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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

We'll Keep The Gaslight On For Your, Part 3; Defiant Kelly Misrepresents His Handling Of Scandal To Reporters; Sources: WH Staff Stunned By Kelly's New Scandal Timeline; Kelly: I Have "Absolutely Nothing" To Consider Resigning Over; Kelly Admit Mistakes Sees No Reason to Resign Amid Chaos; Changing His Tune On Gun Laws?; Will Trade War Be Triggered By Steel Tariffs?; Pres. Trump Upends Party On Tariffs Guns And More; Signs of a Back-Down From NRA Showdown; Monster Nor'Easter Morphs Into "Bomb Cyclone"; CNN Special Report: The Trump- Russia Investigation. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 02, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:30] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Keeping them honest tonight, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff revisiting the Rob Porter affair by all indications being less than truthful about.

Again, gaslighting, again, trying to convince us that the facts aren't the facts and we're not seeing what we are actually seeing. Now, Porter, you'll recall, is the White House staff secretary who resigned after spousal abuse allegations came to light from two ex-wives. At that the White House spun the account of what they knew and when they knew it that was incomplete to say the least and accurate.

Then the Parkland tragedy pushed it out of the headlines, that is until General Kelly brought it back today, revisiting his handling in the scandal, in a way that according to new CNN reporting, left White House staffers stunned, puzzled, or saying flat out that General Kelly was not telling the truth. He now says, he learned of, "a series accusations against Porter" on the evening of February 6th when the began asking the White House for the reaction to the story they were about to run." It describe that as, "just the accusations of a messy divorce and maybe emotional abuse". And this was early that evening. Kelly then says quote, "We put out a statement of support for him and an hour later now found out there's a second report, still not in the press, still no pictures. Just an inquiry by someone probably in this room that said, hey his first wife of 15 years ago says that there was physical abuse."

That first statement of support describes Porter as being "someone at the highest integrity and exemplary character". They stuck with that through the following day even though they knew from the daily about the allegations of physical abuse by both women. Here is Jennie Willoughby described it two days after her ex-husband resigned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JENNIE WILLOUGHBY, ROB PORTER'S EX-WIFE: The first and perhaps the first and only physical abuse that I suffered was after an argument where we were yelling in each others spaces, which unfortunately had become the norm in our marriage, and I removed myself from the situation to take a shower. To cool down, to disengage from the situation. And he came to the shower and opened the door and pulled me out to continue yelling at me.

COOPER: He put his hands on you and pulled you out?


COOPER: Was that a startling moment for you?

WILLOUGHBY: I think up until that moment, I didn't realize that I was in an abusive marriage. I think that sounds almost ridiculous coming out of my mouth given how I can speak about it and remember things now, but I don't know it was until that moment that I realized I was with a man who was capable of something like that.


COOPER: And it will be keeping them honest there. Reporting is that General Kelly and two others were told in November of last year about domestic issues and the FBI background check was completely last July. But Porter never got a permanent clearance. Which makes it hard to imagine that this came is a total surprise just a couple weeks ago. I talked about that with Jennie Willoughby as well as the importance of credible allegations being taken seriously.


COOPER: The White House won't answer what General Kelly knew when he knew it and to what extent he knew about the reports, the allegations that both of you had made. There's this new statement out from General Kelly where he said he was shocked by the "new allegations" and there's quote, "no place for domestic violence". Is it important to you that somebody like General Kelly believes your story?

WILLOUGHBY: It's important to me in general that anyone who is coming forward with the story like that is believed upfront. That it's not on the burden of proof for me or anyone else to justify those claims. And that the conversation around abuse or assault or even misogyny in general doesn't turn, well, he is really great, could it possibly be that she is exaggerating or she's not telling the truth or it's not as bad as they're making it out to be. Because there's very little evidence that any woman would bring that kind of scrutiny upon themselves to share these types of details. I didn't ask for this. I wouldn't never have shared these types of details as publicly if the media hadn't come to me with this moment to do that.


COOPER: That's Jennie Willoughby, Rob Porter's second wife, shortly after Rob Porter step down. She put out a statement late today responding to general Kelly saying, "My only comment" she writes, "is the sadness I felt when Kelly defended his first statement of defense of Rob saying they thought it was only emotional abuse.

[21:35:01] She went on to say, "He changed the statement after realizing it was physical abuse. That is insulting to anyone suffering in an abusive situation now. Emotional and psychological abuse is abuse."

In the last hour I spoke with editor David Martosko whose website broke the story in the first place and deconstructed the new Kelly time line today.


COOPER: What exactly did you tell Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah when you met with them on February 6, about what was going to be in your story?

DAVID MATROSKO, U.S. POLITICAL EDITOR, DAILYMAIL.COM: Well it felt to me to go and talk to Sarah and Raj and I spent 20 minutes with them in Sarah's office. had been doing a lot of reporting on this. Working with both of Porter's ex-wives. And I gave them a real -- a very complete read on what was going to be in the first story. I actually just before this broadcast brought up my notes for that meeting, I read to myself from exactly what I read to them. I told them that determined that Porter had grabbed his wife by the shoulders and yanked her out of the shower naked. We told them the date that happened. I explained how we were going to report at that he had punched the window out a paint (ph) of glass on their front door when she threatened to call the police because he was violating the separation agreement by being in the apartment.

We told them all about the temporary restraining order she filed. That she was walking on egg shells throughout her honeymoon, that he had called her for lack of better way putting it and I think (INAUDIBLE) on their honeymoon. Even that she had miscarried a pregnancy of six weeks because of the stress of being around Porter.

So the idea that that simply consisted of emotional abuse simply doesn't trap.

COOPER: Right.

MATROSKO: There was physical abuse there. And one other correction, Anderson. We didn't tell the White House about the first wife Colby Holderness until the next morning. So the idea that John Kelly heard an hour after we -- you know, after I came into Sarah's office that there would be a second story with the black eye pictures, that makes no sense to me at all. Daily is doing all this reporting. And I didn't tell them about the second story until the following morning.

COOPER: So just to be perfectly clear, there's no way they could have misunderstood what you were sharing with them. I mean, you mentioned not only the yanking of Jennie Willoughby out of the shower, but also the fact that there had been an order of protection that had been filed.

MATROSKO: Yes and Sarah, you know, to her credit as a professional took copy as notes during the entire meeting ask good questions. I think she had a very clear idea of what was going on. What's really curious to me is the evolution of the statements from John Kelly. At 7:00 when we were ready to pull the trigger on the story, they sent, you know, me an e-mail and I forwarded it to my editor to and we ran this with John Kelly's glowing statement. And Sarah's glowing statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders glowing statements. And a denial from Porter.

By the very next day, after we had run the second story with Colby Holderness' black eye photo, Sarah still read that same glowing statement from John Kelly at the podium in the briefing roof just before announcing he had resigned. So all of this is very curious. And, you know, now General Kelly is saying today that Porter resigned his job to him that Tuesday before our first story ran. But the story that we ran carried a statement from him saying in the present tense that I'm proud to work with him.

COOPER: Right. I noticed that he was implying that he was still -- right implying that he would still working there, because there's all in the present tense.


COOPER: When chief of staff Kelly today that he'd originally only been told about so-called emotional abuse. Does that make any sense to you?

MATROKSO: Well, not unless Sarah Huckabee Sanders was, you know, keeping facts from John Kelly, which I think would be, you know, career suicide, she's smarter than that. This is a man Rob Porter who worked for General Kelly. And we know from our reporting and I understand you've confirmed this as well, at CNN. That the FBI gave John Kelly a detail an exactly read on their deep dive into Rob Porter in November of last year.

And we also know from what Chris Wray said on the Hill that both of the ex-wives had spoken to the FBI about this earlier in 2017. There's no question to me that General Kelly got information from the FBI that should have raised red flags for him by the bucketful. And there's also no question in any mind that he got a complete read that Tuesday night of what I had explained to Sarah Huckabee Sanders about our reporting.

COOPER: The other thing I don't get is why General Kelly would not only try to kind of re-litigate this today but also give himself I mean a pat on the back at the same time.

MATROSKO: Yes. It really was, I think, an unforced error. There's no reason for him to re-litigate any of this much less all of it. You know, we can speculate about whether he's worried about his job being on the line. He's trying to explain and demonstrate that the president that he's got it under control. We simply don't know. What I can tell you is, you know, from talking to officials at the White House is that Porter was considered a trusted and important deputy to Kelly. He was General Kelly's second eyes and ears in the Oval Office. And I think it's likely that the general is willing to sweep some things under the rug, because he need for.


M ATROSKO: But ultimately, we told him everything we had. And if General Kelly says now he didn't know about the physical abuse. That just doesn't make sense.

COOPER: Right. I mean, your last point gets to the question. I mean if the Daily, the intercept hadn't done this reporting, would this -- would the actions, you know, have been taken that were taken? Unlikely if probably you don't know the answer that part.

[21:10:06] MATROSKO: It's hard to know. All we do know is by the next day they were still supporting him from the podium. And it took General Kelly, I think, about 14 hours after we ran the story with Ms. Holderness, you know, gruesome black eye photos for him to issue a second statement and condemn domestic abuse. And of course, you know, the day after that, the President was saying in the Oval Office that, you know, Rob Porter was the one who had said.


COOPER: Well, let's get perspective on this now, joining us this former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz, also Christine Quinn, former New York Council speaker and President of Women in Need. And retired army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a former colleague of General Kelly.

Jim, I'm wondering, I mean do you see this as a mess that chief of staff Kelly has gotten himself back into sort of unnecessarily today by bringing this up, I mean he basically, you know, survived this. He's now kind of voluntarily waded back into it.

JAMES SCHULTZ, FMR TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Yes. I just don't get why he raised it again today from a PR political perspective, why he would go out of his way today to raise this again. I think you accurately stated that earlier. And I also think it's undisputable. There some holes and some discrepancies in the story. No question.

COOPER: Christine, I mean do you believe the chief of staff has credibility when it comes to what he knew about Rob Porter and when? Because I mean again, there just seems like there have been so many different stories from this White House and from Kelly.

CHRISTINE QUINN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, there's no credibility left here. I mean we've just seen everything he's laid out today just be refuted and every timeline and day just over and over has proved to be incorrect. And I think the question everyone asking himself is why did General Kelly rebring this up tonight? And, you know, the only really thing I can think of is that he just doesn't think it's that serious. He doesn't think it's a topic that you don't want back in the media. Or he wants to prove to the President that he will lie incident, incidents when it is necessary. But its really baffling why somebody would do this and he has no credibility.

COOPER: But let me push back on that, I mean he could very well have convinced himself that he's right on this and, you know, given his record of service and stuff he feels he's, you know, wants this set the record straight as he sees it even if the record doesn't seem to be actually setting straight.

QUINN: You know, a man of his stature and the position he is in, if he has convinced himself of something before you go out on international television and national television, you should go back and check the facts. I can't believe someone of his stature and his experience would reput out a timeline without checking what he said before. It makes no sense.

COOPER: Yes. General Hertling, I mean --


SCHULTZ: -- mishandling them.

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead Jim.

SCHULTZ: He did acknowledge some mishandling in the statement today, Anderson which did -- and he did acknowledge the issue that this was not their finest hour. No question.

COOPER: But, I think he was on more about the White House staff in general, though. General Hertling, and this would be a problem for any chief of staff. But for a general who has brought in to install order and, you know, better standards and make the trains an run on time in the west wing. I'm wondering how in your opinion it reflects on his judgment and leadership if it (INAUDIBLE)

MARK HERTLING, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well Anderson, what I'd say is, first of all, you can't excuse what happened in the situation. You can attempt to explain it and that's what John Kelly was attempting to do today. What I'll tell you is as I and guys like Kelly reach the senior levels of leadership in the military. We have a lot of cases that come to us from either our staff, judge advocate or chief of staff saying, hey we got an individual in the command who's done this. You know even if it's someone close to you, which I had experience with, you stop saying anything about that individual until you get the full facts. It's the old, you know, the first reports are always wrong. They may be but you better check it out.

But again, I've been listening to all the guests tonight and they've been talking about this as it was an isolated incident in terms of what was going on. Remember, you know, John Kelly is a marine. He comes in wanting to instill discipline and processes and systems to the White House. And it is a dysfunctional organization with a lot of free floating electrons. And this is one of probably about a million things that he's handling. And it's all the most complexing and unbelievably difficult problems he's trying to handle.

So, again, that's not an excuse, but it's one of those kind of things where, you know, as a military guy, you had a staff security officer, the White House security office. You say get those security clearances done. Fix them or tell me what's wrong. And in this case, I think there was a tell in John Kelly's statement today to the press when he said I had multiple spread sheets of people without security clearances. That tells me he's probably pulling his hair out because he's got so many problems to deal with. This is just another one while he's trying to help with DACA, tax reform, gays in the military and everything else that the President is either tweeting about or driving in terms of what he's doing as the chief of staff.

[21:15:03] So we can't look at this as a vacuum. It's inexcusable. Don't get me wrong. But you can try to explain it by so many things on the plate. I don't understand why he went out today and brought an old story back into the news. That's just not smart.

QUINN: You know, him tonight the general wins --

SCHULTZ: And I think the President did the right thing here in putting John Kelly in charge of making determinations on security clearances that have gone on for too long. And I think that's worth noting here. Is that the President put him in-charge of that even though over those security clearances, that pertain to his children, that was the right thing to do, the White House is getting on the right track as it pertains to security clearances and reforming the process going forward without question.


COOPER: OK General Hertling --

HERTLING: That's a very good point. But again like I said before it's one of a million things he is in-charge of. And when you're a chief of staff used to military operations. Y You're used to the organization doing routine things routinely. The White House hasn't shown that yet. So if you tell me John Kelly, the chief of staff of the White House is in charge of security clearances, he may be over watching them and demanding they get fixed, but I'm concerned about why it took so long to get status and updates when he seemed to have known what the problems were.

QUINN: Right. And that's the question. And with all due respect to the General, I have to say, I think you probably perfectly described being chief of staff in the White House. But that's the job that the General signed up for. And that's the job he has to do. Clearly he isn't doing it to the standard of having all those balls in the air and taking care of important things, the way the American people need them taken care of, like domestic abuse.

COOPER: Yes, Christine Quinn, Jim Schultz, and General Hertling, I appreciate it.

Coming up next, new reporting on another potential overlap between Jared Kushner's family finances and public policy. In this case, culminating in a full blown international incident.

Later the President takes on the NRA on live television. You saw that. Then host the NRA top lobbyist in private at the White House and now appears to be changing his tune about taking on the NRA. At least according to the NRA.


[21:20:00] COOPER: Just today after some blockbuster reporting in the "New York Times" on White House meetings Jared Kushner had with investment firms that later lent his family business $500 million. There is new reporting., an item in the "Intercept", the headline Jared Kushner's real estate firm sought money directly from Qatar government weeks before blockade. They did not get it. And a month later, a group of other Mideast countries launched a series of moves including an economic blockade of Qatar.

The question, are these two things private business and the serious international incident are they actually connected. Joining us now one of two reporters on the byline, Ryan Grim who's also the "Intercept's" Washington bureau chief.

Ryan, these are really fascinating story. Can you just go into detail about the Kushner real estate firm seeking money directly from the government from the Qatar minister of finance last April?

RYAN GRIM, WASHGINTON BUREAU CHIEF, INTERCEPT: In some ways, it's fairly simple story. You know, the Kushner companies fortune depends on the success of an investment that Jared Kushner himself made about 10 years ago. This property at 666 Fifth Avenue. He paid the highest price in Manhattan real estate history. Wildly overpaid and he overpaid at the top of the bubble. So the bubble bursts. Now they're in huge trouble. In real estate is cross collateralized. So when your flagship property is suffering, everything else is in jeopardy too.

So they have a balloon payment coming due shortly, so Kushner company's have been traveling the world trying to shake down more than a billion dollars to try to refinance this property. We know from previous reporting that has been done elsewhere and by the intercept that they went to financiers in Qatar, they went to China. They appeared to have gone elsewhere, but this report today is this is the first time that we've connected them to hitting up the Qatar government directly that Charles Kushner --

COOPER: Right.

GRIM: -- a direct meeting with the Minister of Finance to make a pitch to refinance this property.

COOPER: Right. And Charles Kushner being Jared Kushner's father. And the meeting took -- first meeting took place, actual both meeting took place as I understand in New York first in hotel and then at the Kushner company.

GRIM: Right, that's right. And Jared Kushner still maintains a personal interest. Not just an interest like, oh, I hope it does well. He owns a significant portion still of Kushner companies. And Kushner the two Kushners speak on an almost daily basis. It's been reported that they speak on a daily basis. So these meetings happened one day after the other. Though the question is what did he know about them? And then there's -- COOPER: Can I just talk about what happened afterward in terms of

U.S. policy and that Kushner was involved to work in Qatar, because after the deal fell apart, Kushner basically supporting a change in policy what ended up being a blockade by other countries like Saudi Arabia.

GRIM: Right. A blockade that is ongoing to this day because when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to mediate it, if you remember, and you reported on it at the time, about an hour and a half later, President Trump went out and offered a statement that completely undercut Tillerson, accused Qatar of financing terror. This is -- a country that hosts the biggest U.S. military in the region. And Tillerson later came to believe that that statement was drafted by the UAE ambassador handed to Kushner who then delivered it to Trump. And that undercutting of the diplomacy is why we have a blockade still to this day.

COOPER: That the question, of course, is there a connection between, you know, Kushner's dad going to Qatar. Qatar, the deal not happening. Qatar not giving any money to the loan. And then this change in policy that Kushner was involved with toward Qatar.

GRIM: That's something that Mueller is reportedly looking into. But you also have federal law implicated just in the simple fact that you are barred from as a government employee advising on a policy that could benefit you financially. That your, you know, that's right there. Now, can a prosecutor prove that given these facts? In his situation, it would be diplomatically tricky, because you'd have to have the Qataries probably testify. And they certainly don't want to do that with his father-in-law as President while they're still trying to mediate their way out of this crisis. Which very nearly became a hot war. You know, this is not just a diplomatic tiff. There were reports that the UAE was contemplating sending a mercenary force into Qatar, an actual invasion.

COOPER: Yes. And again, an important U.S. facility there in Qatar. Ryan Grim, appreciate the reportings from the "Intercept".

More now on the President's shrinking inner circle. Joining us is former Nixon White House Counsel is John Dean, our chief counsel CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So Jeff, I mean there's been so much reporting on Jared Kushner and his family's company day after day this week. This drum beat of, you know, alleged in proprietary or perceive in proprietary of the appearance of it. Do you think the walls are closing in on him somehow?

[21:25:05] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. The lack of a security clearance for top secret information alone should send him to the exit. I mean here is the person who is in charge allegedly of Middle East negotiations. One of the places where our intelligence agencies do the most work. If you ask the intelligence agencies why they even exist, they say, well to give policy makers information to use in formulating policy. He's formulating policy without the information that comes from the billions of dollars we spent on information. Ryan's story in the "Intercept" shows he's never going to get a security clearance. His divided loyalties are clear. So there is no good reason why he should still be working in the White House except he's the President's son-in-law and they -- and he can't be fired.

COOPER: And John, I mean you're in the middle of everything obviously during the Watergate. You knew so much. Kushner obviously knows a lot, as well. But while you, you know, you testified against Nixon. I mean it's hard to imagine any scenario under which the President's son-in-law turns against his father-in-law.

JOHN DEAN, FMR NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's very difficult to contemplate. He has got to put himself a very, very uncomfortable vice, if you will. There are criminal laws he's playing with and flirting with here, too. One of the things I must say that Nixon did his White House did and as counsel I spent a lot of time doing was dealing with conflict of interest. We were very clean. That wasn't a part of Watergate. And Nixon was very strict on that. So, it's surprising that almost all modern Presidents have done so to see Trump just really not even pay attention to the issues. He's violating them himself. And he's setting the example for his son-in-law.

COOPER: And Jeff, I mean according to the "Washington Post," you know, one White House official said that some of Kushner's colleagues in the administration are more reluctant to have conversations with him or even in his company because there's not they're not sure if he's a witness or the target of the Mueller investigation which again, you know, others who have worked in White Houses where there have been investigations. The sense of mistrust that grows. You don't know who to trust. You don't know who is cooperating. You don't know who is saying what to investigations.

TOOBIN: It's got to be. You know, I was a federal prosecutor. I have many friends who were defense lawyers. You know, the pressure of being under federal investigation is horrendous. The experience of knowing that the entire FBI, at least that's how you see it, is looking into your finances. Is looking into whether you are telling the truth in certain circumstances. It's just exhausting and painful. And the fact that Jared Kushner is dealing with this at the time that he's been humiliated by not having a full security clearance anymore, I mean, it's got to be just terrible for him. And I don't know why he and his wife don't just say the hell with this. We're going back to New York. Just for their own sake. Much less, you know, for the public interest.

COOPER: And now Maggie Haberman for the "Times" one of two reporters reporting that the President had that conversations with John Kelly about the possibility of moving getting Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner out of the White House, which again is another fascinating development.

And John, the other night on the program Carl Bernstein said that Kushner is "In the cross hairs of the special counsel investigation." Now, it's -- you know, I'm not sure we can say that that Mueller is focus in part on Kushner like a laser based on everything we know so far. Do you think he is in trouble here? Or is in the cross hairs? DEAN: I would be surprised if he is not Anderson. I think Carl has drawn that conclusion based all the reporting. It certainly seems obvious with what we're reading in the press that special counsel has to be looking at what this man is doing. So, indeed, that they're going after him and they're going to have to report one way or another and they don't want to leave something they discovered later that they failed to check a box and look at all the facts and ask. All the right questions. So, yes I think Carl is probably right.

TOOBIN: With all due respect to my idol Carl Bernstein, I'm not sure we can say that about Jared Kushner at this point. You know, his lawyer has said that no documents have been subpoenaed about 666 Fifth Avenue. I think, you know, we need to be very cautious. Robert Mueller is doing his own thing, none of us knew that 13 defendant case was coming about Russian social media attempt. I just think we need to be very careful about inferring it.


TOOBIN: Well, it is exactly. So I think we should, you know, presume that someone is, you know, under investigation or may be indicted when we really don't know that.

COOPER: Yes, good point. John Dean, Jeff Toobi, thanks very much.

[21:29:56] President Trump's announcement of pending tariffs on steel and aluminium certainly triggering fireworks stock market tomb (ph) almost economist. Trashing the Republican lead "Wall Street Journal" said it was the wrong thing to do. When we continue we're going to discuss that two sides on the issue.


COOPER: President Trump's surprise announcement of sharp increases in steel and aluminum tariffs triggered economic shock waves. Stock market tumbled even the conservative "Wall Street Journal" said it was a bad idea. Not a bad idea however for the commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, he went on television today and holding up a can of soup, said the increases were no big deal.


WILBUR ROSS, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: In the can of Campbell Soup there's about $2.6, 2.6 pennies worth of steel. So if that goes up by 25%, that's about 6/10 of one cent on the price of a can of Campbell's Soup. Well I just bought this can today at a 7-Eleven down here and the price was $1.99. So who in the world is going to be too bothered by 6/10 of a cent?


COOPER: Well, Tony Moss (ph) can add up. Wilbur Ross is a wealthy 80-year-old to whom it wouldn't matter for his part. The President defended his plan in a morning tweet, "We must protect our country and our workers". He wrote, "Our steel industry is in bad shape. If you don't have steel, you don't have a country." It was something the president campaigned hard on in 2016 but there are many critics and only few supporters so far and it's another example the President turning Republican orthodox pretty much on its head with the matter of discuss. Stephen Moore, an Economic Advisor to President Trumps during the campaign. And Max Boot, a "Washington Post" columnists.

Stephen, I mean upsetting the GOP with the surprise tariff announcement is one thing then to have your Commerce Secretary, you know, who is, you know, obviously incredibly wealthy. He could buy an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can, go on television make the argument that you just heard.

[21:35:00] How is this roll out in your opinion? And what do you make of the actual policy?

STEPHEN MOORE, ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Well look I opposed the policy, I'm an economist, I think most economist do understand that trade protectionism that were work. And by the way I would say this, I'll defend the President in this regard. I think, I do think he has the right intentions here. He does feel strongly about protecting the jobs of the steel workers in this country. We -- I campaigned with him and we went to a lot of these areas where factories have been lost.

And in the Midwest there is a sense that their factories have been larceny as a result of trade. Now I happen to disagree with that, but I'm saying his intentions are really to look out for those middle class workers. The other thing I would say Anderson it is you mention the fact he campaigned on this. He did. He told the American people and the American voters that he was very skeptical of these trade agreements and that he would impose tariffs and he's done that. So he's keeping campaign promise.

I'm not defending it. I think it's the wrong thing to do. I think it's going to hurt the economy and I hope that he reverses the policy soon and in fact I hope that it is never implemented because, you know, you said that correctly the stock market is falling. I believed it because there's about 50 workers who use steel rather than produce it then in the end of the game this may actually end up costing the American economy more jobs than it creates.

COOPER: You know Max, I mean it's not just steel tariffs. This is a Republican President who went on television Wednesday and raised gun control proposals from Democrat said take guns figure out due process later. If that's not upending GOP orthodox and what is?

MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's clear that Donald Trump has very few in-depth views on the world and one of the few deeply held convictions he has is that trade is a bad thing and so doing he's turning his back not just in Republican orthodox but on 70 years of American foreign policy since World War II, which is really been premised on the assumption that the United States will extend the free trade zone around the world that free trade is in our interest that this liberate international road (ph) orders in our interest. And Donald Trump is turning his back on all of that. It's not just the steel tariffs, it's the fact that the very first thing he did n upon becoming President is pulling out of the Trans-Pacific partnership.

These giant trades are on East Asian and by pulling out of it he ends a giant victory to China. Now, today he was tweeting the trade wars are good and easy to win that is very dangerous talk because trade wards as Steve knows as economist are actually very dangerous. They're instructive to the economy.

MOORE: Sure.

BOOT: We don 't need or want a President who is going to film a trade war that is utterly unnecessary and it will be horrendously destructive not only to our economy but to America's standing in the world.

COOPER: Yes, Stephen. But you all have study and easy to win?

MOORE: No. Of course not, you know, nobody wins a trade war. And look, I m actually in favor of getting very tough trade with China and I'd be in favor of using trade as a weapon against China because I think China is a danger to the world. They've enabled North Korea but in this case I mean did you know Anderson where we get where we import most of the steel from? Canada. Canada is not an enemy of the United States. So, I just don 't think it makes sense.

But on Max 's point, look, we agree Max, on the economics no question about it but the truth is I campaigned with Donald Trump. I went to him in this Midwestern States and it's quite possible that it was his trade position that helped him crack through those that blue wall and windows states. I mean a lot of voters agree with Donald Trump.


MOORE: And by the way Bernie Sanders. This Bernie Sanders is in favor of the policy --

BOOT: No. Of course there is a constituency for protectionism, we know that, but responsible leadership consists of resisting the base impulses of your base so to speak and standing up to this horrible ideas that people have instead of catering to them and, you know, playing to their emotions in the face of all economic opinions of the contrary.

MOORE: Well, Max, only what I 'm saying this that, you know, you and I and people who understand the value of trade and the benefits of trade to workers we better make a better choice than the American people, because right now I don't think a lot of Americans are with us. In fact I saw Paul the other day Anderson that the majority of Americans actually support these steel and aluminum tariff. So we've got a sales job to do that.


BOOT: You know I'm support because we might -- I'm sure that's true, I'm sure that true. But it doesn't let Donald Trump off the hook for promoting a horrible policy that most of us advisor including you would tell him it's a horrible policy, right?

COOPER: Yes, let's leave it there --

MOORE: Nobody says set backs and, you know, that the problem is Anderson the things have been going so well. I agreed with "The Wall Street Journal" editorial today, you know, the economy is booming, we saw the record low, number of people applying for unemployment insurance claims of 50 years and now we've imposes these steel tariffs. We re not losing jobs in manufacturing. We're gaining them.

COOPER: Yes. Steven Moore. Thank you. Max Boot as well.

BOOT: Thank you.

MOORE: Thank you.

COOPER: Remember watching the President go law makers we're not taking on the National Riffles Associations, well now just days later after that bipartisan meeting where he did that. We'll tell you about new signs of he himself may not be taking on the NRA after all.


[21:43:34] COOPER: Well didn't take long for this question to be asked. Is President Trump now siding with the NRA and backing away from new gun control efforts? White House insists he is not. Some members of Congress are not concerned after the President's latest face to face meeting with the NRA his second one this week and some are very concerned.

On Wednesday remember the President met with the bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House, that's what he seems to signal support for stronger background checks, raising the minimum age to buy certain rifles and taking guns away from the mentally ill all that puts him at odds at times with the NRA, but the President insisted he would never cave to them.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The reason I had lunch with the NRA on Sunday they call of us said "You going to get come over." I said "Fellas, we got to do something" and they do have great power, I agree with it. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don't need. What do I need?


COOPER: Again that was Wednesday. A couple of days after his first meeting with the week with the NRA. The second meeting came the very next day, yesterday, Chris Cox the Executive Director of NRA is lobbying arm was there and he tweeted, "Had a great meeting with Donald Trump and the VP. We all want safe schools and mental health reform, and to keep guns away from the dangerous people. The President and Vice President support the Second Amendment. Support strong due process and don't want gun control." This is after the President had said he's in favor sometimes in just taking the guns and worry about due process later. That's why now some are wondering if the President is back on the same page with the NRA.

Earlier tonight I spoke with Mark Kelly his wife of course former Congressman Gabby Giffords whose wounded in the shooting seven years ago. Both have starting organizations that's pushing on congress to make changes to stop gun violence.


[21:45:11] COOPER: Captain Kelly is it all clear to you where President Trump stands on gun control because just Wednesday Democrats seems to encourage the NRA seemed upset and today those feeling seemed to be reversed?

MARK KELLY, FOUNDER, GIFFORDS: Yes. I mean, it seems like there's a big change over a 48-hour period. So I don't know. I don't think he was asked today.

I saw his tweet this morning about meeting with the National Rifle Association in the Oval Office that obviously happen very quickly. And it just 24-hour period his views seem to have shifted dramatically.

COPPER: Yes. I mean the President talks about gun control with lawmakers on camera which you know, he deserves credit for that bipartisan meeting, but only seems to speak with the NRA behind closed doors and the NRA tweeted out saying the President doesn't want gun control. I mean, it does seem sort of that his words tend to be affected by whoever is in the room that he's talking to at the time.

KELLY: They're pretty fluid when I heard what he had to say on Wednesday, I guess, it was when he was meeting with members of Congress.

It was pretty encouraging. I mean it was policy proposals that we've been talking about for a long period of time. You know, things like background checks for gun sales, you know, limitations to some extent done, you know, what weapons people could buy. These explain risk protection orders. It was very positive. But you can see the influence that the gun lobby has. I mean, the fact that they can get into the President's office very quickly and within 24 hours get in the seemingly changes position in a tweet.

COPPER: Yes. I mean, Sanders also said today -- Sarah Sanders that the President is still conceptually supports raising the age of purchasing rifles to 21, but she count (ph) says, that such a law is a better chance on the state level than the federal would surely not with the President said on Wednesday. He actually repeatedly urged senators to make that part by bipartisan bill.

KELLY: Well, you know, she might have been right. It has a better chance at the state level and we've experienced that, as well. I mean, we've had a lot of success helping pass 200 pieces of legislation in state capitals.

Washington, D.C. is very ethical to get meaningful legislation passed more often on defense, especially lately with the gun lobby. So, I think she gets how, you know, paralyzed Washington, D.C. is. And I think she also probably understands the efforts that the gun lobby took to get President Trump elected.

And, I mean, it's easy for us to see you know what that translates into. The fact that they can get into the office so quickly and maybe going change his mind.

COPPER: Are you encouraged by retail corporations taking action whether it's raising the age limit for purchased on -- or holding sales of assault style weapons all together? Do you think other companies big and small are going to follow that lead?

KELLY: Yes, well Walmart did that a couple of years ago with semiautomatic assault rifles. And to see the Dick's Sporting Goods do that and raise the age where purchasing a -- any handguns. I think it's incredibly positive steps. Dick's also put out a long list of policy pages that they would like to see.

I was encourage I mean I went online yesterday and bought 4,000 golf balls from Dick's. So, I think it's a good positive step.

COPPER: Well Captain Kelly, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

KELLY: Thanks for having me on Anderson. Appreciate it.


COPPER: Well coming up next, a powerful northeaster morphs into one of those bomb cyclones again, causing habit from millions of Americans. We'll have update on that, next.


[21:52:58] COOPER: Well, it's called the bomb cyclone and it is bad. Up and down the northeast, high winds, 22 million people under coastal flood warning. Drenching rains or what forcasters called bamu genesist. The kind of extreme drop in atmospheric pressure you've seen tropical storm and hurricanes. The video is from Quincy, Massachusetts. CNN's Brynn Gingras is there for us now.

Can you just describe the condition where you. I mean its just looks miserable?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. You know it's a little bit better than Massachusetts where we were earlier today along the south shore, where there's really no power at all.

It was getting pretty dangerous. So, we moved further north where it's still winds and rain. But I can tell you, behind this road closure, it's not much better than what we are seeing in Massachusetts because there are homes right now.

Under several feet of water and right now there are active rescues going on. And they've been going on all day, for the house neck peninsula, which is this area that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. We've seen children being taken out by front loaders. We've seen people being taken out by boats. Those rescues again still going on right now, Anderson.

COPPER: When's the next high tide?

GINGRAS: Well, that's coming up in just about an hour and a half, hour, 45 minutes and that's why there's such urgency with these (INAUDIBLE) that are going on really all across this area that's getting hit by this bomb cyclone. The fear is it, this is the second high tide. The emergency officials were preparing for.

It's going to be the highest. It's possible it will set records and of course that's just going to add to flooding the areas like this I've already seen throughout this storm.

COPPER: Do you know when the worst conditions are expected to be past you in that area?

GINGRAS: Well, we know that in some areas of the south shore, this all emergency is going to be over by Sunday. However, conditions changed.

Earlier today we were seeing rain and then it became wind and then it become flooding. And now we're actually starting to see a little bit of snow. So, they're constantly changing, everyone's having to constantly adapt and sort of hunker down until this passes us, until Sunday, Anderson.

COPPER: Yes. Of course, airports are a mess as well. Brynn Gingras, appreciate it. Thanks for being there.

[21:55:03] Still to come, the wild week for the White House. The focus of a CNN special report on the Trump-Russia investigation. Be right back.


COPPER: I'm not (INAUDIBLE), but it has been a truly dizzying week and that's taking into account all the other dizzying weeks in this Trump administration.

Now, to highlight just a few developments, there's the news the President's son in law, Jared Kushner, cannot keep his top secret security clearance. The White House calligrapher (ph), CNN reports now has a higher clearance than Jared Kushner.

Also the "Washington Post" reporting that at least four countries have discussed ways they could use Kushner's complicated business arrangements, lack of experience and financial laws to manipulate him.

And CNN reporting the Mueller's team is asking about the President's business dealings as he weigh his run for the presidency.

Also, this week, the NSA chief tells the Senate intelligence committee that the president hasn't told him to confront the Russian cyber threat.

That's not a complete list of all the things that happened just this week by any means but it is. It perfect reason for our CNN Special Report: The Trump-Russia Investigation, which starts right now.