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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Offers Non-Apology to Warmbier Family After Accepting Kim Jong-un's Denial of Personal Culpability; Criminal And Nepotism Accusations Swirl In D.C.; Reports: Attorney For Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump Says He's Wasn't Told Of Any Action By President Trump In Security Clearance Process; Lawmakers Want To Talk With Trump Organization CFO. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 1, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
There has been so much that is abnormal about this presidency. A daily deluge of lies and half truths that the abnormal risk of becoming normal.
But tonight, I just want to pause for a moment to point thought that the times we're living through are not normal. It is not normal for a president of the United States, a country which has traditionally held itself as a beacon of freedom for the world, to praise one of the worst dictators on the planet. That's not normal. It should not be normal.
The president of the United States insists he likes Kim Jong-un. He calls him a real leader. Just think about that for a moment. The leader of the free world calling the leader of the most repressive regime in the world a real leader.
Kim Jong-un, a man who has imprisoned anyone who is even suspected of not liking him. We're talking about a man who imprisons tens of thousands, if not 100,000 people in gulags. Multiple generations of people, families, parents, grandparents, that's a real leader in the president's opinion?
Kim Jong-un once ordered the murder of a family rival with an anti- aircraft gun. That's a real leader?
This is a guy who poisoned his own half brother at a busy foreign airport using a weapon of mass destruction. That's a real leader?
That apparently is President Trump's idea of real leadership. And it's not normal. That is alarming.
Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. President Trump probably would have complimented the Soviet leader on how strong the wall was, how beautiful it was.
I want to play for you exactly what the president told Sean Hannity about his warm feelings for Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a character. He's a real personality. And he's very smart. He's sharp as you can be. And he's a real leader.
And he's pretty mercurial. I don't say that necessarily in a bad way, but he's a pretty mercurial guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I don't want to say mercurial in a bad way. Mercurial is the worst thing you can call Kim Jong-un, you need to buy a thesaurus or read a book about North Korea or perhaps even read and absorb your own intelligence community's assessment of what life is like in North Korea.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Trump said that he trusted Kim as well. Now, maybe you think he's just killing his own people and it's not America's problem. Well, it's not just North Koreans whose deaths he's responsibility for, but the president doesn't see it that way.
Here's what he said yesterday when asked about the murder of Otto Warmbier in custody in North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What happened in is horrible. I really believe something very bad happened to him. I don't think that the top leadership knew about it. And I did speak about it. And I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen. Just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen.
Those prisons are rough. They're rough places. And bad things happen. But I really don't believe that he was -- I don't believe he knew about it.
REPORTER: Did he tell you that he did not -- did Kim Jong-un --
TRUMP: He felt badly about it. He knew the case very well, but he knew it later. And you know, you have a lot of people, a big country. A lot of people.
And in those prisons and in those camps, you have a lot of people. And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things.
But he tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Kim Jong-un felt badly about Otto Warmbier, a young American he imprisoned for 17 months. The president claims in fact that no one in the top leadership in North Korea knew about what happened to Otto Warmbier. He believes Kim Jong-un didn't know about Warmbier until later. America negotiated with North Korean officials to get Warmbier, who
was in a coma at that point, out of the country. Kim Jong-un didn't know about that.
Pretend for a second that he didn't know. Well, he certainly does now. And who has been held responsible for Otto Warmbier's killing? Who? Mr. Trump takes credit for getting Warmbier out in time to die in front of his family. What about demanding to know what actually was done to this young American? And by whom?
The president keeps saying something happened to Warmbier, something really -- that the president thinks something bad happened to him, really bad happened to him. Something didn't happen to Warmbier. Terrible things were done to Otto Warmbier.
That's what this country's top intelligence and national security professionals have determined. As far as the president is concerned, no one in the top leadership of the most repressive regime in the world knows a thing.
What about the promise he made to the family of Otto Warmbier, to their faces? A promise he also made to the country along with ally said and adversaries around the world during last year's State of the Union Address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Otto's wonderful parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are here with us tonight along with Otto's brother and sister, Austin and Greta.
You're powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength truly inspires us all. Thank you very much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know, the president says one thing to your face and when you leave the room and he's with somebody else, he says something completely different.
Honor Otto's memory. He isn't honoring his memory by fawning over the man who is responsible for his death, the man the president believes is a real leader.
Sure, he's mercurial, but the president likes the guy. What can he do? The heart wants what it wants.
Here's the other guy the president seems to be having a long distance love affair with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: People say you shouldn't like him. I said, why shouldn't I like him? I like him, get along great. We'll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We get along great. Why shouldn't he like him? You can tell a lot about a person about the company he keeps or the dictators he likes.
Today, the Warmbier family, who the president pays tribute to at the State of the Union, responded quoting now from the statement they gave to CNN. We've been respectful during the summit process. Now we must speak out.
Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for in imaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.
I just want to play the full exchange of what the president has said about Warmbier yesterday now that you have heard the Warmbier family response. This is the full question along with a piece of the president's answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. You have a personal relationship, and I believe Vice President Pence does with the family of Otto Warmbier.
I'm wondering, you talked this week about Kim Jong-un being my friend. You called him on Twitter, you said you have a great relationship. Have you in Singapore or here confronted Kim Jong-un about Otto Warmbier's death, asked him to take responsibility?
TRUMP: I have.
REPORTER: What did he say to you and why do you call him your friend?
TRUMP: I have, and we talked about it. I really don't think it was in his interest at all. I know the Warmbier family very well. I think they're an incredible family.
What happened is horrible. I really believe something very bad happened to him, and I don't think that the top leadership knew about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president said that he was asked about, asking Kim to take responsibility for it. The president said, oh, Kim doesn't know about it. Didn't know about it.
Late today, the president added more insult to his injury and insult. He tweeted: I never liked being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family. Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous administration did nothing and he was taken on their watch. He went on to say: Of course, I hold North Korea responsible for
Otto's mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and I think of him often.
The president today, because nothing says love like telling his family you're welcome. Nothing shows American resolve like playing defense attorney to a dictator, and nothing inspires respect in a dictator, whether it's the one in Pyongyang or Riyadh or Moscow, in letting them lie to you and saying you believe those lies over the professionals, the American professionals whose only job and whose sole sworn duty is to tell you the truth.
In addition to appeasing dictators, the president has a record of antagonizing grieving families whether it's the Warmbiers, John McCain's family, even during his terminal illness, and the parents of a fallen soldier who was killed in a suicide attack in Iraq in 2004. You remember, the president attacked his parents during the campaign.
Joining us now is his father, Khizr Khan.
Mr. Khan, thank you for being with us. I appreciate your time.
When you hear President Trump praising Kim Jong-un and saying that he believes that Kim Jong-un didn't know what happened to Otto Warmbier, I'm wondering what your perspective is on that?
KHIZR KHAN, GOLD STAR FATHER: Well, first, our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their courage, for their patience, for their putting up with this amazing, amazing political expediency on the part of Donald Trump.
I have very special connection with Otto. Otto was the student of University of Virginia, same school Thomas Jefferson's university, where Captain Hamayun Khan went to school.
COOPER: Your son.
KHAN: So I feel a special connection with Otto, and he will never be forgotten. We want Warmbier family to know that we stand with them, America stands with them, all decent America stands with them.
Now, it is -- I had said that two years ago, and I have repeated that several times, that Donald Trump lacks empathy, most unfit person for the office of the president of the United States, time after time.
[20:10:14] My statement is proven correct. We will continue to be embarrassed, as the leaders of our national security have been embarrassed by Donald Trump.
It is for what purpose, people ask, Americans ask. Why does he do this?
He favors Putin over leaders of our national security, his own appointed leaders of national security, of law enforcement. He favors the worst dictator -- the United Nations has declared North Korea the worst dictatorship, 80,000 to 120,000 people are in starvation camps and gulags in North Korea. And he calls him leader, as you said. It is political expediency.
My concern is now we have thousands of American students in various parts of the world. We have thousands of Americans deployed, our law enforcement, our military, our other Americans working in various parts of the world. Who is responsible for their safety?
If this is the reaction that the bad guys in the world are watching and listening, that this president does not care, he will favor a dictator. He will favor a fascist. He will favor a strongman who will torture Americans. He will stand with them. It is such concern.
COOPER: There's no call for accountability even. I mean, the president could claim that he believes Kim Jong-un didn't know, but there's still no call from the president for accountability, responsibility, somebody, you know, an actual investigation, you know, to find out what really happened.
And I'm curious to know your definition of a real leader, because the president seems to think Kim Jong-un is a real leader. Seems to me a real leader takes responsibility for especially if you are a dictator and everything in North Korea flows to you or flows from you, there is very little that Kim Jong-un is unaware of, particularly what's happening to a young American student who you have imprisoned for 17 months.
KHAN: Correct. The real leader really there is one basic character which is empathy. The people that you lead, the people that you guide, the people that you claim to be leading, you empathize with them.
You feel their pain. You feel their suffering. You feel what they're going through.
But this president has disappointed time after time after time, be it Captain Humayun Khan's mother or Sergeant La David's widow, or parents of Otto Warmbier. He has disappointed the nation. He has disappointed us.
Basically, the element of that empathy is missing. And without that, we will continue to go through this ordeal, whatever time is left, whatever time we have to endure him being in the Oval Office.
COOPER: You were obviously vocal during the campaign. You and your wife withstood the president's personal attacks.
Are you surprised how this presidency has gone so far? I mean, the level of chaos within the White House, the sheer number of lies. Does it surprise you?
KHAN: Well, I am disappointed. It doesn't surprise.
And the reason for that is that it was so obvious. It was so obvious that this nation is being conned, is being misled, misguided, something that wasn't there was being sold. And the nation is finding out.
The disappointing part is that our Republican leaders, members of the Congress, they have forgotten their leadership. They have forgotten what their obligations are to the Constitution, to our democracy, to our rule of law. They seem to, and we saw that a couple days ago at the hearing of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney for such a long time.
They were tempering -- they were abusing the witness who came to tell his side of the story.
[20:15:09] COOPER: Yes.
KHAN: And the Republican leadership totally was badgering the witness instead of performing their duty, their obligation, their constitutional obligation of checks and balance and making sure that the executive is kept under check.
KHAN: It is a process that we are going through. And I am certain, I am certain, as I was certain that 2000 elections shown where real America stands.
And I am certain that in 2019 and 2020, America will show its decency. America yearns to be the beacon of hope for the rest of the world as it always has been.
KHAN: Momentarily, we're going through an anomaly that has taken place in 2016. And I am certain that America's decency, America's leadership, will prevail.
COOPER: Khizr Khan, I appreciate your time and my best to your family. Thank you.
COOPER: Joining us is "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo, and Max Boot, CNN global affairs analyst, "Washington Post" columnist and author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."
Why -- I mean, Max, I don't even know what to ask. But why do you think this president -- is it just he's trying to gain leverage in negotiations and not alienate Kim Jong-un for the greater good? I mean, I guess that's one argument. But the negotiations have broken down.
He seems to genuinely -- I mean, there's ways to not alienate Kim Jong-un and continue negotiations or continue involvement without praising him as, you know, a real leader, you know, a great guy basically.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Exactly right, Anderson. I think the problem fundamentally here is that Donald Trump has an endless appetite for flattery. And so, he imagines that because he knows he can be manipulated by people who flatter him, he imagines by flattering these foreign dictators, he can manipulate them.
Now, that theory, there's no evidence to support it. I mean, look at what happened in Hanoi. It doesn't matter how often Donald Trump says he's best buddies with Kim Jong-un. At the end of the day, Kim really likes having nuclear weapons. He's not going to have them up no matter how much he's flattered.
But Donald Trump has not stopped flattering him. And this is obscene. It's degrading. It's humiliating.
I mean, I get that sometimes you have to deal with unpleasant leaders, but when FDR met with Joseph Stalin, he didn't feel compelled to exonerate Stalin from the crimes of the gulag or the Ukrainian famine. You can deal with these leaders and keep your dignity, but Donald Trump does not.
COOPER: Michael, is it appropriate for the president to, you know, say he thinks Kim Jong-un is, you know, a real leader? Somebody he genuinely likes?
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I don't even know that I agree with what he said, but I do know the president has a more personal relational approach to diplomacy than we're used to. I think it's gotten us where we are right now with North Korea, further along toward peace in that peninsula than we have been in generations.
Now, I'm someone -- I spent part of my time in the army infantry on the demilitarized zone between the two countries, North and South Korea. I have friends of mine who are still there working in the DOD. They say that they feel better about the relationship between the two countries than they ever have.
We have only gotten there in many ways because of the personal relational way that President Trump deals with it. It also opens him up to criticism, some of it legitimate. It also hurts families like Otto Warmbier's. I think they're walking that back the way they should.
I expect more from these talks as we go forward. Remember, it took eight years after President Nixon met with Mao to normalize relations between the United States and China. And when President Nixon went to China, a lot of people were pretty upset about that.
COOPER: Yes, but he wasn't sucking up to Chairman Mao by saying he is a real leader, and my buddy, and we have a great love affair, and he writes me great letters. I mean, don't you find it just odd? I mean, you know, this is not normal behavior.
CAPUTO: It's different, for sure.
COOPER: It's different.
CAPUTO: It's different for sure. Like I said, it opens him up to criticism, like you have just given.
But, you know, I trust the impetus of the staff work here. I mean, Stephen Biegun, who is his emissary, I have known for 25 years. I believe that Stephen Biegun is doing great work and we're going to get to a place where we may even see more good and positive results here.
But in the end, it's going to be something that happens between the two leaders.
[20:20:05] As great work as Stephen and the rest of them are doing, it's going to be something that happens between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, the president tweeted today, quote, of course, I hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death. Certainly, not the same thing as saying he holds Kim Jong-un responsible for Warmbier's death.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. So it's -- and it's not just, you know, his death. It's the way he was sent back to the United States.
According to his parents, we have a 22-year-old who was blind and deaf, who was jerking violently, making inhuman sounds. This is what his parents witnessed and saw when their son was returned to them.
And I think that Donald Trump has talked a lot about how he wants to return the United States to strength, right? He has this idea that he's not weak and that Barack Obama was weak. But the fact that the North Korean government felt comfortable doing exactly this, sending a 22-year-old American back who had been tortured beyond anything you can imagine and really left for dead shows how little they actually respect Donald Trump, and how little they respect the United States because there was a time when people would be worried about treating an American that way and worried about how the president would react to that.
So, it wasn't -- it was something that was done to this family, but it was also something that was done to this country. And so, for the president to react the way he's reacted, it really shows it's a sign of weakness to me. It shows that he is not in the position of power in this relationship. And I guarantee that that's the way North Korea sees it.
COOPER: Yes, we have to leave it there. There's more to say, but, Kirsten, I appreciate it. Michael Caputo, Max Boot as well.
Just ahead tonight, what greeted the president on his return from the summit and the week that electrified Washington. We'll talk to two Davids, David Axelrod and David Gergen. We'll also talk to them about president's remarks about Kim Jong-un and Otto Warmbier.
Later, Richard Blumenthal on how little the White House may want us to see and his efforts to get as much of it out there as possible.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:26:22] COOPER: When President Trump returned from Hanoi, he came back to more from just jet lag, more than just the criticism over the summit and ended with whimper, more than just the eruption of anger at his remarks over Kim Jong-un, and more than just the fallout from Michael Cohen's testimony.
He came back to Washington in turmoil, if not downright chaos over all that and more. Two people know what it adds up to. David Axelrod, David Gergen, both former top White House advisers. David Axelrod, most recently adviser to President Obama.
David Gergen, it's very easy to every day, with every kind of outrage and headline to kind of get numb to it all and think, OK, this is normal. And then every now and then, the president says something which even Republicans start to criticize a little bit.
And this Otto Warmbier comment is -- it's stunning that yet again the president of the United States, you know, after talking about having a love affair with Kim Jong-un, who has concentration camps in the country with tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people in it, and obviously, was aware of Otto Warmbier and you know, everything flows to and from Kim in North Korea. It can't -- it's not like he's uninformed.
This is not normal for a president to be saying stuff like this.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN, & CLINTON: It's not normal, and I don't think we'll see it again for a long time, at least I certainly hope not. It's actually very chilling.
You know, I'm glad you raised it in these terms because the central issue here is whether the president yet again is putting his faith in the world's dictators and authoritarians over his own intelligence agencies. He had done it with Putin in Russia, he's done it with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and now, he's doing it with Kim. It's especially of North Korea and especially galling because he doesn't seem to relate to the fact that Kim runs these huge concentration camps. The U.N. says he's got anywhere between 80,000 to 120,000 people in gulags.
He's murdered two members of his own family. He medically experiments with people, and this young man, and Trump says well, I believe him about how this young man, Otto Warmbier, died. The story doesn't add up.
He's also claiming, I got Warmbier out of there.
GERGEN: How did he do that without Kim being absolutely on top of it and knowing exactly what was going on?
GERGEN: Kim had to know right from the beginning. COOPER: Right. It's not as if there's flights coming and going that
Kim would be unaware. Oh, a comatose American is being flown out of the country and you have no idea about it.
GERGEN: It's dishonorable to treat the family, the Warmbier family, this way.
David Axelrod, if you're president and three of the major headlines in a week are you overruled intelligence officials to give your son-in- law a top secret security clearance, you accepted a brutal dictator's claim he knew nothing about the torture of an American prisoner, and you're accused on live national television of being a criminal by your former attorney. Isn't it time for some sort of, you know, a meeting to occur or a reset or somebody to -- I mean, it doesn't seem like there's anybody around the president who really has any influence over him.
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yes, I think it's important to take a step back and think about what all of this means. And everything we have experienced for the last couple of years and come to some conclusions about Donald Trump and how he thinks and how he operates.
First of all, on Otto Warmbier, the thing that made it even all the more egregious is we all remember him inviting the parents of Otto Warmbier to the State of the Union, and he spent several minutes delivering a blistering indictment of Kim Jong-un for the death of that young man. And now, he offers him absolution here, or, you know, accepts his denial in the face of the obvious evidence.
The truth is, you know, David said, you know, he's believing them over their own -- his own intelligence. I don't think he believes him, I think he knows what happened in North Korea. I think he knows what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. I think he knows what Putin did. He has decided that it is in his interest to overlook those things.
And that is what -- when you add all these stories up, what you get is a guy who doesn't believe in rules, doesn't believe in norms, doesn't believe in values, doesn't believe in institutions. He believes only in self-interest and doing in the moment what he thinks is in his own self-interest, and that is really disturbing.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's like he's trying to be a tough guy, like a John Gotti, and you know, he's got his kids in the White House. He's got his in-law, you know, his son-in-law in the White House. It's -- we've just never seen anything like this.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think, Anderson, what's happening right now is that as the Mueller part reported is being awaited and we're all eager to read it, that it's also true that people are saying the Mueller report is becoming less and less important in the big scheme of things. The issue is not whether he worked with the Russians, of course, that's central to the investigation by Mueller, but the issue increasingly for the public is, is he fit for the office. Is he morally fit to lead the country and to lead the world? And I think a lot of people are coming to a negative conclusion.
COOPER: Well, the idea of even talking about morals, I mean, is -- David Axelrod, that's not even a conversation one normally associates. It's like talking about a sense of shame that's also not something one would talk about it relating to that.
AXELROD: I think he thinks morals and shame are for suckers. Look, the investigation has shifted to New York because the focus is now on his business and the way in which he conducted his business. And what he has done is he's brought Trump Organization ethics to the Oval Office and to the governance of this country and that is really, really shocking. And you're right, we've never seen anything like this before and it's not clear where it's all going to go.
COOPER: Yes. Trump Organization ethics and Trump Organization lack of organization and chaos. I mean, that's essentially what he's re- created. David Axelrod, thank you, David Gergen, as always. Thank you very much.
GERGEN: Thank you.
AXELROD: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, a quick reminder, you can see more of David Axelrod this weekend. His guest on "The Axe Files," Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Its tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
Still ahead, breaking news and the question of Jared Kushner's security clearance and whether President Trump gave the order for him to get it. Kushner's attorney at one point said one thing, and just moments ago, he has said another, it's pretty startling. We'll talk to Senate Judiciary Committee member, Richard Blumenthal, next.
[20:36:33] COOPER: Well, there's breaking news right now on a story we first brought you last night. A report in "The New York Times" that President Trump had ordered then Chief of Staff John Kelly to get his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a top security clearance.
Just moments ago, Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, put out a statement. But before we read it to you, here's what Abbe Lowell said when the clearance issue first came up. And as you'll see, he was pretty straight about how the clearance was granted. He was pretty clear about it, as well as who was and wasn't involved. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Who made the decision to restore his security clearance? How did that happen? ABBE LOWELL, JARED KUSHNER'S ATTORNEY: The intelligence community and the FBI. It happened in the normal course. It happened the way it happens for thousands of people. There was nobody in the political process that had anything to do with it. There was nobody who pressured it. It was just done the normal regular way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The normal regular way. Nobody pressured for it. That was last May. Abbe Lowell, that's the-- Jared Kushner's attorney, stating with great certainty that no one outside the regular people were involved in the clearance process.
Tonight, though, he's telling "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" through a spokesman something else entirely, "Mr. Lowell was not aware of nor told of any request for or action by the President to be involved in the security clearance process. Again, officials affirmed at the time that the regular processes occurred without any pressure."
Joining me now is Senate Judiciary Committee member, Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Is there -- I mean, there's not really any other way to read Lowell's statement than just saying either Kushner lied to him or Kushner was lied to and-- but the White House officials lied to Abbe Lowell about the process or maybe the President.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Someone was lying.
COOPER: Someone was lying, yes.
BLUMENTHAL: And what's really important here, Anderson, is that this clearance was not normal in any way. The President of the United States personally overruled his security advisers, the intelligence community who had good reason to deny this thing.
COOPER: Legally, he can do that, but it's just unprecedented.
BLUMENTHAL: Legally he can do it now, which raises the question, by the way, whether Congress should impose more restraints. I think Congress has to consider imposing more restraints on that now apparent almost absolute authority to grant or revoke security clearances. But remember, what he did here was not only overrule the intelligence community, but also his chief of staff, General Kelly, and his counsel. And they felt --
COOPER: Right, the White House Counsel Don McGahn.
BLUMENTHAL: And -- exactly. And they felt so strongly about it. They made a paper trail. They decided to write memos detailing why they object to it. And I think Congress, the judiciary committee, the intelligence committee of both Houses has a right to see those memos and to know more.
COOPER: What I don't understand is -- I mean, why lie about it? Again, I mean, we've -- this is a question we ask, I don't know, maybe almost nightly, but why lie about it? I mean, he could -- he's legally entitled to do it. This is the person he wanted. Why not just say, "You know what, I've overruled them. This is the person I want. He's dealing with Middle East peace. He's got to have a security clearance." But, no, there's this, you know, friend -- there's just like constant lying.
BLUMENTHAL: I may be the last person to try to tell you what's going through Donald Trump's head at any point, but most people lie because they want to conceal something, because they feel they have something to hide.
[20:40:01] In this case, the reason that Jared Kushner was denied a security clearance, and by the way, I raised this point repeatedly six, eight months ago, asking first that his security clearance be reviewed, then I wrote with colleagues asking that it be suspended because of his conversations with Russian agents, his secret conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, his effort to establish a back channel to Russia, and his conversations with a Russian banker, Sergei Gorkov. So, there was a lot here that could have contributed to the denial of his security clearance.
COOPER: Right. I mean, you know, Kushner was looking for money for 666, this building in New York that was in financial trouble. I mean, this is why there are anti-nepotism regulations in place and why most presidents do not choose to employ their daughters and their daughter's husband.
I mean, if Hillary Clinton was president and she employed Chelsea Clinton and Chelsea Clinton's husband, there would be -- people's heads would explode, certainly on the right. I mean, Democrats probably go along with it, but it just seems to be another incident of the President not caring overall about the integrity, even Ivanka Trump apparently lied or was misinformed during an interview where she said, "Oh, no, this was just the regular process."
BLUMENTHAL: There's a lot here, Anderson, that lends itself to caricature and almost humor. What we're talking about here --
COOPER: It's not -- I mean, it is funny but it's not funny. It's serious.
BLUMENTHAL: It's not funny at all because we're talking about something deeply dangerous and were deeply dangerous to people who right now are risking their lives trying to uncover secrets that this nation has to protect.
And what Donald Trump did was put those secrets and those individuals in the gravest of jeopardy by overruling the intelligence community about who should have access to those secrets. We know Kushner and his family had very serious debts. We know that they were in touch with the Saudis and with other potential foreign bankers.
COOPER: Yes, with Qatar, with the Chinese. I mean, you know, there's no telling how far that goes. Senator Blumenthal, appreciate your time as always.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. COOPER: Thank you. Up next, his name was mentioned 25 times during the Michael Cohen testimony on Wednesday, so who is Allen Weisselberg? According to a former Trump Organization employee, he's the guy who "knows where all the financial bodies are buried." I'll speak with former Trump Organization executive, Barbara Res, next about her time working with Allen Weisselberg and how important he is in the corporation.
[20:46:14] COOPER: President Trump's former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, testified before the House Oversight Committee this week, one name kept coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weisselberg is Executive-1, correct?
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Yes.
The bottom signature I believe is Allen Weisselberg's.
I was asked again with Allen Weisselberg.
I was instructed by Allen.
In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg.
Mr. Weisselberg for sure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who would know the answer to those questions?
COHEN: Allen Weisselberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. He was granted limited immunity in investigation to hush money payments made to two women who alleged they had affairs with Mr. Trump years ago. His name was on one of the checks that Michael Cohen showed the House Oversight Committee this week.
Now after Cohen's revelations, the House Intelligence Committee wants to talk with Weisselberg. Our Randi Kaye has a look tonight at the man who controls the money for the Trump family business.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Allen Weisselberg is the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, the top bookkeeper who knows where all the financial bodies are buried, according to a former Trump Organization employee who spoke with CNN. When Trump won the White House, he put his sons and Weisselberg in charge of the family business.
SHERI DILLON, ATTORNEY OF MORGAN LEWIS: His relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization to his sons, Don and Eric, and a longtime Trump executive, Allen Weisselberg.
KAYE: Weisselberg, who hasn't returned our request for comment, oversees that trust. He's prepared the President's tax returns and is the treasurer for Trump's now defunct charity. Weisselberg has also reported been privy to Trump's real estate transactions both here at home and overseas, including where all the funding was coming from.
(on camera) There's no doubt about how vast Weisselberg's knowledge is. He has a long history with the Trump family going back decades. In the 1970s, he was an accountant for President Trump's father, Fred Trump. He then moved over to the Trump Organization. "The Wall Street Journal" reported Weisselberg over saw many of Trump's personal transactions, including household expenses, as well as the purchases of planes and boats.
(voice-over) Tristan Snell, a former assistant attorney general who helped lead the prosecution of Trump University, says Weisselberg is the single most indispensable person in the Trump Organization. In that case, he says, Weisselberg knew where every dollar in the Trump Organization came from and controlled where every dollar went.
Over the years, Weisselberg has kept a pretty low profile. One former colleague telling "The Wall Street Journal" that Weisselberg fits in with the wallpaper, but that suddenly has gotten a lot harder to do.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Joining me now is Barbara Res, a former executive of the Trump Organization and author of, "All Alone on the 68th Floor: How One Woman Changed the Face of Construction." Good to have you back. Thank you so much.
BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Thank you.
COOPER: Allen Weisselberg, when you got there to the organization, he was already working, but he was working for Donald Trump's father, Fred, out in Brooklyn.
RES: That's right. He worked for Fred.
COOPER: And can you talk about his role? I mean, his role now, I guess is -- I don't think he was chief financial officer back then, but what was his role back then? RES: He wasn't the chief financial officer back then. I mean, when he worked in Brooklyn, I was working in Trump Tower in Manhattan, right? That was really the only big project we had in Manhattan.
Brooklyn used to pay us. I mean, they did everything through Brooklyn, except the job expenses which went through an outside account. But, all the bills and all the invoices and all the collection of rent, and all of the payment of little invoices and things, that was all done by Allen.
COOPER: Do you think it's -- you know, when Michael Cohen certainly seemed to indicate time and time again, Allen Weisselberg's presence in the room during, you know, what investigators believe were important moments or Allen Weisselberg's signatures on checks, do you believe he would know more than Michael Cohen, who was there for 10 years?
[20:50:13] RES: I personally don't. I think that he might know more about the exact numbers, like the fact that money move from this hand to that hand. But I don't know that he would know much about details, I think that would be more in between.
COOPER: Would he know -- I mean, if he's -- Allen Weisselberg as chief financial officer, does he have access to all the financial records?
RES: He probably does, yes.
COOPER: So he could have looked at tax returns. He could have looked at -- I mean, he would have access to them?
RES: He would have access, but I don't know that -- for instance, tax returns, he didn't do them. They had accountants that did that.
COOPER: But if Michael Cohen is consulting with Allen Weisselberg about how to pay hush money to a porn star, that's out of the realm of most, you know, chief financial officers.
RES: Yes, I would say so. But, again, I think of him more as Donald's accountant than a chief financial officer for a big company.
COOPER: Well, I mean, that's interesting. If he's Donald's accountant, then he certainly knows -- it sounds to me like he would know a great deal about through the personal machinations of Mr. Trump.
RES: Absolutely. I think that that was one of his main jobs to do all -- do everything that Donald spent money on -- excuse me, President Trump spent money on or, you know, needed to collect personally was all Allen oversaw all of that. I'm sure of that.
COOPER: Right. So if that's the case, if, you know, he got other payments to women, if there are other -- you know, he's got a loan problems and he's got, you know, Felix Sater who has an office on the floor who had, you know, former ties to Russian mob figures, Allen Weisselberg would be aware of that? RES: If it had to do with Trump's direct on personal finances, yes. Through a bank, maybe not.
COOPER: Right. But Trump's own personal finances seem to me to be sort at the core of this.
RES: They appear to be, absolutely.
COOPER: Yes. Does -- what is he like?
RES: He used to be, when I know him very well, and I know him well, he was a very low key guy, humble guy kind of guy lived in Queens -- not Queens, Long Island, he called Donald, which we called -- everyone called him Donald. He called him Mr. Trump. He was, you know, that kind. He was a Mr. Trump guy. He was not in the top tier, so to speak. He wasn't in the inner circle. But he was, you know, he did his job.
COOPER: Would Weisselberg sign off on things without Mr. Trump's knowledge?
RES: I do not believe that anyone would sign off on anything without -- major without Donald Trump.
COOPER: That's the way the organization worked?
COOPER: Donald Trump knew, has -- you know, had oversight of everything.
RES: Some kind of approval, some level of approval, yes.
COOPER: And who just said -- I mean, because, you know, most organizations aren't necessary -- people delegate, that's not the way the Trump Organization.
RES: It's not that big of an organization. People tend to think about it as this massive company.
COOPER: Right. He talks about 10,000 employees.
RES: I know. It's not -- it's just, you know, when I was there, it was only 7 or 8 people in a group. But, I mean, you know, it's got -- suddenly people can do their own thing and people have responsibilities.
COOPER: But when he talks about 10,000 employees, I mean, he's talking about grounds keepers at golf course or not.
RES: Yes, and then dealers at a casino, I don't know if he still has them, but kind of thing. COOPER: Right. And I don't think he has many dealers.
RES: No, probably not. Yes.
COOPER: Barbara Res, good to talk to you. Thank you very much.
RES: Thank you, my pleasure.
COOPER: Appreciate it. I want to check in with Chris to see what he is working on. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, look who I got with me.
CUOMO: Look who I got, one of your fans.
CUOMO: It's my son.
COOPER: I saw your son playing ball earlier in the hall.
CUOMO: I know. He was (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: I would have offered to like play ball, but it would be embarrassing.
CUOMO: Anderson will ruin the game for you because you'll realize you'll never be that smooth. So, the theme of the show tonight is integrity. We're looking into different types of integrity by the Democrats and what's going on with this presidency. Mario, what is a simple definition of integrity?
MARIO CUOMO, CHRIS CUOMO'S SON: Like the ability to do the right thing even though -- even if you know that you're not going to get caught.
C. CUOMO: Yes. Even if you won't get caught, will you still do the right thing? That's integrity. You have integrity. I love you. So, that's what we're going to be talking about on the show tonight. We have a congressman who is leading the fight for oversight. You heard the sound bite from Maxine Waters that we're going to be looking at Deutsche Bank now to see what the President did with lending. How much is enough? How much too much? We'll get into it.
COOPER: I'd be happy to just have Mario for the rest of the program.
C. CUOMO: He's good-looking.
COOPER: I think you should have him on every night.
C. CUOMO: He's good looking and he's a big fan of your hair style. Why do you like his hair style so much? M. CUOMO: It's sexy.
C. CUOMO: It's sexy. Good to know. Good to know. Same word I would have used.
COOPER: All right.
C. CUOMO: See you later, buddy. Have a good weekend.
COOPER: Mario, good to see you. Thanks very much.
C. CUOMO: Sexy, really?
COOPER: See you in a few minutes. Up next on "360," before Trump takeover the Republican Party there were, of course, the Bush years. Coming up, my conversation with Neil Bush when "360" continues.
[20:59:12] COOPER: This Sunday night on CNN, the premieres of a new CNN Original Series, "The Bush Years: Family, Duty, Power." I recently spoke with Neil Bush, the brother to former President George W. Bush. He talked about their dad's legacy.
COOPER: I don't know if it was in his DNA or it was it his up bringing kind of the way he was raised, but there was this humility about him which, again, is something increasingly we don't see in public life.
NEIL BUSH, SON OF FORMER PRES. GEORGE H.W. BUSH & FIRST LADY BARBARA BUSH: Yes. I think it was totally in his DNA and his mom probably would have not had it any other way, so maybe it was partially social. You know what, Anderson, I observed that as my parents got older and as old people get older, their filters dropped.
COOPER: That's for sure.
BUSH: And my mom was --
COOPER: My mom is 75 and has absolutely no filter at all (ph).
BUSH: Yes. And so -- and your true nature comes out. So my mom was feisty and fun and, you know, a little sharp witted, but amazingly sharp. But she said things that she might have regretted, and she said more things later in life that she probably would have regretted.