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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
American Dies After Returning from North Korea in Coma; Off- Camera, No Audio Allowed of White House Briefing; House Dems: Flynn Failed to Disclose Trip on Russia Deal; Sean Spicer Out as White House Press Secretary? Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 19, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
[20:00:00] We begin tonight with the culmination of the nightmare that began more than a year and a half ago when University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea. At some point during that sentence, the North Koreans say he became ill, then fell into a coma.
He came home just last week. He died this afternoon. Otto Warmbier was just 22 years old.
The questions surrounding his detention and purported illness, which have been growing since his return, show no signs of fading.
The latest now from CNN's Miguel Marquez who joins us -- Miguel.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening there, Anderson.
The body of Otto Warmbier is now in the hands of the Hamilton County medical examiner. There may be a post-mortem try to answer some of those many questions surrounding his death. The family of Otto Warmbier is certainly livid with the North Korean government. President Trump took a hand in helping get him back himself.
And tonight, a U.S. senator Marco Rubio has called his death murder.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Back on American soil, incapacitated after 17 months in a North Korean prison. His father's first words to his son --
FRED WARMBIER, OTTO WARMBIER'S FATHER: What did I say to my son? I knelt down by his side, and I hugged him. And I told him I missed him and I was so glad that he made it home.
MARQUEZ: But the 22-year-old was in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. Not quite a full coma, but damage throughout his brain, rendering him able to blink and at times move but there was nothing left of the adventurous young man that had departed nearly two years earlier. WARMBIER: Otto, I love you and I'm so crazy about you and I'm so glad
you're home. You are such a great guy.
MARQUEZ: The North Korean government claimed Warmbier, just over a year ago, contracted botulism, took a sleeping pill, and fell into what they called a coma. A North Korean MRI appeared to confirm the damage to his brain occurred around March or April 2016, shortly after his conviction.
Doctors at the University of Cincinnati found no indication of botulism or physical trauma that could have caused the injury.
DR. DANIEL KANTER, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI NEUROSCIENCE INSTITUTE: Among the battery of tests we've performed, we examined all the long bones of the body, a skeletal survey. In those scans, we see no evidence of an acute or healing fracture, including the skull.
MARQUEZ: Today, a statement by the Warmbier family read in part: Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment of our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.
The last time Fred Warmbier saw his son in good health, 17 months ago giving this emotional and likely forced statement in North Korea, admitting his guilt.
He was accused and tried for hostile acts after the North Korean government claimed he took down a propaganda poster in the hotel where he was staying on the night before he was to depart the country.
This video provided to CNN by the Warmbier family shows Otto in North Korea with his tour group, no indication of any hostile acts toward North Korea, just a young man experiencing the world.
COOPER: Miguel, has there been any reaction from the Trump administration? And do we know at this point if any retaliatory actions are being considered?
MARQUEZ: Well, indeed, the president spoke about it earlier and then issued a written statement saying that he called it brutality, what the North Koreans did, and hopes to keep this from happening to anyone else.
Interestingly, the secretary of state, Tillerson, in a statement said he holds the North Koreans accountable for Otto Warmbier's unjust imprisonment but stopped short of saying that they were responsible for his death. It does not appear this administration wants to go to war over Otto Warmbier -- Anderson.
COOPER: Miguel -- Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.
There were no cameras today at the White House press briefing. No microphones either, we should point out. And whether it's on camera or off, there was no answer to a very simple question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel? Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president said nothing. But that's OK because he didn't have to. We already know the answer. Quote, I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt.
That was the president tweeting on Friday, and it seems pretty clear by, I am being investigated, it would appear that he means I am being investigated. Unless perhaps he really meant something very different like, I don't know, maybe the exact opposite?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, PRES. TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: It was 141 characters. There's a limitation on Twitter as we all know. And the president has a very effective utilization of social media.
So, here's what you have. The president issued that tweet, that social media statement, based on a fake report, a report with no documented sources from "The Washington Post." There should be no confusion, no confusion, the president is not under investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that's one of the president's new lawyers, Jay Sekulow, making the rounds on the Sunday news programs.
[20:05:02] So, that was the line. It was the president practicing media criticism, not actually saying he's under investigation, which he's not unless of course he is. But who would dare contradict Jay Sekulow on this claim about which he says there should be no confusion? Who, I ask you?
Well, how about Jay Sekulow himself?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: Now, he's being investigated by the department of justice. So, he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. So, if you're keeping score, according to Jay Sekulow, the president both was not and was under investigation. And that was just Sunday.
What about today? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think that Bob Mueller is looking at the circumstances surrounding Comey's firing? Do you think that that's part of the purview of his probe?
SEKULOW: I have no idea if he's looking at that or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, Jay Sekulow is a very influential attorney and advocate for conservative causes. On top of that, he's a distinguished member of the Supreme Court bar and has appeared on this broadcast many times over the years. Perhaps, though, he's just not the guy to ask on this. Perhaps no one is.
In fact, it's almost as if we've all been warned against it almost like we've told again and again and again and again, what's that phrase?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president's tweets stand for themselves.
I'm going to say I'm going to let the tweet speak for itself.
The president's tweets speak for themselves.
I think that his comments and his tweets speak for themselves with respect to how he feels and why.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
COOPER: They speak for themselves, which speaking for themselves would mean, quote, I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt.
Speaks for itself, doesn't it? Unless, of course, it doesn't. Maybe instead of meaning he's under investigation or that he's not or that he's commenting on a "Washington Post" story, but not under investigation or is, maybe it's none of those things. Maybe it's something else entirely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: And that's the president in his 140 characters through his significant social media platform, Ainsley, telling everybody, wow, look at the irony here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I honestly do not know what that means. I do not know what that means.
CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House to try to clear up any irony there may be.
So, Jim, this seems to be yet another example of the president and those who represent him simply, I don't know, not being on the same page? Is that what it is?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure they're on the same planet, Anderson. And I don't understand that either, what you just played. But I can tell you not only have we heard the White House say -- well, the president's tweets speak for themselves, we've also heard them say and heard the president say that he likes to use social media because it goes over the filter of the mainstream news media.
And so, that I think would come with the suggestion that you should believe his tweets as they're written, as they're posted. And so, to have Jay Sekulow go on the Sunday talk shows and on the morning talk shows this morning and try to explain this away I think you just have to come back to the simple truth, and that is when the president tweets something the White House believes that is the gospel around here.
Now, I will tell you today that we tried to get answers to other questions today. Not only is the president under investigation but whether he has recordings of his conversations here at the White House. We did not get an answer to that. The president said we'd get an answer to that question shortly. We have not gotten an answer to that.
And also this question of whether or not he believes he can fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel. That question was asked time and again today. We did not get an answer.
COOPER: And the briefing today at the White House, it was off camera. There was no regarding of audio actually allowed. What is the reasoning behind that? I mean, what justification is there?
ACOSTA: Well, the reason today, and keep in mind the reason today may not be the reason that we're given tomorrow, but the reason that we were given today is that the president was going to be speaking in front of the cameras when he was with the president of Panama earlier today and also later in the day when he made those comments about the death of Otto Warmbier.
But, Anderson, as you played at the beginning of this broadcast, the president was asked the question: are you under investigation, and he didn't answer the question. And so, we have a situation, Anderson, where they're simply stonewalling us. And you just have to say it the way it is, when you have a press briefing here at the White House in the briefing room. Now, we have pen and pad opportunities from time to time with various officials and we don't record those meetings. They're there basically for our editorial purposes.
But when you drag all the reporters into the White House briefing room and then insist that they can't videotape or record via audio what is said in that briefing from the White House press secretary, you are taking us into a strange new world where accountability doesn't exist. And it removes the possibility that we could ask follow-up questions
to some very important inquiries. And that's something that happened today. We allowed it to happen. And it's something we shouldn't allow to happen again because if we continue to allow the stonewalling to go on, they're just going to do it time and again, where the new normal will be we just don't have press briefings on camera anymore.
[20:10:05] And in the United States of America at the White House -- you know, they do it at city hall with the city council and the mayor. They do it at your state house with your governor or other elected officials. Then, why can't the president?
COOPER: Would it? I mean, I've got to ask this. What are they afraid of? What are they afraid of about being on camera saying things?
I mean, because, clearly, we've seen time and time again they say things which are just not true, turn out not to be true or which the president declares not to be true the very next day. Is that the concern, that they can no longer -- you know, in the past, they've said that this president's so fast -- I don't want to exact -- I can't remember the exact quote. But that he's so on the go that his spokespeople can't keep up with him to understand -- to get factual information, which makes no sense.
ACOSTA: It doesn't make any sense. And keep in mind there was one instance today where Sean Spicer, the press secretary, was asked, well, does the president believe in climate change? We asked you several weeks ago when the Paris climate agreement decision came down, you said would you get back to us.
Anderson, that question was asked again today, and the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, did not have an answer to the question whether or not the president believes in climate change. The president said a month ago that he was going to have a press conference in two weeks on ISIS. He said two weeks ago he was going to have a news conference on ISIS.
I think we're just getting to the point, Anderson, where not only can we not believe the president when he makes a claim about when he's going to talk to us but what the White House press office is saying in these briefing rooms if they're not willing to deal with this on the up and up. I think that that is the problem right now that we're dealing with.
And, you know, I hate to say it but these press briefings aren't really going to serve much of a purpose if we don't go back to the old rules where you're allowed to videotape.
I could have -- I could have held up my phone today, Anderson, and tried to record the Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaking to us today and play it for you. What would have happened to me had I done that? Would they have hauled us off? Taken our press credentials? I don't know.
That's just sort of the upside down world that we're living in right now, where they just refuse to answer these questions on camera or on audio and it's just mystifying.
COOPER: And seemingly refuse to ask the president a question of does he believe in climate change, is he recording conversations in the Oval Office. I mean, there's a whole host of things they seem just --
ACOSTA: Lots of yes or no questions that are very simple to answer. Does the president have tapes? Where are the tapes?
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Appreciate your efforts.
More breaking news on the Russia front involves Michael Flynn whose business ties to Russia and whose contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition are already under investigation.
Our Jim Acosta has the story, joins us now.
What have you learned, Jim?
JIMN SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Jim Sciutto this time.
We have a letter --
SCIUTTO: That's all right.
COOPER: How many times have I done that to you in the last two weeks?
SCIUTTO: That's all right. I'm not taking it personally.
COOPER: All right.
SCIUTTO: But serious things. This is a letter from the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is drawing attention to two foreign trips that General Michael Flynn took in 2015. One in the summer of 2015, the other in October of 2015.
They say the first he did not report at all on his security clearance form, and the second one he omitted key information as to, for instance, why he went, who he traveled with, et cetera. This coming, of course, on the heels of previous non-disclosures by Flynn of meetings and they're looking at it now because Russia involved again. The trip was to Saudi Arabia, but General Flynn apparently went to Saudi Arabia to help broker a deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia for building a number of nuclear power plants there.
I reached out to Flynn's lawyer. He would not comment. He did say that they received this letter. And I reached out to Republicans on the committee as well to see why they didn't sign on to this letter. I'm told by Democrats on the Oversight Committee that Republicans declined the chance to sign on I'm told by a GOP aide on the Foreign Affairs Committee side, that they did not see this letter, did not hear of it until I came to them for comment on it. COOPER: In not reporting foreign travel on the security clearance
form, is that considered a crime?
SCIUTTO: It is in fact. It's right there -- it's a U.S. Code Title 18 Section 1001. It says that knowingly falsifying or concealing such foreign travel is a felony, punishable up to five years. It's very clear on these forms when you read them. It says right there at the top, report all your meetings, all your travel I should say, but also crucially your meetings with foreign officials during these trips.
And this is something else that the ranking Democrats on these committees are drawing attention to, that for the seven years before General Flynn applied to regain his security clearance before entering the Trump administration, he did not list a single meeting with a foreign official for seven years prior to then. So, they are raising questions here not just about a couple of trips, but about multiple meetings with foreign officials that he did not report.
COOPER: And I mean maybe there's a completely innocent explanation for it all, but there does seem to be a pattern among Trump campaign foreign advisers, Flynn, Kushner, Sessions, of none disclosure on security clearance forms.
[20:15:04] SCIUTTO: That's exactly right. We had this with Jared Kushner for his first security clearance form, did not list any of the meetings. He later under questioning from members of the media and others, he later supplied that information on the security clearance form.
And also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he did not supply it. His initial explanation was that the FBI agent, or rather a retired FBI agent that helped him fill out the form, said that travel while he was a senator was not relevant. It's very hard questions about that because no such exceptions are made in the U.S. law. He later supplied some of that information.
But you have a pattern here. Now, it could be an innocent omission, but the fact is it becomes the subject of these continuing congressional investigations and many of those questions, particularly from General Flynn, remain unanswered at this point.
COOPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, appreciate the update. Thanks very much.
Sean Spicer wasn't on camera today. The question now, is his job on the line? New details and what could soon be in store for Sean Spicer.
Later, we'll bring you up to date on the attacks in London and in Paris that are straining relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. More ahead.
COOPER: Sean Spicer's off-camera press briefing today came with Washington buzzing that he might be moving even further off camera. Today, a White House official confirmed they're thinking of a different role for him which at the moment appears surrounded by controversy and intrigue.
[20:20:01] A busy night for our Jim Acosta, who joins us once again.
So what kind of a different role is being thought of for Sean Spicer? Do we know?
ACOSTA: Anderson, I'm being told in just the last few minutes that this role would oversee both the communications department and the press shop. So, he would oversee the White House press secretary and the communications director for the White House. That is one of the options that's being looked at.
But no matter how you slice it, he is being looked at in terms of moving out of this job of White House press secretary, a job that has earned him a lot of fame and infamy, into a different position within the West Wing. The question is, what is that job going to be? And obviously the other -- the bigger question is who would fill his shoes as the White House press secretary?
There are some of the names we've heard before that are being floated around, Laura Ingraham, the conservative commentator, her name has surfaced, but it's unclear whether or not she would want to leave that kind of job to take the position as White House press secretary.
So, my guess is Anderson you're going to see a lot of names surface during the course of this process because these are very, very big shoes to fill and you have a very important person often watching these briefings and that's the president and he is a tough critic.
COOPER: Right. To that point, I mean, if Sean Spicer can't even get basic questions answered by the president based on reporters about are there tapes, about climate change, is it real or not, why would he be in a more elevated overseeing role which you would think would mean he would have more interaction with the president, but if the president doesn't have confidence in him to answer basic questions why would he want him in an overseeing role? Do we know?
ACOSTA: I think that's a very good question, and I was talking to a different source here earlier today, Anderson, who said this process is very fluid, cautioning that, you know what, we have had these palace intrigue stories before, palace intrigue stories about Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, how many times have we heard that he was going to be leaving and then he didn't leave?
So, I do think we have to take some of this speculation with a grain of salt because as the president changes his mind in one direction, he could go in another direction on all of this, and what we're hearing tonight may not necessarily be the case a week from now.
But I think that's an excellent question because it does raise this question of what is going on inside this White House, why can't we get basic answers to questions that are very, very important right now.
Sean Spicer certainly couldn't deliver those answers. The question is, why would he be in charge of an operation that also might not be able to deliver those answers? That's certainly a question to ask.
COOPER: What is it like in the West Wing? I mean, do you know what the mood is like among the people who work there? I think about that all the time because it just seems like it's got to be -- chaotic I guess would be one word.
ACOSTA: You do get -- I hear that word a lot, chaotic. And that is the atmosphere that President Trump, that Donald Trump as you know, Anderson, sort of thrives on. He likes having these different factions fighting with one another because he feels like it results in a better process, it results in better decision-making.
Now, you can take issue with that. Obviously, a lot of people do. But, you know, it depends on who you talk to inside this West Wing.
Anderson, there really is sort of an atmosphere in here that the president can do no wrong. You saw that happen at the cabinet meeting last week where he went around the table and asked people to compliment him. It was a bizarre scene. You know, you're waiting for the cabinet members to refer to the president as dear leader. We've heard that criticism time and again.
And so, I think there is a culture here at the White House that creates that sort of environment where people have to tell the president what he wants to hear. The question becomes, can he bring people in who will tell him things he doesn't want to hear? And so far, that has not been what we've seen from this administration so far.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta -- Jim, thanks.
I want to bring in our panel -- Matt Lewis, Kirsten Powers, Ryan Lizza, Jeffrey Lord, and Charles Blow.
And I only want to hear things I want to hear.
COOPER: Thank you. Thank you, Jeffrey Lord.
Ryan, I mean, can you remember another time when the fate of the White House press secretary was so sort of publicly discussed?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, no, I can't. And it's somewhat odd because almost every senior adviser since January, since when they started, has gone through a phase where it was leaked that they were imminently on their way out. Remember when Steve Bannon was going to be fired. Remember when Reince Priebus was going to be fired.
COOPER: Kellyanne Conway sort of disappeared fire while and she came back.
LIZZA: Yes. COOPER: She was always there.
LIZZA; And poor Sean Spicer, his job has you know, his associates in the West Wing have been leaking that his job has been on the line for weeks and months.
It does seem he's gotten a little bit of control over the story now because the story is that he is now being the one who's going to find his own replacement. So, that suggests that he's not being pushed out but that he's going to retain this title of communications director, which technically -- not technically, is above the press secretary and he's going to be someone who defines the face of the White House.
Frankly, I don't think -- I don't think it matters who the press secretary is, right? It doesn't matter who the person. They could have Jeffrey Lord as their press secretary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice try.
LIZZA: I'm floating that tonight.
What matters is, can the person do the job that the press and the public requires as the press secretary?
[20:25:02] Can they have -- do they have access to the president? And do they get reliable, timely and honest truthful information to the public on a daily basis? That has not been the pattern so far.
COOPER: Right. I mean, Kirsten, no matter what the title is or whoever does it, unless they have access to the president and the president starts being honest with them or at least filling them in in a timely way, they're going to continue to come out and say stuff that's just not true.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And he has basically said he's just so fast moving that there's no way for them to keep up with him, which is -- you know, it's --
COOPER: But they could when he's watching cable news. I would think he's static.
POWERS: Well, it's so easy to say, I mean, so much more fast-moving than any other president. So, look, they've been able to, you know, other presidents have been able to make sure that people are informed and have some sort of sense of responsibility about that. But I think that the only thing that might change a little bit is if there's somebody who's not going to put up with Donald Trump's crap, basically, to put it nicely.
And I have to say Laura Ingraham is probably that kind of person. I think it wouldn't be a particularly enjoyable experience for reporters, but she is somebody who would not -- I think she has more self-respect frankly than some of the people that are going out and just basically saying, I can't get you this information. I don't see her going out day after day and just not knowing what's going on. And I think she's somebody that Trump probably does respect because he really likes people who are on TV. She's actually very smart. She's very bright.
COOPER: I've been on her show in the past.
POWERS: Yes, she's very bright.
COOPER: But would she want to give up a successful radio program?
POWERS: I don't know. I don't -- she has said that she would -- you know, she's indicated that she would be open to it. So, you know, I think that -- but I do think what is missing are people who are -- you need somebody who's not going to just accept that they're uninformed and they're going to walk out and humiliate themselves every single day.
COOPER: Matt, can you give a good explanation for why the White House would bar reporters from even recording audio of a briefing from Sean Spicer?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLTICAL COMMENTATOR: The only reason that I could think of -- and I'm sort of, you know, reaching here. Would be -- I mean, obviously there is such a thing as having like a gaggle where you would want to talk to people off the record and not for attribution.
LIZZA: Notebook-only gaggle.
LEWIS: Right. Where you basically -- I want you guys to know what I'm thinking, what I think might be happening. That's perfectly legitimate.
But that has not done -- that's not what this was. There really is no rationale for doing this.
I would say very quickly to the Laura Ingraham point, she has the leverage -- she would have the leverage, right? I mean, we've all been in that position or seen people in that position.
Sean Spicer was kind of lucky to get the gig as press secretary. Laura would have to -- she would have the gravitas and the juice, so to speak, to demand access in a way that someone like Spicer couldn't.
LIZZA: One more point about the role of the press secretary. One thing that has changed, Jeffrey Lord talks a lot about Ronald Reagan. Marlin Fitzwater had a model of what the press secretary should be. It was -- he was a bridge between the press and the president, and he worked as much for the press as he did the president. That's not how the Trump White House sees that role.
COOPER: Charles? Jeffrey, I mean, you've talked -- said you're a big First Amendment guy on past shows. Are you comfortable with the role that the press secretary's had so far in these sort of off-camera non -- no audio --
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No.
COOPER: No? LORD: No. I've been a press secretary for a congressman and a senator. And you have to inform the press. I mean, if you don't want to say something, don't say something. But don't cut them off. I think that's a mistake.
One thing I would say to Ryan's point, I do remember a press secretary who had this problem, and actually I don't know whether he had the formal title, but in the Clinton administration, George Stephanopoulos began briefing the press in that role although I think Dee-Dee Myers actually held the title, and at some point, they decided this wasn't working and pulled him off and gave him the title I think of senior adviser.
LEWIS: I think he was there until June. So, I think Spicer has already outlasted --
LORD: Right. But my point was I think George felt humiliated needlessly because, you know, I mean --
LIZZA: It's a similar situation --
LORD: Is it the right role here?
And I have to say, outside of Washington and media folks, the only people who -- we're the only people who care about this. Out in America, they care about who the president is, but the staff, they couldn't care less.
COOPER: Charles, does -- I mean, does the president have anyone but himself to blame if he's unhappy with the message that's getting out?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course not. I mean, what these people are being asked to do is an impossible thing to do, right? You cannot deliver truth to the press if the man who's delivering the truth to you is lying. And basically, all of his surrogates are basically put in this position where they have to try to make rational something that is not rational. They have to try to make sense of something that simply does not make sense. And they have to make him look good even though he continues to make himself look bad.
And they try to put a good face on this and make him seem cogent and adroit, and he simply isn't. And so, the embarrassment that they experience is simply because they're trying to do something that cannot be done. And in the West Wing, maybe that works, that everybody simply flatters the king.
But in the real world when you're facing real reporters who've done this for their entire lives, it just doesn't fly. And when you're facing the American public who watches you on television and they know that you're lying, it simply doesn't fly.
So, it doesn't really matter who it is. And then, even if it's Loretta (ph), you guys might like Loretta, I don't like Loretta at all. And I don't think she's all that smart, and I don't think she'd all that much of an honorable person, and anybody who has to step into this role has to already assumed that you're taking on the back is not being an honorable person, because you have to go out and defense somebody who's lying, and that's a problem. There's no way to get around that.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're going to continue this discussion. More breaking news, the Senate Judiciary Committee has reached an agreement about the scope of its investigation and may look at the possibility of obstruction of justice. I'll get everyone's take on that in just a moment.
COOPER: More breaking news, this time from Capitol Hill. CNN's Manu Raju reporting that the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have reached an agreement about the scope of their investigation that can explore whether the President obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey. They're also looking to any political interference with the FBI under both the Trump and former President Barack Obama administrations.
Back now with the panel, so Ryan, I mean, this news notwithstanding, it is very difficult to assess where the obstruction of justice investigation stands when you have the President -- I mean the President is tweeting one thing that he's under investigation, and his attorney -- his new attorney, Jay Sekulow, saying both things.
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Yeah, right.
LIZZA: Right. I mean, we do know some facts. We do know that Comey handed over his contemporaneous memos that documented his conversations with Donald Trump, right?
[20:29:58] And if James Comey -- if the Special Counsel, Mueller, wanted those documents and wanted to see them, as far as I can tell, there's only one reason he would want them, it's to understand whether there was some kind of obstruction. So we know he's going to be scratching the surface of that case.
I think it's very interesting that the Senate Judiciary Committee is looking into this, because it's really an, you know, an FBI matter, right? It's a criminal probe. But that suggests that there are some senators and the republicans have gone along with this who think at the end of the day, if there is a case that he did obstruct justice, the President is not going to be indicted, right? This is getting into the realm of politics and impeachment. And so, I think that's very welling for the White House.
COOPER: Charles, I mean, how many times have we had this story play out, which is the President tweets something, and he's tweeted very, you know, blatantly, I'm under investigation. And now his attorneys are saying no, he's not. And he said, yes, he is. Then you have Kellyanne Conway saying he was being ironic, which he's not a great ironist, I mean, again, is the President kind of -- BLOW: It can make sense? I mean, they can't do it, right? It's just
-- there's no way -- they're trying to make it better. He makes mistakes. He gets in his huff, you know, probably before he even meets with his staff. I'll have to check just the time on the tweet. And it's, you know, they start at 6:00, but they also kind of trickle throughout the day particularly that day when he was tweeting about being an investigation. And tickle, tickle, tickle. And even after he's coming off stage, I'm realizing that the time stamp is right after he gets off stage, you know, like giving a real speech. So you realize that nobody can actually keep up with it. And so they're basically just responding. And not that I have any sympathy for them, I have none, but --
JEFFREY LORD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR: You sure?
BLOW: No, zero. But I do understand what's happening. And so, there's no way to keep it -- for them to keep it straight really. But I do understand why the Senate would be looking at that. Those committees would be looking at. There is no -- if assume and nothing comes out of the FBI investigation, there is nothing that compels him to issue a public report.
BLOW: The Senate Committees would do that. And they might just want the American people to know what the extent of whatever it is, whether it doesn't come up to the rights of the impeachability or wherever goes, they might want the American people to know. And they could produce that report.
LORD: One thing my friend Mark Levin on his radio show tonight, who in his earlier life was a Chief of Staff and Attorney General, says there was an extant Department of Justice memo from 1973 that says the President of United States or sitting president cannot be indicted. And that "The New York Times" had a story not long ago, in which they quoted all sorts of legal experts.
COOPER: All right. Yeah, that's --
LORD: So the question is not that at all, nor can it be.
LIZZA: It's still not settled, but the OLC is currently has memo. OLC memos can be overwritten at any time.
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Right.
LIZZA: But that is that -- and this has never been settled by the Supreme Court. A lot of constitutional scholars think that, no, the president can't be indicted. But it's never been tested. Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel was considering indicting President Clinton, although he decided not to.
COOPER: I do want to play this thing that a Senator Sheldon Whitehouse who is Democrat on the Judicial Committee said to Wolf Blitzer earlier today, saying that he believes Michael Flynn is a cooperating witness with the FBI. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D) RHODE ISLAND: All of the signals are suggesting that he's already cooperating with the FBI, and may have been for some time. This would be just another bit of leverage for the prosecutors to make sure that he was cooperating and giving truthful testimony in order to avoid lengthy imprisonment. That's the conclusion from all of the evidence and some experience from dealing with this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, if that is in fact the case, that's big.
POWERS: It's very big, and that you have to wonder about other people making similar deals, whether Paul Manafort would make a similar deal. And if you're the Trump people, this has to be something that you are always worried about that these are people who have to save their own hides. And in order to do it, they've going to have to tell some secret of the president.
COOPER: We have to take a quick break. Up ahead, more job creation for lawyers in Washington, D.C. CNN is learning White House Senior Adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner seeks additional legal counsel impart because his current lawyer works at the firm that until recently employs Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. More on that, ahead.
[20:42:48] COOPER: Welcome back. Jared Kushner is looking to beef up his legal representation. President Trump's son-in-law and Senior Adviser has reached out to criminal lawyers to see if they would represent him in the on going federal investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential race.
Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us with more. So, what do we know about this legal rebound? What do we know about it?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's kind of two fold. First of all Jared Kushner has contacted some high powered criminal attorneys who could potentially step in and represent him as these Russia investigations continue to unfold. That's all according to "The New York Times", who says some big names are being considered. The names include Abbe Lowell, whose previous client of Jack Abramoff, the Republican Lobbyist who is involved in a corruption scandal back 2001. And second of all, any change in attorney is being signed off by Kushner's current attorney Jamie Gorelick.
She released this statement. She said "After the appointment of our former partner Robert Mueller as Special Counsel, we advised Mr. Kushner to obtain independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as counsel." So of Jamie Gorelick was the law partner of Bob Mueller before Mueller was name Special counsel, so Gorelick giving that advice to Kushner to perhaps seek another opinion, Anderson?
COOPER: I mean, you know, it's not that unusual, these types of connections can be somewhat normal in Washington legal circus, right?
SCHNEIDER: Yeah, it's not uncommon and if this situation does arise there's sometimes an easy fix. Jared Kushner could easily acknowledge a possible conflict and then continue to retain Jamie Gorelick as his attorney. So that is an open question right now, as to what he'll do especially since he is right now prepping for a meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee that's still out of date to be announced. But of course Anderson, we've seen business go on as usual Kushner, he met with top leaders today and of course he's headed to Israel and Romola on Wednesday, Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, Jessica thanks.
Joining me now is Elizabeth Foley, a Constitutional Law Professor of Florida International University, also CNN Legal Analyst Laura Coates, a Former Federal Prosecutor, Professor Foley, I mean the fact that Kushner is considering adding on a well respected or trading a well respected Washington attorney from extremely a tough litigator has represented people like Jack Abramoff. Does that tell you anything?
[20:45:03] ELIZABETH FOLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Not necessarily, I mean look we don't know why Jamie Gorelick wrote the letter that she did. You know, there are a couple possible reasons here. One is that even though it doesn't rise to the level of a formal conflict that would require Gorelick to recede from the case. Nonetheless the appearance of impropriety with the connections to Mueller may be disturbing to Kushner. And therefore he may want more self-efficacy, someone who doesn't have that kind of tie.
The other possibility too there's been public criticism of Gorelick from the political left. She is a Liberal lawyer and she received a lot of criticism for representing Mr. Kushner and Ivanka Trump. That may have played some role in this, too. You just never know. But whatever the case may be, there's nothing wrong with Kushner is seeking good representation. Anybody who is being investigated by the DOJ should be advised to do so. So I'm glad he is doing that.
COOPER: Yeah. Laura, and frankly, it seems to me to speaks well of his current attorney that she would point out potential conflicts or even potential appearances of conflict for her client. That seems like a good thing. The, you know, the notion put forward by the President's lawyer over the weekend that a, the President is not under investigation for obstruction of justice, and be that he would know it if it were. Is that in fact, the case, would the President be told that he was under investigation?
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No. And here is why not, think about it, it would belie logic if the FBI or the Justice Department was trying to conduct an investigation that was in a way covert, trying to add as much information as they could before they alerted somebody to the investigation, who could then try to clam up or try to conceal evidence or whatever a hosting that could actually do.
You would not have the courtesy necessarily of being informed but you would know if you got a subpoena, you would know if you were invited to testify and you would know if you are invited to be interviewed by the FBI or Justice Department. So frankly the only person that would be in the best position to know if there are being investigated aside from the FBI would be Donald Trump himself. And his own words spokes inside issue but, you know, you're actually right, Anderson, at one point and that is this, Jared Kushner is very, very prudent to think about having a legal team do deal with an issue here, it really the six-headed Hydra.
You are an uncharted territory here and most of this respect and it's very, very prudent to have a high breed of a legal team who could deal with all of these issues. But when you have a law firm, we had Paul Manafort, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner you have people quite rest, every man from staff if you don't know what the investigation will also want to lead to.
COOPER: And, Professor, I mean regardless whether he is or isn't under investigation for firing James Comey, you say the President shouldn't be because Special Counsel is limited by letter of his appointment, what is that mean?
FOLEY: Well, I think there's a serious legal issue here about whether Special Counsel Mueller could investigate the President for obstruction of justice under his appointment letter. Special Counsel Mueller is a special counsel. He is not the same thing as an old Independent Counsel. That Independent Counsel statute expired back in 1999. Congress didn't want to reauthorize it, because everybody got burned under old independent counsel. They started out investigating one thing and they ended up investigating another thing, years later. So what we have now are special counsels and specials counsels are limited but federal regulation says they can only investigate what their appointment letter says they're authorized to investigate.
So if you go back to the May 17th letter from Deputy A.G. Rosenstien to Mueller it says that Mueller is authorized to Special Counsel to investigate any possible links or collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. So you said OK, well, what -- would that be within the end butt of that investigation to investigate Trump statements about Flynn being a good guy and he hope that Comey could let it go.
COOPER: Let --
FOLEY: That statement occurred on February 14th, well, after the campaign had ended. It's not part of a counter intelligence investigation.
COOPER: I get what you are saying. Laura Coates, what do you say to that?
COATES: I actually disagree. I mean this falls under the scope of the Counter Intelligence Probe. Remember we talked about obstruction of justice. That is a claim that you're trying to add on to show what you are trying to divert in my attention from? If my focus is the singular (ph) focus you're talking about that could be true.
But if you're trying every endeavor to put up obstacles and hurdles in my path to do just that, it doesn't falls under the scope of that. Remember I think about obstruction in this way, as if you saw somebody is sling g from a scene of a crime in a speeding vehicle, obstruction is the speeding ticket. I want to know what you're running from? He absolutely is entitled to investigate that in a long way, charge other thing.
COOPER: We got to leave there. I appreciate the different viewpoints, Professor Foley always, Laura Coates as well. Coming up, more breaking news, two attacks hours apart in Paris and London, both involved in vehicles used as weapons, the latest on the investigation is next.
[20:53:43] COOPER: More breaking news to tell you about tonight. Tow attacks, hours apart, one in Paris the other in London. Vehicles used as weapons in which one. In Paris the driver deliberately ramming a police van on the Champs-Elysees. Police say there were explosives and weapons inside his car.
In North London one person is dead, several others injured after a van plowed into Muslim worshiper outside the mosque. Phil Black is now from London with more on both attacks. So what do learning first about the attack in London, Phil?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, the suspect who is a 47- year-old man from Cardiff in Wales. Some distance from London, but it looks like he hired a van and drove here to the north of the city. Witnesses say, it was just up in midnight as crowds of people were coming out at local mosque that an elderly man collapsed down the on the pavement. People huddled around to help him and if was at that moment the white van appeared swerved and plowed through that group of people. It went on to rundown other people as well.
The man who collapsed he was declared dead at the scene, eight other people were injured and taken to the hospital. Anderson.
COOPER: And I understand that the members of the public actually played a role in saving lives there.
BLACK: Yeah, indeed. They actually grabbed the man from behind the wheel, pulled him out of the car, wrestled him to the ground. They say he fought back the whole time punching, and scratching, and biting, and the whole time saying things like, "you deserve this, you guys deserve this."
[20:55:06] It's why this local Muslim community believes they were targeted specifically and it's a big part of why British officials from the Prime Minister down with today describing this as an Islamophobic terrorist attack.
COOPER: And what about the attack in Paris? BLACK: So after that vehicle hit police van in Paris, almost shows that they say that famous boulevard it exploded into flames. There was one person inside. Police say they broke windows, pulled the person out, but that person later died.
No one else was hurt, but the man in the car was known to authorities, one of thousands of people on a watch list of suspected extremists. It's notable because it's yet another attack against French security forces, the fifth in four months, and officials there say it is yet another sign that the terror threats here level there remains very high.
COOPER: All right, Phil Black, thank you very much. Appreciate the update.
Up next, is the President under investigation or is he not? And why can't the White House settle on just one answer to that very question? We'll explain ahead.
COOPER: Well, as we continue to follow the twists and the turns in the Russian investigation, we also continue to follow the twists and the turns into what the President and others have said about it. And lately those twists and turns have gotten, well, twistier or maybe it's turnier, I'm not sure.
[20:60:02] Friday the President tweeted that he was under investigation for firing James Comey. Then his surrogates and spokes people said, "No that's not what he said." And some said something else yet again and so it went, so it goes.