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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Trump on Response to Iran: "You'll Find Out"; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) is Interviewed About GOP Congressional Leaders Call for "Measured Response" Against Iran After U.S. Drone Shot Down; Source: Joe Biden Calls Senator Booker After CNN Interview, Booker Won't Apologize For Criticism For Former V.P.; Biden, Booker Speak On Phone After Backlash Over Biden Citing Segregationist; Hope Hicks Tells Judiciary Committee She "Lived" Mueller Report. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 20, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good morning. It's 4:00 p.m. in Iran's capital, the middle of a sleepless night for some as they and we await for the next step in the crisis that escalated today, for the shoot down of an American surveillance drone.

On the left is Pentagon video of it shortly after it was hit. On the right, what Iranian state TV is claiming to be the antiaircraft missile hitting its target.

And we should point out we have not independently confirmed that, nor is there any independent assessment of where the drone actually was, whether it was an Iranian air space as Tehran is claiming, or not, as the Pentagon says.

There is new reporting on that which we're going to bring you tonight. Either way, because this is, in fact, such a tense moment, we are taking extra care throughout the entire broadcast to clearly label any and all unverified claims as such no matter who is making them. We're making sure to bring you strong advocates on both sides of the debate over what to do next.

The president today sent mixed signals, telling reporters he thought the shoot down was accidental, but also suggesting some kind of a response is in the works.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth. I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.

REPORTER: Mr. President, how will you respond?

TRUMP: You'll find out.

REPORTER: Are you willing to go to war with Iran over this?

TRUMP: You'll find out, you'll find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A short time later, he briefed top lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying the president is weighing, quote, a measured response. His words.

His Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer, saying he worried about the president bumbling, that was his word, into war with Iran.

We talked about that tonight, about the risk ahead and the possibility of escalation or de-escalation.

We begin, though, with CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

So, Barbara, exactly what do we know happened here? Because the accounts coming obviously from the U.S. and Iran are very different.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are different, Anderson, and perhaps that is not unexpected. The U.S. began the day saying that one of its drones, the biggest drone it's got actually, was shot down over international air space near the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface to air missile some 20 miles or so off the coast of Iran, in that international air space.

The Iranians a short time later saying that, no, the drone had strayed into Iranian air space and they shot it down. All of this resulted in the dueling videos you showed and dueling maps and graphics from both sides as to where exactly this occurred.

It is going to be up to people to make up their own minds at this point who's got the better track record on truth, who they choose to believe.

For the president, the challenge at this hour is what to do about it, whether to respond, whether there is something to be done about it. We know the president is very reluctant, as he looks at all of this intelligence, still to commit to a significant action in Iran. He has been for several days downplaying the tensions, if you will -- calling them minor, the attacks minor on the tankers, and trying not to escalate it.

He has advisers who probably would like to see it escalated -- Anderson.

COOPER: Has the drone been recovered yet? Do we know? Can it be recovered?

STARR: Well, the Iranians are making some claims about that.

But we checked a short time ago with the U.S. military. The weather out there has been bad today. We are told that the seas are very choppy. The winds are pushing towards the Iranian coast, and it is making it difficult for the U.S. to mount any efforts to try and get any of the debris back.

The Iranians claim they have some, but they haven't shown it to the world yet. COOPER: If the U.S. does decide to respond militarily, is there any

idea what that might look like?

STARR: Well, we already are seeing, of course, the Pentagon put thousands of troops into the region for the current strategy of defense and deterrence against Iran. The Pentagon adamant it is not looking for war with Iran, but it wants to deter further aggression. So, the question it had now is if you want to respond with some kind of kinetic activity to this drone attack, if you want to bomb something, is there a limited strike option against Iran, against missile sites, against radar, some kind of limited strike where you do not risk an Iranian reaction that leads to a wider war with Tehran.

And that is the calculation right now. We do not know exactly where the White House will come down on that -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, difficult calculation to make.

Barbara Starr, thank you.

More now on the messages coming out of the White House and briefing top lawmakers received there late today. Our Pamela Brown joins us with that side of the story.

So, President Trump's message on Iran seemed to shift over the course of the day. Can you explain that or do we know what was behind the thinking?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

[20:05:00] We're seeing the president downplay this once again, calling it a big mistake, literally saying whoever did this was loose and stupid.

All of this happening around the same time, Anderson, that congressional leaders were called to the White House for this emergency briefing in the Situation Room. GOP congressional leaders left, calling for a measured approach, Democrats emerged with a stark warning, that President Trump must get congressional approval before using military force with Iran. Senator Schumer, as you said, said he's concerned the administration, in his words, will bumble into war.

But the president is sending mixed signals. He is remaining noncommittal on how this administration will act. In fact, Anderson, just moments after appearing to put Iran on notice, that is when the president made the statement that he thought it was all a big mistake.

However, Iran contradicted the president saying it was intentional because it believes the U.S. drone violated its airspace. The Pentagon, as Barbara said, maintains it was over international waters and released video that it claims shows a smoke trail in international air space.

But deliberations continue tonight, Anderson, over what the next steps should be on top of already sending 2,500 troops to the Middle East in response to the recent acts by Iran prior to this latest act, officials said the president resisted military engagement.

Tonight, he faces pressure from allies, like Senator Lindsey Graham who said he risks looking like he's all talk if he doesn't take action. The president said we'll have to see if the U.S. decides to use military force.

I'm told by an administration official he is constantly being briefed on Iran by his national security adviser John Bolton who is known to have more hawkish views on Iran. The president said today he is not being pushed into war by his advisors, Anderson.

COOPER: And do we know exactly the kind of advice -- well, you talked about John Bolton. What is the next step for this White House? Is there a sense of when a decision might be made?

BROWN: It certainly feels like something could happen soon, Anderson. I don't know that, but it certainly seems in terms of the posturing with what the president has said that, look, we will have to wait and see if there will be a military strike.

All of this pressure growing on him from his allies, like I said, Lindsey Graham, that he will look weak if he doesn't do something in response to this latest act by Iran. He has been downplaying it consistently. He is someone who has said repeatedly he doesn't like intervention. He campaigned on that.

But there are several provocative acts by Iran with the latest one being the downing of the U.S. drone that has the president in a tricky situation here. He tried to, again, give himself some wiggle room by saying I thought it was an accident. Iran made it clear it was intentional, though.

And so, we will have to see if the administration does choose to take any military action or look at other ways to respond, Anderson.

COOPER: Pamela Brown, appreciate it. Thank you.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is the only Western correspondent in Tehran where it's early in the morning right now. He joins us.

So, President Trump is saying it couldn't have been a general or somebody who made a mistake and decided to shoot down this drone. Is that -- what exactly are the Iranians saying?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Iranians are pretty much saying the exact opposite of that. I've been looking for any sort of statements, any Iranian commander, anybody from the military or politics who might have said this could have been an accident or some rogue commander, or even the Iranians possibly trying to walk this back, Anderson. So far, there's been none of that.

The Iranians are clearly saying this was a deliberate shoot down of the U.S. drone because they believe the U.S. drone infringed upon their air space, violated their air space. The interesting thing about this is I've been here I think 16 or 17 times, Anderson. And I have never seen the Iranians on all levels, the moderates, the hard liners, the military, the politics, come out with so many statements so quickly and pretty much all of them seem to be in sync.

Iran's foreign minister is even getting involved in this. He pretty much tweeted a play by play of how he saw this drone flight unfold. He said it took off in the early morning hours from the UAE, then circled around. It had its transponder off.

And it said it violated Iranian air space and even gave coordinates for where he said the drone was shot down. Now, we looked up those coordinates. That would put it about 9 miles off the Iranian coast.

Again, the U.S., of course, has a very different view of where that drone was shot down.

The Iranians for their part, however -- this is coming from the military, the Revolutionary Guard which is the unit that shot that drone down -- they're saying this is definitely a clear message to the United States that if you infringe upon Iran's airspace, this is what's going to happen. The Iranians are saying this is a red line.

And, Anderson, the top commander of the Revolutionary Guard, he came out earlier today, also shortly after the drone was shot down and said Iran does not want any sort of war with the United States, but at the same time, they're also saying that Iran is prepared for a war with the United States.

And one of the things that senior Revolutionary Guard, former commanders and commanders have told me, they said if this does get out of hand in any way, shape or form, the U.S. would not only be dealing with Iran's military but, of course, also with the many proxy forces that it controls throughout the entire Middle East, Anderson.

[20:10:06] COOPER: Right. I mean, Iraq, there is obviously a huge number of proxy forces as there are elsewhere throughout the world.

There's been any -- has there been talk of taking retaliatory action against the U.S., you know, if, in fact, the U.S. does respond in a military way?

PLEITGEN: Well, yes -- and the Iranians, the way they're putting it, first of all, they said that if the U.S. does make a military move -- we've seen the U.S. say they want to deploy those thousand troops here. That's something the Iranians feel is a threat to them.

But they say they are monitoring what the U.S. is doing. They've been saying that the past couple of days. And they say if the U.S. strikes first, there would be what they call a crushing response. They call it their iron fist.

But the interesting thing that you hear from them again and again, Anderson, they always say it is going to be in a wide territory. So you can expect that to be in places like Iraq, possibly in Syria, possibly in Lebanon, all these places where the Iranians have their militias. The other thing that the Iranians keep talking about a lot is the fact

that they've really advanced their ballistic missile program as well, and that's another thing the Iranians say they would use as well. So, they're saying, again, they certainly don't want this to escalate is the view from Tehran. They don't think President Trump wants it to escalate. But they say if it does, it's going to be painful for the U.S. -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen, in Tehran, thank you very much.

Coming up next, a new up close look at one of the tankers allegedly targeted by Iran in the roundup to today, as well as a leading member of the House Intelligence and what we know on Iranian intentions. Two military analysts joining us as well.

And later, breaking new in the wake of what Joe Biden said about getting along with segregationist senators. Dr. Cornel West joins us as well with his thoughts which is always worth hearing. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:15:54] COOPER: As we wait for the administration's next move on Iran, a reminder, it will not be the first. The administration has already pulled out of the multinational nuclear agreement and place tough sanctions on Tehran. Iran is the likely suspect also in a pair of tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

The U.S. Navy giving CNN's Sam Kiley and up close look at one of the vessels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This hull just over my shoulder, the Americans say it was pierced with an Iranian built limpet mine. They can't say however with any total certainty that it was put there by the Iranians. Nonetheless, it blew through both the outer hull and the inner hull of this ship, penetrating the fuel tank area.

Some experts have said that that is deliberate. It was a sign that whoever planted this mine knew what they were doing, that they wanted to send a signal but not cause a disaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: If that, in fact, is the case, it certainly is a risky signal to send given the overall climate and the always real possibility of miscalculation.

Joining us now is Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat of Connecticut, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman Himes, do you have any reason to doubt they say the drone was operating in international air space and that Iran was the aggressor? REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): I don't, Anderson. I probably haven't seen

quite as much briefing material as some have, but I don't have any particular reason to doubt it. I do want to get confirmation.

But in some ways, I know we're going to spend a lot of time talking about whether it was in international air space or over Iran air space. You know, there is no getting around the fact that, regardless, the Iranians did a very, very dumb and aggressive thing here. They are rolling the dice on what the nature, if any, of the president's response will be in a way that is really playing with fire.

Look, a military conflict in the region is bad for everybody, including the United States. But a military conflict between the United States and Iran ends with the end of the Iranian regime. And that's why I'm just puzzled why they are being as aggressive as they are, even though, of course, they have been isolated and strangled in some senses economically by what I regard as wrong-headed U.S. policy.

COOPER: Republican leaders in the House, the put out a statement saying, and I'm quoting, there must be a measured response to these actions. Do you agree that there should be a response? And what would you think a measured response would look like if you supported any kind of action?

HIMES: Yes, I do, Anderson. As you probably know, I have been sounding the alarm for months now that the president's people, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo have been trying to get to precisely this moment, this moment when we are on the brink of a potential military conflict.

They, of course, have been urged on by leaders in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia and the UAE and elsewhere. But, yes, so here's where we are. We are in a box right now because on the one hand, a response is a very risky thing. If we do a proportional response, which I hope they do and take down one of their drones or whatever it might be, we don't know how they will respond. Will they escalate?

However, if we don't respond at all, that's equally dangerous because the Iranians will read that as a feckless president who shouts a lot and tweets a lot, but doesn't follow-up his words with actions. So here we are in precisely the place that John Bolton wanted us to be in where we're in a box where no matter what we do, there is a high risk of escalation and military conflict.

But your question was should we respond. I think to fail to respond to an awful Iranian regime, to sort of empower them, to send a message we won't respond if we are hit would be the more dangerous of the two options.

COOPER: Do you believe the president has the authority to launch an attack specifically something that's proportional, not an all-out war, without getting congressional authorization?

HIMES: Well, that's a really good question. I have for years been saying that we need to reassert congressional constitutional authority for deciding when we go to war. Of course, presidents have been violators on both sides of the aisle. Whether it was Barack Obama in Libya or Syria, President Trump in Syria with his attack. There have been violation after violation.

The reason your question is a slightly tricky one is that even members of Congress like me who are very concerned for congressional prerogatives and what the Constitution says will acknowledge that when we have been attacked, the president has the authority to respond and need not -- depending on the circumstances -- go through the whole legislative process that would result in congressional approval.

[20:20:18] COOPER: Congressman Himes, I appreciate your time. A lot to get to, a lot to watch for. Thank you.

I want to focus more closely right now on all the factors that any president has to weigh at a moment like this, as well as the implications and consequence intended or otherwise that can follow.

Joining us right now is CNN military analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Also, Mike Duran, who served as a senior director of National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.

Colonel, do you believe the U.S. should take retaliatory action against Iran? If so, what would that look like or should look like?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Anderson, I think it should be proportional just like Congressman Himes mentioned. When we do like at this kind of situation, we have to keep in mind that in this specific case, there's been no loss of U.S. life. So the type of action that we take in regards to Iran must really take that into account.

Yes, we have to respond to it. We have to make it very clear to them that their behavior is unacceptable. But we also have to keep in mind that there was no loss of life in this particular case.

COOPER: Mike, do you think there should be some sort of response? And should it be proportional as the colonel is saying?

MICHAEL DURAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I think there has to be some kind of response. Not necessarily at this moment and to this particular attack on the drone. But looking at the totality of what the Iranians have been doing, they've been trying to provoke us now for sometime, attacking tankers, pipelines in Saudi Arabia, desalinization plant in Saudi Arabia.

They're purposely choosing targets where there's not going to be any loss of American life, but at the same time, challenging the position of the United States across the region. So I think while we should be measured in our response, we should realize what this struggle is. This is not about a drone. This is about Iran trying to tell everyone in the region that they run the Middle East, not the United States, and that it's this easy to kick the United States out. COOPER: Colonel, what about -- I mean, the argument the president

seemed to be making this could be a mistake, low-level general getting over his skis or just a mistake?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think, Anderson, that's really unlike the Iranian military structure. I've been watching Iran for over 30 years now, and it's a very rigid command and control structure. There are differences, of course, between the army there and the revolutionary guards.

But whether it's one system, the army or revolutionary guards, they still follow a rigid command structure. So, this was a deliberate act on their part.

Having said that, the president's comments give the Iranians a way out if they choose to take it, but it sounds like they're not taking it.

COOPER: Yes, Mike, why do you think it is that they aren't taking it?

DURAN: They're trying to put pressure on the entire international system ahead of the G20 meeting at the end of next week. They want, they want all of the members of the JCPOA, China, Russia, the E.U., all of them to swarm Donald Trump and say, you know, you need to actually negotiate with the Iranians, you need to relieve some of the sanctions pressure on them and so on. So, they're trying to turn up the heat in general.

COOPER: Cedric, isn't there tremendous potential any kind of U.S. military action, as with any military action, one doesn't necessarily know the ripple effects, things can spiral out of control. You can't necessarily predict how somebody is going to react or how, you know, whether they're a rational actor or not.

Is the U.S. ready for an actual war with Iran?

LEIGHTON: Unfortunately, Anderson, I don't think we are. There have been -- there's been a lot of talk of Iran over the years, really since the Iranian hostage crisis. But in terms of concrete war plans, we don't have something that really looks at the day after next. So, if we go into Iran and actually have a real war with them, it would, first of all, be extremely devastating and we really don't know what the day after next is going to look like.

And it would be a terrible mistake to do anything without understanding what that day should look like.

COOPER: Colonel Leighton, Mike Duran, I appreciate your expertise, both of you. Thank you.

We have breaking news just ahead.

Joe Biden and Cory Booker spoke on the phone last night, just after the senator's CNN interview about the controversy that won't go away for the vice-president. I'll talk to Dr. Cornel West about Biden's comments on civility and segregationist senators.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:28:41] COOPER: Hey, welcome back.

There's breaking news in the most recent controversy that has consumed Joe Biden's campaign. A source telling CNN that Joe Biden has reached out to Senator Cory Booker after their heated back and forth over Biden's comments about two segregationist senators.

The phone call came last night after Booker's interview on CNN. No apologies, we're told from Biden, and the call was described as direct and respectful. It comes after Senator Booker criticized the way Vice President Biden described the civility of the two late senators he once worked with.

He said Biden should apologize. Biden took it poorly and said Booker should apologize to him. In last night's interview, Booker called those remarks insulting.

The controversy represents possible existential crisis of sorts for the frontrunner Biden. He holds about 20-point lead with African- American voters across two CNN polls. That despite a past includes helping to write the 1994 crime law and once calling Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond a consummate public servant.

I want to pick up the discussion and talk to Cornel West, professor of the practice of public policy at Harvard and professor emeritus at Princeton University.

Dr. West, Vice President Biden called Cory Booker, Senator Booker last night. He still hasn't apologized for his comments. Do you think he needs to?

CORNEL WEST, : Well, brother, I just first want to say that we are loving you. We're pulling for you. We're praying for you and I know you are as strong as ever.

Your mother, the love warrior, a love of life, of joy, of beauty. And we just want you to know that --

COOPER: I appreciate that, and she did. She lived a life of joy and beauty and love. So thank you.

[20:30:00]

WEST: Definitely.

COOPER: Yes.

WEST: But, no, I think that Brother Biden is putting himself in a deeper hole. I think he ought to be ashamed. I think he has to recognize that all of us can make mistakes. Nobody called him a racist. Nobody said that he in any way was xenophobic in any serious manner. It's just a matter of saying certain things that hurt people.

COOPER: And so -- and it can be cleared up by saying I'm sorry for that. WEST: That's right. All you've got to say is, I believe in bipartisanship. I could have chosen many other examples, and then let's have a debate about the record and so forth. But it gets deeper and deeper and it's sad.

And, see, you've got to remember this. Brother Cory Booker, he rarely ever has that kind of Malcolm X come out of him, you know what I mean? He's a very calm and serene kind of brother. He has a righteous indignation. He's got a brilliance. But it's rare to see him in this kind of mode, which means he was affected in a very deep way.

COOPER: I wonder the fact -- you have Jim Clyburn, the highest ranking African-American person in Congress as well as several other prominent African-American members, they came out strongly in support of Biden on this. Should that carry weight or is that about politics?

WEST: Well, it's hard to say. I mean Clyburn's a complex brother. We know on one hand it's about politics. I think they have a personal relationship and therefore you get the friendship kicking in. I can understand that. But I think that Brother Clyburn is wrong in this regard.

I don't see -- I don't think anybody can go around talking about, well, he didn't call me boy, he called me son. You see, you don't play with that kind of stuff. See, part of the problem is, though, is that you see when you talk about Jim Crow, Jim Crow was neo-slavery, it inspired Nazism. So you're not talking about just segregationists, that's the deodorized term.

No, you're talking about hatred, you're talking about terror, you're talking about trauma. That's what Jim Crow was. It's terror, hatred, trauma. It's not segregation in that broader sense. We got to understand that that's why it affects not just black people, it affects any morally sensitive human being no matter what color you are.

There are a lot of white brothers and sisters who are upset with him because they are a people of principle, too, concerned about a certain kind of language.

COOPER: And so, I think that's an original and important way that you phrase that, that that kind of segregation is the deodorized term of it. I mean, this was hatred, not only just hatred, it was hatred institutionalized. It was hatred legalized.

WEST: That's exactly right, and greed, and greed, because you're extracting people's labor, black people paying taxes and not getting benefits. They're part of the civic body, but we're civically dead. We have no rights, even though we're part of the body politic. So we've gone from social death of slavery to civic death of Jim and Jane Crow. That's nothing to play with.

Eastland, Thurmond, Helms, all these people who he was very close to because understandably they're in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party was diverse ideologically and politically at that time. And we understand he had to work with them, of course, of course.

I mean, I've had to work with people I disagree with all the time, believe me you. You know what I mean? Good God almighty. But at the same time, you've got to draw a line. Of course, none of us are pure. I've got some evil in me. You've got some evil in you. Everybody's got some evil in them. But it's a matter of whether we act on it, do we conquer it every day. And do we learn how to die every day. That's the crucial thing.

COOPER: And do we acknowledge it and do we face it and try to overcome it.

WEST: Absolutely. In fact, when Brother Biden says, "I don't have a racist bone in my body," well, let me tell you something, I've got white supremacy inside of me. I grew up in America. We've got to conquer it every day. And if there's white supremacy inside of me, a free black man for 66 years, my hunch is there's a little racism inside of him and a whole a lot other of the Americans.

It's not a matter of being pure or pristine (ph), it's a matter of conquering it every day. It's the quality of the effort. It's not a matter of acting as if we are beyond racism or beyond sexism or beyond anti-Arab, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-indigenous people, any kind of element that -- inside of us that loses sight of humanity of others.

COOPER: Dr. West, I appreciate your time as always. Thank you.

WEST: Thank you so much. Love you, Brother. Stay strong.

COOPER: Thank you.

WEST: Stay strong, man.

COOPER: All right, thank you, Dr. West. Appreciate it.

WEST: Yes.

COOPER: More breaking news to come. I love having him on the program. I always learn something. More breaking news on the Biden fall out, including a discussion about how this latest controversy may affect Biden's campaign with the first Democratic debate just a week away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:38:36] COOPER: We're continuing our discussion with the fallout from Joe Biden's comments about the two one time -- about two one time pro-segregation senators who civility he applauded, that was his word.

The controversy presents Biden with a number of potential problems, including how it affects his wide support among African-American voters and that fact that it's taking place just a week before the first Democratic debate.

Here to talk about all of it is Bakari Sellers, former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Bakari has already endorsed Senator Kamala Harris. Jen Psaki is a former Obama White House communications director and Tara Setmayer was communications director for former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, all are CNN Political Commentators.

Tara, is Vice President Biden handling this as well as he could have or should have?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Well, no, I think he's still a bit rusty. He hasn't been on the campaign trail in a while. But I just really think that Democrats piling on Biden on an issue like this is just -- it's cannibalism. And they're going to end up reelecting Donald Trump if this is the kind of purity test that they're going to apply to Democrats.

I don't think Biden is -- does anybody really believe that Joe Biden was happy to pal around with segregationists? I mean, his record in the Senate doesn't reflect that. His time serving with Barack Obama doesn't reflect that.

So, is this really the issue they want to try to kneecap him on when he has the biggest appeal right now to beat Donald Trump? I just don't think that it's an issue that's going to move the voters that Democrats need to defeat Donald Trump.

[20:40:05] Could Biden handle it a bit better? Yes. Could he have used another example? Probably, but I think his point was that, look, I could even work with people that I disagreed with as well as segregationists. And I think a lot of older voters understand that, especially older black voters and they're the ones who go out and vote in primaries.

COOPER: Bakari, I mean, the fact that Biden won't apologize for these comments, you know, we heard Dr. West saying, you know, he should. I guess he's apologized or, you know, had to kind of walk back a bunch of things. I don't know if that's part of his calculus for not doing that this time. What do you think about that?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, no one is calling Joe Biden a racist. No one is calling the former vice- president a xenophobe or bigot. But there are a lot of us who are disappointed in his remarks. I think for me its two things.

First, it's extremely personal when Joe Biden talks about the fact that Senator Eastland did not call him a boy, he called him son. It hearkens to language that is probably the most degrading term that you can use to describe any African-American male.

My father, my grandfather, my uncle, Cornel West can tell you about it, even Cory Booker can tell you about the generations of African- American men who have been called down and been yelled upon and been degraded by the term boy. And for Vice President Biden to not recognize that in context is a problem.

But even more importantly, I think when you invoke someone like Senator Eastland who said in opposition to the Bus Boycott, he said in every stage of the Bus Boycott, we have been oppressed and degraded because of black slimy juicy unbearably stinky niggers. That is who we invoked. That is who we held with some sense of reverence.

And you have to see when you're talking about civility, what would Senator Eastland and Joe Biden be working on? That's when you get to the record and you understand that the common bind that these two gentlemen had was opposition to bussing. Forced bussing, which was a method by which we had integration and the African-Americans were able to get to better schools. So first and foremost, it's very personal.

And second, I don't think that someone who stumbles through issues like this, no one asked him about this, that's the most astounding thing. But if he's stumbling through issues like this, how do you take on Donald Trump?

COOPER: Yes.

SELLERS: I think it kneecaps the issue of electability.

COOPER: Jen Psaki, I mean, "The Washington Post" supporting advisors have heard this story before and have been urging Biden not to tell it in public. But then according to one advisory, "He's not someone you can go to and just say you've been doing this X number of years and you can't do this any more."

Why can't an advisor just go and say that to somebody? I mean, you know, don't touch people who aren't clearly, you know, wanting to be touched by you, don't say this.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Well, I think they certainly can and they are. I think what that statement meant is that he doesn't always take the advice his advisors are giving and that's been clear time and time again.

You know, I think this case is one where, look, even if he's told the story before privately, I saw that reporting and I've seen that, but it doesn't make it more palatable to hear. And it doesn't make it more endearing to hear.

And the fact is when people are offended by it and when a major swath of the Democratic electorate in the country may be offended by it, that's something where you have to pause. So, I would take issue with this notion that we're trying -- anybody is trying to kneecap him.

There are many people who certainly support him and have a lot of affection for him. But this does -- this isn't, you know, this isn't an ordination. I mean, when you make statements like this publicly, it does raise question about whether you're ready to compete at the level of being the Democratic nominee.

COOPER: Tara, I mean, do you think that he's not ready? I mean, again, there had been a number of missteps and it hasn't, you know, he hasn't been making that many appearances frankly.

SETMAYER: Right. I mean, but -- again, are the missteps really something that are disqualifying? I don't think so. Do I think that he should have used a different example? Yes. And if I were advising him, I would have said, "You know, Mr. Vice President, probably not a good idea given what's going on with racial tensions in this country. There are plenty of other examples, let's use another one." But I just don't think that it's disqualifying.

The underlying point he was trying to make is that you have to be able to work with the other side even if you disagree with them. If you look at what's happening today, a lot of people -- when you poll voters, they say they want bipartisanship. They want Congress to get things done. And this retreating to each other's corners in tribalism is destroying this country.

So I think Biden's overall point here was that he's able to work with anyone, which is why he'd be the best person to go up against Trump and try to get things done and heal the country. Not the greatest example, but I just don't think that the pile on. The implication is what, because he's using this example that he's not, you know, he's tone deaf to racial issues? I just don't think so. I just think he's rusty.

COOPER: Bakari, I want you to respond just very briefly.

SELLERS: Yes, that's not the implication at all. The implication, though, is that Joe Biden wants to hearken on the issues and times of yesteryear when there are a lot of people who are ready to turn the page. This is just as much generational as anything else. I wish Joe Biden instead of hearkening on Strom Thurmond and Jim Eastland would be talking about issues of the future not heroes that he digs up from yesterday.

[20:45:08] COOPER: Bakari Sellers, Jen Psaki, Tara Setmayer, appreciate it.

Transcripts of the Hope Hicks testimony before the House Judiciary Committee are out. Come up, what she had to say and what she notably did not.

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COOPER: Unexpected, there wasn't a great deal to be learned from the transcripts released late today of Hope Hicks's testimony yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee. Accompanied by two private attorneys, three lawyers from the White House, and one from the Justice Department, she didn't answer any questions at all about her time in the White House.

She did talk about her time on the Trump campaign, telling committee members that she was not aware of hush agreements with Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. Hicks has never been asked to lie -- said that she's never been asked to lie about matters of consequences and that she'd told "white lies" about small matters.

[20:50:02] Asked if President Trump ever ask anyone to lie during the campaign, she answered, not that I can recall. When a committee member asked if she had read the Mueller report, Hicks replied, "No, sir, I lived the Mueller report." Chris Cuomo joins us now. Chris, not especially revealing and I guess not particularly surprising.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Not surprising, I agree with you. Revealing inasmuch as it shows that this is a dead end and that the idea that going through the ordinary course of oversight isn't going to work here, because the system allows for the executive to stymie it. And, yes, you can go to court, but you wind up achieving the same end of stalling which is time. Litigation takes time.

COOPER: What are you working on tonight?

CUOMO: We have Chairman Schiff here. He's going to tell us about the briefing on Iran. What's the truth? Was it intentional? Is that clear? If so, why is the President who was in the same briefing with him calling it a mistake? What does he believe should happen going forward?

We're going to make a case tonight about why I argue that this Iran situation is more dangerous than the President's reelection and the Mueller report ever threatened to be. We also have spire (ph) here -- you know, General Spider Marks and Aaron David Miller to talk about the political and military aspects of this situation.

COOPER: I've sent you an e-mail about this, Chris, but I talked to my -- I was with my mom last week. We were watching CNN and I said to her, "So, what do you think of Chris Cuomo?" And she was singing your praises. She was like, "Oh, my, he's so good. I trust him. He's so smart." And I was sort of like, "Yes, OK, enough."

CUOMO: Well, I had a source that was clear -- close by the situation who said you actually said more than that, some of it was negative, your mother corrected you and that it's in complete keeping with the kind of person she was. You know my mother and father were big fans of your mom and for good reason.

I'm not surprise that you're back. I want you to know, you're not just respected as our best, you are loved and appreciated for what you represent to us as a man. You are a great son. Your documentaries are a gift to all of us who love our parents. And I know you're in pain, but it means everything to see you tonight.

COOPER: Well, Chris, thanks very much. I'm glad to be back. I'll see you shortly. About eight minutes, Chris.

Coming up next, a few words about my mom and some thanks.

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[20:55:56] COOPER: I wanted to take a few moments to thank all of you who have reached out to me about the death of my mom, Gloria Vanderbilt. Your cards and e-mails, your texts and DMs on Instagram and tweets have truly meant a lot.

My mom would be stunned by all the attention and the kind words that have been written and spoken about her. I know this because when I got her to join Instagram when she was like 92 or so, she didn't think that anyone would actually follow her. "Why would anyone be interested," she asked.

It wasn't long before she had some 200,000 followers and I got to tell you, it tickled her beyond belief. "I can't believe it," she would say. And she would e-mail me constantly and sort of annoyingly about what she should post or what pictures to post or what she should say about them or what should name a painting she was about to finish.

Mary Gordon, the author, wrote that a fatherless girl thinks all things possible and nothing is safe. That's how my mom felt her entire life, nothing ever felt safe to her but anything was possible.

Terrible tragedies and glorious surprises, but she never let that feeling of insecurity stop her. She never let fear or pain or loss prevent her from forging ahead, from moving forward. She always believed the best was yet to come.

My mom found out June 8th that she had cancer. She lived nine more days. Friends came to see her. She laughed a lot. She saw her family and her nurses cared for her with true love and affection. It was the best end possible to her remarkable life.

Being able to spend those nine days and nights with her was a great, great blessing. They were the most extraordinary days of my life and I'm very grateful. She died Monday shortly after 4:00 a.m., and though I was holding her hand and her head when she took her last breath, it's still a little hard for me to believe she's gone.

One of her friends explained her sadness by describing my mom as her North Star, a person she used as a guide, a kind of light in the darkness. I never realized until now how much she was my North Star as well. And right now things seem a lot less bright and magical without her.

My dad died when I was 10, and my brother when I was 21. She was the last of my immediate family, the last person who knew me from the beginning. They're all gone and it feels very lonely right now. I hope they are at least together.

I've said before that I've often thought of my mom as a voyager from a distant galaxy who is stranded here unable to return to the place and time of which she was born. I always tried to protect her but couldn't do that very well when I was 10 or even 20, but I'm happy that I was able to help make the latter years of her life comfortable and fulfilling.

When I die, that might be the thing I'm most proud of. I'm happy that we left nothing unsaid between us. She knew me and I knew her, and there's great comfort in that. "You and I, it's a match made in heaven," she said to me last week. "We're a good team," I told her. We stayed up late that night just holding hands and when she got sleepy and I got ready to leave, she said to me, "what a wonderful night," and it was, perhaps our best.

She liked me to play this video of a Peggy Lee song on YouTube. It's called "Is That All There Is." We sing along to this chorus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'd hold my mom's hand while we were singing and move it back and forth as though we were dancing, having a ball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Every time it ended my mom would say, "Isn't that marvelous?" She'd be smiling, and it was, with her, with my mom, it was marvelous. Good night.

I want to turn it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: Anderson, thank you so much for sharing what is so hard on to be shared. I know it means so much to so many and I hope it means a lot to you as well. You are our best and for good reason.

END