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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Fumes After His Lies Are Exposed; President Trump's Former Attorney Reacts to the Damning Pattern of Lies, Attempts at Obstruction; Critics Assail Sarah Sanders for Lying; President Trump's Finances could also Come Under Investigation after Mueller report; Outgoing French Ambassador to U.S. Blasts "Big Mouth" President Trump. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 19, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:27] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Tonight, President Trump's newest reaction to the Mueller report. Time to turn the tables, he now says, and go after what he says are, quote, very sick and dangerous people.
Who is he wanting to seek retribution against? We'll take a look at that.
Also, what the report reveals about the reflexive dishonesty of the president and some of the people around him. Or as CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman puts in "The New York Times," along with "The Times'" Peter Baker, and I'm quoting: The White House that emerges for more than 400 pages of Mr. Mueller's report is a hotbed of conflict infused by a culture of dishonesty, defined by a president who lies to the public and his own staff and then tries to get his aides to lie for him.
Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, he is also weighing in with a statement that reads in part: It is good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge the president of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary, or with having obstructed justice. Even so, he continues, I'm sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president.
As the report shows, he and his subordinate lied again and again, lied about McGahn, lied about interfering with the special counsel, lied about the firing of Comey, lied about business deals in Russia, lied about seeking Clinton e-mails, lied about the purpose of the Trump Tower meeting, lied about his role in lying about the Trump Tower meeting, and that's just some of the lies.
So, let's get started. We begin with President Trump's new take on the Mueller report. Remember, after the Barr summary was released weeks ago, this is how the president and some of the people around him saw it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a complete and total exoneration.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think everyone here and everyone, frankly, across America, was happy.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We had the full and fair and thorough investigation, $25 million, plus, of taxpayer dollars, 500 witnesses, over a million documents. This -- the Mueller investigation is the gold standard.
TRUMP: The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said, no obstruction, no collusion. It could not have been better.
CONWAY: And I do see some people now trying to besmirch the integrity of Director Mueller, Attorney General Barr. That is really rich.
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you think Robert Mueller acted honorably?
TRUMP: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.
CONWAY: The Mueller investigation is the gold standard.
TRUMP: I'm having a good day, too. It was called, no collusion, no obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that last line was from yesterday morning, while the other was right after the summary by Barr was released.
This morning, here's what the president tweeted about the gold standard report, as Kellyanne Conway called it, and the honorable Robert Mueller.
And I'm quoting now: Statements are made about me by certain people in the crazy Mueller report. In itself, written by 18 angry Democrat Trump haters, which are fabricated and totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called notes when the notes never existed until needed, because I never agreed to testify. It was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the, quote/unquote, report about me, some of which are total B.S., and only given to make the other person look good, or me to look bad.
This was an illegally started hoax that never should have happened, a -- and then he left the rest of whatever he had to say hanging for about nine hours, before continuing this. Big fat waste of time, energy, and money, $30 million, to be exact. It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even spying or treason. This should never happen again.
Forty-fifth president of the United States calling the Republican former director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, or his report, crazy and suggesting others, perhaps including Mueller, though it's hard to say from the tweet, are criminals or even traitors. A president who doesn't like it when subordinates, in this case, apparently, former White House counsel Don McGahn, takes notes, perhaps because having someone write down what you're saying makes it harder to lie about it later, which the Mueller report documents extensively.
Better, as McGahn says, the president told him, to emulate Roy Cohn, the late, disbarred, disgraced, red-baiting, gay-hating, therefore self-hating mob lawyer.
Reading now from page 117 of the Mueller report: On efforts the president made to fire the special counsel, what about these notes? Why do you take these notes? Lawyers don't take notes? I've never had a lawyer who took notes.
McGahn responded that he takes notes because he is a, quote, real lawyer and he explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The president said, I have had a lot of great lawyers like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.
Even as he was questioning McGahn about the notes, he was also trying to duck responsibility from getting rid of Mueller. Quoting again from the report, the president asked McGahn, did I say the word "fire"?
[20:05:01] McGahn responded, what you said is, call Rod -- Rod Rosenstein -- tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the special counsel. The president responded, I never said that.
So the question is, who are you going to believe, the president or Don McGahn, the White House counsel, who kept contemporaneous notes? You be the judge.
This is the kind of routine dishonesty that Mitt Romney is talking about and that can be found on page after page of the Mueller report. Here's page 67 of volume one. It reads, between 2013 and June 2016, several employees of the Trump Organization, including then president of the organization, Donald J. Trump, pursued a Moscow deal with several Russian counterparties, a deal potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yet, here's what the president said about it during the campaign, transition and into the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I have nothing to do with Russia. I don't have any jobs in Russia. I'm all over the world, but I'm not involved in Russia.
I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don't deal -- I have no businesses. I have no loans from Russia.
I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Another fabrication was the statement in which the president crafted about the Trump Tower meeting, describing it as primarily about adopting Russian children, when it was actually about gathering Russian-obtained dirt on Hillary Clinton. And so was the claim by Sarah Sanders, that FBI agents supported the
firing of James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: So what's your response to these rank-and-file FBI agent who disagree with your contention that they lost faith in Director Comey?
SANDERS: Look, we've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.
REPORTER: What led you in the White House to believe that he had lost the confidence in the rank and file of the FBI, when the acting director says it's exactly the opposite?
SANDERS: Well, I can speak to my own personal experience. I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She personally heard from countless members of the FBI.
That was a lie. And what's fascinating about it is that Sarah Sanders admitted it was unfounded under oath.
Reading now from the report: Sanders told this office that her reference to hearing from, quote, countless members of the FBI, unquote, was a, quote, slip of the tongue, unquote. She also recalled that her statement, in a separate press interview, the rank and file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made, quote, in the heat of the moment, end quote, that was not founded on anything, according to the Mueller report.
So, it was two slips of the tongue on two consecutive days about the same subject, but Sarah Sanders did at least admit under oath that it was factually unfounded, which makes what she said just this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America" so remarkable and yet, given her record, kind of so predictable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Actually, if you look at what I said, I said, the slip of the tongue was in using the word "countless," but there were a number of FBI, both former and current that agreed with the president's decision. And they've continued to speak out and say that and send notice to the White House of that agreement with the president's decision.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Sarah, hold on a second. The special counsel writes that those comments were not founded on anything. That's what you talked to the special counsel about when you were facing criminal penalties if you didn't tell the truth, but now you're trying to walk away from it.
Why can't you acknowledge that what you said then was not true?
SANDERS: No, I'm not -- I said that the word I used "countless" and I also said, if you look at what's in quotations for me, it's that and it's that it was in the heat of the moment, meaning that it wasn't a scripted talking point. I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot like the Democrat Party that went out for two and a half years and stated time and time again that there was definitely Russian collusion between the president and his campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that happened this morning. By the way, if what she said was actually a slip of the tongue, twice a slip of the tongue, and not founded on anything, why didn't she correct herself? A minute later, or an hour later, or a day later, or a week later? If it was just a slip of the tongue, she had no problem letting it stand as fact.
And the incredible thing is, if she had corrected herself, what do you think, would the president have applauded her for her honesty? Or whispered behind her back to other people that she was weak for admitting an error?
I think we all know the answer to that question.
Reaction now to all of it, joining us now, author, strategic analyst, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters.
Colonel Peters, we talked a lot about -- this is the first time I'm talking to you since you read the report or you've seen it. You surprised by it in any way? Because a lot of the information was out there.
LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, it was out there, much of it. But when you see it presented so methodically, without emotion, the case seems overwhelming to me. I'm, obviously, not a lawyer. But to a layperson --
COOPER: The case for obstruction.
PETERS: Obstruction of justice. And as far as the Russian contacts go, there's some things the Mueller report didn't cover, because they were just outside of his lane.
[20:10:01] The fundamental question for me remains, why is the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, so slavishly subordinate to Vladimir Putin? Why will he do his best to block congressionally mandated sanctions? Why did the platform change in 2016 to hurt Ukraine and help Russia? Why does he have to meet behind doors with Vladimir Putin, so on and so on?
The report is not the end. It's a milestone, but there's much more to come.
COOPER: You don't believe the Mueller's conclusion? Because, you know, it's an extensive investigation, that there was no conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign or the president and Russians? PETERS: No, there may have been no conspiracy between the campaign,
for various reasons, incompetence, not the least of them. It takes a marginal degree of competence to organize an effective conspiracy.
I'm talking about the individual, Donald J. Trump. And we don't know why --
COOPER: Why he's beholden.
PETERS: -- he's slavish to Putin.
COOPER: There is an argument that's been put forth that it could be as simple as, this is a person who admires authoritarian strongmen, who -- whether it's -- for whatever reason, and we've seen it not just with Vladimir Putin, but with Kim Jong-un and Duterte, the new president in Brazil, as well. That he -- he looks up to these people or aspires to be like them.
PETERS: Well, he certainly admires their power. But, no, it's different with Putin.
He's willing to turn on anybody. He'll turn on a dime against Kim Jong-un. He'll criticize President Xi. He's had some outs with Duterte.
But when it comes to Putin, not a word of criticism of Vladimir Putin has ever, to my knowledge, escaped our president's usually open lips.
PETERS: You know, so that's one thing. But the other thing that I think many people are missing is how successful Trump has been on his own terms. This is a man who has managed to not only, in a few short years, degrade the presidency, to render it in a degenerate state, and I use that word specifically, a degenerate state.
But also, he's done such harm to the body politic, such harm to our society, that on any given day, on any given day, and yesterday was one given day, more than 40 percent of Americans believe that anything Donald Trump does is excusable, is OK. This is a low point for our country and our society and for our sense of ethics to the extent we still have a sense of ethics.
COOPER: In terms of justice and our system, I'm wondering, are you concerned about the attorney general, about his approach to this, and certainly, even, the statements he made hours before the report itself came out? How he characterized it?
PETERS: When I watched and listen to Attorney General Barr yesterday, do his propaganda stunt, I was reminded, and immediately, my background is a Soviet analyst, Russian analyst. That was Molotov praising the feats of Stalin.
I mean, it was just repulsive. I know people have said, well, Barr -- Attorney General Barr, he was attorney general before. He's not going to do anything to hurt his legacy. That flies in the face of Washington's reality. Any green room in
Washington, D.C. is chock-full of people who had power, don't have power, and want it again. The lure of power, the immense lure of power, it's the OxyContin of sideline Ivy Leaguers here in D.C.
COOPER: And that's, what you think, is behind Barr -- I mean, essentially, he was once attorney general, he's been out of the game, out in the wilderness for quite a while and he basically appealed to this White House with an unsolicited memo. And now, he's where he wants to be?
PETERS: Well, he certainly seems to want to retain that job. And, Anderson, I'm a soldier. I'm not a Washingtonian. I never held elected office, so I don't really know how it works on a spiritual, soulful level.
But I will tell you this: I do not understand how a man who knows the law, who has been our attorney general, could put in a performance like that.
PETERS: I mean, this is about -- it's not about politics! It's about our country. And if you take the names off the parties, just look at the numbers. We have come to a state where over half of the senators on Capitol Hill think Trump's OK, what he does is OK, and a plurality of the people's representatives think Trump is OK.
And I'm not sticking up for the Democrats on this one, they've got their own sins, God knows. But where is the concern for our country? I do not see it.
COOPER: General Peters, appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
PETERS: Joining us now is former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, and CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, author, along with Bob Woodward of the original, still remarkable Watergate chronicle, "All the President's Men".
Carl, I mean, this culture of dishonesty, as "The New York Times" puts it -- I think is a phrase that sort of will live on for a while.
[20:15:04] CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not just a culture of dishonesty. It's a culture of presidential contempt for the law and the norms of the presidency and the conduct of the government in this country.
This is something apart from what we've seen before. The only thing that comes near it in our modern history is Watergate and we go through that report and we see time and time again the president lies at every turn and --
COOPER: But there's a lot of people watching that who say, look, a lot of politicians lie. All politicians lie.
BERNSTEIN: First of all, all politicians, all people in positions might sometimes trim the truth a bit. I don't know. This is something apart from what we've seen in the presidency, except with the possible exception of Nixon.
And what we also see here is that there is a report that has been prepared by Mr. Mueller, who was praised by the president of the United States there, and all his acolytes, and now he's about to go after --
COOPER: That was last week.
BERNSTEIN: That was last week. That there's a lot of redactions.
And one of the things that's redacted is everything having to do with the counterintelligence investigation. And I would suggest that immediately, while the Congress of the United States and judiciary committee is going through long, long process of subpoenaing all of this material and the grand jury material, the so-called Gang of Eight in the Senate and the House is permitted to see all of that national security counterintelligence material. And it will go a long way, I think, toward maybe further explaining the inexplicable actions in terms of what Colonel Peters is talking about, with the Russians.
We need -- they need to see that information. And perhaps then, some of these Republican leaders, Mr. McConnell, the House Leader McConnell, maybe then they might change their view, if they're convinced by seeing some of the intelligence information.
COOPER: John, I mean, what's also remarkable here is that even when the president is caught in what's obvious a lie, he doesn't back down. He doesn't admit that he's lying, nor does anybody in the White House.
I mean, if the president doesn't acknowledge his lies, and his supporters don't care, then what?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We're in trouble. In fact, the -- Sarah Sanders' whole performance on being caught in the lie and now walking back, even her admission that it was a lie to the special counsel, and pretending that it was a slip of the tongue, it's part of the culture that's there.
Richard Nixon lied, no question. Maybe all politicians lie. I know some that try not to and really try to be public servants.
So, this is a sad commentary and a very bad example of what's going on. "The Washington Post" has got the account over 9,500 lies now since he's been in office. And this report shows he'll lie about little things, he'll lie about big things. Nixon tended to stay with the big issues and not the small ones.
COOPER: Carl, what -- I mean, the president has seemed to have been, at times, saved by people around him who were either acting out of their own self-interest, if they didn't want to get charged with something, they didn't want to get hold -- you know, have to years in court. Corey Lewandowski, Don McGahn, or who were making a principled stance, even though Don McGahn had that to actually resign.
But, those people are -- I mean, Corey Lewandowski is probably still involved, but Don McGahn is gone.
BERNSTEIN: Well, not just those two. Also gone are General Kelly --
BERNSTEIN: -- General Mattis.
BERNSTEIN: McMaster, Cohn, all of these people left concluding that the president of the United States is incapable of being entrusted with the national security of the United States. And it goes back to these questions of lying, contempt for law, and actual ignorance of policy where the United States has played a role in the world and what the role of the United States has been in the world during the service of colonel Peters and others.
They concluded that the president of the United States was somehow incapable of acting in a national interest. And so, you saw the same thing with Mattis, with Tillerson, et cetera, et cetera, that you see what's happening with the counsel to the president of the United States. They do not trust the president of the United States, even though they are the closest aides to him.
The only time that we've seen anything like that, I keep going back to Watergate, is perhaps some in Watergate, but most of the people around Nixon had some real confidence in Nixon. They saw two sides to him. This is something very, very different.
And the contempt that comes through the -- you know, what comes through those tweets, what comes through his language, what comes through the lies, what comes through the cover-up.
[20:20:03] This is a massive, vast cover-up that Mr. Mueller has enumerated in 12 or 11 instances, in great elaboration.
And so, here we see it happening in front of our eyes, in real time. And it's a horrendous thing to witness, because it's the United States of America that is the victim of this presidency.
COOPER: John, the president's threat this afternoon to turn the tables in his words, essentially, it sounded like, go after the people who either investigated him or, you know, have spoken out against him in Congress, accusing him of treason. That -- I mean, I'm wondering, you know, this could have been a time to, say, turn the tables and focus on, you know, immigration and infrastructure and whatever else the president wants on his agenda.
It's interesting that one of his first missives is, you know, yeah, let's turn the tables and go after others.
DEAN: Revenge. He's clearly -- part of his personality is to seek revenge. He never forgets a slight and he never lets up. And Anderson, the problem with what he's doing with, he's playing with real fire if he tries to go after the people who were witnesses. And who testified truthfully about what he was doing. And he does anything to harm them.
There's a federal statute that is very broad regarding witness intimidation. And they could be walking into a whole other set of criminal problems that the Congress will not look away from, certainly at the House. And this will be a problem, if he really, seriously hurts these people in any way -- in other words, financially, employment-wise, what-have-you.
BERNSTEIN: I want to add one thing. Let's just turn this thing around and say that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama was the president and that this Mueller report was about Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. There would have been impeachment proceedings would have begun long ago. And they would be well underway with this report and it would be like a train you couldn't stop. Just think of that, because that's where we are.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, John Dean, thank you very much.
Coming up next, we'll get a one-time insider's take on all of this. Former White House counsel, Ty Cobb, joins us.
And later, more on Sarah Sanders and her losing battle to tell the truth.
[20:26:40] COOPER: We spoke at the top of the broadcast about the president seeming to threaten retribution over the Mueller report.
Tonight, "Politico" is reporting that the Trump campaign has hired its own in-house attorney for the 2020 effort, shifting business away from Jones Day where former White House counsel Don McGahn is now a partner. "Politico" citing an adviser close to the White House as quoted as asking, why in the world would you want to put your enemy on the payroll?
Trump campaign says "Politico" got it wrong, saying they have, indeed, hired their own counsel, but as a cost-saving move and not fired Jones Day. "Politico", by the way, also reported all of that. So, it's hard to say what the objection is.
Joining us now by phone, former White House lawyer, Ty Cobb.
Mr. Cobb, thank you so much for being with us.
The president today is continuing to refer to this basically as a hoax, calling it the crazy Mueller report, talking about parts of it that are just B.S.
I know you've been reading the report.
Was Mueller's investigation a witch hunt, looking back on it all?
TY COBB, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER (via telephone): Well, Anderson, I'm on the record, you know, having stated numerous times that I have great respect for Bob Mueller. You know, we were prosecutors in separate offices in the early 1980s --
COOPER: And that remains after reading the report?
COBB: Yes, absolutely.
Yes, I think he did a very professional job. I understand sort of the controversy over the way the obstruction piece was done. I think, obviously, the most important thing, of course, is the finding that is repeatedly stated in volume one of the Russia collusion theory, having no legs and no facts to support it.
And then on the obstruction piece, you know, it's written in sort of a stern tone, a lot of the stuff's not in context, but, you know, that was not his job. Mueller wrote this report for one person, which is the attorney general.
And in fact, the regulations that govern him require him tor submit this confidential report to the attorney general, who has total discretion under the special counsel statute, which, as you know, replaced the independent counsel statute which Democrats let run out under Clinton, and then they replaced it with the special counsel statute that was designed not to permit the widespread proliferation, uncontrolled of information gathered in the special counsel process.
COOPER: I'm wondering, you -- you -- my understanding is that, when you were the, the attorney on this, for the White House, you almost got the president to testify to Mueller back in January of 2018, certainly, when his new attorneys essentially took over, they decided, they would not allow him to sit down with the president.
In hindsight, I'm wondering, was -- are you glad the president did not testify? Was it the right strategy for him not to actually sit down for an interview and just do limited written answers on collusion questions or conspiracy questions, nothing to do with obstruction?
COBB: Yes, now, I apologize, that's a little bit of erroneous narrative.
COBB: So I actually never had any control over whether or not the president would testify.
That's a decision that was up to his personal counsel.
And keep in mind, I represented the White House. I was an institutionalist. But there had been, I think, as has been reported, there had been a tentative arrangement for an interview in January, subject to the president's personal lawyers and the special counsel agreeing on scope. And they were unable to agree at that time so it was postponed or the decision whether to do it was postponed. And by the time - by the time as the special counsel said, by the time they got to the issue, you know they agreed to written questions, you know, they didn't -- they apparently did not like the answers, but at the same time, did not issue a subpoena. And in part for legal reasons, because the standard for issuing a subpoena is very high --
COOPER: Right. And they said it would also be unfair to the president, because he wouldn't be able to confront - you know to argue his case and defend himself in a court, because there would be no indictment under the Department of Justice guideline.
COOPER: I was just going to ask you -
COBB: But the fact that they had -- and as we pointed out, the fact that they had sufficient information from other sources, that is the legal standard.
COBB: So since they could see that they had those, they would not have been able to prevail. They likely would not have been able to prevail in a context that order to lay - to lay the report.
COOPER: The portrait of President Trump in this report, certainly on the obstruction issues, is of someone who has asked his staff to do things that they thought were wrong or even obstructive or they had -- they just decided not to do for their own personal reasons, didn't want to get involved in it, principled reasons. Was that your experience working for this president?
COBB: For me -- I wasn't ever asked to do anything of the magnitude of the allegation about firing Mueller, although I would say, at the time the president asked that, keep in mind, that's weeks after Bob had been appointed and the papers were filled with Dershowitz, Andy McCarthy, Jonathan Turley suggesting that Mueller's appointment was illegitimate, because of the absence of an underlying criminal proceeding as required by the special counsel statute.
So, you know, I mean and the president obviously, you know, was not happy that a special counsel was appointed, but he also had a lot of people explaining to him why, at least in their view, at that time, shortly after the appointment, there was a substantial question as to whether it was proper to have a special counsel.
COOPER: So I guess, should the American people be concerned, though that this president repeatedly, you know, asked people to do things that they then just ignored, just in terms of the functioning of the White House, and also that the president has repeatedly just said things which are not true, as have the White House press office, and there doesn't seem to be - I mean he then denies he lies a lot. I mean, did he lie a lot to you?
COBB: No. And I would say that, that, you know, I think it's -- I think one of the things that's really important to keep in mind -- I mean, I've been a little astonished at how much Barr bashing is going on, because he did specifically what he was supposed to do under 28 CFR 6009, that governs his reporting obligations. And he doesn't have any obligation. He had no obligation to share the report. And as the statute makes clear, there are no rights created for Congress or anybody else by virtue of that statute. Everything's in the sole discretion of the attorney general. And the attorney general, you know, produced virtually the entire report. The redactions, you know, are minimal. And the most important redaction is the president's -- the most important -- I'm sorry, the most important non-redaction is the executive privilege, which the president-elected not to assert. In fact, had the president asserted executive privilege, volume two would be 10 pages.
COBB: And the president elected to be as transparent as possible, you know, contrary to the multiple assertions of executive privilege under the manifest.
COOPER: Although the president was aware I think by then or the White House was aware by then, as far as I understand it, that the president could -- that Mueller was operating under the Department of Justice guidelines and that the president -- that the sitting president could not be indicted.
[20:35:10] COBB: No, no. But that's not my point -
On the report itself, that the only reason that the things that are being debated today are being debated, you know, on the obstruction side, is because the president did not assert --
COOPER: No, I understand. You're saying the president could have exerted executive privilege. There would have been no report and Barr could have not released the report under the guidelines.
COBB: Well, he would not have been able to release anything that was executive privilege. I mean, so, which includes all the voluntary cooperation by the White House, McGahn's testimony, the testimony of Sarah Sanders, the testimony of everybody that went in, you know, voluntarily and the documents that were provided voluntarily.
COOPER: Right. Ty Cobb --
COBB: All of those items would have been governed by executive privilege under the standing Office of Legal Counsel opinion.
COOPER: Right. Ty Cobb, appreciate it. Thanks very much, fascinating to hear. Thank you.
COBB: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on. Sorry I couldn't be with you in person.
COOPER: No worries. Take care.
Just ahead, more on the criticism directed at White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders for lying and how she is essentially doubling down. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: As we showed you at the top, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is on the defensive. It's certainly not easy to do her job, certainly. That said others have managed to do it without coming under the intense criticism she has for lying to the country.
Joining me now is Joe Lockhart, who served as press secretary for President Clinton, also with us, former Clinton adviser, Paul Begala and Mike Shields, former chief of staff for the Republican National Committee.
[20:40:04] Paul, it is hard to believe that Sarah Sanders says this was a slip of the tongue. She's now kind of walking away. She said it was just the word "countless," that it wasn't countless FBI agents who were calling her up, it was a number of former and current FBI agents. She could have corrected herself if she was concerned at all about what was actually coming out of her mouth.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And when she was under oath, according to the Mueller report, they found no one, that there was no basis for what she said. I suspect the basis was the president told her to say it. I think that's why she can't walk it back now. White Houses all take on the personality of the boss. The building stays the same, but the culture always changes. Like Obama crew is very intellectual, cerebral, Bush crew was kind of swaggering. You know I always used to tease Clinton that his whole staffs were road scholars and red necks. (INAUDIBLE) is red lock than me. You know which side I was on.
This White House seems to really have a culture of lying. It just is deeply, deeply dishonest. I actually believe, let's say Mitt Romney was the president or John Kasich or any -- Jeb Bush. And if Sarah was their press secretary, I don't think they would lie like this. She's still responsible for her actions but I think this is the essence of Trumpism, is dishonesty.
COOPER: It's interesting, I mean Sean Spicer also his -- a couple of his lies are also pointed out in the Mueller report. So it's not something unique to Sarah Sanders. And the White House press office, itself, wanted to put out a statement after the firing of Comey saying that Rod Rosenstein was the one who had done -- who had basically motivated this. And they couldn't do that, because Rosenstein said he wouldn't lie.
JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, again, I have to agree with Paul that there is this culture of dishonesty that starts at the top. But, you know, the press secretary's job is a unique one within the White House. Everybody else there works just for the president. The press secretary works for the president and sort of for the reporters, because the reporters are the proxy for the American people. So there's a higher standard for the press secretary when you stand behind that podium and the rest of the world is watching. A standard to keep the press and the public informed on a regular basis. That's gone. They don't do briefings really anymore. And the second is to tell the truth. And you know sometimes, you know, it's very difficult, information is changing, to always get everything right. But I think Paul pointed out correctly, you know, when Sarah Sanders was under oath and knew that she could go to jail for telling a lie, she told the truth. As soon as she got back in front of Sean Hannity, she walked it back and said, no, no, no, no. And I could tell you for certain, no FBI agents have talked to her, because it's been White House protocol for 40 years that the White House press office does not talk to the FBI. If you have a question for the FBI, you go through the White House Counsel's Office. Every administration has done it the same way.
COOPER: She's now, Mike, talking about former FBI agents who are, you know, in contact with the White House or speaking out. I guess, meaning, on TV, could be speaking out. And it's very possible that she heard them, because she was watching TV. Is it, Mike, important, that the press secretary be honest from the podium?
MIKE SHIELDS, FORMER RNC CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, first of all, look, Happy Easter, Happy Passover. As you know, I worked for Newt Gingrich during the Clinton impeachment years, so I'm glad we're having a '90s reunion tonight with a couple of Clinton spin doctors. And look, you know I also really enjoy them saying that the culture of lying starts from the president coming on down after the Clinton administration set a whole new standard for lying while in office. And look, I think the American people, if you ask them in a poll, was it worth $30 million for you to find out that the president's spin doctor is a spin doctor, they would say, no, it's not worth that.
COOPER: Right. It actually -
Wait. Just stop, because they actually a lot of money back from Paul Manafort. Didn't they? They got tens of millions of dollars back from Paul Manafort.
SHIELDS: Well, look -- OK, then it wasn't worth putting us through a two-year national nightmare and going through an entire narrative that the president was a tool of the Russian government to just find out that his spin doctor is a spin doctor. And I think, you know, not to make it too personal, but I'm guessing if you ask Paul and Joe if every single thing they ever said on behalf of President Clinton was 100 percent true, you guys would not say that is the case, because that is not your job. Your job is to represent the president and to push an agenda.
Furthermore, we only know about this because the president did not claim executive privilege, which, by the way just side note, Bill Clinton tried to claim executive privilege during his impeachment issue. So we know about this because the president was being transparent. And I think that that also comes from the top down.
COOPER: But --
BEGALA: I'm getting the idea that Mike doesn't like President Clinton. LOCKHART: Anderson, can I take that one on?
LOCKHART: Because I think it's important. Yes -- and I think Paul will say the same thing. Mike, I can tell you without any hesitation that I never said anything from the podium that wasn't true. And I can tell you this also. If I did, the president would have fired me. The opposite is the case here. Your talking points are great, you were ready to go to point two and point three when Anderson challenged you, I am impressed.
[20:45:01] But it doesn't change the fact that not since Ron Ziegler and the Nixon administration have we had this culture of purposefully lying and it comes from the president. You can say all you want, but I can tell you without any certainty, and if you want to produce a document that shows that I told something that wasn't true, go for it, but you won't be able to. You can spend the rest of your life researching that.
BEGALA: And let me defend myself. I told the country that I believed President Clinton when he told me that he didn't have an affair. That was wrong. He was lying and I repeated that lie. I didn't know he had an affair. I would have never repeated it. And I take that very seriously. It damaged my heart. It damaged my credibility.
So I saw him through the impeachment, and as soon as -- which was completely unconstitutional, right, and I was proud to defend my country, my Constitution. Since that was over, I resigned, as soon as we got through impeachment, because he had lied to me about one thing, about an affair, about a consensual affair.
This president, Mike, and I know you want to attack President Clinton and that's your problem. This president lies like he breathes. And he makes his press secretary a liar. He makes his attorney general a liar. He makes his White House physician a liar. It's just -- this is endemic to everything he does. It is in Mr. Trump's DNA. And yes, it's terrible that I guess Bill Clinton is the only politician who had ever had an affair. I know Mike's former boss probably never did. But that's a completely different thing. You know, you can find any person, any human being, who has been less than faithful to the truth, and I get that. This guy lies all the time about everything and he debases and degrades our country by doing it.
COOPER: I've got to leave it there. Joe Lockhart, Paul Begala, Mike Shields, thank you.
The Mueller report did not pay direct attention to President Trump's finances, although it did refer to efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow before the 2016 election.
Coming up, what's ahead in the other investigations into the president? We'll look at that, ahead.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:50:00] COOPER: The 400-plus page Mueller report touched indirectly on President Trump's finances. It devoted a portion of its first volume to the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. There are other investigations pending that could explore the president's finances and detail, some perspective now from Preet Bharara who is the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, I mean the reality is the Mueller chapter may be closed. The president is facing potentially damaging investigations elsewhere in New York and elsewhere. Should people be confident that those can be carried out given that most of them report to the attorney general?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I do. I mean I think the Southern District of New York, as Mr. Bharara can tell you in detail, has this great tradition of independence. There is not going to be political pressure that's really going to work there. I'm much more skeptical that they're going to find anything. That's what I think is the real issue here. I don't think you know the heavy hand of William Barr is going to be the end of this investigation.
I think people have exaggerated hopes for what's going to come of these financial investigations. But as far as I'm aware and as far as I believe in the Justice Department, especially the line prosecutors, I don't think political interference is going to be the death of these investigations. And if it is, we'll know because people will leave in protest.
COOPER: Preet, do you agree with that, these will be independent at least for the Southern District of New York and do you think Jeff is right that people have unrealistic expectations?
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: With respect to the second, I have no idea. I have no idea what the evidences. I have no idea what the facts are. I think it is true that there is a set of people in the country who you know pin their hopes on a prosecutor delivering them from the president, whether that's Bob Mueller and you know now turned to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District. And some people say the attorney general in New York or various -- of the other investigations, 12 of which we don't even know the nature of because they're still being concealed. So with respect to that, I don't know.
With respect to the first, yes, I have great confidence in the professionalism, the independence and the tenacity and fearlessness of the people who are in that office now. And I think it's a very difficult thing, especially in light of some of the things that have come out with respect to the Mueller report, for someone to reach in, like Bill Barr or someone else, if they're damned to do it and tell them to stop a good faith investigation or you know withhold something or pull their punches. I think it's a very difficult thing to do.
I agree with Jeff, that if I were the U.S. attorney and someone told me that, on the cusp of bringing a particular kind of case that was a big deal or problematic for a president or his associates, I would resign and I would resign noisily. COOPER: Jeff, what about the subpoenas from Democrats in Congress in order to get the full versions of the Mueller report un-redacted? It's basically a stalemate. The Department of Justice is saying that's not going to happen.
TOOBIN: You know, as I understand it, it's actually a very difficult and unresolved legal issue about whether the Congress will be able to get them. The one thing I know for sure is that this is going to take a considerable amount of time. When you think of how the process works, it's not just that it's going to go into court tomorrow. If the Justice Department says no, we're not turning it over, the committee has to vote to hold them in contempt, the whole House has to vote to hold them in contempt. Then the case goes to the district court, then it goes to the court appeals and maybe it goes to the Supreme Court.
I mean this issue of the redactions is not going to be resolved for months. And I'm not sure that there is such incendiary material in those redactions that at the end of the day even if Congress wins, which by no means is certain, that it's going to change our perceptions in a big way.
COOPER: Preet, so the 14 other investigations that the Mueller investigation has spurred, we knew about two of them, Michael Cohen and Greg Craig. There are 12 other ongoing investigations that are secret. What is the timeline of that, I assume, given that we don't know what they are, I mean are these things which they already have evidence of or these are ongoing investigations and still being looked at?
BHARARA: Yes. I mean because we don't know, I guess the answer is we don't know. Presumably on the one hand, Bob Mueller, if they would have thought if they were very, very, very significant and they went to the core of what he was looking at, two of those things being conspiracy to act with the Russians and the other being obstruction, he would have kept them even though it seems like he was on some kind of you know internal timeline and wanted to end his investigation earlier rather than later. So it's impossible to say.
On the other hand, the fact that there are investigations that were specifically sent to other offices means given the spirit of your question that there was some evidence that there was something worthwhile to look at.
[20:55:00] I don't know how far along they are. It's probably the case some are further along than others and some will end up with nothing and some may end up in being we'll hear about with respect to unsealed charges at some point in the future. But you know obviously it's impossible to tell.
And further, to what Jeff said a couple of minutes ago, on the issue of redaction, you know the most incendiary part of the Mueller report is the Volume 2 with respect to obstruction. And it's actually not that much redacted on Volume 2. So to the extent people think that's where the trouble is and that's where by the way Bob Mueller said one of the reasons he was conducting that investigation, even though you can't indict under policy a sitting United States president, he wanted to preserve evidence while memories were fresh for someone else later to bring a prosecution. I don't know how much the you know getting an un-redacted version matters.
COOPER: OK. Jeff Toobin, thank you. Preet Bharara as well, and Preet, we should say before we go is the author of "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law."
Up next, some parting shots of President Trump from the outgoing French Ambassador of the United States.
COOPER: The Mueller report gives a lot of insight into the difficulties in the Trump White House, the chaos. And tonight we have more perspective from a different angle from the outgoing French ambassador to the United States. He's retiring after serving five years in the job in D.C. and holding many of the top French diplomacy jobs over nearly four decades. For dozens of world leaders, seems he didn't much like working with President Trump. The outgoing ambassador told Foreign Policy magazine and I quote, "...suddenly you have this president who is an extrovert, really a big mouth who reads basically nothing or nearly nothing, with the interagency process totally broken and decisions taken from the hip basically."
As for the White House staff, he said, quote, "...they don't know what the president is going to say. And if the president has said something, they don't know what he means."
When asked what advice he would give his successor on how to handle the Trump administration, he said, and I quote, "I think I'd prefer somebody who doesn't have heart problems."
That says quite a lot right there.
Joining us again for another edition of - I hope you join us again at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Another live edition of "AC 360."