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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Twitter Rage Engulfs White House; WSJ: Operatives Sought Clinton Emails From Hackers. Implied A Connection To Flynn; Defending The Indefensible; Van Jones: O'Keefe Video Is a Hoax; Hope Fizzles Out For A New Health Care Draft Before Recess; 'Uncomfortable' Meeting Between Secy. Tillerson, Top WH Aides. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired June 29, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:04] JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One other thing. Everything we're talking about tonight has in a sense been litigated already. We had the election. This may be the latest episode, but these episodes have been had many times during the campaign. This discussion was had -
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Right.
LORD: -- and he won the election.
COOPER: But that doesn't make it right. I mean --
LORD: I'm not saying it's right.
COOPER: -- somebody says something disgusting, you know, I think it is incumbent on decent people to stand up --
LORD: I'm not --
COOPER: -- point it out and say, --
LORD: I'm not saying --
COOPER: -- you know what, this is not normal. Yes, people know this guy does this. They voted for him anyway. That's fine, that's what's great about our country. But, you know what, people can also stand up and point out routinely this is not normally.
LORD: -- the group thinking. That's I think one of the problems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that's the same thing as saying I have a billion dollars so everything I do was right. You know, it's -- if you won the election, yes, you won the election in November. The challenge is now to be the president.
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Jeffrey, every president has bad characteristics. I don't think anyone anticipated, even his strongest supporters, that when he became president he would sort of lean into the worst parts of his personality. In fact, I think he actually promised in a famous quote that he could be so presidential, you will be so bored of him. And so far, he has not lived up --
LIZZA: -- to the boring version he promised.
COOPER: In case you're just joining us I just want to bring -- quickly, I want to bring everyone up to speed on the story that we and everyone else has been talking about, the continuing uproar tonight about today's presidential hit-and-run Twitter attack on a cable news anchor as well as the White House response to it (INAUDIBLE) the attacker Pres. Trump as the victim. Details now from our Jim Acosta.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just as Pres. Trump is touting his administration's energy policy, he's fueling mounting bipartisan criticism that he lacks the temperament for the Oval Office. The latest evidence a pair of offensive tweets aimed at MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski. "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (on't watch anymore)." The president tweeted. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"
Brzezinski hit back at the president with a tweet mocking the size of the president's hands. As to respond the White House said the president has no regrets.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think that it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president's tweets as a justified response to attacks from the media.
SANDERS: It's kind of like we're living in the twilight zone. They do this day after day after day and then the president responds and defends himself and everybody is appalled and blown away. I think that the president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program and I think he's been very clear that when he gets attacked, he's going to hit back.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president's behavior, Sanders argued, is not beneath the dignity of his office.
SANDERS: I think that he shows that every day in the decisions that he's making, the focus and the priorities. The only person that I see a war on is this president and everybody that works for him. ACOSTA (voice-over): Still, top Republicans quickly criticized the president's tweets. Senator Lindsey Graham, "Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics not the greatness of America." And House Speaker Paul Ryan.
PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: Obviously, I don't see that as a appropriate comment.
ACOSTA (voice-over): And NPR/PBS poll found just 21 percent of Americans found the president's Twitter use effective and informative while 69 percent said it's reckless and distracting. But the president's critic saying this is also about his attitudes toward women, to his questionable treatment of a female reporter from Ireland in the Oval Office just this week.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And where are you from? Go ahead. Come here. Come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press. Where are you from?
CAITRIONA PERRY, IRISH REPORTER: I'm from RTE News --
PERRY: Caitriona Perry.
TRUMP: Caitriona Perry. She has a nice smile on her face. So I bet she treats you well.
ACOSTA (voice-over): When it comes to the White House message the president was again his own worst enemy stepping all over his administration's announcements of new sanctions against a bank in China, aimed at pressuring North Korea as well as Mr. Trump's upcoming meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin next week. But the president, it seems, there are rarely ever any apologies.
(on camera): But no apology from the president, sir?
(voice-over) Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
COOPER: A lot of the conversation today resolved around the sexist nature of the attack. Joining us is Amanda Carpenter, Ana Navarro, Mariana Cardona, and Alice Stewart.
Ana Navaro, I mean is any part of this defensible?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course none of it is defensible. Listen, I'm sitting here as an American, as a woman and a Republican. I'm mad as hell on all three counts.
As a woman, I can tell you I'm fed up with this guy's attacks on women's looks and objectifying women and his weird fixation with women and blood. Whether it's Rosie O'Donnell or Megyn Kelly or Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado or Heidi Cruz, we can go all night with the list of women that he has attacked and objectified through the years.
[21:05:07] As an American, I am very mad at the way he is diminishing the office of the presidency of the United States. I'm very mad at what he's teaching our children. I'm very mad that there are children learning to bully because of what the president says and does.
And as a Republican, I am livid that more Republicans are not standing up and that those people in the White House surrounding him are enabling this. They are going to spend the next four years having to react to the crazy, horrible, vial, vicious attacks that he makes and things he says if they don't put a stop to this right now.
COOPER: Alice, I mean you know Sarah Huckabee Sanders. What went through your mind when you saw her out there defending the president today?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, looking at the statement, I think it's unpresidential and I don't think it's defensible at all. And, look, she's doing her job. She's got a difficult job. But for the White House to come out and say that he is punching back when he was attacked, I think that's absurd.
Look, when you're an elected official of any sort, you suit yourself up, you put your man pants on and you brace for incoming fire whether it's from the opposition or whether it's from the media or whether it is from your constituents and you expect that. That's part of the job and you pick your battles. This certainly wasn't one of them.
And furthermore, to say that the American people elected him because they say he will stand up and he will -- if he's attacked, he will punch back two times harder. I think that's laughable in this case because this isn't a situation that warranted this kind of disgusting comment.
And I think that American people do want him to punch back when he's attacked and I wish he would flex those muscles when it comes to North Korea and with regard to Vladimir Putin. Unfortunately, he's using his time and his tweets in order to attack females across the spectrum.
COOPER: You know, Amanda, it's interesting. I think back -- I think of, you know, Congress members and senators who have Town Hall meetings and have people screaming at their face, you know, saying things, you know, yelling at them not just on policy but, you know, on any issue. If those senators or Congress people, you know, responded by attacking the physical appearance of the person talking to them, nobody would put up with them. People would just be shocked. But somehow the president seems to get a pass on doing this time and time again.
AMANDA CARPENTERCNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, like Al has pointed out, there's a lot of people around him willing to give him a pass. I frankly in much more concerned about the defense coming from Trump defenders than the actual tweet. Listen to what he's saying. It's essentially, Mika deserved it. Mika had it coming. This is language that abusers use. It's used to describe abusive relationships.
Melania Trump issued a statement today essentially saying this, that she deserved it. All kinds of people excuse Donald Trump's behavior again and again. He has an abusive relationship with the press. Let's just put it that way. He is obsessed over his image. And I do not want to hear this White House come out and say that Donald Trump respects women because I don't think he respects the women who are closest to him, namely, his wife and daughter. He cut the legs out from underneath them.
Melania supposedly has a cyberbullying initiative, Ivanka supposedly wants tomorrow power women in the workplace. Donald Trump went after a high-profile powerful media figure that was Mika Brzezinski, he bullied her online. And you don't hear a word from those women about it. So I don't want to see them trot it out to these initiatives anymore because the man in the Oval Office right now is doing more to tear down powerful women in the media than anyone we've ever seen before.
COOPER: Maria, I mean do you have any reason to believe, you know, that there are criticism by some Republicans on the Hill is going to influence the president at all?
MARIA CARDONA, 2008 SENIOR CAMPAIGN ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: No. And I don't know that there is anybody that could really influence the president, Anderson. And I think that's what we need to figure out moving forward.
Look, I can't really say anything that hasn't been said today already. I agree with every single thing that has been said on this panel by these three women of completely different political spectrums, including myself. And we're all in agreement that today, the president proved beyond a shadow of a doubt if there was one, that he's a bona fide, indecent, narcissistic, misogynist jerk, but guess what, Anderson, and you talked about this as well or your panels today have talked about this as well. This is not something that is new. We knew this walking into it. He was like this during the campaign. He has been like this throughout his life. Remember when he went on the "Howard Stern Show" demeaning and degrading and objectifying women and laughing about it.
COOPER: But seemingly I think there was the hope that -- and he talked about this. I mean I did interviews with him where he talked about this about, you know, the tone was shifted, he would have a presidential tone and that he would, you know -- I think Brian references this, that he would be, you know, so presidential that it would bore everybody.
[21:10:08] CARDONA: But here's where I think where I was going to. Nobody -- well, some people I think were hoping that that was the case. But everybody who looked at him throughout his life and who looked at how he behaved on the campaign knew that that was never going to happen, knew that the famous pivot was never going to happen. Knew that the, oh, I can act presidential if I want to, was never going to happen. So what do we do now? It is up to two groups of people, I believe, Anderson, moving forward. Republicans on the Hill and I am glad that a lot of them are coming out and not defending this but I don't think it's enough and his supporters. And he is, interestingly enough, he is slowly but surely losing support even from his base. But until he really feels that and until he really sees the numbers, even though he doesn't believe in these polls.
CARDONA: He's not going to change.
COOPER: Alice, do you agree with them?
STEWART: Yes. There's a poll that came out this afternoon that 71 percent of those polled say that this tweet take away from his agenda. And the unfortunate thing is that here we are on the 11th hour of trying to repeal and replace Obamacare and Republicans on the Hill today were spending their time responding to this tweet.
We have the travel ban that's going into place right now. That is, for all intents and purposes, a success for this president. He should be bragging about that. We have energy week and a big rollout on energy today and, unfortunately, that got overshadowed. So the White House in a week that there's plenty of substantive issues for them to talk about and, quite frankly, hang their hat on, we're being sidetracked yet again, and being on defense yet again by these tweets.
NAVARRO: Anderson, look, Republicans are spent the last six months, Republican leadership, Republican elected officials say, please don't tweet. I wish he wouldn't be doing that. I'm disturbed by what he said. I'm so disappointed in the president's words. It's so nonpresidential. OK. It's enough with the pussy pudding. It's enough with the mailing (ph) mouth criticism.
They've got to take more action because if not they are going to be saddled with this for the rest of this term. And there's going to be no legislative action. They've got to tell the guy, you know what, when you invite me to dinner, I'm not going because you embarrass me. You know what, when you want an appointee voted on, I'm not going to vote because you embarrass me. They have got to start playing hardball. They are not the Donald Trump's constituents. They are an independent branch and they have got a duty to defend the integrity and the reputation of this country.
COOPER: Amanda, I want you to give the final thought?
CARPENTER: Yes. I would just disagree a little bit. Here's the challenge. We all have to live with Donald Trump and his Twitter account for the next -- through the next election. We have to -- Republicans included --
CARPENTER: -- into his hysteria. Yes, Republicans when asked should condemn these attacks but they can't go around, you know, hanging themselves out over at the expense of our legislative agenda. Keep your head down, keep working. Because Donald Trump wants nothing more than to force people into these silly psychological games and make us play it. We can't get swept into it.
NAVARRO: But Amanda.
CARPENTER: Poor Mika is going to have to endure it. She can't get out of this because these methods work for a short amount of time. But if we can stand it, you can overcome it. I know it because I went through it. Don't get sucked into it.
CARDONA: But we have to call it out, Amanda. That is absolutely something that we all --
CARDONA: -- because we're normalizing it.
CARPENTER: It can't consume the entire political atmosphere, is what I'm saying.
CARDONA: We can walk into them at the same time.
NAVARRO: The problem is that this has become such a huge and constant distraction. This is not an isolated occurrence.
CARPENTER: Why is just not --
CARPENTER: -- Twitter account --
NAVARRO: -- being able to focus on the agenda and policy items have to find themselves constantly --
NAVARRO: -- responding and reacting and justifying this. And so -- let me tell you, I used to be able to say good things about Paul Ryan and people would give him a pass. Today, you say anything good about Paul Ryan and you might as well have complimented Satan. He's not only ruining Donald Trump's brand --
CARPENTER: No. I think Paul Ryan did the right thing today. He said, I don't agree with that and he went through --
NAVARRO: It's not enough.
CARPENTER: -- Trump's tweeter account.
NAVARRO: Well, you're going to spend fours years.
CARPENTER: You cannot control Donald Trump. We have to live with this.
CARPENTER: We have to point it out. We have to call it out. But don't let it take over your complete self. Please.
COOPER: We're going to end there.
NAVARRO: It already has.
COOPER: All right. A closer look at the presidential spokesperson who has emerged as the president's defender in chief on this. And later, new reporting on the Russian probed hacked emails and Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. We'll speak with "The Wall Street Journal" correspondent who got the story.
[21:17:28] COOPER: Some of the repercussions the president's Twitter attack on Mika Brzezinski continue tonight because had the White House reacted Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders painted the president, the White House and herself as victims instead of the woman the president today attacked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Look, everybody wants to make this an attack on a woman. What about the constant attacks that he receives or the rest of us? I'm a woman and I've been attacked by the show multiple times but I don't cry foul because of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Whatever you might think of that answer, this is far from the first time she's been put on the spot by something that the boss has tweeted or said. Randi Kaye has more.
SANDERS: Good afternoon everybody.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She is the White House Principle Deputy Press Secretary, off and on defense like with this evolving narrative over FBI Director James Comey's firing.
SANDERS: Accordingly, the president accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General to remove James Comey from his position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah. Isn't it true that the president had already decided to fire James Comey and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing?
KAYE (voice-over): But that wasn't true. TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation. He made a recommendation -- but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.
KAYE (voice-over): The inconsistencies causing some major clean-up for Sanders.
SANDERS: I went off of the information that I had when I answered your question.
KAYE (on camera): Sanders said she hadn't had a chance to ask the president directly, despite having numerous conversations with him. Sanders also claimed the White House story had been consistent despite the clear inconsistencies.
(voice-over) The president defending her inconsistencies tweeting, "It is not possible for my surrogates to stand at the podium with perfect accuracy, you don't have to tell that to Sanders."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm curious why it took so long, 41 days, for this to be laid to rest, and whether the president is recording any oval office conversation.
SANDERS: You guys asked for an answer, he gave you one.
KAYE (voice-over): The 34-year-old Sanders was born in Hope Arkansas and he is the daughter of former Arkansas Governor and Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee. She went to the Christian College, Ouachita Baptist College. She married in 2010 and is the mother of three children. Most recently, she worked on her father's failed 2016 presidential bid. So she has seen and lived the give and take of politics, which shows at the podium where she's versed in the art of the redirect or saying she's not aware or promises to circle back.
SANDERS: If anything changes, I'll let you know.
I haven't had a chance to dig into that but we'll certainly circle back with you on it.
[21:20:03] KAYE (voice-over): And sometimes she sounds a lot like the president himself.
SANDERS: I think it's the constant barrage of fake news directed at this president probably that has garnered a lot of his frustration.
KAYE: Despite a few missteps, the president is apparently happy with Sanders' performance, calling her in one interview, a lovely young woman. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: David Gergen is a former White House Communications Director and so as Jen Psaki they join us now along with Maggie Haberman and Jeffrey Lord. Another, you'd ever called Sean Spicer lovely but so be it. David Gergen, what should a spokesperson do I mean if they disagree with what the boss has done, do they just suck it up and go out there and defend their boss?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN AND CLINTON: Well, Press Secretary is only as good as the White House that person works in. And if your colleague, chief of staff is not giving you a full do and you don't get a straight line, and you don't agree on it, you're left out there in a battlefield unprotected. And I have some sympathy for her, actually. You know, you talk to people who know her and have known her in the past, I do not, but they say she's lovely young woman and she has a lot. And they're sort of, sorry for her because she's also an evangelical Christian and she believes in virtues, traditional virtues and here she has a president who's doing things that are like weird, crazy, sexist, or whatever you want to call that. And yet she has to defend it and I thought "Saturday Night Live" at the end last year's episode actually got somewhat sympathetic with Sean Spicer. They felt badly for him. He would be humiliated and I think she's going through something the humiliation. It's not fair to her.
COOPER: Maggie, I mean nobody is forced to do this job, though. I mean, you know, she is clearly wants to do this job. There are options.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are. Look, I mean do think that -- I that Sarah and I think Sean Spicer I think they're in very difficult positions. It is true does not compulsory work but it is still, if you were looking it strictly from a clinical, you know, aspect of your job, this is the height of you're career if you're in politics and if you're somebody who cares about your country, then working in the White House has a lot of appeal.
HABERMAN: And if you're somebody who believes in Donald Trump which I think that -- I think Sarah Sanders does have a relationship with him and I think that Sean Spicer has developed one. Whether is always although the president is always happy with his podium appearances are not, I think it's not the same thing as whether he values his input. I think they are all in very tough positions and I think that when you talk to them, I think David is absolutely right that, you know, all they can do is project what's coming from above most times.
And essentially Perry base on that I think Sarah takes the temperature of the room down perhaps more than others but I also think that at the end of the day there's no just great answers to these questions, why is the president tweeting this? I mean, what is the good answer? So, sure, they could quit. But I think -- when I speak to advisers to Trump and this is really has been the case since before he won the presidential race and during the transition and certainly since his inauguration. Then one hand, will privately lament frustration that he is doing these things, but they will also, really, also, you know, they will join his sense of grievance that we are just under constant attack, everything we do is terrible. They do feel that way whether you can make the argument that every White House gets attack in one way or another, every president ends up feeling like they're the only people this is ever happen to, but they though all sort share his frustration and anger with the press and it really is up and down.
COOPER: Jen, I mean in the White House that you worked, did you feel that your White House was under attack?
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRES. OBAMA: It was all sunshine and roses all the time. No. Yes. Absolutely. I think every White House is under attack.
Look, I was there during the financial crisis. I was there when we lost the House, when we lost the Senate. There are certainly moments where you feel under attack but that doesn't mean that you launch them a misogynist attack on a reporters. So there's a big difference there. Every president gets frustrated with press coverage and they can moments about to their staff. There's a difference between that and going out and stating it publicly.
So, yes, I would say the White House is a tough place because the spotlight is on you. You're speaking on behalf of the president. The president, the American people are watching the president. You have to be tough. You have to be working together as a team and this kind of response are just really no place for it.
COOPER: I mean one of the things, Jeff, I talked to Mayor Michael Bloomberg about, I think was last week he was on us and talking about the organization that he had as mayor and the organization that he set up in business and this White House's organization, though he's very careful not to criticize the president because he feels like he's under enough pressure as it is. He did talk about the importance as a leader in supporting the people who are under you and you're putting a great team together and supporting those people. And the intimation was, this president he under cuts his spokes people by shifting the narrative the next day or tweeting something that's opposites of what they have said.
[21:24:57] JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Right. I mean obviously I'm not there every day or any day but it certainly it seems to me that Donald Trump the businessman has this whole raft of people around -- who have been around him for a very long time who feel that he's a very loyal boss, who feel that he's very good to them and that he backs them up and I assume that, you know, while this White House is taking a little time to get adjusted, as they all do, that that will out in the end.
And one other thing, Anderson, I mean, this has me going here. I think of Sarah Palin and all of the -- if I can use the word misogynistic treatment that was dump for her, her clothes were mocked, her hairstyle was mocked, her physical appearance was mocked on in by liberals and nobody said boo on the other side. That's the kind of thing.
COOPER: -- unfair different standard constantly. Just like in television you don't have the president tweeting about the facial appearance of, you know, male anchors. It's about women anchors. LORD: Conservative women, Anderson, it's like -- not only conservative women, conservative blacks, conservative Hispanics, et cetera. If you're a conservative and you're a woman, they'll come after you and nobody on the liberal side is going to stand up and say, hey --
COOPER: Well, again, you can make the same argument about liberal women who are being attacked by conservatives and liberal -- I mean people, men and women are treated differently and it's unfair.
LORD: I'm just telling you -- community there is this feeling in space --
LORD: -- that there is a double standards.
GERGEN: There has been a double standard Jeffrey, but you work. One of your proudest days, you know, at times in life came working for Ronald Reagan and when he came in peoples conservatives said there was a double standard and you know what, because he was transparent, because he respected the press, because he treated people civilly, he got very fair coverage. It was not as biased as anything like this. It was not a slugfest that you're seeing today. But Reagan set a standard of civility in the White House and you believed in that.
GERGEN: That really worked for him and really changed -- this is not just a product, oh, the terrible liberal press. There is something more going on here that has a lot to do with a man who is running the operation. The signals come down from the top.
LORD: I do think that there was enormous resistance. I mean the phrase that was applied to this one group of people that I think can be used in a lot of ways, never Trump. I really do think that Donald Trump, for one reason or another, has stirred such wrath with elites in Washington in both parties, in both parties.
GERGEN: If you start out hating people, they will hate you back. And he started hating people right from the get-go.
LORD: But we have elections for this purpose. The decision is made and to keep this kind of thing going is I think a mistake.
GERGEN: He didn't send out tweets. He sent out the tweets today and it's --
GERGEN: -- some misogynist.
HABERMAN: This is one of the peculiarities that covering this White House, I mean, honestly, just -- and I think that there's two things here. One is that it's not that we're covering a White House that plays by different rules is that we're covering a president who trans -- with by no rules or whatsoever and he makes up the rules as he goes along and some days they work in his favor and some days they work in other people's favor.
COOPER: Which is probably why he won I mean because he confounded everybody else.
HABERMAN: -- which is why he was effective in business and real estate for a long time. I mean that's absolutely true. He is, you know, he is a guy who makes deals and he treats everything as if it's a big deal. And it's just a little different here. But the other is there is this sort of restorative (ph) quality that David is really speaking to which is he did this. I mean, yes, it's true, Mika Brzezinski criticized him. That is definitely true. But Mika Brzezinski is not the president and these just -- theses remarks don't have equal weight when they're delivered from each of them because one is the president and one isn't. And so he will say something or he will do something and it will always come down to the response from his folks will always be, well, he felt attacked. Or, you know, he -- they attacked him or, you know, he didn't do this. And it's, you're getting sort of half of the page as opposed to the whole page.
COOPER: Also Jen, I mean I wonder how much of this is that, you know, as a civilian, as a businessman in New York, Donald Trump was used to, you know, positive tabloid coverage because he was calling up reporters pretending to be a spokesperson and, you know, selling his own stories and planting stories and stuff and leaking stuff. But the idea of, you know, a critical press, that every White House feels the press is critical of them and they should be. I mean that is the role of the press to be critical. I mean, sure, there are some networks that would, you know, want to be an organ of the White House it seems, but or just an about enemy of the White House but, you know, most reporters want to be fair and accurate and try very hard just to be that.
PSAKI: That's exactly right, Anderson. And if you're talking about the press briefing or just the back and forth with Donald Trump's own relationship with the press, there is a healthy give and back -- you know, give back and forth with the press. They always want more access, say, when you're in the White House, you're never going to give them as many press conferences, but the reality is here which I think you touch on the beginning of what you're saying is that if he was at 55 percent approval rating and had just passed a tax reform package and a health care bill and was traveling around the country raising money for Republican candidates, there would probably be good press coverage. There's a reason why there's not good press coverage. It's because there isn't good news to cover and that's how the media works and that's pretty simple.
[21:30:14] COOPER: Right. There's also FBI investigations and --
COOPER: -- special counsel and numerous, you know, Congressional as well. HABERMAN: Yes.
COOPER: Which is not made up by the press, these things actually happening.
HABERMAN: Right. And deserve to be covered and the American people want to know about them and know the ups and downs and the details.
COOPER: Yes. I think we're done. Everyone, thanks very much.
Up next, a right-wing ambush propagandist targeted CNN Political Commentator Van Jones in an edited undercover video. We'll talk to Van himself on what happened and what he actually said in the tape encounter when we return.
COOPER: A conservative activist named James O'Keefe has released another selectively edited tape today this time targeting CNN Political Commentator Van Jones. Van is going to weight in on it for the first time in a moment. But first, here's what O'Keefe chose to publish from the secretly recorded conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, man. We met in Palm Springs a few years back.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey good to see you man, you good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. How you been?
JONES: I'm good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing? What do you think is going to happen this week with the whole Russia thing?
JONES: The Russia thing is just a big nothing burger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really? You don't think that's --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Van Jones joins us now. So just explain what happened here. Who were you talking to? Where were you? What was the context?
JONES: OK. I was standing outside the bureau in Los Angeles, you know, and I'll talk to anybody. I don't care you're a janitor, homeless person, police officer, pop star, I talk anybody. A guy comes up and he starts engage me in conversation. I'll talk to anybody and he starts asking these questions around what's going on in American politics.
As you know, I have been beating the drum about progressives going so far over board on Russia. The news agency should be going in on Russia. Because any time you have the president of the United States under investigation by the FBI that is a news story. But Progressives have to be very careful that we don't put all our eggs in that basket because the chances of this cowardly Republican Party actually impeaching and then removing a president, something that has never happened, I think it's very, very slight.
And so, I was about to go into that and says there's nothing you can do, and then a bunch of my guys from CNN came out we started talking. So he took that little bit thing and made it seem like I was out here saying that there's nothing wrong that Donald Trump has been doing. This guy is a hoaxster, he's a fraudster, he's been convicted, he's (INAUDIBLE) scumbag, and he does this stuff all the time.
[21:35:6] COOPER: So when on the tape you say that the Russia investigation was a big nothing burger what did you mean?
JONES: I meant for Progressives to keep jumping up and down about this doesn't make a lot of sense because you've got a bunch of us acting as if this guy is going to be impeached tomorrow. That Trump is going to be impeached and he's going to be gone.
Listen, from a political point of view, if you're looking honestly, you do not have the ability to both impeach and remove this guy. And from political point of view, it's a nothing burger. You've got to be focused on real stuff, like jobs, health care, addiction, and stay focus on the substantive issues --
COOPER: Which you say we're not talking enough about.
JONES: No. You're not -- you're talking about stuff that is not going to register for ordinary people, it's not for ordinary people. Real people are going to be worried about jobs, health care, addiction, that kind of stuff. We've got to stay focused on that. And that's whereas about to go, but I don't know this guy and then my guys come up from CNN whom I love at the bureau and we start talking. So he took that little clip and he puts it out there. But here's the reality. You would have -- the worst thing isn't that the guy did the little hoaxster thing. This guy is a hoaxster, he's a fraudster. The worst thing is that the Trump White House then elevated it. So you've got the Trump White House elevating a guy who is a known fraudster.
COOPER: But Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, you know, she didn't know if it was true or not but urged everyone to look at it.
JONES: That's not good. Let me -- today. You always have fraud out there putting out selectively edit, look, if you're still falling for selectively edited videotape in 2017, you haven't been paying attention. But for the White House to fall for it and promote it, that's what really is terrible.
COOPER: You said that too many Democrats see the Russian controversies is a kind of a magical get out of jail free card, meaning that they think the president is somehow going to be impeached. JONES: Listen, we have a bunch of problems in our party. And rather than dealing with those problems in a serious way, rather than getting back to talking about jobs, backs to talking about the real pain at the bottom here in our country, you've got a lot of people just going in loops and cycles. I'm not talking about news people. We got to cover this news. I'm talking about Progressive activists who talk about Russia all day and don't talk about jobs any day. That has got to stop. And if you think that just talking about Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia is going to be a way to get this guy impeached or remove or win an election. I think you are wrong and I think we need to get back to substantive stuff for ordinary people, not only the stuff that the news media are excited about.
COOPER: Van, thank you very much. You can read Van's full editorial in the tape and the nothing burger comment at cnn.com.
JONES: Much ado about nothing burger.
COOPER: All right. Thanks Van.
Just ahead, a story breaking tonight in "The Wall Street Journal" with new reporting on hacked Clinton emails Republican operative and Michael Flynn, the correspondent who got the story joins us next.
[21:40:25] COOPER: Some late reporting tonight on the Russia hacking story comes from "The Wall Street Journal." The headline, "GOP Operative Sought Clinton E-mail from Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn," Flynn being the former Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn.
Joining us now by -- is the reporter who broke the story, "The Wall Street Journal's" Shane Harris. Shane, thanks for being with us.
So, the story talks about a guy named Peter Smith who believed that Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails have been stolen by someone and that someone he believed was likely a Russian hacker. Who is this guy?
SHANE HARRIS, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, Peter Smith is a Chicago businessman who has a long history in GOP politics and particularly in opposition research. He's probably the most well known as the guy who brought the Arkansas trooper scandal, so-called Troopergate, a hope bring that to light in the 1990s.
So he did harbor a lot of political grievances against Hillary Clinton and when he set out on this quest to try and find these e-mails that he believed had been hacked, probably by Russians from her private server, it was his intention if you could verify their authenticity to either acquire them or get them out into the public light because he believe they would show corruption by Sec. Clinton.
COOPER: So how did he go about trying to find the 33,000 e-mails?
HARRIS: Well, he assembled this team of technologists, of lawyers and one private investigator in Europe who spoke Russian, he told me, who went out and looked essentially in the dark web, if you will, in places where you're likely to find hackers who try to traffic in this information and he believed he assembled enough of a network that they were likely to find or went into people to who might have a credible claim as to having found this information and ultimately they settled on five groups of people of hackers, two of whom he believe were Russian, and then attempted to try and vet that information. So they affirmatively went out looking for it in trying to acquire it.
COOPER: And according to your reporting, this man in conversation with friends implied he was working with Michael Flynn? Is that right?
HARRIS: That's right. In conversations that he had about this work, he said that he was talking to Michael Flynn about it. He, in e- mails, portrayed Michael Flynn's company Flynn Intel group as among a small number of people who were involved in the effort.
So -- and in the talking about this people who were involved in trying to solicit new people to join it, he made pretty clear that he was in contact with Flynn and really I think portrayed him as an ally, is probably a good way to say it.
COOPER: And you actually interviewed him, right? You interviewed Smith?
HARRIS: That's right. That's right. Smith actually contacted me. He apparently became aware that I had been looking into this. I had received some information about it and he contacted me and he told me his full story in what was unfortunately to be our last interview.
But for reason that he could not have foreseen at the time, yes, but he did talk about this on the record and he wasn't ashamed of it. He was actually quite proud of the work he was doing and believed that they were very close to finding what he thought were Sec. Clinton's incriminating e-mails.
COOPER: Importantly, though, Smith said he knew Flynn in an interview with you, but never stated that Flynn was involved in his pursuit.
HARRIS: Right. He never said that to me, that's right. But in other conversations that he had with people who I interviewed and in e-mails that he wrote that I reviewed, that I saw, he does portray Flynn as somebody he is talking to about this work.
COOPER: And then Peter Smith, you said it was the last interview. He passed away last month.
HARRIS: That's right. He died about 10 days after we spoke. So in the course of my reporting and in preparing to go back to him with more questions, of course, I learned that he had passed away. He was 81 years old.
COOPER: And so are any of the investigations going on now? Are they looking into this, do you know?
HARRIS: Well, I think the best that we understand right now is that we may be looking at one end of something that U.S. investigators are looking at. Our reporting shows that there are intelligence reports from around this time period that Peter Smith was active, which was in the post Labor Day stretch into the campaign, that actually show Russian hackers talking about ways to potentially find Sec. Clinton's e-mails and to get them via an intermediary to Gen. Flynn, which is very consistent with the work that Peter Smith said he was doing.
It's not clear to our understanding from those reports that Peter Smith was the intended intermediary but it feels like it, at least it's plausible that these might be two ends of the same operation here.
COOPER: It's really interesting. Shane Harris, the reporter at "The Wall Street Journal," thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.
HARRIS: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up next, health care, breaking news on the GOP push to get health care bill pass this week and how it may have faded. Also, inside reporting on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's frustration with the White House and how it's now playing out publicly.
[21:47:45] COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. Attempts to finish a new draft of the Senate GOP health care bill before the July 4th recess fizzled as the Republican leadership is unable to make a deal with enough support. Yesterday, Pres. Trump was optimistic about the process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Health care is working along very well. We could have a big surprise with a great health care package. So, now they're happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean by a big surprise?
TRUMP: It's going to be a great, great surprise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, it looks like the efforts to fulfill one of the president's biggest campaign promises is temporarily falling out again. CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now from Capitol Hill. So what is the latest, Ryan?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson. The Republican conference here not giving up on health care quite yet, but GOP leaders have told us not to expect some sort of a grand bargain by tomorrow and they even say that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never set that deadline. Still, Senators continue to talk with hopes of coming to some sort of a break through.
NOBLES (voice-over): All day long in the halls of the Senate, Republican members were ducking in and out of private meetings, hammering out changes to the currently stalled health care reform bill.
SEN. ROGER WICKER, (R) MISSISSIPPI: I just saw a genuine determination on the part of people center right and maybe more center left in the caucus to get to yes.
NOBLES (voice-over): But exactly what those changes are and which members are moving closer to a yes is still unclear. And the senators at the center of the debate are reluctant to say which way they are leaning.
SEN. DEAN HELLER, (R) NEVADA: I'm not going to negotiate with the press here on what it's going to take to get to something favorable for the state of Nevada.
NOBLES (voice-over): Nevada Senator Dean Heller who has been a vocal opponent to the new bill has been a part of the negotiations, but was unwilling to get into the details of the bill's progress.
HELLER: But the bottom line is that this bill is not good for the state of Nevada. I'm simply not going to support it.
NOBLES (voice-over): Heller's resistance is just one example of the divide between the moderate and conservative wings of the party. Conservatives want to reign in the cost of Medicaid, including gradually ending federal funding for the expansion of the program under Obamacare. Nevada is a state that expanded their Medicaid rolls and stands to lose billions in federal funding under the current draft of the bill.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Changing the growth rates of Medicaid to make it a little more generous might help some. But if you do too much of that, you're going to lose other people.
[21:50:02] NOBLES (voice-over): Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning conservatives to build consensus because if Democrats join the negotiations, the less conservative the bill will be.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: There are may be a progress and we'll keep working.
NOBLES (voice-over): And there are plenty of moderate Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who are ready to deal.
Have any Republicans approached you --
NOBLES: -- person that they would talk to? Has anyone talked to you about it?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: We're working. We're just working a little bit. We'll be talking. It will happen, hopefully.
NOBLES (voice-over): Meanwhile, the White House is taking a more active role in the negotiations with both Vice President Mike Pence and Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway making trips to the Hill all with the hopes that at least the framework of the deal can be struck before Congress leaves town.
COOPER: Ryan, what is the realistic timeline for actually getting a bill to the floor?
NOBLES: Well, Anderson, look at this way. There are no votes scheduled here tomorrow. So that means most senators have already left town for the 4th of July recess to be back in their home states.
Now, there's a good chance that their staffs will continue to talk through the 4th of July holiday. But we're looking at least 10 days before senators are going to be able to meet face-to-face and that's where the real negotiation takes place. So that won't even begin for quite some time and after that, it's impossible to forecast when they'll have enough votes to pass this bill.
COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is frustrated at the White House, to say the least. Americans top diplomat may or may not want to make peace with the White House after a tense meeting with top aides with the president. Elise Labott has more now from the State Department.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had this to say about the process of filling dozens of key vacancies at the State Department.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'd like it go faster.
LABOTT (voice-over): Perhaps an understatement. We're now hearing Tillerson went head to head with the president's aides. In a meeting first reported by Politico, Tillerson made clear to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Johnny DeStefano, the head of presidential personnel and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, he wants to pick his own staff.
White House aides describe the discussion as intense and uncomfortable, flinging Tillerson for the gridlock. A Tillerson aide told CNN, "The secretary is working on a process of evaluating people on merit. He wants to put forward the best candidate for the job. The desire for political patronage does not overcome a lack of competence."
JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We have this tradition in Washington of let's just bring in our tribe and our tribe will run things. Well, first of all, almost none of these guys have a tribe. You know, Tillerson certainly doesn't have a State Department tribe. And so he in a sense is building his tribe.
LABOTT (voice-over): But president hired the former ExxonMobil CEO for his global deal making skills. TRUMP: You really have had a tremendous life heading up one of the great companies of the world and doing it magnificently.
LABOTT (voice-over): But so far, Trump isn't giving his top diplomat free rein on foreign policy. While Tillerson tries to mediate a dispute between Cutter (ph) and other Gulf countries, Pres. Trump has openly sided with Saudi Arabia.
TRUMP: The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.
LABOTT (voice-over): Trump has also taken much of Mideast policy, including the peace process of Tillerson's plate, giving it to Kushner instead. And as Tillerson seeks to reorganize his State Department, the White House has pushed him to make major cuts, slashing a whopping 30 percent to his budget, shocking lawmakers who called the proposal a waste of time.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE: My reaction is it's probably dead on arrival.
LABOTT (voice-over): Tony Blinken, a former Deputy Secretary of State under Pres. Obama, now CNN Global Affairs Analyst, says the end result is a weakened State Department unable to shape and execute foreign policy.
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: If you look two things, one, the budget and, you know, show me the money and I'll tell you what your priorities are, clearly, State Department is not their priority. And second, personnel. You've got to have the people to run the place. In the absence of both, the State Department plays a diminished role.
LABOTT: Now, administration official say Pres. Trump's loyalty test is also slowing down the nominations process across the government. The president is ruling out many candidates who've criticized him during the campaign.
Now, Tillerson aides say a confirmation of a Deputy John Sullivan has sped up the nominations at the State Department and that is a result of that White House meeting, everyone's concerns are now out in the open and they expect the process to run much smoother now, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Elise Labott, thanks very much.
With me again, former White House Communications Director for Pres. Obama, Jen Psaki, and joining us, CNN Military and Diplomatic Analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Admiral Kirby, I mean, how big a problem is this for the State Department with positions unfilled in terms of, you know, executing U.S. foreign policy.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, look, six months in it's becoming an increasingly big problem. I mean, you can get by. There's always going to be sometime when you're trying to fill jobs, but overtime it will affect foreign policy, because while we have great foreign service officers out there in the field, many of them now acting ambassadors where they're normally would be a politically appointed ambassador, that overtime is not sustainable, because it's from those political appointees that you get the policy guides that these foreign governments really rely on. So I think, you know, overtime this could become a much bigger problem.
[21:55:12] COOPER: But, Admiral, getting ambassadors, that's -- is that something Rex Tillerson would normally do or that the White House? I mean, a lot of the ambassadors end up being political patronage.
KIRBY: Yes, I think you're right, you're right. No, but he does -- they do -- you know, Secretary of State does have a role to play, but you're right. There are also political appointees at the State Department, I should have mention that, that are key to leadership and management of the department and to developing the kind of policy guidance that foreign governments and frankly our career foreign diplomats out in the field need. And so that isn't happening right now and that is a little bit of a concern.
COOPER: Jen, I mean just in terms of staffing choices shouldn't the secretary of state be able to pick who he wants to fill these positions?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he certainly wanted to do that and that is true for any secretary of state. But, clearly, we don't know, yet, from the reporting whether he has put forward positions, whether Trump is blocking the positions, whether it's a combination of two -- of the two. It certainly may be.
One area where the roles have traditionally been filled by foreign service officers, high level foreign service officers, are the assistant secretaries that are leading the regional bureaus and those are the people who are the points of contact for embassies around the world for foreign governments.
They really do the day-to-day work of the State Department. So that is not about political patronage. That's not about campaign donors. That's about either not selecting people, not nominating them, not moving the process forward and that is really paralyzing the State Department even just those positions.
COOPER: In fairness, though, the White House, Jen, I mean, it's not unheard of for the White House to block some certain picks of a secretary of state. I'm -- understanding as the Obama White House told Sec. Clinton they didn't want Sidney Blumenthal joining her when she was at the State Department.
PSAKI: That's true. That does happen. And in my experience, the presidential personnel office can get a little drunk with power too. And that may be happening here as well, I don't know.
But, what I was trying to get at is the fact that there are a number of people who are not controversial who could be elevated to positions, who have been in government, been in foreign service, been public servants for 15, 20, 25, 30 years and be leading these regional bureaus and be our points of contact internationally. That's not happening and I don't know why.
COOPER: Admiral Kirby, does it also seem to you that Secretary of State Tillerson himself doesn't have the power or at least the ear of the president the past secretaries of state have had. I mean, you have Jared Kushner, you know, allegedly in charge of, you know, any Mideast peace efforts.
KIRBY: Well, I don't know that that's the case. I mean, from folks I've talked at the State Department, he does meet with the president regularly one-on-one. I mean, he does have access to the president.
Now, to what degree is the president listening to his advice and counsel, I don't know. But, he does have direct access to the president and he has been given the where with all to run the State Department.
I think, you know, going back to Jen's point, I think there is fault here on both sides. I think the White House has some legitimate concerns about the speed with which they think Sec. Tillerson is moving and the fact that he has push back on some of their nominations.
On the other hand, the secretary also has legitimate concerns about wanting to move forward and not being able to because he's getting some resistance from the White House. So I think it goes both ways.
Again, folks I talked to said that having a deputy secretary of state now in place is expected to free this up a little bit. This has been one of the things that he's been told to do, he wanted his organizational jobs is going to be working on staffing and he's diving right in.
COOPER: Jen, you know, a lot of people wondered just how well Sec. Tillerson would fit in to the role as secretary of state. He rose through the ranks, you know, become a COO of one of the world's biggest companies. Now, he's happened to take instruction, you know, from aides at the White House.
PSAKI: That's an adjustment. And I think he spoke a little bit about this in an interview couple of months ago about how he wasn't certain about taking the job or serving in the government. And being a cabinet member really means you're out there as essentially a high- level ambassador for the president of the United States' policies, right?
So, you should agree with them and want to agree with them. And we've seen a number of conflicts even on the policy level if you look at Qatar and Saudi Arabia. That was just a few weeks ago and that makes it very difficult, I think, for Sec. Tillerson to implement if he is disagreeing even in a public way with the president of the United States. COOPER: And just for a briefly Admiral Kirby, the president's, you know, tweets today. Susan Collins -- Sen. Susan Collins told me tonight that she thinks they hurt the country's standing in the world, mostly by the attack on Mika Brzezinski. I wonder what your thoughts are.
KIRBY: Yes, I agree. I think it's just deplorable. You know, it's just so beneath the office of the president of the United States and the commander-in-chief for the greatest military in the world for him to be engaging and talk like this. And these aren't just tweets, these are statements. These are presidential statements and way, way, well beneath the office. And I do it does makes us look a little lesser smaller in the eyes of the world.
COOPER: Admiral Kirby, Jen Psaki, thanks so much for being with us.
PSAKI: Thank you.
COOPER: Time to hand things over to Don Lemon and "CNN Tonight." I'll see you tomorrow night.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I have to say something before we start. Can we kill the music, please? Kill the music.