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Supreme Court Lets President Trump Proceed with Border Wall, But Legal Fight Continues; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) is Interviewed About Dems Taking Big Step Toward Possible Impeachment By Suing for Secret Grand Jury Info From Mueller Report; Senate Intel Report: Florida Officials Failed To Act On Warnings About 2016 Russian Hacking; President Trump Calls For New Investigations Into Obama Admin.; Phil Mudd On His New Book, "Black Site: The CIA In The Post 9/11 World"; Undecided Michigan Voters Weigh In On 2020 Democrats. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with breaking news on President Trump's signature issue, the border wall with Mexico. As you know, he's been trying to use money from the Pentagon budget to build it. Late today, in the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote gave him the green light, at least while a lower court challenge to it proceeds.

Our Pamela Brown joins us now with reaction from the White House.

I would certainly imagine the president has got to be very happy about this ruling.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's right, Anderson. He immediately hailed it as a big win for him. This is what he tweeted not long ago saying: Wow, big victory on the wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction allow southern border wall to proceed. Big win for border security and the rule of law.

This is a significant ruling by the Supreme Court along ideological lines and the president's favor, allowing those funds from the Defense Department to be used to build the wall. You'll recall, Anderson, that the president directed those funds to be used for the wall after he didn't get what he wanted from Congress. As you'll recall, that led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and the president ended it when he called for a national emergency and diverted certain funds to be used for the wall.

So, after that, groups immediately challenged it in the courts. A lower court agreed with the group's challenging it, saying that Congress has the power of the purse and that the president didn't have this authority. The groups argued violated the law what the president did.

But today, the Supreme Court overruled that, saying that the government showed that these groups challenging it didn't have sufficient standing. That the government did a good job showing that.

And so, this is certainly a big win for the president, at least for now. This is not over yet, though, Anderson. As you pointed out, this can still play out in the lower courts, but the wall continued to be built with those Defense Department funds. We should note, though, that some of those funds will go toward replacement fencing, as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: Right, and it's replacement fencing which is all that's been build or that's been done so far, which is just -- I mean, they have been characterizing it as a new wall but replacing existing fencing.

BROWN: Yes, that's right. The president tries to frame it certainly most of it has been this replacement fencing. The president argues that this is all about protection because the fencing was crumbling and it needed to be replace for the -- there to be a secure barrier there to prevent people from trying to cross.

But, you know, on the campaign trail, politically, Anderson, this hands the president a big talking point because now he can tell his supporters that he promised in 2016 on the trail he would build the wall and that the wall is being built even if a lot of these funds are going toward replacement fencing -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks very much.

More now on the legal and political dimensions. Joining us is Elliot Williams, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, Karen Finney who served as senior spokesperson on the 2016 Clinton campaign, and Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush and longtime political leader to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both he and Karen Finney are CNN political commentators.

Elliott, the president certainly understandably views this as a big win. Do you see it as a win for him because as Pamela said, litigation challenging had to pay for it is still on going?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, PRINCIPAL, RABEN GROUP: Yes, litigation challenging it, but look, in effect, if now the construction can be completed, if he ultimately loses in court, some of this construction will have already been in place.

I think the loss here is for the relationship between the president and Congress. Congress explicitly made a determination not to fund this project of the president, which is largely a political project of the president. Forty-eight hours later, the president went again and went ahead and proceeded with an executive order to get this built. So, really, the question here, Anderson, is, is this a reshaping of how presidents of the United States are going to regard Congress and disregard them as this president has largely done throughout administration, or is this an aberration that ends with the presidency of Donald Trump?

That remains to be seen. But I think that's the bigger question and problem here and it's something that haunts this administration. It's just an utter disrespect for Congress as a co-equal branch of government.

COOPER: Scott, certainly for the Republican side, this is clearly a win. There is no, you know, there's no other look at it any other way.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, there is a lot of dimensions to the victory, Anderson. Number one, it's a political victory when the president came under some attack for not building the wall so he'll be able to check the box.

Number two, it comes at a time when the most recent Gallup poll shows immigration has gone back to the top of the list of the issues that the American people care about the most. So, this is kind of riding the wave of public opinion right now showing the president being responsive to that.

Number three, I think it validates the president's position. He said the border issues are a crisis and national emergency all along. Since he declared national emergency, and everybody howled about it, what has happened?

[20:05:01] Thousands of more people have come. We all seen it's an actual emergency. So he's validated on that.

And one final political win here -- I think the Supreme Court decision based on my Twitter feed is going to bait the Democrats into saying some pretty dumb stuff at this week's CNN debate. They have become extremists on immigration, and I think it's going to get worse on your debate stages this week, Anderson.

COOPER: Karen, do you expect that to be the case? Because, certainly, you know, Tom Friedman of "The Times" wrote about his surprise at how -- I mean, to the left, some of the last debate comments about immigration were.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, a couple things. Number one, I don't think you're going to see that and remember when we're talking about the border and we're talking about the border wall, there is a whole other part of that conversation we are then talking also about kids in cages and family separation policy. And so, if we're going to go back to that conversation, part of that conversation is not a politically good conversation for the president. I think, quite frankly, over the last couple of weeks, part of his going after the squad has been to move away from the conversation because you have so many members visiting those conditions.

COOPER: Right, but, Karen, if he ran on build the wall and Mexico would pay for it. That's not happening. But he ran on build a wall. He can say the Supreme Court is going to let me do it and I'm going to do it.

FINNEY: Absolutely. Look, it's a victory for him and we've seen that in his Twitter feed tonight. He should take the victory lap.

I think obviously this ongoing question between the relationship between Congress and the president and the power of the purse that is going to continue. And I think to some degree also, the back and forth between Congress and the president on this part of it gets a little murky given there is politically so many other fights between Congress and the president right now. But you're right. It gives him a great political talking point. But again, that issue of the wall and the border is not without a flip side that is not good for the president to be talking about.

COOPER: Yes, that I hear you on that.

Scott, to Elliot's point about kind of being a new model for things, do you -- is there any Republican concern that, you know, there is an executive order this is a national emergency if a Democrat comes into office and says climate change is a national emergency and does it by executive order, I mean, does this set a new president?

JENNINGS: Oh, there is huge concern about that. I mean, this is one of the down the road, you know, I told you so that could happen if Democrats win the White House. I have no doubt that guns, you know, the truck that sits in my driveway, you know, all kinds of things --

COOPER: They're going to go to your truck?


JENNINGS: On executive orders. Hey, I don't have one of the new models with all the fancy whatever pollution controls. I mean, I'm just telling you, they will declare a national emergency on anything.

So, absolutely, there is concern about that. In the moment, politically, though, I mean, there is no question. This is one of Donald Trump's best days.

COOPER: Yes. But, Elliot, certainly, I mean, this president has used the idea of executive orders in ways that, you know, if he was a Democrat or Barack Obama, the Republicans would be very upset about it.

WILLIAMS: Oh, the intellectual dishonesty is staggering in terms of what Republicans will tolerate from this president of the United States and look, let's talk about the underlying policy of the wall. Remember, Anderson, I worked at ICE for five years. The policy is flawed because most people that are unlawfully president of the United States under stayed their visas.

So building a wall, while I can certainly agree that there is a room for barrier fencing in the debate over border security, but most of the people here didn't cross the southern border. So, what you're doing for scoring political points. And that's what this is about. This is about whipping people up at rallies. But as a means of scoring political points, he's built this or seeking to build a big extensive wall that isn't going to solve the underlying problem.

COOPER: Right.

WILLIAMS: I would be the first person at the table to have a conversation about border security and immigration, if that's what Republicans and the president wanted to do but that's not what this is about.

COOPER: But, Karen, again, on the campaign trail or debate stage when it gets to be the Republican or Democrat, the argument I built -- I said I'll build the wall, Supreme Court agrees aggress with me, I'm doing it is clearer and understandable than a nuanced discussion about barrier fencing has a role but, you know, the ramifications about building a wall, and it's less effective and it's not as powerful as what the Democrats previous argument could have been, which was you promised to build a wall and Mexico to pay for it and neither has happened.

They can't make that argument anymore.

FINNEY: No, you're right. I think there is probably one other line in there, Anderson of the president's talking points. I would envision him saying something along the lines of, you know, the Democrats tried to stop me and the Supreme Court says I win, right?

So, but, look, again, from the perspective of the president, it is a great talking point.

[20:10:04] We have a talking point, though, on the Democratic side to talk about OK, but what about the people who are here? If we can all agree that there is now a crisis at the border, build your wall if that's going to keep people out, but I suspect part of where this conversation is going to go on the context of this election because it is very dire and grave, and we have all of these children and families that at some point we have to figure out how to reunify them, what do we do with the people who are here?

We've been so focused on the wall we move aid way from that part of the political conversation. And I assure you, people who live on those border states, they are interested in having that conversation and they're also interested in understanding how the wall will affect the land that they live on.

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Scott, I mean, it is a more -- I don't know, it's a tougher discussion for Democrats after today.

JENNINGS: Oh, look, this is a very simple thing now. Donald Trump ran on border security. He is securing the border.

Democrats are running on decriminalizing border crossings. They are running on free health care for people who come here illegally. They look like they are inviting the entire world to come here illegally and they have no interest in securing the border and Donald Trump is going to say, I ran on securing the border, I fought all the way to the Supreme Court. It's happening. If you go with their policies, we'll have no borders at all.

And all you got to do, Anderson, is turn on your TV. It's a crisis, just like he said it was. This is as clean as it gets for a political argument. FINNEY: OK. But, Scott, again, part of the crisis, there is a

manufactured part of this crisis, which is, what are we going to do with these children? What are we going to do with these families?

It is the case that under Donald J. Trump, we're seeing children in cages. We're seeing men and women in cages so packed they can't lie down. So, there is another part of that, too. He delivered on conservative judges. He delivered on border security, but this other part is not going to go away and I think he's going to be as much of a liability for him or much more of a liability for him than I think he imagined.

COOPER: Elliot, do you give him anything on boarder security? Or to your point, which is, you know, statistically correct about people over staying their visas, again, it's a more nuanced part of that?

WILLIAMS: How do you define border security, Anderson? Again, if, you know, the administration came, we're going to make the border safer. And so, our means of that doing will be deterring people from coming to the country by ripping their toddlers away from them. That's not actually securing the border.

And again, if you wish to have a conversation about border security, it needs to be a holistic conversation. It's not just about building barriers and yes, I'm not making a moral point about walls being moral or soon. And I'll agree that San Diego, California, needs to have hard border barrier fencing, but I just think this idea that immigration is exclusively a function of boarder security and nothing else and that no other parties in government or the NGO community or whatever else need to be part of it. That is a false binary that we've been sold by the president.

JENNINGS: But we don't have to accept the binary, Anderson, because the Congress thinks the United States Senate just passed a massive humanitarian piece to this immigration crisis, which this president signed into law. So, he just put billions on the humanitarian crisis, and now, he's got billions for the wall, this is a great day if you're Donald Trump making an argument about a holistic approach.


FINNEY: Let's see the action before we start -- let's see what really happens to those families.

WILLIAMS: I don't think $4 billion toward a hemisphere wide crisis that deals with -- starts with corruption and crime and violence in Guatemala and El Salvador is the perfect solution or total solution to fixing what again extends the length of the hemisphere and is a much bigger problem than --

COOPER: I got to leave it there.

Elliot Williams, thank you. Karen Finney, Scott Jennings, as well.

Coming up next, House Democrats take a big step toward impeachment while trying not to make what some fear politically would make one leap too far to actual impeachment.

Later, going into the CNN Democratic debates in Detroit. See, what undecided voters are saying. The state went narrowly for President Trump the last time around. The question tonight, will this time be different?


[20:18:16] COOPER: Keeping them honest, call it impeachment lite or perhaps an impeachment inquiry in everything but name, with House Democrats still divided on the question how hard to push, the House Judiciary Committee today asked a federal judge for access to the full, unredacted Mueller report and for sealed grand jury information connected to the Russia probe.

I'm quoting from the court filing, the committee seeks key documentary evidence and intends to conduct hearings with former White House counsel Don McGahn and other critical witnesses testifying to determine whether the committee should recommend articles of impeachment against the president or any other Article One remedies and if so, what form.

This is certainly a big step and prompted the question would these hearings be a formal impeachment inquiry, something House Speaker Pelosi and leadership have been resisting.

When asked, Chairman Nadler said this.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): We are doing exactly what I said a moment ago we are doing, that is to say we're examining and investigating the various malfeasances and crimes and so forth of the president. Now whether you call that an inquiry or whatever you want to call that, that's what we've been doing and we are doing and we'll continue to do.


COOPER: Now, some have said the chairman is trying to have it both ways. There is a reason if that's what he's doing. He needs to show the court why the committee needs what it asked for while avoiding what Democratic leaders see as a danger moving too quickly so close to the election.

On top of that, there is growing pressure from rank and file members to speed up, hence the careful language from the chairman and also from House Speaker Pelosi apparently seeking to reassure her less patient members.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, I'm not trying to run out the cot. Let's get sophisticated about this, OK? OK?

REPORTER: How long will these court fights will take? [20:20:01] PELOSI: We will proceed when we have what we need to

proceed, not one day sooner. This isn't endless. And when we have the best strongest possible case and that's not endless, either. I mean, it may be endless in terms of the violations of the law that the president is engaged in, but that's what I say to you.


COOPER: That's the backdrop.

Now, one of the players, joining me tonight is Tennessee Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Nice to be here.

COOPER: Is this an impeachment inquiry in your mind?

COHEN: Well, we're calling it an impeachment investigation and it's probably a nuanced term, instead of impeachment inquiry. We've been doing this for awhile, having hearings that would lead up to this and we had the John Dean crowd, we had the Barbara McQuade crowd, and then we had Mueller.

And after you had Mueller, the next step is to get the actual players.

COOPER: Don McGahn --

COHEN: Don McGahn is the main player. Hope Hicks who lied to us about knowing about payoffs to Stormy Daniels and whatever. I call her Miss August. I don't remember her real name.

COOPER: She got -- you're saying Hope Hicks categorically lied.

COHEN: She said she knew nothing about those things, specific questions. She said she knew nothing about it. And then the papers that came out in the southern district said that was not true. And then we want to get into some Corey Lewandowski and that's what you do in an impeachment investigation is you put the parts together and study what happened and you determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to impeach and should there be a duty to impeach.

I think there is. But I understand people wanting to see more direct evidence.

COOPER: Do you -- as we've been saying the next step is in the courts. It's possible that could drag out for a very long period of time and push this close to the election. Is there -- is there a time when it becomes too close to an election in your mind, or should that not play a role?

COHEN: Whether it should or shouldn't, I don't think it should, because I think it's our duty as Congress people when we believe strongly there is violations of our Constitution or have been. Individual one has done bad things in New York and he's done bad things in Washington. And in Washington, he's not individual one. He's the guy that hides behind the Office of Legal Counsel's declaration, he can't be indicted as long as he's in office.

So, you really have a president whose been named in two different cases as a criminal. He's a criminal. Lying Donald, that's what he is.

COOPER: So if that is the case and then why not immediately move to impeachment, to impeach if you believe that there is --

COHEN: I believe it but I think you need the votes and right now, we got a little over 100 Democrats who believe he should be impeached, but you need 218 people to impeach.

COOPER: To those that say Speaker Pelosi and others slow walking this hoping it sort of drags out and ultimately does not lead to impeachment, which some Democrats are concerned will fire up the president's base or in some way overtake the actual election and what the Democratic candidates talk about, what do you say?

COHEN: Well, I don't think -- I think the president is an expert at firing up the base. He knows what gets them whether it's four freshman, whether it's saying he was exonerated and he'll say that regardless if we don't come file impeachment, he'll say he was exonerated, nothing there. He'll call it a hoax. He'll say anything.

So, I think we need to help fire up our base and I think we need to do what is right. And you talk about the Emolument Clause. He's violated the Emolument Clause. There is a lawsuit about it. There is no question he's making money hand over fist, now he wants the G-7 to meet at one of his hotels. I mean, it's constantly, it's a grift.

This is the most in my opinion and a lot of other people's opinion, the most criminal group family to ever get in the White House. I mean, the Gambinos couldn't do anything more.

COOPER: But -- I mean, Gambinos were actually prosecuted and evidence was found. That has not occurred yet.

COHEN: Well, it has occurred. In the southern district, he was individual one and they chose not to -- he should be with Michael Cohen up the river wherever it is, and in this case, if it weren't -- first, he said -- Mueller said the elements were there and it was only OLC opinion, obviously counsel stopped him. He came back when he got to Intel Committee and said I phrased that wrong, blah, blah, blah.

Think about this, Anderson. He said he could be indicted after he leaves the presidency and he said that one of the things about getting the evidence and preserving it is you get the evidence when it's fresh in people's minds, their recollection is the best and they are the best witnesses and so you get that and you keep it for some time. You don't keep that if there is not a crime.

COOPER: So, do you believe Mueller's first answer to Congressman Lieu was essentially what Mueller actually felt? COHEN: It was what he felt and it's really what happened. I think he

was counseled by his associates, his attorneys and whoever else to say be consistent with the report.

[20:25:02] I mean, you wouldn't have made a point of getting this evidence and keeping it if it wasn't a crime.

COOPER: At what point would something become, OK, this goes to the courts and that takes however long. At what point would it actually become an impeachment process?

COHEN: Well, I think Judge Howell will act promptly. Judge Howell has been in charge of this investigation. She's the judge in charge. She'll be accused of being everything short of Benghazi when she makes her order. But I think she'll rule.

The law is on our side and we're basically investigative body looking into impeachment, and whether it's an impeachment investigation or inquiry, whatever it is. We're looking at impeachment and as a gentleman several scholars, Tribes' colleagues, Matt (ph), wrote everything is there and it's been -- we got Norm Eisen and Barry -- working with us and they have made sure that everything was about the first Article One. Use all of Article One powers and everything has been prefaced that way and that's the full Article One powers includes impeachment. That's what it's about.

COOPER: I want to bring in "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers. Also, CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers. I think she has a question for you, too.


KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. I mean,, I'm interested, Congressman, you keep saying there is a duty to impeach, but does that mean you impeach even if it harms the Democrats? If it would potentially help reelect the president? It sounds like you're saying you're willing to live with that, that if you believed it would help him get reelected, you would feel this is the duty of the Democrats.

Am I hearing that correctly?

COHEN: Well, I think it's the duty of any congressperson. When you see what happened and a person -- he's obstructed justice, not just in the Mueller report but obstructing justice now by telling everybody to avoid subpoenas that, don't turnover documents. This is just wrong and we need to stand up.

POWERS: No, I understand that.

COHEN: But I don't think it will hurt the Democrats.

I think the people when they see the proof and they see evidence come out and lay out the form, that they will see that this president is lawless and they will support people that are in favor of his impeachment and be against people that aren't and I really think that when the Democrats won in 2018, we won because people wanted to put a check and balance on this president, and they want to put not just a check and balance in 2020, they want to throw him out.

COOPER: But does -- does it -- I mean, that would -- an impeachment procedure would suck a lot of the oxygen out of the room for Democratic candidates out on the campaign trail. I mean, they would be talking about that a lot and, you know, those who are concerned about impeachment process believe that would essentially stop them or prevent or lesson the amount of time they spent talking about pocketbook issues and table top issues.

COHEN: That's an issue and I think Speaker Pelosi thinks we need to concentrate on health care, which we do. But we've been talking about health care and that's not the news. The news is impeachment of Trump.

When I'm at home and my district is heavily African-American, maybe the most in the country. My people tell me stay on him, stay on him. Don't give up. Don't let that man get away with this.

So, I think -- I know that's not representative necessarily of America but a lot of Americans feel that way. When you see the polls, college educated women big time don't think he's telling the truth, he's trustworthy. The only group we're messing with is us, the white men.

COOPER: Congressman Cohen, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

COHEN: You're welcome.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

I appreciate you coming in.

There is now information tonight on how one key state failed to heed warnings as the Russian systems were compromised by Russian hackers in 2016. We'll have details on that in a moment.


[20:32:40] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're learning new details from the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Russian interference of the 2016 campaign, namely information that builds on early reports that Russian hackers successfully penetrated election systems in a pair Florida counties.

The report, which is heavily redacted, does not mention the state by name, referring only to state two. However, former senior official who is familiar with the matter tells us state two is in fact Florida.

The report paints a picture of federal officials repeatedly reaching out to warn officials that they were targets and officials failing to heed the warnings. Fortunately, there is no evidence of votes being changed. It is still pretty unnerving.

I want to talk about it with our Counterterrorism Analyst and former CIA and FBI official Phil Mudd, author of the soon to be release book, "Black Site: The CIA and the Post 9/11 World."

So, are you surprised that foreign officials failed to act on these warnings, given the fact that the President, you know, doesn't address election meddling head on or really even acknowledge it's happening right now?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I'm not surprised. I would say worry going to the future, but as someone who served in government not surprised. If you look at the time period here when Americans were just learning about the extent of Russian involvement, if you go state by state, including Florida and the Feds are walking through your door, you have the responsibility in the state for securing your systems in saying, hey, we have new information. We can't share all the information with you because you don't have security clearance, but you guys are in trouble.

In essence saying, you're not doing your jobs on securing your own systems. I can see how there's a break between the Fed and the state guys and the state guys saying, hey, call me another day. I have other stuff on my mind and we think we're doing well.

COOPER: Do you think that has been fixed? I mean, do you think now if, you know, Feds called up state officials, they -- it would be a different response?

MUDD: I think there would be a different response. I don't think that's the question I would ask, Anderson. You saw there was failed legislation on the Hill the other day about a federal response.

So the problem with that is, are you going to call 50 states and try to tell them each of you has independent systems, let's try to secure all those systems and help you defend yourselves against a state actor like Russia or China?

I don't -- I realize the states are independent in this case on elections, but I don't know why the heck we would want to depend on states to fight the Russians and the Iranians and the Chinese. They can't do it.

COOPER: I want to play something that the President said today calling for new investigations into last administration.


[20:35:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's look into Obama the way they've looked at me. From day one, they've looked into everything that we've done. They could look into the book deal that President Obama made. Let's subpoena all of his records. Let's subpoena all of the records having to do with Hillary Clinton and all of the nonsense that went on with Clinton and her foundation and everything else. We could do that all day long.


COOPER: I mean, the President of the United States suggesting, you know, the use of law enforcement essentially as a political weapon as pay back, that's pretty stunning.

MUDD: Let me tell you one simple rule here that we've lost among many rules in the last two and a half years. Never ask your politicians to determine who should be investigated, whether it's the sheriff and the mayor or the president and a former president.

Politicians have an agenda. Justice is supposed to be blind. As soon as a politician interferes, especially in how a case is going to be open, you have to say, how can justice be blind when a politician say go after their adversary? That's by definition partisan. You can't do that.

COOPER: I want to ask about "Black Site: The CIA and the Post 9/11 World," because it's -- I have not been able to read it yet. It's not out yet, but it's coming out. There has been so little understanding about what actually happened internally in the planning and operation of those sites. I mean, the whole notion of black sites is something which, you know -- I mean, we've heard the term and stuff but really don't know that much about it.

MUDD: That's why I wrote the book. I was actually on a run. I'm a runner one morning three or four years ago and realized that people had written individual slices but there's a piece of American history that was so tense and so significant that the CIA stepped back and said we're not only going to capture our own prisoners, we're going to detain them and use techniques that later Americans said we don't like.

I thought that just in terms of a fascinating story, but more important, in terms of a sliver of American history, we couldn't lose it. Most of my friends I spoke to for the book will never speak to you. We couldn't lose that story for America to understand what we did and why.

COOPER: So you interview, you talk to folks who worked in the black sites?

MUDD: Yes, I talked everything from CIA directors. I knew about 95 percent of the people who were there. I was the deputy director of counterterrorism down to people who were conducting interrogations and managing the black sites.

COOPER: Wow. I definitely want to read the book and we'll have you when it comes out. Phil, thank you very much.

MUDD: Thanks.

COOPER: President Trump won Michigan, as you may know, by about 11,000 votes in 2016. The CNN Democratic debates there are just a couple days away. So the question is, what do undecided voters in the state have to say about the 2020 candidates? We'll take a look at that, next.


[20:41:12] COOPER: Well, Michigan is a key state obviously to win in 2020 for either candidate. This Tuesday and Wednesday nights, 10 Democratic candidates, each will face-off in the CNN presidential debate in Detroit.

Back in 2016, President Trump won Michigan by a slim margin, just nearly 11,000 votes more than Hillary Clinton and more than 75,000 voters in the state refused to cast a ballot for any presidential candidate.

Our Randi Kaye went to Michigan to see what voters have to say about the candidates seeking victory this time. She talked with 10 undecided voters, 5 independent, 3 Democrats, and 2 Republicans. Here's what they have to say.


CARRIE RHEINGANS, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I really wish I can pull a number of things from a number of candidates to create an ideal candidate.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For these 10 undecided voters in Dearborn, Michigan, choosing just one candidate is tough

AMY WATKINS, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I think Bernie Sanders has been saying the same thing for the last 30 years and truth really matters today.

KAYE (on camera): Who else is leaning, Frank?

FRANK FEAR, INDEPENDENT VOTER: Castro. I like his executive experience. San Antonio is a bustling city, HUB director. And I like his Marshall Plan for Central America as a way to address the immigration issues.

KAYE (voice-over): This Democrat likes Elizabeth Warren, but is more interested in Kamala Harris.

WENDY LIDDELL, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I'm looking for someone who has an agenda for African-Americans and someone who has something would meet behind it. And Kamala Harris recently proposed a $100 billion plan for housing for African-Americans.

KAYE (on camera): One name I'm not hearing is Joe Biden. Is there anyone here considering Joe Biden, raise your hand.

RHEINGANS: If he's on the ballot on March 10th in Michigan, I will vote for him without question.

ANDREW RODNEY, INDEPENDENT VOTER: Joe Biden in my opinion is Hillary Clinton 2.0. He's just about the worst thing that the Democrats could do.

JACOB WALKER, INDEPENDENT VOTER: You are your record. But now that he's out here in front by himself, now we get to look at these statements that he's made. We get to look at the law that he's passed.

KAYE (voice-over): Some in this group haven't forgiven Biden for his recent comments about working alongside segregationist senators and his opposition to federally mandated bussing to integrate schools.

(on camera) You didn't buy his explanation.

LIDDELL: I did not buy his explanation and I don't feel like he gave an authentic apology.

KAYE: You in particular have a problem with Biden and his support of the 1994 crime bill.

WALKER: It essentially eradicated my community. Most of my friends and people I grew up with are in jail or either dead as a result of those policies.

KAYE (voice-over): Biden defends the bill saying it had plenty of good things in it, too. Still, four of the Democrats and Independents in our group said they may not even vote for Biden if he turns out to be the nominee, but one Republican might.

HAYDEN KIBBEY, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I would consider Biden maybe and I would consider Pete Buttigieg. I'm looking for somebody that I think is a little bit more moderate. The more progressive wing of the Democratic Party really scares me.

KAYE (voice-over): Republican Hayden Kibbey, a first-time voter, is also intrigued by Donald Trump.

KIBBEY: I think he's trying to grow the economy. I think he's trying to really help the average American voter. But, I just wish he would put down his Twitter. If he would put down his Twitter, I would be behind him. But when he has the xenophobic tweets, that's really a turn off for me.

KAYE: Independent voter David Palmer hasn't ruled anyone out, except Trump.

DAVID PALMER, INDEPENDENT VOTER: The man is a habitual liar. He's been credibly accused of sexual assault by over a dozen women. He's run multiple companies into the ground. And if you look last month, we had the highest national deficit total on one month in our nation's history.

KAYE: But even this undecided Republican who praises Trump on the economy is considering a Democrat.

MASON HINAWI, INDEPENDENT VOTER: Andrew Yang is the closest thing on the -- person on the Democratic side that I would consider voting for. I think Andrew Yang is intelligent and he has a few good ideas, especially with the universal basic income.

KAYE (on camera): What do you need to hear at the upcoming debate that will help push you toward a candidate?

WATKINS: I just need truth, consistency, like I'm sick of being spun.

[20:45:00] RHEINGANS: I need to hear policies that will appeal to Americans who are like me with a family. We're trying to pay off our student loans. We're trying to buy a house but the housing market is unaffordable. We're trying to get ahead in life. I'm just trying to live the American dream. And it's really hard for me to do that because this America wasn't set up for me. This America that we live in today was set up for Trump and his buddies.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Dearborn, Michigan.


COOPER: To get more perspective now, joining us once again tonight, "USA Today" columnist and CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers. So I may disappear very strangely with written program, I apologize.

So Kirsten -- yes, the big takeaway from the piece, I mean, seems to be, you know -- and, again this is -- it's not a scientific polling or anything, but it's always interesting to hear from voters. I mean, this group not terribly enthusiastic about any particular Democratic candidate or any candidate.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, yes. I mean, I think this is big takeaway. And they're not enthusiastic particularly about the frontrunner, right, Joe Biden. So, you're seeing that they're still sort of searching. And if you listen to all of them, they're all coming from different perspectives or looking for different things. They don't seem to have found anything that they're really excited about. Now, it's really early.


POWERS: So, it's not uncommon, you know, for people still to be figuring things out and they will be figuring out -- things out over a long period. But, Joe Biden has been in the public eye for a long time and so I think if you're Joe Biden, I'd be concerned watching that, because I think if you look at the polls I'm sure the Biden campaign is wondering how much of that is name recognition.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: How much of that is Obama nostalgia. And then when you see how -- you have people who have really specific problems with him and then at best they're just not enthused.

COOPER: Well, also those, you know, most of the polls you're seeing are national polls which --

POWERS: Right.

COOPER: -- you know, it's interesting to see, but it's not what's happening in Michigan, it's not what's happening in Iowa, you know, these early states that -- and these states that are, you know, crucial.

POWERS: Right. Well, in Michigan of course the, you know, Democrats lost so narrowly by, you know, 10 -- around 10,000 votes.

COOPER. Yes. POWERS: And a lot of that was because African-American turnout was down. And listening to that African-American gentleman talking about how the 1994 crime bill affected him, you know, it's a very personal story. And he's probably not the only person with that story. And so, you know, I think the more attention that Joe Biden's record gets, maybe the more accountable he's going to be held.

COOPER: Kirsten Powers, always great to have you. Thanks very much.

Be sure to tune in Tuesday, Wednesday night at 8:00 Eastern for the Democratic debates, two big nights. 10 candidates each night live from Detroit only on CNN.

Ahead tonight, "The Ridiculist," we're digging some Trump steaks and wine as the President gets into a tax fight with the French.


[20:51:54] COOPER: Still to come "The Ridiculist," but let's check in with Chris to see what he's got coming up on "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: How you doing, Coop? So, it's Friday night. Here's what we're going to be doing. I don't understand what's happening with the Democrats. Did they start at impeachment inquiry? Is this just about a hedge against having a vote on the floor because maybe whipping to a yes on the Democrat side, it would be harder than expected? They're going to try to have it both ways because of popularity polls.

And is the miscalculation here that they are exposing themselves to risk and they don't want to do that so they're creating risk by hiding from risk? So I'm going to do a closing argument tonight where I look at it through the eyes of Romeo and Juliet from William Shakespeare, of course.


CUOMO: And I compare and contrast different aspects of this to that star cross lover tragedy.

COOPER: Wow. A pox on both your houses.

CUOMO: Oh, well done.

COOPER: Thank you.

CUOMO: Mercutio.

COOPER: Who's that? I don't know. That's all I remember. Chris, thanks very much. I'll see you in about seven minutes from now.

Still to come, President Trump taking on the French wine industry. "The Ridiculist" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:56:36] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And a new comment from President Trump about a possible new trade war, this time it's against one of our oldest and most perfumed adversaries, France, and one of our most effective weapons, wine.

The comment like the President's full bodied with the subtle note of maybe some nuttiness that we've come to expect from the vintage. The President is deeply upset that France has passed a tax on businesses like Google and Amazon. If anyone is going to hurt Amazon, the President clearly wants to be the one to do it.


TRUMP: Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it, having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense and I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what's going on.


COOPER: Well, to defend America, the President struck right at the heart of France. The (INAUDIBLE) in chief disked their wine.


TRUMP: I've always liked American wines better than French wines, even though I don't drink wine. I just like the way they look.


COOPER: I like that. I just like the way they look. I'm with him on that one. American wines look better. I don't know how exactly. They just look more like freedom. That's how they look. French wines don't look like freedom to me.

The President is certainly qualified to discuss wine because he does actually sell wine, unlike those steaks which he claimed to still sell during the campaign but didn't seem like he really did.


TRUMP: We have Trump Steaks. He said the steak company and we have Trump Steaks. And, by the way, if you want to take one, we'll charge you about what, $50 a steak.

And we're very proud of it. We make the finest wine, as good a wine as you can get anywhere in the world.


COPOER: So the steaks were not actually Trump Steaks at that press conference. They were purchased from a local butcher. Trump Steaks despite his past relationship with legendary beef specialist, "The Sharper Image," didn't seem to exist anymore.


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


COOPER: With a sizzling slogan like that, how could it not work out? I'm just stunned. A trade war with France, though, involving line, would raise the stakes even higher. If it works and Congress wants to get more sanctions against Russia, they could then go after vodka. The President might be worn on that one, but it could help Trump Vodka if that still exist. He pitched it hard, though, on Larry King Live back in the day.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is it made?

TRUMP: It's made actually in various parts of Europe.


COOPER: Again, one of my favorite lines of all time, so various that he can't even name them. The vodka was so complex. It actually had to be distilled in various unnamed parts of Europe then combined into an incredible concoction and some undisclosure European capital. Perhaps it was in a finish muffler shop or maybe a Hungarian aqueduct. That's how good it was. But, still, my favorite Trump random product was little game called Trump: The Game.


TRUMP: My new game is Trump: The Game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump: The Game, where you deal for everything you ever wanted to own, because it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win.



COOPER: Yes. Yes. I love her enthusiasm. I know I've already played this clip a lot, but only losers play it once. And, yes, I've said that too before. But repetition is critical when you're selling Trump: The Game.


TRUMP: My new game is Trump: The Game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump: The Game, where you deal for everything you ever wanted to own, because it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win.


COOPER: Yes. That voice-over just makes me want to play Trump: The Game. I love the game. Me and -- I remember so many days me and Whiff and Skoozer (ph), J-bob sitting on the dorm room at Yale just pounding American wine, gnawing on steak, just winning, not losing, just winning. So, let's play friends, uncorked it. The best wine at least on "The Ridiculist."

And that's it for us. I want to hand it over, the news continues, to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?