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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Trump Didn't Like the Mueller Report; Sarah Sanders in Full Defense Mode; Democrats Preparing for Their Next Move; Trump Versus McGahn; Former Mueller Deputy at FBI Weighs In; How Does the White House Function on Dysfunction?. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 19, 2019 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Out of darkness can come light, and out of the worst, we may still see the best.

I want to thank you for watching. And a blessed weekend for all of you. We're going to go now to Anderson. Working late once again in Washington with a special edition of AC 360. My brother, a blessed Easter for you and your family.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You, too, as well. Thank you very much, Chris, to you and your family.

Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, President Trump plan to carry out retribution as part of his reaction to the Mueller report. Also, a closer look at a key take away from it, page after page detailing a climate of dishonesty at the White.

First, the president's take on Twitter, of course. 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 continuing with this tweet. "A big fat waste of time. Energy and money. Thirty million dollars to be exact. It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who've have committed very serious crimes. perhaps even spying or treason. This should never happen again."

Excuse me.

Here with us for the latest on all that tonight and much more, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, it took the president some nine hours to finish the series of three tweets, which is kind of unusual for him. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right,

Anderson. You know, it might be a sign that perhaps he was somewhat speechless after the release of the Mueller report, you know.

He said on Wednesday that he was going to hold a news conference and then ended up going past reporters without making any comments on the findings that were released in that redacted report.

But the president did late in the day post a tweet essentially finishing a tweet that he started nine hours earlier where he accused these unnamed forces of spying or treason. But like so many things that the president said and has said, over the course of this administration he did not back up this tweet with any kind of evidence or proof.

COOPER: He's also saying now is it time to turn the tables and it sound like taking revenge on his political opponents or on those he feels have done him wrong.

ACOSTA: That's right. What we've seen so far this week, Anderson, and I think this was highlighted in the Mueller report, is he makes these threats and engages in this kind of bluster but you have to wonder who is going to follow these orders?

I think one of the -- I mean, one of the big takeaways from this week, Anderson, is that when the president engages in this kind of rhetoric especially inside the White House behind closed doors, even with top aides.

There are aides to the president like Don McGahn, like Corey Lewandowski, an outside adviser who we saw in the Mueller report are not willing to carry out these orders. And you have to wonder even though William Barr, the attorney general in the eyes of some here in Washington especially in the Democratic Party feel like he's let a lot of people down and was trying to down play, intentionally down play what was in the Mueller report.

You have to wonder is the attorney general going to carry out these orders? Don McGahn was not willing to carry out the order of firing the special counsel Robert Mueller. And so, this maybe once again the president firing off, sounding off engaging in bluster making threats.

And you have to wonder because, you know, if past is prologue you have to wonder whether or not anybody is actually listening to him and carrying out these orders.

I talked to a Trump adviser who said, you know, sometimes there are people in Trump's orbit who just don't follow what he says and they don't follow his orders. And essentially that is something that they recognize behind the scenes he engages in this kind of bluster; he engages in this kind of rhetoric. But they don't always take it seriously and they don't always take it literally. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Jim, thanks.

ACOSTA: You bet. COOPER: All right. Let's have some more now on the Mueller report itself and all the dishonesty it laid out on page after page of it, so we're taking a closer look at the lying done by Sarah Sanders not just because she openly admitted to not telling the truth while under oath.

But also, because now she seems to be trying to walk her admission back on TV where she's no longer under oath.

Randi Kaye takes us to her journey to the land of the sometimes truthful, and now apparently, her road back out.

RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Her job is to communicate truthfully with the White House press. But in anecdote in the Mueller report indicates that Sarah Sanders lied when she said this about the president's firing of FBI director James Comey

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your response to these rank and file FBI agents who disagree with good intention that they lost faith in Director Comey.

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we heard from the countless members of the FBI that say very different things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: That was May 10, 2017. Sanders on camera telling reporters that countless members of the FBI had lost confidence in Comey.

[23:05:04] Trouble is, what she said was inaccurate. Sanders herself admitted her comments were not fact based when she was questioned about it under oath by Special Counsel Mueller.

Her admission in print on page 72. Sanders told this office that her reference to countless members of the FBI was a slip of the tongue.

She also told Mueller's team that her statement in a separate press interview where he said rank and file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was made in the heat of the moment. A statement the report says was not founded on anything.

Within hours of the Mueller report being made public, Sanders went on damage control. Saying the point, she was trying to make was that both current and former FBI agents agreed with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Look, I acknowledge that I had a slip of the tongue when I used the word countless but it's not untrue. Comey was a disgraced leaker who tried to politicize and undermine the very agency he was supposed to run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: By Friday morning Sanders doubled down on her original statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not a slip of the tongue, Sarah. That's a deliberate false statement.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: And true to form, Sanders tried to turn her misstatement around on the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: 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 Democratic Party that went 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)

KAYE: She continued her offense on CBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Look, I have acknowledged the word countless was a slip of the tongue. The big take away here is that the sentiment is 100 percent accurate. The FBI is a better place without James Comey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: The backlash against Sanders from members of the press was swift. One CBS reporter pointing out that even though Sanders called it a slip of the tongue, she said it two days in a row. We asked Sarah Sanders to comment on calls for her firing. She didn't respond.

Randi Kaye CNN, New York.

COOPER: Well, to talk about this joining us, CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot, author of the -- Pulitzer Prize finalist in the biography category "The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale, the American Tragedy in Vietnam." Also with us, Aspire magazine chief political correspondent, Ryan Lizza.

Max, again, Sarah Sanders not only did she have a slip of the tongue two days in a row. She never corrected herself. If it was truly a slip of the tongue and she was concerned about having misled and said something that was not true about countless FBI agents contacting her which would be highly unusual.

Because active members of the FBI don't normally call the press secretary of the White House. She could have corrected herself that day or the next day. Or a month later when they had the next press briefing.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. I think slip out of the tongue, Anderson, is going to join the rich lexicon of euphemisms employed by White Houses to describe their out and outlying.

it's up there with Ron Ziegler, the Nixon White House press secretary saying that that explanation was no longer operative.

I mean, clearly, Sarah Sanders' job is to lie on behalf of the president. That's not the normal job of the White House press secretary. In the past, of course all White House press secretaries are supposed to put the best possible spin on the administration actions but they are not supposed to lie.

And in fact, previous White House press secretaries would have drawn a pretty clear line and refused to do that. But we saw that from the very start of this administration with Sean Spicer when Donald Trump sent him out there to lie about the attendance at the inaugural. Just as absurd ridiculous lie that nobody could possibly believe.

But Sean Spicer had to stay up there -- out there and put it across. Because that's what the president expected and that's clearly what the president expects from Sarah Sanders to lie, to justify his own lies.

COOPER: Yes.

BOOT: So, it's lies built on top of lies. And it's kind of ironic that now you read that administration officials who talked to Robert Mueller are now afraid for their jobs because Donald Trump is going to be so upset at them for telling the truth. So, in this ahis administration the only real sin is telling the truth, whereas, telling lies gets you rewarded and promoted.

COOPER: Right. Well, Ryan, I mean, now you have Rudy Giuliani going after McCabe -- excuse me -- Don McGahn for what his testimony was under oath --

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

COOPER: -- where Giuliani -- good news now he's isn't under oath these days. But Sarah Sanders it's not just this incident. Another incident which hasn't gotten as much coverage I think is that which was newly learned in the report.

[23:10:00] Is that, the press office at the White House wanted to put out a statement --

LIZZA: Yes.

COOPER: -- claiming that Rod Rosenstein was the one who wanted Mueller fired and he's the one behind it all. And that was just not true. And Rosenstein according to Mueller had to say to them I will tell truth if asked. LIZZA: Yes. That whole episode was sort of comedy of, you know,

inside the White House. I mean, Trump is going to fire him later learns that Rosenstein didn't like Comey and he's going to write this memo so they use that as cover. Right?

COOPER: Right.

LIZZA: And then he tried to get Rosenstein to be the face of it and he said no way. Then Trump says, according to the report, that comms team messed up all of this and he was going to do that interview with Lester Holt and straighten everything out.

COOPER: Right.

LIZZA: And of course, the statement in there, in that interview that he did it, he fired Comey because of Russia was highly incriminating.

I think if you take a step back, one of the things we learned is this White House lies like they breathe. And the only way to pin them down is when you have the force of law enforcement there and the threat of criminal prosecution.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Which is an extraordinary --

LIZZA: Which is crazy.

COOPER: -- idea.

LIZZA: Right. I mean, I read the report thinking my God, this is every journalist dream. Just to having the White House press secretary under oath. And you know, they can't get out of it. And that's what it took to get the true story out of them.

And now, of course, you see, OK, none of these guys are under oath anymore. And so, let's just rewind everything. And say McGahn is lying, Sanders, you know, backtracking from that because there are no consequences.

COOPER: Right. And the -- Max, it's not as if this doesn't come from the top. I mean, this is we all know the president said numerous thing it's well documented. And later we're going to talk to Secretary Panetta. And one the things he always says is that, you know, the tone of the White House is set from the top by the president.

BOOT: Yes. And it's a fundamentally dishonest tone. Because if you read the Washington Post fact checker, Anderson, you'll see that as of April 1, President Trump had been caught in 9,400 documented falsehoods since coming into office. That's an average of 12 falsehoods a day.

I mean, that is a record of mendacity unmatched by any previous occupant of the Oval Office including Richard Nixon.

And so, clearly, that kind of example that sets the example for the rest of the administration. They know what they are expected to do. They know they're not going to be punished for lying. And that's a real betrayal of the trust that the American people place in this president and place in this administration.

And you know, that also one of the reasons why it's a shame that Robert Mueller did not take greater efforts to get Donald Trump under oath. Because as Ryan said, the only way to get the truth out of these folks is to put them under oath and Donald Trump has not gone under oath.

COOPER: Certainly, you have the president as we're talking about literally turning the tables was the quote he was saying today in one of his tweets. LIZZA: Yes.

COOPER: You know, essentially talking about looking like he's talking about retribution against the perceived enemies.

LIZZA: Yes. You know, I kind of agree with Jim on this in that interview with you previously. That there's a threat a day from Trump.

COOPER: Right.

LIZZA: And he kind of follows through with maybe one out of 10.

COOPER: Right.

LIZZA: You never know which one is going to be. But he says a lot of unusual --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, depends which one of his staff actually will carry out.

LIZZA: Exactly. Right. I mean, that is absolutely true. We learned from this report that he is very, very conflict adverse --

COOPER: yes.

LIZZA: -- and he forces -- tells other people to do it. And if they don't carry it out it's not going to get done.

COOPER: Ryan Lizza, thank you. Max boot, as well.

Coming up next, what Democrats do next. Whether it's seeking the full unredacted Mueller report as some will want and are trying to, grand jury material or pursuing impeachment.

And later, a former Robert Mueller deputy weighs in and whether he thinks given what's in the report would President Trump have been indicted by Mueller if he were a private citizen. That ahead.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: House judiciary chairman Nadler today subpoenaed Attorney General Barr seeking a full unredacted version of the Mueller report. Democratic Congressional leaders also rejected a Justice Department proposal for a congressional and committee leaders to view a less redacted edition.

And late today citing what it describe as the minimal redactions in that version. The Justice Department called the judiciary committee's move premature and unnecessary. Now for the go in pursuing the full report is one decision Democrats have to make whether to pursue impeachment of course is another.

I want to talk about it with former Obama senior adviser Van Jones, host of the appropriately named the Van Jones show. Also, former Clinton senior campaign spokesperson, Karen Finney, she's a CNN political commenter, and former Romney-Ryan 2012 spokesman, Adolfo Franco.

Van, what should Democrats do. Is impeachment the way to go?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think that this kind of dilemma right now, you know, do we impeach or do we just let it go. And I think that that's -- that's actually premature. I think we need full robust hearings. There are a lot of questions that have unasked. And I think that you can have the effect of the impeachment kind of drama and spectacle really just by trying to figure out what the heck is going on here.

And you know, I think after, as these hearings go forward, let's not forget with Watergate they didn't start off by saying impeachment. In Watergate they said there's something fishy going on here we want to have hearings. We want to have full robust, televised hearings. And that then actually produced more evidence that led then to the impeachment.

COOPER: Karen, do you --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: To push more impeachment.

COOPER: Karen, I mean, do you think --I mean, some people are hearing this rumor say, you know, more hearings.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

COOPER: How can it be more comprehensive now what Mueller has already done for the last two years.

FINNEY: That's right. And actually, this is where I'm going to diverge from Van, my dear friend just a little bit. I think we need to go full bore into impeachment. But I think we need to be smart about it and do a couple of things.

I mean, I think Mueller really gave Democrats the blueprint. But and we've got to let it sink in a little bit for the American people.

[23:19:53] People have to understand and I think as a party we have got to raise the temperature so that people feel the intensity of why it matters to have like -- this is Donald Trump is the most corrupt president certainly in a generation that we've seen.

And the behaviors that are outlined in the Mueller report, certainly I think make the case for impeachment. But we've also got to make the case to the American people.

And I think they got a little flat footed this week, quite frankly, and not having kind of a group of people ready to go with the response, particularly when we knew that Barr was going to be doing that press conference.

COOPER: Well, I mean, there's a reason. I mean you can make an argument. There's a reason it was released when it was --

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: Of course, of course.

COOPER: It's that obvious that everybody is out of town.

FINNEY: But you can always bring a couple of people back or get them to camera. So, but point being, I think they've got to hit it really hard next week and really make sure that we are communicating to the American people why it matters.

And look, this isn't just about politics also. I mean, this is about who we are as a country. This president has acted in ways that are unethical and immoral and in ways that actually damage his ability to be effective for the American people.

COOPER: Adolfo, if Democrats do go down this road of impeachment, there's a lot of Republicans and a lot of just observers who aren't Republican will say this can ignite the president's base in a way that nothing else -- I mean, they're always excited.

ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right.

COOPER: But this could rally the president's base in a way that would hurt the Democrats very much in the election.

FRANCO: Well, I think that's true. And I actually hope the Democrats pursue impeachment. Of course, we try that two decades ago that didn't work out very well.

COOPER: And it hurt Republicans.

FRANCO: But I will say, if I may, I will say this. Karen and I maybe we should just skip impeachment and just go right to the hanging since the conclusion has already been made.

FINNEY: Come on.

FRANCO: But, wait, wait. The conclusion has been made that is most corrupt president. It was already corrupt.

FINNEY: Did you read the report? FRANCO: I did read the report. I read it completely different. I read

it completely differently. I don't read that way at all. And I think the country is quite divided by this. And I think that polls show 65 percent of the American people say the report had zero impact meaning --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes. But that was -- by the way, that was the Fox News poll taken before the report --

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: I mean, we should have given a little bit of time to let it --

FRANCO: We'll see. You know, I watch all your programs. I watch this program religiously. I watch Fox News as well.

COOPER: Right.

FRANCO: And there are two different Americas on this.

COOPER: Sure.

FRANCO: This is very different than the situation -- I'm old enough than 1973 and 1974. And I don't believe with all due respect at your party, but I don't believe this meets the Pelosi test, with the Pelosi test being bipartisan, and so forth.

What they are going to do and I do agree with Karen on this as they're going to go full court press through the media to try to drum up as they did with collusion for two years, to drum up a fever over impeachment.

COOPER: So, OK.

FRANCO: And I think -- I think --

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: But Mueller wasn't actually investigating collusion because not he said.

FRANCO: Well, he was in --

FINNEY: He said that in the report --

COOPER: But Karen, just from -- as a Democrat, do you worry, though, that going down this road of impeachment plays into Republican hands?

FRANCO: It does.

COOPER: And it takes candidates who are running for president or candidates who are running for local office away from talking about what Congressman Clyburn said to me the other night, which is, you know, table top issues. That's what he wants to hear democrats talking.

FINNEY: You know, two things on that, Anderson. Number one, having actually been in the White House and lived through the Clinton impeachment there are some very significant differences --

(CROSSTALK)

FRANCO: Yes, he committed perjury.

FINNEY: -- between -- well, but it was about the underlying issue was very different. And it was a seven-year investigation that people felt like --

(CROSSTALK)

FRANCO: Based on a lie. He lied to the American people.

FINNEY: -- about a personal matter. Not about his contacts with Russians and trying to protect that and getting people to lie for him.

FRANCO: Yes, but --

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: I mean, look, but the other point that I would make, more importantly is, I do think we have to proceed with caution. No question. But why not make 2020 about saying to the American people you deserve better and you deserve a clean slate. I think there's an opportunity to do that. If they can do both talk about your agenda --

COOPER: Right.

FINNEY: -- and talk about you.

COOPER: Van, I mean, Democrats are already getting to what could be a very long legal fight over the full unredacted report. That will be its own distraction from table top campaign issues.

JONES: Well, I think we can -- I think a couple things. First, there is this myth that everybody comes back to you that, you know, the Republicans impeach Bill Clinton. And then they just disappeared in a big fire just destroyed the Republicans -- my God, what did I do.

I don't understand why we keep saying that. The Republicans held onto the House. Held on to the Senate and then got the White House after they impeached. They didn't do as well in one midterm as they thought might have done.

But the idea that if you impeach someone your party falls apart. I don't know when that ever happened. So, for those who say that the reason not to do this is because it's going to destroy the Democrats. I just think that's over stated. There's no evidence for that. But I would say --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: very quickly.

FRANCO: Very quickly. I think Nancy Pelosi knows better. Van, in 1998 Republicans lost 15 House seats and held onto --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: And kept the house.

FRANCO: -- and 60 --

JONES: And kept the House.

FRANCO: -- by six seats. When they were supposed to pick up 25.

FINNEY: But Bill Clinton was talking about --

FRANCO: So, I think there's a huge price to be paid for impeachment and the Democrats will pay for it.

COOPER: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: The Democrats --

COOPER: Van Jones, Karen Finney, Adolfo Franco, thank you all.

[23:24:58] Up next the tension between President Trump and his note taking former White House counsel. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So, is it a sign of retribution or something else? Tonight, Politico is reporting that the Trump campaign has hired its own in- house attorney for the 2020 effort, shifting business away from a law firm called Jones Day where former White House counsel Don McGahn is now a partner.

Politico is citing an adviser close to the White House is quested as asking, quote, "why in the world would you want to put your enemy on the payroll?" Talking about Don McGahn.

The Trump campaign says Politico got it wrong, saying they have indeed hired their own counsel but as a cost saving move and have not fired Jones Day. Politico, by the way, also reported all that so it's hard to see what the objection is.

More now on Don McGahn and Donald Trump from CNN's Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Total B.S. As the president rages against the Mueller report. He appears to be singling out one particular person who spoke to investigators. Former White House counsel Don McGahn.

"Watch out for people that take so-called notes," Trump tweeted, when the notes never existed until needed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[23:30:02] DON MCGAHN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's been a privilege to be part of the presidential campaign that was successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: It is a big turnaround considering McGahn's role during the Russia --

[23:30:00] TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- never existed until needed.

DON MCGAHN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's been a privilege to be part of a presidential campaign that was successful.

FOREMAN (voice-over): It is a big turnout considering McGahn's role during the Russia probe. It was McGahn who refused to fire the special counsel when Trump said Mueller has to go. McGahn refused to lie about it later. The Mueller report indicates both actions protected Trump from obstruction charges. But Jack O'Donnell, a former executive in the Trump Organization, says Trump's anger is typical.

JACK O'DONNELL, FORMER TRUMP CASINO EXECUTIVE: In this case where Don McGahn really saved him, it's not relevant because the bigger picture makes Donald look bad.

MCGAHN: I don't have a list of enumerated (ph) powers. I can't look to and advise the president on what he can or can't do. It's more general.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The Mueller report suggests Trump was always suspicious of McGahn potential power. "Why do you take notes," Trump reportedly said in a meeting. "Lawyers don't take notes." When McGahn said he was a real lawyer, Trump shot back. "I've had a lot of great lawyers like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes."

Cohn served Senator Joe McCarthy during his infamous campaign to root out communist, and he worked for Trump in the 1970s when Trump's company was accused of discriminating against African-Americans. Cohn had to settle in that legal battle and eventually lost his license for unethical conduct. Still, before McGahn left the White House last fall, Trump said he would not be a rat.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has done an excellent job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: No, not at all. Not at all. FOREMAN (voice-over): Perhaps the president had reason to think that. After all, when he was trying to get his casino up and running years ago, battling politicians, regulators and more, who helped manage every detail no matter how small? Don McGahn's uncle, Pat.

O'DONNELL: Because literally, Donald could ask Pat McGahn to do anything and he would do it for him. Obviously, Don McGahn had his limits with Donald Trump. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: So Trump fans are facing something of a puzzle right now. Sure, the president is putting McGahn down, but he's also the very man who appears to have saved the Trump presidency. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tom, thanks very much. Joining me is CNN contributor and Mueller biographer, Garrett Graff, author of "The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror." Also with us is Nixon White House counsel, John Dean.

John, there are so many things to talk about. First of all, the fact that Roy Cohn is the model of a good lawyer in the president's mind is truly terrifying. Roy Cohn lost his license for unethical behavior. That's the least of all the things he did. But the great irony here is that the president might be angry at Don McGahn. According to The New York Times, Rudy Giuliani is going after Don McGahn. But it's McGahn's actions that arguably saved President Trump.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That's true partially. What McGahn was able to show and what's in the special counsel's report is that it shows he was able to testify to Trump's intent or endeavor to obstruct justice. He does so in a lot of detail.

He cited some 529 times in Mueller's report he's been interviewed by the FBI on five occasions as late as February 28th this year. So he's been deeply involved. I'm sure Trump hasn't read the report, but I suspect his staff have and realize that this is a key witness in the future for proceedings.

COOPER: Garrett, I mean, one of the messages -- if the White House -- if President Trump and Rudy Giuliani are going after Don McGahn now, doesn't that send a message to everybody in the White House that if you have ethics and you stand up and refuse to lie about something, ultimately the president is going to go after you?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, AUTHOR: Yeah. I mean --

DEAN: That's certainly a possibility.

COOPER: Garrett. Sorry.

GRAFF: The irony in this is that this is in some ways exactly the behavior that got Donald Trump in trouble in that volume two of the Mueller report, where you have him attacking witnesses who cooperate and praising people who don't cooperate, both publicly and privately, trying to send back channel messages to encourage either a lack of cooperation or lack of honesty in the testimony. In many ways, as John was just saying and as you were just talking about, you know, Don McGahn in some ways is the person who was able to keep this investigation in the grey, that by preventing the president from being nailed down to a story, by testifying before Mueller, Don McGahn effectively has been able to sort of keep this an ambiguous situation, short of a slam dunk impeachment case.

[23:35:07] COOPER: John, the president railed against note taking both in his tweet today and in his own conversations with McGahn that were detailed in the Mueller report. The idea that the president doesn't want written records of what's happening in the White House -- I mean, this is not the Trump Organization, this is the White House and there should be a record of what has gone on.

DEAN: There should be. And we know no president since Nixon is going to record his meetings in the Oval Office and on the phone. So, it's very smart for a lawyer and lots of staff. Bob Haldeman, for example, in Nixon administration, took remarkable notes that didn't surface until long after Watergate. That could have solved the case quickly had those notes been made available. He buried them in presidential papers, so they weren't.

But here, McGahn could have been theoretically subject to a claim of executive privilege. No attorney client privilege. He was given permission. They waived that privilege. He was given permission by Trump's lawyers, his private counsel, to testify.

COOPER: Garrett, for a long time, the president has been complaining that he doesn't have a Roy Cohn. I keep coming back to this as being the model for President Trump what a good attorney is. I think it speaks volumes about what the president is expecting even now about his legal representatives and his attorney general and everybody.

GRAFF: Exactly. You hit on the key point here where Don McGahn had a specific role to be the president's effectively in-house counsel. That's not the role of the attorney general and yet you do see Donald Trump complaining that his attorney generals don't act like Roy Cohn, and that Jeff Sessions was not Roy Cohn, and that now it really seems like Bill Barr is effectively acting as the president's personal defense attorney, not the chief law enforcement officer for the United States.

COOPER: Garrett Graff, I appreciate it. John Dean, thank you for being with us on this night. The one key player in these remarkable developments who is not been heard from in person, of course, is Robert Mueller. Just ahead, I'll talk with the former deputy of the FBI for insight into the man and the process that he had just completed.

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COOPER: The one person who hasn't yet spoken publicly about the investigation is the principal author, Robert Mueller, doesn't see much question that there is a serious divide between his report and how his boss, Attorney General William Barr, has characterized it. Just one, for instance, Barr said the report didn't find the Trump campaign or any Americans criminally colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. True. But Barr left out some striking details in the report, disclosures and multiple links between Trump aides and Russian officials.

One man who might be able to shed some light on exactly what Mueller is thinking and also what strictures he was operating under and what Barr is doing, Robert Mueller's former deputy of the FBI, John Pistole, and also the current president of Anderson University.

Mr. Pistole, thank you for being with us. Someone who worked closely with special counsel Mueller, I wonder what you make of his conclusions particularly on potential obstruction given the limited sort of framework that he was working under of the Department of Justice guidelines on that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

JOHN PISTOLE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Right. I think that's one of the keys, Anderson, because it seems like special counsel Mueller walked right up to the line of indicting, especially on the obstruction of justice with the ten -- let's call them overt acts and conspiracy, if you will, under the federal conspiracy statute, and said all these acts go to that issue of potential obstruction.

But then because of the DOJ policy of not indicting a sitting president held up there, it did seem like given his adherence to the rule of law, these 12 years as FBI director and decades as a federal prosecutor, that that DOJ policy of not indicting a sitting president was paramount in his mind and yet laid out the case perhaps for when he's not longer president.

COOPER: It's interesting because for those who haven't read the report, not only early on does he talk about the Department of Justice guidelines that he is following, but also there's a kind of explainer which I think is important because given all the things the president has said about Robert Mueller and people working for him, in the report, Mueller is saying not only there are the Department of Justice guidelines, but if you can't indict a sitting president, to actually charge a president would be unfair to the president because the president cannot -- wouldn't have an opportunity to defend himself in court and it would cast over the presidency without him being able to defend himself.

PISTOLE: Right. I think that's just consistent with the Bob Mueller I know. I I was his deputy for almost six years as you mentioned and of course worked with him in the years after 9/11. He would detail, provide that detail and if you will, a road map, for potential future prosecution but make sure that he was adhering to the DOJ guideline policy as he understood and had followed them previously.

[23:45:04] That doesn't mean -- yeah, go ahead.

COOPER: Go ahead. Finish the thought.

PISTOLE: That doesn't mean that there's no evidence of obstruction of justice. It just means that in this instance, because of the high office of the president of the United States, he is giving that the due respect that DOJ guidelines and policy have provided for him --

COOPER: Right.

PISTOLE: -- over again the decades he's been part of DOJ.

COOPER: Do you think then if Donald Trump was a private citizen that Mueller would have pushed for an indictment?

PISTOLE: Yeah, that's my take on it. If he wasn't the president of the United States, yeah, I think we would have seen obstruction indictment against the person. Again, if that person was not the president of the United States because, again, when you think of the elements of obstruction and the intent and the overt acts, and then there's been a lot of commentary about how the president's aides kept him from actually obstructing justice.

COOPER: Right.

PISTOLE: And so an attempted obstruction of justice. And just the way I know Robert Mueller, I think he adds (ph) in that smoking gun that would have just been clear and compelling evidence of that criminal culpability --

COOPER: Yeah.

PISTOLE: that he held up short.

COOPER: And just briefly, you talked about the road map. You could look at it as a road map for Congress to potentially pursue an obstruction case which he references as, you know, he makes it quite clear. It's also potential future road map for a prosecutor to handle once the president leaves office because the president despite insisting he has been exonerated by Mueller and all fronts, that's not true, and the president once out of office, if the charges held up, could be in a court of law defending himself on that.

PISTOLE: Well, that's right. I think the Mueller report obviously goes into that detail to explain why the president was -- is not in a position to adequately defend himself while he's still in office. And that's obviously a lot of debate about that. But the fact is that he could be charged and maybe charged when he's no longer the president. There's statute of limitation questions if he's re-elected for a second term and --

COOPER: Yeah, at least five years statute of limitation.

PISTOLE: Right. And so those are all issues that will be taken into consideration. My stance is that will be much more a political decision, just like the decision whether Congress decides to pursue impeachment. That's such a political decision as opposed to a criminal due process position.

COOPER: Yeah. John Pistole, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

PISTOLE: Thank you. COOPER: Up next, lies, paranoia, staff ignoring orders. That's what the Mueller report exposed at the White House. The question is, is this any way to run the place? Let's talk it over with former chief of staff from another president in a moment.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The long awaited redacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller makes clear that possible obstruction of justice by the president failed because others refused to "carry out orders." It also revealed a lot of fear and lies. We will get some insight. Let's talk with Leon Panetta, who served in official Washington for decades.

Secretary Panetta, as someone who's worked for a lot of presidents, who served as White House chief of staff, when you read about what's been going on at this White House, I'm sure it doesn't really surprise you, "A," given all the reporting, and "B," what you yourself said to me early on about how the whole White House staff was set up, but does it resemble anything that you've ever experienced?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF UNDER CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: I don't think there's anything certainly in recent history that compares to this White House and how it fails to run. If you just glance at the report, it confirms, I think, our worst suspicions, that this president has a very difficult relationship with those around him and that those around him spend most of their time worrying about what this president will do. That's never been the case as far as I can remember with past presidents.

COOPER: I mean he's also got obviously a difficult relationship with the truth, just as you read through the Mueller report, if you need more evidence. Jake Tapper spoke to a senior administration official today. I just want to read you what they told him. They said -- I'm quoting, that report is "nothing surprising," that the president makes certain demands of his staff and administration officials who are alarmed by them and reluctant to follow them is not only unsurprising but has become the norm.

It's interesting because so much of this was also alluded to in the anonymous op-ed that was published a while back from someone supposedly inside the White House. It reads now, when you look back on it, as very much revealing all the stuff that is later on in Mueller about people ignoring the president and people kind of standing up to do what's right every now and then.

PANETTA: I think there's no question that if you not only think about that op-ed but almost everything that's been written about this White House, the Woodward book and those who have left the White House and those who have commented on their experience in the White House, and what we know about how this White House operates.

I mean, we have a president that instead of wanting to be truthful to the American people about what exactly is going on, cannot be trusted with regards to the truth. And not only cannot be trusted with regards to the truth, I'm afraid cannot be trusted with regards to upholding the rule of law. And that raises a lot of concerns about the future of this presidency and what will happen, particularly if a crisis occurs.

COOPER: The sheer volume of lies, though, it's -- there's kind of shamelessness to it all. I mean, you have Sarah Sanders today not even owning up to, you know, making up stuff about countless FBI agents calling her. She said the countless was a slip of the tongue. But it's not like she ever came out an hour later after saying it or two hours later or the next day and said, you know what, I was thinking back, I said this countless thing.

[23:55:04] It wasn't countless. That was a slip of the tongue. She didn't say that until today when it had just been revealed what she actually said to Mueller under testimony. It seems like there's so much lying.

PANETTA: There's no moral standard here that the president and obviously those around him abide by. We've always looked at the president for moral authority in this country. And what we're seeing is a president that basically ignores any kind of sense of morality about how he approaches this office.

This is all about him. It's all about protecting him. It's all about saying whatever he has to say that will somehow protect him, particularly with his base of support. And rather than reaching out to the American people as a whole, and rather than being truthful with all of the American people as a whole, instead, what we're getting is a president who cannot be trusted.

And when -- you know, I don't say that lightly, Anderson. I think it's a dangerous moment when we can't trust our president with the truth.

COOPER: Secretary Panetta, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

PANETTA: Good to be with you.

COOPER: A lot more news in a moment.

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