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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Pelosi In Letter to House Colleagues: President Trump "Had a Temper Tantrum For Us All to See"; Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is Interviewed About Trump Having a Temper Tantrum. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Once again the world is learning how easy it is to get under the skin of the most powerful man on earth. Today, after storming out of a meeting on infrastructure, what could be a popular issue for him, President Trump stepped outside and unloaded on live television. And no, that's not really normal, not even by the dim lights of these not normal times.

If you didn't see it when it happened, you'll want to watch it happen now. And remember, to make it happen, all Nancy Pelosi had to say what she and others have been saying repeatedly for months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover up -- in a cover up. And that's the nature of the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning. From there, she headed to the White House for an 11:15 meeting with the president on infrastructure spending, something nearly every lawmakers likes, though some obviously defer how to pay for it. The president showed up 15 minutes late and then complained about what Speaker Pelosi said, as well as the Russia investigation writ large, and said he can't work with Democrats while they're investigating him. Then he walked out.

And a short time later stepped up to the podium, equipped with talking points on a placard, which he then proceeded to echo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So here's the bottom line: there was no collusion, there was no obstruction. This whole thing was a takedown attempt at the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So he's clearly upset, enough to slip into the third person as he railed against Robert Mueller's investigators who he accused of supporting Hillary Clinton and despising him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They hated President Trump, they hated him with a passion. They went to her big party after the election, that turned out to be a wake, not a party, it was a wake and they were very angry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's speaking about himself in the third person, in case you're confused.

I'm not even sure it's worth fact checking the president, what he just said there. Yes, a number of Mueller investigators contribute to Hillary Clinton, some gave to GOP causes, Robert Mueller himself is a registered Republican, as is Rod Rosenstein, who appointed him. He's also a Trump appointee.

We don't know if many or even any of them went to the Clinton election night party. But again, it's a fairly minor point. This, on the other hand, is not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, it turns out I'm the most -- and I think most of you would agree to this. I'm the most transparent president probably in the history of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK. If you haven't noticed this by now, whenever he says something that's not true, he tries to suggest that the people he's lying to agree with him. I don't know if you noticed that. Keep it in mind the next time that's what he does.

Keeping them honest, he might just be the most transparent president ever, if transparency means no longer having what used to be called White House daily press briefings or if transparency means not having a note-taker in the room when you meet with Vladimir Putin or if transparency means letting the public find out what the White House meeting you had with top Russian officials a day after you fired your FBI director from Russia state news agency, or if it means speaking to Robert Mueller in person or not even answering written questions from Mueller on obstruction of justice -- if that's what transparency means, he's a regular crystal mountain stream.

The president also tried to suggest that we all agreed on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't do cover ups. You people probably know that better than anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Again, you all agree with us. We can all agree on that. No cover ups. He just doesn't do them.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David. You know, so I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up --

TRUMP: Give it to me.

COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

TRUMP: So what are we going to do?

COHEN: Yes. And it's all the stuff because you never know where that company, where he's going to be --

TRUMP: If (ph) he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: Maybe he gets by a truck.

One person on that tape, the president's former attorney now in prison, both he and the other person, the president, lied repeatedly to the public and to investigators about it. But that wouldn't be covering up it, would it?

How about all the other instances Robert Mueller documents in his volume on obstructing justice? Is any of that a cover-up? How about trying to fire Mueller and getting his White House counsel to lie about that and firing Comey? You might call that things persons who don't do cover ups, don't do.

In any case, as we said at the top, neither the accusations, nor the president's denial are really all that new -- something Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was quick to mention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): There were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met and he still met with us.

[20:05:01] But now that he was forced to actually say how he'd pay for it, he had to run away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: As you might imagine, the president characterized it differently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just wanted to let you know that I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I'd be really good at that. That's what I do.

But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So get the phony investigations over with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, however you characterize the president's walkout, the notion that nothing can get done until investigation ends, that's just -- that's not how politics work. When Richard Nixon was being investigated, he still managed to work with the Democratic controlled 93rd Congress on a string of important legislation. So did Bill Clinton during his impeachment. That's what politicians do even in times of stress and strife and investigations, they are still expected to do their jobs.

We'll talk tonight about how one person, it's not Senator Schumer, also seems to have a unique talent for needling the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part that he really couldn't match the greatness of the challenge that we have didn't -- wasn't really respectful of the Congress and the White House working together. He just took a pass. And it just makes me wonder why he did that.

In any event, I pray for the president of the United States. And I pray for the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Well, more now from someone else who was in the room with the president this morning, Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. We spoke earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Senator Stabenow, can you just walk us through exactly what happened in the meeting with the president today?

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): Well, first, Anderson, it's great to be with you.

And let me say, it was bizarre and also very disappointing. The reason it's disappointing is because the need to invest in roads and bridges and water and sewer systems and high speed Internet and, you know, new electric grids, all of these things are so important and people want us to work together to get things done.

So, the president walked into the room, all of our leadership, Democratic leadership in the House and Senate were there, the secretary of the treasury were there, there were other people in the room, instead of sitting down, he stood at the end of the table and proceeded to -- he was holding up an article or some news release and proceeded to talk about how he'd love to work with us, but he can't because Nancy Pelosi, our speaker, had said something he didn't like in the morning, attacked him at a meeting earlier in the morning. Said something he didn't like.

And so, he went on and on and on, we heard it many times, no collusions, he hadn't done anything wrong, he went on and on, and then he said, I can't -- I'm not going to be able to work with you guys on anything, and something like unless the investigations stop. It was something like that. Then he turned around and left the room.

And Speaker Pelosi was incredibly gracious. She said to everyone there that we were disappointed. The fact is that we were asked to bring our priorities for what needs to be fixed in infrastructure. What do we think is important?

We brought a 35-page document with our priorities. And the president had agreed that he and his team would put forward ways to pay for this. And we were going to -- we thought we were going to have a discussion and begin a negotiation to actually get something done.

COOPER: It is kind of extraordinary. I mean, if it was some words of Nancy Pelosi that, you know, it's apparently part of her saying the president is accusing him of engaging in a cover up --

STABENOW: Right.

COOPER: -- you know, I mean, presidents before have been accused of all sorts of things by people in Congress. I mean, look at Bill Clinton being investigated. President Obama as being investigated.

STABENOW: Exactly.

COOPER: And yet, they were still able to make deals with people.

STABENOW: Right.

COOPER: The idea that everything shuts down because the president's upset, it just seems like somebody who is allegedly a great deal maker is throwing a tantrum.

STABENOW: Well, it was, you know, very bizarre. And in looking back on it, I think he was looking for an excuse not to have the meeting. That's only my perception.

But we came with what we had promised in terms of our priorities. He was supposed to provide what he thought was the way to pay for this. You know, he was willing to spend $1.5 trillion on a tax cut mainly for the wealthiest Americans. And so, we're saying, OK, so how are you going to pay for this on infrastructure?

[20:10:01] COOPER: On the flip side of it, though, I mean, was it wise for Speaker Pelosi to make these comments right before this meeting? Because if Democrats are truly interested in working with the White House, which some Republicans say they're really not interested in having an infrastructure deal because they don't want to have anything that shows the president having a success, would something like saying what Speaker Pelosi said, does that actually -- doesn't that hurt the effort?

STABENOW: Anderson, this president tweets multiple times a day attacking people. We are talking about ongoing questions here and investigations. Suddenly, to have an internal private meeting that she had with her caucus and something that she said be a reason not to move forward on behalf of the American people to solve one of our biggest needs, which is rebuilding America, creating tens of millions of good paying jobs, to me it doesn't add up.

COOPER: Do you think he planned this all along? That this was the plan all along? Get you there, and walk out and lo and behold there's a press conference right away?

STABENOW: Well, there's a lot of speculation. I'm not sure everybody in the room from his team knew it, I couldn't tell. But when he walked out, he went immediately to the Rose Garden where he already had a chart that said "no collusion". And the press had been told to go to the Rose Garden. So, obviously, somebody had planned it.

COOPER: Yes, if they made a chart.

Do you think there's something specifically about speaker Pelosi that gets under the president's skin? I mean, it seems he has a different reaction to her than he does to Senator Schumer.

STABENOW: She's incredibly smart woman. And she's tough, she will work with him, but she's very savvy and I -- I don't think he does well with strong, smart women. So --

COOPER: Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

STABENOW: You're welcome.

COOPER: Well, some breaking news tonight from House Speaker Pelosi in a letter to Democrats, she said the president I'm quoting had a tantrum for us all to see. She went on to say her party remains committed to its agenda, quote, regardless of the president's behavior.

Joining us now, and it's good to have everyone here at the new table, "New York Times" White House correspondent, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, also chief legal analyst for CNN, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who's been in the West Wing in moments like this, although I'm not sure really exactly like this.

But, Maggie, let's start with you. How -- did you know -- what did you learn about how this went down today? Was this planned out? Was everybody in the White House on board with the idea?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was planned out but it was not some White House wide thing. Basically, it was basically decided on after Pelosi's remark this morning where she said he had been part of a cover up or cover ups or something to that effect, and he was triggered for lack of a better word by that remark. He was -- you know, he told his aides he was already in a bad mood, he has been for a few days. He told his aides he didn't want to do this. He wanted to go ahead and make a point about this.

What was the point of having this meeting if Nancy Pelosi was going to say this.

I think we're overlooking that he has been accused of being part of an actual cover up by prosecutors in the Southern District in the Michael Cohen case, in terms of the hush money payments in terms of women who claimed to have affairs with him. I don't think that's related to why he got this upset. And I think he just wanted to essentially make a very loud production that would obscure the actual remark, and it did for the most part.

So, this was not some huge plan. There were a few aides read in on it. There were others who did not think it was a wise course of action. It's not clear how loudly they spoke up. These charts had been at the White House for quite some time, they were affixed to the podium. But it was fairly last minute scramble this morning, but it was preplanned that he was going to handle the meeting this way.

COOPER: David, is this unprecedented territory here? I mean, because I -- you think about all the presidents who have been under investigations, or had -- you know, justified or not, they still got to do their job.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I felt -- in the military, we called this dereliction of duty to walk off the job.

I can well remember when President Clinton was dealing with Newt Gingrich, a new Republican majority, he was under investigation for Whitewater, and what did he do with the Republicans, they worked out a major overhaul of welfare. They brought us a first balanced budget since the '60s, and done a string of them after that. And they increased funding for children's health insurance. They got major things done.

Reagan, when he was under investigation on Iran-Contra, what did he got done. He overhauled the tax system working with Bill Bradley and other Democrats to get that done. He overhauled the immigration system, working with Democrats on that as well.

Presidents do not -- here we have Trump who says, I don't like the way it's going, I'm going to walk off the job, presidents don't do that.

COOPER: Especially someone who claims to be the greatest deal maker of all times and that this is what -- you know, there's really just no sign of that.

[20:15:02] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: There's no sign but he's gotten some seriously bad news in the courts over the past two days.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: You have yesterday a judge in Washington saying that one congressional committee could get access to his accountant's paperwork, in another words, his tax returns. Today, a judge in New York said Deutsche Bank had to turn over records.

And not only did they rule against him, they said the arguments were frivolous, suggesting that he has very little chance even of wining these cases on appeal. So, you can understand why he is feeling particularly embattled when it comes to his personal finances, which is obviously something of great concern to him.

COOPER: As Hope Hicks told Robert Mueller that's his Achilles heel. It also seems to be moving faster I think than a lot of people anticipated. I mean, the fact that -- or is that a --

TOOBIN: Yes and no, there was an agreement reached this afternoon on the appeals process for the accountant's litigation, which suggested to the D.C. circuit that the case would be argued in July. Does that mean they'll decide it in July? Probably not. But maybe they'll decide it in August. Will there be a stay?

I mean, these things don't move that quickly. The idea that these papers are going to be turned over next week or even next month is pretty remote.

COOPER: I've got to get a quick break in. We're going to continue the discussion coming up.

Also, more about how other presidents reacted being under investigation. We discussed what President Trump once touted as his greatest attribute, namely his winning temperament.

Later, Maxine Waters who chairs one of the House committees investigating him, joins me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:45] COOPER: We're talking about the president's walkout during a White House meeting with Democrats, his outburst there, and in the Rose Garden, including this remark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't do cover ups, you people probably know that better than anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You people know that better than anybody.

Part of what seems to be a picture of a president under pressure, as we touched on in the last block, he's now had two court rulings against him just this week on his finances. The New York state legislature passed a bill granting access to his state returns, a former secretary of state snuck into town to testify before Congress. A lot on his plate.

And now on top of that, the world's shortest infrastructure week has just drawn to a close.

Back with Maggie Haberman, Jeff Toobin and David Gergen.

So, Maggie, the president today saying he doesn't do cover ups. I mean, as you pointed out, obviously, the Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, thing is the definition of a cover up.

HABERMAN: Right.

COOPER: He was individual one, I mean, it's --

HABERMAN: Prosecutors implicated him in a crime. This is not just Michael Cohen says it. It's prosecutors say it based on interviewing other people, reviewing other evidence.

And again, I do think that that gets to him. I think that it is something that he's well aware of the fact that if he is not elected, for whatever reason, he could end up facing criminal exposure in that. Some people would disagree. Jeffrey would know more about this than I do.

But I think if you're actually looking at the whole -- you know, the gamut here this week, it's the losses in the court cases related to his financial documents. Also the fact that there's been a lot of media coverage about his internal polling and what it means, and he's watching one story after another suggesting that, you know, he's in trouble.

And I think when you add it to a comment about cover-ups, I think it all leads to one place for him, which is feeling threatened.

GERGEN: He pays a price for lacking a strategic sense and that is here -- he's not going to be able to sustain this position.

COOPER: Of course.

GERGEN: There are things that have to be done. You have to get to a budget passed this fall, you have to deal with the debt ceiling. This fall, you have to do that and you have to do it in a bipartisan way.

He's got things he wants them to do a trade bill. He wants them to do the new NAFTA. There are going to be negotiations over that.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But this was probably one of those things he said, just like, you know, I'll take the mantle of the shutdown, I'll be proud to carry the mantle and that lasted a couple days.

GERGEN: That's right. But who talked to -- who made him look weak on that? It was Nancy Pelosi.

TOOBIN: And Nancy Pelosi had another victory today in her internal caucus because she's got people who want her to go right out to impeachment.

COOPER: Right. TOOBIN: And what she's been saying all along is no, we can do the same kind of investigation, but we don't have to call it impeachment. We don't have to risk alienating people who don't like that idea.

And she got two court decisions this week that said these investigations can proceed, can get information without actually calling it impeachment. That's a victory for her against her own caucus.

HABERMAN: I don't think her caucus is going to see it that way. But --

TOOBIN: You don't think so?

HABERMAN: No. I agree realistically, yes. I think --

GERGEN: But this strengthens her hands. Give us enough time to get more court decisions, and then if leads in that direction, we can do impeachment, but let's build down, go over, down the road, and let's not do it right now.

HABERMAN: Members of her caucus who have wanted impeachment have wanted it for a long time. They wanted it long before the Mueller report was out.

GERGEN: Right.

HABERMAN: So I don't think that they're going to say, you're right, let's take this Mazars decision and look at that as a win. I mean, I agree with you what her calculation is, I think that is the hand she has to play. I think that neither she nor the president frankly think impeachment is a good thing for different reasons.

But I don't believe she thinks this is going to calm her caucus down in any meaningful way.

TOOBIN: But it probably will slow down the number of people calling for impeachment.

GERGEN: Right.

HABERMAN: It might.

TOOBIN: And that's in her favor. You're certainly right that, you know, the David Cicillines, the people who are sort of in the pro- impeachment push are not going to stop because of this.

HABERMAN: No. We just seem to be heading in that direction regardless, however slowly or fast.

COOPER: Do you think there's one branch of this investigation that worries the president more than any other? I mean, Deutsche Bank, his taxes?

HABERMAN: I think -- I still think it's the southern district that worries him more than anything. I think in terms of the congressional investigations, he does not want people having this information.

[20:25:01] But there are, as you know, a bunch of schools of thought as to why that is. Is it because there's a bunch of sources of questionable income or foreign income?

Or is it going to show he's not that wealthy?

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: Right, I just don't know the answer. I could certainly see Donald Trump digging in because other people want what he doesn't want to give them and sort of causing this self-inflicted wound. It doesn't help him if these documents come out closer to the election if there really is something bad in them. If there's not something bad in them, it might be more problematic for Democrats, we just don't know.

GERGEN: I don't think he can walk away quickly what he said today. It's either legislate -- we go down the legislative road or the investigative road, we can't do both together. He made -- he's sort of drawn a line in the sand, you know, and he's got to defend that. I don't think he can easily say, oh, we're just bluffing yesterday.

COOPER: We'll see.

David Gergen, Jeff Toobin, Maggie Haberman, thank you very much.

For now, and remember that things can change very quickly in the Trump White House, it seems clear than ever tonight that the president and congressional Democrats are right now, they're both not backing down. Just ahead, what this could mean going forward and the big question: can any legislation now get passed?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Again, our breaking news. In a letter tonight to a Democratic colleague, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that President Trump's actions today were "a temper tantrum for all of us to see." And the President's declaration that he won't work with congressional Democrats on legislation if he's still under investigation by them certainly doesn't auger well for short-term tranquil (ph) in Washington. So going forward, what does it actually mean?

Let's talk about it with "USA Today" columnist and CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers, also former Republican senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum. Kirsten, is this a political winner for the President?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know. I mean, I think that this is one of the things depending on who you support, you'll see it a certain way. I think that a lot of people think the President -- who support the President would think that he's standing up to the Democrats.

But the truth is, he's making this argument that you can't investigate him and legislate at the same time, which is just completely nonsense. It's every president deals with investigations.

Bill Clinton was under investigation for five years. So, I think that he was still able to work with Republicans and pass legislation and make real deals, you know, that really required some give and take. You know, both sides had to give and take.

Whereas, President Trump who has talked a lot about making deals really hasn't been able to make any deals that involved working with the other party in any significant way. And I think that infrastructure really is an area where they could work together at something he says he cares a lot about.

The Democrats are willing to work with him on it. And because Nancy Pelosi said something that upset him, you know, I guess he thought it was worth walking away from trying to make a deal.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, is this how you would have done it?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think the President made a bad call on this one. I'm disappointed that he said what he said. I understand his frustration. I think what the Democrats are doing is outrageous. But you don't -- you don't go in and give the other side something to beat you up on. I'm -- you know, that's not a good move on his part.

COOPER: What is the outrageous part for the Democrats? You mean the investigations that are taking part -- taking place?

SANTORUM: Yes, they continue -- look, the continuing investigation after the Mueller report came out to continue to try to just harass the President on this. Look, they're not going to find anymore information. Bob Mueller did a thorough job. The idea that they need to continue to investigate is just political harassment.

And these fishing expeditions going into Trump's, you know, personal affairs, look, I mean, is this going to be the standard now, someone who is elected president we're going to dig into their past and look at their financial or whatever. I mean, maybe it's not financial. Maybe it's something else.

So we're going to look in their past and we're going to see if we're going to find something that we can accuse him of to discredit him. That's just, you know, just the worse crust politicization that I've seen.

And it's -- look, I understand, you know, the Democrats hate the guy and there's a lot of people in this country do. But, I think they're setting a very bad precedent about how you deal with people in power.

COOPER: Kirsten, is this a precedent or is this a president that's already been (INAUDIBLE)?

POWERS: I mean, what you just described is the Clinton impeachment process.

SANTORUM: No. POWERS: So I don't really understand it. Talking about digging into somebody's life where you're like obsessed about their sex life and putting him under oath asking him where he touched Monica Lewinsky. I mean, come on. You know, this is not -- this is actually a legitimate --

SANTORUM: Did you know where he did it? He did it in the White House with an intern.

POWERS: This is a legitimate issue ---

COOPER: Let her finish. Let her finish

SANTORUM: Just someone who talks about the Me Too movement.

POWERS: It's not illegal. It's not illegal, OK. It's not right --

SANTORUM: Lots of other people have resigned for a lot --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let her finish.

POWERS: It's not right, but it's not illegal.

COOPER: One at a time.

POWERS: The point is, listen to you, you just got done saying how wrong it is to do that when you participated in that, you know. And now you have a report that lays out a bunch of very questionable behavior, even if it's not illegal, that's problematic, and some of it may be illegal. There could be an obstruction of justice, and this was sent to Congress and Congress is doing their due diligence.

But really what the President said today doesn't have anything to do with that. It has to do with the fact that Nancy Pelosi said something mean to him. So, he basically is saying he can't do his job because she said something that upset him.

COOPER: It does --

POWERS: Is that -- is this how presidents are supposed to behave?

COOPER: It does seem, Senator Santorum, you know, he talked about during the campaign a winning temperament. It seems more like a whining temperament today. And as you said, it's not something you would have done. It does give a cajole (ph) to people who want to go after him.

SANTORUM: Look, I'm not going to defend what the President did today. I'm not. I mean, obviously I didn't defend it. I won't defend it. But what I'm saying is that first off, this is fundamentally different than Bill Clinton.

And, you know, there was -- in the case of Whitewater, I mean the governor of Arkansas was convicted and sent to jail because of things that were going on. This was not some -- let's just open up someone's financial background and see if we can find something. There were crimes committed and they were involved in those, so.

[20:35:08] POWERS: Not by Bill Clinton, though. It's like -- this is just unbelievable.

SANTORUM: But it's just a legitimate way to investigate. There's no one suggesting that Donald Trump -- there's no accusation that Donald Trump committed a crime. They just want to check it out. They want to see what they can find. It's a fishing (INAUDIBLE).

POWERS: Obstruction of justice is a crime.

SANTORUM: Yes, but that's not why they're looking at his tax returns. That's not why they want Deutsche Bank to turn over his records. There's no charge or claim that he's done anything illegal other than speculation as opposed to Clinton where there was something that was illegal that happened.

COOPER: All right, Kirsten, your answer and then we have to go.

POWERS: Yes. I was going to say, there is a lot of -- there's a real possibility that actually has broken laws related to his taxes.

SANTORUM: Speculation.

POWERS: So, I just think that idea that you think that like this shouldn't be investigated but you thought Bill Clinton should be investigated is just bizarre.

COOPER: All right. Kirsten Powers, Rick Santorum, appreciate it. Thank you.

Another "victory" for House Democrats over President Trump today. Just ahead, the implications of that victory with one of committee chair trying to subpoena President Trump's financial records, Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More breaking news this hour, another big court defeat for President Trump. For the second time this week, a federal judge has ruled Congress has the right to see the President's financial records. Monday's case involved his accounting firm. Today's case, Trump family and business records held by Deutsche Bank and Capital One Financial.

[20:40:05] Now, it today's opinion, the judge said the subpoenas are clearly pertinent to Congress' work. The judge also rejected the idea that the committees don't have a legitimate legislative purpose for the documents. It's the same legal basis that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has used to block release of the President's tax returns.

In fact, Mnuchin was on the Hill this morning defending those actions before the Financial Services Committee, one of two House committees that won in court today. Now, a short time ago, I spoke about the developments with the chairwoman of that committee, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Chairwoman Waters, about today's court ruling as well as the other one earlier this week in your committee's favor, does it bolster Speaker Pelosi's argument that it's better to let all this play out in court rather than start impeachment proceedings, because I know you've been a vocal proponent of impeachment?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Well, yes. You know, I'm an advocate of impeachment. I've been for a long time. And I'm still very strongly in support of impeachment. However, that doesn't mean that I'm going to stop doing my oversight and investigations committee on the Financial Services Committee. As the chair, I'm going to carry out my responsibility and I'm going to keep working.

And in keeping working, I am requesting documents. We are, you know, issuing subpoenas and, you know, we had a court decision today up in the Southern District of New York where Trump had filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank to prevent them from giving us any documents. And the court and Judge Ramos ruled on that today, ruled in our favor for a preliminary injunction.

COOPER: So why move toward impeachment proceedings if you are already starting to get court rulings in your favor and you may be getting these financial documents? Doesn't that allow you to do what you need to do without, at this stage, moving toward impeachment?

WATERS: Well, don't you understand, there are several things going on here? Number one, I support impeachment, but I'm also the chair of a very important committee, the Financial Services Committee, and I'm going to do my work in investigations and oversight. And I cannot make the final determination about whether my caucus and my members are going to support impeachment. That discussion continues to go on.

And so, it's not either/or at this point. It is, you know, you do what you need to do and for me that includes continuing to talk about impeachment and helping to create that discussion and hoping more people will come around. At the same time, as I said, doing my investigation and oversight.

COOPER: These records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, what questions do you believe they may help your committee answer? What do you hope to glean from them?

WATERS: Well, I hope to get some basic information about the financial workings of Trump's operation. We want to know about personal and about company finances. We want to know who we owes money to. We want to know whether or not he had the kind of assets that he claimed that he had in order to get money.

We really want to find out from Deutsche Bank why Deutsche Bank is the only major financial institution that will lend him money, despite the fact, rather, he had sued them at one point. And nobody else -- no other banks trusted him because of the way he conducts business. He filed bankruptcy, on and on and on.

COOPER: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is still refusing to turn over the President's tax returns. Does your committee intent on holding him in contempt if he doesn't produce them? And if so, when would you think he might take that vote?

WATERS: Well, as you know, there's a lot of confusion around that. We believe that the constitution gives us the right to have those tax returns. They have been requested by Ways and Means, which is the legitimate committee of Congress to request those tax returns and the law basically says he shall turn them over if they are requested in the right way. So he's refusing to do that.

But because he's refusing to do that, we are trying to figure out how to get them. And so, the Ways and Means Committee will supposedly subpoena those documents. I don't know what's happening. We have another committee that's going after the accounting that is being done by his accounting firms.

[20:45:02] So a lot of things are going on to try and get information that we think is important and absolutely essential to understand much of the suspicion that is being discussed about this President and about his financial doings. He refuses to turn over the tax returns. What does he have to hide?

COOPER: Yes.

WATERS: Has he been compromised in anyway? Is there money laundering going on? There is enough that we know about him to have legitimate suspicion and we need to have documentation.

COOPER: Chairwoman Waters, appreciate it. Thank you.

WATERS: You're so welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: More ahead tonight, that investigation is over into whether Virginia Governor Ralph Northam appeared in black face photograph in a medical school yearbook. He said it was him, then he said he didn't think it was him. What investigators are found, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:08] COOPER: You may remember this picture that started a big controversy, a photograph in black face apparently of Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. It was a medical school yearbook in the 1980s. Now at first, Northam said it was him and apologized. The day later, he backtracked and said that he didn't believe it was him. Now, this was back in February.

Today, an independent investigation to what actually happened ended without any definitive conclusion. The Virginia Law Firm conducted the investigation said no one they'd interviewed said the governor was in the photograph and neither could determine the origin of the photo in the first place. Chris Cuomo joins me now. And, Chris, were get to what you have in the program this evening. Were you surprised that this is kind of how it ended up?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: No. This, look, institutions look to protect themselves and these things, if given time, are usually wind up finding a way to the least damaging resolution. Look, the part that made this weird, here is my plus/minus sign. The governor saying it was him --

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: -- was pretty damning. And I really think it should have ended there. The idea that can you prove it was him I think was taking care of when he said it wasn't him and then didn't have a great conversation about why he was wrong about his initial assessment.

Here is the negative part. You got to take these things case by case. And there is a rule with the media and it's an ugly truth. If you hold on to your guns, and you wait, there is a good chance that if the media can't make it happen soon, they will go away.

COOPER: Yes. That's definitely true. And we saw that also with the attorney general in the state and also the lieutenant governor.

CUOMO: Yes. I mean, it was actually got a little contagious for a while. I go, who is going to be left here, you know. They're having a look at like the different chains of ascendants there and figure out whether or not they're going to have a special election and it ended.

And the reason I was OK with it moving on at the time was there is sometimes too much of a frenzy in the media for finality, to make things happen. And that's not always fair in the moment. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. I always believe it is better for the voters to decide who should be in what offices, not the media and their opponents pushing them out.

COOPER: What do you got tonight?

CUOMO: So, like you, I'm going the route of in the room where it happened. I have Senator Durbin on. What was this about, this infrastructure thing? Was it some petty penny theater that was going on and really a setup for the President with his room of Democrats or is this about the new normal and is this a real proposition for them?

Then, I'm going to take on that second notion. And I believe there is no more need to mull over the next step for the Democrats. I think it's clear and I think it's not about what to do, it's about who they need before them right away.

COOPER: Interesting. Chris, I'll see you in about seven minutes from now. Coming up, say what you will about President Trump, he knows how to make use of a prop, political or otherwise. The intersection of the White House in Kinkos (ph), plus some steak and vodka -- Trump vodka for good measure on "The Ridiculist."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:56:49] COOPER: Time for "The Ridiculist." In time, President Trump has officially replaced Gallagher as the master of prop comedy. As you know right after he told Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer not to let the White House doors hit them on the way out, the President stormed out into the Rose Garden like Clint Eastwood and Gran Torino. Too obscure, maybe, maybe too obscure to reference.

Anyway, when he got to the podium very conveniently pre-positioned for him just under the seal of the president, a seal not exactly accustomed to sharing space with a novelty placards was this piece of polished propaganda, kind of like a for sale sign you might see on a house or a bankrupt casino.

Anyway, we already explains you the substance which feels like a strong word, maybe taffy is more accurate, behind the stunt. What we really wanted to just take a moment and do is really just applaud the west-wing's Kinko operation. They made hundreds of thousands of pages and copies for Robert Mueller so they have experience in printing fast. They sure got that sign made fast.

If there's one thing this President likes, it's a visual aid and they're not just limited to Rose Garden tantrums at 1600 range of Hollis Avenue (ph). Who can forget the night of the 2016 Florida primary when candidate Trump use his victory speech to try to unplug some of his private companies finest meats and booze.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have Trump Steaks. He said the steak company and we have Trump Steaks. And by the way, if you want to take one, we'll charge you about, what, $50 a steak. No. We're very proud of it. We make the finest wine, as good of wine as you can get anywhere in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Of course, those steaks were not only not Trump Steaks they were purchased and send you by butcher, but after that speech, it quickly became clear that Trump Steaks, despite his past relationship with beef specialist, the sharper image, didn't seem to exist anymore.

And the idea that Trump makes the finest wine as anywhere you can find in the world. I mean, look, I know Solminer. I'm not even sure how to pronounce it, but that just doesn't smell right. It's like Trump Vodka. Remember that thing? Mr. Trump wasn't quite sure exactly where it was made when he was pitching it on Larry King. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We launched a vodka called Trump Vodka and we're considering it and I think it will be the finest vodka anywhere in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is it made?

TRUMP: It's made actually in various parts of Europe. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Various parts of Europe. Is a vodka so complex that it has to be made in various unnamed parts of Europe and then all brought together. Maybe it's made in Paris, maybe in Germany. Maybe it's bottled in a Hungarian aqueduct. It doesn't really matter, it's that good. It's that good. You won't even going to ask yourself where was it made, because it's just that darn good.

Now, to be fair to the President, he's not the only one who enjoys a prop at taxpayer expense. Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah made these big props and did a whole bit about them recently on the Senate floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): This is, of course, a picture of former President Ronald Reagan naturally firing a machine gun while riding on the back of a dinosaur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I don't even remember what his point was. I'm not sure he does. I don't think it matters. As for President Trump, perhaps today was a prophecy come true, a perfect marriage years in the making of hysterics and sloganeering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMO: When it comes to great steaks, I've just raised the steaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, you have, Mr. President. And only time will tell whether this latest move has grade A meat on the bone or if it's just a bunch of ground chuck turning room temperature in the Rose Garden and on "The Ridiculist."

The news continues. I'll turn it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you very much, Anderson. Another signature "Ridiculist."