Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Biden Defends Record After Bruising Debate; President Trump Jokingly Tells Putin Not To Meddle In 2020 Vote; President Trump & Putin Bond Over Mutual Contempt For News Media. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired June 28, 2019 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:00] ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: This all comes after those comments that he made last night and that exchanged with Senator Kamala Harris at that debate.
And take a listen to what Joe Biden tried to say earlier today as he tried to kind of more eloquently explain his position compared to last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard and - and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris. But, you know, we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights. I never, never, never ever opposed voluntary busing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: Now there were - are several instances in the past, from decades ago, where Joe Biden was on the record, criticizing and laying out - out his opposition to federally-mandated busing.
Also today, in his speech, he was trying to clean up a little bit of what he may have said about state's rights yesterday. And today, he was stressing that the federal government should be involved when it comes to issues of civil rights, and also, when it came to issues of integration.
Now, Joe Biden is going to be spending the weekend fund-raising, and then next week, we're going to see him back out on the trail. We'll see if he decides to further engage in this debate in these coming days, as this has really become such a hot topic since that debate last night, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: What is the Biden campaign saying about how this has been playing out. I mean they cannot be pleased about last night.
SAENZ: Well I think that the Biden campaign is aware this was not one of the former Vice President's best debate performances.
In fact, we were told that Biden is aware that he needs to do better, going forward. And there are real questions about the former Vice President, and whether he is a candidate - candidate who meets the moment of the current Democratic Party.
But, one thing going forward, that's also going to be important to watch is, what do real voters, how do they feel about these comments from the former Vice President?
You saw last week, when it came to those comments that he made about segregationist senators, when were down in South Carolina, a lot of the voters that I spoke with down there did not think that that was actually going to harm Joe Biden in his campaign.
We'll see if that moment, that exchange with Senator Harris and kind of these explanations that he's been giving on school busing, whether that will impact him with voters going forward.
COOPER: Arlette Saenz, appreciate it.
Now, the Harris campaign, Senator Harris, along with a number of other candidates, visiting a detention facility, for migrants in Homestead, Florida, CNN's Kyung Lah joins us now from - from Miami.
You spoke to a - a senior campaign aide for Harris today. What did they have to say about her performance last night? I mean they've got to be the opposite of the Biden camp? They've got to be pleased.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A - a total 180, Anderson.
What - what I'm hearing from the campaign is they feel very good about what happened last night. I was given a sports reference that it was a lot like Steph Curry shooting a 60, getting 60 points in a game.
They feel that this is a great performance, and they are seeing the benefit in their fund-raising numbers. They are seeing a boost during the debate of 67 percent, an increase more than normal in online fund- raising.
It is critical. As this second quarter ends, they need this money. They want to have a good showing in the second quarter. They feel this debate performance certainly helped them.
COOPER: Senator Harris oddly was one of two people, the other was Bernie Sanders, who raised her hand when asked about - about abolishing private insurance, if that's something she would - or they would support, only two people raised their hand, and Harris was one of them.
That runs completely counter to a position she formerly held, and - and has been trying to kind of - she's kind of been all over the map on it. She now had to walk that back today.
LAH: She did. She said she simply misheard the question, which is a little perplexing because that exact same question, word for word, was presented on the first night.
We know that Senator Harris watched the first night, was studying, ate popcorn, the campaign said, as she watched it. But she says she simply misheard. She interpreted it as a question of whether she personally would give up her private insurance in favor of a government-run plan.
COOPER: It was - it was - there was a--
LAH: Now that is something that she believes.
COOPER: Yes. There was a slight wording issue. I mean I - I - when I heard it, I felt I knew what the moderator meant. But I - I - not to make excuses for her, but it did - I thought the wording was a little problematic.
LAH: And - and - and the campaign would certainly agree with you there, Anderson that they do believe that it was vague and that she simply misheard, and she was trying to be as accurate as possible in her answer.
And - and something that we heard Arlette talk about just there, on whether or not it's resonating with real people, the campaign says they don't believe it is, that they believe 24 hours later that this tends to be a media obsession unless something that real people are going to care about.
COOPER: Yes. Although, and you know, if you're - anyway, we'll see what happens. Kyung Lah, thanks very much.
COOPER: Moving on, quickly now to what many observers was - thought was the standout debater from night one, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. CNN's MJ Lee joins us now with the latest on her day.
So, you're at a campaign rally right now in Chicago for Warren where Joe Biden was earlier today, speaking to the - the PUSH Coalition. What's the latest there?
[21:05:00] MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, Anderson, that's where Warren will be tomorrow morning, where she is right now at an auditorium, where she finished up a Town Hall event here in Chicago.
Just goes to show that as soon as the debate was over, Warren went right back to campaigning. She made a note pointing out that this was her 102nd Town Hall event.
And she even said, you know, "We're a couple of days away from the second quarter fund-raising, and instead of being behind closed doors at a fund-raiser, this is what I'm doing, I'm spending time with voters and supporters."
So, even though she didn't call out the other candidates by name, it was very clear that she was trying to draw a contrast between herself who has made a pledge to not do fund-raisers, versus some of her other competitors, who are spending time doing that. I also just wanted to note that, earlier today, Elizabeth Warren put
out yet another plan. This plan is a plan to reform the State Department. And as a part of that, she pledged that as President, she would not appoint donors and bundlers to Ambassadorship positions.
This, of course, is a practice that goes back, even back to the Obama administration, and as a part of her sort of bigger pitch to root out corruption in Washington, she says that this is a pledge that she is making.
She also promised that she would, as President, double the size of the U.S. Foreign Service, as well as the Peace Corps.
And as to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition appearance that she will be making tomorrow morning, this, of course, as you said, is where Biden earlier today defended his previous position on busing. So, we'll see whether Elizabeth Warren gets asked about that tomorrow morning, Anderson.
COOPER: Right. MJ Lee, appreciate it.
Joining us now to talk about what they saw and what they see going forward, CNN Political Commentator, Tara Setmayer, who served as Communications Director for Republican Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, also, Joe Lockhart, White House Press Secretary in the Clinton Administration, also a CNN Political Commentator.
Tara, you wrote a piece for CNN.com, I saw, about Vice President Biden. You said he needs to sharpen his answers, especially on race. To be clear, are you - are - you were supporting him. Are you still supporting him?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR GOP REP. DANA ROHRABACHER, "HONESTLY SPEAKING WITH TARA SETMAYER" PODCAST HOST: Yes. I - I still think that Joe Biden is the most viable candidate to beat Donald Trump. I think Kamala Harris made a good case for herself last night as well.
But we also - I just - but I also am concerned, you have to remember, I'm coming from a conservative Republican viewpoint on policies and things. I'm casting a lot of my differences with these candidates aside.
I think the number one priority is to get Donald Trump out of office. And my concern is that Joe Biden is allowing this race issue to get out ahead of him, and he's not taking - he's not ending it the way he should.
This has been going on now, plaguing him for two weeks, and it shouldn't have. And it's leaving an opening for the circular firing squad to take place, and to possibly undercut him on an issue that really has never been a problem for Joe Biden before.
He was Barack Obama's Vice President, for goodness sakes. He just won a - a Civil Rights Award from the National Civil Rights Museum a couple of months ago. His record is - is - is pretty clear for his support on civil rights and - and racial issues and integration.
And so, this issue that Kamala Harris has now used to exploit with him, I think, could have a - a devastating effect in the general election, by suppressing the Black vote. You have to understand that Hillary Clinton lost by 78,000 votes in three states, including Michigan.
SETMAYER: And there was the - the Obama Coalition of about 4.5 million people did not vote in 2016, including--
SETMAYER: --36 percent of those people being Black. So we--
COOPER: Let me--
SETMAYER: That is a problem. You don't want to - you don't want to undermine your front-runner if he ends up becoming the nominee, and then--
SETMAYER: --it suppresses the Black vote. I just don't think it's necessary--
SETMAYER: --arguing over something that happened--
SETMAYER: --in the 70s.
COOPER: Joe, I'm wondering what you - does - does - does Joe Biden have a sort of too much of an inevitability sense about him?
I mean does his campaign, to you, does it smell sort of - of he just sort of feels like this - he's the front-runner and there's this sort of grand pace. I mean he's going to be fund-raising this weekend. You have, you know, Senator Warren out there doing another Town Hall today.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, listen, you know, inevitability campaigns tend to lose.
You know, you might try it. Every once in a while, it works, and it makes it a lot easier for you. But if you - if that campaign and Joe Biden had an inevitability complex, it's gone this morning.
This is why we have these campaigns. I'm not - I'm not terribly worried about Biden because this is June, not January. And, you know, he's not finished. There's a lot of, like, overblown rhetoric today about that. COOPER: Sure.
LOCKHART: But he's got to do better. I think he knows he's got to do better. And one of the things that - that is central to his campaign is he's the guy who can take it to Trump.
Well he needs to be able to take it to everybody within the Democratic Party first. And, you know, again, this is why we have campaigns. We'll see what - what happens in the next one.
LOCKHART: If he comes more prepared and is sharper, this will go away. If he repeats the performance, then I think there is some validity to, you know, maybe he isn't the - the best standard-bearer for the party.
[21:10:00] COOPER: Yes. We're going to take a quick break. I want to pick this up when we come back, more discussion.
Also, later, President Trump's newest material and his buddy (ph) after Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and North Korea's Kim Jong-un, all in one day.
COOPER: We're taking about fallout from the Democratic debate, including moments like these, Joe Biden interrupting himself on stage, leaving some to question his debate prep.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We, in fact, allow people--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your time's up.
BIDEN: Anyway, my time's up. I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Vice President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back now with Tara Setmayer and Joe Lockhart.
I mean, Joe, looking at those moments, and Vice President Biden's performance overall last night, were you surprised by what looked like - I mean, I don't know, was it a lack of preparedness, you think?
Was it just un - you know, he's been out of this game for a while, and dealing with all those different people. What do you think the problem was?
LOCKHART: Yes. My - my guess is it's rustiness. We'll find out in the next debate whether it's, you know, something more than that.
You know, people with a lot of experience, remember, Barack Obama's performance in the first debate against Romney when he was the - you know, running for re-election was terrible.
I - I was part of preparing Bill Clinton for his first debate against Bob Dole. And until the very last minute, he was terrible because they just assumed, they knew more than the people they - they were going to be on the stage with, and they forgot about the stage craft part of it.
[21:15:00] So, my guess is, it was rustiness. I think Joe Biden has a - has a very prominent stubborn gene that, you know, "When I'm right, I'm right," and he's got to work on both of those things.
COOPER: By the way, just very quick, because I want to get Tara, well you said, Clinton at the last moment - he was bad up until his last moment. What - what changed like what made the difference?
LOCKHART: Well, I - well I'd say if - I'll tell you the story is - is Paul Begala came over to me and said, "Let's write a fake New York Times story about Clinton losing the debate to Bob Dole," which we did, and we showed it to him, and he got mad, and--
COOPER: That was a wow.
LOCKHART: --he went out and - and he performed.
COOPER: That's - that--
LOCKHART: I - I'm not - that wasn't only it.
LOCKHART: But - but I think, you know, people with more experience think that all they have to do is show up. Biden found out he has to do more than just show up.
COOPER: Yes. Yes.
Tara, do you think this was a wakeup call for Biden? Because I mean I think Joe is right. It's very easy for people, you know, pundits to, suddenly everybody runs and says, you know, Joe Biden imploded.
COOPER: This is very early on.
SETMAYER: Yes, no, I think it was definitely a wakeup call. It should have been a wakeup call for him, a wakeup call for his campaign. And he needs to realize that his - his best assets are his experience and his - you know, his electability, and they should capitalize on that.
I was surprised that he was trying - I think he was trying to be too much of a gentleman, and not really going for the jugular, and other, obviously, other candidates were prepared to do that.
And I think he was also blindsided by Kamala Harris, and he shouldn't have been. And that may have been the fault of - of the people preparing him. But he should have had a better answer to that. You know, I've been in political communications for 20 years. It would have been a no-brainer that the only woman of color on this stage was probably going to bring up this issue at some point with the busing and - and his comments, and he should have had a - a clear concise answer to shut it down.
But Kamala Harris, in the past, she's praised Joe Biden, said how much she got to know him through his son Beau, who passed away from cancer. So, I don't think he anticipated maybe that it was going to come from her. So, he is going to have to realize that, you know, politics ain't bean bag.
SETMAYER: He'll be the first one to - to tell you that. And he's going to have to sharpen it up. And, yes, you cannot be stuck in your ways.
I understand that he's been in this game longer than some of the candidates have been alive, but he needs to capitalize on the fact that he has the experience, he's gotten things done, and prove to people that he's still got the fire in the belly to do it.
SETMAYER: He's got time - he's got time.
COOPER: Joe, though a lot of these other candidates do not have time because they don't have money.
LOCKHART: Yes. Listen, I think, you know, I want to give Tom Perez a little credit for setting this thing upright, because I think what the last two nights did was really clarify the race.
There are a whole bunch of pretenders. There are people who will run out of money, shouldn't really be in this race. There are some people who, I think, they have a lot to offer, you know, the governors that - that spoke, but don't, I think, have a realistic shot. They're there to raise issues.
And then there's five or six candidates, however you count them, who have a real shot at this. By making it harder to get into the next set of debates, we will start to winnow the field.
And that's what - that's what's great for the Democratic Party. When it's all said and done, we're going to have the strongest candidate, whether it be Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Julian Castro, that's what I'm for. I'm for testing them now, not in the general election.
COOPER: Joe Lockhart, appreciate it, Tara Setmayer, always, thank you very much.
SETMAYER: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, Mohammad Bin Salman, Vladimir Putin, even Kim Jong- un, and the love they all got from the President, overseas.
[21:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: If there's a theme so far to President Trump's G20 visit in Osaka, Japan, it's his sunny relationships with dictators.
Most recently, he praised Saudi Arabia's Mohammad Bin Salman, and ignored a reporter's question about whether he discussed the murder of U.S.-based Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi with the Crown Prince.
We've also seen him joke with Vladimir Putin about election interference, and about how awful journalists are, and we'll have more on that in a minute.
But today, he also said he hopes to have a friendly chat with North Korean's - North Korea's Kim Jong-un during his upcoming visit to South Korea.
Just a short time ago, he tweeted, and I'm quoting, "After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I'll be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello (?)!"
That actually was a tweet.
Joining me now, live from Osaka, Japan side of the G20, CNN's Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
So, I mean it sounded almost like sort of, you know, the Bachelor about to present a rose to somebody. Is it possible the President is - is actually, you know, thinking he'll just go - like go to the Border, and just to say hi to Kim Jong-un?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the President himself has talked about this as being sort of a love affair between himself and Kim Jong-un.
And just a short while ago, he told reporters he was just putting out a "Feeler" about the possibility with - about meeting Kim Jong-un in the DMZ. I talked to a Senior White House official just a short while ago, who said that there's nothing more on this other than what the President has tweeted out.
But, Anderson, keep in mind, earlier this week, he was talking to The Hill newspaper, and suggested the possibility of having a brief encounter with Kim Jong-un. The White House asked The Hill not to report that for security concerns.
So, it seems something is very much in the works at this point. But, of course, they don't want to talk about that, I suppose for security reasons, even though the President did tweet about that possibility, Anderson.
COOPER: The - the President's meeting with Putin, it just emphasizes once again the President's, I mean, again, his unwillingness to accept the conclusion of his own U.S. Intelligence agencies, making fun of election interference. ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. And - and we've seen this consistently over the years.
I mean I remember asking the President, then-candidate Trump, back in 2016, whether he would ask Vladimir Putin to stay out of U.S. elections, and it was at that point that he said, "Russia, if you're listening, please find Hillary Clinton's missing emails."
You take that to Helsinki, and the performance that he had there where he accepted Vladimir Putin's word over the U.S. Intelligence community.
[21:25:00] Anderson, I recently talked to a Senior Administration Official, who worked in the National Security realm under President Trump, who said, he just cannot figure out this relationship between the President and Vladimir Putin.
He has a much cozier relationship than he has with leaders from long- standing U.S. allies, and it just remains the status quo, the new normal when it comes to U.S. relations with Russia. It's something that we've never seen before from a President in our lifetime.
COOPER: And, just real quick, the President meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, nine months after the killing of the Journalist Jamal Khashoggi--
COOPER: --I mean he was photographed next to him in - in a group photograph.
They were placed next to each other, which seemed odd that they would have allowed that, and then, the President actually praised him to his face, essentially saying, I can't yield probably, you know, the exact words, but you're doing a great job.
ACOSTA: Yes. He praised Mohammad Bin Salman, the - the Saudi Crown Prince in front of reporters earlier today.
Keep in mind, Anderson, he was asked specifically, and so was the Crown Prince, as to what they had to say about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, whether they would talk about the killing of the Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
At that point, the President said, "Thank you very much," and he did not answer the question. Anderson, this comes a week after a U.N. report came out and linked Mohammad Bin Salman to the Khashoggi killing.
And so, this is, once again, an example of how the President is not exactly standing up for U.S. rights, human rights on the world stage.
Even though a White House official did provide a readout saying they talked about human rights issues. But the readout did not specifically talk about Jamal Khashoggi. And so, you know, Anderson, this is a situation where the President is
- is specifically asked about the killing of a journalist that is linked to the Saudi kingdom.
And we should also keep in mind, this also occurred on the same day that the President was joking about reporters and what he called fake news with Vladimir Putin, and said to Vladimir Putin, "You don't have this problem in Russia," and Vladimir Putin said, "No, no, we have this problem as well."
But, Anderson, as we all know, they don't really have a free press in Russia because of the repressive nature of that regime. Anderson?
COOPER: Yes, 25 journalists have died in - in the time that he's been in Office. Jim Acosta, appreciate it.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: Now, as we mentioned, President Trump's first encounter with Vladimir Putin, since the Mueller report ended, like so many others with controversy, this time rather than, as Jim was saying, confront Putin about election interference, he joked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will you tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election?
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, of course, I will. Don't meddle in the election, please. Don't - don't meddle in the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was it. The President also shared another joke with Putin about the trouble Fake News organizations cause him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Fake news. You don't have the problem in Russia. We have it. You don't have it.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: Yes, yes. Yes. We have it. We have the problem.
TRUMP: You still have it?
PUTIN: Yes, the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A good laugh was had by all. Now either the President doesn't know or doesn't care.
But as I said, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000. We shall also point out that one year ago, today, a mass shooter killed five employees of a D.C. area newspaper, The Capital Gazette.
Let's talk about all this with Retired Lieutenant General James Clapper. He's the former Director of National Intelligence, and is CNN National Security Analyst. Mr. Clapper is also the author of the book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence.
Director Clapper, when you see and hear this kind of levity between the President and Vladimir Putin, I'm wondering what goes through your mind.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, RETIRED UNITED STATES AIR FORCE LIEUTENANT GENERAL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well I think for the President and his supporters, he was just smoking and joking.
For me, it was kind of a, I don't know, stunning but not surprising. To treat a profound threat to this country, like the Russian meddling as cavalierly as that, I - I just - I think it's - it's very disturbing.
COOPER: And then, I mean on top of that, you know, according to Reuters, the - the President was complaining about fake news to Vladimir Putin, of all people, and then Putin commiserates with him, this after at least 26 journalists--
COOPER: --have been murdered during Putin's time. I mean they - Trump's apparently said "Fake News. You don't have them in Russia. We have them. You don't have them." Putin says, "Yes, yes, we have them."
CLAPPER: Well I think if the - the President's instincts were allowed to prevail, he'd have a similar system for oppressing the media in this country as - as Putin enjoys in Russia.
And, you know, if - unless you're in a mode of adulating the President, you're an enemy - enemy of the State or enemy - enemy of the people. And that's, again, a very disturbing thing because free and independent media is - is a - is a hallmark of our - of our democracy.
COOPER: You know, one can't get in the head of somebody else unless you're, you know, a trained professional, I guess.
[21:30:00] But it does seem like the President wants the approval of whoever is in front of him, and will kind of go out of his way, even if it's highly inappropriate, to - to sort of get some sort of sense of, "Oh, we're in this together, it's, you know, we have a relationship."
CLAPPER: Yes. It's, you know, I - I want to be buds with everybody.
And, of course, didn't note that the advance criticism of some of our allies, which I - I think would kind of get their meetings off to an awkward start, at least, after publicly criticizing the likes of France or India or - or anybody. COOPER: Yes. Germany, I mean.
CLAPPER: Germany, exactly.
CLAPPER: And then, you know, we sort of praise or refuse to criticize the likes of Vladimir Putin or Mohammad Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.
COOPER: Right. And the President was seen with - with Mohammad Bin Salman at the Summit just nine months after the killing of - of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, standing no less center stage with the President of the United States.
CLAPPER: Yes, it's - it's - it's disturbing and distressing that MBS, Mohammad Bin Salman, is kind of getting a pass here for the murder of - of Khashoggi, the Journalist. And there's no doubt in my mind that he was implicated in this, that he not only acquiesce knew about it, but I - I - I believe he directed it.
COOPER: Yes. There's--
CLAPPER: It's - it's kind of bad that he now gets the reception he's getting.
COOPER: Yes. I mean there's no way a hit team goes into the Saudi, you know, Consulate in - in another country without high-level approval or the highest level approval, and brings a bone saw to, you know, what they initially allege was, you know, going to be an interview.
It's - it's I would have thought somebody in the White House at the very last, would have asked, you know, a couple of people to be in between the President and Mohammad Bin Salman. It's not as if they don't get advance notice of this kind of thing.
CLAPPER: If this were a conventional Administration. This administration is - is certainly not conventional. You think you'd think about the optics of the - the picture and - and their - and their appearing together, after so short a period after the - the murder.
COOPER: Yes. Director Clapper, appreciate your time. Thank you.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Now, more on this next, we'll talk with the two former top Justice Department professionals about what they make of the President's affinity for Vladimir Putin, as the clock tick towards Robert Mueller's testimony.
[21:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Well staying (ph) with our breaking news, President Trump has just praised, to his face, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the same Prince who, as Jim Acosta mentioned, has been implicated by United Nations investigation in the murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi. So that means in the space of a single day, President Trump made light of Russian interference in the 2020 election to Vladimir Putin's face, praised the Saudi Prince, who many believe was involved with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and tweeted, hopefully, about seeing Kim Jong-un, again, if only, just to shake his hand, if only.
Joining me now is James Baker, former General Counsel for the FBI, and former Federal Prosecutor, Elliot Williams.
Jim, I mean, as the former FBI Counsel, what goes through your mind when you hear the President make light of Russia's election interference, while sitting next to the man responsible for it.
JAMES BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: I mean it's shocking, but there has been so many things that have been shocking that have happened over the past several years, including, you know, starting with firing Jim Comey because he wanted, he did - because the President didn't like this particular investigation.
Look, the Russians - the Russian government and Vladimir Putin, they are the enemy of the United States. They are the enemy of the people.
They are the ones, who, in Director Mueller's words, engaged in a concerted attack on our political system, through military and intelligence elements - elements of the Russian government.
They are the enemy that we should be worried about. It's good for the President to have effective working relationships with foreign leaders, but when it comes to somebody who has done the kinds of things that Vladimir Putin has, with respect to our country and the fundamentals of our democracy, this should be just unacceptable.
COOPER: Well also, I mean, you know, they're bonding over their mutual disdain for the news media. I mean Russia is a place where journalists have been murdered.
BAKER: Exactly. The First Amendment is one of the things that has distinguished this country from all the other autocratic regimes that have existed for centuries.
And it's something that we should cherish, and not denigrate, especially in front of somebody like Vladimir Putin, who shows no respect for civil rights and - and human rights as we would think about them in the United States.
COOPER: Yes. Elliot, you know, we've already seen the President outraged over the fact that Robert Mueller is going to be testifying in - in some three weeks. He's very clearly said that he will not go beyond or does not want to go beyond what's in - can he stick to that?
I mean, obviously, Republicans have a different strategy than the Democrats do. But clearly, Democrats want to hear more about his thought process, which is not in the report?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, THE RABEN GROUP'S GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS PRACTICE GROUP PRINCIPAL: Let me put it this way.
Congressional hearings are the one place in the world where the movie is actually better than the book. And we have this book in the form of the Mueller report, but hearing a witness testify to only the information that's in it.
So, think about a couple weeks ago when he gave that press conference, that was probably some of the most riveting material that we've seen thus far because what you had was the person who had drafted a major legal document, saying to the American people, for the first time, "I could not exonerate the President of crimes."
He didn't - he didn't, you know, and even, you know, he went as far as to say what he could not say, but it was still incredibly powerful. And I think putting him on the witness stand and really going through that, has a huge impact.
So, even if he's not going to accuse the President of treason or any nonsense like that, it's still going to be incredibly consequential testimony. And the Democrats still do sort - get lot and can - can draw some blood from this.
COOPER: Jim, do you agree with that? I mean, going to the hearing, knowing what Mueller said he would, and wouldn't say, do you agree that it's going to be powerful? And how would you approach questioning him then?
BAKER: So, yes, I think, exactly it will be very powerful.
Approaching him in terms of questioning, look, I plead with the Democrats to not engage in speechifying--
BAKER: --in these hearings.
COOPER: Which they - I mean they all - I mean all these politicians do that.
COOPER: They waste so much time making a statement.
BAKER: Exactly. It is a waste of time, and it is - it is affirmatively not in the interest of the American people for them to do that.
So, I would say, pick one or two Members who have maybe a - a background as a prosecutor, and who are good at asking questions. Give all your time to them. Let them tell the story by having more time to do so, rather than trying to get through everything in five minutes.
[21:40:00] And - and have a strategy like that to lay out exactly what - what parts of the Mueller report they want to hit. But don't speechify.
COOPER: Yes. BAKER: That's the worst possible thing they could do.
COOPER: I mean it's easy to say don't, but I mean, Elliot, this is what they always do.
WILLIAMS: Yes and, you know, and - and Jim raised an excellent point. They're not bound to have every single Member ask the question.
Supreme Court hearings are the best example of this. They all speechify, when in fact, there are probably - Kamala Harris, as we saw yesterday, three or four of them are usually very effective--
WILLIAMS: --questioners. They can just pick a couple people to do it. And that'd make for a much more pointed productive hearing.
COOPER: Yes. Also the - the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee said he - he will ask questions that are outside the report. Do you - will that - will that waste time? Will that--
WILLIAMS: Mueller may not answer - give questions that are productive. But again, so there are things that are outside the report, you know, with respect to our relationship with Russia, and he might potentially have background on it.
WILLIAMS: So, I, you know, I'm not convinced that--
COOPER: There won't be extra--
WILLIAMS: No, yes, there won't be extra.
COOPER: All right.
WILLIAMS: It could still be good.
COOPER: Elliot Williams, James Baker, appreciate it. Thank you very much. Have a great weekend.
Coming up, an in-depth look at Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote both of the significant decisions handed down by the High Court yesterday.
[21:45:00] COOPER: Those huge decisions handed down this week by the Supreme Court on gerrymandering and the citizenship question in the 2020 census were both written by Chief Justice John Roberts.
One outraged Liberals, the other, outraged Conservatives, which seems to put the Chief Justice in a newly accustomed place.
Our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger now with an in-depth look at Justice Roberts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: In this class photo of the men and women in black, one Justice sits smiling front and center, although ideologically, he's actually on the Right.
Chief Justice John Roberts, thrust into the top row 14 years ago, the youngest Chief in more than 200 years, now leading a divided court, as a divided nation watches.
TRUMP: No collusion.
BORGER: With a norm-busting Republican President, and an aggressive Democratic House colliding.
TED OLSON, FORMER U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: It's like two glaciers crushing together, and anybody that's caught between those two glaciers or icebergs can be crushed. I mean there is high stakes and a lots of tension.
BORGER: And where does that leave John Roberts?
OLSON: Well right smack in the middle of things.
BORGER: On the docket, old questions once considered settled about the issue of abortion, and new questions about the President's power and Congress' authority.
JOSHUA MATZ, FORMER CLERK TO JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY: Every generation has a moment where the Supreme Court seems to stand on the edge of the abyss.
Right now, there are fundamental questions about the protection of individual liberty and about the basic structure of our government that are out for grabs in ways that we haven't seen in decades.
BORGER: In a stunning move, Roberts has already declared the Court's independence in a public broadside, after Trump criticized Judges as political, writing "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges."
JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Roberts' pushback against Trump was an example of what an artful politician Roberts is, because it showed him defending the Judiciary, pretending, in my view, that they are apolitical, but giving himself the political space to continue to be the Conservative that he's always been.
BORGER: With extraordinary impact.
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST, "THE CHIEF" AUTHOR: I don't think you can overstate his power in America.
BORGER: Joan Biskupic is the Author of the John Roberts' biography, The Chief. BISKUPIC: He sets the agenda. The Chief Justice introduces each case that's going to be voted on after oral arguments, or as they're deciding what new cases to take up. So, he's in a position to steer the conversation.
I think he knows that people are looking to the Supreme Court to be neutral, to be setting a certain tone.
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms. We do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation.
BORGER: But there's no denying the Court's Conservative majority since the retirement of swing vote Anthony Kennedy. But progressives continue to hold out hope that given Roberts' concern for the institution, he might swing their way once in a while.
MATZ: Only a fool would say that John Roberts is not a profoundly Conservative man.
TOOBIN: Don't kid yourself. John Roberts is not Anthony Kennedy. He is far more Conservative on all the hot-button issues, on abortion, on civil rights, on voting rights, on campaign finance.
But he is also someone concerned about the institutional reputation of the court and someone who does not want to see the court lurch quickly. But don't kid yourself about which way he wants to see the court go. It's to the Right.
BORGER: It's where he has always been, a product of the Reagan revolution, that cadre of young lawyers, who served in Washington to change the world.
FRED FIELDING, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well the tenor at the times was that there hadn't been an - a Republican President. There hadn't been a - an acceptance or an involvement of the Conservative movement.
OLSON: He was a Special Assistant to the Attorney General. Before that, he was Clerk to Justice Rehnquist, and a very prominent Court of Appeals Judge, so he was in the Judiciary then. Then he was in the White House, the Executive branch.
BORGER: When, at 27, he went to work for Ronald Reagan's Counsel, Fred Fielding.
FIELDING: When you're in the White House Counsel's Office, you have to put in your thinking an ingredient of the political impact and the social impact of something, not just the legalistic impact. And I - I hope that that - that was helpful to John in developing his own philosophies.
TOOBIN: He was for limiting voting rights. He was for eliminating affirmative action. He was for restricting abortion rights. This was the Reagan agenda, and it was his agenda.
BORGER: And it's still his agenda? [21:50:00] TOOBIN: I think Chief Justice Roberts doesn't think of himself as having a policy agenda anymore. But his judicial agenda certainly is consistent with the values and the policies he espoused almost 40 years ago in the Reagan years.
BORGER: Married with two children, the son of an Indiana Steel Executive and the product of a private high school, and Harvard and Harvard Law, the young Roberts always figured he'd be writing history, instead of making it.
ROBERTS: What motivated me to go to law school is that there were not a lot of jobs for history teachers.
BORGER: Roberts had plenty of offers as a lawyer, and became a federal judge. And then, in 2005, George W. Bush catapulted him to the ultimate job at the age of 50.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In public service and in private practice, he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court.
BORGER: Roberts was smooth.
ROBERTS: And I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat. Judges and Justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires make the rules. They apply them.
BORGER: Do his rulings reflect that he's just an umpire calling the balls and strikes here?
BISKUPIC: No, no, he's trying to diminish his role. But there is no strike zone in judging. There's judgments in judging. And, of course, the Chief knows that.
BORGER: Only too well. He voted against hype (ph) to save Obamacare.
TOOBIN: Roberts basically said to his fellow Republicans, "Look, you want to overturn Obamacare, help yourself. But I'm not going to do it for you."
BISKUPIC: His vote in the Affordable Care Act case was not easy at all. In fact, he switched twice behind the scenes. And he had to have known how much Conservative anger he was going to generate.
BORGER: Conservatives had come to depend on him when he voted to loosen campaign finance laws, and oppose same-sex marriage.
And they praised him when he wrote the majority opinion, gutting a key part of the Voting Rights Act, requiring federal permission for some states to change their voting laws, a decision that still horrifies the Civil Rights community.
SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: It's like Whac- A-Mole. How can you keep up with every polling place change? How can you keep up with every purge scheme? How do you keep up with all of that?
And in thousands of counties in states all over this country, particularly in the South, it is overwhelming and exhausting, and we don't catch all of it.
BORGER: The Roberts court is no doubt heading into even more controversy. The question is how quickly.
BORGER: From abortion--
MATZ: We shouldn't expect a decision next year that overrules Roe. What we should expect is a death by a thousand cuts that he very carefully engineers over the next decade or so.
BORGER: To the power of the President.
TOOBIN: If I'm Donald Trump, I feel very confident that John Roberts will be with me at the end of the day because Executive power, especially vis-a-vis, the Congress, has been one of Roberts' core values since he got out of law school.
BORGER: Donald Trump and John Roberts are stuck with each other, like it or not.
MATZ: We're asking the Chief Justice in his court to guide us through these treacherous waters, even as they are themselves under siege. And I think everyone in that building has a sense, has a deep understanding that these are fraught times and that they better get it right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Up next, a big thank you from me to someone who's made this show and, frankly, my life, the best it could be for over a decade now.
[21:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Finally tonight, I just want to take a moment to bid a bitter- sweet goodbye, but not farewell, to someone who's been here at 360, and overseeing virtually every aspect of my life for more than a dozen years, talking about my friend and Assistant, Joey Pintauro.
Assistant, it's not really the right word. Joey's been much more than that. He's been a true collaborator, the connective tissue that's held my schedule, and therefore, my life together.
He's made it possible for me to get from the studio to halfway around the world in a moment's notice to cover breaking news to 60 Minutes shoots, and home again. And he's done it all with a wicked sense of humor, a smile, and more than a little bit of shouting on the phone. He is a force of nature, unafraid to tell anyone at 360 exactly what he thinks about a story or a guest or them, and let me tell you, that includes me, as it should.
You're lucky in this business, or any business, frankly, to have a colleague who works so tirelessly on your behalf. He's been there, not just for me, but for my family, and loved ones. And when I was frequently on assignment, I could always count on Joey to keep an eye on my mom. She adored him. We all do.
Joey's true passion is music. He had a great career producing music, before coming to 360. And I knew, eventually, he'd want to go back to it. It's what he loves. And to use a phrase, coined by Professor Joseph Campbell, Joey is going to be following his bliss.
His favorite singer is the late Donna Summer. And today, as we gathered and tried not to get all, you know, well gooey, and then grabbed the gooey cupcakes all at once, and thanked Joey, I couldn't help but think of those famous lyrics from MacArthur Park, which I've heard Joey sing, I think, maybe dozens of times.
(FROM VH1/JIMMY WEBB - VIDEO OF DONNA SUMMER SINGING MACARTHUR PARK)
COOPER: For the record, no pun intended, Joey would never let a cake get stuck out in the rain. Nothing gets by him. But he has, in all seriousness, been the baker behind the scenes of everything I've done at CNN. And I'll never have that recipe again.
So, Joey, thank you. Let the music play. And, yes, I was quoting the Artist, Shannon. And, yes, I had to ask Joey to tell me who Shannon was.
The news continues. Let's turn things over now to Don Lemon and CNN TONIGHT.