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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

AG Barr Fueling "Spy" Theories in Russia Probe; While Cooperating with Mueller, Flynn Sent Messages to GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz; Biden Has Wide Early Lead Among Democratic Candidates; Is Field Too Large? Will Winner Have Less Money, Influence?; 19 Undocumented Workers Each Say They Worked For Trump Organization Over The Years; China Strikes More Aggressive Tone, Leaving Talks With U.S. In Limbo. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired May 17, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Attorney General William Barr, the nation's top law enforcement officer, the person you would hope would be fair, and rational and all things, is fuelling the flames of conspiracy in a pair of new interviews. He's doubling down without evidence on his comments that there were unauthorized spying on the Trump campaign.

Now, this on the same week it was revealed that Barr tapped a Connecticut prosecutor to investigate the origins of the Russia probe, making it the third investigation into the investigators, something the president has pushed for over and over and over for years.

Now, maybe the investigators will find something or maybe they won't. But in the meantime, Mr. Barr seems to be content with chumming the waters of conspiracy.

Here's some of what he told Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: You also said back in April that you thought there was spying going on in the Trump campaign. When do you think that started?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I'm not going to speculate about when it started. We're going to find out when it started. I have been trying to get answers to questions and I found a lot of the answers have been inadequate. And I have also found that some of the explanations I have gotten don't hang together.

And so, in a sense, I have more questions today than I did when I first started.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You're not going to speculate, but there was spying. What does that mean that he just said? It could mean everything. It could also mean nothing. And I think that's the point. The hole there is so big you can back up 1,000 conspiracy trucks and fill them up. Here is more of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I think people have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we're worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason, we should be worried about whether government officials abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale.

In a separate interview with "The Wall Street Journal," Barr appeared more certain. He said and I quote: government power was used to spy on American citizens.

Now, of course, spy is a loaded term. It has nefarious connotations, something Mr. Barr knows very well, as does the president because he likes to use the word, too. But according to the FBI, counterintelligence would be the proper term, counterintelligence focused on Russian attempts to influence the election and infiltrate the Trump campaign.

George Papadopoulos worked on the Trump campaign had relayed to an Australian diplomat, a story about a Russian offer to help the campaign by releasing thousands of hacked Democratic e-mails, which was alarming to the FBI and should be to anyone because they were already aware of the Russian efforts to influence the election.

So, according to reporting, originally, by "The New York Times", they sent an undercover investigator to find out what Papadopoulos knew. Mr. Barr, he doesn't mention any of that. He just throws out the word spy and rolls on, which he's done now a few times since assuming the office of attorney general.

There's something totally new he said that stands out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I think if I had been falsely accused, I would be comfortable saying it was a witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So that's the head of the Department of Justice saying he'd be comfortable calling a Department of Justice investigation into Russian meddling a witch hunt, a phrase clearly designed to light up the pleasure centers in President Trump's brain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The witch hunt continues.

It is a total witch hunt. I have been saying it for a long time. It's a witch hunt. That's all it is.

A witch hunt.

Witch hunt.

Which is a terrible witch hunt.

The witch hunt.

Witch hunt.

So far, this thing has been a total witch hunt, and it doesn't implicate me in any way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining me now, someone else who had a front row seat into the Russia probe until he resigned December 2017, former FBI general counsel Jim Baker. Mr. Baker, thanks for being with us.

So, you have Barr doubling down on the term spying, backing up the president's use of the word witch hunt and saying that government officials may have put their thumb on the scale.

You were at the FBI during the time period he's talking about. Is any of that true? What do you think when you hear him say that?

JAMES BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: I have several reactions to it. First of all, my thumb was not on any scale one way or the other with respect to politics. That we just weren't focused on the political outcomes of all the stuff going back to the Hillary Clinton investigation. That's not what we were doing. That's not what we were trying to accomplish.

When I hear all this, yes, I mean, at one level I'm concerned about it. But on another level you really -- I think we all have to focus exactly on what the attorney general is saying. And when you really start to listen to what he's saying, I think it's actually less alarming than some folks would think. And, you know, and this coming from somebody in the cross hairs of all these different investigations that you referenced. So --

COOPER: Yes. So, explain how it is less alarming.

BAKER: Well, if you listen to what he says literally and take it seriously, then he's saying he has questions. And that's fine. The attorney general of the United States should have questions about what the FBI is doing and what the intelligence community is doing and the attorney general is responsible for conducting oversight of those entities.

[20:05:01] And I think that's great.

COOPER: If he -- and what about the witch hunt? He's saying if I was wrongly accused, it would be OK to call it a witch hunt. BAKER: Well, I have read that statement, and he made, I think, a

similar kind of statement in the past. Again, I think if he's looking at it from the president's perspective, he's looking at it if the president thought that he was, you know, the subject of an investigation unfounded he would call it a witch hunt. So, again, I think if we look at, and I have every interest to look closely at what the attorney general is saying. I think if you look at it closely, I think it's -- to me, it is less alarming when I think about it.

Now, look, I have worked for the attorney general in the past. I can't say I know him well. But I have worked for him in the past. I have respect for him. I have taken a lot of grief because of that statement I just made and have repeated a few times. So, I get that.

But anyway, I'm less alarmed about it, I think, than other folks.

COOPER: Well, I mean, this is why we wanted to have you on, to get your perspective. So, I want to play something else the attorney general said about the investigation here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: The thing that's interesting about this is that this was handled a very senior level of these departments. It wasn't handled in the ordinary way that investigations or counter intelligence activities are conducted. It was sort of an ad hoc small group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Is that in line with your understanding of how the investigation was handled? There is, you can listen to that, and if you are inclined to have an ominous interpretation of it you can think, OK, this small group at the top were trying to get President Trump.

BARR: Yes. I mean, so I was in that small group. And we kept it small out of an -- in an effort to make sure that we didn't have leaks from within the organization and that we would protect the political process and protect the integrity of the investigation. So, it was intentional to keep it small, but I would submit it was more lawful and appropriate reasons that we kept it small and didn't bring in sort of armies of people.

COOPER: But the idea that it wasn't the normal channels of a counterintelligence investigation.

BARR: No, it wasn't normal. We were investigating a political -- people connected to a political campaign in the middle of a presidential election. So, no, there was nothing normal about that. So we were trying to figure out how to deal with a very abnormal situation in a way that was lawful and consistent with our prior practice and the way we would handle a counterintelligence investigation of a threatening foreign power, Russia.

COOPER: Is it formal for the attorney general of the United States to use the language the president uses? It seems there is a method or a reason that he would be using the exact same words that the president uses or buzz words, spying, witch hunt, collusion. I mean, does that strike you as odd?

BAKER: Well, I have been reflecting on that. I mean, I guess -- I have advised attorneys general in the past of both political parties. And one of the things I always stressed was the critical importance of the credibility of the attorney general of the United States to all Americans.

And, so, I guess I would just urge caution by everybody with respect to the language that we use, how it can be misinterpreted and how it can be spun, right? I mean, I think that's what I'm trying to say here, I guess. I would listen to the attorney general's words and ignore the spin that some people are trying to put on it in a negative way of how he thinks because I think it's not easy to discern exactly what he thinks other than to say he wants more information.

COOPER: Right. But if -- I mean, he's not an idiot and he knows the president who hired him uses the term witch hunt over and over again and he knows the president uses the term spying and likes people around him to believe what he believes. You know, I understand, you know, obviously, General Barr picks his words carefully. He has thought this out.

BAKER: Well, you know, Anderson, I don't know. I haven't spoken to the attorney general. I can't say.

Again, I would -- I would -- if I were advising him, I would just advise him to be cautious about it and to think about how a significant percentage of the population is interpreting what he says because of its similarity, I guess, to what the president has been saying.

COOPER: The attorney general also said that there was, quote, some strange developments during the period of time during election day and the inauguration including that January 6th meeting between President Trump and the intelligence chiefs. Do you know what strange developments he's talking about?

BAKER: That I don't know. I mean, that meeting at Trump Tower was very challenging. The director of the FBI at the time, Jim Comey, and the rest of the senior team was very concerned about it. We knew that there was a risk that what we were informing the president-elect, President-elect Trump about, the salacious allegations in some of the reporting that we had in the dossier.

[20:10:11] We knew that that was fraught with peril. We definitely did not want to convey to him that this had any kind of analogy to FBI improper activities in the past in the Hoover era in particular. So, we were worried about that, and that was very stressful, frankly, to try to figure out how to deal with that.

COOPER: I know, I can imagine.

I want to play something else Barr said when he was asked about the Democrats suggesting he lied during his congressional testimony. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: Well, I think it is a laughable charge, and I think it's largely being made to try to discredit me partly because they may be concerned about the outcome of a review of what happened during the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Is that what you think, the accusations are about? He's talking about the review by the attorney in Connecticut, I assume, not the inspector general investigation.

BAKER: I'm not really sure exactly how to understand that particular statement. Yes, there are these multiple reviews going on. It is not quite clear to the public exactly who is doing what and why we have all these multiple reviews. I mean, I can speculate on that, but it is not clear to me exactly what he was talking about there.

COOPER: Lastly, this morning, the president tweeted: My campaign for president was conclusively spied on, nothing like this has ever happened in American politics, a really bad situation. Treason means long jail sentences, and this was treason.

So, he's accusing members of the intelligence community of treason, talking about jailing them. We have said this before. It does bear repeating. That is not a normal accusation from the president of the United States.

BAKER: No, not at all. And it's quite alarming. From my perspective, I have said it before, there was no treason. There was no attempted coup. There was nothing illegal or unethical or immoral that was going on that I was aware of.

Had I become aware of such a thing, I would have found a way to stop it, quite frankly. So, the use of that word is alarming. And, you know, I have written elsewhere that when the president -- if you look at Article II, the president of the United States makes legal determinations that are binding on the executive branch. So for him to use this loaded language, I think, is not appropriate. But I think it will largely be ignored quite honestly.

COOPER: Is it something the attorney general of the United States should jus tignore, or should he say something about it?

BAKER: I think with some of the president's statements along this line, you know, normally what the president says should be, again, binding on the executive branch. I think this, like other statements, will be ignored. And I don't know what that means for the country in terms of the rule of law.

The president again is the head of the executive branch and what he says should go, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So I don't know where that leaves us, honestly.

COOPER: Are you personally -- I mean, you were the general counsel. Are you personally concerned that the president would like to see you and other top leadership in jail?

BAKER: Of course, I'm concerned, yes. Absolutely I'm concerned about it. I mean, I don't feel as though -- I mean, I know that nothing happened that falls into that category even remotely. And so, you know, I feel comfortable about that.

But I don't think it's good for the country. I don't think it's good for the institutions of justice or the investigative arms of the government for him to be throwing around those kind of words. It is not productive. It's no helpful to the country.

What needs to happen now is we need to be brought together to deal with this threat from the Russians that's coming again in 2020 and we need to move forward collectively and together.

COOPER: Yes, which is, by the way, what you got -- the sentence you just spoke is not a tweet I have ever heard from the president of the United States.

Jim Baker, thank you very much.

Up next, we have breaking news on Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser. If you haven't heard this story, it is amazing. CNN has learned he contacted a GOP critic of Robert Mueller while he was allegedly cooperating with the special counsel and was encouraging this critic, this GOP critic, to keep it going, to keep the pressure on, to keep talking out against the investigation.

We'll tell you who that was and what he wrote to him, coming up.

Also ahead, Joe Biden is said to kick his campaign into higher gear this weekend. With the field of Democratic contenders now at 23, is that just too large? We'll talk it over with Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times", and Howard Dean. Governor Howard Dean made a White House bid, of course, back in 2004.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:18:35] COOPER: There's breaking news, while President Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn was supposedly cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigation, we now know he also was contacting at least one member of Congress who was publically criticizing the probe and encouraging him to keep speaking out -- Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. That is according to messages obtained by CNN.

CNN's Pamela Brown is part of the team who broke this story and joins me now.

Pamela, what exactly were in these direct messages?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, our team has learned that during the same time Michael Flynn was cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigators, he contacted at least one member of Congress that we know of who had been publically critical of the probe. That's Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. He sent a couple of direct messages to Gaetz over Twitter saying,

quote, you stay on top of what you are doing. Your leadership is so vital for our country right now. Keep the pressure on! That message obtained by CNN was sent April 2018. That's the same evening, Anderson, that Gaetz appeared on Fox News sharply criticizing the Mueller probe.

Congressman Gaetz says he didn't respond to the messages from Flynn and did not have a prior relationship with him, Anderson.

COOPER: Do we know -- I mean, at this point, if Gaetz was the only member of Flynn that reached out to?

BROWN: We don't know that. It couldn't be learned if Flynn reached out to other members of the Congress. We reached out to other members, particularly those that have been critical of Mueller publicly and have not heard back.

[20:20:00] But these messages raise questions about Flynn's contact with politically powerful people following his guilty plea of the Mueller probe when he was cooperating with investigators and they added this perception, Anderson, that has played out in Flynn's courtroom proceeding that he has vacillated between helping the special counsel and then stoking Mueller's critics and the Republican Party.

COOPER: They also point out that he's probably a moron. I mean, just -- the guy is claiming to be cooperating and is sending direct messages over Twitter to a member of congress. Flynn is still awaiting sentencing. Couldn't this complicate things for him?

BROWN: It certainly could complicate matters for Flynn when his sentencing does happen. Remember, in December 2018, that was his initial appearance before Judge Sullivan when he was expected to be sentenced. And during that proceeding, the judge questioned whether Flynn had actually accepted responsibility for his crime. The judge expressed skepticism and later that in hearing it was decided to postpone the sentencing. A new date has been set.

So certainly, Anderson, the judge could factor this in as a result of this new reporting. It is unknown if Mueller's team was already privy to these messages. We should note that Flynn's lawyer did not provide a comment.

COOPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks to much. Appreciate it.

BROWN: Yes.

COOPER: Joining me is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He's a former federal prosecutor.

Also, CNN legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, former FBI special agent.

Jeff, does this make Michael Flynn appear to be an idiot?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think idiot is the operative word here because he was cooperating with Mueller.

COOPER: Supposedly.

TOOBIN: Supposedly. He's obliged to tell the truth.

Now, it is not illegal for him to reach out to a congressman who was critical of Mueller. But if you are trying to cooperate and prove yourself of value so that the prosecutor will tell the judge he's cooperating, please, you know, consider that.

COOPER: Right, if you actually do regret what you did, it is odd you would reach out to Congressman Gaetz of all people.

TOOBIN: Who remains one of the most strident critics of Mueller.

So it is just very strange. And a judge hearing about this may ask Flynn -- well, what else were you doing? Who else were you in touch with? That's why the best advice lawyers often give their clients is just shut the hell up and don't create more problems for yourself than you already have.

COOPER: I mean, the judge was already kind of skeptical of Flynn's, you know -- I don't know of his cooperation as much as his being regretful.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Remember that when he originally went in for his sentencing hearing the judge was not happy, especially with his lawyers suggests the FBI had somehow entrapped him and, you know, making false statements or something like that, and basically, sort of accused him of treason, I believe, in the hearing and walked that back. And then said why don't you go work with the government a little bit more? I suggest you do a little bit more and then come back because you may not want me to sentence you right now.

So what's happened now is that he's basically cast into doubt, as you mentioned, the sincerity of his guilty plea, which I think Mueller would also have some issues with. But I think this also explains Trump's behavior. He has continued, you know, until now to continue to be very positive about Flynn. And he did the same thing with Manafort. We know that both of them were two-timing Mueller in their own ways. Manafort was lying to Mueller when he was cooperating.

So, I think it also casts a little bit of light on why Trump was so comfortable with them and not with somebody like Michael Cohen.

TOOBIN: This message is also potentially part of an either subconscious of obvious campaign for a pardon because aligning himself with Gaetz who is a very strong Trump supporter, a harsh critic of Mueller, as, of course, is Trump, a lot of what defense lawyers have done, whether it's Manafort's lawyers, Flynn's lawyers has been to try to ingratiate themselves with the president so that regardless of what Mueller says, regardless of what the judge does, a pardon could solve all problems.

COOPER: Asha, what do you make of Attorney General Barr, his comments today, we talked to James Baker who said, look, if you listen to the actual words he says, he's sort of looking at things from President Trump's perspective. He's not saying necessarily that it is a witch hunt. He's saying, you know, if I was wrongly accused, I would be understandable to call something a witch hunt.

RANGAPPA: He couldn't be using those words at all. They're simply unprofessional for someone who is the attorney general of the United States. If there is misconduct in the investigation, then that should be investigated and he shouldn't really comment on it until those findings are out. But he's also making simply a mischaracterization of what actually went on.

[20:25:04] COOPER: Called spying or something.

RANGAPPA: Remember that President Trump was actually never under investigation until he fired James Comey. Personally as either a counter intelligence investigation or obstruction of justice investigation.

So this whole idea that he was falsely accused and therefore felt justified in acting out in this way, he was not only not accused of anything but he was reassured by James Comey that he was not being accused of anything. This is about what Russia was doing to try to interfere in the election that was made clear to him. And so, for Barr to keep using this he was falsely accused, I would behave the same way, that's just a lie. And he keeps saying it.

COOPER: But they were clearly concerned. He must have been. If he wasn't concerned about himself or didn't need to be concerned about himself, he was probably concerned about somebody in his campaign.

TOOBIN: Well, I found the interview astonishing. The attorney general is Sean Hannity and Sean Hannity is the attorney general now. To listen to him repeat every talking point, including that the president cooperated in an unprecedented way with this investigation when he didn't even answer oral questions from the investigation, it was just I found astonishing.

COOPER: And no questions about obstruction of justice.

Jeff Toobin, Asha Rangappa, thank you very much.

The field of Democratic presidential candidates has reached nearly two dozen so far. I don't know who else is going to join with former Vice President Joe Biden a commanding lead to date. The question is, does that make the road ahead for Democrats easier having all these people or harder? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:30:30] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: According to his aides, this weekend, former Vice President Joe Biden will shift into a new phase in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He'll speak at a major rally in Philadelphia tomorrow where he'll be looking to roll out some policy proposals according to aides telling CNN. Biden has a commanding lead in the field of 23 candidates. That's right, 23 candidates are now vying for the nomination. A field some Democrats are concern is too large because loyalties and money will spread across so many campaigns, could make it harder to take on President Trump when the nomination is actually won by somebody.

Some perspective now from a former candidate for president, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and "New York Times" White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman, a CNN Political Analyst as well.

I mean, Biden, Maggie, is maybe only kicking this into high gear, but the President has certainly been treating him as the presumptive nominee or at least going after him very hard.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes, and to the concern of a lot of President's aides.

COOPER: Why?

HABERMAN: Because the President is -- they all agree that Biden is someone they have to worry about. They're looking at his poll lead. They're looking certainly at his numbers right now with black voters in the Democratic primary, which suggest that he could have some staying power, and they know that they have to deal with him. They shouldn't wait too long. They don't think the President should be the one doing it.

It just elevates Biden. It gives them the sort of aura of a general election candidate very early as opposed to somebody who is going to have the other Democrats attacking him and it will help him raise money. It creates all sorts of pluses for Biden. It creates negatives for the President.

COOPER: Which I wonder if was Biden's strategy all along for making that video.

HABERMAN: Yes.

COOPER: I think we talked about this that he was looking over the field of Democratic candidates and aiming squarely at President Trump. He clearly got the President's attention.

HABERMAN: No question. And Biden's aides are delighted by all this and they have said all along, they were trying to bait the President into engagement and they have. I think it has pleased the President's aides that he's aiming for a target these days who they don't really consider to be serious as a threat, which is Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City.

COOPER: Governor Dean, a Fox News poll out this week for the president head to head with the top Democratic candidates and Biden is leading the President by 11 percentage point. Certainly understandable the President would take notice of that. Do you put much stock in, you know, poll numbers at this stage or poll numbers in general? HOWARD DEAN, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. And the other thing is the classic problem. There are many problems with the polls in this stage, but the classic one, this is probably a national poll, and this is a 50 state race. So the polls that matter are the ones in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire, not the ones that are nationwide.

So, this is all about name recognitions. It's much too early to figure this out. But Biden is the real deal as is Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth and Kamala Harris and Buttigieg and Beto. Those are the ones that right now have got some name recognition and some oomph behind them. And then we'll see if somebody emerges from the other 16 candidates.

COOPER: Governor Dean, I mean, is 23 too many at this stage? Does it diffuse things too much?

DEAN: No, because what's going to -- the DNC has actually done a good job trying to screen out people who really aren't working or aren't able to do the work. You have to have 1 percent in the polls, which is a pretty low bar, and you have to have raised 65 -- from 65,000 contributors in 20 states money. So you've got to develop a base to be taken seriously and that's the way it should be. And to get into the debates this summer, that's the price of admission. And so that's going to weed people out right then and there.

COOPER: Maggie, do you think there's dangers of having so many candidates at this stage?

HABERMAN: I mean, I think that it's a lot. I think it's dangerous for people who are hoping to get attention and having trouble with it. I think when you have this many candidates, there are only handful who are going to be able to galvanize media attention and raise money.

I was struck, again, not to go back to Bill de Blasio, but I was struck that his aides wouldn't even say how much money he raised in the first 24 hours, which is not a good sign. Normally candidates like to put that out as a sign.

COOPER: With someone -- he's the mayor of a major city.

HABERMAN: Right or knows a lot of donors or anything like that. And so -- but, you know, I do think that once the debates begin, I think once we get to September, I think you are going to start seeing people dropping out of the race, most likely.

I will say we did think that was going to happen in 2016 on the Republican side. We thought that there was a game theory approach by all of the Republican candidates that while the field that we whittled down by X number by the time we get to January and that just didn't happen. So almost all, except for Rick Perry stayed in, I'm not sure what this will look like going forward.

COOPER: Governor -- yes, go ahead.

DEAN: Well, except that I would argue that they did stay in and that the RNC was stupid to put them all on the debate panel. I think if you don't get the minimum requirement of the kinds of things the DNC is talking about, you're basically not going to be on the stage anymore, and I think that's appropriate.

[20:35:06] HABERMAN: How many candidates do think you're talking about in that case, though, if they get -- if you're assuming that a bunch get out with no doubt (ph), how many do you think reasonably will be left?

DEAN: I think in the beginning there'll be five or six that are out with no doubt. If you can't raise $20 million by the time Iowa starts, you can't participate in this race. That's the price of admission to the race. I mean, there are going to be a lot of people who can't do that.

HABERMAN: Sure, but if --

DEAN: Good candidates who can't do it, which really kills me.

HABERMAN: But if five or six are went out, that's still gets to about 16, which is what the Republican field was last time. That's all I'm saying. I just think that it stays pretty populated.

DEAN: No. I mean, five or six will be winning --

HABERMAN: Arising.

DEAN: -- right from the get-go by June.

COOPER: Interesting. Governor Dean, it's always good to have you. Thank you. Maggie Haberman as well, thanks very much.

DEAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Take a look at what do these people each have in common and who have they all worked for. Those questions are answered in a really remarkable report from our Randi Kaye, that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So far the announcement from President Trump of a new merit- based set of ideas for immigration reform has been met with either outright rejection or a polite silence from both Democrats and Republicans. Something perhaps not too surprising with the people you're about to meet.

All of them are undocumented and under President's new plan that prioritized highly educated and highly skilled immigrants, they probably wouldn't have been allowed into the country, which makes this next story from "360's" Randi Kaye even more interesting. She's been working on it for months. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[20:40:03] RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They arrived in vans. They arrived in SUVs. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, guys.

KAYE: Most of them coworkers, some of them friends. There were 19 of them, each with a story to tell. They all took the elevator to our studio, three elevators, in fact. What were all these people doing here? All of them wanted to talk about their years of working for Donald Trump's golf clubs. They also all have another thing in common.

(on camera) Raise your hand, how many of you are undocumented workers? And how many of you worked for the Trump Organization? Raise your hand. All of you.

(voice-over) All of them say they worked for Mr. Trump at his various golf courses in New York and New Jersey, some for more than a decade, despite being in the United States illegally from countries including Mexico and Guatemala.

They brought with them their work uniforms and stacks of pay stubs from their former employer. Jose Juarez worked as a waiter at Trump's Westchester golf club for 10 years and often served Donald Trump.

JOSE JUAREZ, FORMER WAITER AT TRUMP GOLF CLUB: He used to come and I would serve him a diet coke out of the glass bottle into a plastic cup with ice.

KAYE (on camera): Do you think he knew where you were from?

JUAREZ: Yes, he knew I was from Mexico.

KAYE: You told him?

JUAREZ: Yes.

KAYE: Do you think the President knew that you were undocumented?

JUAREZ: I think so.

ANIBAL ROMERO, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: This was an open secret.

KAYE (voice-over): Lawyer Anibal Romero represents 38 undocumented workers, including this group, all of whom worked at Trump properties. He says 11 of them were quietly fired in January from Trump's Westchester club after the club did an audit in the midst of the government shutdown and the fight over the border wall. The rest of these workers quit given the toxic environment.

ROMERO: Some of these employees were the most trusted employees of the Trump family. They've been working there for 10, 15 years. Some of my clients had, you know, the keys to, for example, Eric Trump's house in Westchester, New York.

KAYE: Nearly all of these 19 undocumented workers told us they've met Donald Trump. Sandra Diaz is from Costa Rica and worked as a housekeeper for four years at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. SANDRA DIAZ, FORMER HOUSEKEEPER AT TRUMP GOLF CLUB: I worked really close to him in his house. I always I with him with Melania, with Ivanka. Always I stayed inside the house with all the family. They know me. I have keys. I have to go in. I have to take care of all clothes. Everything in this house, I have take care.

KAYE: Sandra told us she believes Donald Trump knew she was here illegally because he has to sign off on everything at the club.

(on camera) How do you feel when you hear the President say that people like yourselves shouldn't be in the country?

DIAZ: I feel really bad.

KAYE (voice-over): All of the workers paid taxes but were not given benefits. Victorina Morales also worked at Trump's golf club in New Jersey as a housekeeper. For five years she made Trump's bed and dusted off his golf trophies.

(on camera) Did you ever tell the management at the golf course that you were undocumented or that you didn't have the right paperwork?

(voice over) She told us, yes, she told her supervisors but was told legal papers didn't matter as long as she did the work.

(on camera) What documents, (foreign language), did you show when you applied for the job?

(voice-over) Victorina says she didn't show any paperwork when she got the job. But in 2016, she was suddenly asked for legal documentation. She says when she told her manager she didn't have it, she got his cousin to take her to a house in New Jersey to get documents and that her manager himself paid the $175 fee for her fake documents.

ROMERO: There is another client I have in Westchester who presented fake documents, and he was told that they weren't -- they didn't look good enough. So they had him return three times to get fake documents that looked better.

KAYE (on camera): Did Donald Trump know where you were from, and do you think that he knew you were undocumented?

(voice-over) Victorina told me Trump once asked her where she was from, and she told him Guatemala. She says the majority of housekeepers were undocumented and that Trump must have known.

Margarita Cruz worked as a housekeeper at Trump's golf club in Westchester, New York for nine years.

(on camera) What do you think when you hear Donald Trump talk about undocumented workers and how you shouldn't be allowed in this country, yet you worked at his golf club?

(voice-over) Margarita says Trump is a hypocrite. That he says they are bad people, rapist and traffickers. But they are honest, hard working people who worked hard for him. [20:45:03] ROMERO: He's been benefiting from undocumented labor for many, many years. It's sad that he's been lying to the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Randi joins us now. Has the Trump Organization had any response to what those workers told you?

KAYE: Anderson, we reached out to the Trump Organization several times asking for a response to the fact that these allegations and also the fact that the Trump Organization has been employing these undocumented workers for years.

We didn't get a response, but the Trump Organization has responded to "The New York Times," which has also done some reporting on this issue, telling the "Times" they have strict hiring practices and if an employee submits false documentation to circumvent the law, they will be fired immediately.

Now, that's certainly not what these workers told us happened in their case. And that statement to "The New York Times," Anderson, certainly doesn't answer our question, which is did Donald Trump know that these undocumented workers were working for him as he was publicly railing against them.

COOPER: Right.

KAYE: Also one other note, most of the workers in our story, they're all facing deportation because as you know, there is no plan for those 11 million plus illegal immigrants in this country. Only one of them now has legal permanent status, that's Sandra Diaz, but she didn't get it until long after she left Trump's golf club in New Jersey, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. Randi Kaye, seeing all those people together who worked on those results is fascinating. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

China takes an aggressive new stance in its trade war with the United States. What it says the U.S. has to do before they'll sit down for talks, next.

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[20:50:24] COOPER: The effects of the trade war against China are rippling across the country. And today, there were new signs it's not going to end any time soon. The Chinese foreign minister is now saying the U.S. must show "sincerity if it wants to have meaningful trade talks."

This comes a day after President Trump put one of China's biggest and most successful companies Huawei technologies on a blacklist that could make it extremely difficult to do business with companies in the U.S. And a week after, he slaps the tariffs on goods coming from China. So the question is now what? Our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto literally just wrote the book on this. It's called "The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America." Jim joins us now.

Jim, so many appears as if China isn't going to give in to the President any time soon. What does this mean long-term for this trade war?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, Trump is basically demanding that China change up end its economic model. Now, it's an unfair one. It involves stealing trade secrets from the U.S., national security secrets.

It involves putting restrictions on U.S. companies operating in China that the U.S. is not put Chinese companies operating here, but it's part of Chinese -- China's grand strategy to compete with the U.S. and ultimately overtake the U.S. and President Trump's approach has been basically the use of the cajole of tariffs to force China to change and China is resisting that cajole.

And by the way, I have to remind people, China is an authoritarian regime but it does have its own domestic politics here and Xi Jingping is a leader in a country that if he seen as backing down to a U.S. president on this playing by a U.S. president's rules, he'll pay a price for that at home. So he's got enormous political motivation here to resist this kind of pressure coming from Trump.

COOPER: You write about this in your book, how the trade war is really part of something much bigger.

SCIUTTO: It is. I mean, it is one front in a multi-front war. And I think Americans are aware of a couple of those fronts. I mean, the trade war certainly, that they're aware of election issues and so on, but China has deployed weapons in space. They've tested and deployed.

It's true, a kidnapper satellite that can pluck key U.S. satellites out of orbit if they decide to do so because they know that the U.S. military, U.S. civilian institutions are so dependent on it.

China has up and created sovereign territory in the middle of the South China Sea, this man made islands there in the middle of territory claimed by many countries including U.S. allies. The U.S. has complained about it, but China has done it. It's succeeded.

And in the cyber sphere, China is stealing U.S. secrets every day, private sector and government sector secrets every day with great success. It's part of a strategy. The Chinese refer to it as winning without fighting. They want to surpass the U.S. They want to take what they see as their rightful position as the world super power and they're not going to let anyone stand in their way.

COOPER: You know, we're so focused on Russia obviously because of Russian meddling in the last election and yet a lot of intelligence officials I've spoken to and interviewed talk about China as being a greater threat in the cyber realm, in the stealing of technological secrets. SCIUTTO: No question and that certainly in the book as well, because Russia has a similar strategy, multi-front as well. Election interference certainly but, yes, they've also deployed weapons in space, kamikaze satellites in space. They're attacking in the cyber sphere.

But when I ask officials to say which is the bigger threat long-term? They'll say short-term, Russia, perhaps more aggressive. Longer term, China has more economic power, bigger population, grander ambitions, not a declining power, a rising power and they see that as the primary threat in this shadow war.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Sciutto, congratulations on the book.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

COOPER: I've been reading it. It's really fascinating. It's called "The Shadow War." If you really want to know what's going on with China and Russia, its essential reading. It's available now, "The Shadow War" by Jim Sciutto.

Up next, the golfer in chief takes a swing on "The Ridiculist."

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[20:57:55] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." In full disclosure, it's about golf, which is not exactly my specialty, except for that time I took a nine iron to Wolf Blitzer's windshield. And, no, I'm not sorry. He knows what he did.

So here's the deal, President Trump, who's administration occasionally feels likes (INAUDIBLE) part three, like to play golf. Golf to him is like beers to Brett Kavanaugh and Schuwey (ph) and Timmy (ph) and I went to P.J. too, P.J. like beer.

Since taking office, the President who repeatedly bashed President Obama for playing too much golf has made 187 visits to his resorts to play golf. Sure, he spends a lot of time with his wife and son too, but he plays a lot of golf.

He occasionally plays with pro golfers like Tiger Woods and a diverse range of political minds everyone from Lindsey Graham to Rush Limbaugh. And by all the footage we've been able to see, which is basically nine, he's a good golfer.

Today, though, a sports writer found an entry in what appears to be the President's official page on the U.S. Golf Association's Golf Handicap and Information Network, which I read every day. It shows the President recently registered a score of 68 on a rather difficult 18-hole course back in April.

Now, apparently that's quite a feat for anyone, never mind someone who doesn't like to walk a lot. The last score posted on his page was back in October, it was 96. I don't know what any of this means, but apparently it means something. You don't have to be a stable genius to know the math on 96 to 68. Now, sports illustrated report this database isn't the most secure thing in the world and the President's page has been messed with before. That said, the U.S. Golf Association told us so far they found no signs of malicious activity or Russian activity but the matter is "under review."

We also asked the White House for comment but, I don't know, there's someone in the club house not responding. One possible theory about the President's improved game, just a theory, people are talking about it. Don't know if it's true, just people are talking about it, the February summit he held in Hanoi with Kim Jong-un, think about it.

Kim Jong-un and his friend who sends him those big beautiful letters that President Trump likes to show off like a kid whose governance has finally wrote him a slip way camp. Anyway, according to his official biography, Kim's father, the later North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un -- Kim Jong-il, I should say, one shot get these 11 holes in one in his first golf match ever. I mean, how about that?

Anyway, it's unclear if Kim Jong-un shared any of his father's fairway tips or if he passed them through his sometimes envoy, the other very stable genius, Dennis Rodman. As for tonight tell the White House or the U.S. Golf Association says otherwise it appears the President did have one heck of a good round of golf, big, beautiful, maybe just a bit unbelievable on "The Ridiculist."

That does it for us. The CNN Special Report, "The Trump Family Business" starts now.

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