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Priebus Interviewed by Special Counsel in Russia Probe; Trump Ends Obamacare Subsidies for Lower-Income Families; Trump Decertifies Iran Nuclear Deal but Doesn't End It; Reality Check In Puerto Rico; Trump: "I Love the People Of Puerto Rico". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with breaking news in the Russia investigation, potentially big news. The first current or former member of President Trump's White House inner circle, at least the first whom we know of, spoke today with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff, and before that, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Let's get right to it. CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has all the details.

So, what have you learned about this interview?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Reince Priebus, senior most member of Trump's inner circle, to be interviewed so far, should say former, of course. He was fired, replaced by John Kelly.

We also know that the chief of staff at the National Security Council, Keith Kellogg, he has been interviewed as well. His lawyer, Reince Priebus' lawyer says that this was a voluntary interview. He was happy to cooperate.

Among the topics we know that Mueller is looking into as they interview members of the Trump White House staff are, one, Michael Flynn, his time in the White House. We know they are also interested in Trump's decision to fire James Comey. We also know that the special counsel is interested in talking to people who were with the president on Air Force One when they were crafting that initial explanation for that Trump Tower meeting in June 2016.

All these questions related to potential charges, whether it be obstruction of justice, the possibility of cooperation between members of the Trump inner circle and Russia, unanswered questions at this point, but, Anderson, it shows the seriousness with which the special counsel is taking those questions as it does these interviews.

COOPER: Jim, stay there.

I want to bring in our panel. CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent, Maggie Haberman, also, our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, "Atlantic Monthly" national correspondent, James Fallows.

So, Maggie, how concerned do you think the White House is about this? I mean, this was a guy who was present for a lot of the things President Trump did that, you know, factored into the appointment of Mueller?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that the White House is aware and has been for some time that Reince Priebus was going to be a pretty crucial person for Bob Mueller to speak with. He was present obviously during transition. He was present when key things were decided about the firing of Michael Flynn. He was present when James Comey was fired.

He was, I think, by a stroke of good fortune of his own not present aboard Air Force One when a decision was being made about how to respond to a "New York Times" story about a meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer who had come offering, quote, unquote, dirt on Hillary Clinton.

But he, you know, he offers a key window into a bunch of different issues that Bob Mueller is looking at. This is -- he's certainly the top official to be spoken to, but he will not be the last official spoken to.

I think the White House is anxious about the Mueller investigation generally. I don't think it centers specifically on Priebus. I think that Trump has done with Priebus what he has done with several officials who have left the White House which is reach out to him periodically and just sort of offer warm words because the president has a very long history of trying to keep people in his good graces.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, to Maggie's point, Priebus was not only in the room for a lot of these things, but he went on the road with the president to an unusual degree for a chief of staff especially those early months.

What kind of stuff would they want to know, would the investigators want to know from him?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's really a central witness particularly on everything related to obstruction of justice and the firing of James Comey, which is sort of the central event in the obstruction of justice investigation. Obstruction of justice is what's known as a specific intent crime. The issue is what's in the head of the person who is potentially charged with obstruction of justice.

What did they intend to do? We know that the president fired James Comey. Why did he fire James Comey? Did he do it to try to stop the investigation?

Reince Priebus was talking to the president all the time. You know, the White House chief of staff is there, physically there, especially this chief of staff. So, any conversations he had with the president about why James Comey was fired and how that would be explained to the public. Was a false statement put out? All of that is going to be central to what Mueller is going to be asking him.

COOPER: And. Jim, I mean, a former chief of staff to the president has been interviewed by the special counsel investigating the president of the United States. It's got to have some kind of effect on those still working in the West Wing serving the president.

SCIUTTO: One very immediate effect is they're all lawyered up, right? I mean, from top to bottom, they know they need that kind of representation. And we have some information about other people that we know that Mueller wants to interview in the White House, in his first group of interviews. They include Sean Spicer. Of course, the fired spokesperson. They include the current communications director Hope Hicks, also includes Don McGahn, who's the current White House counsel.

And that's just the first group of people close to the president and the White House that Robert Mueller wants to talk to people about again about these topics that Maggie brought up and then I brought up before.

[20:05:01] Many questions facing them -- firing of James Comey, that crucial Air Force One meeting. These are all important lines of inquiry for the special


COOPER: James Fallows, what kind of an impact do you see this having on the White House now in its current make up?

JAMES FALLOWS, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTIC MONTHLY: Certainly, it does the get the attention, as Jim Sciutto was saying, and Maggie, of everybody who is there. I think what's yet again exceptional about this time, I think of it as sort of a piano player where you have on the right hand, there's, you know, (INAUDIBLE) music where every day, there's three new scandals, three new explosions we've had. Iran today, and we've had, of course, the health care, we've had DACA this week.

And meanwhile, over the left hand, there is this steady base beat of whatever Mr. Mueller is doing with his investigation. And every single day -- or every week or so, we have another sign of how dramatic it's going to be.

So, I think people in the White House and the rest of us in politics are both trying to balance the frenzy of what's going minute by minute with the -- just increasing pace of this investigation.

COOPER: You know, Maggie, I mean, the purpose wasn't part of Trump's team from the beginning. The two haven't always been that friendly. Would there be concern from anyone within the administration about how loyal Priebus might be to the president?

HABERMAN: I think there's concern within the administration about how anybody is loyal to the president. As you know, the president is a harsh and sometimes punishing boss. Reince Priebus was somebody who was often on the receiving end of his ire. So was Sean Spicer. I think those are two people who -- they would have to be concerned about. It doesn't mean that either of them would do something that would threaten the president.

But, you know, look, the president has always demanded a lot of loyalty. He has not always shown it in return to people he demands it from. I think it is too soon to say we don't yet know what Priebus actually said to Mueller. We don't yet know what the investigate organization asked. We don't yet know whether he's going to be asked to be spoken to again. Jim might have a better understanding of than I do.

But I do think that there needs to be a concern for the president in general about the fact that he's got a lot of aides and former aides who are facing a pretty tough choice -- go in, potentially don't tell the truth and be seen as loyal, or go in and tell the truth and be seen as disloyal. It again does not mean that there's criminality here, but people are going to have to take their own lives into account. And I think that's what you're going to see most people do.

TOOBIN: Well, but, Maggie, I mean, one thing that all these lawyers are going to tell their clients is: you better tell the truth. Because --

HABERMAN: I'm aware. That's not lost on me, Jeffrey.


TOOBIN: These are not statements under oath. FBI interviews are not under oath.

HABERMAN: Correct.

TOOBIN: But it is a federal crime, section Title 18, United States Code, section 1001, to make a false statement to an FBI agent and that is a crime that is prosecuted fairly often. So, for these people who probably have no exposure on their own, their only exposure is if they make a false statement.


HABERMAN: That's true in the case of some of these congressional investigations as well. You have people who have gone and spoken before the House. Lying to Congress is a crime, even when these interviews were not under oath, the same thing applies.

COOPER: James Fallows, can you draw any conclusions about where Mueller is in his investigation with the fact that Priebus has now been interviewed?

FALLOWS: Well, I will defer to Jeff our legal guy on that. But I will say the point about divided loyalties is quite interesting because this isn't the first time a White House chief of staff has been under some kind of outside scrutiny. Way back to Sherman Adams with Dwight Eisenhower, H.R. Bob Haldeman, John Sununu and others.

But in all those cases, you assumed that the chief of staff would do everything he could, to protect the president at that time, because there wasn't a question of their divided loyalties now as all the other panelists have said. That Priebus needs to watch out for his own legal exposure and you don't feel as if he's a real lifer with Donald Trump.


TOOBIN: Just in terms of timing, if there's a silver lining for the Trump White House in all of this is Mueller's team would not investigate, would not interview Reince Priebus unless they were at least somewhat far along. You know, most of what interviews involve are showing the witness documents, showing them e-mails, showing them, you know, things that they can't lie about. And this means that the Mueller team has assembled enough documents that they feel like they can do an purview, a meaningful interview with Reince Priebus.

It doesn't mean they won't interview him again. It doesn't mean they won't get more documents. But it does suggest if it's not the beginning of the end, it might be the end of the beginning.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, I wanted to ask you, it's off topic, but, you know, there was that attack on U.S. service members in Niger last week, four I believe killed. And has the president said anything about that attack to date?

SCIUTTO: Short answer is no, not via Twitter, not by any official from the president from the White House. It was nine days ago. October 4th, when this attack took place. Four American soldiers were killed.

And as my colleagues Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne noted in a piece tonight, that on October 7th, when the body of one of those victims, Sergeant La David Johnson, came home to Dover Air Force Base, the president was golfing that day.

[20:10:11] I asked a senior member of the White House team just a couple days ago, will the president comment on this and why he hasn't commented on the loss of these soldiers? And I don't have an answer yet, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Maggie Haberman, Jeff Toobin, James Fallows, Jim Sciutto, thank you all. Appreciate it.

Big moves by the president traversed some of the signature achievements of the last president, health care, arms control. Question tonight, with millions of lives and billions of dollars of America's foreign policy is at stake, how much is about policy and how much maybe personal?

And later, with the president tweeting hot and cold about Puerto Rico, a closer look at the reality so many people there are facing right now tonight and the help they badly still need.


COOPER: Tonight something we simply have not seen before. Every president going back to the beginning comes into offense with his own ideas about how to govern, his own priorities, his own agenda, some or even all of it differing from the previous chief executive. Never though have we seen a president so seemingly bent on reversing, negating, even obliterating his predecessor's signature accomplishments.

Today, President Trump struck a body blow to Obamacare. He did the same to the multi-country nuclear agreement with Iran, and over the last nine months, the president has reversed or tried to reverse a long list of President Obama's actions -- on immigration, children of undocumented immigrants, the Paris climate accord, keeping President Obama's Clean Power Plan.

[20:15:09] If you want to know what President Obama is against, you only have to look on what President is for. And in all fairness, none of this should be a surprise. He campaigned on much of it and if nothing else, he's keeping his promises now.

What may be surprising, though, or at least being widely debated is how much of this is personal. What also stands out in both actions today is how each one shifts responsibility and accountability away from the White House and on to Congress. And on health care, how little consideration was given for the consequences of undoing something Obamacare, without a replacement for it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One by one, it's going to come down and we're going to have great health care in our country. We're going to have great health care in our country. We're taking a little bit different route than we had hoped because getting Congress, they forgot what their pledges were.

So, we're going a little different route. But you know what? In the end, it's going to be just as effective and maybe it will even be better.


COOPER: That was the president today after announcing late last night, he was immediately ending cost-sharing subsidies that reimburse insurers for reducing deductibles and co-pays of lower income Americans on Obamacare. Nearly 6 million people benefit from them.

The president put their fate in the hands of Congress.

Phil Mattingly has more now from the Capitol.

So, Congress could have done something to guarantee these payments at any time. Will the president's actions actually spur them to do something now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly on the table. Look, it's not just because Democrats have made clear that they don't plan on leaving Congress this year without something done, and the Republicans are going to need their votes on several must pass items over the course of the next eight to 10 weeks. But it's also Republicans, and Republicans have always been the issue

here because, Anderson, as you point out, Congress always could have solved this problem. In fact, a U.S. court said Congress is supposed to have solved this problem, deeming the executive branch paying these on its own essentially illegal, unconstitutional. It was up to Congress.

But the secret here that wasn't so secret is Republican lawmakers, particularly as they were pursuing the repeal and replace effort wanted the administration to keep paying these. They understand how important they are to the markets, even though they were opposed to the underlying law. Now -- law, now that repeal and replace had failed, they didn't make any type of concerns raised about them being paid. They understood that this needed to happen.

But the problem remains: can Republicans actually pass something, Anderson? There are deep divisions inside the party, while there are Republicans that have been working on legislation to try and address this for months now, there are other Republicans who have made very clear to leadership, this is part of Obamacare. We pledge not to fix Obamacare. We pledge o repeal Obamacare.

Until leaders can actually figure out how to bridge that divide, as of now they have no answers, Anderson.

COOPER: And Republican leaders, I mean, their legislative schedule is packed with must pack items from the sources you're talking to. I'm wondering, are they frustrated that this has now been put on their plate?

MATTINGLY: The short answer is yes. Look, Republican leaders haven't tipped their hand one way or the other. The statements we've seen from the speaker, from the majority leader were complimenting the president on doing something that court basically said that they had to do.

But here's the kind of broader here. When this news came out last night, Republican leaders hadn't even been told, sources tell me. Nobody called from the White House. Nobody told them this was coming and there's a recognition, as you note, that there's a packed legislative schedule, full of very complicated, complex issues, and this only essentially rolls a hand grenade into what's going on.

I had one aide tell me earlier, look, there's no question about it. This complicates our life. We've got grown kind of used to this, but we wish we would have known about it in advance. It's important to note kind of how the president views this and this is according to multiple sources who have been involved with conversations with him.

It is a bargaining chip, period, that is how he's always viewed it. That's why he had them being kind of paid out on a month to month basis and that's why he's decided to pull the plug now. In doing so, he has certainly made life for complicated for Republican leaders, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Phil Mattingly -- Phil, thanks. Before moving on, one other note, a case of the president not only

emulating President Obama but surpassing him. Yesterday's executive order undoing a different piece of Obama, which is 49th, not just more than President Obama, but more than any president in the last 50 years. Candidate, you'll remember, railed against them before and during the campaign. He's resorting to executive action as President Obama did because of congressional inaction.

Here to talk about it, former Michigan Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, and former GOP senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum.

Senator Santorum, is it hypocritical for the president to use more executive orders when he was so critical of President Obama for them?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The answer is, I would say yes. I mean, if you're going to go out is there and criticize someone for using executive orders and you use them yourself, then you should suffer the consequences of your previous statements. I think both President Obama and President Trump, as you just mentioned, very frustrated that Congress didn't act. Frankly, I don't think that's a good reason to use executive orders. But both of them did.

COOPER: But you support the ideas behind this executive order?

SANTORUM: I do. No. I think what the president did with respect to suspending Obamacare, CSR payments, cost-sharing reduction payments, was the right thing to do. Look, the district court was very clear.

[20:20:02] I don't -- I think if they had appealed it up, it would have been confirmed by upper courts.

There is no authority that the president had to spend this money, and they held off, I think, as long as they felt they could with a credible pace that they're pursuing the litigation to the point where they said, you know, we're not going to do this anymore and Congress, you need to fix this. You want the money, you need to fix it.

And what I think president Trump realized is the Democrats weren't interested, are not interested until this morning fixing it because why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free. They were getting these payments. They didn't have to give up anything in any kind of deal to continue the payments coming. Now the milk is not free anymore and we'll see whether they're willing to buy the cow.

COOPER: Governor Granholm, I saw your tweet earlier today. You said, hey, @realDonaldTrump, killing health care for millions of average folks feel better now, privileged billionaire happy to hurt real people.

Isn't dismantling Obamacare, however, exactly what he promised to do and what people elected him to do?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, dismantling Obamacare and replacing it with something. So, they haven't been able to replace it and so what the effect of these two executive orders that he's issued in the past couple of days has been is to put real people with real pre-existing conditions or health concerns. Their interests are completely subsumed by his rabid desire to dismantle whatever Obama has touched.

To me, what he's engaged in is active measures to vandalize the health care of millions of people. So, if it's supposed to go back to Congress, fine. We've got Republicans and Democrats who are willing to work on fixing whatever -- whatever he's done, but whatever before existed that needed to be fixed in Obamacare. Let's get it fixed.

There was such just a poll that was issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and even Republicans by a 5-point majority, do not want him to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. They want him to fix it.

COOPER: Senator?

SANTORUM: Well, here is what I would say that we're going to see a test coming up here in the next few weeks because these cost-share payments are stopping. It's going to affect people who have silver plans. If you have a bronze plan or a gold plan under Obamacare, you don't get cost-share payments. So, only a sliver of the market gets these cost-sharing reduction payments.

GRANHOLM: Of the middle class.

SANTORUM: Well, again, it depends on what kind of plan you have. I mean, it could be lower income people who have bronze plans, you have less expensive plans.

But the bottom line is that we're going to see whether the Democrats are serious about actually trying to do something, because if their answer is, give us the money but we're not willing to make any changes to make middle class, to use your term.


GRANHOLM: That is not what the Democrats have said.

COOPER: Let him finish.

SANTORUM: But it is what they've said because they've rejected any type of flexibility that actually is going to lower rates for people who are out there on their markets right now who don't get subsidies from the federal government. You're taking about small business people or people who work for small businesses. You're talking about middle income Americans who have seen the rates go up by double in the last couple of years.



SANTORUM: I mean, you're talking huge increases and nothing is being done, and Democrats are resistant in making any structural changes to Obamacare to make that happen. COOPER: Governor?

GRANHOLM: Rick, you are not listening. I don't know what's in your ears, but you have not been listening to what Democrats have saying. They have been saying fix it, mend it, don't end it.

SANTORUM: What do they propose, Jennifer?


GRANHOLM: Oh my gosh --

SANTORUM: Other than more money, what do they propose? What do they propose?

GRANHOLM: There has been a bipartisan proposal that as you know, Senator Alexander and Senator Murray have been working --

SANTORUM: I've looked at that proposal in great detail.


GRANHOLM: Oh my gosh. Rick --


COOPER: One at a time. Let the governor finish. Go ahead, Governor.

GRANHOLM: Yes, including allowing the government to negotiate for the reduction in the cost of prescription drugs, including making sure that there are carrots and sticks to get more insurers into the market, including making sure that you provide incentives for more people to sign up.

What the president has done has gone in the exact opposite direction. This so-called freedom you described that was tried in a half a dozen states in the '90s, and all of those plans failed miserably. They were under-capitalized and they were also used by (INAUDIBLE) to try to put these scam subprime insurance policies on the market. And you're going to see after this, you're going to see attorneys general across the country bring lawsuits.

Why can't we get a fix? And, Rick, you cannot say that Democrats don't want to fix it.

COOPER: I want to give you the final words.

SANTORUM: Oh, in fact, I can say it because I've looked at the Alexander and Murray proposal --

GRANHOLM: I'm telling you, I am telling you, they want to fix it.

SANTORUM: Yes. All I'm telling you is what the facts --

GRANHOLM: They want to fix it. SANTORUM: The facts are that the proposal that has been put forward

by the Democrats have been almost zero reform. You've mentioned -- several things you mentioned are basically more money to be pumped into the system to bring more people in. But as far as structural changes to the insurance markets so the people who don't get the subsidies are actually going to have lower cost, nothing is being done because that requires a change in the fundamental structure of Obamacare.


SANTORUM: Ron Johnson and Mark Meadows, two folks who have been working very, very hard on trying to put together a Republican proposal, along with others in the House and Senate, I think are going to be introducing a plan next week that has common sense reforms in there, things like -- that we're going to have prices being published --

GRANHOLM: Four times.


SANTORUM: -- for services and products being published. Those are the kinds of common sense things they're going to put forward that can lower rates and we'll see whether Democrats come to the table or whether they come up with phony reforms that are going to do nothing --


COOPER: All right. We've got to leave it there.

GRANHOLM: That's what the president said today, have the Democrats come in. Let them do it, because they were willing to negotiate.

COOPER: All right. Governor Granholm, Senator Santorum, I appreciate it both of you. Thank you.

SANTORUM: You bet.

COOPER: Coming up next, the president dismantling the Iran nuclear deal. And breaking news from Senator Bob Corker, accusing the president of his words castrating the secretary of state.


COOPER: Well, the president's toughest Republican critic takes a new swing at the president's foreign policy, speaking to "The Washington Post", he expressed concern that the president was inviting, as he put it, binary situations. That's just choosing between war and -- in North Korea or Iran with nuclear weapons.

The problem, Senator Bob Corker told "The Post", is that the president, in his words, has neutered his secretary of state. You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state, he says, without giving your that binary choice. The tweets -- yes, you raise tension in the region and it's very irresponsible. But it's the first part, he says -- the castration of Tillerson -- that I'm most exercised about.

Senator Bob Corker's new remarks came to light at the end of the day that saw President Trump taking action on the Iran nuclear deal.



TRUMP: Today I am announcing our strategy along with several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime's hostile actions and to ensure Iran never, and I mean never acquires a nuclear weapon.


COOPER: What he did was decertify the agreement and raise the possibility of pulling out of entirely to move allow as Congress to impose new sanction on Iran with a simple majority vote. As for why, he said that Iran is not living up to the sturdy of the accord. Keep in mind, as top members of his national security team are on record recently striking a different note.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iran is not a material breach of the agreement. And I do believe the agreement today that has delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY, STATE DEPARTMENT: My view on the nuclear deal is they are in technical compliance of the nuclear arrangement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe it's in our national security interest that the present time to remain in a JCPOA? That's a yes or no question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, senator I do.


COOPER: And as secretary of defense, state, and the joint chief of chairman, the UN inspectors monitoring the deal also say Iran is in compliance. And while it's true the Iran has an active missile programs, supports terror groups around the world, the nuclear deal wasn't drawn up to address any of that.

There's lots to talk about tonight, joining us is Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" and Mike Doran, the senior fellow of Hudson Institute and former senior director of the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.

Fareed, first of all from Bob Corker himself saying you cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state, are you as concerned about that as the senator?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Well, I think it's very clear now that we essentially have no diplomacy going on in the United States. And the -- the way which the president has treated his secretary of state is the most dramatic example of it. I remember James Baker, George W. Bush -- George Sr. secretary of state, Ronald Reagan's chief of staff and secretary of treasury telling me once, the most important quality you need in secretary of state is not knowledge of the world, not smart, it is that he have the trust and confidence of the president. Because when you go around the world and you're trying to make deals and your trying to do diplomacy, the only thing anyone around the world is wondering, do you speak for the president. Do you have the trust and confidence, are you speaking for the entire government of the United States?

And it's absolutely clear that Rex Tillerson is not. And in that circumstance he's sort of a dead man walking whether he's in his job or not, because there's no diplomacy going on, nobody believes he speaks for the government. The president publicly points out that he disagrees with his own secretary of state.

So, it's sort of odd to imagine how this man could go about, go around the world trying to negotiate. Who is going to make a deal with him? Who is going to make -- give him an assurance when they know that his own president doesn't agree with?

COOPER: Mike, I want to turn back to the Iran deal announcement, I know you're no fan of the deal. But does it give you concern at all that outside of service, European allies even those in the president's administration simply do not back up what he contends?

MICHAEL DORAN, SENIOR FELLOW, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Yes, and no. I don't think the president made this decision to decertify on the basis of technical compliance with the deal. I think the administration would say that they're not in the breach is that the Iranians have carried out are not -- they're not the problem. The problem is that the deal has strengthened Iran around the region and we don't have a strategy for dealing with the totality of the deal Iran represents.

COOPER: Fareed, President Trump talked about -- I mean a number of major of issues that the U.S. has with Iran that they finance (INAUDIBLE), they found violence in Iraq and imprison Americans, he's not wrong about any of that to those thing have anything to do with his deal?

ZAKARIA: Anderson, imagine if Vladimir Putin had announced the day after the Iraq War, that because the United States was destabilizing the Middle East he was going to abrogate and pull out of all the arms control agreements that the United States has signed with Russia. It's not only completely illogical, it would be the bending of any kind of international order or framework.

If other countries would do what the United States just did, we would have chaos in the world. Of course Iran is doing things we disagree with, of course Saudi Arabia is doing things with disagreed. Lots of countries are doing things we disagree with. But international agreements are signed for a specific purpose. And as long as you are maintaining that piece of the -- you know that part of the puzzle it has to be upheld. The president himself said in his speech that Iran was in technical compliance with the deal. He himself said they are not violating the letter of the deal, because in effect -- you know, by saying they're violating the spirit of the deal. Everybody has their own interpretation of what spirit of a deal is.

[20:35:11] But if every country in the world decide that they're going to start linking all these issues like this, and abrogating deals willing nilly, abrogating promises they made, you would have no international order. This is something that goes far beyond the Iran deal. This is a question of whether the United States is going to keep its word on a deal that it admits the other party has not broken.

COOPER: Mike. What do you make of Fareed's perspective?

DORAN: Well first of all -- President Obama made this deal against the will of the American people. And against the majority opinion in Congress. So this deal wasn't something that was ratified by Congress and there's the pillar of northern -- it wasn't even -- it was never even signed by anyone. The Iranians insist that this is not any kind of binding agreement themselves. So let's not turn there there's into a pillar of internal order. And secondly let's talk --

ZAKARIA: Mike I may -- if I may, the majority of American didn't vote for Donald Trump. But we follow the rules we have. The rules are the president that there's a lot to make agreements like this. If you want to talk about, you know, whether or not the majority of the country was behind it well the majority of the country wasn't behind Donald Trump. I still accept him as president.

DORAN: Donald Trump won the presidency's -- won the presidency by rules our election system -- electoral system. And he has the right just as Barack Obama has the right to make -- to make deals with Iran without running it through Congress. Donald Trump has the right to change it. What Trump has done here is offered Congress and our for all our allies, the ability to come together on a strategy to take care of the totality of the Iranian threat. That's an opportunity, that's not a problem.

COOPER: Is it an opportunity, Fareed?

ZAKARIA: Look, what he's done is essentially create complete incoherence. Because on the one hand he attacks the policy beanery and then he says -- says well I'm going to stay in it. I'm going to bunt this to Congress to a deeply divided Congress and force them to clean up. It's an abrogation of responsibility, it is entirely a responsible act. If the president wants to walk away from the deal, I agree with Mike that he has the technical right to do so, simply saying it's a terrible idea and it undermines you as credibility. But he does have the legal right to do it. But he won't even do that. It's an act of strange cowards --



ZAKARIA: -- foreign policy.

DORAN: Given.

ZAKARIA: Well on the one hand he says the deal is the worst thing in the world, and on the other hand he says, but I'm going to stay in it, Congress can decide what to do.

DORAN: Given some credit for flexibility and for opening up negotiations with the Europeans and with Congress. Now he didn't just --

ZAKARIA: There are no negotiations with the Europeans. The Europeans have said they will not renegotiate the deal.

DORAN: He did not -- he did not simply go out and abrogate the deal. So he took -- he took -- he took a position between those who were saying walk and those who were saying fix the deal.

COOPER: All right.

DORAN: I want to hear what you think we can do to make this deal actually better and what we can do about the Iranian aggression in the region. The complaining about Donald Trump is we're going to take of these problems.

COOPER: We're --

ZAKARIA: Isolating the United States and making Iran the victim won't help. They are now --


DORAN: Turning our backs on the allies in the Middle East, the Israelis, the Saudis, the Turks and others is not what isolated the United States.

COOPER: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Mike Doran, thank you, Fareed Zakaria as well.

When we come back the president plays to his base at a gathering of social conservatives. Today he claims nobody use the word "Christmas" anymore. We'll get into that next.


[20:42:53] COOPER: President Trump became the first sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit.


TRUMP: You know, we're getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don't talk about anymore. They don't use the worth Christmas because it's not politically correct. You go department stores and they'll say happy new years or they'll say other things. And it would be read, they will have it painted, but they don't say, well guess what, we're saying merry Christmas again. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Got a standing ovation for that. Joining me tonight is Charlie Sykes, the talk radio host and author of "How the Right Loss Its Mind". And CNN political commentator Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Charlie the themes that the president hit on today, stopping what we call a tax and Judeo-Christian values, where said returning more clarity to our view with the world, whether or not you believe that the president is actually doing that, are these the kind of topics that are going to help him keep the support of his base?

CHARLIE SYKES, AUTHOR, HOW THE RIGHT LOSS ITS MIND: Well obviously so far it has. I mean the Christian right was rallied around Donald Trump seems to be among strongest support for him. You know, despite his personal conduct and character, et cetera. So I think he does understand what he needs to say on those particular issues. So yes.

COOPER: And Scott, I mean when the president when he spoke at the Value Voter Summit back in 2015, he got booed at one point when he made fun of Marco Rubio. I mean today he got multiple standing ovations. Has there been a dramatic change and how -- and how his being perceive do you think or is that that his the president and it's his agenda and that's what they're standing for?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think there that politics is comparative Anderson. And back in 2015 he was being compared to other Republican politicians who had demonstrated a closer allegiance to Christian values in their own personal lies. Now, he's being compared to the alternative which was Hillary Clinton presidency and of course the Values Voter Summit attendees far prefer what Trump is doing than what Hillary Clinton would be doing.

COOPER: Charlie, does it surprise you the extent to which Evangelical voters but particularly Evangelical leaders have rallied around President Trump and continue to.

[20:45:03] SYKES: Yes, it is stunning and it continues to be remarkable. Of course the binary choice is not between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It's between Donald Trump and I don't know a person of good character. One of the most extraordinary things that has happened though is the fact that here's a guy who was asked, you know, a little while ago, do you ever ask God for forgiveness and he wasn't able to say that. Someone who's behavior, his personal character ought to be repellant to Christian.

But one of things that's change is this attitude, there was no -- I'm old enough to remember when Christians believe that character mattered and the private character of an individual was relevant to their public persona. Now in the era of Donald Trump, Evangelical Christians according to the polls are one of the groups that is least likely to think that private character matters. So, you know, I mean again it's not a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and this is what is so remarkable, it's between, you know, what would Jesus do and what is Donald Trump doing. And I would submit they're not the same thing.

COOPER: It is interesting Scott, I mean to Charlie's point that, you know, in the past -- I mean during the election you have a lot of evangelical leaders coming forward say, we'll look, we're not electing a pastor and chief. But I feel like in past decades they would not have been saying that. I mean, you know, there was talk of, you know, the moral majority, people wanted certain attributes in their leadership. Does it surprise you Scott, to the degree which evangelical leaders continue to speak up and rally around the president?

JENNINGS: Well no it doesn't surprise me, because he's largely doing the things that they want him to do. And yes, I agree with Charlie that I think his personal conduct at the times is not what you find in, you know, Christian leaders. But again, they didn't elect him to be the Christian leader, they elected him to be the president. And I think that they're thinking about the last eight years in which they got nothing as they wanted, in fact they think the country went, you know, so drastically to the left, that we don't even recognize America anymore, and now they see a president again who may have personal have flaws if they don't like, but is trying to drag the country culturally back to the right which is something they desperately want.

COOPER: Charlie, does seem hypocritical to you to some degree?

SYKES: Yes, it is stunning hypocritical. And I think its going to do a great deal of damage to the Christian right which is more right now than Christian. Look, leaving aside the policy issues, you know, a tax reform, healthcare and everything, I do think that the real damage that Donald Trump is doing is to the culture. And including the fact that he may not be, you know, pastor and chief but he is a role model. And the challenge of raising children in the era of Trump.

Look, we tell our kids, tell the truth, don't be a bully. You know, don't act like, you know, that kid on the play ground who says he started it. And you have Donald Trump who, you know, whether we like it or not is a role model and chief and he's leaving out truly the opposite of all the things that we teach our kids to be and to do. So the argument that somehow that we support Donald Trump because he's pulling the culture back to the right. This is the damage, the culture is meaner, it is cruder, it coarser because of Donald Trump.

And I wish the Christian leaders would stand up and make a distinction between the policies they like and what Donald Trump is doing as a role model this society.

COOPER: Charlie Sykes, Scott Jennings, appreciated both of you. Thank you very much.

Coming up next a reality check on Puerto Rico. President Trump claims they're doing a great job there even though 91% of the island is still in the dark. More ahead.


[20:52:44] COOPER: President Trump keeps shifting his message on hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico after hot and cold messages on Twitter, this afternoon he returned to the blame game, but also pledged his support when he spoke to our Jim Acosta.


TRUMP: We've done a great job in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has to get the infrastructure going. We're helping them with their infrastructure, but most important in Puerto Rico is their electric plants are essentially gone. Now they were before the hurricane. They were in bankruptcy's, they owed $9 billion. I think was $9 billion, but we have to help them. But I love the people of Puerto Rico and we're going to help them.


COOPER: Well keep in mind, help is needed three weeks after the hurricane, three weeks 91% of the island is dark tonight, 91%. Another 36% has no access to clean water or sewage service. With the reality check on the ground there is our CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Along a winding road high in the mountains south of San Juan, this stream of water is a lifeline, a pit stop now in the daily routine for thousands of people. Beverly Cancel and her husband pull up under the makeshift water spouts, PVC pipes dipped into the stream overhead to divert the water into massive tanks.

BEVERLY CANCEL, NARANJITO, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: Every day is a struggle. He wakes up at 4:00 in the morning and he comes here, he fills up and he takes it to our neighbors.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The water isn't safe to drink, but people use it to take showers, wash clothes and cleaning. And for some like Adrian Santiago who've lost their jobs since the storm, delivering this water to residents is a way of making extra money. Santiago delivers the water to Nelson Vasquez who lives several miles away. He keeps two large 55 gallon barrels drums in his garage next to a generator to power the basic necessities in his home. He says, living in the storms aftermath is like traveling back in time.

NELSON VASQUEZ, NARANJITO, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: Our great grandmothers used to carry cans of water on their hip from the lake to wash clothes.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): The roadway into this neighborhood was washed away by the storm, there about 40 families that lived on the other side, essentially cut off from the rest of the town, so they're having to figure out ways to get in and out. And this is one of those makeshift ways, a path so that people can walk in and out of their own neighborhood.

[20:55:10] (voice-over): And on the other side of the road collapse is where we found Elizabeth Diaz carrying for her newborn baby boy. Diaz gave birth two days before Hurricane Maria struck and when she left the hospital, she walked out into the ruins left by the storm. Her only focus now is caring for her baby who was born prematurely.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): That she came to her house where she normally lives is unlivable right now because of the hurricane damage. So she's been living here, no place to take a newborn baby.

(voice-over): Here in the mountains of Central Puerto Rico, many residents say they're settling into the reality that a normal day isn't even a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel yet. One man put it this way. We're prepared for a dark Christmas. There will be no holiday lights decorating the island this year.


LAVANDERA: And Anderson, you know, so the sense that I got today in some of the places that we visited in that town is that people are really settling into this new routine, anything that is far from normal. People getting their hands on generators, creating some sort of system that will kind of keep them going for the next six to seven months. And when you ask them was a typical day like to kind of give you the rundown of all of the things that would probably drive most of us crazy after sometime of all the things we have to do. It just struggling and fighting for those basic needs is really taking over everybody's day-to-day life. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Ed Lavandera, appreciate you being there. Thank you.

Up next, we'll tell you about the breaking news in the Russia probe and one of the president's former close advisers.