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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sources: FBI Investigation Continues into Computer Link Between Russian Bank and Trump Organization; FBI Chief Briefs Top Congressional Leaders; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 9, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. Thanks for joining us.
Tonight, were computer servers owned a Russian bank and the Trump Organization communicating with each other? And what if any connection does this have to the campaign and President Trump's tweet storm last week, accusing President Obama of tapping his phones?
We have no information about those questions and we'll speak with the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He and seven other House and Senate counterparts and members of the leadership met today with FBI Director James Comey. More on all that.
First, though, let's turn to the server story. CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown, and investigative reporter Jose Pagliery have been looking into it to start things off for us tonight.
Pamela, what have you learned about the investigation?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we learned that the FBI investigators and computer scientists continued to examine whether there is a computer connection between the Trump administration and a Russian bank called Alfa Bank. This is according to several sources familiar with the investigation.
Now, this is the same server mentioned in the Breitbart article that a White House official said sparked Trump's series of tweets last Saturday, accusing investigators at tapping his phone. CNN was told there was no FISA warrant on this server.
Questions about the connection between the server and the Russian bank were widely dismissed four months ago as an attempt to buy Alfa Bank to block spam. But, Anderson, we're learning that the FBI's counterintelligence team, the same one looking into Russia's suspected interference in the 2016 election is still examining it. And one official I spoke with said the server relationship is odd. It's seen as somewhat perplexing and investigators are not ignoring it, but the FBI still has a lot more work to do to determine what was behind the unusual activity and whether there was any significance to it.
The FBI declined to comment and the White House did not respond to our requests for comment, Anderson. COOPER: So, Jose, I mean, it's kind of confusing, explain what was
odd about these communications between this Russian bank --
JOSE PAGLIERY, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Sure, Anderson. This can get pretty technical fast. What's so odd about the communication here is that this Russian bank repeatedly looked up the unique Internet address of a particular computer server in the U.S. being used by the Trump administration. In the computer world, it's the equivalent of looking up someone's phone number, over and over and over again. And while there isn't necessarily a phone call, it usually indicates an intention to communicate, and that's according to several computer scientists we spoke to.
Now, a group of computer scientists who obtained these leaked Internet records, records they were never supposed to make public, they were puzzled as to why the Russian bank was doing this. Was it trying to send an email to the Trump Organization? These scientists just couldn't tell.
Now, last summer during the presidential campaign, the Russian bank looked up the address to this Trump corporate server some 2,800 times. That's more lookups than the Trump server received from any other source.
The only other entity curiously enough doing so many internet looks up for Trump server was Spectrum Health. That's a medical facility chain led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsy DeVos, who was later appointed by the president as U.S. education secretary.
Those two entities alone made up 99 percent of the lookups. And computer scientists we spoke to just found that plain weird.
All the corporations involved say they never communicated by email with the Trump Organization and they had different explanations fro the server activity, but they haven't provided any proof and they don't agree to what the explanation is. For example, the Russian bank thinks it was receiving Trump Hotel marketing last summer, but it hasn't provided CNN with a single email to back up that theory. Meanwhile, the American marketing company that would have been sending Trump e-mails said it wasn't doing that at the time. And Alfa Bank, for its part stressed that not a single executive has not had any affiliation at all with the president or the Trump Organization.
Their statement says that "Neither Alfa Bank nor its principals, including Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, have or have any contact with Mr. Trump or his organizations."
So, this potential computer link remains a mystery.
COOPER: Pamela Brown, thanks so much. Jose Pagliery, thanks so much.
So as that story was breaking late this afternoon, FBI Director James Comey was briefing members of the so-called "Gang of Eight", which consists of the House and Senate leadership, as well as the chairman and the ranking members of the two congressional intelligence committees. CNN's Manu Raju joins me now from the Capitol with that.
So, what do we know about the briefing? Do we know at all what was discussed?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESIONAL REPORTER: We know they talked about Russia, Anderson, part of this growing investigation that's happening on Capitol Hill into Russia, as well as the FBI inquiry that's happening, about Russia's attempts to influence the election, and whether or not there were any improper contacts that occurred between Trump's associates and people who are tied to the Kremlin in any way.
Now, emerging from the briefing, all eight of these members who get the most sensitive information on Capitol Hill were closed lip. They would not answer a single question. But they had an opportunity to also ask Comey about an issue that he has been in the middle of since Donald Trump tweeted over the weekend he was spied on by President Obama, we have learned that Comey himself was upset at those tweets and actually asked the main Justice Department to knock down the story that there was perhaps spying that was going on.
[20:05:04] So, this was an opportunity for the members themselves to ask if there was any evidence of Donald Trump's claims to have been spied on, we don't know the answer quite yet. But, clearly, an opportunity to look into that and also the broader issue of Russia, which is at the heart of what members of Congress are looking into right now.
COOPER: And March 20th, Comey is going to be testifying publicly, correct?
RAJU: That is right. But it will be the first public hearing, too, Anderson of the House Intelligence Committee with a number of other members, intelligence officials to talk about these issues further. And Adam Schiff, the top Democrat, wants to press Comey on this issue.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, in terms of the congressional investigations, what is the latest there? Where do they stand?
RAJU: Well, right now members in the House and Senate who sit on the intelligence committee are heading to Virginia to comb through raw data that the CIA is providing about what happened during the elections. And what I'm told from a number of senators who sit on the committee they have learned a lot about the Russian attempts to influence the elections.
But one thing they're trying to do is figure out whether or not those Trump associates in any way colluded or coordinated to help influence the election or tried to work with the Russians in any way, which is one reason why I am told by a number of these senators, they want to hear directly from Trump officials who apparently had discussions with Russian officials during the campaign, including Paul Manafort, the former campaign committee manager, as well as Michael Flynn, who was the national security adviser who resigned recently after the discussions with the Russian ambassador came to light. So, they're even open, Anderson, to the issuing of subpoenas to have
them testify and answer the questions in closed door setting if they do not agree to the committee's request to talk to them.
And other thing, Anderson, tax returns also on the issue. Some members of the Democrats and Republicans want to get Donald Trump's tax returns to see if there's any financial ties to Russia. Something also they may try to subpoena, may be difficult to achieve but something they are looking at also, Anderson.
COOPER: Manu Raju, thanks very much.
Manu just mentioned California Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. I spoke to him late this afternoon. When I spoke to him, Director Comey had met with the congressman's Senate counterparts.
COOPER: Congressman Schiff, I want to get your reaction to this new CNN reporting that federal investigators and computer scientists continued to examine whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump administration and a Russian bank and that is according to sources close to the investigation.
Do you know anything about that?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I can only say this. I'm certainly aware of the public reports going back now some months about an alleged connection between Alfa Bank servers and potentially a server linked with the Trump administration. And I can say, you know, what I think the questions we ought to be requesting in the committee, I can't tell you what answers we may or may not be receiving.
But I think we need to ask, are these allegations credible? Have the allegations been investigated by authorities? If so, what have they found? Did they reach a conclusion or is that investigation still ongoing? What leads remain to be tracked down?
So, these are the kind of questions that our committee ought to be asking. But again, I can't go into anything that we are able to find out into the conclusion of the investigation.
COOPER: But, I mean, there are -- can you -- I mean, it certainly seems as if there could be a completely benign explanation for this.
SCHIFF: You know, I certainly reserve judgment in terms of whether this is completely benign or whether there is something more here. That is exactly I think what we need to determine.
And, you know, this Alfa Bank issue is just one of many issues that we have been reading about in the open press for some months now. And again, I don't think we want to predetermine where the conclusion will be. And what merit any of these allegations have. But if they are credible, then I think it's our responsibility on the
committee to determine whether they have been adequately vetted. What we know and whether there is further investigation that needs to be done.
COOPER: CNN has also told, I want to be precise about the reporting, that the server issue surface again this weekend, mentioned in a Breitbart article that sparked President Trump's series of tweets, accusing investigators of tapping his phone, President Obama tapping his phone. Does any of that, or if you can say, does any of that align with what you believe the president's motivations were for lashing out at former President Obama?
SCHIFF: Anderson, I can only say I have really no idea what caused President Trump to assert that his predecessor was engaged in that kind of criminality. It seems completely divorced from reality. So, I have really no idea where this came from.
And I think it's pretty clear that that's true of my Republican colleagues as well and indeed many in the White House. You know, when Sean Spicer doesn't want to talk about it, not even he can spin this kind of specious allegation.
[20:10:01] COOPER: You think that's why the White House is saying, look, we're not going to talk about this any more, it's going to be investigated by Congress?
SCHIFF: Absolutely. I think, you know, they have no way to defend these remarks. They were so incendiary and out of bounds, the best they could do is say, let's give it to the investigative committees and please don't ask us about it any more.
But, you know, as I mentioned before, be careful what you wish for. We're going to have an open hearing now, this will be one of the topics we'll be able to ask the director of the FBI very directly. If, in fact, he wanted the Justice Department to refute this and they were unwilling, he will have the opportunity to do it himself.
COOPER: Yes. That open hearing is obviously going to be March 20th. CNN's reporting that Director Comey is in the process of meeting with the so-called "Gang of Eight", the highest ranking member from Congress, read in on intelligence matters. I know there is certainly a lot you cannot discuss about that.
I do have to ask -- what do you want to ask him about President Trump's wiretap accusation?
SCHIFF: Well, I can't you know at all comment on the "Gang of Eight" meetings. I can say, you know, in terms of what we look for in terms of from the director, from the FBI, both in committee and as generally as a member of the "Gang of Eight", as a general matter as part of the "Gang of Eight", we want to be informed on a periodic basis of the most significant counterintelligence investigations going on in the country. That is by agreement of the Congress and the bureau, that is the practice, and we want to make sure that is adhered to and is complete. In terms of the committee, there is no way that we can discharge our
responsibilities if the FBI isn't willing to cooperate with us and tell us about any counterintelligence investigation that is going on or has gone on that's within the scope of our investigative responsibility. So, that's a point underscored with the director, and it's my hope when he comes back to the committee, we'll have a fulsome discussion of what, if any, issues the FBI has looked into it.
COOPER: Congressman Schiff, appreciate your time. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Let's bring in the panel. Trump supporter and "American Spectator" contributing editor, Jeffrey Lord. Also CNN political analysts Gloria Borger and Kirsten Powers. Former South Carolina Democratic state legislator, Bakari Sellers, is here. And from Silicon Valley, Rod Beckstrom, who's former director of the National Cybersecurity Center at the Department of Homeland Security.
Rod, let me start with you. I mean, you're the cyber expert. Does this server activity between this Russian bank and the Trump organization, does it seem odd to you in any way? That's the word that was being used by one of CNN's sources.
ROD BECKSTROM, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS NATIONAL CYBERSECURITY CENTER: It does seem odd, and especially, there are a few points here that just don't line up with conventional Internet traffic and how the DNS behaves. So, let me pick on one of those very quickly.
For example, the allegation is that these were just requests sent via the DNS from Alfa Bank back to the Trump Organization, maybe in response to spam. That argument doesn't hold water for me, Cooper, because if there was spam being sent out by a Trump Organization, it would have gone to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. And Trend Micro has millions of customers, and all of those installations or many of them would have been sending queries back to that Trump Organization server.
So, these lookups, these lookups to see who the organization was, that should have been coming from all over the world. It doesn't quite line up for me, even though I respect Mandiant as a firm, FireEye is absolutely professional, but this is a question I think needs to be drilled on, which why weren't other Trend Micro systems sending that messages at the same time in that time period?
COOPER: OK, it's confusing for folks like me who are not computer experts and who are in fact morons when it comes to computers. So, just try to dumb it down a little for me.
COOPER: But -- if -- I mean, my understanding is this bank was sending something like 2,800 sort of basically requests for a phone number or lookups to this Trump Organization server -- BECKSTROM: Exactly.
COOPER: -- why would a bank do that? Why would anybody need to send so many?
BECKSTROM: Sure, a reason would be if a bank employee of Alfa Bank set up, used their corporate e-mail address, like Sergey@alfabank.ru or whatever the address is, if they set up an e-mail account and registered at a Trump Hotel program or something else to receive information, if that spam came in, then it would be going to the bank's server. So, anyone that uses a company email address to register for hotel programs or anything else could receive spam from different parties.
Again, I don't know how this Trump e-mail account is being used, but that would be an example.
COOPER: But then, why would the bank be sort of connected? Because they're not sure who the spam is coming, so for security, they want to check, and so, that's why I guess they're pinging the Trump server?
BECKSTROM: Exactly, exactly. That's right. So, you know, they're trying to figure out is it spam or a Trojan horse or malware, in orders, like a phishing attempt getting somebody to click on something that may not be coming from the Trump administration but might be coming from a hacker who sent the fake e-mail, like the fake bank e- mails and spear phishing attempts.
So, it's legitimate to do, but it's natural to do 2,800 times.
[20:15:04] It's very unnatural. It would only come from one bank in the world, when supposedly this a response to spam that should have gone all over the world. So, it just raises questions, there are areas I have questions where the story doesn't quite line up. You know, the information doesn't line up from what we expect as normal.
COOPER: Would you expect -- if computer experts had been able to find this sort of pinging, would they be able to find if there was e-mail trafficking between the bank and some --
BECKSTROM: Potentially, potentially. So, you know, a lookup is one specific type of what we call DNS query.
COOPER: What is DNS?
BECKSTROM: DNS is the domain name system. So, you know, the way the Internet works, we type in a domain name like CNN.com. The domain name system converts that to an Internet protocol address, the long address of numbers, and that's what to use like the postage system between the servers on the Internet to simplify.
But here's what I do want to mention, so people understand how can this DNS information be captured by different parties. That query went from Alfa Bank and it went to the Trump Organization server that I think was in Pennsylvania. And who has requested, who is it, had to go to VeriSign, which is the registry of dotcom. So, all the dotcom names in the world are held in the VeriSign registry. They respond to that question, by the way.
So, by that query, it hops through the Internet, it might have gone through, the servers in Moscow, servers in the Netherlands, servers in New York, before it got to Pennsylvania. Anyone in the middle could grab that -- can keep a record of that DNS query. And that's presumably where this data came from.
Some parties were keeping logs, what we call record logs of the DNS queries, they saw this traffic and then they began to work together. So, but it's -- it's just little bit odd that there is so much traffic from this one bank and not from other places.
COOPER: Yes, go ahead. You said there was one other thing.
BECKSTROM: Yes, the other thing I want to mention is if there was -- if this was a real intelligence operation of any sort or any sophisticated hacker, they would never be doing 2,800 lookups. So, in terms of a theory that maybe this is about some, you know, conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump political campaign, you know that is hard to believe, too, because any hacker worth their salt wouldn't do a lookup 2,800 times. Once is enough.
BECKSTROM: And they cover their tracks on that.
COOPER: Right, I was going to say. If somebody in that bank is trying to cover their tracks and have a secret channel to someone else, this is not the way to do it.
BECKSTROM: Exactly right, they would be using a VPN, a virtual private network, or they'd be trying to hide and obfuscate this activity, which is not the case. So, that suggests here that, you know, kind of argues any suggestion that there was, you know, malfeasance here. But, again, the whole thing is a little bit odd. So, it's an interesting story to tease into.
COOPER: Yes, we're going to have to take a quick break. We're going to pick this up with the rest of the panel when we come back.
Later, breaking news on the sequel to the travel ban. New legal actions to try to block it, which will tell about tonight on 360.
[20:21:14] COOPER: Returning to breaking news lead, our investigative reporters Pam Brown and Jose Pagliery learned FBI investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there was a computer connection between the Trump organization and a Russian bank called Alfa Bank. That's according to our sources familiar with the investigation. There's that. And late afternoon classified briefings by FBI Chief James Comey to House and Senate leaders. We don't know many details, but as our Manu Raju just reported, we know obviously, it concerned Russia. So, there are a lot of questions, which is why we're turning back to our panel.
How important is it to hear you think for the public to hear from James Comey, because they're going to have that opportunity March 20th at this open hearing?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's very important. And first of all, it's important for the so-called "Gang of Eight", this House and Senate leaders who have special clearance for them to hear from Comey, too, because they have been complaining that he has basically been stonewalling them to a certain degree.
And once Donald Trump tweeted last week, I think he lit a fire under members of the House and Senate. And both parties saying look, we don't know enough about any of this. And gave them an opportunity to call Comey in and say, you know what, we need to learn a little more. And so, that's why they're putting him in a public hearing.
The Democrats in particular haven't forgotten that he was very public about the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation during the campaign. And they sort of believe that he ought to be very forthcoming to the American public about this, and particularly about whether, in fact, Donald Trump may be under some sort of investigation and whether in fact, Barack Obama actually wiretapped him.
COOPER: You know, Kirsten, what are the stakes for the Democrats and Republicans? I mean, there are a lot of people with very high expectations on what some of these committees may discover and it's very possibly there might not be any there there. I mean, there are smoke trails but no fire.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. I think the stakes are really high because, you know, there are certainly a lot of accusations that have been made and there are a lot of different things that happened that have raised questions. But we don't know, if there is smoke, is there necessarily fire. Even in the latest example with the server.
You know, I mean, this is way, way, way above my pay grade, first of all, the server stuff. But if you think about it, really the Trump administration even if they did communicate with the bank in Russia, in itself is not nefarious.
POWERS: I mean, Trump has said he hasn't done business there. That doesn't mean they didn't want to. So, we have to sort of wait and see and get all the facts before we actually know whether there's something here to be concerned about.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Bakari, are you concerned the Democrats basically are kind of over-playing their hand? BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not at all. I think that
there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. But even more importantly, what we also know is that this White House and this president have gone out of their way to erode their own credibility.
I mean, when Donald Trump makes comments about the president wiretapping him, it puts people in the mode of birtherism 2. It puts people in the mode of when Barack Obama created and founded ISIS in Donald Trump's own words and this litany of lies that continue to come from the president's mouth. So, he has no credibility.
So, a lot of Democrats and the greatest twist of irony I think that's probably going to be ever written are now looking to James Comey as this somehow independent arbiter of truth and just trying to see what happened.
When I say that the president lied, I want to be clear, because when you're talking about that or chastising the leader of the free world, I think you owe it to the audience to -- for you to explain what you mean. The president, the vice president, the chief of staff, his press secretary, Kellyanne Conway, have all gone out of their way to say that the campaign had no contact with Russia. Those words came out of their mouth.
But now we know J.D. Gordon, Carter Page, the Trump children, we know that Ambassador Flynn, Jeff Sessions all have had contacts. And so, there is not a lot of credibility that that president and his White House have and they eroded it themselves.
[20:25:02] So, as Democrats, it's OK to say we simply want answers.
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think if we're going to go down this road let's go down this. Nancy Pelosi said she never had met with the Russian ambassador, and then out pops the picture of Nancy Pelosi with the Russian ambassador. I mean, ambassadors in Washington are like actors of Hollywood. They are everywhere. If you haven't met an ambassador in your lifetime in Washington, D.C., then you have -- and you're an elected official, or you in some, you have no business --
COOPER: But you do have -- I mean, you know, Flynn talking on the phone to the Russian ambassador --
LORD: Who called who?
COOPER: Yes, but on the same day where the biggest story in the country is about hacking and basically --
LORD: Let's get this out there and investigate. Let's open up the whole thing. I mean, all of the business with computers and servers. Let's investigate the servers of members of Congress.
I mean, how many contacts did they have with Russia?
SELLERS: But I think you're just conflating the problems that many Americans have, because it's not necessarily the fact that Jeff Sessions, whether or not he was a senator or member of the campaign, met with the ambassador to Russia. It's not the fact that Michael Flynn had a conversation with the ambassador to Russia. The problem is that they lied about those conversations --
LORD: No, Jeff Sessions did not lie about this. He absolutely did not lie about this. His answer --
SELLERS: The most least memorable ambassador --
SELLERS: -- about a CNN report. His answer was in relation to a question about a CNN report. And that is -- that was --
COOPER: But, Jeffrey, the argument that he didn't meet with him as a surrogate of the Trump administration, he met with him as a senator, so therefore, that's why he answered no, I didn't meet with him because he was speaking -- I mean, that's like saying that you and I have only met when you're a political analyst Trump supporter, but have I met you as somebody who used to work in the Reagan White House? No, I only you met under the auspices of you sitting at this table and therefore, I've never actually met you?
BORGER: But it's not if you met him, it's what you said to each other. It's not just I ran into the Russian ambassador who was at a speech I gave. It was as, what was your conversation with him? And in fact, Jeff Sessions seemed to recall a lot about the ambassador during his press conference which he couldn't recall even --
COOPER: We have a lot more to talk about ahead, including the Republican's revolt over the GOP health care bill, and efforts by Speaker Paul Ryan and the president to make what is turning into a tough sell.
[20:31:23] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare cleared two key house committees today, both votes came after marathon debates, one lasting 27 hours, the other 18. House Speaker Paul Ryan has scheduled a final vote for the week of March 20th. The bill was introduced just three days ago, straight out the gate. It's obviously faced some intense opposition. Some of major medical associations, you see that they're on hospital groups who've slammed it along with groups representing seniors, insurers.
Today the top Medicaid official broke who is an Obama appointee, I should point out, broke with his own party tweeting in support of some of those groups saying, "Despite political messaging from others at HHS, I align with the experts from AAFP, AmerAcadPeds," and well, you can read it yourself, "in opposition to AHCA." Now, most democrats oppose the plan, but some of the bill's fiercest critics are republicans. And there is late word tonight that the White House is lining up on conservative's calls to rollback Obamacare's Medicaid expansion sooner than the GOP bill current calls for. That's the son of the president who campaigned on his deal- making skills, may be ready to cut some deals to clinch the top sale. Jim Acosta has the details.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDET (voice-over): Making only brief appearances in front of the cameras, President Trump is scrambling behind closed doors along with tapped republicans to sell the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare --
PRES. DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Okay, thank you very much.
ACOSTA: -- Tweeting, "Despite what you hear in the press, health care is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture.
But that's not the picture painted by conservative critics, from Tom Cotton, who tweeted, "To my friends in the house, pause, start over. Get it right, don't get it fast." To tea party groups, they call the proposal "Obamacare lite".
TIM PHILLIPS, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: They're not going to fully repealing Obamacare. If they vote for the house plan, that was put forward just a couple of days ago. They're going to be breaking their word to the American people.
ACOSTA: Part of the frustration, the White House and republican leaders are trying to race the plan through congress, moving the bill through two house committees before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has a chance to estimate the proposal's costs, a CBO score the senate majority wants to see.
The White House insists there is no rush.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not jamming this down people's throat. We're welcoming ideas and thoughts. We think this is a great vehicle to restore a patient-centered health care bill, to drive down costs.
ACOSTA: House Speaker Paul Ryan wore the message of urgency on his rolled up sleeves, prodding lawmakers by PowerPoint.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Let's get into why this needs to happen and why it needs to happen now. Options are disappearing fast. This law is in the middle of a collapse and people are quickly losing their choices.
ACOSTA: President Trump wore the group of rebellious tea party leaders. At the White House, they're helping their opponents. But sources tell CNN the president told the conservatives, "If the GOP effort fails, he plans to let Obamacare collapse and then blame democrats," who dismissed the White House strategy.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Well, you know, it's indicative about the fact that the president really doesn't know what he is talking about when he talks about Affordable Care Act.
COOPER: That was Jim Acosta reporting.
A lot to discuss with panel. Kirsten, when you hear this idea of President Trump letting it just collapse, he says and blaming it on democrats, what do you make of it?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know really what he is talking about. I mean it's not -- if he doesn't do something then the plan will continue to stay in place and people will continue to have health care.
So I guess it only works if you buy into the idea that Obamacare is imploding. I think there are problems with Obamacare. There's no question. And they're at the areas that they could probably make it better, but it's actually not spiraling out of control or in a depth spiral, as I think Paul Ryan said today.
[20:35:00] It seemed that Paul Ryan's most important message today was this is our only chance. This is our last chance. If we don't do it now, it will never happen. And so he seems to be trying to implore conservatives to just do something, even though the plan that he has, they don't like it and they don't really even believe in the idea of a moral imperative for health care anyway. They think it's something that free market should be handling. And so the more that they try to appease the tea party members or the freedom caucus, the harder it is to go through the senate.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: One of the things about that comment that struck me is that Donald Trump still -- and to quote what a member of his own caucus said, party said that he is still a neophyte to politics because that's not how the blame game works, the blame is actually going to rest on the republican president, the republican house and the republican senate. It's not going to all of a sudden fall on democrats because the republicans who are controlled could not get something passed.
There's also a bit of irony in that. The best parts about this bill, keeping kids on their insurance until they're 26, the Medicaid expansion that people are talking about, especially those moderate senators in Ohio and other places, and also the fact we have maternity care and pre-natal care, all of those things come from Obamacare. And I think that the Republican Party is having a hard time, even after six or seven years coming up with the plan this palatable to the American people.
The facts are, we have the lowest abortion rates in the history of the country. We have the lowest uninsured rate in the history of the country. Obamacare has problems. Any democrat that tells you Obamacare doesn't have problems is not awake. It needs to be fixed. However, there are many good things to come from it and this repeal and replace is an absolute wrong topic.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And the notion they're not trying to push this through is ridiculous. They are. They don't want to go home for another break and get besieged by their constituents when they haven't actually done something, and they also want to put it in a budget bill so they can pass it with 50 votes as opposed to a super majority. And so they are trying to pass it through. I mean when else would you pass a major life-changing piece of legislation like this without knowing what it costs?
COOPER: What do you make of the idea? I mean that the White House is looking basically to get behind this idea of rolling back the Medicaid expansion sooner than the GOP bill?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they're listening to conservatives. And Anderson, I have to tell you, I'm a little baffled here. I mean this has been on the republican agenda for eight years. And it would seem to me, election won, election over, that these members of congress should have gotten all of these people, the conservatives, the moderates, whatever, republicans in a room and hammer this out so that on day one this proposal was out there.
That is clearly not what happened. And what further baffles me, I mean, I'm a regular listener to my friend Sean Hannity's radio show and I'm listening to the freedom caucus say they didn't see this, they didn't get the stuff. I'm listening to speaker Ryan say, "Oh, well, they were all involved." I have no idea what's going on here. And that, at the end of the day, is a bad thing here. They should have their act together and then the president should step in and go with it.
POWERS: But I think they met a calculus that they couldn't get them to come together, because they're such ideological disagreement among the caucus. And so they made this decision that the only way they could have any chance is just to do exactly what they're doing, it's to put the bill out and try to strong arm people into supporting it, because if they'd all gotten in the room, they would have all just been yelling at each other and disagreeing with each other.
LORD: Well, but that's how you hammer out different systems.
SELLERS: But the talking points here and the messaging game is vastly different now because the democrats are now learning how to become an opposition party and the republicans are trying to figure out how to govern, to steal a paraphrase from Paul Ryan.
LORD: It's just Ryan's point.
SELLERS: But the fact is, the president himself, this is very simple to me, the president himself said he's going to put forward a plan that covers all Americans. Those are words that came out of his mouth. We now know this plan is going to cover 6 to 10 million fewer individuals. And we don't even know how much it cost. The Democratic Party rushed this thing through. I will admit, in 2008 rushed it through, the vote was on Christmas Eve, it was on December 24th, they're voting on March 20th. I mean we had over 100 hearings and we had witnesses testified for the entire year.
BORGER: That wasn't rushed.
SELLERS: Well, that's my point.
BORGER: And the point is republicans have never agreed on health care, to your point. They've been all over the place. John Boehner knows it. That's why he is not the Speaker of the House anymore.
So they have never. So they knew they had these differences going in. And the question is whether you can assuage conservatives by saying, "OK, on Medicaid, it's going to kick in two years earlier." The governors are going to go nuts over this.
COOPER: We got to take a break. Up next, we have more breaking news over on President Trump's travel ban. The Attorney General of Washington State is back asking a federal judge to action. Now, he's the one who got to judge the halls (ph) at the last time. After the break he joins us to explain why he's trying again.
[20:43:17] COOPER: A new legal showdown over President Trump's new travel ban. Tonight, Washington State is asking a federal judge to apply the temporary injunction issued last month on the president's initial travel ban to the revised one.
President Trump signed the tweak ban on Monday. The new restriction is taking effect a week from today. Under the order, travelers from six Muslim majority countries will be banned for 90 days. Iraq is no longer on the list. Also refugees would be banned for 120 days, and valid visa and green card holders are exempted from the new order.
Now Washington State believes even with the changes, there are still legal flaws with the travel ban. So let's go to Seattle talk it over to Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Great to see you again.
So, why should the restraining order on the previous executive order apply to the new? Because, clearly, this White House sought to basically bulletproof it by taking out some of the things the judge objected to?
BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. Thanks for having me on, Anderson. And the short answer is that two of the key provisions of the travel ban, that is the refugee ban and now the six- nation ban, if you compare the original executive order with the revised one, the language is virtually identical. So as a result while the new ban has narrowed the scope of people impacted by it, those provisions still are in place and they still negatively impact the people of my state. Therefore, our view is that the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Robart about a month ago is still in place and applies to the new executive order.
COOPER: So will you have some of the same businesses backing you up as you had the first time?
FERGUSON: Yeah, it's premature to say we're obviously in touch with businesses like Expedia and Amazon, and many other tech companies who are instrumental in our earlier briefing. We're also talking to our colleges and our universities. As you can imagine, things are pretty fluid and happening quickly. But, yes, our plan is you'll see similar arguments from us, and if we have another hearing before Judge Robart as you heard before.
[20:45:04] COOPER: So you essentially are essentially arguing that this is a Muslim ban?
FERGUSON: Yeah, essentially, that's exactly right. And you don't have to take my word for that, just look at the very words that Donald Trump said when he was campaigning for president. He said he was going to enact a Muslim ban. Rudy Giuliani went on national T.V. and said the president was asking him to create a Muslim ban, but just to make it legal. And that's just what we know publicly. Throughout this litigation, we look forward to, as you know, getting more documents, e-mails, taking the oppositions to further strengthen our case that this really is effectively a Muslim ban.
COOPER: And this is different what Washington State is doing, you're not joining them in the lawsuit. Oh, I'm sorry, Hawaii.
FERGUSON: No. So Hawaii is something separate. They're seeking a temporary restraining order. Our argument of course is that we already have one, that Judge Robart has on place and that the president can't simply say it no longer applies because he's cleaned up some parts of it. That's our argument. We've not been joined by Oregon and New York, and Massachusetts had announced today they're joining our litigation as well. So we really feel the coalition is joining them.
COOPER: All right. I want to bring in Jeff Toobin who I think also probably has some questions for you.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Bob, you have -- the administration has made clear that the reason these six countries were chosen was that they have either supported terrorism or have no functioning government, so we can't know who is coming here. Why aren't those legitimate reasons to bar their refugees?
FERGUSON: Well, you can look at Homeland Security, right? They issued a report that was made public not very long ago that said national origin is not a particularly good basis for determining national security. And moreover, yes, they're now to put forth in their view some evidence, but we believe the evidence is quite strong that in fact the motivation truly behind this, at least one part of it, was the Muslim ban. And so moreover, we have declarations from a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts, including the former CIA Director, of course that's George W. Bush, saying this will be a negative for national security.
TOOBIN: But why should we trust a judge to protect national security instead of the people who are charged with defending national security? The secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, they're the ones with access to the current information. Why aren't their views more better to rely on than some judge sitting in Seattle?
FERGUSON: That's an important question. There is great deference, as you well know, given to any president with executive orders. That's the way this -- our system works. But those powers despite what the Department of Justice has argued are not unreviewable. And just to be clear to your viewers, the federal government is arguing, their lawyers are arguing, the president is arguing that no court can examine what the president is doing. And that is not the law. Has never been the law and cannot be the law. It's entirely within the court's prerogative to look behind the intent of an order like this. Yes, does the president have broad authority? Absolutely, but it is not unreviewable despite what the president says. And their argument's bad effect has been struck down repeatedly by the federal courts out here.
COOPER: Jeff, the other day when the president made this new executive order, you felt that he had done a pretty good job of making it much more likely like that?
TOOBIN: Fixing the problems. Yes, I still think this is a close case. I thought the original one was a close case. But certainly, I think the administration has helped its cause with the revisions and also just the way the report has been packaged as a more reasonable comprehensive executive order. But you know, I think Washington may win, too. It's a close call. I guess one thing I find a little odd about this is, you know, using the president's words in the campaign as evidence in the case, isn't that very unusual? I don't think I have ever seen that in any case.
FERGUSON: Well, it's an unusual case in the first instance, right? We have a president and an important policy that is impacting thousands of people across the country, but for any case like this where you're trying to get behind the intent of any action taken by a defendant, it is entirely appropriate. It happens all the time in courts across the country that you are allowed to look behind the motivation behind any particular action. There is nothing especially unusual about that concept. What is, I grant you, somewhat unique here is that we're talking about the president of the United States, but, hey, President Obama's executive action on immigration reform was struck down by the courts. These things happen and courts are allowed to look at these orders.
Attorney General Ferguson, thanks very much. We'll obviously continue to follow it, Jeff Toobin as well.
Just ahead, America Uncovered, two Trump voters who face serious health issues weigh in on the GOP health care bill, and why there are worries based on what they've seen so far.
[20:52:39] COOPER: What's important for us to hear from a lot of different voices on this program, outside of beltway beyond the cost, especially on the issue of like health care. President Trump promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with better cheaper health care. Many Trump voters backed him because of that promise. And with the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare now in the table, we wanted to find out if some Trump supporters are worried or in support of it. In America Uncovered tonight, Gary Tuchman heads to Kentucky.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kathy Oller of London, Kentucky has a unique story to tell with a few interesting twists and it starts where she works. It's at a health care company that helps sign up people for Obamacare.
(on camera): In your nearly four years working as an outreach worker for healthcare.gov, how many people have you signed up for Obamacare?
KATHY OLLER, TRUMP VOTER AND HEALTH CARE ADVOCATE: I would say over 1,000.
TUCHMAN: What's interesting is you're not a big fan of Obamacare?
OLLER: Oh, I liked Obamacare but I'm not a fan of what it's became.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Kathy has a serious vertigo condition. Her husband Mike is currently fighting cancer. Higher deductibles and premiums and fewer choices have left Kathy and many here in Appalachia disillusioned with Obamacare, and that's where things take an interesting turn.
(on camera): Who did you vote for president?
OLLER: This year, Trump.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): You heard that right. Kathy who registers people for Obamacare voted for President Trump. She liked Donald Trump for many reasons including his pledge to replace Obamacare with something better but --
(on camera): On the campaign trail Donald Trump said his plans would be better, cheaper, his goal was a beautiful thing to see. From what you've seen so far, is it a beautiful thing to see?
OLLER: No, because of the cost and it's the middle age, not that I'm middle-aged, but it's really effecting because we need the care now.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Bobbi Smith is one of the people Kathy Oller helped sign up for Obamacare, just before a very difficult time in her life.
BOBBI SMITH, TRUMP VOTER: I'm glad I had it when I had the breast cancer surgery. TUCHMAN: Bobby owns an antique shop in the nearby town of Corbin, Kentucky. She's in remission, works full-time and makes just enough money to make ends meet. She, too, voted for Donald Trump.
[20:54:58] (on camera): So when he said he would have a better health care plan, did you believe that he would follow through with that?
SMITH: Yes, I did.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But now she, too, is concerned with older and sicker Americans who will have to pay more under this plan, the way it looks now.
(on-camera): As a cancer survivor, it's been one year since you were diagnosed and had your procedure done, what would it like to not have insurance if it was unaffordable for you?
SMITH: It would be stressful. Because I would always wonder if it was there and I couldn't afford to have it treated.
TUCHMAN: Do you see that as a possibility if the rates go any higher than you pay today?
SMITH: Yes, I did.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Both Bobbi and Kathy say they still support Donald Trump. And hope he's flexible about making changes to this new health plan.
(on camera): So what would you say to Donald Trump?
OLLER: Why don't we sit down and get a committee that works and knows the pros and cons. Working class people that have walked the walk.
TUCHMAN: So people like you?
COOPER: Gary, what is the woman who had breast cancer plan to do if she can't afford insurance under the new plan?
TUCHMAN: Anderson, Bobbi Smith is pretty unequivocal about it. She cannot afford much more. So she's preparing herself to the possibility of not having insurance. And she tells me -- she literally told me she will cross her fingers for three years because she's 62 and when he becomes 65 she's then eligible for Medicare, Anderson.
COOPER: Gary Tuchman, thanks for that. I appreciate it.
Much more ahead on 360, including the question surrounding computer servers owned by a Russian bank in the Trump organization. Were they talking to each other? New information tonight.
[21:00:06] COOPER: Well, topping this hour of 360, were computer servers owned by a Russian bank and the Trump organization communicating?