats today to push a Democratic resolution for the Democratic resolution attempts to stop and essentially reject the Trump administration plan to ease sanctions on three companies with ties to Oleg --
SERFATY: Deripaska, excuse me. Deripaska there.
He is a Russian oligarch. He has links to the Kremlin. Now, notably that this was just a procedural vote tonight. This is not the final vote, but it is significant in the numbers. The fact that Democrats only needed four Republican defections, they got double that amount, 11 Republicans voted with the Democratic senators say that is significant.
And certainly we heard concerns from them going into that vote tonight saying that they didn't necessarily want the Trump administration to move to ease these sanctions and especially notable the fact that the White House behind the scenes was really lobbying Republican senators to tow the line, to stay in line here and not break ranks. That's really did not happen tonight.
COOPER: And when do we see a final vote in the Senate?
SERFATY: Well, there is another procedural vote set up in the Senate for 12:30 tomorrow. That is not the final vote, but this vote procedurally speaking, it's a new threshold. They need 60 votes, so that means that Democrats have to pick up even more Republican senators than they need today to advance that forward.
We will see tomorrow if they can indeed do that and the House has introduced a parallel measure. But the important thing to note is that Thursday is the deadline for them to all figure this out if they want to indeed use that authority to reject the moves by the administration.
COOPER: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, appreciate it. Sunlen, thanks.
More breaking news coming up. By nearly unanimous vote, the House of Representatives today voted to disapprove of Iowa Republican Steve King in the wake of his racist remarks to "The New York Times". The same vote also rejected white supremacy and white nationalism. Tonight, in some quarters there's going pressure for King to resign. You'll have the latest on that ahead.
COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. The House of Representatives has voted almost unanimously to disapprove of the Iowa Republican Steve King.
[20:35:01] The resolution also says the white supremacy and white nationalism are "contrary to the ideals of the United States of America," which is stunning in and of itself that even needs to be included in a resolution.
In an editorial, Iowa's largest and most influential newspaper, "The Des Moines Register" says King should resign. Some Republicans in Congress are also implying him to leave. The House vote is -- because King wondered a loud to "The New York Times" last and I, "White nationalism, white supremacist, Western civilization how did that language become offensive?"
King himself, today, actually vote to disapprove of himself. The actual vote was 424 to1. The lone dissenter was the Illinois Democratic Bobby Rush who said the disapproval resolution didn't go far, not he preferred a censure vote.
Sponsoring the disapproval resolution was South Carolina James Clyburn, member the House of Leadership, he joins me now. Why disapproval, not censure?
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), MAJORITY WHIP: Well, I think that when you want the Congress to act with overwhelming support, you're trying to get the language you feel that the people would be comfortable with. So what we were trying to do is to get the House to express disapproval of Mr. King.
At the same time, condemn white supremacy and white nationalism and that was in the wording. Now, to go further than that at this particular juncture, I thought would not yield the number of votes that I wanted to see there.
COOPER: He has said there's no chance he'll resign.
CLYBURN: Well, he may not, but I think that whether or not he remains in the Congress should be up to his constituents. I noticed now that two Republicans have already announced against him in the primary and a third is contemplating doing the same. I mean if you recall, it was some time before it was determined that he won the general election last year because he did so poorly against the Democrat when people thought we had no chance. So I think people are beginning to grow a bit weary.
COOPER: Because this is certainly not the first time he said --
CLYBURN: Not the first time. In fact, I think "The New York Times" just published earlier today just the chronology of things like this that's been said by him since he was in state legislator.
COOPER: Do you think he has actually regrets what he said? He was on a right-wing radio show earlier today and he said that Kevin McCarthy, who's the GOP leader in the House, decided to believe "The New York Times" over Steve King. It doesn't actually sound like a guy taking responsibility for his words.
CLYBURN: Oh, I don't think he regrets in saying that at all. Even in his speech on the phone today, he kept talking about who he is and his people understanding him. And he did talk about his background with -- on the union side of the issue. Look, I know the history of Iowa very well. I used to teach that stuff and so it is a great progressive state traditionally. It's not been voting that way recently.
COOPER: Do you believe when President Trump says that he hasn't been following this and therefore hasn't commented on it? For a guy who watches news as much as President Trump seems to watch the news and tweet about just about everything, does it surprise you that -- I mean, do you believe he hasn't been following this or is unaware of these comments?
CLYBURN: Well, I'm glad you amended the question. No, I don't believe.
COOPER: You don't believe it.
CLYBURN: No, I don't. I think he's fully aware.
COOPER: But why wouldn't he weigh in? I mean, this is -- then why wouldn't he weigh in on it?
CLYBURN: Well, as we said down south, they're traveling partners when it comes to this philosophy. So I think that even Mr. King today when he spoke on the House floor, he made reference to "The New York Times" and this condemnation of some of the things that Mr. Trump had said. So he puts himself in company with this President and I suspect the President feels very comfortable being accompany with him.
COOPER: So, I mean, if that is the case and a lot of Republicans have now said they disapprove of what Steve King said, you don't hear that kind of talk from Republicans about the President.
CLYBURN: No, you don't.
COOPER: In the past -- on the things he's said. CLYBURN: Well, I understand the difference in their positions within the party and so that doesn't surprise me at all.
COOPER: One of the things that King said, they said about Liz Cheney who's the highest ranking woman in the Republican caucus. He said, again, I think it was on this radio show that she can never be put into the category of being conservative again because she's called for his resignation and he asked what would give her the moral authority or intellectual judgment to do something like that. It's pretty stunning to hear him, you know, saying that.
CLYBURN: Well, you know, Anderson, one of the things I think that we need to really start doing is differentiating between conservatism and this reactionary stuff that we see today.
[20:40:08] My father was as conservative as anybody I've ever met but he is not racist. He was not reactionary. He was a great patriot. And for people to say things that are against the value of system that we're trying to further in this great country of ours and say if you oppose to them talking about white supremacists, then you are not conservative, that's not true at all. I respect and have a great deal of admiration for people who I consider to be conservative.
But the conservatism is something totally different from the stuff that he is saying. I wouldn't call those people in Charlottesville conservative. There's something else, and some of them should start paying the price for being something else.
COOPER: Congressman, appreciate your time. Thank you.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
COOPER: Coming up, why Republicans are moving so quickly to condemn one of their own for racist comments, but as we said, stay silent when the President has made similar statements. We'll talk about that ahead.
COOPER: President mentioned just before the break, last week's racist comments by Iowa Steve King led to his swift condemnation by his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Practically at the same time, President Trump once again launched another attack against Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren for claiming at least a small portion of Native American heritage. He was reacting to an Instagram video, Warren had posted linked to her presidential aspirations, he wrote on Twitter and I quote, "If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to me -- often referred to by me as Pocahontas did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash."
[20:45:01] And two Republican senators from South Dakota objected. There was pretty much radio silence from every other Republican.
With me now is Jeff Toobin, Gloria Borger, David Urban, and Paul Begala. We also welcome CNN Political Commentator Tara Setmayor.
Tara, I mean, is there a difference between things the President has said in the past and what Steve King has said and the reaction to it?
TARA SETMAYOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no to the former and yes to the latter. They are very similar in things that they have said and the President's history is -- of saying racially insensitive and flat out racist thing.
Paul Ryan even said that during the campaign when he attacked Judge Curiel saying that he couldn't possibly rule a fairly on the Trump University case because he was a Mexican. Actually he is from Indiana. So, the President has done things like this before.
The reaction has been very different because he has taken over the Republican Party and Republicans have been craven and they have been cowards in standing up to this. And it's gotten worse and worse and worse.
And you could have tried to -- even I was like -- I was reluctant to call him a racist until I could, you know, racially insensitive, a bigot, you know, the Archie Bunker in chief. I tried everything but racist until Charlottesville. When Charlottesville happened and, you know, there's good people on both sides, comment came out of his mouth, that was the end of it for me.
So the fact the Republican Party is now piling on Steve King, rightfully so because he's gotten away with this for a long time. It's very disappointing. I worked with Steve King on -- when I was a staffer in Capitol Hill on immigration issues. He is one of the nicest guys that I've ever worked with while working other congressional office where he partnered with us on things.
So to see this for him to say these things solely over and over again and just -- it's worse. I just -- it's very disappointing. So it's about time that the Republican Party stood up and said enough is enough. But they cannot do that and then let Trump get away with what he does, he just can't.
COOPER: Well, David, the President remaining silent about this and claiming he hasn't been following. He hasn't seen on television, which does seem hard to believe given how much he follows the news cycle. Is that just a play to what he believes his base is? Is it the same thing why he said that stuff about Charlottesville, we have a good people on both sides?
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I mean, I can't -- I'm not going to defend the President on making insensitive remarks. And, you know, Tara, you said you worked with Senate -- with Steve King.
SETMAYOR: Well, I did.
URBAN: I mean, there's been a long list of "The New York Times" chronicles him making those comments back to him in the state legislator. And so for you to say that, you know, you thought he's a good guy and all these things have not and then all of a sudden today said, "Wow, Steve King is a bad guy."
SETMAYOR: No, it's not just today. It's been over the last -- since Donald Trump came along, he's given a license to people to say things, behave like this --
URBAN: But "The New York Times" reports that Steve King has been saying this stuff his entire career.
SETMAYOR: Well, because I wasn't aware of that back then.
SETMAYOR: When I work with him in Congress, he wasn't saying things like that as bad as it is now. He wasn't glorifying white supremacy, for God sake.
URBAN: So there is no -- there should be no cover for this, Anderson. There is no -- it should be denounced at every level, right? So there's no way to say what the President said was right. It was wrong.
He should have come out and said, "Look, these guys are thugs. They are bad guys." And people who are stopping the ground and saying, you know, they demand Jewish blood, I'm like, he has Jewish grandchildren, my kids, my grandkids. He should just come out and forcefully denounce it. It's not hard.
COOPER: Paul, is it a political calculus? I mean, I just don't get why the President wouldn't do what David is suggesting, which is just -- I mean, if he -- I mean, either he does it --
URBAN: But in this instance -- listen, in this instance, Steve King instance, look, I think the President honestly is not playing -- paying a whole lot of attention to what happen to Steve King. He's got the wall. He's got the Mueller investigation. He's got lots of stuff going on, so I'm not so sure (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: But, I mean, if he is paying attention --
URBAN: He just got rebuked in the Senate.
COOPER: Right. But if he is paying attention to what's happened with Jeff Bezos, you know, and he takes glee in that.
URBAN: Well, Jeff Bazos is a different enemy, right? Jeff Bezos is a different enemy.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It may well be merely political today because he is facing the fight of his life and he has to rally his base. That's been his choice. Rather than broadening his support, which other presidents have done after losing the Congress, he's trying to deepen it with that tiny -- small large percentage, 35 percent or so Americans who love him.
The problem with that theory that it's political, which is not excusable -- I mean, George Wallace was pretending to be a racist for political reasons. He's still a racist. Is that -- it was -- look, it was August 12, 2017 when Heather Heyer was murdered and he uttered those six words, the most disgraceful words the president spoken in my lifetime, very fine people on both sides.
But if all the things, and I might hear some (INAUDIBLE) every day, that's why I have so little, all these crazy things Trump says, the racist things Trump says, that's the worst. That's worst. An innocent American was murdered.
BEGALA: -- Neo-Nazi allegedly if he still hasn't switched out.
URBAN: He shouldn't have done it. He shouldn't have said it.
BEGALA: This is -- that's it, that King is suppose to resign --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITCAL ANALYST: But he should denounce Steve King.
BORGER: He should denounce Steve King. I remember -- I believe it was after Charlottesville when David Duke applauded him. Was it David Duke?
[20:50:02] SETMAYOR: Yes.
BORGER: And I think that people asked the President, do you know David Duke? Maybe I'm completing two separate --
BORGER: That's right, Jake Tapper, so two separate times, OK.
BORGER: It was asked, "Do you know David Duke?" And he said, "I don't know who David Duke is." You're right, that was during the election.
SETMAYOR: Yes. And he did know David Duke
BORGER: And he did know David Duke.
SETMAYOR: He made comment about him in the past, right.
BORGER: And then after Charlottesville, he was applauded by white supremacists. You would think that a President would want to say shake that out and say "No, no, no, that's not what I believe." Steve King, you know, censure him. Expel him if you need to.
URBAN: Listen, what Mitch McConnell said to his statement, right, saying there is no room in the party for this, there's no room at the top for any type of ism, it should be said from the bully pulpit.
BORGER: Yes, that's right.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's worth remembering why Donald Trump is in public life in the first place. Its not because of "The Apprentice," it's because for two years he spent spreading a racist lie about the first African-American president of the United States. Making up that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. That's why Donald Trump became a political figure.
And, you know, I wish it were otherwise, but I think this is a feature, not a bug. This is why he's popular in a lot of corners. Not in spite of his racism, but because of it and I really wish we live in different kind of place.
URBAN: Jeff, I'm not sure that like -- that the Donald Trump is courting the racist vote, if that's your --
TOOBIN: Really? No, no listen --
SETMAYOR: He doesn't have to. He uses coded language and to think I would use this again. Andrew Gillum used the line. The racists think you're racist, so that's the problem. And Donald Trump has done nothing to try to combat that, nothing.
He called NFL players sons of bitches. He never apologized for the Central Park Five who were exonerated and he still would not acknowledge that he was wrong taking out full page ads, calling for the death penalty for them, the birther idea.
I mean, when George Bush, George H.W. Bush, was confronted with the David Duke problem, he came out and condemned it immediately. When Bill Buckley, a hero of modern (ph) conservative movement, saw that there was the rise of this racism with the southern strategy and things, he called that out that said there is no place for that.
So for conservative to sit there and to give Donald Trump a pass on this I think is a hypocritical. Some have come out nationally, you did, thankfully and said that Steve King is (INAUDIBLE), but there is.
COOPER: There's certainly a political calculus that -- I mean, he is clearly made whether he is --
SETMAYOR: That's right.
COOPER: -- whether he is courting them or not, he is -- by not, you know, vocally calling them out, that's essentially courting them, isn't it? URBAN: Listen, it's a bad strategy, right? It's a bad political strategy if it is political strategy because you'll lose. Here's a little flash, right? You lose more people than you gain and that's strategy, right?
SETMAYOR: So why do you think he will do it? What do you think --
URBAN: You do. Yes, you do.
SETMAYOR: But you might stop them from doing it.
URBAN: I don't know.
SETMAYOR: Something that should be a no brainer.
TOOBIN: Maybe he believes it.
SETMAYOR: Right, exactly.
URBAN: No, you're wrong
SETMAYOR: I'm trying to get him to say about the poll.
URBAN: You're wrong. No.
SETMAYOR: He doesn't.
COOPER: All right.
COOPER: Coming up, a shutdown is fit for king. "The Ridiculist" is next. We'll be right back.
[20:56:44] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Who's hungry, because we have to absolutely -- but we really have no choice but to talk about the Clemson Tigers trip to the White House. The trip was all set up with just one problem. Because of the longest government shutdown in American history, the White House staff is not at full force. So question loomed, who would cook for this champion football team?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we went off and we ordered American fast food, paid for by me. Lots of hamburgers, lots of pizza. I think they'd like it better than anything we could give.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Now, if you're waiting for me to launch into something diatribe about the President's choice in cuisine or to question why he didn't even get the event catered by the steakhouse at this hotel down the street? Sorry, it's not going to happen.
To me, that looks like culinary heaven. I believe my record of loving McDonald's speaks for itself. But if you're not sure, let me be clear, Big Mac, fries, coke, they call it the number one meal. It's certainly my number one meal. Best meal ever.
If I was on death row and was given one last meal, that is what I would chose, plus the chocolate chip cookies, you get three cookies per order and they come warm. It's so good just thinking about it. That's the White House.
Anyway, it looked like the team really enjoyed the food. There were a lot of positive responses from the players after the events and who says fast food can't be fancy anyway when there were candelabras and silver-serving trays and French fries and cups bearing the presidential seal. I mean, that's fun. It's fun. It's delicious and it's just kind of a feel good story about the winning team going to the White House.
And that's where the President should have left well enough alone, but did he? Of course, not. He, being he, had to wipe off his fingers and tweet about it bragging about paying for the food and also for some reason, lying about how many hamburgers there were and also misspelling the word hamburgers.
"Great being with the National Champion Clemson Tigers last night at the White House. Because of the Shutdown I served them massive amounts of Fast Food. I paid over 1000 hamberders, et cetera. Within one hour, it was all gone. Great guys and big eaters."
To which the actual real life burger king responded and I quote, "Due to a large order placed yesterday, we're all out of hamberders, just serving hamburgers today."
So the President said he bought over 1,000 hamberders, et cetera. I'm not sure what the et cetera refers to, but just last night he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have pizzas. We have 300 hamburgers, many, many French fries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So somehow 300 hamburgers became more than a thousand. Either the President is lying about something that does not matter or his story is evolving by tomorrow it will be 10,000 hamberders and millions upon millions of the biggest most beautiful juiciest Big Macs, the likes of which have never been seen before just stacked on top of each other reaching it to outer space.
Say what you will about the great shutdown feast of 2019, if nothing else, it fulfills a long foretold prophesy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I put together some really impressive deals, but this thing you have pulled off, it's amazing. A Big N' Tasty for just $1? Together, Grimace, we could own this town.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, there's a tweet and a commercial for everything, even those grimace. Where is grimace these days? You don't see grimace a lot featured anymore.
Anyway, it's like they say, life comes at you fast. Fast food comes at you faster but you can always have your way on "The Ridiculist." Special orders don't upset us.
And that's it for us. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?