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President Trump Inundated With Investigations; Anti-Semitism And Politics; New Legal Trouble For "Empire" Star Jussie Smollett on 16 New Felony Counts; Rep. Katie Hill (D) California and Rep. David Cicilline (D) Rhode Island are Interviewed About Michael Cohen's testimony; President Trump's Nominee for Interior Secretary Under Scrutiny; President Trump Nominates David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary; Will Joe Biden's Long Experience Help or Hurt?; The Crisis at the Border That a Wall Can't Fix. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 8, 2019 - 9:00   ET


[09:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN, HOST: Chris Cuomo is off tonight. I'm Anderson Cooper topping this hour of 360, the growing storm around President Trump, mainly from Congress, and the President's reaction to it he thundered, "Presidential harassment" this morning without mentioning by whom.

He also tweeted about, what he called dishonesty in the media, and claimed falsely that the judge who sentenced Paul Manafort last night also said "There was no collusion between the President and Russia". He didn't actually say that only that the case itself wasn't about collusion.

He also went on a tear about Michael Cohen tweeting, "Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony that he never asked for a pardon. His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied! Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said no. He lied again. He also badly wanted to work at the White House, he lied!"

It's been a heavy Twitter week for the President about that - the various investigations, including the 81 letters the House Judiciary Committee has sent out seeking documents, I'm quoting "Now that they realized the only collusion with Russia was done by crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, Nadler Schiff and Dem heads of the Committees have gone stone cold crazy. 81 letters sent to innocent people to harass them. They won't get anything done for our Country!"

Now just to be clear, some of those people the President called innocent, include convicted or admitted felons, but we want to look more now on the investigations already on tap and perhaps down the road.

Joining us two Democratic House Members Congresswoman Katie Hill of the Oversight Committee and Congressman David Cicilline who sits on the Judiciary & Foreign Affairs Committees. Appreciate both of you being with us.

Congresswoman Hill, the President is calling Michael Cohen a liar. Michael Cohen is calling the President a liar. Is it clear to you exactly who's telling the truth here, because the reality is both men have a very complicated relationship with the truth?

REP. KATIE HILL (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes. I mean the reality is that, we have one man who lied to protect the President. We have a president who's calling him a liar over and over again, because he that's the only thing he's got to destroy the credibility that exists - limited credibility exists.

But the reality is that we don't have any - we're never going to rest our entire case on Michael Cohen's testimony. We were never going to. But what we do have is the evidence that he brought in with him.

We have the 15 checks that he brought that show that Trump himself made payments that could amount to basically fraud or campaign finance violations. And he - that's the physical evidence that we're looking for.

Does it really matter that he said that, maybe he didn't - I don't know, before he started cooperating with the Special Counsel and stopped trying to cover up for Trump that he had tried to possibly let his lawyers investigate a potential pardon, I don't know. I just don't think that this matters. I think we got to be looking at the bigger picture and that's what we got to stay focused on.

COOPER: Congressman, I mean President Obama's Former Senior Advisor David Axelrod tweeted earlier this week about the document request from your Committee saying, "The wide-ranging nature of it too easily plays into the witch-hunt meme". Do you think he has a point at all? Would a more targeted requests have been a better strategy here or are you good with the 81 contacts?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: No. Look, we should be clear about this. During the Obama administration, just as a contrast, Republicans during the Obama administration made requests for literally millions of documents, that's not an exaggeration.

So this is the beginning of the Judiciary Committee investigation. We've requested documents from 80 individuals - 81 individuals and organizations, very targeted. And in fact, what we've asked them to do as the initial responses, give us what you've already given to the Special Counsel or to the Southern District of New York.

So they've already done their review of these documents. Their lawyers have looked at them. [09:05:00] They're probably on a thumb drive. Just let us start with that, so that we get caught up to speed.

Part of the problem is the Judiciary Committee hasn't done oversight in the last two years at all. We had a over 500 page document detailing our efforts to persuade the Republicans to do some oversight, they refused to do it. So we're doing this work and we have to begin by gathering these documents so that we can make determination as to how we proceed from here.

But look this is our responsibility. We take it seriously. The good news is, the President keeps saying all we're going to do is investigate. While we're doing these investigations, we passed the most comprehensive Ethics Reform Bill since Watergate today. We passed two common-sense gun-safety pieces of legislation. We've begun here to drive down the cost of prescription drugs. So the good news is we could do both things. Move forward on the agenda of the American people and hold this administration accountable.

COOPER: Congresswoman Hill you said earlier today that there are whistleblowers as in more than one that are in touch with your Committee. Generally what kind - I don't know if you can say, what kind of things are they providing the Committee and has it yielded anything useful yet?

HILL: Well this is around the security clearances and the information that was requested by the Committee and by the Chairman to really clear up what that process looks like and why the President overruled its decisions and recommendations that were made to not issue security clearances to members of his own family.

So this is - that got reported by whistleblowers. We've got other things that were reported by the whistleblowers around the arrangement with Saudi Arabia - I mean - sorry, the potential nuclear capabilities that are going to be transferred to Saudi Arabia. There's just so many instances where we're getting information from possible whistleblowers and this is something that we have to investigate fully.

COOPER: And are they - I'm sorry. Are they allege - are these whistleblowers alleging wrongdoing?

HILL: Well, yes - I mean, yes, that's why they're whistleblowers.

COOPER: Whistleblowers, yes, I mean it seems obvious but I just asked. Congressman Cicilline, has the Judiciary Committee had any interactions with whistleblowers inside this administration that they want to provide information to your Committee - the Judiciary Committee?

CICILLINE: Well, we've just made our document request as you know this past week. I think the good news is the Trump administration is learning that there are people within his administration who are very concerned about the misconduct and about some of the decisions that have been made and the potential conflicts of interest or criminality. So they're sharing information. I mean the security clearance is a very recent example.

This is about the security of our country. The President not only overruled the intelligence and law enforcement communities, he lied about. He said he had nothing to do with it. We now know that's not true.

We know Jared Kushner, his family was financed in their Fifth Avenue property by the same company that's trying to sell nuclear materials to the Saudis. We know that Ivanka Trump has now gotten trademarks from the Chinese, while we're negotiating with the Chinese on trade.

So there's a lot of reason to be concerned about the issuance of these security clearances which go to the heart of our responses to keep America safe and to protect the national security of our country. So I expect we're going to continue to see people who are conscientious whistleblowers, who want to be sure the American people know the truth and all the Committees of jurisdiction are going to have to rely on that to the extent the White House continues to resist our efforts to get this documents and get this information.

HILL: And my colleague is absolutely right that this does come down to the safety of the American people. You don't have whistleblowers who are doing this to cause drama. They're doing this because they fear for what our President is doing that jeopardizes American lives and jeopardizes our alliances and jeopardizes our position and our standing in the world.

And right now that is exactly what we don't know. We've had a Congress for the last two years that has been doing everything it can to protect this President and to make sure that the information that's out there is not being made available to the public.

And what we're doing right now is trying to make sure that we're able to show that and to really get to the bottom of this, and to expose the truth. We're not out to get anyone. We just want to make sure that that information is known and take that path wherever it leads us.

COOPER: Congresswoman Hill appreciated, Congressman Cicilline as well. Thank you so much. I want to dig deeper now into discussion of Michael Cohen, his credibility, pardons and another big week of developments in Washington and back in the Southern District of New York.

Joining me for that CNN Senior Legal Analyst Preet Bharara who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District. Preet, when you were a federal prosecutor how do you handle situations where two people of a history of lying are both accusing the other of not telling the truth.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it happens from time to time. When you decide to arrest someone who's part of an organization or a group or an organized crime family where both the party that is trying to flip and the party against whom that person has flipped, have committed crimes and crimes of deception including lying. Then you have your work cut out for you.

And you got to make sure that when you decide to sign someone up as a cooperator and rely on their testimony, and more importantly ask someone else, namely a jury or finder of fact to rely on their testimony, you have to corroborate it.

[09:10:00] And you want to make sure that when that person goes and testifies - in other contexts, like Congress for example, that he's not subject to a criticism that even after having pled guilty to lying, that he's not still lying. And you have - again, I think overall, I agree with the people who say Michael Cohen was generally speaking credible on the important points, on the material points. But he has some troubles and that's not great for him.

COOPER: Michael Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis confirmed, in fact, that Cohen had explored a pardon with the President's attorneys in the past. But that the "New Michael Cohen wouldn't accept a pardon if the President offered it". The new Michael Cohen, I mean, it's the only defense I've really never really heard before, have you?

BHARARA: No, haven't. And again, I don't think it goes necessarily to the core of the testimony. Like what happens in court all the time - this was not a core proceeding, this is a congressional hearing, which is a far cry from an orderly court proceeding - you will have cooperating witnesses who will have hiccups along the way.

Sometimes, unlike in Congress, they may testify for three or four days at a time if it's a complicated scheme, RICO or something else along those lines that they're testifying about. At the end of the day, the prosecutor ask the jury to consider the entirety of the testimony and the materiality of all the testimony.

And says, look with respect to these couple of things - in the hypothetical - he seemed to stumble a little bit, but look at what the other testimony was. Look at how is it was corroborated, look at how he testified and spoke confidently and honestly about the payment to Stormy Daniels and the other woman and had the checks to show it.

And those checks clearly show Donald Trump's signature. So focus on that ladies and gentlemen. Don't focus on this sort of semantics back and forth about whether or not he talked about a pardon, the timing of talking about a pardon. Who asked for the pardon first. That's not important, and that sometimes works and it sometimes doesn't.

COOPER: Right. I mean, isn't the counter-argument to that - well, if you're if you're willing to lie in front of Congress about things which aren't important about asking for a pardon or whether or not you wanted a job in the White House, then what does that mean about the things that are really important?

BHARARA: Yes. Look, at the end of a trial, a judge says to the jury something like "You're allowed to consider the overall credibility of the witness based on particular untruths that they may have told. But you're also allowed to consider whether or not the person was truthful about a number of things and maybe fudged or maybe was - had problematic testimony on others".

And that's the job of the of the persuader, whether it's a prosecutor or a member of Congress, in impeachment type proceeding to make the argument. I think overall. The people who are watching and paying attention have to be persuaded that and the points that are important the truth was told.

COOPER: We still don't have a report from Robert Mueller, but regardless of what he finds, the reality is that President - I mean, is still facing tremendous legal exposure from all these other investigations. Is it the one being run by the SDNY that would likely concern him the most or should likely concern the most?

BHARARA: Yes. I think so there's lots of things swirling around. But on the one issue on which there has been clarity from both someone who was decided to cooperate who was pled guilty - we're talking about Michael Cohen.

And his view has been endorsed by my former offices The Southerner District of New York, and the plea allocution has been approved and the plea was approved by sitting Federal Court Judge is the assertion that Donald Trump committed a crime in directing Michael Cohen to make certain payments on the eve of the election.

That's a flat statement by Michael Cohen. He said it multiple times. It's been endorsed by those two other institutions that I mentioned - the prosecutor's office and the court. And now you have based on the congressional testimony other evidence, including the checks that were provided, including a common sense.

Why would it be the case that payments would be made by a lawyer through some complicated subterfuge like an agreement - an agreement with a lawyer if it wasn't for the benefit of the client and the client knew about it.

So, I think, if you didn't have that that document in the Department of Justice, in the OLC Office, that says a sitting President can't be prosecuted. If you're an ordinary person - I think I'm coming closer and closer to the view that the President United States, if you were not the President, but we're an ordinary person who was implicated in this way with common-sense evidence, with documentary evidence and with witness testimony - even from someone is a little bit a little bit problematic, he'd probably be chargeable today.


BHARARA: If he if he was a regular citizen. He would be chargeable today. I said, I'm very close to believing that to be true. I don't know all the evidence. I don't know all the problems. I haven't looked at all the comparable case law, because it's one thing to accept a guilty plea from someone for particular crime when you're also charging him with something else, it's quite a different thing to go to trial against someone else who was involved in that scheme.

Those are different things and there's some gap there. But the more I hear and the more we learn and the more we hear about the lies that were told about those payments, the closer I get to determining that if the President were an ordinary citizen he would be worried about getting arrested, yes.

COOPER: Preet Bharara, appreciate it. Thank you.

BHARARA: Thanks.

COOPER: Coming up next the storm over Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and the questions about the anti-hate resolution passed in the House, President Trump fueled the flames again today. We'll bring you that as well. Also Jussie Smollett's legal problems just got a whole lot worse. We'll tell you exactly why ahead.


The President weighed in today on the anti-hate resolution the House passed yesterday. The measure broadly condemns hate and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination. It's front criticism, however because it doesn't specifically mention the House member nor the anti-Semitic trope such as dual loyalties and greed which made it necessary.

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is the Congress Member she said, and I'm quoting, "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country" - meaning Israel.

Prior to that responding to a tweet from Journalist Glenn Greenwald about defending Israel, he says, at the cost of free speech in this country, Congresswoman Omar replied with a tweet of her own, "It's all about the Benjamins baby".

Now she's since apologized, but also tried to change the subject saying "At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics whether it be a APAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It's gone on too long and we must be willing to address it". So that's the backdrop to the house measure that the president criticized earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I thought that vote was a disgrace and so does everybody else if you get an honest answer. If you get an honest answer from politicians, they thought it was a disgrace. The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party, they've become an anti-Jewish party and that's--


COOPER: Well joining us now seen in CNN Global Affairs Analyst Max Boot, who's just written a Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post titled "Ilhan Omar is Getting Off The Hook". He's also the recent author of the "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left The Right".

So Max I really - I enjoyed reading your piece. You say that Democrats in Congress have missed an opportunity to show that they are - in your words, "More honorable and righteous than their Republican colleagues", can you explain what you mean?

[09:20:00] MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well what Congresswoman Omar said, Anderson, is really to my mind textbook anti- Semitism, because she was saying that people who support Israel are pledging loyalty to a foreign country.

This is not something anybody says about advocates for the U.S., British alliance or the U.S. alliance with Poland or the United Arab Emirates or any other country around the world. This is only something that people say about supporters of Israel, basically reviving this old anti-Semitic canard about dual loyalty.

And it ought to be pretty easy for Democrats to call her out because they know what she is saying. But unfortunately I think what you're seeing now is that while Democrats are comfortable calling out President Trump and the Republicans for their racism, and rightly so, I mean I call them out for the racism too --I mean it's disgraceful and despicable what President Trump and the Republicans are saying.

Unfortunately, Democrats are being just as tribalistic as Republicans and they're hesitating to call out one of their own.

COOPER: And in fact giving President Trump an opportunity to turn the tables and be the voice calling out anti-Semitism, which is obviously - I don't know if ironic is even the right word - but obviously stands in stark contrast to what he said after Charlottesville about there being good people on both sides, talking about neo-Nazis.

BOOT: Exactly, the Democrats are giving Donald Trump of all people an opportunity to posture as an enemy of bigotry which is ridiculous, because as you were pointing out, the Charlottesville marchers who were saying Jews will not replace us, those are the people that Donald Trump was praising as some very fine people.

And even his foreign policy slogan, "America First", that's the same slogan that the pro-Nazi group in the 1930s used. So Donald Trump has built his whole career on racism. Remember, he came to political prominence pushing the birther conspiracy theory against President Obama. So he has no credibility to attack anybody else for bigotry or prejudice. And yet, because of the self-inflicted wound, Democrats are giving him the opportunity to do just that.

COOPER: We just had Senator Blumenthal on in the last hour and asked - twice actually - if he thinks the comments made by Congressman Omar were anti-Semitic and he wouldn't answer really that question. He sort of changed the subject.

It is - is it - I mean, Congress people on all sides don't necessarily usually attack people in their own party, but does it surprise you that the Democrats have kind of taken this route that that what could have been just a - of the condemnation of anti-Semitism even if it didn't mention Congresswoman Omar, was then sort of morphed into this generic condemnation of anything bad.

BOOT: Yes, I think that's a bad sign for the future of the Democratic Party, Anderson. They did call out the House leadership, did call out Congressman Omar last month. But she's a recidivist, she keeps on saying this.

And this time around Democrats are reluctant to call her out because they're getting a lot of pushback from the Black Caucus, from younger members and including from presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

To my mind this is a bad signal about where the Democratic Party could be headed, because I just look at what happened in the United Kingdom with the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn who refers to Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends and Jewish members of the Labour Party are fleeing and they're saying that there is an institutionalized anti- Semitism that has taken root.

We're a long way from that with the Democratic Party, we're not even close to that, let me stress that. But, you have to be vigilant about policing your own ranks and calling these things out and it's uncomfortable to do so. I get that because this is one of your own, but Democrats need to show that they're better than Republicans.

COOPER: Max Boot, I appreciate it. Thanks very much, Max. Jussie Smollett is in new legal jeopardy tonight ahead more than a dozen new criminal charges for the "Empire" star. What his defense team is telling us about all this next.


COOPER: Well tonight Jussie Smollett's legal troubles are going from bad to worse. The Grand Jury has indicted the "Empire" star in 16 counts of felony, disorderly conduct, namely false reports of a crime after he claimed to the victim of the racists and anti-gay attack on the streets of Chicago. Police think it was all a work of fiction by the actor who is out on bail after a charge against him last month.

Short time ago I spoke with Smollett defense attorney, Mark Geragos, who is maintaining Smollett's innocence.


COOPER: Isn't it just weird that you get attacked allegedly attacked by two people you actually know, who actually been on "Empire", who you've actually worked out with and you don't recognize them?

MARK GERAGOS, JUSSIE SMOLLETT'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, yes. And that's - I guess what, I don't know whether he made that statement or - but what I do know is that when he was told that they had evidence against these two, he refused to sign the complaint, because he could not believe it.

If he thought they were in on it, would he have signed the complaint, wouldn't he have signed the complaint? He didn't believe it. Now, if you're asking me what their motivation is, I suppose I could speculate. But motivation of Jussie is not an element of the crime.

Their motivation - I've got my theories on it, but I haven't seen one piece of evidence, and they don't have one piece of evidence that they've turned over that links Jesse to this. What they do have is a whale of a case.

As - if you believe what the Police Chief is saying they've got a great case against the two brothers.


COOPER: With me now is New York Times Columnist Charles Blow and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. Joey just let's start with the legal aspects. I'm wondering what do you make of Mark Geragos' argument at this point.

Essentially, this is kind of - this is just overkill by the prosecutors. That they don't have the evidence and their allegations that he wanted more money from "Empire" and that - and more tension that there's no evidence. According to Geragos that anyone from the police department has spoken to anybody at the production, so they have no way of even knowing that. JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I know Mark Geragos. He's a colleague, obviously, of mine. I know him to be an outstanding lawyer, and certainly a good person, having said that, I see things completely different as it relates to this case.

Now just backing up a bit, reminding the viewers that this is an indictment. What an indictment means is that there's reasonable cause to believe that a crime were committed or crimes in this case we're committed and that Jussie Smollett committed them.

There's no cross-examination in the Grand Jury, there's no judge in the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury said don't get to vet the information that they're provided. The District Attorney simply provides that information.

16 grand jurors have sit and if a majority believes, they're not deciding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, just deciding probable cause then, they'll indict, having said that, I completely disagree with my colleague for variety of reasons.

#1, as it relates to your cross-examination of him, essentially, which is doesn't the story have to make sense? It has to make sense. And so when you parsed the story itself and you talk about someone who's out at 2:00 in the morning in the frigid cold, in Chicago, going to a subway, not giving the police his phone records, and - then oh, by the way redacting them and giving them to them.

And then telling the story about how he saw the whites of the eyes and that's how he knew that they happen to be white, and it turns out they were black none. Of the story makes sense, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

And then you get to the actual issues in and of themselves, which are forgetting about the story, just the lies of what she told and the motivations. At the end of the day, the Grand Jury having indicted, and a jury impaneled and having - will hear the case, you don't have to decide what motivations are.

The superintendent was out there talking about how - hey, he didn't get enough pay, he did not get enough pay, that's not the issue. The issue was did he lie or did he not. And I think based upon that it's a very difficult case for the defense.

[09:30:00] COOPER: Yes. Charles does - I mean does any of this make sense to you yet? I mean, you and I talked about this very early on in this case.


COOPER: I don't know. I mean the whole thing just seems - I just don't understand it. I mean, Mark Geragos is saying there's - that basically seems to be pointing at these two brothers that it says that there is evidence against them. There's none against Jussie Smollett. I'm wondering how you see this?

BLOW: Right. So I was waiting for some defense, because the evidence is laid out by the police department seemed very compelling. If we didn't get to see it, they just told us about it. So I didn't get to read transcripts of interviews or anything, so you couldn't really make an assessment. You just have to take that word for it. And that's tricky with the Chicago Police Department - just - let's just be honest about that.

But it was compelling against him. And so I was waiting to see it - because he kept to maintain anything his innocent. I'm waiting to see what could you possibly say. It seems that Geragos is saying, now, I'm going to put my client up against these two brothers and if the jury is going to have to see which of these two groups of people they believe.

And that - in Geragos is words, you have actual evidence that these brothers did something. You're going to have to give me proof positive that my client instructed them to do it and where is the proof of that. And that - maybe that's the defense.

I agree with Joey. There are a lot of other things around that - that he said, he said, he said that are shaky. And I think we wouldn't even be talking about this, were it not for the invocation of whiteness and of Trump's support.

Other than that if it was just another black guy claiming - either being assaulted or claiming to be a assaulted, because he was gay, we wouldn't and that's a tragedy in America in and of itself.

And I say to people who are white or and feel like this is a group attack or people who are Trump supporters they feel like it's a group attack, I actually understand that feeling, that tribal response to something and feeling like something that is targeted to some people actually applies to the whole.

But I want you to remember this feeling. The next time that the President attacks a black man with he's kneeling and for social justice and why everybody who's engaged in social justice takes that as a tribal attack and responses, because they responded exactly the way that you feel today.

Every time he - it's an attack on women and individual woman, and all women take that as a tribal attack, this is that feeling. So I understand your feeling. Keep that energy and remember this feeling when they when the shoe is on the other foot.

COOPER: Joey just in terms of the legal - the timeline, what happens next?

JACKSON: Well, what happens next is you go and on Thursday what'll happen is he'll be presented to the judge. The judge will know and understand or ask him whether he knows and understands that he's facing an indictment, what the charges are in the indictment.

Once he has been read the indictment - and I would assume his attorneys would waive a public reading, they'll just ask whether he understands, what he's being accused of. He'll enter a plea of not guilty. And then at that point discovery, which I heard Mark say, he hasn't had any or doesn't have adequate discovery, which is just the exchange of information police reports, documents et cetera, he'll get those.

He'll be allowed to make any motions he wants. I know there's issues concerning, hey, leaks and the police department, internal investigations, that's going to mean nothing. It may mean something as it relates to administratively recharging police who are leaking things. It doesn't mean anything for his client.

And then ultimately his client will have his day in court where there'll be a full-blown trial. I mean, I just think there's a lot to be said, Anderson, for a mea culpa here. In the event that the evidence is as it is, you march yourself into the District Attorney's office pre-indictment and you say, "Hey, listen we could resolve this by all accounts. Jussie Smollett is an outstanding person, has done a lot for the community, is a very beloved figure".

And if the evidence is as it purports to be - and I haven't heard it defended yet, I've heard a lot of accusations about the police and about people being fired from the hospital for leaking information. That means nothing as it relates to whether he's guilty or not, and it may be time to settle up and get this thing done and over.

COOPER: Understand. Joey Jackson appreciated, Charles Blow as well. You may have seen this on the broadcast earlier this week.

Drew Griffin trying to get any kind of an answer from the man President Trump just nominated to be the next Interior Secretary, trying to a response - any response about allegations he's serving his former clients since being in office.

Just ahead I will talk to Drew about an important update.


COOPER: As breaking news tonight from Washington. President Trump is making it official he is nominating the current Acting Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt to take over the job permanently.

Previous secretary in charge of millions of acres of public land, Ryan Zinke as you know, left under a cloud of ethics violation allegations. But Bernhardt, former longtime oil industry lobbyist is already facing some of his own.

Drew Griffin broke the story in the program earlier this week, namely that Bernhardt has been in the job as Acting Interior Secretary for nearly months has already allegedly been doing the bidding of the very companies he used to represent.

His office absolutely denies the claim. Drew tried to get some answers out of Bernhardt at, what was billed as a news conference in Atlanta.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sir. Excuse me, sir. Drew Griffin with CNN. Can we have a few moments of your time? We thought this was a press conference and we thought we'd get a few questions to ask you. Wanted - we're doing a story - sir, can you--


GRIFFIN: Can you stop for one second?



GRIFFIN: And the fact that more than a dozen of your former clients has been getting favors through the Department of Interior--

BERNHARDT: We can talk about that - You're welcome to contact--


GRIFFIN: Is that just a coincidence?

BERNHARDT: I'm happy to visit with you at any time. Right now's not the time. But go ahead and talk to my press folks. We'll set something up.

GRIFFIN: Just to be clear, your press folks have told us you're inaccessible for the next several weeks, so.

BERNHARDT: They haven't talked to me so I'll talk to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a flight to catch, sir.


COOPER: Well, it turns out he's not just snubbing CNN. The House Committee on Natural Resources has concerns as well. Its Chairman wants answers and what appears to be omissions on the Acting Secretary's public calendars that "Raises questions about the intent to hide or manipulate federal records to avoid full disclosure".

Drew Griffin joins us now. So what's this all about? I mean allegations about hiding or manipulating calendars. Is - I mean that's part of what led to the resignation of Scott Pruitt isn't it?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is Anderson. The House Committee on Natural Resource is concerned about all these - what are labeled as external meetings or staff meetings on various schedules at the Interior Department that offer no explanation of just who Bernhardt is meeting with.

There are a hundred hours of official government time unaccounted for according to the House Committee. And the Committee says they're concerned not just about with whom Barnard is meeting with, but that it appears some of those meetings - or at least names, have been deliberately omitted. One involves a lobbying firm that worked for the Trump organization. But what's most shocking about all this Anderson is Bernhardt's response in a letter dated February 28th. Bernhardt tells the Chairman of the Committee of Natural Resources that he has no legal obligation to personally maintain a calendar. He has not personally maintained a calendar for years. And Bernhardt telling Congress now, I have no intention of suddenly doing so now.

[09:40:00] Let me show you why this matters, Anderson, not just to Congress, but to other watchdog groups. On September 17, 2017, Interior Department visitors logs show the American Petroleum Institute CEO visited Bernhardt. But on Bernhardt's schedule the only entry is this, meeting to discuss energy issues.

It doesn't say anything about American Petroleum Institute or that the American Petroleum Institute represents energy companies, including Halliburton and Noble Energy that are two of Bernhardt's former clients.

Bernhardt did say his staffers would work to make necessary records available to the House Committee. But a spokesperson for Bernhardt wouldn't respond to our questions on whether or when those records are going to be released, Anderson.

COOPER: So Congress, I mean, wants to find out who he's meeting with, because this guy has spent years lobbying for the oil and gas industry, that's why this matters. He's now in a position to grant favors or to influence policy that might benefit some of his old clients. I mean, that's the bottom-line concern.

GRIFFIN: That is the bottom-line concern, is that we've reported. The reason he wouldn't talk to us when we confronted about this is that since he's joined the Department of Interior, the agency has made 15 policy changes, decisions or proposals that would directly benefit Bernhardt's former clients.

A House Committee wants some oversight over this and wants some answers from Bernhardt, he is just saying - "Yes, I don't keep a calendar.

COOPER: All right. We'll see if you grants you an interview, Drew Griffin keep working on it. Thanks very much, appreciate it.

New York Times quotes a key advisor to Joe Biden is saying the Former Vice President is 95 percent committed to entering the Democratic presidential race. Question is, will his decades-long experience in public life help or will it actually come back and hurt him, that's next.


COOPER: So key advisor of Joe Biden is being quoted by The New York Times as saying that the former vice President is 95% committed to running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Now if we does in fact run, his decades long history in politics could help or hurt? For instance, the Washington Post reported that back in the 1970s when he was a freshman Senator Biden was engulfed in a bitter battle over school busing. He spoke out repeatedly against sending white kids to majority black schools and black kids to majority white schools.

[09:45:00] According to The Post Biden said this to a weekly newspaper in Delaware about the idea of reparations. "I don't feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. I'll be damned if I feel responsible for pay for what happened 300 years ago".

In a speech on the Senate floor in 1993 uncovered by CNN's cave (ph) file Biden delivered a stark speech advocating legislation aimed at curbing violent crime.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have predators on our streets that society has in fact in part because of us neglect created. Again it does not mean because we created them that we somehow forgive them or do not take them out of society to protect my family and yours from them. They are beyond the pale many of those people - beyond the pale. And it's a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society.


COOPER: So with me now is David Axelrod, who was a key adviser opposite of President Obama and someone who obviously knows Joe Biden very well.

David you know Joe Biden you worked with him in the White House obviously, what does it say to you that he still isn't a 100 percent sure he wants to run?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It tells me that there is something holding him back. Although his aides have been pretty clear to people that he was way down the road 95 percent they say.

And I think it was instructive that Mayor Bloomberg - Former Mayor Bloomberg of New York just announced that he wasn't going to run this week. Sherrod Brown, the Senator from Ohio, both of whom were considered in that lane of the kind of Center Left that Biden holds. And so that suggests to me that they believe he is running.

But I think that this is a difficult decision for his family in particular. And while the politics are good, there are some barriers here. He's got the benefit of 45 years of experience and relationships that are all helpful. But there's also the downside of 45 years of record.

COOPER: It's so in turn what do you say about, I mean, his experience in the length of time - and you can look that as a as a huge bonus. But you also then have a huge record that could be picked apart, the clips, the interviews that have surface just over the past several days. Those are certainly the kinds of things that - I don't know if that would convince him not to run. I assume he's used to kind of things being dug up on him of things he said four decades ago.

AXELROD: But remember he hasn't really run for anything in a while and this is a reminder that you know right now he is an exalted figure in the Democratic Party, a senior statesman widely regarded. The minute you become a candidate you are fair game, and all of those things begin to be picked apart, and in 45 years there are things there.

And there particularly things that in the moment seemed less bothersome to people than they would in the contemporary age, the way Anita Hill was treated some of the aspects of the Crime Bill and his rhetoric around it some of the things that just were dug up about what he said about busing and quotes that could be used to speak to this notion of reparations today.

So you can take quotes from the past - from the deep past, put them in a contemporary setting and they have a whole different context.

COOPER: Yes, especially where the Democratic Party is today and maybe moving toward in the future. I mean the other thing looming over all of this is - and the fact Biden is a 76 year old and you can't help but - I mean, that's something you have to take into consideration.

AXELROD: There's no question about it. I mean and you know he has to judge whether he has it in the tank, not just to run the race, but then to be President for the next four years, presumably he would serve for and then reassess he'd be 82 by the time his term ended.

And he, more than anybody, I know is aware of what the presidency requires and the energy that it takes, if you're doing it in a conventional way. If you're spending six hours a day watching television it may be a little less taxing.

But if you're doing the job the way most Presidents do and actually make decisions on a minute-to-minute basis of great gravity it is wearing, it is draining that's why all those guys hair turned gray.

I watched my own boss when I worked for President Obama - I watched his hair gray with the pressures of the job. So Biden knows that because he was there every step of the way. He understands the presidency. So that has to give him some pause.

But ultimately if he runs the campaign will be a test and people will see whether he's vigorous enough for the job. And he has to consider whether he wants to submit himself to that.

COOPER: Yes, David Axelrod, I appreciate it. Thanks very much David.

AXELROD: All right, Anderson.

COOPER: Wonder if that's why my hair turned gray. I don't think so. The Senate is expected to vote next week on the President's emergency wall funding declaration. Our Gary Tuchman spent the day with California Governor Gavin Newsom talking about border issues, the President, what he considers the real emergency on the border. That's next.


COOPER: There's going to be a vote next week on the President's National Emergency in the Senate and he may not be happy with the outcome. He could face an embarrassing political rebuke if enough members of his party vote against it.

Building a wall simply is not the real emergency on the southern border according to a number of his critics. One state is taking action to address an emergent crisis on its own. We have details now from her Gary Tuchman.


[09:55:00] GAVIN NEWSOM, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: I think federal government cannot get its act together on comprehensive immigration reform.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California Governor Gavin Newsom has only been in office a couple of and he's angry he's.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): He is not wasting any time taking on what he sees is the borders the most pressing issue.

GAVIN NEWSOM, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Because I got four kids and so this is - these things hit you in a deeper way.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): So he's taken the controversial step of using California taxpayers money - $25 million for services to asylum seekers. Services that include this brand-new San Diego shelter for migrants who are beginning asylum proceedings.

NEWSOM: The federal government should be doing this. It's a federal government's responsibility - immigration. These people came legally. I just want to pause and reflect on that. These are people that came through process legally, seeking asylum legally.

Hello what's your name?


NEWSOM: Bitta (ph)? That's a pretty name, nice to meet you.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The state funding of this shelter follows some serious gubernatorial fuming this from Newsom's Twitter feed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said instead of fighting the actual threats facing Americans the president has chosen to undermine our Constitution and fan the flames of nativism and xenophobia. This is not a national emergency it's a national disgrace.

NEWSOM: It is. It is a national disgrace. It's not a national emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or do you think he's xenophobic?

NEWSOM: I think the - I think a lot of the actions that we've seen over the last three years by definition or textbook nativist - textbook xenophobic, textbook racists in many respects--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you at war with the Trump administration?

NEWSOM: Not just the Trump administration, broadly "Trumpism". I think more broadly a lot of the rhetoric we're hearing just on the streets and sidewalks. There you know there's something going on were we - there's a lot of toxicity in our body politic right now and it's been flamed for purely partisan political purposes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've made the decision to pull the National Guard from the border to end their border duties. There are some who say you shouldn't be doing that. The President's thinks it's necessary, there's a national emergency and that you're not being patriotic by being --

NEWSOM: I can't even do this straight face. I mean, this whole thing is just - it's comedic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it's funny.

NEWSOM: I think it's tragic. There's nothing funny about it. The comedy is the tragedy. That is the comedy. It's political theater. Every single person knows it. They all know it, everybody knows it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they were denied.

NEWSOM: Of course, they deny it, but they all laugh in private. They all know better. This is pure political--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's - you think the President is laughing?

NEWSOM: This is all shtick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned that if you anger President Trump when there's a disaster here like a mudslide or wildfires that he will be thrifty on the emergency funding.

NEWSOM: So the alternative is what just to roll over, be complicit?

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Governor Newsom says, the United States needs border security and he would not tear down California's current border barriers. But he believes the President's future priorities and emergency declaration are naive and wasteful.

And says he won't be shy about using the bully pulpit offered as the Governor of the most populous state in America.

NEWSOM: I don't want to spar with the President of United States. I want to work with the President of United States. But I will take a backseat to no one to have the backs at the people of this remarkable place, I call home, the State of California.


NEWSOM: And to the extent we will defend ourselves, we will do it vigorously and we will do it from a position of strength.


COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins me now. so Gary, I understand that San Diego County is run mostly by Republicans. How did they feel about the Governor's actions?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT Well the legislative body here in San Diego County, Anderson, is the Board of Supervisors. There are four Republicans, one Democrat on the board, but they voted to approve the shelter in this county.

The mayor of San Diego is a Republican and he supports the shelter. So the governor when he talked to me, he had nothing but good things to say about the Republicans here in San Diego County, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Gary thanks very much for the interesting interview, appreciate it. This is the fifth anniversary of a story that still sadly has no final chapter.

I cannot believe it's been five years a wide-body jet disappeared five years ago and to this day no one knows why or how or where it is. It's an extraordinary story that we began covering five years ago this day and again still do not have answers.

We have a CNN Special Report it's called "Vanished: The Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370". Who can forget the day we learned that the flight had disappeared? Answers, what we know, what we don't know. The Specials starts right now.