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Sessions' Chief Of Staff To WH: Atty Gen Has No Plans To Resign; WSJ: Trump Downplays Sessions' Early Support; Sources: Manafort Subpoena Dropped By Senate Judiciary; Senate Barely Advances Health Care Bill; Dems Attempt Delay Tactic; Trump: "Criminal Aliens" Prey On "Beautiful Young People". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 25, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: On a very busy day in Washington there were crucial votes in Congress. Trump team members behind closed doors in the Russia investigation. The president of the United States, again, lashing out his own attorney general. The fate of Jeff Sessions job is vecy much in limbo tonight. But as of a few days ago he was determined to stay put. CNN has confirmed, Sessions' chief of staff, told Reince Priebus that the attorney general had no intention of stepping down. That conversation happened over the weekend.

The president criticized Sessions several more times since then, right up today. Sara Murray in Youngstown, Ohio where the president had a rally tonight, she joins me. So Sara, the president finishing up the rally there short time ago. Curious, did he mention Session because he's talked about him now several times today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He was asked about him several times today. And seemed to intentionally leave him out there twisting, not getting any kind of answer about whether he wanted Sessions to step aside or whether he might fire Sessions.

So of course we were all waiting to see if Trump would unleash on his attorney general here at his rally in Youngstown, Ohio. He was clearly feeding off the crowd. But he didn't mention Sessions by name. Here's what president Trump did have to say, about presidential behavior though.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes they say he doesn't act presidential. And I say, hey, look, great schools, smart guy, it's so easy to act presidential. But that's not going to get it done. In fact, I said, it's much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we're doing here tonight, believe me.

And I said with the exception of the late, great, Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office. That I can tell you.


MURRAY: Now, clearly President Trump has been taking flak including from members of his party for treatment of Jeff Sessions. That seemed like a not very veiled riff about exactly what was going on there. As for Session' fate, though Trump gave no clue asked which way he was leaning, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Sara Murray, Sara thanks. Joining me now is a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Michael Bender, who interviewed the president and asked him about Attorney General Sessions. Michael thanks for being with us.

So, Attorney General Sessions, obviously, was the first sitting senator to endorse the president during the campaign. You had a fascinating exchange with him about Sessions and about, loyalty, and about that early endorsement. What did he say?

MICHAEL BENDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well we tried to ask him a couple times about what he was going to do with Sessions. And he wouldn't take the bait. Just kept saying he was disappointed. And then he started talking a little bit about White House personnel and mentioned Anthony Scaramucci, actually first, who is his new communications director.

And what Trump wanted to do was retell the story about how Scaramucci didn't -- endorsed Scott Walker first in the presidential campaign. When Walker quit he endorsed Jeb Bush. When Jeb Bush quit, it wasn't a whole lot of options left. And he endorsed Trump. Trump said, while Scaramucci came to me first and offered his support. I wasn't ready to run.

So it's really important to know that he wanted to endorse Trump first. And then almost right after that he offered up his anecdote about how Sessions endorsed him, and not only the first senator to endorse him. He was the only senator throughout the entire primary process, to back Donald Trump. And, it was an influential. It was a big moment in that primary campaign. But Trump said that, well, you know, I drew 30,000, and, in Trump's math, he said 40,000 people to, Mobile, Alabama, Sessions who is from Alabama looked at the crowd and says, you know, might as well endorse him.

COOPER: And basically, I think Trump also said something to the words of the effect, it wasn't a loyalty thing. It wasn't a loyalty thing, it was basically -- I mean basically he is saying that Sessions jumped on the Trump train because he saw a large crowd.

BENDER: Yes, that's right. And, you know, Jeff Sessions is a politician. You know, I'm sure there was calculation in there. He is probably not 100 percent incorrect there. But, you know, Sessions backed Trump because, because of philosophical alignment with what Trump was saying particularly on immigration at a time when the almost entirety of the party, certainly in Washington was criticized in what Trump was saying. So, I mean they line up. They lined up, perfectly back then. Which is why Sessions endorsed Trump over Ted Cruz which you remember back then was pretty -- was a big blow to Ted Cruz, who is trying to win the south, trying to win the evangelical voters and trying to, you know, leverage the immigration issues.

COOPER: Right, I mean Sessions is also effectively whether you believe in him or not, or believe in a position and not executing the president's policy over the Department of Justice right now. The president also talks about the safety of Robert Mueller's job as well, what did he say?

[21:05:10] BENDER: Well, he kind of left that open too. You know, he wouldn't say what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to see what Mueller did. You know, which is news worthy and striking in itself. This is the special counsel, you know, it was certain level of independence implied in this and expected in this. And Trump is saying that, you know, that he's the one who is going to decide basically what -- whether Mueller is going down the right path or not. You know, and this -- he talks about him in the same way he is talking about Sessions. It's not about loyalty for Donald Trump, you know, for all the talk about Trump's loyalty, you know, this is a very transactional president. Not, you know, it's what you have done for me lately. Not, you know, not a resume of what you've done for me in the past.

COOPER: Yes. Michael Bender, appreciate it, fascinating interview today. Thank you.

With me now is, Maggie Haberman, Jeffrey Lord, Kirsten Powers, Jeffrey Toobin, Bianna Golodryga, Joshua Green, who is the author of the new book, "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency", it's getting a lot attention, it's available now.

Jeff, I mean this -- Donald Trump, the president, downplaying Jeff Sessions early endorsement. Is that fair? I mean he was a key surrogate.

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes, right. I think this is part of a larger kabuki theater type of thing. And one of the things that strikes me, you know, all of this, Anderson, is this is news to us. But I imagine that he had this conversation over his disappointment on the recusal months ago directly with him. And so now we are finding it out. And he is dragging this out. He is doing this. I honestly, don't think that it helps him with conservatives. You know, because Jeff Sessions is himself.

COOPER: Right. I mean there are --


LORD: That said, I do understand. You know, I sort of softened on the recusal thing there. But the more I think of this, I think the president is probably right. He shouldn't have recused himself. But he did. I will leave it to Jeffrey to say whether or not you can unrecuse.


LORD: You can't? TOOBIN: You can't unrecuse. I mean, recusal is a voluntary act. I mean, you -- there is no law requiring recusal. But once you recuse yourself. It makes no sense to unrecuse yourself.

COOPER: It's also interesting you have like, you know, Rudy Giuliani saying he was right to recuse himself.

TOOBIN: And Mitch McConnell and half the Republicans in the Senate. The reason they say he was right to recuse himself is that he was right to recuse himself. I mean, that is not a close legal question. The only person who thinks he was wrong is Donald Trump. Now admittedly he is important person in this equation. But-- I mean, on the merit, I think, this is not a complicated or difficult question.

COOPER: And Joshua, I mean you have focuses your books on Steve Bannon but you write a lot about Jeff Sessions as well, because he was important during the campaign.

JOSHUA GREEN, AUTHOR,"DEVIL'S BARGAIN": Well, he was. I mean, he was in the heart and soul of Trumpism before trumpism existed. I mean, Sessions was at, you know, 10, 15 years ago fighting against things like immigration reform. It points in 2013 bipartisan immigration reform effort. Sessions was sometimes the lone vote in favor of immigration amendments. So aggressive that even people like Ted Cruz couldn't support him.

So this guy is, is the heart and soul of what Trump believes. And I would imagine must be very painful to him to be enduring this drawn out, ritual, public humiliation from a guy he bent over backwards to support.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS AND FINANCE ANCHOR: I remember interviewing Sessions right after the Access Hollywood tape came out where some within the Trump camp wouldn't even defend him and go on television. And Jeff Sessions defended him and said, listen the man has changed. This was 10 years ago. This is not what he is focused on right now. So I think, it's a bit ironic for the president to say, well, the only reason he is rallying or he was rallying around me was because he saw crowds. Jeff Sessions literally stood by this man when others didn't.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In fact, more than stood by him and it's a really important point, had this whole conversation with Reince Priebus, now the chief of staff, who is having this conversation with Jeff Sessions chief of staff about whether Jeff Sessions will leave. When Priebus asked Trump as chairman of the Republican National Committee to consider dropping out of the race, and Jeff Sessions had said to Priebus according to a bunch of people familiar with that conversation, "Let's wait and see how this plays out. Let's wait and see what happens. Do not rush to judgment." There were not a lot of people doing that, to your point. And he did do it. And so, again, this question of what loyalty means to the president.

Somebody e-mailed me a very good point during the break before. This is not about loyalty for the president, it's filthy, he demands filthy. And that is what he wants in his attorney general, he wants him to prove some level of filthy to the president which is not what the attorney general's job is supposed to be.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yes. I think all of these people are self-interested. You know, it's not -- Jeff Sessions wasn't doing something out of the goodness of his heart for Donald Trump. He was doing it because it was good for him. It was because he saw Trump as being a vessel for his, for his world view, right? And so, this was his way to get, a person in the White House, who shared his views on some, very critical issues that he cared a lot about and to get into a position like he's in right now.

[21:10:14] And so, I think that, you know, the idea that I need these people are particularly loyal to each other. I don't think they are. They're loyal to themselves and their own interests. And you know, if Donald Trump hadn't been espousing the views that he looked he wouldn't have gotten behind him. It's that simple.

And so, you know, the truth is Donald Trump owes him a lot. There is no question that, you know, Jeff Sessions getting on board with the campaign was, better for Donald Trump probably than it was for Jeff Sessions. It was kind of a risk for Jeff Sessions. But, ultimately, these are all people who are just operating in their best own interests.

GREEN: Generally these relationships are transactional. But I really do believe that Sessions believed in Trump's policies and did take a big risk. Sessions thought at the time, that he had been punished, passed over for the chairmanship of the budget committee, a very powerful committee after Republicans won back the Senate in 2014, as punishment from his own party's leaders for being so aggressive on immigration and some of these things. So he was very worried that if he did endorse Trump and trump lost, which I think at that point in time most people expect that he would, that he would pay a real price, I think Sessions more than almost anybody else in Trump's orbit really did kind of take a leap of faith because he believed in what Trump purported to stand for.

GOLODRYGA: And the president's rationale that he continues to espouse and that Jeff Sessions should have told him early on that he was going to recuse himself in any sort of Russia investigation, because had he done that that he would never appointed him to be attorney general because doesn't make any sense. Obviously, that all happened after the fact and nobody knew what would end up coming out, bit by bit by bit, as far as this administration and this campaign affiliations with Russians.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We're going to have more of the conversation ahead.

Later, an emotional moment in the Senate, Senator John McCain, returning to Washington shortly after brain surgery to cast a crucial vote in the health care fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:15:42] COOPER: We're talking about attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, coming from the president. And to think it wasn't that long ago, in Alabama, Sessions was the first sitting senator to endorse Trump who introduced him like this at a rally.


TRUMP: I think of a great man. And I want to just introduce you to him for a sec, do you know who I am talking about do. You know who I am talking about? Nobody knows rights now, because we have kept it a surprise. Senator Jeff Sessions.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: What a crowd. Wow. What a crowd this is.


COOPER: Back now, with the panel. Just, Maggie, just in terms of the president's mind set, what does it say that he's so easily seems went from that to where he is now?

HABERMAN: It says that he is exactly the same person that we have known for the last three years. And that he is the same person he was before that. He is a deals guy. Everything is all about making deals. Everything is a transaction. I think Michael Bender alluded to that before, it is absolutely true. And he sees everything in terms of a sliding scale of what can be done for him if some one is useful to him at any given moment, they're terrific and wonderful person, if they are not, he has this habit as, I think, we've seen repeatedly. When somebody he wants to seek distance from some one such as with Paul Manafort, I barely know that person. Paul Manafort was his campaign chairman. And then he started inching away from him in a pretty pronounced way. This is just who he is and how he is. I think anyone who is surprised by how he is treating Jeff Sessions, should only be surprise that he is doing it from the West Wing not that he is doing it at all.

COOPER: But it's fascinating to me that he does this stuff from a distance. That he talks in front of a crowd about Jeff Sessions but he actually doesn't talk to Jeff Sessions' face.

HABERMAN: But I mean, first of all, we don't actually know what their private conversations are, number one. Number two, we do know that Jeff Sessions, and this I continue to not understand to your question about what's real and what's not here, and what's known and what is not. Jeff Sessions offered his resignation several weeks ago.

COOPER: Right, I remember --

HABERMAN: -- and the president wouldn't take it. Yes. And the president wouldn't take it. So I don't know why it is that now the president is sort of tormenting him. I don't know if there is something the president has learned about where Mueller is going. Or if there is something else related to this investigation that concerns him. But it has heated up again. COOPER: Jeff -- if Jeff Lord, if Jeff Sessions did step down resign or was fired, how damaging would that be for the president, in terms of his base. Because the one thing one can say all along is that, you know, the president's base has held. This is the first time you're hearing rumblings from, you know, hard core supporters of the president saying, do not do this to Jeff sessions?

LORD: Right, right. I do think it might be a bit of a problem with that. And more to the point, I think it would be hell on wheels to get a successor appointed, because he would want to, if he did this, get somebody like -- to pick a name at random, not so at random. Ted Cruz. Well, you know, in that kind of environment, I think it would be al most impossible. Or, if not just very difficult to get Ted Cruz or some one of that conservative -- those conservative bona fides approved.

One of the other things, I mean, I think he's really mad. He sees this as an assault on his presidency that he won the election fair and square. He is the outsider. And as Rush Limbaugh was staying today, others have said there is a silent coup here with Washington establishment trying to take him out. And I think he is very aware of that. I think, Gary Tuchman's report shows there are a lot of people out there that really believe in him. And they see that there's an assault on him.

TOOBIN: You know why they believe in him, because according to the president, he is the second best president in the history of the United States after Abraham Lincoln. I mean that --

COOPER: Second most presidential.

TOOBIN: Second most presidential. He says so many crazy things that we don't, I mean, we don't even pay any attention. Can you imagine what he said tonight?

COOPER: It was like the Boy Scout stuff too. Yesterday it's like -- I mean people are --

TOOBIN: I mean, it's just like, what, who talks that way?

LORD: Well, Jeff, there is the disconnect.

TOOBIN: I know, you are in touch with the people in Pennsylvania.

LORD: Well, no, no, no. I --

TOOBIN: People think he's the second best people in history, right?

LORD: I think a lot of people think that he is a great president. That he's doing a great job. That it is the, I mean no disrespect, that's just the disconnect here between loosely Washington media, New York elites, and --

[21:20:01] TOOBIN: And those of us here on 58th Street. We are so out of touch. We think Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt are better. And, you know, what fools we are? HABERMAN: But it isn't that. His approval rating is at 36 percent. So I think that if we are suggesting that he is doing something that has overwhelming popularity that isn't true, number one. And number two, I mean, doesn't mean that if there's a binary choice of him versus another person in 2020 that he doesn't win again. He may very well. But suggesting that he is some where that he isn't is a problem. And he has often said these polls are fake, number one. Number two, in terms of silent coup, I'm not sure what you are referring to but he has inability to not turn all of these institutions into something personal and something about him. This is not an assault an investigation into an attack on democratic institutions during the election is not somehow a delegitimizing of him. He sees it that way.

LORD: Well, he sees it that way. And there are a lot of people, I mean, I was never in favor of the special counsel.

HABERMAN: -- his own national security establishment doesn't see it that way.

LORD: Well, look, I mean what we have here is a problem where you got, when Archibald Cox was fired. The media made him a saint. By the time Ken Starr was doing this they went after Ken Starr.

COOPER: -- have in his own National Security Counsel, I mean, the acting FBI director, he accused of corrupt today based on, you know, something to do with his wife.

HABERMAN: For the second time, he did that with us in an interview last week. Dan Coats, his director of National Intelligence, said last week that there is no disagreement among the national security apparatus. This is a Trump appointee. There's no disagreement that Russia intervened in the election and tried to meddle in the election. It is the president who has refused to accept that. So I guess I don't understand why that's the media fault.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break though. We're going to have more with the panel. Breaking news in Russia probe, why Senate Judiciary Committee is dropping its subpoena of Former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort coming up.


[21:25:44] COOPER: Breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation. The Senate Judiciary Committee dropping its subpoena to the president's Former Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, and he'll no longer need to appear at tomorrow's hearing. That's according to a source close to the matter who adds the two sides have agreed to continue talking. The decision comes after Mr. Manafort spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

Meanwhile, the president's son-in-law and Senior Adviser, Jared Kushner was back on Capitol Hill for a second day in a row, this time to talk with the House Intelligence Committee. Democratic Congressman, Jim Himes is part of that panel. I spoke to him before we went on air. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congressman, did you, did your committee learn anything new from Jared Kushner today anything beyond his comments in the statement he released yesterday?

REP. JIM HIMES, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We did, as you might anticipate, you know, whatever it was, three-plus hours of questioning. We got a lot of detail on many of the things that he mentioned in his written testimony which we all saw yesterday. So, yes, I do think we learned as would be expected a fair amount of detail.

COOPER: Chairman Conway said, his answers were forthcoming and complete. He also said he satisfied all my questions do. You agree with that?

HIMES: I will tell you that Mr. Kushner really made a good faith effort. And, you know, he came here voluntarily. He told us repeatedly over the course of the deposition, that he was willing to stay as long as it took.

And so, you know, I kind of welcomed that, that attitude. We haven't seen that from all of the people involved in, or possibly involved in this investigation. You know, whether it was complete or not. You know an investigation is a lengthy thing. You know, we've got to sort of cross check, testimony by, witness like Mr. Kushner against what we know from other witnesses. I don't really want to opine on comprehensiveness and completeness. But I will tell you that, I think, Mr. Kushner made a strong good faith effort to answer the committee's questions today.

COOPER: The chairman also said he had no reason to have this point, Kushner come back before the committee, do you agree with that?

HIMES: Well, I think it's a little early to answer that question. Again, you know, we're looking forward to having a number of other witnesses just to give you an example. You know, the sort of the lead story now on the whole question of possible link to Russia is the president's son, Don Jr. admission that he had that meeting at which Jared Kushner was present. And he confirmed that and gave us more details. But, obviously, we've got to hear from the other people in that meeting as to exactly what happened.

So, again, it's a little early to draw any conclusion about the testimony. But as I said before, it was good that he came forward with an altitude of answering whatever questions we had for him.

COOPER: Does it seem credible to you that Donald Trump Jr. would, would get an e-mail in which he is told that Russia is backing his father in the election? And not tell anybody else about it. I mean not mention it to his father. Not mention it to Jared Kushner, or Paul Manafort, or anybody else?

HIMES: Well, there's certainly, at least, two areas of questions that I have. Number one, and using, Don Jr.'s own words, you know, I think he said I love it. I love the idea that there may be some incriminating information on Secretary Clinton. That means we need to understand exactly what was offered. Exactly what was taken and any follow-up that may have come out of the meeting. Again, I love it, suggest that you go into the meeting as Don Jr., I expect would have done, with the expectation that you're going to get something pretty hot, pretty valuable. And of course, you know, he did invite Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, who were the most senior members of the campaign.

So, for me the question is, OK, what came next? What was said in the meeting? What was promised? What was delivered? What was the follow-up?

COOPER: What is next for your committee?

HIMES: Well, we, you know, have a schedule of witness whose will come in. Some are sort of minor players in this overall tale. Some of whom are not. People like Paul Manafort. And we are in the process now of negotiating the timing. And remember, before we bring a witness in, and this the one sort of discordant note I would raise about Jared Kushner's testimony today. It probably came a little bit early in the sense that somebody who -- was that senior to the campaign. You'd like to have the opportunity to really go through the documents in an extensive and comprehensive way. But the timing was offered. We took it. And we will continue to both review documents and bring those witnesses in.

COOPER: Congressman Himes. Appreciate your time. Thanks.

HIMES: Thanks Anderson.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. I mean, Maggie there are a lot of players now who are going to be heard from who are, no longer with the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort, you have Carter Page. Is that -- are you hearing anything that that is a concern for people in the White House?

[21:30:02] HABERMAN: No, I mean, look, I think the more ancillary the circle gets harder gets to control. But you also have people like Roger Stone, who has this very lengthy relationship with President Trump, who is going -- at some point going to be appearing his testimony, it was canceled.

I think that they are, in general, concerned, not just about fact, of what could be said, because I think that, you know, when you talk to them they insist that there won't be anything there. But there is a concern about the closed door nature of these appearances so far. And that there is no transcript provided. So the question then becomes what leaks out from what is said behind closed doors which can very much sort of set the tone going forward at least in terms of public opinion.

TOOBIN: And Anderson, we focus always on these witnesses, you know, which witnesses coming in, which witness spoke. These cases are almost always, won or lost or broken or not broken on documents.


TOOBIN: On e-mails, on -- any sort of, I mean, think about the one big piece of news that we had. It was the e-mails setting up the June 2016 meeting. Those are going to tell the story because witnesses can tailor their stories, they can forget. E-mails are going to -- and the question I have, and I don't really know the answer yet is, how much access to the e-mails the Congressional committees have?

COOPER: But I've asked that question. And they -- no one really seems to say.

TOOBIN: And Mueller will certainly be able to subpoena anything he wants. And there are no privileges attached. There's no classified information issue. He is really going to be able to have the e-mails. And those will, I think, tell the story even more than any witness testimony.

GOLODRYGA: And also, who if anybody took notes during that meeting last June. And there had been speculation as to whether that was indeed Paul Manafort and whether that was something Paul Manafort would be willing and open to turning over. So the question still remains. But given the number of people in the room and the nature of the meeting I wouldn't be surprised if one of the people, one of the eight, if not more, did take notes and documented it.

LORD: But thus far, we have another day here with no there there. I mean, we're listening to a Democratic congressman say, that he was relatively pleased, that's because Jared Kushner has nothing to hide. There is nothing there and they keep looking for this. And every day that they come up empty. I mean this is just being --


LORD: -- this is the source of the president --

COOPER: But isn't this. I mean, this is how investigations work. You can't say on every day, well, there is nothing to day. That means there is nothing there.

POWERS: I think they also like -- they like the fact that he's actually being transparent. You know, that they're welcoming the fact that he's coming up and he's, or at least seeming to be transparent. He's laying out a lot. He's giving some explanation or things that we didn't -- we knew one side of the story before. And he's provided another side of story. I think in some cases he's given some plausible explanations for some of the things why he wanted to have the secure line, for example, which originally looked very suspicious. And look less suspicious with his explanation. All that said these are his explanations. They're not -- I mean, this is his story. And there has to be some sort of follow-up to make sure.

TOOBIN: And the idea that nothing has been learned. I mean, remember the president, the vice president, we've heard them all say for months. There is no evidence that there were many connections between the campaign and the Russians. Nothing at all. The whole thing is fake news. The whole thing is a joke. Then the e-mails come out of the June meeting and suddenly Jay Sekulow is on television, saying, well, there's no crime here. That's a big difference.

LORD: There is no crime here.

TOOBIN: Well there may, may not be. But it just -- the story has changed. Because new facts --

LORD: -- it's the partisan nature of this. The very fact that there is no investigation of Hillary Clinton on this and her Russian ties --


TOOBIN: -- because she might run for city council in Chappaqua? What do you care?

LORD: Because if the subject is Russian meddling in the election she was the other candidate, right? So what her are her ties to Russia.

POWERS: But it's been established, Jeffrey, that Russia was frying to help Donald Trump. So I don't understand what would Hillary be doing. It doesn't even make sense.

And I think the other problem is, I think, you know, Donald Trump really acts like the victim in all of this. That, you know, why is everybody so interested in this Russia thing, and this Russia investigation, when in fact, the Intelligence Committee has said that Russia tried to swing our election. And Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in actually investigating that. And had he done that, I think people would be a lot less suspicious of him. And if his, you know, when you have people who work for him saying, we've never inquired about this. We don't even want to know what happened. We have never asked. I mean that's --

GREEN: I think it's one other variable here. We don't know what happens in this closed door testimony, at least not until somebody leaks. But, the one thing we can look at is Donald Trump and his behavior and his Twitter feed. Clearly he is agitated and upset about what -- about the information that he's getting about this hearing, because he's been so fixated on Sessions. And we can see this from his public behavior and in speaking to White House officials. This has been going on privately before it kind of broke out into the public.

[21:35:05] COOPER: And now that he's bringing up Hillary Clinton, again, which is something he dismissed along time ago that also sort of --

HABERMAN: I don't think it's these hearings. I think -- I think it's two things. I think one is Mueller and the scope of what Mueller is doing, and what you have heard White House aides, White House counsel office get very concerned about over the last two months, has been the degree to which Robert Mueller's office is beginning to look like a finance crimes office. Like that is what they're looking at. Well, I don't know if it's mission creep, but I think that is what -- I mean, that is where, what the type of specialist that he is hiring. So there is one thing that concerns them.

And the other is, don't forget, the prospect this week, it's not happening now, but there was this prospect of Trump's son, his namesake son, openly testifying at a hearing and being asked questions. And, Trump's aides were very, very worried about the effect that was going to have on him. So I think the degree to which this is getting close to his family shouldn't be ignored either.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. In a moment, our other breaking news tonight, a key vote to advance the GOP health care bill only barely passes the Senate after the vice-president's tie breaking vote. Now the Democrats are trying to do a stall tactic. The latest on that ahead.


COOPER: To other breaking news out of Washington tonight. A crucial Senate vote moves the ball forward on Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare. The motion just barely passed earlier today in knife's edge margin after Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

[21:39:59] Tonight the Democrats are trying a stall tactic on the GOP effort. CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now from Capitol Hill with the latest.

So, Republicans clearing a big hurdle today. There's a vote tonight, has that -- do we know the results to that yet?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's happening right now, Anderson, as a matter of fact. And this is part of 20 hour process of debate before the amendments get put down on the floor.

And essentially what's happening now is they're dispatching with some of these different versions of the health care plan that Republicans have proposed. And what they're voting on tonight, was, an effort by Senator Rob Portman and a few other Republicans supreme. Bring the moderates and conservatives together. This was a bill that offered up some expansions for Medicaid payments and also expanded the Cruz amendment which was put up by Ted Cruz.

Now this is expected to be voted down today, but this is just the beginning of this process. And then they'll reconvene again tomorrow. And then, the process continues on. And then we're going to get to a point where we call it "vote-a-rama" where amendments are put on the floor by all different members, almost every members is allowed to put amendments up on the floor.

And this is where you're going to see Democrats put amendments up of all different stripes in an attempt to get Republicans on the record as it relates to health care. But at the end of the day, Anderson, they don't have the votes and Republicans are still going to attempt to try and come up with some sort of negotiated deal that they can get 50 votes for and get health care moving forward.

COOPER: There was obviously a very -- a big moment with Senator John McCain took the floor to vote today.

NOBLES: Yes, it was very dramatic, Anderson. And that's what we expected. But what we didn't expect was the passionate speech that Senator McCain gave on the floor of the Senate, where he first said that he was going to vote yes to move the bill to the floor. But then, he scolded his fellow senators, both Republican and Democrats saying, if they're not doing enough to work together and that the body, the greatest deliberative body in the history of the United States, has not done a very good job living up to that reputation.

He even suggested that he doesn't think that this effort is going to be successful. That he said, it's likely that this bill will ultimately fail, and then perhaps everyone can take a deep breath, start from scratch and work together. And even though there is no doubt that Senator McCain's word were heard, you could hear a pin drop here in the halls of the Senate. There is no real evidence that that's going to lead to any bipartisan cooperation up here any time soon, especially when it relates to something as divisive and health care reform.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan Nobles appreciate the update. Thanks very much. Back now to our panel.

You know, John Boehner said again, he doesn't think this is going to happen. That is repeal and replace is not going to go forward.

HABERMAN: All indications suggest that right now. I mean, that having been said. I think there is going to be something of a zombie process, where you are going to see this keep going for a while. I think until end of September for reconciliation process to end. But people in the White House expect that this is going to continue and be taken up again if it fails next year.

And so, because they are very concerned with the fact that, you know, the Republicans campaigned for the three consecutive cycles on repeal and replace. You've seen the president say this as well. And it can't get done. I think that this is, for Republicans, becoming something of a spectacle right now.

GOLODRYGA: And there's a reason it's not going anywhere. It's a very unpopular bill. The initial House Bill it has 12 percent approval rating. And obviously you've got senators who have to go home to constituents. And now be held accountable for this bill.

The president, I'm afraid will view this as a victory. The motion to proceed. And view his tactics and getting senators to vote, whether it's bullying through Twitter, whether it's criticizing them publicly as a right move on his part and continue to do so. He's already on the "Wall Street Journal," however talking about tax reform and moving on to that. So, there really does seem to be a lot of confusion.

HABERMAN: He's kept a foot in each camp on this for a while. But to your point, at number one in a bunch of reds -- at Rand red stage if senators who have constituent who are on Obamacare, who like Obamacare, there are some who do not. But you had all these House members go out and basically walk the plank on that first vote for that first bill. And they are facing backlash from it.

We have yet to see what will happen at some of these, you know, recess town halls. And what happens going into the end of December. But the midterms are not looking particularly great right now as a climate --

COOPER: Well, it doesn't help when the president himself, you know, supports that the House measure and then calls it mean.

HABERMAN: That's right. Correct.

COOPER: No later on.

HABERMAN: Correct.

LORD: Because of midterms, I mean, we should say, that most presidents have a hard time with midterms. I mean, I can thing of just, off the top of my head, JFK, George w. Bush and Bill Clinton did all right in their second, JFK and his only one. Rather than that --

HABERMAN: But that doesn't make it great --

LORD: -- every person's.

HABERMAN: -- but it will make it better for what's -- for the path that they face ahead. No one is saying, that that is, you know, specific to this president. It is just what they're facing.

LORD: Yes. But you are going to see, what I think is interesting here, there's a lot of people in the base of the Republican party, turning against their own members, if they feel, that they have not come true with their, you know, repeal Obamacare.

GREEN: Well this is why Republicans face such a squeeze. There are a lot of Republican based voters that benefit from Obamacare and don't want to see it gone. And are showing up at the town halls and getting very angry.

[21:45:00] But on the other hand you have conservatives who have been promised this is going to be repealed for years, and years, and years, I think Republicans are afraid in a sense for this to end with any kind of finality and admit failure. And so, all the political incentives are aligned toward dragging this out, even having some kind of a promise of doing this next year which would never happen in an election year, simply to avoid having to admit a kind of ultimate defeat.

POWERS: Yes. Also, the midterm election issues, you know, president is doing badly in the midterm election don't happen in a vacuum. If you go back to Clinton doing badly in 1994, didn't just happen because it was 1994 and they are all sort of magically showed up and voted against him. They were reacting to his leadership or lack of leadership in that case. And so, --

LORD: Health care.

POWERS: Right. Well, exactly. And so, with -- it's not a foregone conclusion that that's what has to happen. And so, the Republicans have put themselves in a situation where it's becoming a foregone conclusion because they backed themselves into a corner where there doesn't seem to be any good answer because they have -- they just created this political problem by promising to do something they never actually had a plan for.

And now, even if they somehow did get it through they're probably still in trouble. Really, either way, whatever happens here, they're going to end up in a bad position because if they do pass it, nobody likes the bill.

So, you know, and people are going to lose their health care. And if they've don't pass it then everyone is going to say you promised me --

COOPER: Which is where the danger of not having passed something or the danger of passing something --

POWERS: I think they're both bad.

GOLODRYGA: At some point, they'd be better on moving on.


GOLODRYGA: Maybe better off --

TOOBIN: Right. I mean, if you cut people off health care, 20 million, 30 million, whatever it is, substantial numbers of them are going to die. I mean, that's what happens --

LORD: Oh, Jeff.

TOOBIN: -- when people lose -- no, when people lose their health insurance they die and, not all of them, but certainly more because they lack health insurance. That is something that I think argues for keeping people in health insurance. You disagree?

LORD: Well, all I'm saying to you is when you say people are going to lose their health insurance, I mean, people who didn't want it in the first place.

POWERS: No, that's not what is going to happen, actually. It's not. I mean, if you just -- if they just pass this bill, there's (INAUDIBLE) the skinny bill where you get rid of the individual mandate, the CBO who said 15 to 20 million people will lose their insurance just with that. And so, 15 to 20 million people did not, not want insurance. That's not what happened. Let me just finish.

Well, the reason that will happen is because I think the people you're talking about, the healthy people will stop buying insurance. But that leaves all of the sick people with the insurance. And the premium is going up and then it will collapse.

LORD: These estimates, has been pointed out. The CBO said there would be, like, 26 million people on Obamacare, by 2017. Well, it was 2017.

POWERS: But Jeffrey, is 8 million, is 8 million OK?

LORD: Well, what I am saying is --

POWERS: 10 million?

LORD: -- these estimates are bogus. I mean, you're just CBO and get it wrong.

POWERS: But you will admit some people will lose their health, I mean, as large percentage --

LORD: Yes, yes, and some people --


POWERS: -- health care whether the numbers is exactly right.

LORD: -- did a whole story on a guy who died because of Obamacare. So, there are people out there who really have a problem with it.

POWERS: He died from getting health insurance?

LORD: He died because Obamacare rules and regulations that the he was not to be treated for something that had, like a two night stay mandatory. Well, and this is what his family said. And they were told this by the doctor. You can put quote, unquote, you can thank President Obama.

COOPER: It doesn't seem like everybody in the medical community. I mean, from all realms are against this. Does that not raise?

LORD: Against which?


POWERS: Which isn't always the case. They usually are not united.

COOPER: They seem pretty united at which -- and to me just seems unusual that they're all seem on the same page which doesn't seem to happen every day.

Any way, we're going to take a break. And when we come right back talk about something the president said in his rally tonight about criminal aliens, slicing, dicing, beautiful teenage girls with a knife. Talk about that next.


[21:52:33] COOPER: The President was in Ohio tonight for a rally, went back to some of the comments from his campaign days including a kind of dystopia vision of what's happening in the country particularly when it comes to gangs and illegal immigrants. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The predators and criminal aliens who poison our communities with drugs and prey on innocent young people, these beautiful, beautiful innocent young people, will find no safe haven anywhere in our country. And you've seen the stories about some of these animals.

They don't want to use guns because it's too fast and it's not painful enough. So they'll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we've been protecting for so long. Well, they're not being protected any longer, folks.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. I mean, some of the president's supporters will say he was talking about gang members or.

HABERMAN: He was talking -- I mean, sure, and he's going to do some event related to gangs on Friday in New York, as well. But this is actually the play book that the president resorted to repeatedly as a candidate when he was having rough moments which was he would play very hard to the base.

And I don't think it's a coincidence it's on the issue that Jeff Sessions has focused most significantly on which is illegal immigrants I think that he is trying to cleave people who are upset about his treatment of Sessions toward him and away from the attorney general.

COOPER: That's interesting.

LORD: He paints word pictures. I mean, he's very good at this, whatever the subject. And I frankly think this comes out of his skill a reality T.V. host. And he knows that, you know, don't stand up there and give some boring policy speech. Say things of this nature here that paint a vivid image in people's minds and of course people responded to it and he does this -- forget just this subject. He does this over and over and over and over again.

GREEN: But here's the problem with paying -- the voters he's reaching with that kind of imagery, the slasher movie, macabre stuff that he liked to do during the campaign and did tonight, these are the kind of people that care about immigration. And this goes back to Sessions, because the one guy in his cabinet who is actually doing something who has the power to enforce these laws and is enforcing these immigration laws, arrests are up, Sessions has sent extra administrative judges to the U.S./Mexico border to help process cases.

[21:55:15] Just today, he sent out a statement of threatening sanctuary cities who coddle these supposed killers. Sessions is the one guy who is delivering on Trump's promises at a time when the rest of his agenda seems to be bogged down. And I think that's one reason why you saw this kind of timid conservative pushback toward the hazing that Sessions has been getting from the president.

TOOBIN: If I could make an incredibly boring point about accuracy, I'm unaware of any prosecutor or police officer in this country who coddles people who carve up young women. I mean, like what does that even mean? I mean, it's just not true.

LORD: Well.

TOOBIN: What does it mean about coddling people who carve up?

LORD: I'll give you.

COOPER: We're almost out of time so, were we get --

LORD: OK. Well, Jamiel Shaw Sr., the African-American whose 17-year- old son was killed. He was killed by an illegal out of the jail one day. And he kills Jamiel Shaw's son, coddled.


HABERMAN: Was he arrested right afterwards? And he was I mean, he was --

LORD: He was in jail before this happened.


POWERS: I mean, how were this, you know, his --

COOPER: We're out of time unfortunately. We've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[22:00:12] COOPER: That's all time we have time. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon for "CNN Tonight". I'll see you tomorrow.