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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Michael Cohen Wraps Up House Intel Testimony, Chair Calls It "Productive"; Rep. Jim Himes (D) Connecticut is Interviewed About Michael Cohen's Closed-Door Testimony; President Trump Threatens to Take Action After Dems Block Fox News from Hosting Primary Debates. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 6, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
When Michael Cohen came out of his closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee late today, Chairman Adam Schiff said his testimony could substantially advance the investigation. As you'll see momentarily, some of what Cohen offered up may speak to whether the president's legal team helped Cohen lie to Congress the first time around, whether they might have suborned perjury.
First, though, the remarkable backdrop to it today which deals with something we already know the president and others lied repeatedly about, the efforts using Michael Cohen to silence two women in the closing days of the campaign. It is quite literally a paper trail. "The New York Times" obtained copies of six additional checks written to Michael Cohen from President Trump. Many of them signed by the president, himself, and not before taking office, either. They were written in the White House while he was president.
Now, we knew about five of them, but now we have more, 11 in all from the president or his trust account. This one obtained by "The Times" that we saw for the first time today dated October 18th, 2017, and his busy that day embroiled in controversy over an allegedly insensitive condolence call it a fallen soldier's widow. You may remember that day.
There were other checks and other notable days according to "The Times", according this one for $70,000 to Michael Cohen on Valentine's Day of 2017 which also happens to be the day the president asked James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn, according to Comey.
As "The Times'" Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt put it, I'm quoting: The president hosted a foreign leader in the Oval Office then wrote a check. He haggled over legislation then wrote a check. He traveled abroad then wrote a check, $420,000 in all according to court documents in the Cohen case including $130,000 for the payoff to Stormy Daniels.
No comment now from the White House on this, not to us or "The Times." The paper also got no comment from Jay Sekulow, one of the president's TV lawyers.
As for the president, himself, you'll recall he initially denied he knew anything about the payment to Stormy Daniels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. No. What else?
REPORTER: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make this, if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael's my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.
REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know. No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that wasn't true. Eventually, the president's other TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, admitted that the Daniels hush money had, in fact, been funneled to Cohen through a law firm and repaid by the president.
So the takeaway tonight, the president of the United States was not telling the truth while saying he didn't know about the payments to a porn star. We now know he was working as the president of the United States from the Oval Office while actually making payments to the porn star. As we've said before, this is not normal.
Joining us now with new information on the Cohen story, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
So, Gloria, what have you been learning about the drafting of Michael Cohen's original testimony to Congress?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have sourcing that says Michael Cohen wrote his original testimony himself. It was then edited by his attorney, and then it was shared with other attorneys who were part of this joint defense agreement at the time. And they weigh in as attorneys will when you circulate testimony, making tweaks here and there, but the key moment which was the Trump Tower Moscow ended in January 2016, which we now know is a lie, remained in -- remained in his testimony until he perjured himself through Congress.
And the lawyers had no indication, our sources say, that any of the information contained in his testimony was false, so you have to ask the question, was Michael Cohen lying to his attorneys and did he -- did he consort with the president to do that?
COOPER: How plausible is it that the president and Michael Cohen were on one page about Trump Tower Moscow, and their lawyers were on another page? BORGER: Well, you know, the signs seem to be pointing in that
direction. I think that from what our reporting is, you know, the lawyers say it's hard to imagine any of them would knowingly, you know, be part of some cover-up here, and that Michael had written his testimony, and each of these lawyers were protecting their own particular clients as part of this joint defense agreement.
So, we now know that Michael Cohen had multiple conversations with the president of the United States. We're not quite sure when they were. And, you know, you have to sort of ask the question, did he keep these conversations with the president from his attorney? And the answer is probably yes.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, Gloria, stay with us.
COOPER: We're with going to come back to you shortly.
First, Democrat Congressman Jim Himes joins us, member of the House Intelligence Committee.
[20:05:01] He was in today's Michael Cohen hearing.
So, Congressman Himes, Lanny Davis says Cohen, himself, authored the false line about the Trump Tower Moscow timeline. Is that your understanding as well that it was Cohen and not, in fact, the president's attorneys?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, Anderson, I can't get into the specifics of what has been discussed in now the two days in which Michael Cohen has testified before my committee. But remember, that statement that is in question here, the statement that was used by the special counsel to ultimately get Michael Cohen to plead guilty to lying to my committee was a deep and rich statement with all sorts of dates and people and mentions and, of course, at the time, as you know, Michael Cohen was part of a joint defense agreement.
HIMES: And so, it's not crazy to infer that a lot of people would have looked at that statement. But, obviously, Michael Cohen when he gave that statement to the Congress, he knew that that date was incorrect.
COOPER: So any of the president's attorneys who reviewed Cohen's statement, do you -- or does your committee plan on calling them to testify?
HIMES: Well --
COOPER: Or at least at this point?
HIMES: As the chairman said today, it was a very productive day. I know this is frustrating but we want to keep the -- COOPER: Of course. I know, there's a lot you can't say.
HIMES: -- subject as private as we could, partly because as a result of today's testimony, the committee may very well call in additional people, and if we call in additional people, we don't necessarily want them knowing exactly what it was that Michael Cohen said.
So, when the chairman said it was a productive day, I think it's -- I think what he meant, and I think what is fair to say is that we learned new things. Michael Cohen said today that he brought new documents. The chairman confirmed that. We saw new documents that pertained to -- to when Michael Cohen told the committee the Trump Tower building had stopped being -- the project had stopped.
So we did see a lot of new information. As a result of that new information, we may very well call additional witnesses.
COOPER: What did -- do you have a sense of what the timetable of the investigation for the committee is? I mean, the plan, you know, to wrap this up in a matter of months or weeks or longer?
HIMES: Well, remember, we started when we regained the majority, when the Democrats regained the majority, we restarted the investigation which then-Chairman Nunes had ended prematurely. We know it's prematurely, of course, the special counsel subsequent to the closing after our investigation has charged any number of people. It's clear we were lied to.
And so, what I will tell you, Anderson, is that we started with let's find out more about the lies that were told to my committee. That's, of course, what we've done with Michael Cohen. And without portraying the details of what we learned today and last week, there is an awful lot more for us to do associated with the lies that Michael Cohen told the Congress. And you might fairly infer that those -- that has to do with the possibility that somebody along the way was looking to assist or did assist in Michael Cohen's crime of lying to Congress.
COOPER: So when we spoke with you last week, we just learned that the house intelligence committee was going to request Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization CFO, who's been there a very long time, to testify. Can you say what the status of that is right now? Has contact been made? Have you gotten any response from him?
HIMES: I don't know that. What I don't know, we said this last week, it continues to bring our intention to bring in Felix Sater. Felix Sater, of course, being the individual who worked in the Trump Organization's office, had a relationship with Michael Cohen and obviously with Donald Trump.
I believe it is still the intention to have him in next week. I don't now if it's an open hearing. That was the original idea. But that remains the next step for this investigation in the House.
COOPER: And on the subject of pardons, number one, did you talk about them with Michael Cohen? Number two, if you did, can you say if the issue of a pardon was first raised by Cohen's attorneys or the president's attorneys?
HIMES: Yes, Anderson, I don't want to get into that. I know the press has been reporting a lot about that today. Of course, Michael Cohen hinted in previous testimony there might have been some issues there. Let me just leave it by saying that the question of whether there were pardons offered to Michael Cohen is a question that has been out there for a long time. And it is still very much out there.
COOPER: And I just wanted to ask you about what we started this broadcast with, "The New York Times" obtaining six checks written from President Trump to Michael Cohen to pay off Stormy Daniels, doing it while in office. In the Oval Office, I assume. Do you think there is any legal or constitutional exposure there?
HIMES: Well, of course, there is. I mean, those checks are interesting because those checks, and the fact that Donald Trump made a payment to reimburse Michael Cohen for paying off a porn star in order to avoid a story, you know, I know Rudy Giuliani is really interested in the question of whether that was personal or political.
I think anybody looking at that would say trying to stop a story that you had an affair with a porn star is something that would certainly be material to Americans' decisions on how they vote for president. You know, not only is that a big deal in and of itself, but simply doing it is a violation of the law and doing it from the White House.
[20:10:05] Remember, Bill Clinton was impeached in the mid '90s for lying about an affair, but Bill Clinton didn't, you know, write hush money checks while he was in the White House. So, yes, of course, we're in a tough spot here because there is now very clear evidence that the president may have committed a serious crime while president of the United States.
COOPER: And just lastly, I've been thinking about something you said last week on the program after Cohen testified in front of your committee. You said the Republicans on your committee didn't do the sort of castigating of Cohen we saw Republicans in the House Oversight Committee doing which was an open hearing.
I wondered, did that -- did that apply today? Did the treatment of Cohen apply to Devin Nunes as well?
HIMES: Yes, again, without getting into the details of the hearing, of course. The -- what happened these last two days with Michael Cohen behind closed doors could not have been more different than what you saw in front of the oversight committee with cameras running, Republicans bringing posters out. None of that happened.
In fact, it was, you know, fairly boring procedurally and as much as question after question after question got asked, the Republicans did participate. Again, I don't want to get into the details of what was said and done, but the Republicans I think are mainly, I think they understand they're in a little bit of a box because, you know, as they did before the American people, saying Michael Cohen, you have no credibility, you're a bad guy, you're a criminal, and stuff -- well, sentence number two behind that is, this is a guy who worked for the president for ten years and oh, by the way, was finance chairman of the Republican Party.
So that's a pretty uncomfortable position for the Republicans to be in.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman Himes, good to have you on. Thank you very much.
HIMES: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Gloria Borger is back. I also want to bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, you heard Gloria's reporting earlier. Do you buy the possibility that Cohen hoodwinked all of these lawyers or do you think they were plausibly in the dark and this is Cohen, alone, doing what he claims the president wanted him to do?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I buy the idea that the lawyers were hoodwinked. I mean, lawyers only know what they're told. Lawyers have no firsthand knowledge of -- of the matters where they're doing the representation.
And people lie to their lawyers all the time. The real responsibility here are the people who talk to the lawyers. That is, Michael Cohen, himself, who was acknowledged lying about the timing of the Trump Tower initiative in Moscow. And Trump, himself. I mean, they're the ones who had a lot to gain from lying about this.
And we know that the president lied to the public about his relationship with the Trump tower Moscow project and how long it went on and how serious it was. So if he lied to the public, I would assume that he lied to the lawyers as well. Why wouldn't he?
COOPER: Gloria, I mean, something as sensitive as this Trump Tower Moscow project and potentially, you know, financially beneficial, what incentive would the president have to stay away from whatever his lawyers were doing with Michael Cohen's testimony?
BORGER: Well, you know, he would have the incentive, if he were another president, to kind of stay away because it was sensitive, but if the president knew that the Trump Tower Moscow, in fact, the discussions went on through June, which I presume he did, I think the question is, did he, as Michael Cohen, himself, has said, you know, did he sort of wink and nod to Michael and say, you know, you know what you got to do, and then the testimony reflected that.
I mean, we know the way Donald Trump operates. We've heard it from Michael Cohen in his congressional testimony. And that -- that is what Michael Cohen says occurs. I think that the committee now has the job to kind of put all these pieces together and figure out whether, in fact, the president was involved, and, you know, that's the question we don't know the answer to at this point, succinctly. I mean, we know what Michael says.
Jeff, were you going to say something?
TOOBIN: What makes this complicated legally is there's this sort of paradox of silence.
TOOBIN: You know, I understood what Trump wanted me to do, but that's how we communicated. He didn't have to tell me to lie. I knew to lie.
That may be true, and that's certainly the way certain crime organizations work. And testimony about that kind of relationship has been very successful in mafia prosecutions. But whether people will believe that that's how the person who is now the president of the United States interacted with his staff, that's a question I don't know the answer to, but it is certainly raised by the evidence here.
COOPER: Although, it's interesting, Jeffrey, if you listen to that tape that Michael Cohen made of his client, Donald Trump, when they were talking about David Pecker, setting up a fund, the language they were both using was very kind of elliptical. I mean, Michael Cohen, you know, I'm paraphrasing, he was like, you know that friend of ours, David, you know, we're going to set up a thing.
[20:15:01] You know, it wasn't very lawyerly direct language.
TOOBIN: Absolutely. And it is, you know, at least generally corroborative of how Cohen describes their relationship. That they both knew what the ultimate goals were, and he didn't have to be told, you know, do step "A," do step "B," do step "C," all of which may have been illegal.
But, you know, it is hard to convince people. You can maybe convince a jury in Brooklyn or Manhattan, but if you're going to try to convince Republican members of Congress that that's how the president operates and you didn't have to be told explicitly to break the law, that's a lot different, and at the moment, anyway, it certainly doesn't look like Republican politicians are embracing Cohen's version of the facts.
COOPER: Well, Jeff --
TOOBIN: Far from it.
COOPER: Jeff and Gloria, thanks for taking part in this thing of ours. Appreciate it.
Just ahead, breaking news. The president issues an ultimatum. We'll tell you what he's threatening to do if some people don't stop being mean to his favorite cable network.
Later, the cabinet secretary responsible for separating children from their families at the border can't even tell you, the American people, how many kids right now are in custody. We're keeping them honest.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:20:33] COOPER: New fallout tonight from the remarkable story in "The New Yorker" about the symbiotic relationship President Trump shares with Fox News. They report, he tweets, vice versa. Author Jane Mayer described it on the program last night. Her piece is certainly worth another look especially for all the fallout it's generating.
Earlier today, the Democratic National Committee citing the report said it is excluding Fox from televising any of its primary debates.
Late this evening, it wasn't Fox that fired back but the president. His tweet reads: Democrats just blocked @foxnews from holding a debate. Good. Then I think I'll do the same thing with the fake news networks and the radical left Democrats in the general election debates.
The cycle of life.
Joining us now is "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum who's taken part in his share of debates, certainly.
Kirsten, does it make sense to you that the DNC would do this? I mean, an audience is an audience and there are plenty of people who watch Fox News and there are responsible journalists who could ask questions. I mean, Chris Wallace is a tough interviewer, Bret Baier.
You know, why -- does this make sense to you that the DNC would do this?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, the thing to remember, I was trying to remember the last time Fox News hosted a Democratic debate. I really can't even remember. They did do a town hall meeting in 2016. Bret Baier hosted it with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Generally, this has been a long-running problem Fox has had with the Democratic Party. That they have viewed them as not a legitimate news organization and they haven't wanted to do debates with them.
So I think that now it's really moved into interestingly, I think, everything the Democrats used to say about Fox, which I don't actually think was accurate. I think it was conservative, you know, a conservative-leaning network, certainly, but not the propaganda that Democrats always said that it was. And it has moved into a space where it is so closely aligned with President Trump that it really borders on, you know, on sort of propaganda sometimes.
That said, there are good journalists there, and I think that they could negotiate to have a debate with a Chris Wallace, for example, a Martha McCallum, a Bret Baier, and I think they would be smart to do it, frankly. I think that they would have access to a large audience and, you know, that's what I would do if I were them.
But they have for a long time, you know, not wanted to do anything with Fox News. COOPER: Senator Santorum, it sounds like the kind of thing that
pleases, you know, the liberal part, or the left, you know, far left part of the Democratic Party, and sort of makes them feel good, but just in terms of, you know, trying to sway voters who could be reached, it seems shortsighted, no?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What are they afraid of? I mean, as Kirsten mentioned, there's legit journalists over there. You mentioned it, too.
There's no question that there is an opinion side to fox and you're right, I mean, they very much cheered for Trump and put his spin out there. But there's also a journalist side. And those are the folks that in my presidential debates, those were the people who asked the questions and let me assure you they were really tough questions. They were as tough as the ones I got on CNN.
I would say the Republicans go on MSNBC which certainly is a very, very hostile place for Republicans, as much an in the bag for the left as Fox is for the right. Yet, Republicans, you know, continue to allow them to debate.
So I just say to the Democratic Party, what are you afraid of? I mean, you have a much bigger audience over there. You have an opportunity to make your case. Why not make the case?
COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, does -- is the president then right to say, well, look, if the DNC's going to do this, then I'm not going to go on networks I don't like?
POWERS: I mean, he can do that if he wants. I think that the thing that's a little different than in the past is the fact that Fox and President Trump are so intertwined. It's hard to tell where one starts and the other ends. And so, I don't know that it's -- I wouldn't really compare MSNBC to them.
I think in the past that was, you know, a little better of a comparison that you have, you know, one network to the right and one network that's a little more to the left. You know, and other people can debate the quality. I know that will upset people on both sides that I even used them in the same sentence. But the point is, they weren't -- there's -- I don't think anyone ever thought MSNBC was as tied to the Obama White House, for example, as, obviously, Donald Trump is.
[20:25:07] You have Bill Shine who was, you know, the former senior vice president of Fox News who, you know, was there, you know, from its inception, who is best friends with Sean Hannity. You know, there's a real connection between the two, and so I can see why there would be concern.
I just think that you can pick some journalists who you can rely on and definitely Chris Wallace would be the top of that list.
COOPER: Rick, I see you making a face. SANTORUM: Yes, in all due respect here, that's just -- it's sort of
the blatancy of the mainstream media not being able to look at itself and realize they are very much oriented to the left and MSNBC is the left of that group, and to say you can't compare MSNBC with Fox, I can tell you, there's a big swath of America out there that would say, you're right, MSNBC is --
POWERS: That's what I said, a lot of people would be upset me making that comparison.
POWERS: Also, MSNBC will be mad.
My point is you don't ever think they were ever as intertwined with the Obama White House as Fox News is with the Trump White House. I mean, that's just -- it just didn't exist.
SANTORUM: I would say that the reporting of MSNBC during the Obama administration was as pro-Obama as the Fox reporting is of Trump. I mean, you can say they may not have had the personality entwinement, but if you look at what they reported, what they emphasized, what they failed to report, what they -- it's very, very similar in the way they approach both.
COOPER: All right. Rick Santorum, appreciate it. Kirsten Powers as well.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen faced lawmakers today about among other things the administration's family separation policy. Nielsen previously told lawmakers the policy was not at all attended as a deterrent, but that, of course, was later exposed as a lie. Other members of the government said that was the idea of it. What she said about it today. We're keeping them honest.
[20:30:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When asked today, Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, said she does not know how many immigrant children are in custody after being apprehended along the southern border. So the head of the department responsible for detaining them, children, doesn't know how many children she's actually detaining.
Now, obviously, Kirstjen Nielsen has a lot of responsibility. She had a huge agency. But let me ask you, if you were the point person in charge of kids in custody, some trying to be reunited with parents, some sick, kids of all ages, don't you think that's a number you would carry around in your head with you every single day?
Isn't that a number you would check on pretty much every day to see how are those reunifications going? Children, some of whom the U.S. is responsible for separating from their parents as part of U.S. policy. She says she doesn't know how many kids are still in custody.
Now, that question came up at a scheduled hearing of the House Homeland Committee today. It was a scheduled hearing. And I point that out that it wasn't a surprise question yelled by a reporter, wasn't a sudden meeting she wasn't prepared for, wasn't a pop quiz. So it's hard to imagine why Secretary Nielsen would not have that number at her fingertips.
A couple options, perhaps, she really doesn't know the numbers, she doesn't keep track of it, doesn't keep her up at night, she just doesn't know and didn't think to ask anyone before this hearing, which she must have been prepared for. She didn't think anybody would ask that question. The thing is, this is not the first time this has happened.
"Keeping them Honest," not knowing how many kids you've got locked up. It's part of a pattern for Secretary Nielsen and the administration of not being forthcoming about their policies at the border.
She has almost from day one of the administration's zero-tolerance policy on families trying to enter the country made statements downplaying the human impact, diminishing her responsibility, and twisting words to avoid accountability for the consequences of which she and the administration have done.
And just to be clear, and we always try do this, we're not debating policy. This is not a question of which policy is right for deterring illegal border crossing. That's up to voters to decide.
This is not -- this is not dealing with the very real problems that are driving people to come here. This is just a question of being honest about the policy that's in place and, frankly, taking responsibility for the outcome, whatever it may be, whether you agree with it or not.
Now today, Kirstjen Nielsen, yet again, did not take responsibility. To begin with, she played word games over the first visual manifestation of the program, the detention facilities, the human holding pens along the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Are we still putting children in cages?
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage if you mean a cage like this.
THOMPSON: Purposely or whatever, are we putting children in cages as of today?
NIELSEN: Children are processed at the border facility stations that you've been at. Some of the areas --
THOMPSON: And I've seen the cages. I just want you to admit that the cages exist.
NIELSEN: Sir, they're not cages.
THOMPSON: What are they?
NIELSEN: They are areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they're being process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, you can issue with the word cages, which the administration obviously does. And of course, children weren't kept in containers as the size of the box that Secretary Nielsen drew in the air. But to say this was simply for the children's protection does seem kind of Orwellian when you consider what subsequently was done to them.
In a sharp break from how past administrations, Republican and Democratic did it, children were separated from their families and then sent to facilities all across the country, sometimes in the many middle of the night without first making sure the parents would actually be able to locate them later and many of them couldn't. That and not the holding facilities is what drew the outrage.
And the administration actually embraced it because they viewed such dire consequences. It was a feature. It wasn't a bug. This was touted as a tough but necessary message to send anyone thinking about crossing the boarder with children, which is dangerous, that it was supposed to be a deterrent. They used the word. Officials are on the record talking about it very clearly, even on T.V.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE HOST: Are you considering this a deterrent?
JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I see that the fact that no one was being prosecuted for this as a factor in a five-fold increase in four years in this kind of illegal immigration so, yes, hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry and not break across the border --
SESSIONS: -- unlawfully.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are Department of Homeland Security personnel going to separate the children from their moms and dads?
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I am considering in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:35:00] COOPER: So that's John Kelly, Secretary Nielsen's predecessor at the Department of Homeland Security and that -- before that was former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. John Kelly used the "D" word, deter, all the way back in March of 2017, long before the policy took effect or was even being drafted. So that idea of a deterrent, it was in his mind and everybody's mind as they were dreaming this up.
Now, the attorney general spoke as it was being implemented with more than 2,000 kids in custody. And, again, whatever you think of the policy, they were at least being honest about what it was and why they supported it, but not Secretary Nielsen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D), MICHIGAN: Do you initiate the separation of families for the expressed purpose of deterring families from coming to the United States?
NIELSEN: No, I did not. Again, the whole purpose of that was to increase consequences for those who choose to break the law. That's a bedrock of our criminal, as you know, the way that our criminal system works. If there's no consequences, we do not see the instances of the crime decreasing.
So, what we did was we increased the number of prosecutions, we didn't make up the law, the law was already there. Former administrations also referred adult parents for prosecution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. In case you didn't notice, that is in direct opposition to what Sessions and Kelly are on the record on camera saying. Apparently to Secretary Nielsen, designing a policy with serious negative consequences, then warning people about those consequences, then using the word "deterrent" in describing this deterrent that you're trying to deter people with is not a deterrent, that's what she said today.
And in fairness, she is being consistent. It's also what she said last June when she apparently considered a question about the policy more offensive than the very real human damage that the policy was causing at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out? Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message?
NIELSEN: I find that offensive. No. because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps it's deterrence.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: I mean it's Orwellian. I don't know -- she found it offensive. But "Keeping them Honest," that's exactly what the administration did. Secretary Nielsen simply doesn't want, didn't want, and doesn't now want to take responsibility for it. Instead, as she did with the question of cages, she's playing word games.
She said she did not create the policy, which wasn't the question, but in any case, it's not quite accurate, either. She admits to seeing and weighing in on a draft version back in December of 2017 that offered the option of separating family units.
When it became public last month, her spokesperson tried to suggest without actually saying that the secretary never wanted family separation, and it's true that the final declared policy does not explicitly say that children will be taken from their parents. The press release is titled, "The Attorney General Announces Zero- Tolerance Policy for Criminal Illegal Entry."
However, what that zero-tolerance policy called for could not have resulted in anything but taking kids from their parents, which is exactly what happened thousands of times over, which is exactly what Jeff Sessions and John Kelly said would be a deterrent, which Secretary Nielsen now says is not a deterrent, it was never meant to be. And what she continues to evade responsibility for as this extended portion of her testimony today shows. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: In a memo to you dated April 23rd regarding the Justice Department's zero-tolerance policy, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, USCIS Director Francis Cissna, and then- ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan stated, "DHS could also permissibly direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted pursuant to these authorities." Did you read that memo, yes or no?
RICE: Did you concur with this assessment made by your component agency leaders, yes or no?
NIELSEN: I -- there are many assessments in there, I concurred with their recommendation on what to do to increase consequences for those crossing the border illegally.
RICE: The piece that I just read, do you concur with that?
NIELSEN: I'm sorry, could you read that particular --
RICE: "DHS could also permissibly direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted pursuant to these authorities," that specific statement.
NIELSEN: As I understand it, we have the legal authority to do that, yes.
RICE: Did you agree with that?
NIELSEN: What I agreed to do is --
RICE: Did you agree with that assessment that they made?
NIELSEN: That wasn't a recommendation, ma'am, it's a legal statement. We do have the legal authority to do it, as I understand it.
RICE: Were you aware that the zero-tolerance policy would lead to minors being separated from their parents, yes or no?
NIELSEN: As we increased consequences for those who break the law just as --
RICE: Yes or -- I have such limited time, Madam Secretary.
[20:40:00] RICE: I'm sure you can appreciate that.
NIELSEN: As a consequence for a parent going to jail, we in this country do not take the children to jail.
RICE: OK. So I take that as a yes that you understood that the zero- tolerance policy was going to lead to minors being separated from their parent?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That exchange was with Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a Democrat of New York. I spoke to her just a short time ago.
COOPER: Congresswoman Rice, Secretary Nielsen today admitting she was aware that a parent going to jail would mean separation from their children. Given that, do you believe then that she deliberately misled the public by saying the administration did not have a child separation policy?
RICE: Well, she's been deliberately misleading the public since, for over a year, since then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy back in, I believe, early last year.
She was aware of the policy before he announced it. She knew it was coming. She knew it was going to result in children being ripped away from their parents. And she has consistently since that time said that it's not a family separation policy. She was under oath today and I think it's very disturbing that someone in her position can come before a congressional committee and blatantly give false testimony.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, what happens now? I mean, you clearly believe she just deliberately misled the public. Do you also then believe she committed perjury?
RICE: Well, that's going to have to be determined by the committee work. I'm talking to the chairman. We're going over the testimony. You know, these cases -- look, I've been -- Anderson, you know my history before I came to Congress. I was a state and federal prosecutor. These are cases that sometimes can be difficult to make, but you have to compare previous statements.
And the fact is that what we are seeing is a disturbing trend, Anderson, of people in positions of power in this administration, whether it's Secretary Nielsen or people who lead other agencies, listening to Donald Trump every day, whether it's in a tweet or in some other rant, speaking to the American people and giving them knowingly false information.
Now, the President can do that on Twitter all he wants. He does it every day, but the disturbing trend is when people in positions of power like Kirstjen Nielsen repeat those lies knowing that they're false, especially when they do it after taking an oath and testifying before a congressional committee.
COOPER: And Secretary Nielsen, I mean, also saying today that family separation was not for the expressed purpose of deterring families. I mean, this administration needs to get its story straight on that because both John Kelly and Jeff Sessions made it very clear it was, in fact, for the purposes of deterrence.
RICE: They said exactly that. And, you know, it was very frustrating to be in that hearing because she was asked a lot of questions, you know, when Donald Trump -- when the President said this, is that true? What is he basing those statements on? She refused to answer questions like that saying, "I'll have to get back to you."
I mean, there's no transparency here and she works for the American people. She owes them the truth. And I don't know why she was so hesitant to tell the truth today about the motive behind this zero- tolerance policy, especially when there were people, as you noted, in the administration who said that this was exactly the purpose of why they were doing this. So it's just -- it's very frustrating.
COOPER: The fact that she couldn't even provide the number of young people who were currently being detained, saying that she didn't have the numbers, I mean --
COOPER: -- that's kind -- I mean, it's hard to believe that somebody knows -- I mean, it wasn't like this, you know, appearance today snuck up on her. She had plenty of time to prepare. That's clearly a question anybody would ask. The fact she doesn't know the number is very telling. Or doesn't -- or wouldn't provide the number.
RICE: So you've got two things going on here. You either have someone who is intentionally giving false testimony before a congressional committee, or you have the head of an agency who is beyond clueless. Either one of those instances is unacceptable. I surmise that the reason why she did not come prepared is because she did not want to give accurate information because if she did, it would show once and for all that the statements the President makes about what's going on at the border are totally false.
COOPER: Also, I mean, if -- if she really -- the idea that she doesn't know the number, if that is in fact true, it also speaks a lot to who she is as a leader, as the head of this agency, because if your job is overseeing the imprisonment and the confinement of children in order to take care of them because they've been separated from their parents and you don't know the exact number every single day, I mean, just morally, I would think that would be a number you would want to know and think about pretty much every day, how many kids are still in custody, still separated from their parents.
[20:45:04] RICE: Well, if that mattered to you, Anderson. If you cared about the emotional effects of separating children from their parents is going to have long-term on these children's lives, yes, then you would think that you'd be bothered, but it doesn't seem like that bothers her in the least.
I mean, she was specifically asked by the chairman of the committee about the cages, whether kids are still being kept in cages and she said they're not being kept in cages, when we all saw the images on T.V. I mean, it's just astounding to me.
Now, look, Anderson, I called for her resignation a year ago when she denied that the families were being separated at the border. I think that her lies today are justification for her to no longer be in this position, but even take away, you know, forget about the lying aspect of it, not telling the truth.
If she is that clueless about things that are happening at the border, she doesn't deserve to be in that position, anyway. But she's just -- that would be just another example of another person in a position of power that shouldn't be there appointed by this President.
COOPER: Yes. Congresswoman Rice, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
RICE: Thank you.
COOPER: Also on Capitol Hill today, the House Oversight Committee chairman said he wants more information on the security clearance given to Ivanka Trump. This is in the wake of CNN's reporting that President Trump pressured his former chief of staff and former counsel, the White House lawyer, to obtain one for his daughter, Ivanka Trump, against their recommendation. The President made a public appearance, you see there, with his daughter today. What they said, next.
[20:50:17] COOPER: There was zero mention of the security clearances today inside the White House, a day after CNN reported the President pressured his then-Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Counsel Don McGahn to grant his daughter, Ivanka Trump, a clearance against their recommendations.
Today, it was all sunshine and roses at an event celebrating American workers, where the President and his daughter side by side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: And now Mr. President, I turn the floor over to you.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's so formal. Special person and she's worked so hard, as you all know, and I want to thank you, Ivanka, for your devotion to the American workers, our great workers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The question, of course, is what exactly does Ivanka Trump do and does she need a security clearance to do it? Randi Kaye tonight has details.
I. TRUMP: It is a great honor to be here in South Korea with the U.S. delegation.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ivanka Trump on official White House business last year in South Korea. During that trip to the Olympics, she met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Then- National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said, "Ivanka ably represented our country and advanced our diplomatic goals in the region."
Not a bad review for the first daughter who in 2017 became a full-time senior adviser to the President, complete with a security clearance as is the case with any president's top aides. But she wouldn't exactly need access to top secrets for much of her signature work.
I. TRUMP: I'll continue the advocacy work that I was doing in the private sector, advocating for the economic empowerment of women. I'm very focused on the role of education.
KAYE: A close look at what Ivanka Trump does reveals her efforts around the country and the world on workforce development. With her help, the administration has received commitments for jobs and training opportunities from more than 200 companies.
(on camera) Recently, Ivanka Trump was instrumental in a global initiative designed to empower 50 million women in developing countries by 2025. And back in 2017, she helped roll out a $1 billion initiative with the World Bank aimed at promoting women's entrepreneurship in developing countries. While all of that may sound impressive, none of that would require high-level security clearance.
(voice-over) Ivanka plays the role of diplomat, too, meeting with world leaders in South Korea, India, Germany, Japan, and Israel. I. TRUMP: On behalf of the 45th President of the United States of America, we welcome you officially and for the first time to the Embassy of the United States here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
KAYE: Ivanka participates in meetings with other senior officials, where sensitive information gets discussed.
I. TRUMP: There is a ton of research to support why paid leave is just good policy.
KAYE: Her portfolio is broad and not clearly defined, advising her father on a number of issues, including immigration and family separation at the border.
I. TRUMP: I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children.
KAYE: She also has an interest in tax reform. Attending an event with her father, President Trump's answer as to why she was there may provide a clue into how he's cleared the way for her, perhaps even for high-level security clearance.
D. TRUMP: She wanted to make the trip. She said, "Dad, can I go with you?" She actually said, "Daddy, can I go with you?" I like that, right? "Daddy, can I go with you?" I said, "Yes, you can."
COOPER: Randi Kaye joins us now. Is the White House saying anything about her job or the security clearance issue?
KAYE: I reached out to the White House earlier today. I asked them to comment on her key responsibilities. I also asked them what, if anything, in her portfolio would require security clearance.
I got this e-mail late this evening. It's titled "Top Accomplishments of Adviser to the President, Ivanka Trump." It's a long list of what they consider her accomplishments, many of which we mentioned in that story.
But then I wrote back saying, "Thank you very much for this very thorough list. Can you please tell me what, if anything, on this list does require a security clearance?" I got another e-mail back, it wasn't exactly an answer to that question, it was yet another accomplishment, one that they had somehow left off the original list.
So still, tonight, Anderson, we're left to wonder what, if anything, on this long list of accomplishments that they're touting would require any level of security clearance.
COOPER: All right. Randi, thanks very much.
I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Here we have a couple of different controversies to take on, Anderson. These 81 names, some of the people don't want to comply. Who? Well, Michael Caputo says he knows others and he is one. He's saying he's not going to do it.
[20:55:06] He's going to lay out why tonight and it's going to give us a window into potential risks in this range of oversight. What's the risk, what's the reward? We'll get after that.
And we have Tom Perez on. He's the chair of the DNC. They made a very controversial decision to not include Fox in the debate setup rounds for the primary. Why? What are they hoping to achieve? He'll be here as well.
COOPER: All right. Chris, a lot to look forward to, thanks very much. About four minutes from now.
"Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek had a stunning announcement for his fans today. Just ahead, we'll tell you what he had to say.
COOPER: "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek made a very sad announcement today. The legendary "Jeopardy" host says he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He said in a video posted to the show's official YouTube site, he acknowledged the survival rate is very low, but he added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX TREBEK, "JEOPARDY" HOST: I'm going to fight this and I'm going to keep working and with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers, also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Alex Trebek has hosted "Jeopardy" since 1984. It's incredible. I'm a huge fan of his, and, of course, of "Jeopardy." I had the pleasure to be on "Jeopardy" four times. That wasn't as pleasurable the two times I lost, once to Tech Maren (ph). It's a long story.
Alex Trebek is an incredible professional and he is so, so good at what he does. He has made "Jeopardy" the great show it is and all of us here wish him a speedy recovery and our thoughts and our prayers are with him and his family and we wish him many, many more years of hosting the show.
A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle." It's our daily interactive newscast on Facebook where you get to vote on the stories that we cover. You can get all the details. Watch it weeknights at 6:25 p.m. Eastern at facebook.com/andersoncooperfullcircle.
News continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CUOMO: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. These are ashes on my head.