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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Presidents Trump and Putin Spoke Today By Phone; Interview with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia; Justice Department Inspector General Offers New Details on Discovery of FBI Official's Anti-Trump Texts; Tax Bill in Limbo After Sen. Rubio Says He'll Vote "No". Aired on 8- 9p ET
Aired December 14, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with the president saying today that the Russia investigations are a form of mania cooked up by President Trump's opponents in an effort to undermine him. But it wasn't President Trump who said that. It was Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual end of the year conference in Moscow.
Putin praised President Trump saying he's made a number of fairly serious achievements and Putin called the Russian investigations delirium and madness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is all dreamed up by people who are in opposition to Trump so as to make sure that everybody thinks that what he's doing, what he's working at is illegitimate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As you know, the United States intelligence agencies are unanimous in this conclusion that Russia launched an unprecedented attack in the American electoral process during the 2016 presidential campaign and almost certainly are going to try to do it again a clear threat to national security and American democracy, something the leader of a country under attack surely would want to address.
But tonight, there's new reporting from "The Washington post" that says not only does President Trump continue to reject evidence of Russia meddling to support him, he doesn't even want to hear about it. According to "The Washington Post," current and former officials say the president's daily brief is, quote, often structured to avoid upsetting him with intelligence related to Russia sometimes just in the written assessment, not brought up in the room. When former senior official told "The Post" if you talk about Russia's meddling, it takes the briefing off the rails.
Now, consider the implications of that for just a second, the people who brief the president of the United States about a direct attack on this country have to be careful about what they say about the country that did it because it will upset President Trump. Now, again, the meddling in this election isn't some conspiracy
theory. All of the U.S. intelligence agencies say that it happened. So, considering that and this new "Washington Post" reporting, it is worth looking again at what President Trump said to reporters last month after meeting with Putin.
Quote, I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.
He also said: Every time he sees me, I didn't do that. And I believe -- I really believe that when he tells me that. He means it but he says I didn't do that. I think he's very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.
Now, one could take that as the president being more concerned with the feelings of Russia's president, and integrity of his country's election, but it's kind of a challenge to get a read on what the president meant because listen to what he said the very next day. Now, keep in mind, this comment came -- his first comment set off a firestorm of controversy. So this next comment after that and has more than a whiff of damage control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership, I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies, I've worked with them very strongly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So to be fair, that last statement does sort of track with what he said about a year ago just after he was elected but with the caveat. First, here's that statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the new reporting in "The Washington Post" says that the president immediately regretted saying what you just heard him say. His inner circle, according to "The Post" reporting, have been pleading with him to acknowledge Russia's interference in the election but after that he said January 11, he reportedly told aides, quote, it's not me. It wasn't right.
In May, intelligence leaders testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: The assembled leadership of the intelligence committee, do you believe the 2017 intelligence community assessment accurately characterized the extent of Russian activities in the 2016 election and its conclusion that Russia intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using this information in order to influence our elections? A simple yes or no would suffice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's been seven months since those six yeses. Administration officials tell "The Washington Post" the president has never convened a cabinet meeting about Russian interference or what to do about it. Never. Not once.
One former high-ranking Trump administration official tells "The Post," there's an unspoken understanding at the National Security Council not to raise the issue because that would acknowledge its validity which the president would take as an affront.
Keeping them honest, a threat to national security should trump one man's feelings even if, especially if that man is the president of the United States.
Jeff Zeleny joins us now from the White House.
Has the White House responded to this "Washington Post" report?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the White House did not officially respond to "The Washington Post" report. They went throughout the day without issuing any clarification or explanation.
[20:05:03] I did go to several administration officials here, asking them point by point about it and they pointed me back to that piece of sound you just played a short time ago about the president's acknowledgement back in November in Vietnam during his trip there saying that, yes, he agrees with the U.S. intelligence community, finally.
What they did not comment on and we asked them these questions. They did not respond to, the fact that the president has gone months, in fact, almost a year without acknowledging as much as everyone in this town has that Russia meddled in the election. But there is a sense here, this "Washington Post" sort of story lays bare, a sense that we've heard for a long time here, Anderson. Why the president-elect and then president did not acknowledge this early on, start a blue ribbon commission or something of the kind and say, we are going to get to the bottom of this and then move on.
Many of his Republican advisers think that would have been a better way to handle it. But he was always concerned about seeing his election sort of delegitimize. But at the end of the day here, at the end of this year here, this is all front and center here. But as for an official comment, the White House had none.
COOPER: I understand that President Trump and President Putin spoke today. Do we know what they discussed? I mean, I assume election interference -- well, I don't know, maybe it didn't come up.
ZELENY: As far as we know, Anderson, it did not come up. But we were told the president, President Trump, initiated this phone call to thank President Putin for praising his strong economic progress and success as he did in that press conference earlier today in Moscow and they also talked about North Korea. But as far as we know, at least it's what the White House is saying, election interference did not come up.
COOPER: Wait, the president initiated this to thank him for the positive comments that he said today?
ZELENY: We are told that President Trump initiated this call and he did thank him for praising the strong economic performance and that is what President Putin did during his press conference here. As far as we know, what we're being told here, the White House, President Trump, initiated this phone call -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, Jeff, thanks very much.
Just before air tonight, I spoke with Senator Mark Warner, who's vice chairman of the intelligence committee.
COOPER: Senator Warner, someone who is privy to many of the nation's most sensitive intelligence matters, I'm wondering what you make of this "Washington Post" report that says the president doesn't want to hear or deal with Russian interference and that intelligence has to talk around it?
WARNER: Well, it's very troubling to me and because we have complete consensus that the Russians massively intervened in our election to try to help Mr. Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. We know they touched 21 states in terms of our electoral system. We know they used social media in ways that were unprecedented to, frankly, misrepresent and try to splinter our country.
And I've asked repeatedly in all of the Trump appointees acknowledge that this has happened, that when we ask, you know, who's in charge, we have no whole of government response because the failure of this president to acknowledge the seriousness of this threat or to designate someone in the White House to run this effort because if one thing we've learned, whether it's the Russians' efforts in the United States or their efforts in France or their efforts now becoming apparent in the Brexit vote, this is a great rate of return that the Russians get on this kind of misinformation and disinformation and they will be back.
And the president's failure to take this seriously enough or have someone to lead a whole of government effort to stop it from happening again, I believe, is a very serious national security threat.
COOPER: "The Post" reports, quote, one former high ranking Trump administration official said there's an unspoken understanding that within the National Security Council to raise the matter, talking about Russian interference, is to acknowledge its validity which the president would see as an affront. I mean, can you square that sort of mindset with the best interest of the United States if you can't even raise it?
WARNER: You know, Anderson, I can't square that mindset because we've had every one of the Trump senior intelligence officials come in and acknowledge on a repeated basis how serious this threat is and yet if you don't have someone from the White House who is at the end of the day with 17 different intelligence agencies with this threat having -- taking a variety of forms, you know, you've got to have this driven, frankly, out of the White House to have a response so that they're not back in 2018.
COOPER: One of your colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden, told Wolf Blitzer earlier this evening that based on what's on the record so far regarding Donald Trump Jr., he believes there was clearly, quote, an intent to collude. Do you agree with that?
[20:10:00] WARNER: Listen, Anderson, I'm going to go ahead and wait until we have all the testimony in. You know, I've tried to make sure we keep this a bipartisan investigation. I do believe that a number of the principles, including Donald Trump Jr., that individual members are going to want to have a chance to question these individuals before I reach any final conclusions.
COOPER: So you want Donald Trump Jr. to come back?
WARNER: Yes, absolutely. I think the staff did a great job. But, you know, not just Mr. Trump Jr., but Jared Kushner, Mr. Cohen, Trump's lawyer, a number of other figures.
COOPER: Your investigation is obviously separate from the special counsel. I'm curious what you make of the accusations of political bias against Robert Mueller. They seem to be getting more traction among the president's allies, right-wing media.
WARNER: Anderson, I -- frankly, you know, I'm befuddled by some of this. You've got -- let's go back and look at this. Jim Comey, who he fired, a long-time known Republican. Christopher Wray, the new FBI director, appointed by President Trump, has given, I think, in excess of $40,000 to Republican candidates. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, well-known Republican appointee, and Bob Mueller, who is extraordinarily well-respected but was an appointee of a Republican president and is a known Republican. The fact that all of these senior law enforcement officials are Republicans does not, in my mind, question their -- mean that I should question their integrity and the idea that some of Mr. Trump's allies are, I think, grasping at straws and the one individual that did seem to have a negative view of Mr. Trump, my information was that as soon as that came to Mueller's attention, he immediately fired him. So, I find it beyond hypocritical some of the comments made by some of the president's allies.
COOPER: Senator Warner, thanks for your time.
WARNER: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, coming up, new information tonight about the FBI agent who sent text messages about his personal feelings about then- candidate Trump and what role he had in the Mueller investigation. That is next.
Also ahead, from her days on "The Apprentice", to her mysterious and now finished stint at the White House, the curious case of Omarosa Manigault Newman.
[20:15:45] COOPER: We have new information involving FBI agent who is on Robert Mueller's team for a short time until Mueller learned about text messages the agent had sent about his personal feelings about then-candidate Donald Trump.
CNN's Laura Jarrett joins us now with the latest.
So, what more do you know about the role this FBI agent played both in the investigation and the Clinton email investigation?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Anderson, the central narrative being used by allies of President Trump is that Peter Strzok's text messages show political bias and therefore, he taints the special counsel's investigation. But we've now seen roughly 375 messages exchanged that were exchanged between he and another top lawyer at the FBI and they're trashing a variety of political figures, everyone from Senator Bernie Sanders to Chelsea Clinton to House Speaker Paul Ryan. So, Trump wasn't an anomaly there.
But we're also learning from those who worked with Strzok that he's a seasoned counterintelligence agent who at least from the outside didn't appear to allow his private, political opinions to influence his work and it wasn't as if he was some rogue agent overseeing the Clinton probe. He was being overseen by top officials some with Republican leanings, Anderson.
COOPER: What about his role in the Flynn investigation?
JARRETT: So, earlier this year, my colleague Evan Perez reported that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn initially weren't in favor of pursuing charges against him for lying in his interview with the FBI back in January. But we're also now learning that Peter Strzok in particular who was part of that counterintelligence team investigating any links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials was actually among those voices who didn't view Flynn's answers as purposefully false at the time.
So, Strzok's texts about Trump may show one thing but his actions clearly a bit more nuanced, Anderson.
COOPER: Laura Jarrett, thanks very much.
Joining me to talk more about this, CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, also, Jeff's former professor, criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz. He's author of "Trumped Up."
Jeff, what FBI agent Strzok's role actually was in the Clinton email investigations, as well as this one? Does it matter to you one way or the other?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Not a bit. We do not investigate the political views of FBI agents, period. That is a bedrock principle of how law enforcement works in the United States and all this is, is a transparent political attempt to disable the Mueller investigation by people who want it to fail.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, do you agree?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUSM, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, it may be a transparent attempt to do that but it really does matter. We don't want people being in charge of investigations who are perceived to be bias even if there's no actual bias and some of these e-mails show a real hatred toward Donald Trump and a real preference for Hillary Clinton.
I have to tell you, this guy should have recused himself. Once though e-mails were sent, he had to know that they might be seen and they would create a perception of bias and they give ammunition to the other side. And any criminal defendant whose indicted as a result of his input will be able to make challenges. They probably won't succeed but they'll be made.
TOOBIN: Remember how federal law enforcement works in this country? It's run by the United States attorneys who are appointed by senators, in effect, who appoint their campaign contributors, their friends. The U.S. attorney in Manhattan for many years was our colleague Preet Bharara who was an aide to Chuck Schumer. What do you think his politics are?
We don't look into that. That is not part of our legal system and here you have a situation where, you know, if the standard is what offends Sean Hannity, there's nothing that's going to satisfy him and that's why we don't investigate the political views of the people who are enforcing the law.
DERSHOWITZ: I agree with that. But when you see these e-mails coming out, not as the product of an investigation but of a legal request, I have to tell you, it offended me. I'm not Sean Hannity.
I wish it hadn't happened because it gives so much ammunition to the other side. It may actually have an impact on the election -- on the prosecution.
[20:10:01] Mueller may be unconsciously at this point saying, look, everybody thinks I'm so biased now and my people are so biased against Trump that I have to have a higher threshold before I actually do anything. It could have an impact on close, subtle prosecutorial decisions. That's why prosecutors should not be sending those kinds of e-mails. You --
TOOBIN: It wasn't a prosecutor. It was an FBI agent. I think that's a big difference. Strzok is not making any decisions about who gets indicted. That's up to Mueller. And Mueller is beyond reproach.
DERSHOWITZ: You should at least have a rule that says when you're an investigator or an FBI agent or prosecutor, you do not send e-mails expressing extremely negative views about the person you're investigating or extremely positive views about the person who ran against him.
TOOBIN: First of all, those texts -- they were not e-mails, they were sent before this investigation even began. So, he wasn't investigating Donald Trump at that point.
DERSHOWITZ: All I'm suggesting is that we should now -- if I were Mueller, I would bring in an ethics expert who was beyond reproach. I would have the ethics expert look at the totality of the investigator for us and make sure that we're not going to see any more of these because if we do, the credibility of the justice system will be influenced and credibility is extremely important.
You were right, we shouldn't determine this by Hannity but we shouldn't determine it by Toobin either.
TOOBIN: You have a situation where you want to look at every text sent by any member of the staff, every prosecutor, every FBI agent, every paralegal, every secretary in the office and then you -- someone will decide whether they have enough bias. That is madness.
DERSHOWITZ: If he were to take this issue more seriously and say, look, when you make appointments of people to investigate a case, you don't take into consideration whether Democrats or Republicans but you do take into consideration whether they have expressed views, hateful views about the person under investigation. That's the distinction and that's the distinction that the public cares about.
COOPER: You're saying he didn't take it seriously. He got rid of the guy.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, he got rid of the guy, but he didn't make it public until it came out through another way.
TOOBIN: Well, so what?
DERSHOWITZ: There should be more transparency.
Look, I'm not blaming Mueller. I'm saying for the future, I think it's important to make sure that nobody on this investigative team has expressed views that are absolutely hateful and show a bias against the subjects of the investigation.
COOPER: Well argued both sides. Professor Dershowitz, thank you. Jeff Toobin as well.
Kind of like Harvard Law School.
Up next, Republicans have a week left to pass their tax reform plan before the holidays. But there is some dissent among the ranks. We're going to hear from Governor John Kasich on that bill and plus, his view of the future of the Republican Party, next.
[20:26:49] COOPER: Well, time is running out for Republicans to pass tax reform next week before leaving town for the holidays. Republicans already have a razor sharp margin. They can only stand to lose three votes and they already have some key senators voicing concerns.
CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now from Capitol Hill with those details.
You've been talking to Republican sources. Where is this bill actually right now?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, today was a great example that a deal in principle which Republicans said yesterday they had on this tax overhaul does not a final bill make. Right now, you're seeing various senators, four, mostly, that are raising concerns about the potential deal going forward. That means that there's a lot more work to do.
You have Senator Susan Collins voted yes the first time around. She has specific asks. Republican aides saying they feel like she's in a good place but there's work to do there. Senator Jeff Flake had deficit concerns, had concerns about the expensing provision in the original bill. That still needs to be addressed.
Anderson, you have Senator Bob Corker who voted no the first time around. His rationale on deficits, those haven't been address, at least compared to the previous bills. The expectation while senators are still working with him is that he will end up there as well.
And then you have, as you noted, Senator Marco Rubio. His issue isn't new, but his straight declaration that he was a no on the current bill, that kind of underscored the problems that they are facing, especially given the timeline they're working under, Anderson.
COOPER: Did Senator Rubio saying he's no? Does that come to a surprise to Republican leaders and, I mean, could he be bluffing as a negotiation tactic possibly? MATTINGLY: Look, I think that's the big question that Republican
leaders have right now. I've talked to one Republican senator earlier today. He said rather pointedly, do you really think he will be the one to sink this kind of once in a generation opportunity for Republicans?
But the reality is this. Republican leaders were surprised. The issue isn't new. Senator Rubio brought this up when the Senate was considering this issue, the idea of expanding the refundability of the child tax credit, basically, the money you could get beyond your income tax liability is something that he's been pushing for regularly. But the idea that he would finally draw a red line was a shock to some.
Now, several aides have told me they are working with Senator Rubio behind the scenes right now. They do plan to add more money. The big question now is, they can't give him everything he wants. It's too expensive, at least according to the Republican negotiators.
And so, can they give him enough at this point?
Anderson, to your point, nobody thinks that he will actually sink this bill on his own but the reality is he drew the red line and they're responding to it behind the scenes right now.
COOPER: Phil Mattingly, thanks very for the reporting. I appreciate it.
Earlier, I spoke with Ohio Governor John Kasich for his take on it.
COOPER: Governor, the consensus tax bill, do you support it as it stands now? And if not, I'm wondering what change there should be, in your opinion?
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Well, I do support the tax bill. I do think that Marco Rubio saying that we need to do more for the hardworking lower income folks is exactly right.
Anderson, here's what it gets down to in a nutshell. Our corporate taxes are too high and it's causing companies to move production to other places where taxes are lower. That's not good. That hurts the American worker.
Secondly, there's a provision to help small businesses. We wiped out basically all small business taxes in Ohio on income because we want to spur small business. Now, the thing that I am concerned about is the rising level of debt.
COOPER: Minority Leader Schumer is calling for Doug Jones to be seated before the vote oh the tax bill, Democrats are citing Scott Brown being seated in 2010 before the Affordable Care Act. Do you believe Republicans should wait until Jones is seated?
JOHN KASICH (R), GOVERNOR, OHIO: You know, Anderson, it's a little too late now. This is a partisan bill. There is ways in which they could tweak this bill, but I'm not down there. I mean, if they had the corporate rate a little higher for example and did more for people who are the hardworking lower income people that Rubio is now trying to fight for. I give him credit for that. That would make sense.
But, you know, when it gets to this kind of a thing at this point in time, they're going to pass it as quickly as they can.
KASICH: I just hope they can figure out some ways to deal with the rising debt that this bill will cost.
COOPER: I want to ask you about what happened in Alabama, Doug Jones has win. I'm wondering what it ultimately means for the Republican Party and where you see the Republican Party. I mean, do you think Roy Moore's loss was a repudiation of President Trump, was it more about Moore himself, a combination of the two?
KASICH: Well, I think, Anderson, when you look at this, you look at Alabama. You can even look in Virginia. I think the party is losing the future, as we're standing here today. I mean, the future are young people. Young people right now are not inclined to vote Republican. Overwhelmingly against the suburban groups that Republicans have counted on, we saw it in Virginia. We're seeing it now -- we saw it in Alabama. We're losing that.
In other words, the party needs to have an agenda that is not reflected on yesterday but on tomorrow. And, in addition, if you're going to be a party that's going to be narrow, that's going to try to close, shrink everything, you know, whether it's anti-immigration, anti-trade, that's not going to make it.
And in my judgment, and here in the 21st century, we want an entrepreneurial fast-moving economy, that's where the Democrats get it totally wrong because the move towards a big, big government snuffs out entrepreneurship. We need to be concerned about the environment. We need to welcome immigrants. We need to be involved in trade.
And by the way, we can't be standing around any of the people, I don't think in my party, every -- not every day but often hearing threats about nuclear war.
COOPER: So you really believe the Republican Party is losing their future. I mean, people pointed to Alabama, they pointed Virginia as seeing a sort of Democratic wave growing. Do you see a Democratic wave growing against the, you know, among voters? And what should the Republican Party do about it?
KASICH: Well, there's -- well, you've got to change. You've got to start being more positive. You've got to address the issues that people care about. If I'm going -- if I'm a truck driver and I'm going to lose my job to autonomous vehicles, what am I going to do next, which requires an entire change in the way in which we educate people. That means you don't have time for politics. You've got to get out there and bring about the changes. We -- the party needs to be speaking to the voters about the future, not be stuck in solving problems of their way in the past. And anger, that's not good. Pitting one group against another, you know, that's sort of the two paths that I've always spoken about. Yes, there's problems. But we can fix them. Let's become a party that can fix problems, not one that runs away or blames somebody else for it.
Now, the size of the wave, we don't know. I will say this. If Democrats think that people across in Virginia or over there in Alabama are voting because they got some great ideas, they're making a huge mistake. Because I can't quite -- I can't tell you what the Democrats are for. And what I hear Bernie talk about is big government, a hard move to the left, the government doing more things. That isn't going to work in the 21st century.
So they're the beneficiary of Republicans kicking the ball out of bounds, but you cannot over time with election by being a party that takes advantage of somebody else's mistakes.
COOPER: Governor Kasich, I appreciate your time.
Up next, she is leaving the White House and seems to be changing her tune. Omarosa Manigault-Newman certainly seems to be hinting about maybe writing tell-all when we continue.
[20:38:18] COOPER: Omarosa Manigault-Newman is speaking out after the announcement she's leaving her post at the White House. We will hear from her in a moment. She is one the President Trumps most high profile African-American supporters, a reality contestant-turned the White House aide. She served as Director of Communications in the White House office of Public Liaison and was charged with African- American outreach.
Her resignation is effective on January 20th, with her being the only African-American in the White House drawing a top salary. Her departure certainly leaves questions about diversity that came up on today's press briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- and continue to work hard. I don't have a number directly in front of me specifically not African-American, but I can say, again, we have a very diverse team at the White House, certainly a very diverse team in the press office. And something that we strive for every day is to add and grow to be more diverse and more representative of the country at large. And we're going to continue to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: CNN's Abby Phillips joins us from the White House. Abby, has Senator Sanders gotten back to anybody about specific numbers when it comes to diversity in the White House? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: She hasn't, Anderson. We haven't heard much from the White House on that subject after the briefing, but we did some of our own number crunching and when -- just to lay it out here for you.
When Omarosa left, she left as assistant to the President, that's like the second highest level of seniority in this White House. They make about $180,000 a year. There are only about two dozen people with that title. With her gone, there are no African-Americans left with that seniority in the West Wing.
Among Cabinet level officials, about 46 Cabinet levels officials and Senior White House officials, the only African-American official left is HUD Secretary, Ben Carson.
So the White House here has already been criticized for a while now, for the lack of diversity in the cabinet level officials and among its senior staff.
[20:40:07] However, Anderson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders did point out to CNN later this afternoon that they are very proud of the diversity in other areas. They pointed out the press shop, which is predominantly female and has representatives of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. The White House is saying those folks count, too.
COOPER: Sarah Sanders said that Omarosa was coming back to the White House today. Do we have any idea what for?
PHILLIP: Well, don't know her badge was deactivated when she was fired earlier this week. And you don't need a badge necessarily to get into the White House. But I asked whether she was expected to be working until January 20th and there's no indication that she will. Unclear what exactly she was here for today. The White House is trying not to answer too many questions about this issue, which has spilled into the media in part because of Omarosa's own public statements.
COOPER: Yes. Abby Phillip, I appreciate that. Omarosa denies there was a dramatic confrontation the White House after her resignation was announced. This morning, she spoke with ABC News and hinted she might write a tell-all book.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR THE WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF PUBLIC LIAISON: There were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that I was very unhappy with, that I was very uncomfortable with, things that I observed, that I heard, that I listened to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Such as?
NEWMAN: I can't expand upon it because I have to still go back and work with these individuals. But when I have a chance to tell my story, Michael, quite a story to tell, as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the President, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally and has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.
COOPER: That's what you call a book pitch. As Abby Phillip reported Omarosa is the only African-American at the White House drawing a top salary. There are questions about why she's still being paid through next month. Here's what CNN's Jeff Zeleny asked at today's press briefing.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If she's resigned, but you said she will stay on -- Omarosa will stay on through January 20th -- why are the taxpayers continuing to pay her salary for another month if she's no longer here at the White House?
SANDERS: As I just said, I'm not going to weigh in any further, as we often do. And as is the practice, we're not going to get deeper into personnel matters. We've put out a statement. The President likes Omarosa, thanked her for her service. And, again, she'll be here later this afternoon, so she's resigned from her position, but there's really nothing else to add on that front.
ZELENY: If she has resigned, though, why is she still on the payroll for another month? Is that normal?
SANDERS: Look, there's a lot of different protocols that take place in the government. That's part of the process. If you want to reach out to H.R., they might be able to walk you through that in a more detailed way -- certainly not that I'm privy to. Thankfully, I haven't been through the process myself, so I can't speak to it from firsthand.
COOPER: To the extent that anyone has been paying attention Omarosa has been a polarizing figure with a history of feuds. Here's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Omarosa Manigault Newman thrives on conflict. In fact, she's built a career out of it.
NEWMAN: Every woman has a bitch switch. They have to learn how to turn it on and learn how to turn it off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know how to turn yours off?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. KAYE: That was Manigault Newman on the Wendy Williams show back in 2008 promoting her book, "The Bitch Switch." She had joined the NBC's "The Apprentice" four years earlier, quickly becoming the star villain.
KAYE: Omarosa Manigault Newman has created a name for herself, literally. She's often referred to as simply Omarosa, as if she were Cher or Madonna and her attitude always on display. During a segment on Fox Business News, the gloves came off after another guest corrected Manigault Newman for mispronouncing her name.
NEWMAN: When Tamara says, that Donald Trump broke it out and --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tamara. It's Tamara.
NEWMAN: It's the same difference. You want to come off with big boobs then you deal with the pronunciation of your name.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why you are bringing Tamara's boobs?
KAYE: After the election, the reality T.V. star turned White House aide made also made waves when she was a guess on "The View."
NEWMAN: No, I know it's got to be really, really hard after, you know, the last year and a half of all the things you said about Donald to see him sitting in the Oval Office. I know it's got to be hard for you.
KAYE: In June Manigault Newman took on the Congressional Black Caucus. Some caucus members reportedly took issue with her signing their invitation to the White House as the honorable Omarosa Manigault. And viewed the White House visit is just a photo up for the President. Manigault Newman shot back.
NEWMAN: They're showboating and they are actually shorting out their constituents that they commit it to represents by not coming to meet with the President.
KAYE: Two months later, she sparred on stage at this gathering for the national association of black journalists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go.
KAYE: Back in her reality T.V. days, she often tangled with La Toya Jackson on "The Apprentice."
NEWMAN: Yes. You got to think strategically boo because you're on the wrong side of Omarosa today.
[20:45:01] KAYE: And Janice Dickinson on "The Surreal Life."
NEWMAN: And this got what came to her.
KAYE: The tough talking Manigault Newman seems to be taking her queues from her former boss.
NEWMAN: Mr. Trump said it. It's good sometime to have a bad reputation.
KAYE: And her reputation followed her to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where a former White House official told CNN that former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and his replacement, General John Kelly, both were anxious to get rid of her. After her removal, Manigault Newman described Kelly's style on ABC as militaristic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she said she has a story to tell. I'm sure she'll be selling that story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh you don't awfully sure.
KAYE: In response, Omarosa Manigault Newman calling Robyn Roberts petty suggesting this is now a black woman's civil war. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Up next, is there a diversity problem that the White House and what did Omarosa actually do at the White House? We'll try to figure that out with Paris Dennard, who let African-American outreach for President George W. Bush. Also, Angela Rye, the former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus.
[20:50:16] More now on the departure of Senior White House Aide, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who worked in the Office of Public Liaison with the focus on African-American outreach. She is hinting certainly the possibility of some sort of a book, and her exit is raising questions about diversity at the White House.
Joining me to discuss all this, CNN Political Commentator Paris Dennard, the former Director for Black Outreach in the George W. Bush, White House, also Democratic Strategist Angela Rye, the former Executive Director of the Congressional Black caucus.
Paris, to this notion first, that according to Omarosa now that she saw things that made her uncomfortable, that upset her. It's clearly a pitch for a book or some sort of televisions product or something. Did you ever hear that from her? Or to you knowledge anyone in the White House ever hear from here prior to this morning. I think Sarah Sanders said that she had?
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Anderson, it was a surprise to me. First it was a surprise that she did that interview. Secondly it was surprise to hear the things that she said especially picking that allegation that somehow she was uncomfortable with things that the President was doing or somehow the things that she heard. I never heard that from Omarosa privately, I never heard that from Omarosa publicly. Sarah Sanders, the Press Secretary said the same. I think when you have positions of power, of influence. And you want to speak truth to those people in those positions of power, you should do so.
But I don't know that that is anything that was so egregious that she would have said that to anybody privately. Because if she had, she knows that she could have trusted us, people in her kitchen cabinet, people that are around her, that were her colleagues, and voiced that.
Now, listen I've been in the position where you're the only African- American in the room that is advocating for your community. Got it, and sometimes you have to educate people and enlighten them to different things, because they're just not aware of the new ones issues that go on in the community, got it. But the things that she was insinuating were very, very negative, very suspects and I think it rubs a lot of people the wrong way because we had never heard that from her.
COOPER: And just -- I mean you have connections on the White House, do you know what she actually -- I mean did she actually do stuff there? Because I mean everything I've read, it seemed to raise questions about what she was actually doing.
DENNARD: I think it's important to realize a few things. Number one, her position was created essentially for her, because of her unique abilities as an effective communicator and a person of great confidence that the President had in her. So, she was a Director of Communications inside the Office of Public Liaison, the odds that the Public Liaison was very, very important office which was called the public engagement of the Obama administration.
And they have a lot of different portfolios and groups that come out of there. So she was supposed to articulate that message on behalf of the entire office. Now there was a decision made, I don't know if it was Omarosa's decision to not to have a black outreach person in their specific to engage to the community. And she just took that portfolio on herself. But that was not on her job description and she made that known many times. And so she added that, she added HBCUs to her portfolio. And then the President wisely moved the HBCU initiative into the White House and appointed Johnathan Holifield as the Executive Director. And so that left her with the black community.
Now, here's the problem that arose with the situation, Anderson. The problem is that she was a Democrat before she became a Trump Republican. So she did not have any type of relationship with black Republicans. And then she alienated herself with a lot of the more liberal or none Republican blacks that she did know. So that becomes an issue for her moving forward to advance to the present --
COOPER: Angela, I mean you actually believe may be easier for African-American staffers and advisers in the White House to be heard with Omarosa gone? How so?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think in a lot of ways. Number one, for the very few black folks who do work in the White House, they all had run-ins with Omarosa and talked about the fact that she worked diligently to black them. So, to Paris's point she wanted certain things in her portfolio that perhaps she didn't have experience or the training to know how to deal with. She didn't even know how to address a letter. She put the address block to the CBC, the address block of the White House at the bottom of the letter and called herself the honorable.
Little did she know that even folks like Valerie Jarrett, who were known as the honorable, you don't really reference yourself like that in a letter. So there were a number of things her small politics that was at the National Action Network when Omarosa went to speak on behalf of Donald Trump and lied to her teeth throughout the duration of her speech. I was so supposed to be accepting an award. And I had to take my speech, my acceptance speech to correct every lie she told at the luncheon.
So, I agree with Paris that yes, she did alienate herself. But let me tell you when it started. It started when it became very clear to people that Omarosa was neither a Democrat nor, as Paris called her, a Trump Republican which I do think is an important distinction. But an opportunist and people can see right through that. When your main goal is the money and the attention, people will always spot that and they will smell it, and that is why Robin Roberts had the "Bye, Felicia" moment she had this morning.
[20:55:09] COOPER: Right, I mean if you're pitching a book the day after you've left your job --
RYE: That's exactly right. Or whatever she's pitched and to your point Anderson, we don't know. Maybe it's the new -- You know, maybe she does not have Gospel track. You know, she's the first lady of a church in Jacksonville.
COOPER: Paris, I mean, Sarah Sanders either couldn't or wouldn't say how many senior staffers at the White House are African-American. You're obviously supporter of the President, diversity obviously is important in all rounds. It's important in the new business and I mean I think most corporations need to do better. What do you make of diversity in the White House right now?
DENNARD: I think Anderson, it depends on how you want to define diversity, if you want to define diversity in the terms of African- American, you know, how African-Americans was seen on the positions, it's not a good record. Omarosa was the only one that was an assistant to the President, a Commission officer. But if you want to talk about diversity in terms of gender diversity, the White House specially the communication is very diverse. There are a lot of women. There are many minorities, if you look at Hispanics, or Asians.
And so, there are -- It is diverse, but in terms of African-Americans, there could be a lot more representation, but there are African- Americans serving in, in significant roles in the Vice President's office, in Domestic Policy, in Office of Legislative Affairs, in the White House Fellow's Office, and there is an actually a White House fellow that dedicated to working with HBCU's that is also in the White House. Not to mention or not to forget the Secretary of Housing and Urban development as well as the Sergeant General.
COOPER: Angela, I mean I always argued, I mean any organization is better the more diverse it is. How do you see the White House?
RYE: It's horrible and here's a point that may be a breaking news moment tonight, Anderson. I actually agree with Steve Bannon on this. Steve Bannon talked about the record of diversity in the White House, particularly as it relates to people of color as abysmal. It's horrible. It needs work.
And here is the problem, when you push forth the policy prescriptions that this President has pushed forth since he announced his candidacy the way he talked about Latino folks, the way that he talked about the Mexican judge, the way he's talked about Charlottesville being bad people on both sides, by the way, Omarosa who said that she was uncomfortable with the way that Donald Trump handled this. There's actually a Fox News interview where she supported the way that he handles Charlottesville at the time, going back to the opportunistic point. But when you talk about diversity, it is -- there is proof in the pudding, it's all in the numbers. And the numbers aren't there. You don't have it.
DENNARD: I will just -- If I could push this briefly, there were a number of African-American Republicans who voiced concern to me that said that they wanted to serve, but for whatever reason they were blocked, and many of them said they were unfortunately blocked by Omarosa. So, I hope that they can get in now and support this President.
RYE: That's a lot of power for someone who didn't even have an office in the West Wing. I remember during the transition period for Barack Obama. There was discussion about whether Valerie Jarrett, who Omarosa thought she was just like -- huh?
COOPER: OK, nothing --
RYE: Oh, no, I'm sorry, no, so even with that, you have someone who compared herself to Valerie Jarrett, but didn't have the same level of access. Her office was in the (INAUDIBLE) Executive Office building, which is not in West Wing or in the White House.
COOPER: Angela Rye, Paris Dennard, thank you very much.
Up next, The GOP tax bill in Limbo, after key senators say he'll vote no, the latest from Capitol Hill in a moment.