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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New Revelations About how Long It Takes Veterans to Get Healthcare; Rep. Paul Ryan Agrees to Run for Speaker of the House with Conditions; Trump Flip Flops and Dodges, But Support Keeps Growing; Source: Fugitive Drug Lord Falls Off Cliff, Escapes. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 20, 2015 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, good evening.

There is a lot of politics ahead including Donald Trump's latest remarks about Afghanistan and Joe Biden's new account, the advice he gave about the Osama bin Laden raid.

But we begin with a story you'll only see here, a disturbing follow-up to our continuing investigation to healthcare inside the department of Veterans Affairs. New revelations tonight about how long it's taking veterans to get the healthcare they need, even after all the promises officials made to fix a seriously broken system. Our previous reporting, as you may recall, helped sparked investigations, apologies and ultimately the resignation of VA secretary Eric Shinseki.

But even after that, according to new documents obtained by CNN wait times inside many VA health facilities are growing longer, not shorter. Right now a half million veterans are on electronic wait list waiting in many cases more than 90 days to see a doctor.

Tonight for the first time, a senior VA official sits down to answer what is really going on and why the VA is not getting better.

Our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin ton is Keeping Them Honest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wait times are not getting better. Listen to what this whistle-blower says is happening right now at the Phoenix VA, the same Phoenix VA where last year CNN uncovered the fact that veterans were dying while waiting for care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality is veterans are waiting three, six months at a time, sometimes more, for cure at the Phoenix VA.

GRIFFIN: Like most of our sources inside the VA, this whistle-blower in Phoenix has asked we not reveal any identity.

And are we talking about critical care? Who are these patients?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are patients that waiting for appointments everything from colonoscopies to angiograms to procedures to remove tumors. These are specialty appointments that need to be seen immediately by the VA

GRIFFIN: These VA documents show just this past August in Phoenix there were more than 8,000 appointments waiting more than 90 on days. Sloan Gibson is the deputy secretary of the department of Veterans Affairs, brought on last year to fix this mess.

The Phoenix VA, the center of this whole thing, I'm going to let you look at that for just a second. It shows more than 8,000 patients waiting more than 90 days for an appointment. Now, explain to me what this is and if that's true, how could it be?

SLOAN GIBSON, DEPUTY SECRETARY, VETERANS AFFAIRS: What you're looking at is something that's called an open consult's report. That's going to include instances where care has already been delivered, but there may be some administrative issue that hasn't been corrected yet that allows the consult beat to be removed.

GRIFFIN: Does it necessarily mean that 8,000 patients are not waiting 90 days?

GIBSON: I would say patently it means there are not 8,000 patients now waiting 90 days. Are there some patients waiting longer than they should be waiting? Yes, they are.

GRIFFIN: And how can you guarantee - I mean, how can you make a statement so strongly that they're not?

GIBSON: I'm saying some of them are not.

GRIFFIN: Some of them are not.

GIBSON: Because I know --

GRIFFIN: Do you know how many?

GIBSON: No, I don't know for Phoenix and I can't tell you from the top of the VA

GRIFFIN: And it is hardly limited to Phoenix. This internal draft memo leaked to CNN warns currently wait times are increasing significantly.

GIBSON: Aside form that was a slide deck that was prepared for me.

GRIFFIN: OK. So you know very much about it.

GIBSON: The pending appointments over 30 days plus the electronics wait list is almost 500,000 today. How can it be? And the lesson that we have seen in location after location is when we improve access to care, whether it's by adding staff or space or productivity or care in the community, more veterans come for more care.

GRIFFIN: You're saying you're a victim of your own success.

GIBSON: I would say the challenge we have is a structural challenge.

GRIFFIN: So when our sources who are telling us, you know, you the reality is the veterans are waiting months, you would say?

GIBSON: I would say we work every single day trying to find ways to make it better. I know, as you've shown right there, we have veterans waiting too long for care.

GRIFFIN: In Los Angeles, the largest VA facility in the nation, this document obtained by CNN shows an average wait times for new patients in mental health was 43 days. Publicly the VA claims it was less than four days. How can there be two different numbers?

The VA changed the way it calculates wait times. When asked how the new calculation is made, CNN was sent this seven-paragraph explanation, defining preferred date, create date, differences between patient and clinic actions, future scheduled date and various readjustments for a no show or cancel by a veteran.

According to the statement from the VA, this methodology allowed VA to capture the full wait time experience of the patient. Sources involved in actual scheduling tells CNN it's just confusing.

The staff who are telling us that what they think they are seeing is recalculations, number manipulations, to paint a rosier picture than it is.

[20:05:24] GIBSON: Absolutely not. I wouldn't stand for it, not for a minute.

GRIFFIN: The new leadership at the VA says it will also not stand for any retaliation against the whistleblowers who come forward to point out where veterans are being treated unfairly, but in preparing this report, CNN has learned that VA managers were already searching for a leak.

In fact I happen to know that once we sent documents to the VA regarding this interview, there were active investigations going on by managers, certainly in L.A. and in phoenix to find out who could possibly have had access to those documents and who could possibly have given them to CNN.

GIBSON: And there should not have been investigations, period. I have made it clear more times than I can count, in every form that I can come up with that retaliation against whistleblowers won't by tolerated.

GRIFFIN: Dr. Katherine Mitchell, one of the original whistle-blowers in Phoenix say lifelong bureaucrats managing the VA know they will not be fired, which is why many in the VA have chosen to keep their mouths shut.

DR. KATHERINE MITCHELL, PHOENIX VA WHISTLEBLOWER: The people that retaliated against the people that spoke up, those administrator are still there.

GRIFFIN: Congress which passed a law making it easier for the VA to fire bad managers has also criticized the VA's new leadership for so far only firing three senior executives. Is that true? And if that is true, why?

GIBSON: I don't have is a specific number of people that were specifically disciplined associated with the waitlist scandal. The criminal IG has gone and investigated and concluded there was no misconduct no mal-intent. This was just somebody who didn't understand their jobs.

GRIFFIN: But the managers of those people obviously weren't doing a good - I mean, you're from private business. I don't have to tell you that.

GIBSON: We had managers --

GRIFFIN: Who had not done their jobs.

We had managers who didn't understand how to do scheduling.

GRIFFIN: So maybe they shouldn't be managers?

GIBSON: And so, well, maybe they shouldn't be. More than 50 percent of our senior leaders in VHA have turned over in the last 24 months.

GRIFFIN: Congressional in VA sources remain unconvinced to just how much has really changed since the scandal except the way the VA management recalculates its wait times, which according to Dr. Katherine Mitchell still do not tell the whole truth.

Do you think based on your knowledge of how the system works that veteran are still dies, waiting for care?

MITCHELL: Yes. Yes.

GRIFFIN: No hesitation?

MITCHELL: No hesitation at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Drew joins us now. I mean, those are serious allegations. Is there any way to prove that veteran are still dies, waiting for care?

GRIFFIN: It's tough to prove, Anderson. Are Veterans still waiting for care? Yes. Are veterans waiting dying? Our sources say, yes. Are the waits causing or contributing to the deaths? You know, it takes a look back, a medical review, more or less a medical trial to find out. But we do know is they just released inspector general's report looking back at neurology patients in Phoenix in 2013 and 2014, did find delays and denied care to veterans significantly impacted their care. That's a quote. And several of those veterans died. But that's as far as those reports go.

COOPER: And after all this, why have just three senior executives been fired? I mean, didn't Congress make it easier for the VA to actually fire people? GRIFFIN: It is easier, yes, but still not easy. You know two manager

removed from the Phoenix VA in the wake of that scandal? They're still on paid leave. It's been like 18 months.

Sloan Gibson and Secretary Doug McDonald, I can sense their frustration. They were from private sector. They're trying to manage this bureaucracy, Anderson. It is really out of control according to our sources. They're having a tough time firing poor performers. So what they try to do is move them around, move them into positions where they can't do any harm, but it is not easy.

COOPER: Yes. Drew, appreciate you staying on. Thank you.

Up next breaking news from Capitol Hill about the house leadership. Congressman Paul Ryan tonight saying he is willing to be speaker if several things fall into place. We will tell you what they are. The latest on that next.

Also ahead, Donald Trump says President Obama is thinking about taking your guns away via executive order. Where is he actually getting that information? Well, you might be surprised by his answer and other claims that are not quite backed up by facts. We're Keeping Them Honest tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:03:33] COOPER: We have breaking news. Congressman Paul Ryan says he would be willing to serve as house speakers with conditions.

CNN's senior political reporter, Manu Raju joins us now with the latest. What have you learned?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, Paul Ryan just addressed a closed-door briefing of his fellow House Republicans. And what he said to them was that he is willing to run for speaker if all the different competing factions within the Republican conference agree to endorse his bid for speaker. He does not want to come in as someone who would barely get over the finish line with the 218 votes necessary to become speaker. He wants full unity be it a person can get 247 votes across the finish line.

This is a big development, Anderson. Because for weeks, the last week and a half or so after that stunning announcement by Kevin McCarthy to not seek the speakership, the pressure has been building on Paul Ryan to take the job.

Now, he has been very skeptical about doing so, largely because he wanted to stay in his current position as house ways and means chairman. He was not that interested about being, you know, sort of managing all the different policies and personalities on the house floor.

But there is really nobody else who can do it, and pressure has been building pretty intensely from all parts of the Republican Party. And he spent last week back at home reflecting on the decision. He went hunting with his family and thought about this long and hard. And he came back today and began to talk to more members. He held meetings with key caucuses and said that, you know, he would be willing to jump in if he were a unity candidate.

So Anderson, after this meeting, Republicans came out a large amount of them said that they would get behind him. But we will see in a matter of days what some of these key groups say. But it looks like right now that Paul Ryan will very likely be the next speaker of the House, Anderson.

[20:15:16] COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, thank you.

I want to now talk now on the phone to Congressman Peter King who is joining us.

Congressman, what do you think about what Paul Ryan is saying he is willing to do?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (on the phone): I would strongly support Paul Ryan as speaker. I think the conditions he laid out are done in a very positive way. Basically Paul is saying that he said he would be -- is willing to take arrows in the chest, but not in the back. He wants to have united party. He said he is going to buy in, that's where he wants. Everyone is going to buy into with him. And he will be looking for endorsement of all the major groups, including the Tuesday group, which is more moderate, the liberal group, and the freedom caucus. And he said that the endorsement of all of them. Otherwise he said he would be the third log on the fire, and he doesn't want that. He wants -- if he's going to be the speaker, it probably will be the end of his political career. He is not probably won't go further than this. He wants to make it worthwhile. He believes in the cause rather than in just the political gamesmanship. He also indicated he does not want to spend as much time fund-raising. It is going to be policy oriented and also selling the Republican message.

COOPER: And Congressman, I just want to let you know we showed our viewers the podium, and that we are showing you right now, Congressman Ryan is expected to come out and speak. We will obviously bring that to the viewers live. So I may have to jump in. I just want to apologize in advance for that.

Congressman King, though, how likely is it you think he can get the support of the various factions?

KING: Anderson, I would put it this way, if he doesn't, no one will. I though his speech tonight, and that is that I agree with Paul -- as far as I know, I agree with him on most issues. Even if I didn't, I would say he laid it out in a way that if you don't have the speaker of the house, the speaker is going to be able to be effective. He can't be spending time fighting with his own party. That's how his party is standing with him. And so to me that's just common sense also. Paul has the qualifications, his knowledge, integrity, you know, no one is going to match him. So if they don't endorse Paul Ryan, I don't know where we go. I really fear for the party.

COOPER: How touch a decision, Congressman, do you think this was for him? Because we have been told, you know, up until now that he was basically in his dream job. He's a policy guy. He is, you know, into reforming the tax code, and he was in a position to take that on.

KING: Basically Paul said all of that tonight. And I think probably it was his preference not to take it, but on the other hand he said that so many people have in effect told him that he's the only one that could unite the party. He believes if the party keeps going the way it is, it is going to be virtually guarantee a Democratic election, the president in 2016 and maybe the loss of the house and the Senate. So he was willing to do it. But again, he said his family does come first and also he wants a party united behind him. He's not going in for the title, just for the perks, whatever they are, and it's because he believes in the cause, you know, before the political ambition.

And I believe Paul. Other people say that, OK, that's standard rhetoric. No, with Paul, it's real. I'm not close to Paul Ryan, but I admire him. I know him and I have tremendous respect for him.

COOPER: I can't imagine one. He is definitely taking on one of the toughest jobs there is.

Congressman King, I appreciate you joining us tonight.

Joining me now is talk radio host Dana Lash, host of "Dana" on the Blaze and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

Dana, first of all, what do you think? Do you think he is going to be able to get the backing of all these disparate groups?

DANA LASH, RADIO SHOW HOST, DANA: Well, Anderson, that's a great question. I mean, optically, Paul Ryan is a good choice. He is of good temperament. He has youth on his side. He is a relatively good messenger. She is one of those in the house, one of the few who has adept to taking something policy wise very far in the weeds and presenting it in lay man's terms. And he's been grouped a while by John Boehner. And of course, he has the approval of what grassroots would call the establishment.

But that being said where you have the freedom caucus and where you have the grassroots, they're concerned about Paul Ryan's past, particularly the fact that he's really never met a bailout that he hasn't like, he supported Tarp, he supported Medicare part D, no child left behind, and it's the company with whom he has kept this entire time. While John Boehner has been the face, make no mistake it's been Paul Ryan that's been behind the scenes.

And so there are some concerns that they have. If he will not do it without their consent that could be the holdout. And I'm pretty sure that they will probably stick with principle unless there can be arms twisted.

COOPER: And yet, Ana, if they don't agree, I mean, who else is there but Paul Ryan? ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Frankly, I can't think of anybody

else who is capable of reaching consensus, of uniting the different factions in the party. I really hope the freedom caucus, the different factions in the Republican Party in the House can unite behind Paul.

I will tell you, Anderson. I'm a friend of his wife. This is a huge sacrifice for that family. He has school-age children. I think it is something that weighed on him tremendously. From inside the room, I was hearing that he said, you know, this is not about the title, it's about the cause. I am a cause guy.

I think people know, whether you agree with him or not ideology-wise, that he is a man of judgment, a man of character, a man of his word, that he's going to try to do the right thing and he's going to try to be a team builder. So I would urge everybody in the House, all the Republicans in the House to unite and back Paul Ryan today. Because if not him, who?

[20:20:44] COOPER: We have to take a short break. As I said we are expecting Congressman Ryan to speak at any moment. We want to bring that to you live. So we are going to take a short break. And Dana and Ana, if you will, just stick around so we can talk about what he says when we come back. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:24:53] COOPER: Welcome back. If you are just joining us, a breaking news, Congressman Paul Ryan saying he would be willing to serve as House speaker -- let's listen in.

[20:24:58] REP. PAUL RYAN (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE: Tonight, I shared with my colleagues what I think it will take to have a unified conference and for the next speaker to be successful. Basically, I made a few requests for what I think is necessary. And I asked my colleagues to hear back from them by the end of the week.

First, we need to move from an opposition party to being a proposition party. Because we think the nation is on the wrong past, we have a duty to show the right one. Our next speaker has to be a visionary one.

Second, we need to update our house rules so that everyone can be a more effective representative. This is, after all, the people's house. We need to do this as a team and it needs to include fixes that ensure that we do not experience constant leadership challenges in crises.

Third, we as a conference should unify now and not after a divisive speaker election.

And the last point, last point is personal. I cannot and will not give up my family time. I may not be on the road as often as previous speakers, but I pledge to try and make up for it with more time communicating our vision, our message. What I told members is if you can agree to these requests, and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve. And if I'm not unifying, that will be fine as well. I will be happy to stay where I am at the ways and means committee.

Here is how I see it. It is our duty to serve the people the way they deserve to be served. It is our duty to make the tough decisions this country needs to get our nation back on track. The challenges we face today are too difficult and too demanding to turn our backs and walk away.

Global terror, war on multiple fronts, a government grown unaccountable, unconstitutional, out of touch. Persistent poverty, a sluggish economy, flat wages, a skyrocketing debt, but we cannot take on these challenges alone.

Now more than ever we must work together. All of us are representatives of the people. All people. We have been entrusted by them to lead. And yet the people we serve, they do not feel that we are delivering on the job that they hired us to do. We have become the problem. If my colleagues entrust me to be the speaker, I want us to become the solution.

One thing I've learned from my upbringing in Janesville is not is ever solved by blaming people. We can blame the president, we can blame the media, and that's kind of fun sometimes. We can point fingers across the aisle. We can blame each other. We can dismiss our critics and criticism as unfair. People don't care about blame. People don't care about effort. People care about results. Results that are measurable, results that are meaningful. Results that make a difference in their daily lives.

I want to be clear about this. I think that we are still an exceptional country with exceptional people, and a republic clearly worth fighting for. The American idea, it's not too late to save, but we are running out of time.

And make no mistake, I believe that the ideas and principles of results-driven common-sense conservative are the keys to a better tomorrow, a tomorrow in which all of God's children will be better off than they are today.

The idea that the role of the federal government is not for facilitate dependency, but to create an environment of opportunity for everyone. The idea that government should do less and do it better. The idea that those who serve should say what they mean and mean what they say. The principle that we should all determine the course of our own lives instead of ceding that right to those who think they are better than the rest of us. Yes, we will stand and fight when we must, and surely this presidency will require that.

A commitment to natural rights, a commitment to common, to compassion, when rooted in genuine conviction and principle is a commitment to conservatism.

Let me close by saying I considered to do this with reluctance, and I mean that in the most personal of ways. Like many of you, Jenna and I have children who are in the formative foundational years of their lives. I generally worry about the consequences that my agreeing to serve will have on them.

[20:30:12]

Will they experience the viciousness and incivility that we all face here on a daily basis? But my greatest worry, my greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up, of someday having my own kids ask me, when the stakes were so high, why didn't you do all you could do? Why didn't you stand and fight for my future when you had a chance to do so? None of us wants to hear that question, and none of us should ever have to.

I have shown my colleagues what I think success looks like, what I think it takes to unify and lead and how my family commitments come first. I have left this decision in their hands. And should they agree with these requests, then I am happy and I'm willing to get to work. Thank you. Chad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, thank you. What happened in the past couple of weeks? You put out a statement after Kevin McCarthy [INAUDIBLE] -- you were in -- you said that, you know, you had concern about consequences not serving. Is that the underlying issue here?

RYAN: It is. This is not a job ...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Paul Ryan there expressing his thoughts on what it's going to take for him to assume this position, saying essentially he needs all the various faction within the Republican Party in Congress and Capitol Hill to be behind him doing this. Back with talk radio host Dana Loesch, host of "Dana on the Blaze," also joining us is CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. And CNN's senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who's covered Congressman Ryan's career for years. Jeff, let's start with you. I guess not a huge surprise that he's agreed finally to do this. There was an awful lot of pressure on him. What do you make of his remarks tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's not a surprise that he decided to come to this conclusion. I've never seen so much pressure on a relatively - you know, a fairly young lawmaker who has a bright future to do something like this that he really doesn't want to do. And he was serious about that. We hear a lot of political figures say, oh, I really don't want to do this. He actually didn't want to do this. I think that - that much was clear. But I think that he, you know, from Mitt Romney to some religious figures to John Boehner, a lot of people essentially begged him to do this for the good of the House conference. And the speaker position we talk about in political terms. It is a constitutional office. The second in line to the presidency, so I think - I'm told that is what weighed on Paul Ryan's mind here.

But look, it is far from clear that he is going to be able to unify this conference. And I believe he is serious about saying he will not actually go through with this if he's not able to get a complete unanimous vote on Friday or whenever they actually cast this vote. So it is up to the House Republican conference now to sort of tend their own ranks and to sort of govern from within and rally around Paul Ryan. There's no chance that they will get anyone more of a unifying figure here than Paul Ryan. But he still has to - He's basically left it in their hands. And now they need to sort of follow him.

COOPER: Dana, I'm wondering what kind of pushback you are hearing, just from folks, particularly on the, you know, the sort of the Freedom Coalition side. Is there a sense of resentment at all, people feeling like they're supposed to pledge loyalty to him?

DANA LOESCH, THE BLAZE: I think, Anderson, there's the expectation that if Paul Ryan is as earnest as he definitely seems to be -- and I don't doubt his sincerity at all. But if he's incredibly earnest about making sure that he has their approval, that they are going to back him in this race and that they are going to stand behind him as speaker, that maybe he comes with less conditions, he has fewer conditions that he shows up with, and maybe he listens a little bit more, and they can craft a few conditions together.

And from what I hear, that's been a very big concern with the Freedom caucus and the grassroots who really support and provide a lot of energy and momentum to the Freedom Caucus. Now, whether or not that's going to happen in the next few days we will see, but there are also a lot of people aren't really surprised. I mean one of the things that we know is that Paul Ryan has been groomed for a very, very long time. And while he was Mitt Romney's number two on the campaign trail, not everyone forgot about the - about the bailouts that I had mentioned before. So, if Liberty evangelism works and he's come a long way to recognizing limited spending as well, we'll see.

COOPER: Ana, what do you think about his comments tonight?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN COMMENTATOR: You know, I think they were unifying comments, they were music to my ears. And, you know, I know Paul Ryan pretty well, and I know his wife. And it was a surprise to me, because I know how much that weighs on him. You know, it's such a big part.

[20:35:01]

He's from Janesville, Wisconsin. This is not an easy place to commute to. It's not like he's from New York or he's from Miami, a two-hour flight from Washington. And he knows that what's entailed, what's included in being speaker means, you know, a lot of requirements on your time, a lot of stress put on you, and I think it was a huge factor. I think what happened was he went home and they talked about it. He and Jenna talked about it and they decided that it was the best thing and they decided that the sacrifice for the family was worth trying to move this agenda for the country.

COOPER: We'll see what happens in the days ahead. Dana, thank you. Ana Navarro, Jeff Zeleny as well.

Up next, Donald Trump says President Obama is thinking about taking your guns away via executive order. Just one recent example Trump making basically inaccurate claims backed up by no evidence. Tonight we're keeping them honest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight, we're taking a closer look at some of the newest statements Donald Trump has been making in "Keeping Then Honest." Now, plenty of politicians exaggerate or try to rewrite their own personal history or statements, but few politicians do it with such bravado as Donald Trump.

[20:40:00]

When he's questioned about unsubstantiated claims, he's made, he usually tries to dodge the question, or simply deny he ever said the things that he has in fact said, and of course he'll attack the reporter or try to change the subject. Let's keep him to a few recent examples. Just this morning when talking about the wars after 9/11, Trump said it was right for the United States to go into Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We went into Iraq, which was a disaster decision, just a disastrous decision. Not Afghanistan because that's probably where we should have gone on the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, "New Day's" Alisyn Camerota pointed out that just two weeks ago Trump said going to Afghanistan was a mistake. Trump wasn't hearing it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We made a mistake going into Iraq. I've never said we made a mistake going into Afghanistan.

CAMEROTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This - our question was about Afghanistan. That day ...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Okay. I never said that. OK, it wouldn't matter. I've never said it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right. He said he never said that, except he absolutely did say that, two weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He believes that American boots should stay on the ground in Afghanistan to stabilize the situation.

TRUMP: We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place, we had real brilliant thinkers who didn't know what the hell they were doing, and it's a mess. It's a mess. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, this isn't the only mess Trump is refusing to acknowledge. Much less clean out. Here's what he said last night about President Obama allegedly coming for your guns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So, big Second Amendment, we're all big heavy on the Second Amendment, you know.

(CHEERS)

TRUMP: You know, the president's thinking about signing an executive order where he wants to take your guns away. This is the new. Not going to happen. That won't happen, but that's a tough one. I think that's a tough one for him to do, when you actually have the Second Amendment, that's tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Again, Alisyn Camerota pressed him on this on "New Day."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Mr. Trump, the president hasn't signed an executive order to take ...

TRUMP: No, no, I've heard that he wants to, and I heard that I think on your network. Somebody said the best what he's thinking about. I didn't say he's signing it, I said I think that will be a tough one to sign, actually.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's impossible, in fact.

TRUMP: Yeah, I would say it would be impossible, but nevertheless he was thinking about it, and I've heard it from numerous networks and I've read it in the papers. You know, my source is the papers. So they are pretty good sources.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Those source are numerous networks, the papers, and he heard about it somewhere. There has been some reporting about the White House considering an executive order to expand background checks for gun buyers. That's a far cry from the president wants to take your guns away.

Look, this is all fine if you're talking to your friends in a bar, but if you're the leading candidate in your party for president of the United States, you might think you would need more evidence for those kinds of statements. Now, we've seen this type of brush-off before from Donald Trump. Watch what happened when I asked him myself for any proof of another of his big claims that the Mexican government itself is sending rapists and criminals across the border, statement that, by the way, immigration officials say there's just no evidence to support.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think it's common sense. Mexico doesn't want to house somebody for 30 years in a prison when the United States will do it.

COOPER: But you keep saying everybody knows this is the case.

TRUMP: I think - yea, I think a lot of people know - I think the smart people know, I think the streetwise people know, and I think border guards know. Well, you are going to find out if I have evidence, I'm not telling you now, but you are going to find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We're still waiting for that evidence, by the way. So, the strategy seems to be, make the wild claims, then deny you ever said them or just say you heard about it somewhere, or that smart people know about it. Or that never mind, you've got a secret, you'll let us all in on later.

Unlike with other politicians, however, none of this seems to be hurting Donald Trump at the polls. Look at this new CNN/ORC poll. Mr. Trump continues to dominate just like he has since entering the race in June. One thing many of Mr. Trump's supporters say is that they like him, because he's a so-called truth teller. But over the last 24 hours we've seen at least two examples where that just doesn't seem to be true.

Joining me now to talk about it, Trump national campaign cochairman and policy advisor Sam Clovis, with me again talk radio host Dana Loesch, host of "Dana on the Blaze," and CNN political commentator and former Obama administration official Van Jones.

Mr. Clovis, so I mean if Trump is going to portray himself as this truth teller, someone who tells it like it is, shouldn't he be speaking the truth or at least, you know, admit when he's been caught saying things think that he didn't - that he, or reversing himself on based on something he said two weeks before?

SAM CLOVIS, TRUMP NATIONAL CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIRMAN AND POLICY ADVISOR: I thought we were going to have a discussion on policy tonight. And I'm sorry this is where this is heading.

COOPER: Well, this is policy. I mean he's ...

CLOVIS: Well ...

COOPER: He said he was against going to Afghanistan and now he is for it.

CLOVIS: I don't appreciate this at all. I don't - I didn't have any indication that this is where we were going to be going with this. I thought we were going to be talking about policy and where we are in the campaign and our polling, and where we're going to be ending up with this thing. But, you know, if these are the issues that you want to bring up, that's fine. I'll let the other commentators comment on it.

COOPER: But what about - I mean you're involved in the policy on Afghanistan, I've assumed you're involved in the policy on taking away the guns ...

CLOVIS: I'm not involved in - Afghanistan, because the president of the United States is still the president. That's the policy that we have. We're not involved in the policy in Syria, because that's the policy that we have. We're not going to be able to do anything about any of these things until the 20th of January in 2017, and then we'll be able to make positive movements on this, because right now we can't do anything about what the president of the United States is doing.

COOPER: But do you believe?

CLOVIS: All we can do is talk about it and comment on it.

COOPER: Do you believe the president is really trying to take away guns that he wants to sign an executive order to take away guns, and that's based on reporting?

[20:45:00]

CLOVIS: I was waiting to come on here when you were broadcasting the news on Paul Ryan. I was able to do a little bit of search on my wonderful phone here, and I was able to find out that he would like very much, common knowledge, your network in fact has reported he has spoken about having a model in America much like that in the United Kingdom and in Australia. And those, that to me leads us then to confiscations of guns. Australia has talked about confiscating and has confiscated guns, and frankly it hasn't worked out for them. So from that perspective, that's exactly where we're headed if the president has his way. And every time the president decides to encroach on the Second Amendment -- I want to make sure people understand the historical significant of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is lifted almost verbatim from the Bill of Rights that was appended to the Constitution of --

COOPER: But the president of the United States is not talking about revoking the Second Amendment.

CLOVIS: So that's -- so let's talk about where we are with this. So if this is what you want to talk about, I'm fine, we'll talk about that.

JONES: I'd like to talk about it, Anderson.

COOPER: Van, what do you make of this?

JONES: Part of the problem that we have here now is that the word of the president of the United States is supposed to mean something. You're trying out for a particular job. You don't go, if you're trying out to be a surgeon, you don't show up dressed like you're showing up for a completely different profession. He is not improving. The problem we have now is he started out saying outrageous stuff. He gets called on it, he doesn't improve. I don't mind somebody new coming into politics. They don't get everything right. You do expect them to grow. He's not growing. He's getting worse. The others thing is you cannot see a bigger difference between what you just saw with Paul Ryan and what you're seeing with Donald Trump. Paul Ryan came out there, he showed a level of maturity and also political smarts. He said listen, I'm not going to be speaker and end the civil war. End the civil war and I'll become speaker. That shows a level of almost political genius. Next to a Donald Trump who will say anything, who will not take any responsibility, who is -- if you imagine this person being president of the United States, you are putting the safety of Americans at risk. People around the world need to know when the president speaks, he is telling the truth and --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let me jump in here, let me bring you in here, Dana, and let me argue the opposite. I do like to look at things from all points of view, and I don't want Sam to feel that I'm surprising him if he wasn't aware we were going to talk about this stuff. But you could very easily say Donald Trump should get more leeway, than other Republican candidates, because he's not a professional candidate, not a career politician, and what a lot of his supporters like is he does sometimes speaking extemporaneously, and maybe sometimes he's, you know, not fully read on something, but shouldn't - should he get a break that a career politician who's had a history of voting, maybe not get?

LOESCH: Two points on that. First, I will say that Donald Trump is the pop culture candidate of this particular election cycle. If anyone understands sound bites - I am not aware -- I think he may have trademarked the phrase "you're fired." If he hasn't, he should get on that, but he understands sound bites. I do think it's politicianesque to say I'm not a politician so I can be excused for saying certain things. Regardless, the thing is, if you are incredibly passionate about limited government and you are auditioning for the most important job really in the world. We're talking about the leader of the free world here. You will be passionate, you will speak with confidence of your convictions, and there will be no room for doubt.

On the point of firearms, and to Mr. Clovis' point, you know, I think that Donald Trump should have used a little bit of specificity when he was discussing the confiscation of firearms. I have a book "Hands Off my Gun" where I get into gun control laws. To his credit, he was remarking, you know, to his credit, he was remarking on the president, not just the president but also Hillary Clinton's praise of Australia's gun laws, where they did in fact with semiautomatic firearms there was a confiscation that had taken place, although private ownership of firearms is not what it was before 1996.

JONES: But that's not what he was talking about at this particular moment.

LOESCH: Actually, Van Jones, it was in that context, it was in the context of that particular news cycle, and it was the president's response on Australia's gun laws, which by the way private ownership is back to the pre-ban 1996 level.

COOPER: Let her finish.

LOESCH: So I think it's important to recognize that. Has there been an executive order signed to that effect? No.

JONES: That's my point.

[20:50:00]

LOESCH: In fact, what the president has discussed in terms of suggesting an executive order was actually going back and redefining who is or who is not a firearms dealer, and if we're going to redefine, which the ATF already regulates. If we're going to redefine who is or who is not a dealer, potentially you are looking at creating numerous FFLs, federal firearms licensees out of millions of American men and women.

COOPER: Mr. Clovis, let me ask you, you mentioned the polls. Let me ask you about the numbers. It is amazing, all the pundits have been wrong all along about your candidate, from the very early days saying he wouldn't get in, he would not show his finances. He was a Michele Bachmann. He was going to fade. All of that has not proved. I'm wondering, as you look closely at the numbers, do you see -- I mean, is he unlike any other candidate than you've ever been with, in terms of his ability to -- I mean people talk about Teflon candidates, it almost doesn't matter. People said he went too far on John McCain. None of that turned out to be the case. Do you see a level, a kind of support for him that you have not seen for other candidates?

CLOVIS: Anderson, I think the very first time you interviewed me, I told you that this is not a regular candidacy. This is not a normal campaign, this has not ever been seen in the history of the United States. I've been watching politics since 1956. I've never seen anything like it. I certainly have never been associated with anything like it. Because you cannot look at this campaign through the regular prism of what we've seen over the past 50, 60 years in presidential politics. You can't, because look at who is ahead? Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina was up there for a while, Ted Cruz, an insurgent. And now we're starting to see that this is settling in. In fact, if you look at the polls that came out today, Anderson, Donald Trump, Ben Carson actually increased their numbers.

Ac: Yeah.

CLOVIS: Over a month ago. So what's going on is not normal. This is not -- and everybody trying to pigeonhole this campaign and this candidate into a particular template is making a grave error.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there.

JONES: We have seen celebrity candidates before. The difference -- when Arnold Schwarzenegger ran in California, he started off terrible and completely unprepared. He improved through the course of the campaign. We're not seeing that with Trump. He's getting worse.

COOPER: I don't know about that.

LOESCH: I totally disagree.

COOPER: I don't think that's fair to say, but unfortunately we're simply out of time. I don't know that that's really fair to say. I think a lot of people would say --

JONES: He's telling more lies.

COOPER: Well, unfortunately we do have to leave it there just for time, but to be continued, no doubt. Van Jones, thank you, Dana Loesch. Sam Clovis, I'm sorry if you weren't informed ahead of time, what we'd be talking about, but I do appreciate you being on, as always.

Up next, breaking news, a wanted fugitive spotted tonight. We have new information on the manhunt for the notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo. Reads like a Hollywood script, cliff jumping, helicopter gunfire, and much more. New information on this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:57:00]

COOPER: More breaking news tonight. Mexican authorities may be closing in on the world's most notorious drug lord. A wanted fugitive a Mexican official says special forces spotted Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman days ago. The source says Mexican marines gave chase, El Chapo fell or jumped off a small cliff, injuring his face and possibly breaking his leg. In the end, El Chapo managed to escape once again. Martin Savidge is in Mexico tonight where the raid took place, and here is his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's Mexico's most notorious drug lord. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and authorities say they're close to recapturing him. We come to Mexico to try to get a sense of just how close. But it's not easy.

For security reasons, we have to keep a low profile, because the risk we face include everything from corrupt cops to an army of drug cartel informants who are probably looking out for just about everything we do. So sometimes the video or the audio may not be quite as good as you're accustomed to, because we're using less than traditional means.

The danger here is real. Last week officials said they nearly had Guzman, cornering him near a town in the mountains of Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico. Exactly what happened is not clear, but it was definitely violent. Reportedly Mexican marines moved in from the air, getting so close to Guzman, he was injured in the frantic dash to get away. But he got away, much to government embarrassment.

Locals tell a different story. They describe a less precise military strike, with helicopters raining gunfire indiscriminately down on homes, vehicles and people.

Guzman escaped from a Mexican maximum security prison last July, literally under the guard's feet through a mile-long tunnel. That isn't out of character for Guzman. Part of his drug lord success is due to his extensive use of tunnels, to smuggle drugs into the United States.

There's a reason the search is so focused on the state of Sinaloa. It's a place where Guzman obviously feels comfortable and it is where he was arrested before, at a house not that far away from here, and then brought to that high-rise beachfront hotel, and kept there for a couple of days until authorities could arrange a safe transport back to Mexico City. So for all these reasons, authorities believe they are close, and the area remains on edge. Everyone here knows it is an all-out effort to find the man called the most dangerous criminal in the world, who may be injured, desperate and possibly cornered. There a lot that could go wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: Anderson, one other thing that really makes the search very difficult -- terrain. He knows this area. He grew up here. So he has every advantage. Plus a lot of the local people here support him in many ways. Even though many Americans consider what he does as terrible, many here see him as part of the business, part of the economy, and they're beholden to him for it. The federal police are out looking. The local police by the way who are looking at us, we're not sure if they are looking at us for our security or other reasons. Anderson.

COOPER: Martin, thanks for the reporting. Be careful, you and your crew.

That does it for us. We'll see you again at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, another edition of "360." A CNN special report, "The DC Mansion Murders" starts now.