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Trump Taps Lt. Gen. McMaster for National Security Adviser; President Trump Addresses Florida Rally, Baffles Sweden. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 20, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, thanks for joining us.

Exactly one turbulent month and another bumpy weekend into his administration, President Trump marked the occasion by naming a new national security adviser. He's an active Army lieutenant general. He's a defense intellectual known for speaking hard truth to superiors. And unlike many of the president's decisions so far, this one appears to be garnering praise from across the political spectrum.

More now from our Barbara Starr.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience. I watched and read a lot over the last two days. He is highly respected by everybody in the military, and we are very honored to have him.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, with years of battlefield experience. He is deeply familiar with the politics of serving at the highest levels of the military.

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Mr. President, thank you very much. I would just like to say what a privilege it is to be able to continue serving our nation. I'm grateful to you for that opportunity. I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people. Thank you very much, sir.

STARR: But now, he wades into White House politics and a National Security Council in turmoil, since the firing of Michael Flynn for not telling Vice President Mike Pence the truth about his contacts with Russia.

McMaster is known to be very plain-spoken. People who know him say don't expect him to change.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): If General McMaster not only understands his role but accepts his role as the lead to the National Security Council staff, and he also serves as the lead policy maker in essence for the White House and the administration, then he will have a chance to succeed.

STARR: Still, he may find his biggest challenge is dealing with Steve Bannon, the president's close political adviser who now has a seat on the National Security Council.

LEIGHTON: If Steve Bannon understands his role as basically being the political adviser to the National Security Council and nothing more than that, then it has a chance to succeed as well. If Mr. Bannon goes beyond that, then it could very well not only interfere with the inner workings of the National Security Council, but it could result in disastrous policy choices for the United States.

STARR: As an active duty officer, McMaster didn't have the option of saying no, thanks, like retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward did. Harward reportedly declined the job due to family reasons and in part because of the chaos at the White House, sources tell CNN.

Now, a promise that the new national security adviser can run his own operation.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president has said very clearly that the new NSA director will have total and complete say over the makeup of the NSC and all of the components of the NSC, and there is no demand made by President Trump on any candidate.


COOPER: Barbara Starr joins us now.

It's really interesting, General McMaster wrote a book that's very well known in national security circles about U.S. military in Vietnam. Explain what the book was about and what kind of, what window it may afford us on how he may handle his role as national security adviser.

STARR: Well, Anderson, this book was called "Dereliction of Duty". It grew out of his PhD thesis and became a landmark work inside military circles. It was a look at the Vietnam War and the failures of the military leadership at that time to really talk truth to power, to tell President Lyndon Johnson what was really going on and in his thesis, made the war unwinnable and untenable because the military did not speak up.

So, it may give us that window into his philosophy, plain-spoken and not likely to change and likely to continue speaking up.

COOPER: Interesting. Barbara Starr, thanks very much. Stay with us. We're going to have the panel come in now.

Late today, Senator John McCain praised the choice of General McMaster. Retired Democratic Congressman Steve Israel called him brilliant, a brilliant reasonable leader who understands both hard and soft power.

Which can also be said for CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers who joins us now, along with tonight's "Daily Beast" senior columnist Matt Lewis, "New Yorker" Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza and CNN military analyst and retired army lieutenant general, Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, you know General McMaster. He's getting a lot of support among political and military figures.

How do you see him steering the National Security Council?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, U.S. ARMY (RET.): He -- there is not going to be anyone that speaks ill of H.R. McMaster, Anderson. He's a brilliant guy, fine mind, as Barbara just said.

His book is a good one. I have it on my personal book shelf. It's one of the better ones. And I expect to get some royalties from him for hawking it right now.

[20:05:01] But what I will tell you, he is very good in terms of strategy and policy. He's been working the army futures for the last several years. He's got a good brain and the key thing is, will others in the National Security Council and national security team listen to some of the things he says, because he will organize it. He will command that organization well. He will pull people together, he'll get the right thing on the ground and make forward advances.

But the key thing that he has to do, H.R. is used to leading down, commanding forces and leading them. Now, he's going to have to lead up and lead around. Those are key skills, too, for leadership in terms of getting your boss to do the things that they need to do.

So, he will be an active voice along with General Mattis in terms of determining what the national security policies are. I expect him to be very outspoken because he always has been. I have served with him a couple of times. But he will bring a great deal of credibility to the job so a lot of people will listen to him just because of who he is.

COOPER: I mean, Kirsten, I guess another critical factor is does he have the president's ear? Does he have, you know, the ability to -- there have been some reports the secretary of state isn't sort of in the loop on some of the discussions that are going on, the inner circle at the White House. So, the question is, will McMaster be able to do that or you have Steve Bannon on the NSC who clearly has the president's ear?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. That's the question I think you have to wait and see what happens when he gets there. I think that it's great to have -- this is the person who has, has been willing to speak truth to power. He was also very critical of how the Iraq war was implemented as well.

So, I think, you know, the problem is because Steve Bannon, it seems foreign policy seems to be running in a political way through Steve Bannon. So I think most people should breathe a sigh of relief if you look at this pick and at General Mattis, these are two people who as well qualified as anybody to try to push through that and get to the president and have his ear and his respect.

COOPER: It is interesting, early on, there was some criticism that Donald Trump had too many generals in his inner circle. You don't hear that criticism. Now, you hear almost a sense of relief now that it's kind of a stabilizing force to have a General Mattis, to have a McMaster.

MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY BEAST: Absolutely. I would say bring us more generals. First of all, this is an upgrade over General Flynn. I think that he was sort of seen as being on the dark side of Donald Trump. This new general I think is more in the General Mattis category, somebody who can smooth Donald Trump's rough edges.

We saw General Mattis today talk about, you know, we're not going to take oil, right? That's the kind of thing that I think this national security adviser will bring. This is a guy who is a warrior and an intellectual, and not only with the counter insurgency strategy being so important but also the studying Vietnam and the mistakes and interaction between a president and a secretary of defense. I just can't see how you could have a better pick than the pick that was made.

COOPER: Ryan, also, it's not only important to get the NSC team in place, to get that going, to have the national security apparatus firmly in place, given all the things going on around the world. But also just politically it allows the White House to move past, as much as they can, the debacle of Flynn.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Yes. I think it's a really encouraging sign of what Reince Priebus, chief of staff, said in that clip, that McMaster would have full control over his staff. That's really important. There was some reporting that Harward, the person who turned down the job, rejected it partly because he didn't have that guarantee. That's really important.

I think a couple things. On the plus side, you can't find anyone who put out a statement today who criticizes this person. He just has an impeccable reputation, built partly on his searing critique of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War, and his assessment of what was going wrong in Iraq. That is an important thing for a president, especially a new president like Donald Trump, to have.

The other part of the job, though, is simply a coordinating role, right? The national security adviser is the person who is supposed to get everyone's opinions in the foreign policy community, the national security community, and sort of collate that for the president. You know, it's a staff job at the end of the day. I think the ones who have been really good at the job ran a really, really good process. That I think will be important to see if he can do that.

COOPER: Barbara, it's important because General McMaster is an active duty general. That means President Trump is not just his boss, he's also, you know, the commander in chief. Does that complicate the role?

It's not certainly unprecedented. Colin Powell was still in the military when he was national security adviser under President Reagan, if memory serves me correctly. STARR: Right. Well, you know, on a practical basis, it meant that

General McMaster really couldn't say no, or no, thanks, to his commander in chief, right? I mean, he had to basically take the job or instantly retire.

[20:10:03] But what I do think is that this all means that the White House politically right now has to make this pick work. You can't have on a practical basis or a national security basis another top official not work out. So, people will be watching very closely to see, does he really have the president's ear, is he part of the inner circle?

One of his biggest supporters in all of this may be the secretary of defense, Jim Mattis. They know each other. General Mattis, very much on the same page -- military strategy, military goals, precision, not a lot of politics.

COOPER: Yes, it's interesting, General Hertling, because, you know, a lot of people in the national security apparatus around President Trump don't really have a long history with President Trump. Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, General Mattis, and now McMaster. The fact that McMaster and Mattis have a relationship, that can only, I assume, be a good thing.

HERTLING: Well, McMaster worked for Petraeus. And Petraeus and Mattis were very tight in terms of their operations both in the early stages of the war and later on in the war. They turned over commands to each other.

But I agree with what Barbara said. This guy has to be a coordinator, a synchronizer, and an agenda developer. And he's got to be someone who can whisper in the boss's ear. But I'd like to negate the thing that just because he's a military guy doesn't mean he has to take orders from the commander in chief. I think that's a misunderstanding by the American people.

A lot of military guys have arguments before the final decisions are made and some of those are real throw-downs. McMaster will do that if he needs to but he will be respectful as Harry Truman said, telling the boss to go to hell and making him look forward to the trip.


COOPER: We're going to end it on that. We're going to have more with our panel, much more to talk about. President Trump's back at the White House. We look at the challenges ahead for him and later weigh in his first month in office -- the claims versus achievements.

Also, the somewhat unusual role Defense Secretary Mattis and Vice President Pence have been playing the last couple days, traveling to international capitals reassuring world leaders and in some cases contradicting things that Mr. Trump has said.


[20:15:56] COOPER: Well, President Trump is back in the White House returning this afternoon from the weekend at Mar-a-Lago and a campaign rally just up the coast in Melbourne. Campaign rally is exactly what Spokesman Sean Spicer called it and it resembled in all ways but one, the kind of airport hangar appearances he made all last year during the campaign. The difference was his private 757 the background but Air Force One.

Now, as you might imagine, some of what he said at the rally about refugees made headlines both here and overseas.


TRUMP: Here's the bottom line. We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening. We've got to keep our country safe.

You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers, they're having problems like they never thought possible.


COOPER: Now, as for what happened that night in Sweden, nothing significant actually happened that night in Sweden. President Trump took to Twitter Sunday and today to explain what he was actually referring to.

Swedes certainly reacted as well. On a more serious note, the work of drafting a new travel ban has picked up steam.

Lots to talk about. Sara Murray joins us with all that.

So what is the latest from the White House and from Swedish officials on the president's remarks about Sweden? Because that's gotten a lot of coverage in the last couple days.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Swedish officials were initially confused and trying to figure out what the president could possibly be referring to. He took to Twitter to explain that his comments came after he saw a segment on FOX News that apparently pertains to asylum seekers that were going to Sweden.

Now, the Swedish embassy also shot back on Twitter, essentially saying they look forward to informing the U.S. administration about their immigration and integration policies.

COOPER: And the new executive order on immigration and travel, it's expected, what, sometime this week. Do we know a lot of details yet?

MURRAY: We are expecting it to be later on this week. And remember, the administration is trying to craft a new executive order that they believe the courts will uphold. Their current order has been blocked from implementation by the courts. So, they're going to try to address a couple things.

Some things we expect to stay the same. For instance, we expect it will still deal with those seven majority Muslim countries. Those same seven countries are likely to be affected. But a senior administration official wouldn't comment on whether we would once again see this indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

The other thing they're going to do is they're going to make it clear that this is not something that's going to apply to green card holders. That was a big issue with the first ban. And they're going to try to give better guidance about how this would impact people who have current or pending visas which was another issue they faced in the courts. So, we should see later on this week what sort of contours of this look like, and whether it can uphold challenges by the courts -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Sara Murray -- Sara, thanks very much.

Back with the panel. Joining us is also Trump supporter and contributor to "The Hill", Kayleigh McEnany, also Democratic strategist and host of "The Working Life" podcast, Jonathan Tasini.

Ryan, there is what the president actually said about Sweden and the way it was sort of interpreted by a lot of people who thought, well, is he talking about a terror attack in Sweden, it sounded like maybe, although he didn't actually say that. And then he walked it back, essentially saying, well, it's based on something I guess he watched on Tucker Carlson.

LIZZA: Once you know what it's based on when you actually watch him say it, it all sort of makes sense. Last night meant the president watching FOX News last night.

COOPER: It wasn't something that actually happened in Sweden. It was a report last night about Sweden.

LIZZA: He learned about it.

What is there to say about this? He doesn't always seem to be a very careful consumer of the news media. He took something from television and sort of intertwined it into his speech about terror attacks.

I think a couple problems. One is he hasn't adjusted from being a candidate where you can get away with saying those things. You are not privy to the most important national security secrets. To being president, where you are, where in your daily briefing, part of your job is to ask your briefers give me the latest information about refugees in Europe and its relationship with crime and terrorism.

[20:20:00] I want to have the most up-to-date facts that I can go talk about.

Instead, he's still citing things that he picks up from TV. You know, to me, I think that's something that previous presidents didn't do.

COOPER: It is interesting, Kirsten, because as a candidate, Sweden probably wouldn't have reacted the same way but when you have the president of the United States sort of raising the specter of chaos in Sweden, it's kind of understandable the Swedes get upset about stuff, they will get upset. (LAUGHTER)

LIZZA: Right.

MCENANY: Well, I mean, I was listening to it live and it definitely did not sound -- it sounded like he was talking about something had actually happened. I think like you said, if you go back and think, OK, there was something -- but the way he said it, it did sound like he was referencing something.

And so, I think that he does need to be more cognizant of that and how people are going to react. But look, even after it was made clear, he still kind of doubled down on the idea that there's something going on in Sweden in terms of some exploding problem with refugees, and in fact, that doesn't really seem to add up with the facts that the crime rate has actually dropped in the last year, and the number of rapes have actually gone down. So, even once he had a chance to reflect, he still was putting out bad information.

LIZZA: Yes, it's a bit of success story. They're taking in people from very different culture, different socioeconomic class and it's not actually causing the kind of problems one might predict.

COOPER: Which is not something new for Sweden. They actually did that with the Bosnian war. They took in a lot of Muslims from Bosnia.

Kayleigh, is this much ado about nothing?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: It is. I was at the rally. When I heard that statement, I asked the person next to me, what do you think he's talking about? He said oh, he's referring to something he saw the previous night and the person actually heard it exactly as Trump then clarified and tweeted it -- it being -- it meaning that he saw this segment on FOX News and relayed this information.

I mean, I would dispute the notion that there isn't anything going on in Sweden at all. In fact, crime has gone up. You know, just two hours ago on Wolf's show they put up a graphic showing 7 percent increase in reported crime.

COOPER: But I think our reporter -- I mean, again, I might be wrong about this but I think our correspondent who is actually there was saying I think a lot of that has to do with cybercrimes or other forms of crime.

MCENANY: Sure, they said that. You talk to residents on the ground in asylum centers and they will tell you there's been break-ins. They will also tell you that in the Gothenburg region, there has been 100 people, more than 100 people, 200 people the Swedish police say have gone to Syria, two of which killed in Syria, came back and then were taken in and had light sentences in Sweden.

So, to act as if everything is rosy with the refugee program is just not the case. Donald Trump I think is right on this. To assume that he's wrong and have sinister assumptions weaved into his comments I don't think is not accurate. JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He's not right and shouldn't

be taking information from FOX News. He should maybe be consulting with his intelligence brief which might have the facts.

Here is what Carl Bildt, a conservative prime minister of Sweden, not a left winger, not from the green party, said in a tweet. I guess that's the way you would conduct foreign policy now. Last year, there were approximately 50 percent more murders only in Orlando, Florida, where Trump spoke the other day, than in all of Sweden. Then he said bad.

Actually, information is not the case. Crime has gone down in Sweden, certainly as the influx of people, influx of immigrants, refugees, have actually been absorbed quite well in Sweden. If you look at the statistics, it's not true. There is no problem.

LEWIS: I don't know about statistics, but I think three weeks ago, there was an arrest made of two Afghan refugees who were accused of gang rape in Sweden. So, Donald -- there was --

TASINI: I didn't say there's nothing but it's not like there's a sweeping wave.

LEWIS: That rape wouldn't have happened had the refugees --

MCENANY: Right. Exactly, how many rapes have to happen --

TASINI: It's like saying in New York City, there was some crime or something happened, then you make a big policy --

MCENANY: But Jonathan, one is too many. One is too many.

TASIN: Of course, one --

MCENANY: There's a right to life, a right to safety. One person who comes in this country as a guest, as a refugee, and commits an atrocity --

COOPER: The allegation I think in that the report, that -- on FOX, that the president saw was that the crime statistics actually are lying, that the Swedish government is keeping it suppressed because they don't want that message to get out. That I think is where Swedish police officers have contradicted and said they were edited inappropriately in the report --

MCENANY: But Ami Horowitz actually said, I don't -- I'm not accusing the government of manipulating the stats. What I'm accusing them of is downplaying the fact that when one of these crimes happen, let's say a rape, they downplay the nationality or the fact the person is a refugee.

POWERS: But, Kayleigh, is your argument we can never have refugees come into a country because one of them might commit a crime?

MCENANY: My argument is when someone comes through the immigration system and kills nearly ten Americans as happened in San Bernardino, legally through our immigration --


MCENANY: Ten is too many.

POWERS: OK. Just so I understand, two people out of all of the refugees that come into the country, you think what? The refugee program should be shut down?

MCENANY: You are creating a theoretical argument.

POWERS: Rape has gone down. Rape has gone down.

MCENANY: Crime has gone up.

POWERS: But rape has gone down.

MCENANY: Fine. You just brought up rape.

TASINI: Violent crime has gone down.

LIZZA: What if -- I don't have a command of the statistics enough in Sweden, but let's just assume that the president is right, that Sweden is now a hell hole where Muslim refugees are raping and pillaging their way through the country.

[20:25:13] In America, in our country, this is a very well-established fact that immigrants in the United States have a lower rate of crime than non-immigrants. So, I'm not sure what his point was.

COOPER: I will also say, I have actually been to Sweden and actually reported and spent time with Afghan refugees, particularly young ones there. I mean, they do make a huge job to assimilate, to -- you know, there is housing for them, they teach them Swedish. There is employment opportunities.

So, I mean, assimilation is a big push for the refugees who they do accept. I'm not saying everything is perfect.

MCENANY: But sure, most refugees are good. We should say that. Most refugees are good people. The most vulnerable who want to be in this country.

But when you have people, when you have our own intel community warning us that terrorists are trying to infiltrate the program, taking a pause does not make you racist or Islamophobic, it makes you sane. It makes you have common sense to say, let's the a pause when our intel community is warning us, terrorists are trying to infiltrate.

TASINI: Classic Donald Trump, makes a claim, then when challenged, says no, I didn't say that, then attacks the fact checkers.

COOPER: All right. We're going to take a break.

Coming up, remember all the statements candidate Trump said about let's do it over here, you want it here? That's fine. Well, his defense secretary and vice president have been overseas reassuring leaders in Europe as well as Iraqis. Defense Secretary Mattis coming right out and saying in Iraq, we're not here to seize anybody's oil. More on that ahead.


[20:30:36] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's defense secretary and vice president have been overseas saying things that seem to contradict the president's repeated statements about Iraq and about NATO, after months of the president saying the United States should have taken Iraq's oil when he was a candidate, he said that a lot, raising doubts about his support of NATO. It seems his team is now reassuring allies overseas.

Michelle Kosinski, has details.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fight against ISIS in Iraq enters a new offensive as defense secretary James Mattis is in Baghdad to meet with leaders, feels it necessary to add this.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): The reason why? The president.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We should have kept the oil but OK. Maybe we'll have another chance.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): And as Russia flexes its muscle in Eastern Europe as well as recent provocations against the United States, the vice president is in Europe making sure to state clearly --

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Our alliance will continue to hold Russia accountable and demand that they honor the Minsk Agreements beginning with deescalating violence in eastern Ukraine.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): But after all the statements by President Trump while he was campaigning, calling the NATO alliance obsolete, implying NATO allies might one day have to defend themselves, or this, at Trump's rally two days ago.

TRUMP: Many of the countries that we protect, they're not paying their bills. They're not paying their bills.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): It is now Vice President Pence trying to clear up any misunderstanding.

PENCE: It is my privilege here at the NATO headquarters to express the strong support of President Trump and the United States of America for NATO and our trans-atlantic alliance.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): NATO allies not paying their share, 2 percent of their GDP, has been a long-standing problem. Only five of the 28 members currently do. The Obama administration made a major push to make that happen and was able to get 70 percent of NATO countries on track to do so by 2024. So what happens if they don't start paying?

PENCE: I don't know what the answer is to or else but I know the patience of the American people will not endure forever.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): The results on NATO, Russia, Iran, some of the world's biggest problems, even on phone calls with allies, has been to many foreign policy experts --

TONY BLINKEN, FMR DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Confused, chaotic, contradictory. Look, there's a lot of whiplash going on here because we are seeing very conflicting statements come out from one day to the next.

KOSINSKI: Some Republicans too, including Ohio Governor John Kasich who was at the Munich Security Conference with Mike Pence raising concerns about how allies are viewing this.

GOV. JOH KASICH, (R) OHIO: What they're saying is we can hear from the vice president, we can hear from General Mattis, we can hear from General Kelly, but we're not sure about the president. And it is vital that the administration be on the same page.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): And at home.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) ILLINOIS: You know, it's really confusing to me, my hope is it's just a president right now that is hoping to make some kind of big deal, a grand bargain.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): Michelle Kosinski, CNN, the State Department.


COOPER: As Michelle mentioned, contrast to what Secretary Mattis is saying, Mr. Trump repeatedly has spoken very differently about Iraq and its oil to me and others as well. Take a look.


TRUMP: I would bomb the hell out of those oil fields.

We'll circle it and we'll take the oil. And we should have taken the oil when we left.

I would take away their wealth. I would take away the oil. What you should be doing now is taking away the oil.

I've always said shouldn't be there, but if we are going to get out, take the oil.

If we have taken the oil, you wouldn't have ISIS.

If we are going to leave, keep the oil.

Keep the oil. Keep the oil. Don't let somebody else get it.

Remember I've been saying for two years attack the oil. Everybody said oh, Trump with the oil, Trump. But I said more than attack it. I said attack it, take it and keep it.

So we should have kept the oil but OK. Maybe we'll have another chance.


COOPER: Well joining me again is CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and joining is Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Michael Doran, author of "Ike's Gamble, America's Rise to Dominance in the Middle East."

So General Hertling you and I discussed the -- what is by all estimation a completely bizarre notion that the U.S. should take the oil of a sovereign nation, that we are actually allied with and fighting side by side with. Now his defense secretary has confirmed what you and every military analyst I talked to have been saying for more than a year. You can't take Iraq's oil. Are you relieved General Mattis said this?

[20:35:05] LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, I'm not. I'm actually a little bit ashamed he had to say it Anderson. You know, you just played Trump's greatest hits from the last 18 months and the number of times that he said take the oil. That was illegal, immoral and unethical. To have the secretary of defense going to Iraq, where they are finally beginning to win the war against ISIS, and have the first thing out of his mouth or one of the first things out of his mouth is hey, I'm not here to take your oil. Is just shameful.

And it gets to the point that Michelle made on her tape is that, you know, there used to be a movie in the late '90s called "Drum Line" and there used to be a theme called one band, one sound. You got to get everybody on the same sheet of music and to have Mattis in Iraq saying we're not going to take your oil, to have the vice president in the Munich Security -- at the Munich Security Conference saying, hey I'm trying to reassure everybody to counter what the president has been saying, it's just not very good and our allies are seeing right through it. Because where it's good to have the reassurances and the statements, they'd much rather have the president say the right things, whatever he desires, and set up a strategy and a policy for what the United States is going to do.

COOPER: Mike, I remember I think my first interview with candidate Trump when I was pushing back on this whole idea of taking the oil, and I said to him, you know, all the Iraqis who currently support the U.S., isn't taking their oil going to anger them and he -- the candidate Trump's response was there is no Iraq, there are no Iraqis, that it's not a unified country essentially.

Do you expect President Trump will now stop saying that the U.S. should or could take Iraq's oil? Because you can't overstate the daylight between, you know, him and Mattis on this. MICHAEL DORA, HUDSON INSTITUTE SENIOR FELLOW: No, I think we're seeing a pattern emerge on a lot of these issues, where whether it's torture, one state or two state solution with Israel, the oil in Iraq or, you know, the contribution to NATO, where the president allows himself to think out loud in ways that contradict what his principals are doing.

I think there's a method to this which we need to think about. Take, for instance, the NATO question. The last two administrations have complained about the Europeans not meeting their 2 percent contributions to NATO. I was in the Defense Department when I heard Bob Gates say very, very quietly but very, very bluntly to the Europeans that they had to start ponying up or the American people, we're going to take notice.

I think we're getting a very different kind of response from the Europeans now that they realize that hey, that might actually happen. So we have Mike Pence and we have Jim Mattis going out and speaking very, very, in comforting tones but behind them, they have Donald Trump saying something else. I think that actually empowers them.

COOPER: Interesting.

HERTLING: Wow. I got to say that's interesting Anderson, because if there is a method to it, it is pure madness, because having spent a good deal of my career overseas, this is not the kind of things you do to allies and expect them to get on board when you need them. There have been many times when our NATO and other European allies have actually come to our assistance. They may not be paying up and there was a plan that Mr. Gates put in place that they would eventually pay up their 2 percent of GDP.

So this goes against all leadership qualities of praising in public and actually condemning in private. This openness of insulting other nations is just contrary to how we do diplomacy.

COOPER: Doesn't -- I mean Mike, the idea of taking Iraq's oil, doesn't it play into every suspicion that many in Iraq already had about the United States, things that Al Assad (ph) was saying about the United States saying -- things that others were saying about it. And that you have the president -- that as president he continues to say maybe we will have another chance to take Iraq's oil.

DORAN: You know, what I worry about is the fact that over the last eight years, we have basically handed Iraq over to Iran. And Iran is taking Iraq's oil directly and indirectly.

COOPER: OK, but I understand your concern, but I'm just -- I'm asking you, do you think it's a wise -- do you wish the U.S. could take Iraq's oil? I mean is that something you --

DORAN: I wish the U.S. would take Iraq's oil away from Iran, absolutely.

COOPER: OK, what the president says take it, sell it and use the money to help wounded warriors in the United States. DORAN: No, look, look, look, I don't -- I don't want to support that policy, that as policy, as the president is saying it, but the president is putting his finger on the source of power in that part of the world and we have not paid adequate attention to the source of power and what the Iranians are doing with it.

COOPER: All right. Appreciate it. Michael Doran, you've been General Hertling as well.

Coming up, the vice president is also commenting publicly for the first time about revelations that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn misled him about his conversations with Russia's ambassador.

[20:40:05] The latest on his comments and the investigation into any possible Russia connection.


COOPER: The vice president has spoken publicly for the first time about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's resignation, as questions about Russian involvement in the election continue to swirl on several fronts. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto reports.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, for the first time, Vice President Pence publicly commenting on revelations that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn misled him about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

PENCE: I was disappointed to learn that the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate, but we honor General Flynn's long service to the United States of America and I fully support the president's decision to ask for his resignation.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Still, Democratic and Republican senators continue to criticize the Trump administration for being too soft on Russia. After the U.S. intelligence community concluded the Russians interfered in the 2016 election.

[20:45:01] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: My biggest concern with President Trump, and I want to help him where I can, is that he's never really looked the camera in the eye and said even though it was the Democratic Party that suffered, from Russian interference, I am now the leader of the free world, democracy in our backyard, and I can assure you they're going to pay a price on my watch for trying to interfere in our election.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The Senate Intelligence Committee has now formally requested that more than a dozen individuals and agencies including the Trump administration, preserve all information and communications relating to Russian interference in the election. The White House maintains the request is just a formality. REINCE PREIBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That doesn't mean that there's anything there. It just means they need to do some things to satisfy their committee and as long as they do their job and we cooperate with them, they'll issue a report and the report will say there's nothing there.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Still, several lines of investigation remain open, including repeated communications during the campaign between Trump advisers and Russian officials and others known to U.S. intelligence. CNN has reported.


COOPER: And Jim Sciutto joins us now from Washington. Where Reince Priebus saying, you know, it's a formality when the Senate Intelligence Committee asks you to preserve all documents. I mean he's right, it is a formality but it's a formality with a very real reason behind it. I mean the idea is preserving documents so that they can -- investigators can go over them all and see if there is something significant there.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. I mean it's a formality when your having an investigation. And this is a serious investigation with multiple lines of inquiry. One, General Flynn's communications with the Russian ambassador. Another, Trump teams communications -- the campaign's communications with Russians during the election as well as the larger issue of Russian interference in the election.

And the FBI Director Comey had a classified briefing for senators on that committee Friday and we know that several of those who were there, they left that meeting more, not less, committed to the need for investigation after hearing Anderson what he had to say.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Up next, Melania Trump joined her husband at the campaign style rally in Florida over the weekend. What she said to the crowd of supporters and what she plans to do as first lady? When we continue.


[20:50:44] COOPER: The First Lady Melania Trump hit back at her critics over the weekend. She made a rare public appearance with her husband at the rally on Saturday. And Mrs. Trump stepped up to the microphone, recited the Lord's prayer and then said this.


MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: I will always stay true to myself and be truthful to you, no matter what the opposition is saying about me.

I will act in the best interest of all of you. I'm committed to creating and supporting initiatives dear to my heart, which will have impact on women and children all around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: But she went on to say that President Trump is creating a country of great safety and prosperity. A key moment where she defended both her husband and herself, unlike the president, Melania Trump is in many ways to find expectation and setting her own path as first lady.

Joining us to talk it over, CNN contributor Kate Anderson Brown, author of "First Ladies" -- Brower I'm sorry. And CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley a professor and Rice University.

Kate, you wrote over the weekend, I saw in the "Guardian." You said that Melania Trump is, "rewritten the script for first ladies". What do you mean by that?

KATE ANDERSON BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm not sure she would define herself as a feminist, but in many ways what she is doing is kind of a feminine twist on being first lady. You know, Michelle Obama didn't want to move from Chicago initially, and her husband's advisers said you have no choice. And we had a lot reluctant first ladies in the past.

Melania Trump is really clearly saying that she doesn't want to fit into what our idea of what a first lady should be. And maybe there is, you know, something to gain from that. Maybe the role is kind of antiquated, and she's forcing us to reconsider it.

COOPER: Doug, I mean I don't know if people have actually criticizing her for that. I think it's kind of cool that she wants to live the life she wants to live and take care of her son and doesn't want to upset his schooling and stays in New York. I don't know why anyone would be critical of her not fulfilling, you know, the role as would have been done by say Michelle Obama. I mean plenty -- there have been first ladies in history who haven't really wanted to kind of play that kind of a role.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yeah, there have been plenty of first ladies. Bess Truman being one who she's liked going back to independence, Missouri as often as she could or play bridge and just stay away from the whole Washington circus.

I think the people that criticize Melania Trump are the people that don't like Donald Trump.

COOPER: Right.

BRINKLEY: And whatever she does isn't going to satisfy them. But so far she's done a pretty good job of staying out of harm's way, really, you know, and she's going to probably going to go on foreign trips, I would assume, with the president and when he goes to Europe or Russia and the like and make some buzz wherever she goes.

COOPER: It also -- I mean it takes first ladies a fair amount of time sometimes to figure out exactly what kind of role they want to have or what kind of -- you know, what kind of initiatives they want to focus on. I mean Melania Trump has talked about cyber bullying and things like that. But it's not as if every first lady, the first three weeks in office figures out exactly what they want to do.

BROWER: That, that's true. I mean, it took Michelle Obama about a year to come up with "Let's Move" to launch it, it was in February of 2010. And she also, you know, had a chief of staff who she let go in the summer of 2009. I mean, it's -- it is kind of a difficult role to find your footing in. So that's not unusual.

And I think people are pre-disposed to want to like the first lady. And one thing that I thing that we think we see with Melania Trump is she doesn't have a press secretary or communications director, someone who can kind of mold her image.

And so it would be wise for them to do that so there weren't all of these questions where people are filling in the blank about what she's really like. Her story is inspiring to people. And people who know her say she's very kind and likeable. And I think it would be wise for them to do more of that.

COOPER: Yeah, it's interesting Doug -- I mean, you know, I've interviewed her twice and that's really the only time I've ever met her. She's charming, she's very smart, she's very nice. And, you know, again I just think it's kind of nice that she is going to play the role as she wants to play it and not feel like she has to do it as somebody else has.

[20:55:12] BRINKLEY: Well, I hope she's able to find something the way Lady Bird Johnson was with beautification or Nancy Reagan with "No to Drugs." I'm not sure her cyber bully, posturing that when Donald Trump is talking about, you know, the enemy is the media and all's going to work with his mad Twitter and her saying don't cyber bully. So I think she needs to find a cause with children or women a she says that's credible and becomes a spokesperson on the timeframe and could do the direction she chooses.

COOPER: Kate Anderson Brower, appreciated it. Douglas Brinkley as well.

Much more ahead in the next hour of "360", including President Trump's pick for the next National Security Adviser decorated, outspoken Army Lieutenant General, the reaction from both sides of the aisle in a moment.


COOPER: Well topping this hour of "360", President Trump's pick for National Security Adviser, the sequel and the administration he'll be joining. Just among into his term, a week after showing his first National Security Adviser the door. The president name a successor he's Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, defense intellectual military historian and strategist.

He's someone with a record of speaking truth to power including a stinging critique in U.S. military leadership during the Vietnam War. And unlike his predecessor, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, General McMaster is drawing praise from Democrats as well as Republicans.

[21:00:04] We have details now from our Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Just before leaving Florida, President Trump unveiling a new National Security Adviser today. After a weekend of deliberations at Mar-a-Lago.