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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Defends "Very Fine People" Comments on Charlottesville; Washington Post: Deputy AG Rosenstein "Teary-Eyed" Ahead of Call Assuring President Trump on Mueller Probe, Said "I Can Land the Plane"; Washington Post: Deputy AG Rosenstein "Teary-Eyed" Ahead Of Call Assuring President Trump On Mueller Probe; Biden: I Don't Think I Treated Anita Hill Badly; Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D- DC) Is Interviewed About Joe Biden; W.H. On Day 46 Without Formal Press Briefing; FBI To Meet With Florida Officials Over Election Hacking Attempts. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 26, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We learned today it doesn't take much to bait President Trump even to doing something self-destructive, such as revisiting one of the all- time low points of his presidency.
We also learned today that the president continues to believe against all the evidence that there were very fine people on both sides of the alt-right neo-Nazi white supremacist Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, two summers ago. The president claims it was a rally about Confederate statues. It's not really what it was about, and yes, the Nazis and white supremacists were using this symbol of Confederate status, but it was billed as a Unite the Right rally.
And on the first night, white nationalist and neo-Nazis by the hundreds marched with torches and hate in their hearts and in their words. Later that weekend, one of them used his car to fatally ram a counterprotester Heather Heyer and injured more than a dozen other people.
So, before we go any further, before getting into the president's latest defense of the indefensible, the idea that there were fine people there on both sides, I want to show you what this rally was about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Blood and soil!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: They carried torches, a nod to the torch-like Nazi rallies of Adolf Hitler, then chanted Jews will not replace us. That was one slogan. Blood and soil is another, which was originally shouted in German by Nazis. How many fine people arrived with combat boots and clubs and picked up
torches and chanted Nazi slogans? That's the question. And anti- Semitic ones as well? How many fine people who you know would do that? How many fine people would look around at the Nazis and the skin heads that they were marching with and say you know what, yes, these are exactly the fine people I want to march with, and carry this burning torch with?
What do Nazi slogans and anti-Jewish chants have to do with the statue of Robert E. Lee because that's where those Nazis right there were heading that night. Let's be clear, this is what the president is revisiting and relitigating today. It's the wound he's reopening and the history he's once again trying to rewrite.
Now, keeping them honest, it was bad enough by torchlight and it was no better by gaslight because that is what the president is doing. He's trying to gaslight us again, asking us to believe something contrary to what you and I and everybody can see with our own ears -- excuse me, with our own eyes and hear with our own ears.
This all came up today as Mr. Trump was responding, of course, to Joe Biden's campaign kick off video in which Biden talked about the president's fine people on both sides statement. Here's what he said today when he was asked if he still believed there were fine people on both sides in Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've answered that question. And if you look at what I said you will see that question was answered perfectly. And I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general. Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals.
I've spoken to many generals here right at the White House, and many people thought of the generals they think he was maybe their favorite general. People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK, those white supremacists and neo-Nazis with the Tiki torches you just saw were marching to the Robert E. Lee he's talking about. That is the president today.
And just to refresh your memory, here's what he said back then and this was days after the march and murder, days that he might have reflected on what had happened. He could have talked to some of the people in a moment who were actually there.
But, no, this is what days later the president was claiming which by the way was undercutting the teleprompter statement he had just made the day before in which he did actually say racism was evil and mentioned the word "KKK" and neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are you --
TRUMP: I do think there's blame -- yes, I think there's blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it either.
And if you reported it accurately you would see that.
TRUMP: And you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that line as you might imagine set off a storm at the time and reportedly sparked Joe Biden's decision to run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[20:05:05] JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate than those with the courage to stand against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Biden's video certainly got under the president's skin. And whether you see it as the former vice president's moral outcry, political jujitsu or a little of both, Mr. Trump's response to it does say a lot. It speaks to his unwillingness to admit any kind of mistake.
Keeping them honest, his habit of re-imagining history including remarks he himself made what others might regret the president rewrites, which he was doing even back then. Since then he tried to suggest he wasn't really talking about the marchers you saw a moment ago. No, no, no, he said he was talking about others but just called them history buffs, apparently very quiet ones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There were people in that rally and I looked the night before -- if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I'm sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationals whatever you want to call them.
But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's the night where the neo-Nazis, hundreds of them, and white supremacists were marching with Tiki torches.
Now, keeping them honest, people have range of views on statues of Confederate figures, made decades after the civil war, well into the mid-20th century. There's no argument on both sides of that and an argument we've had on this program.
That said, if there were in fact any quietly peaceful, very fine people among the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville that weekend, who just happened to find themselves there, because they thought this was going to be about statues, they were too quiet to hear, not to mention invisible, unseen by reporters and city officials. One of whom you'll meet in just a moment.
If there were fine people, just good people just concerned about statues, they would have seen the tiki torches coming and they would have heard the chants, and the next day, they would have seen the Nazis with shields and clubs and helmets, and fine people seeing all that would not have stuck around.
But the truth is this was never planned to be a civil war statue appreciation weekend. It was as the poster clearly states, a Unite the Right rally. The names on that poster, by the way, are a prominent white nationalist. I'm not even going to say their names. They aren't worth remembering
But ones a neo-Nazi, one a slavery advocate, one is anti-Semite who goes by the name which refers to the gas used to kill millions in concentration camps. Not very fine people. Nor the type that any genuinely fine people who might support keeping Confederate statues up would want to mingle with or carry a tiki torch with.
And if there's any doubt about the fine people who actually did show up, here's what a white supremacist organization wrote just four days before the fatal weekend. I'm quoting here, we're not going to show the website or name it. Quote: Although the rally was initially planned in support of the Lee monument which the Jew mayor and his Negroid deputy had marked for destruction, it has become something much bigger than that. It is now an historic rally which will serve as a rally point and battle cry for the alt right movement.
Those are the people who showed up. Those are the ads they put out. Those are some of the fine people the president claims were there.
Joining us now is someone who knows all too well who was in Charlottesville, what really happened, Mike Signer. He was the mayor at Charlottesville at the time. He's currently on the city council.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for being with us.
MIKE SIGNER, CHARLOTTESVILLE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Thanks.
COOPER: As the mayor of Charlottesville during the rally, first of all, just what went through your mind when you heard President Trump essentially doubling down on his very fine people on both sides comment? SIGNER: He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. It's not
just delusional. It's very dangerous to choose to see this event through that lens that he is offering again.
I mean, this was already a disaster the first time it happened, as you said. This is what led to Steve Bannon who was the architect of this populist strategy where they decided to include groups that had always been on the fringe of American politics in their coalition to create this political strategy.
There were Make America Great hats, the red baseball caps around this Unite the Right rally, like you said. What the president seems to be very stubbornly and dangerously trying to mislead the country about was this was not about history enthusiasts.
We have a lot of that in Virginia. We call them flaggers. Those people really care about the rebel flag, they care about Confederate iconography statues, that is a debate. But that's not what this was.
I would -- there was a very small fraction of people at this weekend who were there about the Robert E. Lee statue itself.
[20:10:06] There were many more who were there for the purpose of violently enforcing white supremacy and white nationalism. There were 12 militia groups with the word militia in their title who came to try and intimidate and terrorize people. And there were actually a terrorist act.
And you've got to tell me, Mr. President, if this is really about the Robert E. Lee statue, why are people chanting Jews will not replace us?
COOPER: Yes, it's ludicrous to think that, you know, a chant of "Jews will not replace us" and "blood and soil" has anything to do with Robert E. Lee.
COOPER: I've been to protests over Confederate monuments. I've talked to people on all sides of the issue, and there's arguments to be made and there's been plenty of rallies and stuff. That is not what this was.
They may have used it as a rallying point, but they weren't even using it as a rallying cry. They were using anti-Semitic slogans as a rally cry.
SIGNER: And I think the thing to really concentrate on, and why I appreciate it the way the vice president framed this issue when he said we really do face choices as a country, this really did illuminate the stakes is there really are stakes of this delusion that the president is offering, so let's be clear. They made a choice to create a populist political campaign to include white nationalist groups in that coalition. Hadn't done that before. Now at the same time, we have seen the Anti-Defamation League has put out a study, 148 violent white nationalist groups now exist in this country, 71 percent of the deaths that have occurred through domestic extremism have been at the hands of white nationalist groups.
There was a front page "New York Times" article, "The New York Times Magazine" last October that came out, the title was U.S. law enforcement failed to see the threats of white nationalism. Now they don't know how to stop it.
And there was lots of evidence in there because they have been deciding to ignore white nationalists and focus exclusively on foreign-born terrorists, they have actually taken off their foot on the gas of just this threat to everybody.
And meanwhile, we see the Tree of Life massacre, and we see three African-American churches just burnt down in New Orleans. We have seen in New Zealand, this threat has been metastasizing around the world. We've seen in European countries, very similar, dangerous fascist type rallies.
And on top of all of this you've seen an authoritarian type that's refused to intervene in this very dangerous activity the vice president is seeing that's reminiscent of the 1930s.
COOPER: Yes, words have consequences and rewriting history has consequences.
Mayor Signer, Mike Signer, I appreciate your time.
SIGNER: Yes, and his policies, not just words. His policies. Thank you.
COOPER: Appreciate your time. Thank you.
With us now, someone else who was in Charlottesville that week, Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University and professor emeritus at Princeton.
Dr. West, thanks for being with us.
You were there. You witnessed -- I think you were in a church at one point while these Nazis were marching. Is the president just rewriting history here?
CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF THE PRACTICE OF PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, no, I mean, he's lying again, but anything I say today is in the spirit of my former teacher and mentor who just died two days ago in the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The president is lying. We know President Trump is a sick vanilla brother with deep xenophobic sensibility, not just against black people, against Muslims, Mexicans, against Jews. And at times we wonder if he's got both paddles in the water because it's just so far remove from reality.
You're absolutely right. I'm standing there, there's groups coming, they're looking us straight in the face, they're cussing, they're demonizing, they've got guns, gas masks, some got ammunition. They're not thinking about Robert E. Lee. They're thinking about a hatred of black folk, hatred of Muslims,
their hatred of Jews, hatred of gays, hatred of lesbians and so forth and so on.
But then the question is our dear Brother Biden because Brother Biden also has his own record he has to come to terms with. He gave eulogy for Strom Thurmond in 2003, right? In 1994, he's calling precious young folks prejudice just like Hillary Clinton and we also know he's voting with Jess Helms against busing. He has an amendment that goes through that Ed Brook says is the most anti-civil rights bill since 1964.
So, Biden is a decent person, there's no doubt about that. But when you have a milquetoast neo-liberal Biden and a sick white brother Trump who's got neo-fascist sensibilities, we have to keep the larger framework in place.
[20:15:02] In this particular instance, Biden is absolutely right. But we also have to recognize if we're really concerned about the rich humanity of black people, the rich humanity of poor and working people, we've got to have a certain critical sensibility against both of these brothers because we need somebody who's going to build on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Luther Kilson Jr. of Harvard who's trying to keep track of what's beneath the discourse, not just the two talking heads, but what's beneath the discourse.
All the poverty, the grotesque wealth inequality, all of the legacy of racism, and then try to muster the moral and spiritual courage to tell the truth and fight against it.
COOPER: The -- obviously, you know, the concern is a politician uses this example in a video announcing that they are running for president, and that's it. Then they can, you know -- they wrap themselves in it and then they move on and without looking back at -- you know, he's being asked about his treatment of Anita Hill during the Thomas Clarence hearing. There's a long record that he does not seem to -- I don't know if he's reflected on it or not but he's not really directly address it yet.
WEST: I think it's a challenge of each and every one of them because we all fall short. Integrity, courage, moral consistency, what the great Jane Alston called constancy. That's what we don't find among much or many of our politicians, who is willing to be a stateswoman, a statesman, a statesperson and try to actually get at the real structural institutional issues of racism of the ways in which predatory capitalism generates this grotesque wealth inequality, and in the ideologies that unfortunately lead us to lose sight of the humanity in the body, be they Palestinians, Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Mexican, black, white, yellow. That's the legacy of Martin King and Martin Kilson. That's what we have to be focused on as well it seems to me.
COOPER: And there is also this kind of moral equivalency that the president is arguing, which is, you know, there's good people on both sides. It's all kind of just balances out in the wash, according to him. WEST: No, I think I would agree with brother Trump in this sense,
that it's human beings on both sides. Because Nazis are human beings that Goebbels and Himmler, they were smart strategists, they were brilliant strategists for gangster and thuggish causes, they were Nazis. Nazis are human beings. They can be smart.
Robert E. Lee, he was a very smart and strategic general for a thuggish and a gangsterist cause, trying to keep black people in slavery in perpetuity. That's the constitution of the Confederacy that he pledged allegiance to.
So, that's what he needs to focus on and that's what he needs to really zero in on. It was a violent insurrection to overthrow the U.S. government in the name of keeping black people in slavery forever, forever. That's what the Confederacy was about.
But as human beings, and this is what's so very important because human beings have the capacity to be wretched. We have the capacity to be wonderful.
COOPER: And it's a choice.
WEST: It is a choice that all of us have to wrestle with on the battlefield of our own souls each and every day in the lifetime that we have in space and time.
COOPER: Dr. Cornell West, always appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
Coming up -- next for us, breaking news, new reporting that sheds fresh light on Rod Rosenstein and the political tightrope he walked as he scrambled to protect Robert Mueller and as well his job. The promise to the president, I can land the plane. Find out more about what exactly he meant.
Later, the case of the missing press secretary. New record for days without a White House press briefing. What a legendary White House correspondent has to say about that. Sam Donaldson joins us.
[20:23:34] COOPER: So, our breaking news that also happens to be great read going into the weekend. Late today, "The Washington Post" published a dramatic account in the moment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's life, at a pivotal moment in the history of the country.
Here's the lead: Rod Rosenstein again was in danger of losing his job. "The New York Times" just reported that in the heated days after James B. Comey was fired as FBI director, the deputy attorney general had suggested wearing a wire to surreptitiously record President Trump. Now, Trump traveling in New York, was on the phone, eager for an explanation.
The report continues: Rosenstein who by one account had gotten teary- eyed just before the call in a meeting with Trump's chief of staff sought to diffuse the volatile situation and assure the president he was on his team, according to people familiar with the matter. According to "The Washington Post" which cites an administration official with knowledge of the call, Rosenstein told the president, quote, I give the investigation credibility and, quote, I can land the plane, end quote.
It's a pretty remarkable account. It's worth reading and sharing the byline on it is "The Post's" Josh Dawsey. He's also a CNN political analyst.
Josh, this is fascinating article that one phrase that Rosenstein telling the president he could, quote, land the plane regarding Mueller. It almost sound like a parody the Justice Department would say to calm down an angry president.
Can you explain the context of it?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, certainly. Over the past two years, we've seen the president repeatedly get frustrated by the Mueller investigation, how it was going. On a number of occasions, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general over seeing the probe reassured the president he was not a target of the investigation, that he understood the president thought he was being treated unfairly, and he agreed at times, that he was on the team and that he would make sure the investigation came to an end as expeditiously as possible.
[20:25:18] Every time the president grew frustrated with the investigation, our reporting shows, Anderson, Rod Rosenstein was there to assuage and to calm him down.
COOPER: You also write at one point in this whole saga, Rod Rosenstein actually got teary. Did President Trump ever find out about that? I remember hearing in Bob Woodward's book, that the president told Giuliani he needed his diaper changed. So, I can only imagine what he would say about Rosenstein getting teary.
DAWSEY: I have no idea if the president has thought about that or not. That was on the evening it was reported in "The New York Times" that Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire and to meet with the president. He was summoned to the White House by Chief of Staff John Kelly at the time to talk about the article, and he grew very emotional. And for about ten minutes, he begged for his job and said, I'm happy to go, I'm happy to resign but I don't want to be fired via tweet, I don't want my reputation tarnished, please let me leave with some dignity if I'm leaving.
But at the end of the day, the president didn't fire him.
COOPER: It's so fascinating though because, you know, when you read the Mueller report, President Trump tried to get Rod Rosenstein to hold a press conference and claimed that he, Rod Rosenstein, was the one responsible, who came up with the idea of firing Comey and pushed for it. And the White House press office also tried to get the Department of Justice to issue a statement to that effect. And Rosenstein said, look, the press conference isn't a good idea because if they ask me I'm going to tell the truth. What's your response then to the article for Rosenstein?
DAWSEY: We had a bunch of conversations with the Justice Department before this story printed with my colleague Matt Zapotosky who covers the department well.
Rosenstein in some ways, Anderson, is one of the most mystifying figure in all of this. He was, you know, at the beginning witnesses to some of those episodes. He was obviously so concerned about the president's behavior that he was willing to or say that he was willing to wear a wire. He pushed back in that episode you talked about and said that would be a false story even when the White House tried to pin it on him.
But through the course of the probe, Rosenstein became more of a key ally of the president in a lot of ways. He became someone who liked to brief the president, someone the president saw was on the team over the course of two years. And where this has fixated a lot of observers, even some of his friends is why did he behave the way he did, what was he thinking, what was the modus operandi for how he behaved?
COOPER: Josh Dawsey, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Great reporting.
DAWSEY: Thank you.
COOPER: So, with that as a seam setter, let's look closer at the implications. Joining us for that is former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, and Elliot Williams, who served as deputy assistant attorney general during the Obama administration.
Renato, would it make sense for Rosenstein to be telling the president he would land the plane in terms of the Mueller case? I mean, the whole point for the president to be walled off from it. Why was Rosenstein assuaging the president's fears?
RENATO MARRIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have to say it's kind of screwed up, Anderson, to be frank with you. The deputy attorney general is supposed to be representing the United States of America and the American people, not the president of the United States. As you point out, the president's supposed to be walled off. And he shouldn't be as to Josh Dawsey's article wrote, be trying to convince the president that he was on his team, that he's supposed to be on our team, on the American people's team, not on the president's team.
COOPER: And, Elliot, I mean, the idea he was telling him on more than one occasion he agreed the president was being treated unfairly, Josh Dawsey said it wasn't clear if Rosenstein was referring to Mueller, the media or what. But does it seem like Rosenstein was trying to calm the president down, was it appropriate in your opinion?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: No, not really. It seems there's a little element of flattery there. Look, we now know, we have enough data to find out what it takes to
survive in this administration as a senior appointee, and you have to be willing to flatter the president even to the expense of the rule of law, even at the expense of your respect of law. So if you look at Jeff Sessions or John Kelly or even Secretary Nielsen, they're all folks who pushed back on the president on these rule of law questions and Don McGahn, they're all gone and they don't survive. And it seems the folks willing to flatter stay around.
If you're going to challenge the president, you seem you have better job security working the Crypts at Winterfell in "Game of Thrones" because zombies are coming for you because if you're going to stand up to the president.
COOPER: Yes, I'm not sure the Crypts are a safe place to be.
WILLIAMS: That's my point.
COOPER: Renato, I mean, it is sort of tough to square this picture of, you know, a teary eyed Rosenstein, you know, begging for his job with the chief of staff at the time, with Kelly, and trying to assuage the president's fears with reports that Rosenstein suggesting he wear a wire to record the president, bringing the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment?
MARRIOTI: Yes, it's very odd. I mean, Rosenstein is a tough person to pin down. I will say, Anderson, at some point you got the sense that Rod Rosenstein understood his place in history, that he was witnessing events that were very disturbing and that he needed to be concerned about doing the right thing for the American people.
And that makes it all the more disturbing and bizarre that at other times he seemed to have forgotten that. You know, he stood stone face, for example, when Bill Barr made false statements in response to questions from our own lawyer, Jared and others. So, very bizarre behavior by Rod Rosenstein.
COOPER: Well, also Elliot, I mean I don't know why I'm so obsessed with this, but I keep coming back to it. The President tried to get Rod Rosenstein to just lie in a press conference that he was the one pushing for Comey to be fired and the White House press office was trying to get the same thing.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, as we've learned the President tried to do a lot of things that were not appropriate even if they couldn't be charged as a crime.
It's just a pattern of inappropriate behavior, again, even if it's not explicitly criminal but, you know, he tried to get Rosenstein and began to do a bunch of inappropriate things or things that made them uncomfortable, even to a point of using an expletive that I can't even use on air, which is what Don McGahn's assessment of it. Here's the thing, all these lawyers and senior folks in the administration need to ask themselves, "Is this the name that I want associated with myself and my career for the next 30 or 40 years?" It's almost like, you know, folks who were in the White House in 1974 who are forever tied to Richard Nixon and that pattern of misconduct and bad behavior. And to some extent, we're seeing some of that now. You carry your reputation with you and is this what you're hanging your hat on?
COOPER: Renato, I mean the other thing after all of this to consider is that the President still seems furious with Rosenstein. I mean, he calls the whole investigation illegal. He says Mueller never should have been appointed. So, Rosenstein went to all of these lengths, I guess to assuage the President's fears and keep his job. Unclear the victory was, you know, for him that he didn't get himself fired.
MARIOTTI: I have to say I think that Rod Rosenstein whatever he's gained from this, maybe he'll get a judgeship or some, you know, some favor out of this. I don't know what his angle was. I think in the end as Elliot was mentioning, I think he will pay the price in the dustbin (ph) of history when these actions are examined.
So I think it's really sad that Trump after all this doesn't even realize that Rod Rosenstein paid him a big behavior by at times exciting with actions that I disagree with, Elliot on this point. I think they were, you know, criminal and unlawful and I think he will be judged for that.
WILLIAMS: Even if -- but I just meant even if you can't charge them. I wasn't expressing the view (INAUDIBLE), yes.
COOPER: I mean, you know, Rosenstein can have lunch with Don McGahn and they can both talk about how they're hated by the guy that they saved. So, Renato Mariotti, thank you, Elliot Williams as well.
Joe Biden addressed the subject today that's come back to haunt his newly launched presidential campaign, his handling of the 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings with Anita Hill. He's still declining to directly apologize to her after speaking privately with her recently. Get reaction from someone who lobbied the Senate on Hill's behalf all those years ago, next.
[20:36:23] COOPER: The front-runner of the Democratic presidential race isn't just on top of the polls. Joe Biden topped all the other candidates in his first day of fundraising hauling in $6.3 million in his first 24 hours as a candidate.
The former vice president did his first sit down interview today since yesterday's entry. One of the most pressing questions for Biden, will he directly apologize to Anita Hill for his handling of the 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings. Here was his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sorry she was treated the way she was treated. I wish we could have figured out a better way to get this thing done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what she wants you to say is I'm sorry for the way I treated you, not for the way you were treated. I think that would be closer.
BIDEN: Well, if you go back and look at what I said and didn't say, I don't think I treated her badly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So the question is, does one of Hill's conscious advocates at the time agree? I want to bring in Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Congresswoman Norton, are you satisfied with Vice President Biden, what he said about Professor Hill? Did -- does he have something to apologize to her about what he himself did and how he treated her?
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-DC): Look, I think when you only listen to what Anita Hill herself has said following what Joe Biden or how Joe Biden has handle this, what is so wrong with saying I'm sorry? I can't figure out why he wants to dig in. Does he not recognize that he's in the Me Too era? Doesn't he know that he is in the post- Kavanaugh era, that these issues have new life?
I can't figure out why he thinks saying I'm sorry will make it look like there's something that is so wrong that he should have done at the time? No. I think people might be prepared to forgive him for what he did at the time. Remember, it is decades ago, if he said something like I didn't know that I should have known, for example, how this would resonate.
And the reason I would say he should have known is he's a public official. He's supposed to know what others do not know. I think Joe Biden is a hurting himself by not bringing himself up-to-date. And when Anita Hill has essentially said that, for him to continue to keep the words I'm sorry out of the picture is to make sure that this issue is going to continue to haunt him for the rest of the campaign.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, you know, the day he's announcing this is a story, he could have stopped it from being a story very likely or at least lessened it in a sense. I don't -- I mean, I think what you said is really interesting. I don't know understand why so many people in political like especially do not just apologize.
I mean, I apologize all the time for stupid things I've done or said or -- if there's -- I don't think it's a sign of weakness. I mean, certainly President Trump believes it's a sign of weakness, but I think if you've said something or reflected on something and learned something, there's no harm in apologizing for it. I think people respect that, no?
NORTON: Yes, we're taught since kindergarten say I'm sorry then we can move on. It keeps it alive by not taking personal responsibility and that's what it looks. And when Anita Hill is inclined to say, essentially inclined to say, essentially she didn't accept his apology because she's had no apology.
[20:40:04] COOPER: In terms of where things go from here, obviously it's very early in the campaign, there's a lot of candidates. I'm not sure if you've endorsed anyone at this point, but most people have not. There's a long way to go obviously. If Joe Biden becomes the Democratic nominee for President, could you see yourself supporting the Biden campaign?
NORTON: Look, he's got to say I'm sorry or the -- if you look at what happened in the House and we were able to capture the House because of how people were beginning to feel about women, there's no question that he is hurting himself in the primary.
Now, we don't see that yet. I'm waiting for the polls to come out. His front standing may largely be based on how well-known he is and how his association with President Obama. That is going to fade as people are out here all talking and, you know, longer is the front- runner because he isn't in yet.
So he is blowing his top running status as I speak because of two words he can't say, "Sorry, I should have known better, I know better now, let's move on."
COOPER: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
NORTON: My pleasure.
COOPER: When we return, the White House keeps shuttering its own record for days with no formal briefing. Only some children were allowed to ask questions yesterday. Most transparent administration in history they continue to say about themselves. We'll take a look at that dubious claim. Sam Donaldson, next.
[20:45:11] COOPER: Day 46, still no White House press briefing. There was a reenactment yesterday. It's the longest period ever the White House is gone without a daily press briefing as they're called, clearly not so daily anymore.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made her first appearance in a month and a half in the briefing room yesterday to answer questions from children on "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day." No one knows one shall take question from their parents again, that comes as President Trump said this again today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has never been a president that's been more transparent than me or the Trump administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He's not being ironic. Unclear if you believes it. It's not true, but he's not being ironic. I want to bring in former ABC News anchor and former White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson.
Sam, you heard the President once again today saying that he's the most transparent president. I mean, just on the face of it that just doesn't make any sense unless you are interpreting it as he is transparently lying, he transparently -- he reveals himself unintentionally, so in that sense he's transparent. But in terms of intentionally, you know, being transparent, that's just simply not the case.
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: That's right. If you've never heard of Donald Trump before he ran for the presidency and won the presidency and then had to take a look at him because he's the President of the United States and you watched him for the last two years and heard him for the last two years and read his tweets for the last two years, et cetera, et cetera. Boy, he's transparent.
You know exactly who he is, what he will do, what he will say, how he will lie. It's very difficult for me to understand people who don't see that. Either they are not paying attention or they see it but it doesn't matter.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, usually in -- you know, with Nixon one had to wait until you heard, you know, all the tapes that have now come out to really get a sense of exactly what was going on inside Nixon's mind.
With President Trump, he is transparent in the sense that he's tweeting and giving away real time look at the inner workings of his thoughts and his mind and his desire to, you know, grab attention. But in terms of actual openness, in terms of actually saying -- being honest and that's -- which is true transparency, that doesn't seem to exist.
DONALDSON: It doesn't exist because I think he doesn't want it to exist. Look, I've had the pleasure of working with almost every press secretary beginning with Pierre Salinger in John F. Kennedy's administration. And except for Ron Ziegler who lied for Richard Nixon, I've never seen anything like this with Sarah Sanders. And there's a difference.
Ziegler lied about one thing, the question of whether the President of the United States was covering up the Watergate burglary and all the questions that had to do with that. But if you asked him a question about foreign policy, domestic policy, some of this like, he would try to say what he thought the facts were and would often be truthful.
On the other hand, Sarah Sanders simply lies about everything taking a cue from her boss, not just one thing. I think she's had an Oscar, a lifetime achievement Oscar for lying. And let's face it, I don't know her. I feel a little sorry for her because it's the boss who does it. She takes the cue from him. Leadership begins at the top. And so it is all the bad things that happen in the administration. COOPER: You also -- one has the sense also that, you know, the President can lie to his attorneys. The President can lie to Sarah Sanders, and so she may not even be on firm ground at times. You know, she'll often say, "Well, I've haven't talked to the President about that," as a way of just not answering a question.
But what's so fascinating is, OK, so she's caught in this lie about the FBI agents and all the countless ones that she's talked to. She goes under oath. She tells the truth, then she's trying to walk it back on ABC and in other interviews. But also the press office in the White House tried to get Rod Rosenstein to lie and accept responsibility for being the person who wanted to fire Comey and the one who motivated it.
DONALDSON: Well, if you're the top liar you want people to support your lies and not argue against them. And when it comes to making up things, Ron Ziegler made up things in support of his president.
Larry Speakes, who served Ronald Reagan for a while, made up quotes on occasion. In New York, they've had the big ships on the 4th of July, and Speakes would say to us and the press, "Well, the President said this is a manifestation of the American spirit and it shows the fundamental values of our country." Well, Ronald Reagan never said that. I mean, Larry Speakes attributed to the President.
And when he left the White House, he lost his job when he admitted that he made up quotes. But making up hundreds or many FBI agents called her, complaining about Comey, saying they were so happy he was gone, that's a different kind of lie. That's a different kind of quote.
[20:50:06] Speakes was innocuous but should never have done it. Her lies are more than innocuous. They fester and they serve the public's not interest but disinterest in learning the truth.
COOPER: Lastly, you hear the rumors (ph) about whether the age of Vice President Biden, Senator Sanders and President Trump should factor into the race. When you cover President Reagan he was at that time the oldest person to take office. Should age matter?
DONALDSON: Well, I'm 85, of course it shouldn't matter. By the way, if Biden makes it 21, I'm thinking about making it 22, but maybe I'm a little too old. I'm being funny, I understand.
I don't think age matters from the standpoint of looking at a person, what can they do? How is their mind? How is their understanding of the world? The problem with age is today it can look OK, but in two years, four years, five years, not so much so.
So, I'm not going to weigh in on this in the sense that I'm not saying Biden should be disqualified because he's older than Ronald Reagan for instance, or that Bernie should be disqualified. But I will say, it is going to be a factor but I don't think it's going to be the deciding factor in a race in 2020.
COOPER: Sam Donaldson, always great to talk to you. Thanks Sam. DONALDSON: And to you, Anderson.
COOPER: Up next, something you may have missed in the Mueller report. What the special counsel said about Russians hacking at least one Florida county ahead of the 2016 election and what the FBI plans to do about it, next.
[20:55:43] COOPER: FBI officials are set to brief Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott about concerns that Russians hacked at least one Florida county ahead of the 2016 election. That surprising nugget of information came from the Mueller report.
Our Alex Marquardt joins us now with more. So, this meeting was sparked by information in the Mueller report?
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is a meeting that Florida leaders, Senator Rick Scott and Governor Ron DeSantis, have been demanding from the FBI because of what was in the Mueller report. In fact, they did one of this meeting yesterday. They've got so many questions.
And essentially what the Mueller report is saying is we know that the Russians are suspected of targeting all 50 states in the 2016 election, but the FBI by the Mueller report is saying that one county was successfully hacked. So let's just quickly remind the viewer what the Mueller report said.
He wrote that the FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU, which is the Russian military hackers, to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government. We don't know which county. That will be among the many questions these officials will be asking the FBI once they get their meeting, which we understand will take place in the coming week or coming weeks.
COOPER: But county officials were never alerted. Is that right?
MARQUARDT: No, they weren't. And the FBI isn't responding to comment. And what's really interesting here is former Florida Senator Bill Nelson raised this during the midterms last year. He eventually lost his race, but during that midterm race, he had said that the Russians were essentially inside the voting infrastructure and that causes frenzy.
I along with many other reporters were calling the Department of Homeland and Security and the FBI. They said that they didn't know what he was talking about. This was never confirmed. Florida election officials said they didn't know what he was talking about. They demanded answers not just from Nelson, but from the FBI. So even at that time, the FBI didn't say that there was any evidence, at least in 2018 that the Florida election infrastructure had been compromised.
COOPER: What are Florida election officials saying now?
MARQUARDT: They're maintaining that line that they don't have any evidence of hacking. We did get a statement from the Florida Department of State, a spokeswoman said, "Upon learning of the new information released in the Mueller report, the department immediately reached out to the FBI to inquire which county may have been accessed and they declined to share this information with us. The department maintains that the 2016 election in Florida were not hacked."
Anderson, the Florida Governor DeSantis has been a lot more blunt. He told the Tampa Bay Times, they won't tell us which county it was, are you kidding me?
COOPER: Alex Marquardt, more to learn. Thanks very much.
MARQUARDT: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, there's a lot more ahead including President Trump doubling down on his comments about Charlottesville when he said there were "fine people on both sides." We'll get reaction to that and much more when we continue.