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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Administration Considering Double Tapping Pompeo for National Security Adviser, Secretary of State; New CNN Poll: One Night Before Third Dem Debate, Biden Leads Field, Warren Sanders Virtually Tied; New Washington Post/ABC Poll: President Trump Trails Several Democratic Candidates in Head-to-Head Matchups. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired September 11, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We have breaking news to report tonight. President Trump and other administration officials are discussing the possibility of picking an administration official who is close, very close to the president, to fill the position of national security adviser.
This just one day after the president unceremoniously fired his third national security adviser, John Bolton, by tweet after disagreements arose and then were aired in the media about a proposed meeting with the Taliban at Camp David ahead of today's 9/11 memorial events.
I want to go right now to CNN's national security reporter Kylie Atwood.
So, what are you learning? This is a fascinating development.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: It is. Because it comes just the day after John Bolton was ousted as national security adviser, we are learning that administration officials are considering the possibility of giving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an ally of the president, two hats. He would assume the role as national security adviser to the president, and he would remain secretary of state.
Now, this has happened before, but it was back in the 1970s when President Nixon was in office and Henry Kissinger was both secretary of state and national security adviser for two years.
Now, what's unclear right now is how seriously President Trump is considering this possibility because he told reporters at the White House today that there were five people who wanted this job as national security adviser, and they were good and qualified people.
So we don't know where he is right now, but this is something that is being discussed at the White House.
COOPER: Is this more about Secretary Pompeo consolidating power within the president's inner circle, or would it be more about President Trump's views of both jobs, especially given how he says he makes decisions?
ATWOOD: Right. So we know that president Trump listens to himself. He does rely on his -- the members of his cabinet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo being one of those voices that is an integral player when it comes to the decisions that Trump makes.
But ultimately, it is the president who makes these decisions, and he doesn't necessarily feel the need, our reporting shows, to have a new person added to that team. He's considering it, but there are other options on the table.
And he wants someone who's close to him and who sees things through his lens. That obviously was not the case with National Security Adviser John Bolton, and that's why he was let go.
COOPER: There's also new reporting, I understand, on how Secretary Pompeo reacted to John Bolton being ousted.
ATWOOD: That's right. So, the secretary was at an event last night in Washington, a charity event. He was joking with some of his friends at that event about what the day had been like. You know, what a day, what a life, what a job is how it was described to me.
So, he was pretty jovial in those discussions. It echoes the way he was at the White House yesterday just hours after it was announced via Twitter by the president that Bolton would be leaving. Pompeo took the podium and spoke to reporters and when he was asked if he was surprised that Bolton was leaving, he said nothing surprises and kind of laughed there with Secretary Mnuchin.
So, it echoed what we saw earlier in the day from him, but it's some new details that demonstrate he felt pretty good last night.
COOPER: All right. Kylie, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Now, new poll numbers released just hours ago from CNN show that one night before the third Democratic debate, the first time we will see Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren on the same debate stage, the currents in this race appear to be shifting.
The former vice president is still atop the field. He leads at 24 percent. Behind him, a tight race for second, Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders are in a virtual tie. Senator Warren with 18, Sanders at 17, everyone else in single digits.
But a closer look reveals a movement in every direction but Biden's. Compared to the previous polls, all the candidates have gained strength, all but Biden. He alone has lost support, falling five points from 29 percent.
Now, those are just the headline numbers in the new poll. There are a lot more findings about African-American support for certain candidates as well as voter enthusiasm among Democrats and Republicans, which one of the many factors being closely watched as a substantial decider in the upcoming election. Now, to get a preview what Biden, Warren, and the other candidates
need to accomplish tomorrow night, I'm going to bring in two former members of the Obama administration, former senior adviser and CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod, and former communications director and CNN political commentator, Jen Psaki.
So, David, I want to talk about the poll numbers in a second, but I first want to ask you about the news -- the possibility of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking on a role as national security adviser as well. Is that a good idea, having your secretary of state also be your national security adviser?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. Jen can speak more intimately to this because she worked at the State Department. But you want a national security adviser who is coordinating the processes among all the agencies that deal with these issues on behalf of the president and essentially exercising some oversight on those cabinet agencies.
[20:05:09] That would not be the case if the secretary of state were also the national security adviser.
And what's peculiar about this is, I mean, you now have a chief of staff in the White House who is also the OMB director. You have -- you'd have a secretary of state who is the -- and the circles around the president are closing, and the oversight is shrinking. I would think it would be a very concerning thing.
COOPER: Jen, I mean, do you see it that way?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. I'd also add, you know, the role of the secretary of state and the national security adviser is certainly to advise the president, and this president takes his own counsel. But it's also to be a representative to the world. When I worked for Secretary of State John Kerry, I traveled with him about 600,000 miles.
Now, Pompeo travels less than Kerry, but he still travels a fair amount. It's hard to play that role as being the face of the United States, the person at the table, the person negotiating if you are also being the coordinator of the national security teams.
They're not obviously playing the traditional roles, but at the same time, there's still a lot of responsibilities the United States has. And Trump has his hands in a lot of different international pots right now -- Afghanistan and Venezuela, North Korea, Iran. He needs somebody who is going to be out there kind of representing his views and representing the United States. It's hard to do both jobs.
COOPER: David, let's go back to these polls now. Biden is in the lead. That lead is shrinking and not moving in the right direction. If you were his campaign, how concerned are you about that?
AXELROD: Well, I may be a little bit concerned. There are many polls out there. Some of them are more stable than others. He's basically been in that 25 to 30 range throughout. And there's certainly things that are consistent. He has 42 percent of the African-American vote, four times as much as the next person. He does very well with non-college-educated white voters, less well with college-educated white voters where Elizabeth Warren is beating him two to one.
But what really matters is what happens in these early states. And, you know, when I was in Iowa a few weeks ago, what I sensed was a great deal of respect and affection for Joe Biden there, but not a great deal of enthusiasm. And Elizabeth Warren had a great deal of enthusiasm and a very strong organization. If she were to win the Iowa caucuses, these polls could change even more dramatically.
COOPER: Jen, let's look at some of the numbers from this poll that David mentioned. His support from African-American Democratic voters, Biden's got 42. Sanders is the nearest with 12, a huge gap there. If you look at support from Democratic Latino voters, they're backing Sanders at 24 percent.
Also, if you look at white Democratic voters, they support Warren with 23 percent as David mentioned. Biden is there at 21. I'm wondering what you make of that breakdown, those disparities.
Clearly, African-American vote is critical for Biden.
PSAKI: Yes, it is, and it's been critical for every Democratic nominee for decades.
So, that certainly is a vote that any of these candidates would love to be dominating, and Biden has been consistently dominating, especially with older African-Americans. If you look at younger African-Americans and those numbers, Sanders does a little bit better. Warren actually does OK -- does quite well, I think, among younger African-Americans in South Carolina.
And so, the numbers have a little bit of a breakdown. I will say that other number in addition to those demographic breakdowns that I think is a little bit problematic for Biden is this closing of the gap on this question of who is the best candidate to beat Donald Trump. And he had a 20-point lead on that number in front of Warren back in April.
Now, he only has a five-point gap. That shows Warren, she's been working at this. That shows she's made some progress on that point and that particular question which has been a vulnerability. He can feel good about how solid he's been in his lead and among African- Americans, but the narrowing of that should be concerning.
COOPER: David, looking ahead to tomorrow's debate, this is the first time we're going to see Biden and Warren sharing the stage at the same time. Does that -- I mean do they -- obviously they have to kind of game this out, play it out. What do you think their strategies are for that?
AXELROD: Look, I think Biden's strategy from the beginning has been to posit himself as the guy who's taking on Donald Trump. And my sense is that he probably -- you know, if they're thinking strategically in those ways, that they'll try and make him the guy who's focused on the main issue, and he'll try and position the others as engaged in fights that basically go to what degree of health care should we have or what degree -- where should we go on student loans and so on, when the big issue is taking on Donald Trump, the existential issue. That's where Biden will be.
One of the things I'm interested in is that Elizabeth Warren has been attacking Biden for years on this issue of bankruptcy and his sponsorship of a bankruptcy bill that she fought against in the Senate in the 2000s.
I'm interested if she surfaces that issue in this debate.
David Axelrod, Jen Psaki, I appreciate it. Thanks.
More breaking news on a very busy Wednesday night.
The Supreme Court has cleared the way for new Trump administration restrictions to take effect that would drastically limit the number of Central American migrants able to claim asylum in the U.S. Now, the rule would prohibit migrants who travel through Mexico or another country without seeking protection there to claim asylum on U.S. soil. It had been challenged in the lower courts but the administration succeeded in persuading the Supreme Court to allow the rules to go into effect while the appeals process is ongoing.
Still to come, another new poll, this time looking at how vulnerable President Trump may be to a number of the Democratic candidates currently running.
And later, my conversation with author and former ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power. We'll talk to her about John Bolton's exit and what it shows about this White House and her new book revealing details of her time in the Obama administration.
COOPER: New polls today don't just show a tightening race in the Democratic field. "The Washington Post"/ABC News poll released today found the president losing to all five of the top Democratic contenders for president.
Joe Biden by 15. Bernie Sanders by 9. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris by 7 each. And Pete Buttigieg by 4.
Back in July, this same poll had the president virtually tied with every candidate, save for Joe Biden.
Now, the president tweeted today, quote: This is a phony suppression poll meant to build up their Democrat partners. I haven't even started campaigning yet, and I'm constantly fighting fake news like Russia, Russia, Russia. Look at North Carolina last night. Dan Bishop down big in the polls wins easier than 2016.
Now, just want to quickly state some facts about what the president there tweeted. First, no evidence Bishop was ever down big in the race. While the Republican won by two points, which is a win, the president carried the district by 12.
Also, the president has started campaigning. His first official campaign rally was in Orlando back in June.
Joining me now, former Republican U.S. senator and CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum, and former special adviser to President Obama and CNN political commentator, Van Jones.
Obviously, we are still more than a year out here. The president obviously is not happy with this poll. He claims it's a phony suppression poll, which it's not.
Should he be nervous about this?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's early, but what you do see is that now you're getting more exposure for these candidates. Part of the reason that the other candidates were getting beat by Trump in the earlier polls, people hadn't heard about a bunch of these people. You're now seeing the effect of more exposure, people getting more comfortable with some of these candidates.
What it says across the board, there is a level of discomfort with Trump that really he shouldn't ought to have. The economy's going well. You know, all the things he wants to point to. But those are not good numbers.
Now, what he really needs to be focused on, of course, are the polls in the industrial heartland, which in some ways are even worse for him. We could talk about that later. But what you're seeing now is American people are starting to understand who these people are, and across the board, there's an improvement in their numbers versus the president.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, for the Democrats, their unfavorability rating in "The Washington Post" points this out in their coverage of this poll, is that they -- their relative -- to Van's point, they are relatively unknown still, and as they become better known as the campaign goes on, voters are going to learn more about each of these Democratic candidates and perhaps with the president going after each of them, their unfavorability ratings may rise, which obviously would then help the president.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean if you look at all of their favorables, they're all a net positive. I guarantee you neither candidate for president by the time November of 2020 rolls around will have a net positive favorability.
So Trump already has a really profound net negative in this poll, and the Democrat by the time that rolls around will have the same. So the numbers will change.
Van's right. It's early. If you look at the generic Trump versus any Democrat, it's pretty much in the middle of where all those other five candidates lined up. So, it's really a generic ballot.
Yes, they know the candidates a little bit better, but they don't know -- this has not been a rough and tumble, which has really surprised me in some respects. It's not been a rough and tumble Democratic primary to date. No one's gotten bruised very heavily with maybe the exception of the self-imposed bruising that Biden has done to himself.
COOPER: Van, I mean, it is pretty amazing, though. The president's love-hate relationship with polls obviously -- I mean, look, there's no consistency here, or there is. He loves them when they're up. He hates them when they're down.
SANTORUM: It's pretty consistent.
JONES: And he -- but he's shameless about it. He's consistent and shameless.
He's got a good poll, I told you I'm the best. I'm great. When it's bad, you guys suck. You're making this stuff up.
And, look, people -- the country's kind of gotten used to that from him. What I think is interesting about the polls as you look into it, though, you're seeing a real consistent rise with Elizabeth Warren. And you're seeing Yang, you know -- he's not in that top five yet, but you see him moving up.
COOPER: You've been watching the movements of Yang for quite some time.
JONES: I got to give him some credit --
COOPER: No, he's refreshing (ph) candidate. Yes.
Senator Santorum, I mean, do you -- the president's claiming this big victory in North Carolina's special election last night. Is it -- as a -- for supporters of the president -- look, the Republican won. In politics, that's what matters.
But compared to how the president did in that district two years ago, do you see some alarm bells that should be ringing?
SANTORUM: Well, yes. Look, I -- first off, he won, and he won by more than what the candidate who ran nine months ago won by. So, the candidate that eventually -- that was declared initially the winner and then dropped out only won by a few hundred votes. This -- Congressman-elect Bishop won by 4,000 votes.
[20:20:03] So, I think it was a good night for the president last night. I don't think how -- I know the Democrats are trying to spin it was close. Well, yes, it's close.
I mean, you have an incumbent president in a midterm election. It's never going to be as good as it was when the president won the election. So, I -- if I was Trump, I'd be trumpeting this. I think it's a good sign for them.
But, look, the president's numbers are not good numbers. The races in 2018 were not good races for the president, and he's got to be concerned.
And, you know, as I said to a friend of mine the other day, I love 90 percent of what the president does. I like about 20 percent of what he says. And I think -- if you look at what he says, he's got to work on that in order to calm down the opposition.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, appreciate it. Van Jones as well.
Up next, with the president needing a new national security adviser and reports they're considering Mike Pompeo to take on that roll in addition to remaining secretary of state, I'll talk with Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who served both as American's U.N. ambassador and as a member of the National Security Council.
COOPER: As we reported at the top of the program, the Trump administration may be looking at naming Mike Pompeo as the new national security adviser but also keeping him as secretary of state.
That's what Richard Nixon did with Henry Kissinger. This as the president left little doubt today that he would be the one directing America's foreign policy from now on, a day after he fired his National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Today, the president told reporters that Bolton had, quote, made some very big mistakes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John's known as a tough guy. He's so tough he got us into Iraq. That's tough.
And -- but he's somebody that I actually had a very good relationship with, but he wasn't getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important, and I hope we've left in good stead, but maybe we have. Maybe we haven't.
I have to run the country the way we're running the country. We're doing very well. We're respected all over the world again, respected like we haven't been respected in many, many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Obviously, some people might differ with that characterization.
Samantha Power was a key member of President Obama's national security team. She also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She's the author of a new book "The Education of An Idealist." I spoke to her just before airtime.
COOPER: What do you make, first of all, about John Bolton's exit and the president's response to it, or the way it happened?
SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, we don't know what happened because we don't know who to believe, and that's a recurring pattern in --
COOPER: And that's a problem which I want to talk to you about also.
POWER: Yes, and it's a recurring theme in Trump's approach to national security, to domestic policy, to politics, to everything.
I think in Bolton, you had somebody usefully who had a lot of foreign policy experience. And --
COOPER: You were both ambassadors to the U.N.
POWER: Indeed. And even just who -- even though he had a very different approach to the U.N. and was extremely skeptical of multilateral cooperation and of institutions like that, at least he had the experience of working with other countries occasionally on different issues.
And because he had foreign policy experience, he felt comfortable standing up to the president and disagreeing. So, that's a good thing.
And it will be missed because it does seem like the longer that Trump is in office, he is surrounding himself more and more by kind of mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the handsomest and wisest of them all? Is it me? What a coincidence. You know, why don't you stay in your job?
So, there's that.
But then Bolton also had very belligerent instincts that are not really in line, I think, with where the American people are on the left or the right.
COOPER: Were you surprised that he was hired in the first place? I mean, other than a position on Fox News, which is likely where the president saw the most of him, given his viewing habits, just in terms of policy -- I'm not sure you could argue that the president is very firm on any one particular policy -- but he certainly seems to be from the beginning at odds with Bolton. POWER: I agree with that, but I think his first port of call is, is
somebody flattering of me? And it's no secret that John Bolton's positions on Fox News actually departed, I think, from the John Bolton that I was familiar with, from his writings and from his own policy positions when he was in prior administration positions.
But Trump saw him saying nice things about Trump foreign policy and saw that he had some number of years logged in various administrations and said, come on in. Then when he got in, Bolton was less inclined to cozy up to dictators like Kim Jong-un and the Taliban, and Trump really believes that the big-bang spectacle of sitting down with bad guys somehow reflects well on him, even if the legwork hasn't been done. And so, that was a source of tension, and there again Bolton was trying to impose some discipline on a process that is often foreign policy by tweet.
But, again, Bolton carried with him also a huge amount of baggage, especially as it related to, you know, again, being very inclined to go with military force --
POWER: -- and a bit blind to consequences.
COOPER: So, when the president says, look, I'm making the decisions on bringing the Taliban here to negotiate a deal, you know, I've just gotten this letter from Kim Jong-un, let's have a summit, the -- we are not mistaken in the surprise that there is not a lot of preparation done before some of these events.
POWER: I mean, since the creation of the National Security Council and the national security apparatus, we have never had an administration, whether you agreed or disagreed with their various policies that have gone down in the past, with no process, with no --
COOPER: You don't believe there's a process?
POWER: There's no process from -- I mean, from everything I understand to be happening behind the White House walls, there's no process.
The process is Trump watches Fox News. Sure, he gets his briefings orally because he's not a big reader. He will have an idea.
COOPER: Not a big reader. I mean, that phrase alone is just terrifying that you're using it in conjunction with the president of the United States.
POWER: But he's very impetuous and latest is often the greatest. So, he's very susceptible to who he's just talked with.
He has, as time has gone on, gotten rid of a lot of the guardrails around him. COOPER: One of things you write, you say that: On several occasions,
President Obama reprimanded me for comments he thought were dogmatic or sanctimonious.
'We've all read your book, Samantha,' he snapped in one Situation Room meeting. I looked down chastened. But 15 minutes later, he said, 'Let's get back to the point Sam made earlier.'"
That's -- what is that like? I mean, I've had one or two experiences where President Obama seemed annoyed at a question I asked. It's not a pleasant feeling anytime a president gets annoyed at you. But, "We've all read your book, Samantha," that's pretty cutting.
COOPER: Does it then make you less likely to, the next time around, jump in and say, Mr. President, I think -- let me give you my perspective.
POWER: So, it's a great -- it's a great insight into human behavior and group behavior in the premise of your question. I mean, on one level, yes. And I think that's why President Obama, as you read in the passage, in that moment comes back to me, for two reasons.
COOPER: It wasn't by accident.
POWER: No. I mean, I think it's also he knows that 90 percent of my day is going to be spent with other -- if I'm not negotiating with people internationally with my colleagues in the cabinet. And if he's pulled the rug out from under me when I'm trying to stand up to somebody, let's say on whether we should resume military assistance to an abusive unit in some country that we're in coalition with in fighting terrorists, when I try to make that case, if the rug has just been pulled out from me by the President, I'm not going to be as effective. And --
COOPER: Because others in the White House will sense you no longer have the President's ear.
POWER: Yes, exactly. So even -- you know, so even though he, you know, might get impatient with me, understandably sometimes, and you know, because I was in New York here at the U.N., sometimes I was coming in by video screen and, you know, to be out of the room also trying to parachute in and make your record -- I mean, describe the perspective that one has from dealing with all the countries of the world in a given day, but I could go on too long, and I could see, you know, the kind of -- I mean, he's the President of the United States, the busiest man in the world. And so that's part of the education of the idealist.
COOPER: The President has weakened confidence in establishments, in the pillars of democracy, in government functions, the FBI, the courts, the State Department, you name it. General Michael Hayden on this program, he and I often talk about what he calls the thin veneer of civilization, that we think civilization is sort of deeply rooted and sort of the life that we know is deeply rooted in America and not able to be changed.
He points to Sarajevo, which you did extraordinary work in and have written about as a multicultural city which, you know, there were, you know, the Olympics in 1984 and on those same hills, Serbs were lobbing shells and mortars and snipers were shooting civilians years later.
So, it is -- things can change very quickly. The lights go out. The electricity goes, and people get very different very fast. Do you worry about that in the United States, or do you believe this too shall pass regardless of how long this administration is in that the institutions are strong enough?
POWER: Well, I think right now we've seen our institutions bent, contorted, but they haven't broken. And we had a midterm election that allowed one form of accountability in terms of House accountability to be put back in place that didn't exist for the first two years, and that at least puts the brakes on what can be congressionally blessed.
But, you know, eight years is very different from four years. The hemorrhaging of the expertise from our scientific agencies, the hemorrhaging of linguistic and regional expertise from our diplomatic corps at just the time we see conflict spreading and rising and, again, Americans living out in the world and being at stake in that world, we can't afford from my standpoint certainly eight years of this.
But also I think it's incumbent on the individuals who, you know, are not necessarily of my political persuasion or wouldn't have been part of the Obama administration, but people who know better who have sort of made a devil's bargain, I think, with this president.
They see the judges going through who have the views that they want to see occupying the bench, and they say, well, maybe I'll be quiet about the lying, or maybe I'll be quiet about the, you know, separation of children from their parents that leads to the orphaning of children.
Maybe I'll be quiet about things I never, five years ago, could have imagined being quiet on. And maybe I'll be quiet even on the legitimation of the Taliban and Kim Jong-un, things that if President Obama even after four years of painstaking preparation, if President Obama had done, I would have, you know, stage the press conference.
COOPER: People's heads would have exploded.
POWER: People's heads would have exploded. And to me, that's the most disappointing part of this.
[20:35:00] COOPER: The silence of the right.
POWER: Yes, the double standard and the devil's bargain and that's where things get very dangerous because we have a divided country. And we -- yet we -- whether on the right or the left, I have two kids, you know, a lot of parents out there of very different political persuasions, we're all teaching our kids tell the truth, cooperate, don't be cruel above all whatever you. Don't be cruel. Don't bully.
And yet when those things are being done, you know, in the highest office in the land, suddenly we have a different standard for our president than we would the children that we're trying to raise.
COOPER: Samantha Power, thank you so much.
POWER: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you.
COOPER: Well, a lot more just ahead, including breaking news, the investigation of the Trump Organization's hush money payments to two women has taken a new turn.
COOPER: There's breaking news tonight tied to those hush money payments from the Trump Organization to women who say they both had affairs with Donald Trump before he became president, affairs he of course denies.
Federal prosecutors earlier this year closed their investigation after successfully prosecuting Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, who is now serving a three-year prison sentence.
But the New York County District Attorney's Office has been proceeding now for some time, according to people familiar with the probe. Tonight, there's new information on that.
CNN's Kara Scannell joins us. So, what have you learned about this investigation now?
[20:40:00] KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Anderson, sources tell us that prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, that's led by Cy Vance, have traveled to Otisville, New York where Michael Cohen is serving that three-year prison sentence for violating federal law relating to campaign finance violations that have to do with those hush money payments to women.
So the prosecutor has traveled there, we're learning, earlier last month soon after they launched this investigation into the Trump Organization. And what the state authorities are trying to figure out is whether the Trump Organization had violated any state law as it relates to those hush money payments.
And one question sources tell us that investigators are focusing on is whether the Trump Organization had falsified business records. That would be a state crime, and that would -- the question there is whether they had described how they were reimbursing Michael Cohen for paying Stormy Daniels that $130,000 payment incorrectly on its books. So that's a question the state investigators are now focusing on, Anderson.
COOPER: How does the investigation different, though, from the federal one that was closed?
SCANNELL: That's right. So the federal prosecutors closed their investigation in July. That -- very quickly soon after that, the state prosecutors opened their investigation. They're looking for violations of state law, not the federal law. And they're focusing on the Trump Organization itself.
Now, this investigation is, though, in its early stages, it launched soon after the federal prosecutors closed their case. They subpoenaed the Trump Organization and American Media, the publisher of the "National Enquirer," which was involved in the payment to Karen McDougal, another one of those women, and now they've interviewed Michael Cohen.
This is still pretty early stages, and we do expect to have them interview other people who might have some information about this, Anderson.
COOPER: And has the Trump Organization responded tonight?
SCANNELL: Yes. So we did hear from one of the lawyers of the Trump Organization, Marc Mukasey. He gave us a statement saying that when you lie down with the dogs, you get up with fleas, an apparent reference to the credibility of Michael Cohen and how useful he may be to the prosecutors.
COOPER: But Michael Cohen worked for Donald Trump for many years, so was Donald Trump flea-infected?
SCANNELL: I think that's the question.
COOPER: I don't -- I'm not sure that's the greatest analogy for somebody you've employed for a long period of time. Kara Scannell, thank you very much.
Some perspective now from Elliot Williams who served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Obama. He's a CNN Legal Analyst. Also with us, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's Chief Legal Analyst.
Is this -- I mean, does this mean -- the fact that the Southern District of New York just has handed over to Cyrus Vance's office, does that mean it's kind of done and that they're just kind of following up?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Color me skeptical that anything big is going to come from this. There's a reason why most white-collar crime in this country is investigated by federal authorities rather than state. They have better laws for investigating white-collar crime, more resources, more experience.
And here, the Trump Organization is apparently the only target here. And, you know, you can't put an organization in prison. You can fine it. I don't -- if people who are, you know, still holding out hope that there is going to be some greater legal accountability for the hush money payments, I wouldn't get your hopes up because I just don't think there is that much likely to come out of this.
COOPER: Elliot, do you agree with that? ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's right because look at the kinds of offenses that the federal government was. And, again, let's take a step back. And remember, there's a federal system and a state system. The federal system is the campaign finance laws that were being investigated. These are state crimes of essentially bookkeeping.
So, look, Michael Cohen, even he wouldn't be facing a serious charge or serious time in the state law here and frankly just as Jeffrey had said, if someone is charged, would it be the organization? And you're just -- they're just going to get a fine. So it's not -- you know, you're not -- no one is going to go away for a very, very long time.
That said, what we're seeing is the number of jurisdictions, state and federal, that are looking into the President's conduct. And you have the state DA here looking into this, you have the State Attorney General's Office looking into tax violations at the Trump foundation and then, of course, any other federal investigators that might be looking at the matter.
So, a lot of illegality and corruption investigations seem to follow the President, but nothing seems to have stuck.
TOOBIN: And in fairness to Manhattan DA's Office, to Cy Vance's office, they have launched a new case against Paul Manafort under state law for various fraudulent activities allegedly.
And, you know, the idea always will be to try to get Manafort to say something to flip in a way he never did successfully in the federal system. But, you know, again, it's unlikely to lead to, you know, sort of new revelations.
COOPER: So, is this -- I mean, you know, the Trump Organization attorney had previously said that this is a political hit job. Is -- I mean, if there's not really anything that's going to come out of it, if, you know, it's against the Trump Organization, is it just about Democratic politics?
TOOBIN: I think it's premature to dismiss this investigation altogether. It is no coincidence, however, that, you know, the Democratic DA of Manhattan County, the Democratic Attorney General of the State of New York are all very hot to trot in this investigation.
[20:45:10] You know, that is -- you know, there is no question there's a political dimension to that. But if they find something, they find something. And, you know, we'll see if they do.
COOPER: And Elliot, the President has no immunity from state charges, not just after he leaves office, but even while he's in office, right?
WILLIAMS: Right, yes. We saw through the special counsel investigation so much national -- nationwide discussion over who can charge the president or not. The state can charge the president even now. Now, look, good luck getting process served on the President of the United States or getting him to sit for an interview. You know, another point on this hit job point, at the end of the day, let's not forget that they're still covering up misconduct. Now, on the one hand, it might have been hush money payments. On the other hand -- you know, in this instance here, it's falsifying business records.
It's still conduct that we don't want anyone engaging in and we shouldn't be quick to desensitize ourselves to the fact that people are trying to cover their tracks and trying to cover up illegality. Now that said, it doesn't carry huge criminal penalties and we'll just have to see how it plays out.
COOPER: I mean, they were just covering up a NOAA map with a sharpie.
WILLIAMS: There's a lot of covering up, Anderson.
COOPER: Is there any surprise that like, you know, there might be other things going on?
TOOBIN: Well, and, you know, I'm old enough to remember the Mueller report. And the Mueller report talks about time after time when the -- there is at least the suggestion and strong evidence of obstruction of justice in a wide variety of ways. Now, we know that he cannot be prosecuted there under -- while he is president under Department of Justice policy.
COOPER: And we know that according to the Mueller report he was essentially saved by his White House counsel who refused to follow through on some of these --
TOOBIN: Who act -- White House counsel who actually knew something about the law. Who knew?
COOPER: Go figure.
TOOBIN: Go figure.
COOPER: Why hire somebody who actually knows something about that? Do you think, Elliot, that state authorities might try to interview the President while he's still in office?
WILLIAMS: I think it would be incredibly challenging to do so and that would lead to --look, this is exactly what came up in the context of the Mueller investigation months and months and months and months of negotiation over the terms and nature of the President. The difference is he could actually be charged.
So if they have a reason to interview him, they certainly can. The problem is that your star witness here, your central witness here, Michael Cohen, to be perfectly frank, has serious credibility issues. He's a convicted felon serving a federal sentence. So unless they have another way to corroborate any information he provides --
WILLIAMS: -- it's going to be challenging to get to the President of the United States.
TOOBIN: I don't think it is going to be a lengthy negotiation for the President to give an interview to the Manhattan DA. I think the phone will be hung up very quickly, and that will be the end of that.
WILLIAMS: That's right.
COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, Elliot Williams, thanks very much.
Up next, the White House moves to ban flavored vapes with a growing number of deaths and lung illnesses possibly linked to vaping.
[20:52:02] COOPER: Not only six deaths, more than 450 cases of lung illnesses possibly linked to vaping, President Trump and the First Lady want to ban on flavored e-cigarettes. The President says the Food and Drug Administration would be putting out some very strong recommendations in the coming weeks.
The CDC backs the plan saying it's an important step in the epidemic of e-cigarette use among Americans youth. The American Vaping Association says a ban would remove life changing options that millions of Americans use to quit smoking.
I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: That's always been the sell, that it was safer than smoking. Is it or is it dangerous in a different way? We will be looking at the angle -- I'm all over this story. We've been following it from the beginning. We'll continue to do so. I know you will as well.
If the rationale for e-cigarettes is consistent, then why isn't the White House applying it to gun access as well? It seems to be an apparent danger. Kids were getting hurt. We want to stop it before more happens. If that's their rationale, why is it the same on guns?
We also have Senator Blumenthal on tonight. He's supposedly working on a gun deal. What does he think about the Supreme Court case, Coop, that changes the asylum laws in this country?
COOPER: The -- obviously, I mean, the people watching will say, well, the difference on guns is there's something in the constitution about guns.
CUOMO: That's exactly right. You have a right to bear arms. You don't have a right to have an e-cigarette in your mouth. But what I'm saying is the way they pass muster --
CUOMO: -- in terms of a policy here is public safety.
COOPER: I get that, yes. CUOMO: And that would be the political concern, but the pushback was perfect.
CUOMO: I should have you on "The Great Debate."
COOPER: I wouldn't last long. Chris Cuomo, thanks very much. We'll see you in about 6 minutes from now.
Up next, America remembers and we remember in honor of those lost on 9/11 18 years ago today.
[20:58:17] COOPER: Tonight, we remember. We remember 2,977 lives lost 18 years ago in the September 11th terror attacks. You're looking right now a live picture of the beams of light.
The youngest who died was just 2, the oldest 85. There were daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and military members and firefighters and police officers, citizens, our fellow countrymen, people from overseas. We remember all those, all those who were killed, all those who were murdered.
At the White House, ceremonies began this morning with a moment of silence and the President and First Lady headed to the Pentagon where Flight 77 hit and that's where President Trump laid a wreath and had this message for those who lost loved ones in 2001.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the families who join us, this is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss. It's the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over, the last kiss, the last phone call, the last time hearing those precious words I love you, but we offer you all that we have, our unwavering loyalty, our undying devotion and our eternal pledge that your loved ones will never, ever be forgotten.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Also at the Pentagon today, former President George W. Bush, who was president obviously on 9/11, laid a wreath at the memorial. He was joined by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
At the memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Vice President Pence honored those who died on Flight 93, the crew and passengers, as you know, fought back against the hijackers and protected our nation's capital.
In New York where the attacks first happened when Flights 11 and 175 slammed into the World Trade Center, bells were rung, the footprints of the Twin Towers. Loved ones read a solemn roll call of the dead. 9/11, 18 years later, we remember.
The news continues. I want to go to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?