Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Trump Praises North Korea's Dictator As A "Very Smart Man," Calls Biden A "Low I.Q. Individual;" Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) Is Interviewed About Trump Joining Kim Jong-un In Bashing Biden; Sarah Sanders Defends A.G. Barr's Probe Into Russia Investigation; Eleventh Death Reported On Mount Everest Amid "Traffic Jam" Of Hikers. Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired May 27, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening and good Memorial Day.

Today means so much to anyone who has lost someone in wartime service to the country. It's a day to remember their sacrifice but also to honor the commitment that we all share from the commander-in-chief on down, to the men and women who are serving right now all around the world.

Vice President Pence marked the day by visiting Arlington National Cemetery where he spoke about efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea. More than 33,000 American service men and women died in the Korean conflict. Some are buried here, and as you know, it's a war that never formally ended.

Right now, approximately 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, with more than twice that number posted to Japan in part to deter Kim Jong-un because Japan and South Korea are allies. They're our friends.

North Korea is a dangerous adversary, which you'd think would be too obvious to even mention, yet today just as he did over the weekend, President Trump sided with the adversary over the allies. And he did it on the home soil of one of those allies, Japan.

It began on Saturday. The president reacting on Twitter to North Korean testing of short range missiles earlier this month, and I'm quoting now from the president. North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me and also smiled when he called swamp man Joe Biden a low I.Q. individual and worse. Perhaps that's sending me a signal.

Now, keeping them honest, just on the military question. These weren't exactly pop guns as the president seems to suggest. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the testing may be intended to improve North Korea's ballistic missile fleet, which is a bad thing for the south, for Japan, and of course for the United States, for the world.

One more bad thing is national security adviser John Bolton told reporters over the weekend the testing violates a U.N. Security Council resolution, so there's that. Choosing to believe a nuclear armed adversary over his own handpicked national security adviser, he's doing while visiting an ally, one which falls within missile range of North Korea, one hosting tens of thousands of U.S. troops and many more American civilians, and compounding it all, the president also tried to enlist this dictator into what exactly? Denouncing a political rival?

Whatever he did in that tweet, he did it again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Does it give you pause at all to be appearing to side with a brutal dictator instead of with a fellow American, the former Vice President Joe Biden?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low I.Q. individual. He probably is based on his record. I think I agree with him on that. But at the same time, my people think it could have been a violation, as you know.

I view it differently. I view it as a man, perhaps he wants to get attention, and perhaps not. Who knows? It doesn't matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Who knows? It doesn't matter.

You know what? The president of the United States should know, and that does matter. And if the president doesn't know, he should take his fingers off the Twitter machine and maybe pick up a briefing book and do something that we all know he rarely does, which is read.

The president still acts like he's a powerless real estate developer in New York lying about building height and who he's dating and calling up gossip columnists using pretend names to crow about his sexual prowess. The president is acting like a bystander who everything is going on. Who knows what's going on? Believe me, it doesn't matter, believe me.

On the one hand, you might say this is just one of the president's vocal ticks, it doesn't matter, like, meh, we'll see what happens. But keeping 'em honest, what if this is really what he believes? What if in what he's saying and how he's jumbling it up all with domestic politics, the president is essentially indifferent to the rest, that he really believes it doesn't matter?

For instance, whether or not North Korea is violating international law and working to make its nuclear missiles more lethal. Eh, doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that by letting the north slide on short range missiles, he's sending a message to South Korea and Japan that the United States is only looking out for itself and not them, and signaling to North Korea it can do whatever they want because the president believes a brutal dictator wouldn't break a promise to Donald J. Trump. I mean, sure, he might have his family member or top general executed

with an anti-aircraft gun, but he certainly wouldn't lie to Trump, not after Trump made in that promo video, the straight up Team America, or maybe he's signaling that it just doesn't matter what you say at the State of the Union to the grieving parents of an American, Otto Warmbier, who was killed at the hands of Kim Jong-un.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto's memory with total American resolve. We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and to our allies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:05:12] COOPER: Total American resolve. Remember the resolve he was going to take on the mantle of the shutdown. He was going to own that. That didn't last very long.

Resolve is not a word he uses or actually lives by very much. The State of the Union, that was back in January of last year, it sure sounds like North Korea's actions mattered back then just like they matter to every president going back to Harry Truman. They were after all what millions fought against and 33,000 Americans died for.

The president standing in the House chamber last year, it sure sounded like he understood that. Now he seems to believe that he and Kim are both just a pair of real estate tycoons or something, and the North is just another business opportunity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's located between Russia and China on one side and South Korea on the other, and it's all waterfront property. It's a great location as we used to say in the real estate business, and I think he sees that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes. He thinks Kim Jong-un views the future as just great, you know, lots to sell of waterfront property.

So maybe it's the business the president sees like that, or perhaps it's just love.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was really being tough, and so was he. And we were going back and forth, and then we fell in love, OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters. We fell in love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm not even going to address that. Look, I'm glad he has love in his life, but it's the very next line that I think is actually more revealing about what really motivates the president, what Kim Jong-un seems to have managed to tap into.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: How, they'll say, Donald Trump said they fell in love. How horrible. How horrible is that?

So unpresidential. And I always tell you, it's so easy to be presidential. But instead of having 10,000 people outside trying to get into this packed arena, we'd have about 200 people standing right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That -- I mean that would be like death. Can you imagine that for him? That would be like death.

And there it is. In that moment, it is plain to see President Trump telling us all that whatever it may mean to the country he was elected to govern, he measures success by the number of people showering him with adulation. At times, 10,000 screaming fans or sometimes maybe just one fat little dictator with blood on his hands and missiles in his arsenal.

More now from CNN's Pamela Brown with the president in Tokyo.

Pamela, do you have any better sense of why President Trump thought it appropriate to use Kim Jong-un's own words as a way to go after former Vice President Biden and what the response has been?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was asked about this directly here in Tokyo, and his response was simply that he agreed with Kim Jong-un about his assessment regarding Joe Biden. But it also is a reflection, Anderson, of just how focused President Trump is on Joe Biden.

We know from sources that he views him as a formidable challenger, so while he's on foreign soil here in Japan, Biden is clearly on his mind. Even this morning he was tweeting about him, talking about a crime bill in the '90s that Biden supported and how that could hurt him among African-American voters. So the president went as far as siding with a murderous dictator, Kim Jong-un, to go after a former vice president. But the president seemed to dismiss the criticism here.

And what you're seeing is a pattern as well where President Trump seems to put stock in what Kim Jong-un tells him. As you'll recall when he was asked about Otto Warmbier and whether Kim Jong-un should be held responsible for that, president Trump said that un told him he didn't know anything about it and that he took him at his word. As you laid out as well, he's talked about this love affair between the two, that they've exchanged letters.

In regards to the recent short range missile testing, President Trump has downplayed that as well while he's here, again, on foreign soil, in Japan, that views North Korea and those short range missiles as a direct threat. President Trump saying he didn't view those tests as a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution, which is, of course, at odds with not only his host here, Prime Minister Abe, but his own national security adviser, John Bolton.

COOPER: Yes. Pam Brown -- Pam, thanks very much.

I want to get reaction now from Democratic Congressman, presidential candidate, veteran Seth Moulton.

Congressman, as a veteran, as a lawmaker, I'm wondering what goes through your mind when you see the president of the United States overseas not only giving a murderous dictator a huge benefit of the doubt, but also joining that dictator in bashing a former vice president, who is also of course running for president.

[20:10:02] REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I know we're not always going to have presidents we agree with, and we've had some terrible presidents in our history. We've had presidents who are immoral, who are backwards, who have terrible policies.

We've had presidents who are criminals like Richard Nixon. I don't think we've ever had a president who is so fundamentally unpatriotic. I mean, even Richard Nixon served as country and was proud to do so. This president is much more interested in siding with dictators if it's good for his ratings. And that's pretty pathetic for the commander in chief.

COOPER: Sarah Sanders yesterday dismissed any claims that President Trump was siding with Kim Jong-un over Vice President Biden. She said they just happened to agree. I mean that just -- just logically that does not make sense. The president went out of his way to use Kim Jong-un's comments as a means of criticizing Biden and talked about how he doesn't believe Kim Jong-un would break a promise to him.

MOULTON: I mean, you presented both sides of the stories. You showed a clip from the State of the Union, and you showed a clip from his press conference today. The difference is in the State of the Union, he was clearly reading from a teleprompter, from words that were given to him to criticize North Korea.

When it came to his personal feelings, he sided with this dictator. You know, when I was a marine in the First Marine Division, actually serving under General James Mattis, who would, of course, become Trump's secretary of defense, our division motto was "no better friend, no worse enemy than the United States Marine."

That should be the motto for the United States of America. No better friend, no worse enemy. That means that your allies trust you and your enemies trust your resolve. That means that we strengthen our allied partnerships in the Pacific to contain North Korea, to put pressure on them, to strengthen the relationship that we have with South Korea, with Japan.

And it means that we show ultimate resolve to North Korea that we are not going to put up with them firing off missiles. Trump is doing the exact opposite, and it's why he is so fundamentally unfit to be our commander-in-chief.

COOPER: It was interesting to me when he was asked about, you know, is it hypocritical or inappropriate for you to be, you know, bringing up Biden and siding with Kim Jong-un, a murderous dictator, over an American former vice president, it doesn't -- there wasn't even any recognition of the actual question itself. He just went on to say, Kim said this, and I agree with him.

To me, fundamentally, the president has no sense of actual shame. And so, any question you ask which is based on somebody who has perhaps an inkling of shame, of regret, that's not something this president either has or at least is willing to ever acknowledge.

MOULTON: No. No sense of honor, no sense of integrity. It reminds me of when I showed up as this, you know, college student going to marine training for the first time. Really didn't know what I was getting into.

One of the very first lessons that you learn is that you can drop out of a run and they'll probably let you try again the next day. You can fail a test and they'll let you retake the test. But if you lie about anything, you're gone that afternoon.

That's how important trust and integrity is when it comes to our national security. And I understand that there are going to be Americans who agree with Trump and Americans who disagree with him. But the fact that we fundamentally cannot trust this president, that everybody serving on the front lines, everybody out there today, tonight, risking their lives for the United States of America under the command of this commander-in-chief, you can't trust a single thing that he says. I mean, that's how dangerous it is to have Donald Trump as president.

COOPER: Well, it also seems like the people in his inner circle know that. I mean, the people who work around him. Obviously they won't say this, but they know that when they leave and if they leave under circumstances that are, you know, less than ideal, it's a good chance the president is going to attack them, go after them, try to destroy them like Rex Tillerson, who he now is calling an idiot and all sorts of names.

MOULTON: Not exactly your model public servant, but yes.

COOPER: Yes. It's -- you know, you talk about a kind of trust from a national security standpoint, but it's clear even the people in the inner circle, they cannot trust the president, that what he says to them or what he says to Sarah Sanders is true enough that Sarah Sanders can actually go out and say it, which is one of the reasons they don't have press conferences.

MOULTON: Right. So here's the problem is you have a fundamentally great Americans like Secretary Jim Mattis, who were in there every day trying to hold the line. You know, we're talking about going to war with Iran right now, and Jim Mattis was the one who when Iranian mortars were fired at our embassy last September said, no, we are not going to escalate. So, you have people like Jim Mattis who are doing the right thing.

Then you have people like John Bolton, who know the same thing about the president and are taking advantage of it. John Bolton's goal is to get us into a war with Iran. So, he's using the president's untrustworthiness and his fundamental weakness, isn't any credibility as commander-in-chief to push us into war with Iran in a way that's frighteningly reminiscent of how John Bolton pushed a draft dodger George W. Bush into a war with Iraq.

So, it's so dangerous. That's why I'm in this campaign talking about national security as an issue, talking about why we as Democrats have got to take Trump on as commander-in-chief. This is what makes him the most dangerous as the president of the United States right now.

COOPER: Congressman Moulton, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

MOULTON: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, more on the political and geopolitical ramifications of siding with a dictator over a former vice president and John Bolton and the allies.

Plus, take a look at this incredible picture. Deadly traffic jam. That's what you're looking at. A human traffic jam on the way up to Mount Everest to summit. So many climbers dying this year with the latest just this morning. We'll talk to one climber who thought he might not make it off the mountain alive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:23] COOPER: Talking tonight about President Trump downplaying North Korean missile testing and bonding with Kim Jong-un over Joe Biden if that's the right description for it, and doing it all while visiting an ally.

Joining us now is CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Max Boot, author of "Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right". Also, Tara Setmayer, host of the podcast "Honestly Speaking", she's a CNN political commentator. As is Trump 2016 campaign adviser, Steve Cortes.

Steve, the president, the words he used, I mean, siding with a North Korean dictator, calling him a smart man while agreeing with him while he insults the former vice president's I.Q. on Memorial Day weekend, is that acceptable to you?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Look, I think those are two different issues -- him complimenting Kim Jong-un versus him citing Kim Jong-un to criticize Joe Biden. On that latter issue, I think that's totally inappropriate. I think that's a bad idea.

When the president wants to attack Joe Biden, he should do so as an American political opponent of Joe Biden. He shouldn't do it by citing a foreign dictator. I think that's a bad idea. But to the other point of him in some ways praising Kim Jong-un, someone who he has both praised and completely vilified -- he called him little rocket man, of course, very famously before. I think there what we see is diplomacy in action and there's a cat and mouse game with Kim Jong-un of condemnation combined with at times also coaxing and cajoling to try to convince him that his future and North Korea's future will be better without nuclear arms in the international community.

COOPER: Tara, do you see it that way?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. You know, what I see is a president who cannot think or do or act in any way other than in his own self-interest. It's Memorial Day.

You know, we should be -- the president of the United States should be honoring the fallen, the men and women who sacrifice for this country to have our freedoms, that allow a president to speak freely and have free elections. That's what we should be celebrating. It should be a moment of solemn remembrance and honoring.

But instead, we have a president of the United States who once again is siding with a dictator over other people. He contradicted his own national security adviser. He somehow has this very strange desire to have this love affair -- his words -- with a dictator.

You know, his judgment is awful. How many times have we seen this? He has sided with the Saudis over Khashoggi. He's sided with Kim Jong-un over the Warmbier family and said, oh, no, I believe he had nothing to do with it.

Yet, the Warmbier family was used as political pawns for Trump to claim a victory when Otto Warmbier was brought back. He sides with Putin over our intelligence agencies. And we can go down the line.

COOPER: Yes.

SETMAYER: I'm old enough to remember when Republicans had a heart attack when Barack Obama shook the hand of Raul Castro. It was the handshake heard around the world, or when Obama bowed in front of the Saudi king. The Republicans said, oh my goodness, you're cozying up to dictators, it's very provocative and un-American. And yet they make excuses for this president.

COOPER: And, Max, you know, Steve is right. The president used tough words against Kim Jong-un, rocket man, little rocket man. That was before Kim Jong-un sent him a letter which seemed to have impressed the president dramatically, so much so that that is seemingly when this love affair, again to use the president's term, kind of began.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. I mean Trump's behavior with North Korea, Anderson, reminds me of Winston Churchill's quip about the Germans how they're always at your throat or at your feet. And Donald Trump was at Kim Jong-un's own throat in 2017 and then he turned on a dime, and all of a sudden, has been at Kim Jong-un's feet over since. And you can claim that this is just a negotiating posture. It's true

you can't really credit anything that Donald Trump says as being a sincere sentiment, but the reality is, it's been almost a year since the summit in Singapore, and he has nothing to show for the way that he acts as a sycophant towards Kim Jong-un. It's simply not working, but Donald Trump will not stop doing it.

In fact, he is undercutting people in his own administration like John Bolton, who are trying to hold Kim Jong-un to account for his bad behavior, including the testing of missiles. Trump is saying it doesn't bother me and in fact, you know, siding with this odious dictator against the former vice president of the United States. If he thinks this is the way to get Kim Jong-un to make concessions, the last year should have disabused him of that notion.

COOPER: Yes, Steve, I mean -- go ahead.

CORTES: To that point, it does appear certainly in this case that he is rejecting the counsel of his national security adviser and perhaps as well in Venezuela and in Iran. By the way, I'm extremely glad that he is pursuing his own course.

We elected Donald Trump to be the commander-in-chief, not John Bolton.

[20:25:02] And John Bolton frankly believes in a lot of the neocon interventionist ideology that has been so disastrous for this country under recent administrations, both Bushes and Obama combined.

And on this Memorial Day, I think it's important for us to remember how many complete heroes we have lost and how many grieving families there are in this country. And a lot of them unfortunately lost in disastrous overseas interventions which did not advance America's interests.

Donald Trump was elected with a very different promise to America, a policy of restraint and realism in the world rather than intervention and idealism, and he has fulfilled that promise so far, and he's trying to in North Korea. He wants to denuclearize them without an armed conflict that he's trying very hard to do so.

(CROSSTALK)

BOOT: Can I just reply quickly? Donald Trump is veering between instigating conflicts and engaging in appeasement. Right now, he's on the verge of instigating a conflict with Iran, acting in a very dangerous manner just as he was acting in a dangerous manner with North Korea in 2017.

And I agree with you about John Bolton. I'm no fan of John Bolton. But Donald Trump is the one who selected him as national security adviser of the United States, and the way that Trump acts is simply incoherent. It doesn't make any sense, and it sends a bad message about U.S. foreign policy because our allies and adversaries, they don't know what he is up to.

COOPER: Tara, just the idea that he's over there on this, you know, seems to be an important trip, dealing with important issues. There's just been this missile -- you know, short-range ballistic missile launch testing by North Korea, and he's talking about Joe Biden.

SETMAYER: Right.

COOPER: And domestic politics. I mean if you're going to -- you know, if he's concerned about domestic politics, he should probably stay at home and focus on domestic politics. It just seems wildly inappropriate and, you know, Steve was up front and said he thought, you know, those comments were not warranted.

But it just surprised me that it's so on his mind, he cannot stop focusing on the things that directly relate to him as opposed to the country.

SETMAYER: Well, he's a malignant narcissist, Anderson. This has been on display from day one, so it doesn't surprise me. It alarms me that he keeps doing this, and the consequences of these actions are grave on the international stage.

But I remember when politics used to end at the water's edge when it came to foreign policy. That was the standard that we used to have here. That's been out the window.

At least Adam Kinzinger came out, Congressman Kinzinger came out and said this was inappropriate and he shouldn't have done it. God bless him, but where are the hundreds of other Republicans who have had a conniption fit if Obama had done this.

COOPER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: I just said it was inappropriate. You've got one right here saying so. It was inappropriate.

SETMAYER: I was glad to hear from you, Steve, to be honest. Thank God. There was another Trump surrogate on another program that laughed it off as if it were a joke. There's nothing funny about this. None of it all, the president of the United States seems to act like it.

COOPER: All right. We got to break in. I want to thank you all for being here. Thank you so much.

Still to come, investigating the Russia investigators. We'll discuss how White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders appeared to spill the beans about President Trump's order to his attorney general.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:32:10] COOPER: Sarah Sanders reminded us this weekend why events with the press maybe aren't her thing. It may be why she holds so few of them, in fact. She appeared on one of the Sunday talk shows. Her charge was to defend the President who rolled out a conclusion of treason against James Comey and others in a tweet 10 days ago. Then she appeared to send his attorney general on a mission to find evidence of such, or he sent his attorney general to find evidence of such.

President Trump effectively made William Barr declassifier in chief on Thursday. Whoever his new powers to sift through and declassify any intelligence regarding the Russia investigation has certainly raised suspicions and concerns that he might instead function as cherry picker in chief, much like the critics say he did with the Mueller report.

Well, now, Sarah Sanders, who is the White House press secretary, which in most administrations would make her the one person in the White House good with words, words she would need to knock down the suspicion, instead she appeared to confirm it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I'm not going to get ahead of what the final conclusion is, but we already know that there was a high level of corruption that was taking place. We've seen that in the I.G. investigation that's already happened.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Which is not out yet.

SANDERS: But there's a lot more there that we still need to know and we're going to let the attorney general do his job.

TODD: Well, it sounds like you're not -- that's my point. It doesn't sound like you want him to do his job. It sounds like you've -- the President has already determined the outcome.

SANDERS: Chuck, that's the reason that he's granted the attorney general the authority to declassify that information, to look at all the documents necessary, is so that we can get to the very bottom of what happened. Once again, we already know about some wrongdoing. The President is not wrong in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK. Every time she says we want to get to the bottom of what happened, she then says we already know essentially what happened.

I want to bring in Kirsten Powers, "USA Today" columnist and CNN Political Analyst, and Carrie Cordero, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and CNN Legal Analyst.

Kirsten, it would be funny, but it's actually not, the fact that, A, this is the White House press secretary, and one moment she's saying, you know, this is certainly just to find out what happened, and then says we know what happened.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, she said quite clearly that there was a sort of unprecedented level of corruption going on there, that there were people that wanted to take down the President. There just isn't really any evidence to support that. And the idea that the FBI is supposed to look at the kind of behavior that the Trump campaign was engaging in while they know what Russia is up to and what they're trying to do, and now they're having all of these contacts, you're having a camp -- member of the campaign who had knowledge of, you know, the fact that the Russians had these e-mails even before it was public and that they're supposed to look at that and just walk away, right? I mean, that's sort of what they would have us believe and that somehow to investigate it would be to try to take down this person who is running for president.

[20:35:08] I mean, he wasn't even the president. They talk about it, you know, treason. First of all, treason is against the country. It's not against Donald Trump. So that's a separate issue. But he also was a candidate running for president. So, it was completely appropriate for them to investigate it.

COOPER: Carrie, I mean the President has defended the attorney general's investigation, saying that this isn't about payback, that he doesn't care about payback. If -- I mean, again, that would be laughable if it weren't so serious.

I mean, this is the same person who stood on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton and threatened on live television to jail her, same person that when the full scope of the Mueller report was known, vowed to "turn the tables" on those who investigated him. Those are the definitions of payback.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, he's been really clear that his whole goal is to investigate the investigators, and so now he's tasked the attorney general with doing that.

Look, we all know that Sarah Sanders lies. The Mueller report actually documents instances where she told the public one thing and then she had to admit to investigators that it was not based on any fact.

But what I'm more concerned about is the authority that the President has granted to the attorney general in his memo last week. I've never seen anything like it working in the national security division at justice, working for the director of national intelligence.

He allowed -- he gave the attorney general the authority, he directed him to be able to bypass the DNI, bypass the intelligence community agency heads and declassify any information that he determined was in the scope of his investigation that the President has directed him to conduct.

So, it's really an extraordinary authority that he's given the A.G. that is beyond anything normally the way we would see the intelligence community handle classified information.

COOPER: Well, on that point, the DNI head, Dan Coats, made a statement which was very unusual, essentially saying, you know, that he will be working with, you know, the intelligence community, that Barr will work with the intelligence community to get stuff. It seemed as if, you know, Dan Coats was kind of laying down what the framework of this would be. But from what you're saying, Barr has the upper hand in this. He can declassify anything.

CORDERO: Absolutely. The DNI wasn't even mentioned in the memo. And for the past 15 years since the DNI was created, the law actually provides that the DNI is the head classification authority under the President.

COOPER: Kirsten, the fact that Sanders used the inspector general report, inspector general investigation and sort of conclude -- pretended like there was a conclusion to it already, which obviously there isn't.

POWERS: Yes. Look, it's just -- it's incredible to watch this in the sense that if they had just shown a fraction of this kind of passion for investigation when it came to the Russians, you know, just trying to disrupt our election, that would be wonderful.

COOPER: Yes, which they haven't. Kirsten Powers, thank you, Carrie Cordero as well.

POWERS: Yes.

COOPER: Another death of a climber on Mount Everest, which brings the total in this year alone in climbing season to 11. Climbing Everest, what's really interesting about it, it's not what you probably think it's like. There are dead bodies on the mountains of mountaineers who died from decades ago. They're still there.

There's traffic jams near the summit. You're looking at one right there with the line so long, some people die waiting. We'll talk to one climber who thought he was not going to survive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:42:04] COOPER: Well, there's been another death on Christopher John Kulish Everest, bringing the total to 11 thus far this climbing season. The latest fatality is American, Christopher John Kulish, who died after reaching the top of Everest. That's according to the director of Nepal's Tourism Department.

There have been a lot of different explanations as to why so many people have perished this season. Late today, I spoke with Vivian Rigney, who has not only summitted (ph) Mount Everest, but the highest peaks on all seven continents.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Vivian, why do you think it is that so many people are dying this year on the mountain?

VIVIAN RIGNEY, SUMMITED MOUNT EVEREST: I think it's a couple of things. I think the fact that the weather, the weather is limiting. There's only a 10-day window where you can climb Everest on average.

COOPER: In any year?

RIGNEY: On average, about 10 days or so that you can climb Everest. This year, I think that was reduced dramatically. So that's going to be a factor where people are on the mountain at the same time.

COOPER: And it's a bottleneck. I mean, there are too many people trying to get in, in that small window of time.

RIGNEY: Too many people getting in, and there's also no -- I believe there's no controls on the mountaineers. The permits are issued. There are a certain number of people on the mountain. If the weather window closes, people are on the mountain, they want to summit.

COOPER: They've spent so much time, money, effort, to get there.

RIGNEY: Correct. And there's no, you know, organized system of controlling that. So once you get your permit and you're at base camp, everyone is planning to summit. And all things, you know, considered. If you have 10 days, then that's OK because you're going to split that number of people, 300, 400 people over the 10 days. When there's three or four days, then that amount of people gets bottlenecked and then you have problems.

The other thing to go with this is that you have people who have not done significant climbing before, so they've paid, you know, significant permits, fees. They've paid the expeditions but they don't have the experience. So they're having trouble on the mountain, and then that bottles everybody up because it's like traffic.

COOPER: Which is sort of defies -- I mean, I think most people's vision of -- people who climb Everest is they've got to be highly experienced, technical mountain climbers. You're saying it's possible for somebody with relatively little experience, with enough money to have guides, Sherpas who essentially lead them up the mountain.

RIGNEY: Correct. So that's -- and that's something they think they can do, but there's also people that are affected by that. So you have the Sherpa who are trying to help those people up the mountain. But then you have the other expeditions of experienced climbers who are also there, and everybody is on that single rope going up Hillary step.

COOPER: So explain what Hillary step is. The video we've seen is this long line of people waiting by Hillary step.

RIGNEY: Right. So basically you're -- it takes about six weeks to climb Everest. So you're doing three rotations, one and two rotations going up to the various different camps. And then you do your third rotation, final, that's essentially your summit bid. When you go from camp one, camp two, three, four, everyone is at high camp --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I mean, this picture -- the picture we're showing of this long line just waiting, I mean that looks insane. RIGNEY: Right. That's insane. I mean, that is -- when you think of the summit day, that is a -- for me it was a 22-hour summit day. That's after the six weeks of preparing for the summit.

COOPER: And 22 -- how much of that -- were you stuck in a line like that as well?

[20:45:02] RIGNEY: I climbed in 2010. We had similar restrictions on weather, so the weather was -- the weather window was limited. So we had lines when we were doing it, nothing quite as extreme as that.

But I remember climbing, and the sun -- I remember the dawn broke on the mountain, and looking up ahead of me, and I could see a line of climbers, not an endless line like what you see there, but a long line of climbers. And I remember just -- that immediate feeling of time, time, you're cold, the weather can change.

You're not sure how people are ahead of you. Are they sick? Are they injured? Are they -- and nobody is communicating down the line because people are, again, at that point you're not functioning.

COOPER: So all these people, it's not as if there's some organization and communication system between them. They're all just waiting there on this line. They're exhausted. Some are sick. Some have altitude sickness. They have pounding headaches. They're lethargic. They -- some of them are running out of oxygen. There's no -- I mean, they have no way to know how long they're going to be stuck there.

RIGNEY: Correct. Now, you know, depending on the expedition leaders to kind of help coordinate that to see how they are, but essentially you're on one line. So if somebody is feeling unwell on the line, they have to come back. But there might be a whole line of people behind them, and then they have to clip and unclip, which is hard to do when you're on a knife edge or you're on Hillary step. So it gets very complicated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's both fascinating and terrifying. Just ahead, we're going to have more on what happens to people after they die on the mountain. More of my interview with Vivian Rigney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:43] COOPER: Back now in my conversation with Vivian Rigney who successfully scaled Mount Everest and there's lots to say about the growing crowds approaching there every climbing season. To recap, there now been 11 deaths on Everest the hiking season. The latest, an American who died while trying to get off the mount.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Some people who die on the mountain, they just stay on the mountain, is that right?

RIGNEY: Right. COOPER: I mean, I have friends who go up and you pass by people -- climbers who died years ago.

RIGNEY: Right. So before I literally set off, wherever is that, I signed a release and the release was at a certain height, the -- your body will not be recovered.

COOPER: Just because of safety of --

RIGNEY: So dangerous.

COOPER: -- it's too dangerous.

RIGNEY: Yes, for people to go up and to take your body and try and take it down. There's a risk. You're putting their lives at risk in a sense. So their bodies were there. I mean, on the Nepalese roofs, they move the bodies off the trails. You don't see -- you don't step over people unless it's happening in, you know, on that particular day, but you know where they are. You're told over here is an area where people rest and that's --

COOPER: That's incredible.

RIGNEY: It's incredible. I think -- just at the base camp -- I'll tell you story about base camp. We were at base camp and there was a ruckus in the valley one day and we went outside and we heard people shouting and screaming and it was a discovery. They discovered bodies of people that had fallen into a crevice in the 1960s. So they were coming out through the crevice and the Sherpa people are wonderful people and they went and they recovered the bodies. They held a ceremony for those bodies.

COOPER: To think that they had been there for 40 something years.

RIGNEY: Sure, but that's base camp. So the idea is at base camp, we hadn't even sort of climbing yet, so we're here at base camp and we're experiencing what were about to go through and we haven't even put one step up the mountain, so the mountain is living.

COOPER: Was it worth it?

RIGNEY: It's -- I mean, it's an exceptional experience. It's an incredible part of the world. I learned more about myself in those six weeks on the mountain than I had done in my entire life. But I've been climbing for 14 years to Everest. So for me it was a culmination of all the experience.

I was with a very good expedition by (INAUDIBLE) mountain trip and they were very focus on safety. They vetted all of us. We all had to have climbed significantly in the past and they were testing us the whole time in our pre-training.

COOPER: So is there an answer for -- I mean, is it a question of better controls of who is on the mountain, of timing? I mean, is there any answer to try to prevent this? RIGNEY: I think there is -- there are examples in the world of how it could be done. Potentially if you at Denali, that's the highest mountain in North America in Alaska. The National Park Service gave out concessions to a limited number of companies. I think its five or six companies.

And these companies are ensured that they will ensure the safety of their climbers. They coordinate between each other in terms of summit days. So, and then, you know, it's an annual concession. So you have to make sure every year it does (INAUDIBLE) in the mountain. There was an investigation by the Park Service.

So, and maybe the experiences shown here don't necessarily exist in the poll, but maybe that's something that they can get support or guidance or help about things that are happening in the world that could reduce the risks, which we see this week. But at the same time people want to climb Everest. That's not going to go away.

COOPER: Vivian, it's fascinating. Thank you so much for being with us.

RIGNEY: You're welcome. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, just ahead, the very different Colin Quinn in his CNN Original Series Special Presentation, "Red State Blue State" airs in just a few minutes. We're going to talk to Colin about this divided country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:57:45] COOPER: Coming up next, a CNN Original Series Special Presentation, "Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State." This one is an adaptation of his latest off Broadway show. We're going to talk to Colin just a moment, but first here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN QUINN, COMEDIAN: And I understand its sad breaking up the United States, but we're already broken up. This would just be acknowledging it. We're already tribal. We've broken into tribes already. It's over.

Liberal, conservative, white, black, Latino, Asian, Wall Street, main street, the working poor, the forgotten middle class, feminists, soccer moms, Bernie bros, Dodd (ph) bods, man tips (ph), mom jeans, muffin tops, unibrows, paleo, cardio, keto (ph), intersexual (ph) and transvegans (ph). We're more tribal than 18th century Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There are people who talk seriously about concern about a civil war.

QUINN: Yes. No, I do believe we're on the brink of something. COOPER: Really?

QUINN: Yes, like a -- yes.

COOPER: You think it could actually end up it with violence?

QUINN: Sure, don't you?

COOPER: Yes, at times. I mean, I've spent times in civil wars and it's not pretty, you know.

QUINN: Right, so you know it.

COOPER: It's not --

QUINN: No.

COOPER: Yes. I had Steve Bannon on a couple of months ago, one of the things he said was that -- first of all, he thinks this is great for democracy, all of this division and he thinks this next year, 2019 is going to be the most polarized year politically since before the American civil war.

QUINN: I believe it. But why he thinks it's great for democracy?

COOPER: Because he thinks people are engaged and --

QUIN: So that's why -- what I didn't say on the show is that I go, yes, descent, debate, disagreement, basing our country on that is great. It's like I'm going to open a bar for Red Sox and Yankee fans where they can -- it's going to be back in a blood. They'll descent and debate.

COOPER: See, I'm not a sports fan, but I even get that right.

QUINN: Right, right.

(CROSSTALK)

QUINN: Yeah.

COOPER: I get that.

QUINN: It's my barroom philosophy.

COOPER: Oh, I see.

QUINN: (INAUDIBLE) is about philosophy.

COOPER: There's a reason they call you barroom philosophy.

QUINN: Sad, but true.

COOPER: What do you want people would like to get from this? Take away from this? QUINN: That it's -- you know, I mean, obviously I want them to laugh the whole time, but also to realize like, oh, yes, we really are addicted. Like I feel like the most vitriolic, the people with the most time on their hands and fastest typers now set the tone on both sides of the --

COOPER: Yes.

QUINN: -- aisle and it's bad, you know.

COOPER: Yes. Well, I look forward to seeing this Colin Quinn.

QUINN: Thanks.

COOPER: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

QUINN: Thank you.