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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

CNN: FBI Tracked Suspected Russian Disinformation on Election Day, Including False Stories on Clinton; Is Russia Targeting McMaster Now?; Vacation Critic Takes Time Off. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 04, 2017 - 20:00   ET



We begin tonight with a CNN exclusive. New details unreported until now from the U.S. counterintelligence battle against Russia tampering with the election.

[20:00:04] Not only did the Russian tampering go until the final vote was cast, we're also learning it went up to the line when it comes to the line when it comes to the First Amendment. The scene: an election night war room. The adversary: disinformation designed to influence voters apparently from Russian sources.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown have the scoop tonight. They join us.

Shimon, first of all, tell us about how some members of the FBI, how they spent Election Day.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN PRODUCER: Yes. So, Anderson, on election night, counterintelligence analysts and investigators were huddled in a room at FBI headquarters here in Washington, D.C. on Election Day, monitoring social media. And what they could see was streams of fake news, negative stories about being posted about Hillary Clinton, some having to do with her health, according to multiple sources. They were able to identify suspected Russian links to the accounts that appeared to be pushing the fake stories, Anderson.

COOPER: And, Pamela, was the FBI working with the White House on this?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There was a coordinated effort, Anderson. So, we learned that teams at the FBI, Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were holding these conference calls every three hours with the team at the Situation Room in the White House to discuss any problems, possible problems, and the big focus was whether the vote could be tampered with.

There were some minor issues that popped up across the country in related to tampering of the vote from Alaska to Georgia, but there were no major incidents or disruptions of the vote, the FBI has said. And, by the way, the FBI declined to comment for this Anderson.

COOPER: And, Shimon, I mean, obviously, look, this raises concerns that the FBI was monitoring what people were reading. But this also reported the investigation that is going on now.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, that's right. And, you know, Anderson, they were really monitoring the fake news, and it was certainly even that was uncomfortable territory for the FBI, given the First Amendment's free speech protections. Even for fake news this exists.

You know, one law enforcement official we spoke with said, quote, we were right on the edge of constitutional legality. The official said we were monitoring the news. But nonetheless, for investigators, this is still part of the counterintelligence investigation that the FBI has been conducting into Russian meddling in the election, because there is a need to understand the effect of this kind of fake news campaign on the election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign was involved in the fake news operation. And as we know, that investigation continues today, Anderson.

COOPER: And, Pamela, what's the reaction from officials when Donald Trump actually won the election?

BROWN: Well, the reaction was mixed. I mean, at the end of the night, we're told that officials, some of them are relieved, and they exchanged congratulations because their big concern was the vote could be tampered with, and there were no major problems in their view.

But we're told one official in the Obama White House had the opposite reaction. As everyone was celebrating, this official said something to the extent of, are you kidding? What they did worked, meaning what the Russians did worked with the disinformation campaign, and this person felt like the government's response during the campaign and what Russia was doing was a, quote, failure of imagination. But, of course, Anderson, we may never know what kind of impact the Russian disinformation campaign had on the election outcome.

COOPER: Yes, Pam, Shimon, thanks for the reporting.

Joining us, two former intelligence professionals, Phillip Mudd, who worked in senior capacity at the FBI as well as the CIA. And former senior CIA official, Daniel Hoffman, who served for five years in Moscow. He's currently a vice president of the Sonoran Policy Group.

Phil, you obviously spent years in the FBI. Is it standard practice to have a command center on election day monitoring, among other, you know, threats the election is fake news and social media?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, this is a brave new world. It would be standard practice to be monitoring threats. For example, I remember sitting around the FBI and the CIA and you would say whether it's the turn of the year on January 1st when you're concerned about threats, especially going back to, for example, Y2K, or going to this situation, looking to see if there's anybody trying to disrupt everything from the inauguration to the voting here.

To monitor social media, though, in this way is a new world for the FBI. I think there are two quick aspects of this that are critically important. One is very simple, that is the FBI should be talking to the Congress about whether there are lessons learned in terms of controlling this information when they talk to people like Facebook and Yahoo, Twitter in the future.

There's another final point on this, Anderson, I think that is lost but critically important. And that is metadata. I would want to know as soon as I saw this story today, did we identify who was involved? Can we identify it down to knowing what their Internet activity is? Whether we can find emails, whether we can find phone information? And were there any hops, that is one hop or two hops away from anybody in the Trump campaign?

I think this does relate to the Russia question that we've been dealing with for the past year.

COOPER: Daniel, we now know the FBI was prepared for an onslaught of fake news to try to influence the election. In hindsight, I mean, could they have done something to stop it? Or, I mean, obviously, there's been a lot of criticism about the Obama White House and how seriously they took this or how they handled it.

[20:05:02] DANIEL HOFFMAN, FORMER CIA SENIOR OFFICER: I think stopping it would have been exceedingly difficult.

There's two critical elements to Vladimir Putin's life experience. One is that he was a KGB officer, director of FSB. The other is, he's a black belt in judo. And one of the key principles in judo is to use your opponent's strength against him.

In our case, whereas Russia seeks to impose cyber sovereignty, cyberspace in the United States is wide open. It's a force multiplier for free expression and for commerce. And I believe that Vladimir Putin saw an opportunity effectively to exploit our open Internet for his own influence gain.

COOPER: Phil, you know, the comment made by the one Obama White House official, we don't know who it was, regarding Russian interference, saying what they did worked, I mean, there's no real way to ever know that. I mean, it's easy to just say, oh, this was, you know, Russia disinformation. But it's not clear how effective, you know, fake news stories on Twitter really are or on Facebook.

MUDD: I don't think it is. But I think -- we're muddying, if you will, the question, Anderson, and that is we are spending way too much time, including members of the Clinton campaign, talking about the impact on the last election. My problem with the current congressional inquiries is they keep getting caught up in circles around Democrats, Republicans, who's got access to information.

The key question is, if we go into the next election cycle, what is the role of the federal government in supporting Silicon Valley, but also supporting free speech, to keep this stuff off the Internet? We've got to get out of rejudicating (ph) the past election to answer one question, should the federal government be setting up this kind of center? This is almost unimaginable, Anderson. This kind of center, real time, to monitor the next election in support of people like Facebook or Twitter to remove this stuff real time. That is 21st century.

COOPER: Daniel, is this even possible?

HOFFMAN: I think that would be quite a challenge.

COOPER: Yes. Daniel Hoffman, Phil Mudd, thanks very much.

Joining us is Van Jones, Gloria Browne-Marshall, Jeffrey Lord, and Molly Ball.

Van, I mean, the idea that Americans were going to the polls while the FBI was kind of poring over social media, as Phil said, it is kind of a brave new world and also raises a lot of concerns.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: It raises a lot of concerns. But I think part of the thing, if you pull back, you have an Obama administration that's between a rock and a hard place.

The Republicans spent so much time driving down confidence in this White House, you know, stoking suspicions about this president, that here you have a real threat to our most basic institution, and the president and the FBI, they don't know what to do. If they go forward and say the Russians are messing with the election, there's a concern the Republican will say, aha, he's just doing that to help Hillary Clinton. If they do nothing, you wind up with this outcome now nobody knows what to believe.

And I think the Republicans have to take some responsibility for doing their own campaign of disinformation around this birtherism, et cetera, which left us vulnerable to this day to sort out these threats.

COOPER: But was it just concern by the Obama White House about being -- saying -- about being accused of rigging the election or was it the Obama White House believing that Hillary Clinton was going to win and that they can sort this out once that all was done?

JONES: Look, I think it's a messy mix. You know, the truth is messy, as I often say. I think it's a messy mix. But I -- what I think you can't allow the Republicans to keep doing is to be in this situation where if the president had done something, he's wrong. If he does nothing, he's wrong. At some point, that's just hypocritical and unfair to everybody.

COOPER: Gloria, you heard the quote from one FBI official saying we were right on the edge of constitutional legality. Is that true? I mean, as a constitutional professor.

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: It is true, because on the one hand, is fake news protected by the First Amendment? We know that public officials can bring an action if there is a reckless disregard for the truth and actual malice. In this case, there appears to be reckless disregard for the truth, because if they have intended to put out fake news, then Hillary Clinton has some action against but whom, you know? It's like that's the other issue.

The other side from the FBI's stand point, though, is that if they're going to be watching this, what are they going to do? What was the action they would have taken if they actually found it and they saw that it was hurting the election, what would they have done?

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, do you buy any of this, that it had an impact that the idea of, you know, Russians flooding Twitter with fake news stories have an impact in influencing anything in the election?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't, Anderson. And I'll tell you what, it's just historically from -- I mean, not just in this country, but in any democratic country, opponents flood the media with bizarre and untrue stories about their opponents. I'm old enough -- I mean, was a child in 1960, but I remember a -- what I now was a regurgitated story from 1928 when none of us were here that said John F. Kennedy, if elected, was going to build a tunnel from the White House, a secret underground tunnel from the White House to the Vatican.

[20:10:03] COOPER: Right.

LORD: It was nuts. It was nuts, but well within First Amendment rights.

And you can go through election after election, Barry Goldwater and the psychiatrist who said he was unstable. I mean, these kind of things are said in hot political campaigns.

As you know, I'm a First Amendment fundamentalist. I'm not -- I'm a little concerned about the Trump administration looking into reporters, et cetera, with this. I'm all for clamping down on leaks, but not the reporters.

I just think you've got to let this flow. And if foreigners are going to do that, that's fine. It's a different thing if they've got high tech access to ballot boxes. That's a different thing.

COOPER: Molly, where do you see this?

MOLLY BALL, POLITICAL WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, look, I think the issue is foreign propaganda, which is different than the kind of speech you're talking about, that the libel laws apply to, and we do have laws about foreign propaganda and we do have procedures to try to shield the United States from that propaganda, going back to the days of German propaganda. So, that I think is the issue.

And I think has been said here, this is the 21st century threat, a 21st century version of this, that clearly the White House had a very hard time figuring out how to deal with. And to your question before, I do think there was an element for the Obama administration of assuming that this wasn't going to -- assuming they knew how the election was going to turn out, and assuming that the next administration being the Hillary Clinton administration, would be the ones to handle it. And there has been a lot of reporting that they did not act as decisively as they would have, because of that assumption.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more when we come back, including the possibility that the president's own national security adviser is now the target of a Russian propaganda campaign. And later, the presidential vacation. How his time off, President

Trump's time off, stacks up against his predecessors, and how it squares with his campaign promises on the subject. We're keeping them honest.


[20:15:36] COOPER: Tonight's breaking news only underscores just how seriously the intelligence and law enforcement community consider the Russia hacking problem. It's quite a picture. People essentially at battle stations on election night, some of them worrying that their efforts to secure the fair process might also be jeopardizing the First Amendment.

The current commander-in-chief, of course, continues to downplay the Russia story, nearly every chance he gets. He did it again just last night in West Virginia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is.



COOPER: Back now with the panel.

There's also, you know, Van, reporting today that H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, is actually under attack online not just from sort of alt-right groups and individuals but from Russian backed or Russian-controlled bots and Twitter accounts.

JONES: You know, this is one of the things that I think is most dangerous is that you are now having this convergence. People on the far right, the so-called alt-right, I call it the dirty right because I don't -- you know, I think they play dirty, so I call them the dirty right.

People on the dirty right, they don't like McMaster and they don't like -- I didn't say everybody on the right, Jeff, I said this particular section, which you don't even like these people yourself.

So, the dirty right that plays dirty, that traffics in racism which you hate, Jeffrey, that traffics in violence, which you hate, Jeffrey, that section has gotten itself in a posture they don't like McMaster because they know he doesn't like Steve Bannon. And they see Steve Bannon as one of their icons. So, they started to gin up stuff. That's all fair and good. I have no problem with that. That's America.

But now jumping on top of that, these Russian bots are amplifying. So, you're now seeing a convergence, which is very, very dangerous of our foreign enemy with some domestic discontent. That mix, I think, is very dangerous.

COOPER: And I guess, Jeff, the argument is that some of these alt- right groups and Russia have similar sort of geopolitical similarities, opposition to the E.U., Brexit, et cetera.

LORD: Yes. Anderson, I'm not listening to the alt-right, I'm listening to my conservative friends like Sean Hannity who has expressed his doubts about H.R. McMaster and I can tell you why. At least the stories I'm seeing are that, and if they're untrue, please tell me, that he has dismissed from the NSC staff people who are associated with President Trump, and there are still Obama holdovers in there. I mean, this is a fairly standard --

COOPER: He dismissed somebody from the staff who had been put on by General Flynn, and somebody he wanted to try to get rid of --


COOPER: A Trump person, in other words, a Trump person. And there's where you get this.

I mean, Anderson, I can only tell you that the sensitivity -- I mean, this long predates the Trump administration of conservatives to people inside a Republican administration doing in conservatives, whether they're Reaganites or Trumpites or what have you, is very sensitive, and this is mainstream conservative concern. This has -- I mean, this long predates anything from what my friend Van called the alt-right or the dirty right.

JONES: But, I guess, Jeffrey, what I worry about is our inability to deal with the complexity and the nuance of the challenges now. Yes, there are people who I am sure have quite legitimate concerns about McMaster, and that's normal politics. The problem is you've got people who may have some illegitimate concerns who, you know, basically are cheerleaders for Bannon and some of the worst ideas associated with Bannon and now they're being supported by Russian bots, and I don't see people in your situation expressing enough concern about that. It's disturbing to people.

LORD: Van, Van, let's go back in history a little bit, when you had people who are opposing the Vietnam War in the '60s, who were being in many ways supported by the Soviet Union or the Chinese communists. I mean, I certainly am old enough to remember Vietnamese flags carried at anti-war --

JONES: Did you think that was a good thing or bad thing, Jeffrey? Were you a big fan of that, Jeffrey, at the time?

LORD: Well, no, but what I'm --

JONES: That's my point. We agree. That stuff is bad.

LORD: There's not a thing new about this, right?

JONES: Just because it's not new -- see, Jeffrey, this is where people want to blow their brains out when you talk sometimes. (LAUGHTER)

[20:20:01] JONES: Just because it's not new doesn't mean it's good for America. There are things that are bad that are old. There are things that are bad that have precedence. This is bad that has a precedence. If you didn't like it in the '60s, why do you apologize for it today?

COOPER: It's also, Molly, it seems like it's at a different level. I mean, to Jeffrey's point, you know, funding of anti-war groups years ago or ideological backing of groups by foreign entities is one thing. But the active involvement in a social media campaign that is relentless and ongoing, that's indistinguishable from Americans exercising their free speech, that's a whole new level.

BALL: Well, there's a couple of differences here, right? I mean, number one, this is a hostile regime, and traditionally the American tradition has been when hostile regimes try to meddle under the radar in our domestic affairs, traditionally American politicians and the American White House has said, hey, get the heck out of here, instead of saying, how can we use this, how can we draft on this, how can we make use of this for our own political purposes?

And so, there's a big difference and this is the whole difference, this is wink and nod relationship that Trump has had with the alt- right as well, instead forthrightly saying these are not my people, he's allied with them when it's convenient and then taken a different side when not. And so, you have this whole McMaster thing playing out and this is also -- this is the ideological conflict. This is still a battle for the soul of Donald Trump, and the president ironically hasn't taken a side in terms of which of these foreign policy camps he falls into.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break.

The president has arrived at his New Jersey golf resort for 17 vacation. Normally, we don't talk much about president's vacation. They all have a right to do that, of course. It's a very stressful job. But this president did relentless criticize President Obama for both golf and vacation days, so we thought we would compare how President Trump's time off stacks up to his predecessors.

"Keeping Them Honest", next.


[20:25:55] COOPER: The president arrived today at his golf club in New Jersey for what's being described as a 17-day working vacation. He left without holding the traditional pre-vacation press conference which has been 169 days since his last solo press conference, which is back in February. The president has already taken more vacation days than his predecessor according to CBS News' Mark Knoller, who's kept track of these things for decades.

President Trump has taken 41 days off, over the same time span, President Obama took 21, George W. Bush took 67. Now, it certainly would be a fair assumption he'll be playing golf at

his club, though the White House doesn't publicize it. In fact, just the opposite. As you see, cameras are kept at a great distance.

It's understandable the president needs time off. It's an incredibly stressful job and wherever he is, he's able to be briefed on important matters and conduct business. He should get time off.

Every single modern president has spent ample time away from the White House. President Obama at Martha's Vineyard. George W. Bush at his Crawford, Texas ranch. His father in Maine. Eisenhower at what would become known as Camp David, named after his grand son.

James K. Polk hardly left the office, and the job pretty much killed him. His term expired and three months later, so did he.

So, the point is, presidents need time away. So, tonight, no lectures about the vacationer in chief, but it is only fair to point out that this president was an especially harsh critic of his predecessor for golfing and taking a vacation. When it was President Obama doing it, candidate Trump and civilian Trump went after him for it.

So, as you watch this, just remember, this president has taken almost twice as much time off as the man he loved to criticize on the campaign trail.


TRUMP: Obama, it was reported today, played 250 rounds of golf.

Everything is executive order, because he doesn't have enough time, because he's playing so much golf.

Obama ought to get off the golf course and get down there.

I'm going to be working for you, I'm not going to have time to play golf.

He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.

This guy plays more golf than people on the PGA tour.

I love golf, I think it's one of the greats, but I don't have time.

But if I were in the White House, I don't think I would ever see Turnberry again. I don't think I'd ever see Doral again.

But I'm not going to be playing much golf, believe me. If I win this, I'm not going to be playing much golf.

I wouldn't leave the White House very much, because, you know, like little things like these little trips where they get on, they cost you a fortune.

I love working. I'm not a vacation guy.

I don't take vacations. I'm not like Obama where he takes Air Force One to Hawaii.

I don't take vacations.

I promise you, I will not be taking very long vacations if I take them at all. There's no time for vacation.

Other people, they go away for weeks and weeks. I don't like taking vacations.

Obama likes relaxing and going on vacations. Me, I like working. I like working, I really do.

If I get elected president, I'm going to be in the White House a lot. I'm not leaving. We have deals to make. Who the hell wants to leave, right?


COOPER: Who the hell wants to leave? Who indeed?

CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House.

Jim, what is the White House saying about the president's time away?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he might want a mulligan for all of those comments after that clip you played, Anderson. But the White House at this point is saying that this is going to be a working vacation, as you put it. He's going to be dealing with a range of issues.

From what we understand, from talking to various officials, he's not giving up on repealing Obamacare. So, I assume there will be some discussions on that. But from what we understand, the new chief of staff, John Kelly, is going to be up in Bedminster for much of this trip. He has, as you know, Anderson, over the last week, been clamping down on access to the president in the west wing, in the Oval Office, keeping tabs on who is coming and going into the Oval Office.

And we heard from Mick Mulvaney yesterday, the budget director, saying he even listens in on phone calls. When Mulvaney was calling the president this week, John Kelly was listening in on his phone calls. The question is, whether or not it will be something to watch, whether the chief of staff can maintain that kind of discipline at the president's country club.

But make no mistake: presidents can have work creep up on them when they're on vacation. I was with Barack Obama up at Martha's Vineyard. He had to give a statement to the news media a couple of times. The White House had to give statements to the press because the world did not go on vacation while the president was taking time off.

So, the president may be going up to his country club in New Jersey, but the world may not let him have a vacation that entire time he's up there.

COOPER: And there's certainly some big developments in the Russia probe that are going on, just as the President has leave in. Did he have anything to say about the investigation today?

ACOSTA: No, Anderson. As a matter of fact, the only time we got to see the President in front of the cameras is when he departed the Oval Office, got on Marine One and started to head up to Bedminister earlier today. Questions were shouted at him about the Russian investigation, about Bob Mueller, whether he plans on firing Bob Mueller during his vacation. He did not answer any of those questions.

And Anderson, it's very important to point out, the President did not hold a news conference before going on vacation. That is something that Presidents have been doing over the last two presidencies. Barack Obama typically held a news conference before he went on vacation. George W. Bush did this, as well.

And for our viewers to remember, I think it's very important, Donald Trump as President of the United States has only held one full news conference with the news media since he's been in office that was way back in February. He had an opportunity to do it today and he didn't do it.

Of course, as I said earlier, there is a possibility of -- he could potentially do this up in Bedminister. I remember last year, we were in Scotland visiting his golf courses during the campaign, Anderson, do you remember this? He took us on sort of a rolling news conference, where he took questions from us as he went from hole to hole on the golf course in Scotland. The question is whether he will do that in Bedminster. We're being told not hold our breath, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, clearly been on the cameras near him when he's on the gulf course. Jim Acosta, thanks.

ACOSTA: That's right.

COOPER: To our panel, Van Jones is back, along with Timothy O'Brian, Douglas Brinkley and Jeffrey Lord.

Van, I mean, obviously look, the leader of the free world should take vacation, and it is -- he can do work wherever he is because the whole, you know, 0:01:49.8 is with him. But the hypocrisy of running on the guide doesn't take vacation and going after your predecessor for taking too much vacation playing golf it is pretty obvious.

JONES: I see nothing wrong with this at all. I see no hypocrisy, I think we should move on. No, this is ridiculous. No, this is ridiculous. No, this is ridiculous because he -- this was part of an overall strategy of delegitimizing this President. And I know people don't like when I say this, but I'll tell you how this landed for a lot of African-Americans. There is a stereotype that African- Americans are lazy. And that goes all the way back to the slavery days. And so, when you start saying an African-American is a lazy person, whether you mean it that way or not, it lands with us as oh, my god, they're stereotyping this guy.

And look, you can tell that President Obama was working hard. He went in there, he look like Tiger Woods, he came out and look like Morgan Freeman. The god worked himself to death and he was still being accused of being lazy. And so for him now to be doing almost twice as much vacation, even you, Jeffrey, have to be embarrassed about this.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My friend, Van, I would like to ask you this question. I am old enough, and I guess you weren't around -- I know you weren't around when Democrats in 1960 criticized President Eisenhower for playing too much golf and being too lazy. And John F. Kennedy got elected and instructed people, he didn't want any photographs of him playing golf and eventually a few photographs did leak out was I mean --

COOPER: Isn't that hypocritical, Van, and just as hypocritical now?

LORD: Well, I'm just saying that this is what happens. I mean, I did work --

COOPER: Do you believe it's hypocritical for the President to have campaigned saying --

LORD: I think it's political, Anderson, and I think it happens all the time.


LORD: And let me be serious --

COOPER: But is it hypocritical?

LORD: Anderson, let me be serious about this here for second.

COOPER: OK, you're not going to answer that?

LORD: I think that the real problem here, I didn't hear any Democrats say, Congress should have -- should cancel their vacation. I did hear some Republicans saying it. And they didn't do it. And I think they should have. I think Republicans should have canceled their August recess and stayed there in Washington and --

COOPER: But Jeff, the question of whether it's -- you can answer yes or no, is it hypocritical for somebody to run, attacking your predecessor for taking too many vacations and playing too much golf?

LORD: No, every President does --

COOPER: I'm just asking you. Yes, OK then, if that's your answer, then you're saying yes, Donald Trump is being hypocritical just like every other President.

LORD: Anderson, in the scheme of things, this is going nothing.

COOPER: OK. I still don't think you answer the question. Go ahead, Tim, I mean --

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: You know, this isn't just about politics. It's about what he's achieved so far in his term. And he campaigned on the idea that he is a great deal maker and he was a hard worker. He was going to go to Washington and he was going to turn the city upside down and get things done. We're at almost seven month mark at his administration. He hasn't gotten any major legislation through. He has a poor communications strategy.

COOPER: Other than Neil Gorsuch.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but that's, you know, that's an important appointment --

LORD: The stock market. Unemployment?

O'BRIEN: But -- unemployment, that's a land grab, Jeff. Any time right now that President Trump makes a claim for stock market -- how robust the stock market is or unemployment rates, he's simply raising Obama. It's far too early in his administration to claim authority on any of that data.

[20:35:13] COOPER: Doug, when it comes to the actual vacation destination, I mean, President Trump almost exclusively goes to his own golf resorts, which obviously gives attention to his own golf resorts, which I guess are clubs, which people can join if they have enough money. It does seems like a lot of his predecessors took vacation as an opportunity to in some cases visit national parks or spent time in sort of more suburban or everyday settings.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you know, Anderson, you mentioned James K. Polk ever leaving. We should mention the old-time winner was James Madison in 1860, four months he disappeared. Both FDR and TR would lead an awful lot (ph). I do think that, you know, it may be seen as a mistake to constantly only go to his resorts. It's his first year. I would think there's so many great places in the west that would love to have a President in their backyard, putting bay in Ohio, or up (INAUDIBLE) voyagers, the Wisconsin dells. But President loves golf, like Barack Obama, they're addicted to it.

But I'm afraid the curse of August may catch up to Donald Trump. Presidents that think they get these 17 days off really don't. Barack Obama himself had a tea party event exploded on him. There was one August a chemical attack in Syria. James Foley was beheaded by ISIS. Wildfires, meaning the whole world doesn't stop because Donald Trump is trying to get away for 17 days.

LORD: And don't forget, the White House is being renovated, right?

BRINKLEY: Yes. That's exactly right.

JONES: Jeffrey, nobody thinks it's a bad idea for Donald Trump to take a vacation. Listen, you don't hear democrats down here complaining but what we think is that if you make a promise to the American people, it might possibly one time should matter. He said, I am not going to vacation. We got too many deals to cut. We got too much work to do.

My big claim about Obama, according to Trump, this guy is lazy, he's not working for you. So listen, he set the table. Now, since he set the table, then he should actually play the card game the way he set out. He's not. So part of the thing I think we've got a deal with here is how many times you have this President making false claims and promises to his own base and can he be held accountable for that?

COOPER: Jeff, we're going to bring it down, we're going to be back. Thanks everyone, when we come back, the FBI says Russia tried definitely tried to influence the 2016 election using fake news spread on websites. How lawmakers and companies like Facebook are responding, next.


[20:41:38] COOPER: As we reported earlier, CNN has learned the FBI monitored social media on election day, tracking the suspected Russian fake news campaign. If you have Facebook or Twitter, your feeds likely included fake news stories in the months leading up to the election. Not fake news like what President Trump calls it fake news but part of the (INAUDIBLE) real fake news, fabricated stories about Hillary Clinton.

Now we have new reporting about how lawmakers are looking how fake news spread on Facebook during the election and figuring out what they can do to stop it. CNN's Drew Griffin has more.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no question according to the FBI that Russia used fake news to try to influence the 2016 election.

BILL PRIESTAP, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: They also pushed fake news and propaganda and they used online amplifiers to spread the information to as many people as possible.

GRIFFIN: What democratic congressional investigators want to know is whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to spread false information about Hillary Clinton through Facebook.


GRIFFIN: Senator Mark Warner, the top democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee has traveled to Facebook headquarters in California. While he won't discuss specifics of the meeting, he tells CNN he wants to know whether the Trump campaign helped Russians to target fake news to specific Facebook users.

WARNER: I would like to look into the activities of the Trump digital campaign. I will point out this, Facebook, which basically denied any responsibility around our elections, by the time the French elections took place this spring, they actually took down 30,000 fake sites.

GRIFFIN: Fake sites spreading fake news, mostly negative about Hillary Clinton. The democratic theory, somehow the Trump campaign and Russians colluded to do it. GRIFFIN (on camera): So go ahead and tell me what we're seeing right here.

This is why it matters. Look at this program that tracks social media. You can clearly see the explosion of completely fabricated stories, fake news, in the months just before November's election.

GABRIELE BOLAND, CONTENT STRATEGIST, NEWS WHIP: In the fall, it just became so much of a problem.

GRIFFIN: Gabriele Boland, the content strategist with News Whip, a social media analytics firm, says fake news spiked astronomically in the months before the elections mostly fabricated stories about Hillary Clinton or Democrats with headlines like, Donald Trump protester speaks out, I was paid $3500 to protest Trump's rally. The story is from a fake news site made to appear like the real ABC News. It was created by Paul Horner who told CNN he writes fake news to make money. But that didn't stop his completely fake story from spreading through conservative media.

And there's this story. "FBI Agents Suspected In Hillary E-Mail Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide." This story was 100 percent made up, released on a made up news site called the Denver Guardian. Nothing about it was true. The author admits that to CNN. Getting nearly 570,000 shares, likes or comments on Facebook and was published just four days before the election. The question Democrats want answer are, how did fake stories from fake websites become so popular so quickly and did someone pay to boost the fake news?

Facebook was a massive part of the Trump campaign's online advertising efforts.


GRIFFIN: 95 percent of Trump's fund raising ads were placed on the platform according to officials.

GRIFFIN (on camera): But the Trump campaign has flatly denied any Russian collusion whatsoever. And though not appearing on camera, the Trump campaign official who oversaw all of the Trump campaign's digital advertising, is going on record at CNN to say it simply didn't happen.

GARY COBY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF ADVERTISING AT RNC & TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT: Trump's followers got amazing kind of engagement.

GRIFFIN: Gary Coby, the former Director of the advertising for the Republican National Committee and the Trump for President campaign, told CNN by phone, we would never put money behind someone else's Facebook page or source. And he added, "We did not back anyone's Hillary stories. Had nothing to do with fake Hillary stories or any Hillary stories that weren't our own.

BRAD PARSCALE, LEAD CONTRACTOR ON TRUMP'S DIGITAL CAMPAIGN: We would produce content -- GRIFFIN: Brad Parscale, he was a Lead Contractor on Trump's Digital

Campaign has also denied any involvement with Russia. Parscale has been called to testify before the house Intelligence Committee to square to that under oath. Facebook has done its own internal review and has reported it did find malicious actors with fake accounts spreading misinformation during the campaign but says in a statement to CNN, "We've been in touch with a number of government officials, including Senator Warner who are looking into the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We will continue to cooperate with officials as their investigations continue. As we have said, we have seen no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election." Drew Griffin, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Up next, two terror plots foiled in Australia, including a plan to blow up passenger planes using was being described as a do it yourself bomb kit. More on ISIS' newest terror tool, next.


[20:50:38] COOPER: Tonight we're learning disturbing details about new techniques that ISIS maybe using to target the west. This came to light after two men in Sydney Australian were arrests for plotting payer of terror attacks. Now, according to police, Senior ISIS commander sent the men a kind of do-it-yourself bomb kit, which they allegedly used to build the fully operational IED that they going to used to blow up a passenger plane. They were also allegedly planning to release deadly toxin gas in a public case. Our Rene Marsh joins us now along with CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank.

So I understand this, Rene, that this represents pretty much a tactic crisis, in what way?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It does I mean, when you look at the coordination and even the grade of weaponry used in the plot here it truly is chilling and an ISIS commander according to Australian police shipped partially assembled bomb components via air cargo from Turkey to Australia and the bomb parts include high military-grade explosives and the intent was for individuals in Australia to build a bomb and place it onboard an Etihad Airways flight on July 15th.

Now, what's new and concerning about all of this is ISIS is essentially shipping do-it-yourself bomb kits to extremists in the west, as you know, Anderson, building those powerful bombs from scratch has been one of the most difficult issues for extremists of this plot indicates that ISIS is making it a whole lot easier. They're flying these partially assembled components to the west. And then talking these individuals through the final steps.

COOPER: Paul, you have more details about the construction of the bomb.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYS: Well, a couple of major Australian media outlets, Anderson, say that the police have been examining these devices and they're leaning towards the idea that this was PETN involved as the explosive, the Australian, one of the newspapers reporting. There's now PETN, it was the same explosive which was used in that shoe bomb attempt right after 9/11 with Richard Reid, and also the underwear bombing over Detroit in 2009 and then the prince of bomb plot against the United States in 2010 where they inserted PETN into printer cartridges and shipped it halfway to the United States.

This is a very powerful explosives and the Australian believe it could have had the possibility of bringing down a plane. Very, very disturbing that ISIS would manage to ship this by airmail all of the way to Australia from Turkey and then give these instructions over these encrypted apps. They were talking to ISIS, this cell, from April onwards and so very, very worried, they are in Australia about this plot, Anderson. The arrest only coming 11 days after this aborted attempt to bring down this Etihad jet.

COOPER: And Rene, what about this alleged deadly gas plot.

MARSH: Right. So there was another half of this plot was that it involved a plan to release a toxic gas in public. Hydrogen sulfide is what they were planning to release. It's very dangerous, very flammable. It's an industrial chemical. It essentially attacks the respiratory and the nervous system. So it can be used as a terrorist weapon. A very small amount whether you're talking about 10, 20, 30 parts per million can kill you in literally minutes.

The information from Australian police is that the ISIS commander actually instructed one of the men in Australia to disperse this gas in a confined space, potentially public transportation. The men had not successfully built this device because it's just a very difficult thing to achieve even if you're in a lab setting, but chilling to hear the details. They wanted it in that confined space to kill the maximum amount of people, Anderson.

COOPER: Paul, have there been other examples of ISIS trying to use this chemical?

CRUICKSHANK: No. I mean, there have not been any kind of plots from ISIS. There was an Al-Qaeda poison gas plot against the New York subway in 2003, but that again, was an aborted plot, the high command of Al-Qaeda that said they weren't going to go through with that, but Al-Qaeda was developing these kinds of poison gas techniques in various camps in Afghanistan before 9/11.

[20:55:07] The concern has been that ISIS, with all of their resources have also been doing research and development into chemical weapons into poison gas, and they want to get some sort of chemical component through in an attack against the west because they think that will cause panic and propel them back into the global headlines. So I can tell you that officials on both sides of the atlantic very worried that we could see a poison gas attack on the streets of the western capital within the next couple of years.

COOPER: Paul Cruickshank, Rene Marsh, I appreciate the details. Thank you. Breaking news on the Russian investigation day back to election day and what the FBI was doing to stop it. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Our breaking news tonight you will only see here takes us inside, an FBI counterintelligence wardroom on election night and details the efforts to monitor Russia's online realtime disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton. CNN (INAUDIBLE) Pamela Brown get the exclusive. Pamela joins us now.

Pamela, you've learned new information about what members of the FBI were doing on election day?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Anderson. We've learned that FBI counterintelligence analysts and investigators were huddled in a room at FBI headquarters on election day actually monitoring social media and what they were seeing were these streams of fake news, these negative stories being posted about Hillary Clinton, some having to do with her health according to multiple sources and they were able to identify suspected Russian links to these accounts that appeared to be pushing out this fake stories, Anderson.

[21:00:13] COOPER: Was the FBI working at the White House on this?