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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Bipartisan Senate Report: Russia Likely Targeted U.S. Election System in All 50 States in 2016; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is Interviewed About the Senate Intel Report Warnings of Ongoing Election Cyberattack Threat; Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-CA) is Interviewed About Dems Weighing Impeachment in the Wake of Mueller Hearing; Barr Orders Restart Of Federal Executions After 16 Years; Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The Death Penalty; EPA Spokesman Calls New CA Deal To Raise Fuel Efficiency A "PR Stunt"; Joe Biden Says He Plans On Not Being "As Polite" During Next Week's Democratic Debate; How Trump Got On State With A Fake Presidential Seal. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

The Senate Intelligence Committee just released its final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and it contained a warning. The effort to which the report says targeted all 50 states in 2016 are ongoing. The threat continues, which should not come as a surprise.

Robert Mueller said the same thing just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): In your investigation, did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election or did you find evidence to suggest they will try to do this again?

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, a little less than four hours after Mr. Mueller said that, Senate Republicans blocked three measures on election in cyber security, two of which would require campaigns to alert the FBI and federal officials about foreign offers of help.

Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith who was presiding blocked all three. She gave no reason. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It's just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia and who continue to ignore this administration's progress at correcting the Obama administration's failures on this subject in the 2018 election. Therefore, I object.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Leader McConnell also said that any such measure should be bipartisan and undertaken with extreme care. He did not, however, offer an alternative.

The president has not weighed in on this. He did tweet several times about an American hip-hop artist in jail in Sweden. So, that's something.

He also did a Twitter victory lap over the Mueller hearings, including one tweet that reads in all caps, quote: Truth is a force of nature. And he's certainly right, especially when it's staring you in the face.

But perhaps he's just not willing to hear it from Robert Mueller. So, here's his Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats a full year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It was in the months prior to September 2001 when, according to then CIA Director George Tenet, the system was blinking red. And here we are two, nearly two decades later, and I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking red again.

In regards to state actions, Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor. No question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Dan Coats is a low-key individual. That's as close as he comes to a hair on fire moment, saying the warning lights are blinking red again.

So did that spur the president to action? Did he put new sanctions on Russia? No. Did he convene high level meetings to coordinate a response, the problem with the 2018 elections coming up, and signal that this was a top presidential priority? Not that we've seen.

Did he get angry? Yes, reportedly very angry and, yes, he did talk to Vladimir Putin and he believed Putin over Dan Coats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: When he said that, he knew what his director of national intelligence knew and what the intelligence community knew and briefed him about a full year and a half before. He knew, but couldn't bring himself to confront Putin on it or put his face in the power of his office behind an effort to stop him.

But keeping him honest, he's never devoted more than a token sentence in his speech to foreign election interference. In a letter to the White House about a briefing they received from national security agencies earlier this month has Democrats say, and I'm quoting here, none of the briefers could confirm that you have ever received a comprehensive election security briefing in advance of the 2020 election.

In response late today, the White House did not rebut that allegation or even address it, quoting the Trump administration has instituted the first ever whole of government approach with the FBI, DHS, state and local officials to protect the integrity of our elections. He did last September sign an executive order declaring election interference and national security threat in both the DNI and National Security Agency have named senior officials to coordinate responses to foreign influence.

But that was only last week. Beyond that, what's missing is any sign the president considers this a national priority, or his leadership, or to add his voice to it or even any sign of his participation at all. The in fact, the president doesn't seem to consider foreign countries helping out to be a problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Your campaign this time, foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

TRUMP: I think maybe you do both.

[20:05:00] I think you might want to listen. I don't -- there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I'd want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not interference. They have information. I think I'd take it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was only last month. And as you let that sink in, how it contradicts what top officials have been saying month after month after month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: What we have seen, what has continued virtually unabated and just intensifies during the election cycles is this malign foreign influence campaign.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The Russians have gotten the message or there are still more messages to be sent?

WRAY: I think there are still more messages to be sent.

The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections through --

GRAHAM: Is it fair to say --

WRAY: -- foreign influence.

We expect much of the same in 2020, especially with new cyber tools that are continuing to fall in the hands of adversaries who would do us harm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's, of course, FBI Director Chris Wray.

That last bit was from today shortly before today's Senate intelligence committee landed. What is important is how much of the report is redacted. It means as dire as it appears, we still don't know the half of it. The president, on the other hand, does, but he so far isn't raising any new alarm.

Joining us now one of the senators co-sponsoring some of the blocked legislation, Connecticut Democrat, Richard Blumenthal.

Thanks so much for being here.

First of all, Mitch McConnell says this should be a bipartisan effort. I think everybody could probably agree with that. It shouldn't be something that's contentious.

Why did -- why did the Republicans vote against it?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): That's a mystery, because it should be bipartisan. That Intelligence Committee report is bipartisan. What it shows is that the Russians began this misinformation and disinformation attack on our democracy as early as 2014, well before the 2016 election. They are continuing. They probed and scanned, they have activities ongoing in at least 21 states, and there's unanimity in the Intelligence Committee. So the lack of Republican involvement or not engagement here is really a disservice to our country.

COOPER: I mean, we heard one Republican, congressman yesterday during the Mueller hearings, basically even attack the idea that Russian troll farms have -- what's the proof they actually have any or influenced by the Russian government or controlled by the Russian government, which was kind of an extraordinary line of questioning because none of them seem particularly interested in the actual interference that did take place.

BLUMENTHAL: The Republicans yesterday really tried to turn that hearing into a kind of side show, but this attack on our democracy is really deadly serious. Robert Mueller is a modern-day Paul Revere. Now, the question is, will the nation listen?

COOPER: So, what more actually needs to be done? Because what the White House is saying is they didn't address whether or not the president has actually received full briefings on the upcoming election and possible interference, and there are certainly reports that, you know, Mick Mulvaney said don't brick this stuff up, don't talk about Russia with the president because it makes him angry.

BLUMENTHAL: The president refuses to hear about it because he regards it as an insult to his election.

COOPER: Right, questions the legitimacy of his election.

BLUMENTHAL: And it undermines his supposed majority. But the fact is the Russians are continuing to attack our democracy. Christopher Wray, the head of the national intelligence agencies all are unanimous that we need to harden our democracy by reinforcing our safeguards against hacking into our election machinery, and also what I have introduced, the measure that would require reporting the duty to report act, require Donald Trump, any member of his campaign, anybody in his family to report offers of assistance or soliciting of assistance.

It's illegal right now, but Donald Trump is saying there's no duty to report it. It would be unpatriotic. It would be immoral to fail to do so.

COOPER: It is kind of incredible when you think about it the president really has not made a primetime address, really a public address focused on what the Russians did and, you know, what interference there was and what he is doing in order to stop it from happening again. I mean, the White House says they have a whole government approach. General Hayden and others have said if the president himself is not using the bully pulpit, which he uses effectively for a number of things to push this, it's not -- it doesn't have teh same impact.

BLUMENTHAL: It lacks that impact that would alarm and outrage Americans. It ought to be the president at the forefront leading, not denying the overwhelming unanimous opinion of the intelligence community, his own intelligence community, our nation's intelligence community. Instead, he is crediting Vladimir Putin, and that is not only unpatriotic and immoral, it is potentially a decision to undermine our democracy.

COOPER: If you're an analyst, the CIA or intelligence agency and you plan to have this be your career, if what you're focused on is Russian interference and the president doesn't even want to receive briefings about it or doesn't want to hear it discussed, that doesn't send a great message to people that that's something in the lower levels of the intelligence agencies that they should actually focus on and commit themselves to.

BLUMENTHAL: It not only undermines their morale, but our attempt to recruit the best and the brightest to serve in our intelligence community. They risk their lives. They put their careers and their futures on the line every day, some of them in places of great danger, and for their advice to be disregarded about not only the Russians.

But yesterday, Robert Mueller warned about, quote, many other countries. And today "The Washington Post" is reporting a disinformation campaign by Iran.

COOPER: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: That intelligence report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is bipartisan, warns about potentially other countries as well. So, we have the fight of our lives on our hands as a democracy. And whether the president likes it or not, he has to lead or get out of the way. And the same is true of Republicans. They have to be there in the trenches in this fight.

COOPER: Yes, going to talk to one of the reporters from "The Washington Post" about Iran's efforts.

Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Speaking of the other countries, joining us now is Craig Timberg of "The Washington Post" who shares the byline of the story as the senator mentioned, adds concern to the information that's laid out in the Senate intelligence report.

The headline of "The Washington Post" piece, it's not just the Russians any more as Iranians and others turn up disinformation efforts ahead of the 2020 vote.

Craig, how many countries and which countries does the U.S. have to consider a security threat to the next election? I mean, the article focuses on Iran, which is fascinating. China, we know, has a huge industrial spying effort going on in addition to national security spying.

CRAIG TIMBERG, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. there's quite a few countries that have disinformation operations happening within their borders. People mention as you said China, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. There's quite a few.

And the concerning thing, of course, is that they're all active and they all have a different agendas. We could have a much more complex kind of social media disinformation issue in 2020 than we had in 2016.

COOPER: And they're not all aligning themselves with the same political party. Iran has a different agenda than Russia in this regard.

TIMBERG: Yes, that's one of the things I found fascinating about the story, is that the Iranians aren't fans of Donald Trump the way the Russians are fans of Donald Trump. So when they play, they're pushing their own line. The Iranians probably would rather not see Donald Trump reelected. They'd rather see the Republicans win back the House and the Senate. So, you end up with this complex situation potentially if we don't defend the country well. Really any country that has any means at all could potentially be setting up fake accounts and aiming them right at our voters and their preferences.

COOPER: So, I mean, how exactly are foreign actors meddling? The hacking voting machines to change the tally, that's not actually the primary concern, is it?

TIMBERG: There's two really big concerns aside from the possibility of vote hacking per se. One is the kind of social media disinformation we saw in 2016, which is thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of accounts that are set up explicitly to infiltrate their way into American political conversation and push one way or another.

The Iranians, for example, mimicked -- pretended they were Republican candidates for Congress in 2018 and started using these fake accounts to push geopolitical goals. You know, for example, against president -- against the position of Israel, for example.

But the other big thing that happens is these countries, they can hack the way the Russians did in 2016. They can dump this information out on the Internet the way they did in 2016, and given the level of cyber security at campaigns around the country, that's a real risk in 2020 as well.

COOPER: You've also talked about that there are domestic actors. I mean, there are -- it's not just foreign people trying to influence the elections. There are, you know, there were people I think on the Democratic side or who at least were trying to involve themselves in the Alabama election in support -- against Roy Moore. Some of the folks who were at the White House recently for that social media thing clearly do disinformation stuff.

[20:15:04] TIMBERG: Well, exactly. I mean, the companies actually have a much easier time dealing with foreign disinformation when they find it because it's -- you know, it's against the law and it's against their policies for other countries to be meddling in elections. So, if the Iranians or the Saudis or whoever set up a bunch of fake accounts and Facebook or Twitter find them, they can shut it down.

When it's American political actors, it's a really different story, right? At one point does it stop being free speech and does it start becoming disinformation?

So, you have a lot of motive from political actors in the United States, but you also have to protect -- have the protective veil of the First Amendment. And our expectations, they are allowed to express political ideas. So, it's the domestic thing in a way is an even naughtier problem than the foreign one.

COOPER: Craig Timberg, I appreciate it. It's a fascinating report in "The Washington Post". Thank you.

TIMBERG: My pleasure.

COOPER: Coming up next, what Robert Mueller said to Congress versus how he said it. The question, did his delivery of the message undermine the case the Democrats have for impeaching the president? We'll ask the man who ran one of the hearings, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

And later, Joe Biden says he's getting tough in the next debate. We'll look at how he may do that and what he'll face if he doesn't follow through.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Today, Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian election interference echoes much of what Robert Mueller said before Congress yesterday and there's no question both are serious. In the case of Mueller's findings, they also raised serious questions about the president's actions, the point that many Democrats believe that his report and his testimony about it amount to a case for impeachment.

However, since politics is about persuasion, those same Democrats are now coming face to face with questions and skepticism about how persuasive Mueller's testimony really was. Some reviews have been harsh, as had the headlines.

In "The New York Times" for instance, lack of electricity in Mueller testimony short circuits impeachment. Here's "Politico", Pelosi rebuffs Nadler on impeachment after Mueller flop.

Pelosi, of course, is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Nadler is Congressman Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He joins us now.

Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for being with us.

How likely are impeachment proceedings against the president at this point? We don't have a majority of Democrats on board at this point or speaker of the House for that matter.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Well, I don't know how likely they are, but what I do know is that what we saw from Mr. Mueller yesterday was a report, a deeply researched report that said that the president -- that the Russians had attacked our elections to help Mr. Trump.

[20:20:11] That the Trump campaign welcomed that help from the Russians. That the president lied repeatedly to the American people and engaged in repeated criminal acts of obstruction of justice. These are very serious things and what we have to do now is lay out the evidence before the American people, and that's what we intend to do.

Well, "Politico" is reporting yesterday in a closed door meeting, you were pushing to launch impeachment proceedings against the president, but your efforts were rebuffed by Speaker Pelosi.

Is that in fact how that meeting played out?

NADLER: Well, the meeting -- we're discussing a number of things, but I think everybody agreed that we have to lay out the fact -- before you can consider that, you have to layout the facts to the American people and it is very frustrating that the administration has systematically attacked the right of Congress to hold any administration accountable, opposed all our subpoenas and we have to break that logjam in order to layout the facts before the American people.

That's why we're going to court tomorrow in the first of a series of actions that we'll take in the next couple of days. When we've laid out the facts in front of the American people, then we'll proceed.

COOPER: There are a lot of people who heard Speaker Pelosi talking yesterday and believed that while she's paying lip service to going through the courts. It sounded to them like she's trying to slow walk this so eventually the whole impeachment thing goes away.

How far apart are you from the speaker?

NADLER: I don't think you can say we're slow walking it. Or she's slow walking. We're going into court to get the grand jury information tomorrow, and we will be going into court, assuming that the accommodations haven't worked on Monday or Tuesday, to enforce a subpoena to get McGahn, the main fact witness in front of the Mueller committee -- the Mueller investigation to testify in front of congressional committees, to layout -- and we will be following others.

You know, the administration has opposed all attempts, not just for the investigation, but to get information about the family separation at the border, administration's attempt to rig the census, and anything else. They've opposed all congressional subpoenas, all attempts to find information. We have to break that logjam so we can lay the evidence before the American people and if -- I should say when we win the lawsuit on McGahn that we'll be bringing on Monday or Tuesday, all the rest will follow because they're all the same nonsense legal arguments that the administration uses.

When we have the evidence in front of the American people, then we'll have --

COOPER: There was a lot of talk, though, about putting the evidence before the American people in the Mueller report. When it came out, the line became once Mueller actually testifies, that's going to wake people up and people are going to pay attention.

Were you aware how Mueller was going to testify yesterday? Did you have any advance sense of his grasp of what was in the report, his ability to recall it?

NADLER: We knew -- we knew because they had told us in the week or so leading up to the or two weeks leading up to it that he was going to not comment beyond the four corners of the report and that he was probably going to be very reticent, and we knew that. But it's still very important for him to get his conclusions out to the American people because it was very important to break the lies that we were being told by the president and the attorney general, that there was no collusion or obstruction, that the report totally exonerated him. All of those were lies.

And it became very clear and I think as time goes by over the next few weeks, more and more people will understand this, that the Mueller report found, in fact, that the president's campaign worked -- accepted help, was glad to accept help from the Russians during the campaign. That the president has engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of justice that, in fact, there is such heavy evidence if he were anybody but the president, he would be facing criminal indictment right now.

COOPER: But in terms of Mueller's delivery, if you knew Mueller was going to give what the president called a performance that he gave yesterday, would you have gone ahead with a hearing anyway? He made it clear he didn't want to do this.

NADLER: We would -- we would have gone ahead because it is important that the conclusions of the Mueller report be before the American people unfiltered by the lies of Attorney General Barr and President Trump. You know, Barr has been lying about what was in the report. It was important that that be demolished, and that the findings of the report which are very, very damning to the president be put before the American people.

And even if it wasn't as dramatic as one might have hoped or thought it would be, that information is going to get out more and more.

[20:25:06] And simultaneously, we will be pursuing our efforts to get the actual evidence in front of the American people. That will start, as I said, tomorrow.

COOPER: Adam Schiff says Democrats need to be realistic and that the only way President Trump is leaving office at this point is if he's voted out in 2020. Do you think he's right?

NADLER: I think it's much too early to say that. I don't know. But if -- I don't know that. It's much too early.

What I do know now is that we have to make sure the American people know about the Mueller committee's findings, unfiltered through the lies of the administration which were broken yesterday. I think it was very, very important for Mueller to come out and, in fact, call the lies of the administration for what they were.

And now we -- our job is to get the actual evidence before the American people, which we will start by going -- start doing by going into court tomorrow.

COOPER: But the court, you go to court tomorrow. That could take a long period of time. NADLER: Well, we hope, and I think there is a good chance that the

courts will expedite the proceedings. We will certainly ask for expedition. And I think it's a good chance we'll get it.

COOPER: So you don't buy into the argument that some were making yesterday and today that Mueller, by the way he presented it, did more harm than good? In terms of Democrats --

NADLER: Certainly not. Prior to yesterday, the dominant news for the American people, were the lies of the administration, that the Mueller commission had found no obstruction, no collusion, and it totally exonerated the president. Yesterday, we heard from Mueller who said those were lies. He said he did not -- the committee most certainly did not exonerate the president. They found considerable evidence of -- substantial evidence of very serious crimes, multiple by the president, that it was clear that the Russians had attempted -- had attacked our election in order to benefit the Trump campaign, and that the Trump campaign had welcomed that assistance.

Those are very damning -- and that they are attacking our elections right now and will next year and the administration is doing nothing about it. Those are very damning statements, and it was important to get them out through the blockade of the administration's lies. And I think we did that. I think that was accomplished yesterday. It will get further out as the news media cover it more.

But now, we have to get out more specific evidence and the actual people who were instructed by the president to commit crimes on his behalf, and who testified to the Mueller administration. We have to get them to testify in public now and that's why we're going into court.

COOPER: There have been questions raised about certainly by Republicans, but also just in reporting late, in the last 24 hours about how much Mueller led the investigation, how much was other people. Does -- were you surprised at his, at times, inability to recall specific things or get tripped up --

NADLER: I -- I don't know Mr. Mueller, so I couldn't be surprised or not. But I don't think that's the relevant question.

What the relevant question is, is the information that was gotten out, the fact that Mueller, whether hesitantly or robustly it doesn't matter, said very clearly that the president was not exonerated by his report, that the president -- there was substantial evidence of multiple crimes of obstruction of justice by the president, and that he repeatedly ordered people to lie to the American people and to investigators, and that the Trump campaign welcomed assistance from the Russians. All of those were very important facts. And the personal demeanor of Mueller is less important than the fact that he got -- that he stated those things.

COOPER: Are you willing to launch an impeachment without Speaker Pelosi's blessing? Would that happen?

NADLER: I don't know. What I do know is we have to go step-by-step, and our next step starting tomorrow is to get the evidence before the American people. You know, impeachment is a very serious matter. You don't undertake it because you can't stand the incumbent president.

And I've said in the past there are three things you have to meet for impeachment, and one is that there's proof of impeachable offenses. Second, that those are serious impeachable offenses, and third, that you have the support of a good part -- you have the evidence -- that you have sufficient evidence so you can convince a good part of the American people so that the act of impeaching the president doesn't tear the country apart.

We have to accomplish -- if we're going to do this, we have to accomplish all three of those and as I said, our next step is to produce that evidence and block -- it's to challenge the administration's blockade of all evidence and -- in court, get the evidence released and get the testimony so we can produce that evidence and produce that situation.

[20:30:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Chairman Nadler, appreciate your time. Thank you.

NADLER: You're quite welcome.

COOPER: For the first time in 16 years, the government is reinstating the death penalty for federal prisoners. Coming up, I'll talk with California Governor Gavin Newsom who has already placed a moratorium on executions in his state. We'll find out what he says about what the Trump administration is doing. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Attorney General William Barr today directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the execution of five inmates several months from now. The first time the death penalty will be used in federal prisons in nearly two decades.

Barr said the government is moving to speak -- to seek justice against what he called the "worst criminals" and bring relief to victims and family members. Well, legal challenges could delay the planned executions.

California's Governor Gavin Newsom for one has already put a halt to executions for state prisoners in California. I spoke with the Governor just before air time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Governor Newsome, it was just four months ago that you issued a statewide executive moratorium on the death penalty. When you heard what the Trump administration now is planning, what did you think?

[20:35:08] GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It didn't surprise me at all. I think after Vice President Biden came out with his platform, being now among the chorus of Democrats that support the repeal of the death penalty, invariably this would come out. This is a President that's governing by fear and anger. This few days before the next Democratic debate, making sure that this is topic. I'm not surprised at all.

COOPER: So, you think it's coming out intentionally to make this a topic during the debate because he thinks it's a winning issue for him?

NEWSOM: Yes. I mean, the debate happens to be coincidental, but certainly in this campaign it doesn't surprise me. I mean, frankly, what surprises me is he didn't do it in the last two years. But it's ginned up, I'm sure, just in time before the election and it's unfortunate.

I mean, the fact is the trend line in the United States of America is to repeal death penalty, you just saw it happened in New Hampshire. Of course, I govern the state with the largest death row in the western hemisphere, 734 people. We put a moratorium. The trend line has been favorable in the United States and around the rest of the world, but the President of the United States wants to gin back up this base and make this a topical issue. Again, it doesn't surprise me.

COOPER: The Department of Justice, they've basically identified five people who they say they would execute. I mean, when you look at what these people did, it is really horrific crimes that we're talking about. I mean it's, you know, torture and murder and really disgusting stuff.

NEWSOM: Yes.

COOPER: Explain why you think that they should not face the death penalty, because they've already been convicted and they're already obviously in prison.

NEWSOM: Well, I value life and I don't think we have the right to take the life of another human being and I think it rather perverse. I have four young kids. To tell my 9-year-old daughter that we're going to kill someone to teach you that it's wrong to kill, it's rather a perverse message.

The fact is the vast majority of Democratic governance around the world has moved away either in practice or by law to repeal the death penalty. It's just interesting, countries like Saudi Arabia, North Korea where we increasingly seeing to be cozying up moved in the opposite direction. I just think we're better than that.

And I also think, Anderson, briefly, there's another fundamental point, wealth, culpability determines whether or not you'll end up on death row more often than not. The color of your skin determines that fate more often than not. And I understand that --

COOPER: You think the system is so unfair that it's not fair to have this ultimate penalty?

NEWSOM: Look, I just had someone who spent 25 years, a quarter of a century on death row in California for a crime he didn't commit. He's one of over 150 people that have been exonerated that have been on death row. If we don't think this, we know we've killed people that did not commit the crimes.

And we know disproportionately -- I'm in a state where 66 percent of people on death row are people of color. There's a fundamental fact in our criminal justice system, and that is it's not fair to poor people and people of color. It's been said many, many times and I'll repeat it, we treat people that are rich and guilty better than we treat people that are poor and innocent in our criminal justice system.

COOPER: I also want to ask you about news out of California last night, a federal judge issuing an injunction against the Trump administration policy that would essentially end asylum claims at the southern border.

You obviously taken issue with the Trump administration immigration policies, particularly when it comes to asylum seekers. Do you expect that new policy that the President is trying to institute, do you expect it to continue to get knocked down by courts?

NEWSOM: Yes, because I think he's got to change the law. He can't just by, you know, fiat or executive order decide that he can do whatever he wants to do. I think the law is pretty clear. I think in that case the outcome was predetermined on the basis of the facts. Obviously they'll try to appeal it or they'll try to work around it, but it's the nature of what we're dealing with now.

We have a President that's not interested in governing, doing the hard work of legislating, working to develop compromise, creating conditions to bring people together. It's all about, you know, again, creating a frame of fear and anxiety and anger to gin up his base and it's really sad and it's rather pathetic and weak, but it is what we're dealing with in the United States right now.

COOPER: Does it work? I mean, do you think it's going to work for him to get reelected?

NEWSOM: It's going to work if we don't call it out. It's going to work if we don't stand up. It's going to work if the courts don't intervene. It's going to work only if we don't rollover. And, you know, we're going to continue to do our part in the state of California.

Look, we're doing it on vehicle emissions standards. It proves that you can win in this environment. Trump just had a huge loss as it relates to his efforts to roll back fuel efficiency in this country, to take us backwards as it relates to climate change. It proves if we stand up, we assert ourselves and we use our moral authority, we can beat them.

[20:40:02] COOPER: You just struck a deal I think it was with four automakers of raising fuel efficiency standards for California. There was a spokesman for the EPA who said about this in California. They said, "This voluntary framework is a PR stunt that does nothing to further the one national standard that will provide certainty and relief for American consumers."

NEWSOM: Yes. Well, they certainly know a lot about PRs, so it's not surprising. But the facts are the facts. These four automobile companies, Ford and among others, representing 30 percent of all the auto sales in the United States of America have committed regardless of what Trump does to these higher standards, the Obama air standards with a slight tweak. So no matter what they do, it won't matter for at least 30 percent of the market.

Now, what will invariably happen, Anderson, watch this space is other automobile manufacturers will have to join because they don't want two standards in this country. This was a big, big thing that's happened for the environment.

Transportation is the principal source of emissions in the United States of America. If we can tackle this and advance the principles that California advanced in the Obama administration embraced, we're going to make some progress. Donald Trump in this case is losing this debate. This was a big breakthrough today.

COOPER: Governor Newsom, appreciate your time. Thank you.

NEWSOM: Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: More ahead in just a moment. Former Vice President Biden says he's changing his game plan ahead of next week's Democratic presidential debates here on CNN. Coming up, let's find out what he has in mind for one of his main opponents.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:45:13] COOPER: As next week's Democratic debates here on CNN draw closer, former Vice President Biden says he plans on being tougher on one of his main opponents this time around, referring to California Senator Kamala Harris who notably gained a lot of attention in the first debate by criticizing his record on race relations.

Biden said at a fundraiser last night, "I'm not going to be as polite this time, because this is the same person who asked me to come to California and nominate her in her convention." So a sign if one was needed that Biden feels he has to raise his game next week.

Perspective now from Van Jones, a former senior advisor to President Obama and a CNN Political Commentator, as well as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is a Biden supporter. Appreciate both of you being with us.

Van, does it make sense to you that Biden would be telegraphing this so far in advance? I mean, if you're going to get tougher, why not just get tougher and --

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think, you know, it's interesting because on the one hand this is like the big rematch or whatever. But he's literally giving his playbook away because I am going to attack them on these issues. It's like what, wait. You've got ambushed that's why it worked.

COOPER: Right.

JONES: So, I do think that's it -- he really got his clock cleaned. He couldn't make up his mind. Should he be a punching bag or a pinata, those are the kind of the two choices that he had at that first debate night. He now says he wants to fight back, I think it's a good thing. But it is a weird strategy to kind of leak all of these talking points ahead of the debate. Just wait and do a good job in the debate.

COOPER: Mayor, does it -- what do you think the problem was with the first debate for Vice President Biden and is it correctable?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, (D) ATLANTA: I think it certainly is correctable. If we look back to President Obama's debate with Mitt Romney, it wasn't his finest performance the first debate.

COOPER: Good point.

BOTTOMS: And then the rest literally is history. So I think it's a moment in time. And I think that the vice president has very -- has said it well. He was surprised. I think that's a human side of being a part of a debate and being in that moment. But I think since then he's made it very clear what his positions are. And I think that we will see the Joe Biden that we all know.

COOPER: And to you -- I mean, though, because I talked to one representative from his campaign before the last debate who was saying, you know, he was going to do all these things, he was going to talk about, you know, his future, his plans for the future. And it seemed like he ended up just kind of reciting things from his past as opposed to giving any sense of what his future plans are.

BOTTOMS: But I think it's important that we have to put who he is in context. He is a man who's been a great leader with an incredible body of work. And so, we can't look at him as a candidate and not look at the body of work from his time as a senator, for his eight years as vice president, as a part of an administration that's had the most progressive agenda in the history of this country, and so I think that's important.

And I know a lot of people thought that he did awful during the first debate. I didn't think that it was awful. I think that other people had some fantastic moments during the debate. But, again, it's a moment in time. This is not a sprint, it's a marathon.

COOPER: Van, I mean, it does -- you know, yes, he has a, you know, a long record of public service. That can be both a blessing and a curse for a candidate.

JONES: Yes. I think it's tough because, I mean, I had the honor of working with him in the Obama White House on his Middle Class Task Force. I really do wish he would talk more about what he did during those eight years of Obama rather than getting drug back to the 1990s and the Clinton crime bill and all the sort of stuff from like the ancient past.

But it's tough when you've been in public life that long, things that were fashionable, things that were popular, things that were winning issues 20, 30 years ago come back and bite you. Whether you're talking about NAFTA, the crime bill, this stuff is radically unpopular.

And so, he's got to both defend his past and also attack his opponents and then project a vision for the future. It will take a level of mastery. We haven't yet seen from him in this campaign season. But, look, nobody will be happier than me to see Joe Biden come out and be the Joe that everybody is looking for to be that Trump killer.

COOPER: And Mayor Bottoms, does -- the other, you know, thing, one of the many things that the vice president and all the candidates have to do is distinguish themselves from the other candidates on the stage.

And certainly within the Democratic Party distinguish himself from folks who are to his left and sort of, you know, claim the mantle of the Democratic Party and convince enough people that he need -- he's the standard bearer of it and that's not an easy thing to do.

BOTTOMS: It's not and I don't' think that we should expect any candidate to be able to do that in 30 to 60 seconds. We already have a President who speaks in 242 characters. So, I'm much more interested in the candidate who has a platform, who has a real platform, and also can speak to not just what they've done but what they will do.

[20:50:02] And I think that we've seen that this week even with the roll out of the criminal justice plan on behalf of the vice president. It is an incredible plan. And what I appreciate most of all is that he truly listen, that he had care and concern for the things that we had going on, on the ground and he incorporated a lot of that into this plan.

COOPER: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, I appreciate you being with us. Van Jones as well, thanks very much.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

COOPER: Still to come, if you notice anything off about the presidential seal behind the President in one of his speeches this week, you're not going to believe -- I mean, you probably heard this, right, but it's just incredible. We'll tell you the details on that seal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's been a busy night. We haven't even gotten to the story that everyone is talking about. And, yes, that is a tease. First, here's Chris to talk about what's ahead on "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: What's the story that everybody is talking about?

[20:55:00] COOPER: The presidential seal, I'm obsessed with it, the fake presidential seal that the President appeared in front of.

CUOMO: And of all guys to get it wrong, his buddy who loves to attack the media all the time couldn't even get the right seal behind the President. That's a good story. People are going to enjoy it.

What are we doing tonight? I got Tom Steyer on. He wants to be president. He's been pushing impeachment I would argue as strong as anybody. Does he think now it's too little too late? What's his argument?

And he also has a big climate change policy, says he's going to use emergency powers. We'll test that. We have the Trump campaign on the show and we have a closing on the death penalty. It is the ultimate social instruction. It is a metaphor for this election.

COOPER: Chris, all right, a lot to look forward to five minutes from now. I'll see you then.

Still to come tonight, the full story of how the graphic behind the podium presidential sealed one man's face.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The presidential seal behind President Trump at a speech this week was not as presidential as it should be. It was faked and someone has been fired for it, apparently. On Tuesday, the fake seal was put up briefly when President Trump spoke to the conservative student group Turning Point USA.

You see the seal right there. Do you notice what's wrong with it? The fake one is on the left. The real deal is on the right. Now, the bogus one has a two headed eagle, which is similar to the state seal of the Russian Federation, a symbol to the Russian empire and its clutching golf clubs plus a wad of cash in its talons. And instead of the motto, e pluribus unum, out of many, one -- the impostor has the message "45 is a puppet" in Spanish.

Turning Point USA says they "meant no disrespect." They claim an audio visual aid did a Google image search for a presidential seal, didn't notice that it was a parody. Apparently the aide is out of a job tonight.

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: Get the seal wrong, you're fired. Thank you, Anderson. I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time."

END