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Tax Bill In Limbo After Sen. Rubio Says He'll Vote "No"; Report: Pres. Trump Doesn't Want Intel On Russia Interference; Omarosa's Exit Raises Questions About White House Diversity; Pres. Trump "Fake News" Claims Creating Real Danger; Remembering The Sandy Hook Shooting Victims. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 14, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:41] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: House and Senate Republicans are working on a bill that would affect virtually everyone in the country and would be the president's first legislative victory in overhaul of the tax system. A vote could come as early as next week. But all of a sudden, there are some stumbling blocks. Phil Mattingly joins us now from Capitol Hill with the latest.

So you've been talking to Republican sources, obviously, what are they telling you about where this bill stands right now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, there's no question about it, Anderson. Republican leaders were sent scrambling today. They've got two senators with health issues and they've got a handful of other senators with legitimate policy issues. Most (INAUDIBLE) Senator Marco Rubio coming out as a firm "no" vote on the bill if they were not changes to the child tax credit. You also have Susan Collins who hasn't committed one way or the other yet. Bob Corker, who voted no the first time around, none of his major issues have been addressed in this current legislation. Senator Jeff Flake also on the fence as well. All these underscores kind of a key point here, Anderson, while Senate Republican leaders and House Republican leaders announced that they had a deal in 2principle on Wednesday. A deal does not make a bill. That's where they are right now. They're negotiating behind the scenes, Anderson.

Leaders have told me that they feel like they will get there, they feel like the votes are there, as long as they line everything up. But as it currently stands as of this moment, they are still working to lock all that in, just a few short days before they're expected to take that vote, Anderson.

COOPER: You talk about Rubio saying he's a "no" vote. I mean, is that a bluff, is that a negotiation tactic?

MATTINGLY: Look, there's no question as an element of that. But I think it's worth noting. This isn't something that's new. Leaders were surprised by this hardline stance, no question about that. But Senator Rubio has been talking about the refundability piece of the child tax credit for a long time during this debate. His amendment (ph) to try and change that during the Senate debate, failed. He was told that there could be no increase of the corporate tax rate to try and pay for things. Well, Republican leaders have agreed to increase the corporate tax rate to pay for other things, that's where this all came from, some behind the scenes frustration. They weren't willing to address this.

Now, here's what I'm told at this moment, GOP leaders are amenable to changes, not going as far as Senator Rubio wants. That probably costs too much according to his leaders, but doing something behind the scenes to address this. I will note, though, several senators have made the point that Marco Rubio, being the tax vote that ends up sinking this overhaul, seems very unlikely to them. Several senator (ph) aides saying the same thing, the idea that he could be a deciding vote, they don't necessarily believe it. But there's no question about it, Anderson, as of this point, at least throughout the course of the day, Senator Rubio is not bulging from this stance, he's going to get something. The question is, will it be enough?

COOPER: Have you sensed hesitancy in general or any hesitancy about moving forward on this, in terms of (INAUDIBLE) the fact that this bill has approval ratings in the low 30s and 20s right now? Or they want to get it done?

MATTINGLY: To be blunt, no. Yes, and that's exactly right. They want to get it done. And I think this can underscores how this entire process has worked. Keep in mind. Nobody thought this could be done in the time line that they're working on right now. There's a reason this hasn't been done in 31 years, the tax overhaul, their sacred cows (ph), there's corporate interest, there's all sorts of things that make this near impossible, and yet, over the course of two months, they're on the verge of actually doing this. And the reason why, when you talk to all parties involved, political imperative. You talked about the lack of legislative wins. You look at the approval ratings of people around the country electorally (ph). They recognize that something has to happen. They ran on these issues. There certainly members who believe strongly in this bill, believes strongly in the end-game of the policy. But perhaps more important than anything else, the overarching theme (ph) here, members know they need to get something, anything done before the end of the year, and that more than anything else is why Republican leaders in both the House and Senate think the votes will be there next week.

But as I said, there's more work to do. They're planning on unveiling this bill tomorrow, work continues tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly. Thanks very much. A lot to talk about tonight. Joining me, Tara Setmayer, Mike Shields, Bakari Sellers, Stephen Moore and Angela Rye.

Do you think they're going to get it done?

TARA SETMAYER, BOARD DIRECTOR, STAND UP REPUBLIC: I think so. The stake was just entirely too high at this point. Everyone is all in on this. I think this is smart political strategy by Marco Rubio. He's been telegraphing this somewhat in recent days where he tweeted his annoyance with the fact that during the amendment process they voted down his amendment along with Senator Mike Lee. They've been working on this child credit together. They want $2000 at least and they voted that down during the amendment period because the idea was, we have to raise the corporate tax rate up 1 percent, well, actually 0.9 to 4 percent, from 20 percent to 20 -- 0.9 (ph) to 4 percent. And that was told, no, that's too much, it's going to hurt growth, and Marco Rubio tweeted out, wait a minute, Trump just said we can possibly raise it to 22 percent or 21 percent, and that's OK. But when we want to do expand the child tax credit, it wasn't.

[21:05:12] So he's kind of let them know that he's going to fight for this. It's important. And from messaging for Republicans, they've done a terrible job on convincing middle class Americans why this tax bill is good for them. And we can debate the details of whether it is or isn't -- but the Republicans have done a terrible job, and this is Marco Rubio can turn back, even if he loses it, he can go back and say, I fought hard for this middle class, this would help the middle class the child --

COOPER: Mike, I mean, the president said he thinks Rubio will be there for sure?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I do too. And it's a little bit like when you're in the airport, and you see the people there yelling, get their way. If you keep giving way to the bad actors, pretty soon a good actor is going to ask for something, right? He's got every right to do it, but I think the key point is, it's going to pass. He's going to vote for it. He's probably going to get a little bit of what he wants. That's good negotiating on his part. And when he's talking about -- so people understand, is the child tax credit is going up, right? So that's why this is a middle class tax cut.

Seventy percent of the country doesn't itemize because it's too complicated. These are the standard deduction. The standard deduction is going to double in this. So you have child tax credit that could double. You have the standard deduction doubling. And it's -- a tax (INAUDIBLE) that creates job.

So we just said those three things over and over again, --

SETMAYER: Right, that's right.

SHIELDS: -- we would cut through a lot more of what you're talking about, --

SETMAYER: Very true.

SHIELDS: -- this is a middle class tax cut and it creates jobs. When you have corporations coming in to the country they create more jobs, and make us more competitive and that helps the middle class as well.

COOPER: My experience, the last people you want to yell at airport employees and traffic cops.

SHIELDS: I agree. COOPER: Bakari.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. The last thing he said nobody really believes, because we have had tax cuts before for corporations and it hasn't translated to wages growing. I mean, if you look at room full of corporate execs. We've seen this before time and time again, Steve Mnuchin had a room full of corporate execs and you ask them, will they actually increase wages? Will employees actually see the benefits of a corporate tax cut? None of them will raise a hand because that's simply not true.

But, let me just tell you something, if anybody believes that Marco Rubio is going to be the one for Democrats who's a savior or the one who actually torpedoes this tax bill. I mean, Marco Rubio has about as much courage as a mammal in Oz. Which we know is not a whole lot. And so, my point in saying that is this. This bill --

COOPER: A mammal in Oz?


SETMAYER: That's a new one, Bakari.

SELLERS: Wasn't it a big cat in Oz who -- who needed a heart in Oz? Who is that?

SETMAYER: It was the tin man.

SELLERS: Oh, it was the tin man.


SELLERS: -- courage. There we go. There we go.

COOPER: All right. All right.


SELLERS: Thank you, Angela, that's why you're here.

COOPER: I get hung up on little details.

SELELRS: -- that was like (INAUDIBLE). Anyway, he does not have the courage to save this. With all of that being said, this is very close to not passing, if for example they seated Doug Jones as they should seat Doug Hones as we did before the Affordable Care Act. Then you're at a 49-51 --

SHIELDS: -- that's how he we vote? The represent of state --

SELLERS: I'm pretty certain --


SELLERS: You know why I know he would vote for it, because he got there on the backs of black women, and black women are not going to benefit from this tax bill.


SELLERS: I will particularly tell you that he's pretty clear.

SHIELDS: He doesn't want to have to take this vote, let me tell you --


SELLERS: It will be 51 to 59. And with Corker, and with the fact that we were praying for John McCain, this bill is up in the air.

COOPER: Stephen.

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, Marco Rubio certainly caused a lot of heart palpitations today with his injunction to this debate. You're right, I mean, he's going to vote for the bill. He's going to get what he wants.

SELLERS: Like the mammal in Oz?

MOORE: The thing that worries me a little bit is -- look, you're right, by the way, this -- but will happen next week before the new senator swore in, but, you know, it's a 51 -- they have 51 votes and that means they can only lose one. And so that gives power to anyone -- you know, my worry, Anderson, is that now anyone can say, wait a minute, I want this, I want that, you know, and you get a flood of Marco Rubios and that just isn't going to work. I think it will pass. I think it will be -- look, you know, you got to admit, I mean the stock market has been going on through the roof. Investors want this. Businesses want it. It's good for America. I think we'll get, you know, 4 percent growth the next year with this.

And by the way, --


COOPER: -- for Republicans, though, I mean, if they didn't do this it would be --

SETMAYER: Devastating.

2MOORE: I think they understand they got to hang together here or they're going to hang separately. And, look, it's true that the poll show a lot of people, you know, are opposed to this, because they don't think that there's anything in this for them. One of the important points that Trump made in his press conference the other day, is they're going to start the withholding changes in February. And that means people are going to start to feel the effects of this, middle class people, black women who are, you know, incomes $50, $60, $70, $80,000 or maybe, you know, married couples. They're going to see a $2,000, $3,000 reduction in their taxes. And I think it will be popular and good for the economy. And I think it'll get done.

I'm worried, by the way, about John McCain's health, I mean, there's rumors that, you know, he is -- I love John McCain, I think he's one of the great heroes of America, --

COOPER: Yes. We wish him well.

MOORE: -- but we're really worried about his health.

COOPER: Yes. Angela.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, a couple things, right, I think it's interesting, sir, where you started on the messaging, because I also think that Democrats have not handled the messaging of this very well.

[21:10:03] COOPER: How so?

RYE: To the point of itemized deductions, if they are too lazy or can't afford, right, someone to itemize deductions for them, then yes they get a benefit, but for folks who do take the time to itemize deductions, the fact that you get your mortgage interest deduction hit.

MOORE: Seven hundred fifty thousand. That's a pretty rich person as --

RYE: Oh, but this is a rich person's tax bill which is what --

MOORE: No, no, no.

RYE: I'm not -- I know that you had your turn, let me have mine. OK, so you're going to keep talking --

MOORE: -- over $750,000.

RYE: So this is what I'm saying.


RYE: I think it's important for us to understand it is a rich person's tax bill and that's what the Democrats should have been saying instead of the GOP tax scam. Given all that's happened in administration with Russia, given all that's happened, there's one scandal after another. Tax scam has fallen on deaf ears, didn't resonate with me. So, one in the same, I think that we can push back a little bit and we have some work to do as well.

SETMAYER: I think Democrats have done a pretty good job of using -- which is -- and even Orrin Hatch, Senator Orrin Hatch got tired of that line, that --oh, you know, you're hurting the middle class to give tax cuts to the wealthy, the corporations. That's been used against Republicans for decades, which is why --

RYE: It is true.

SETMAYER: -- it's perplexing to me, that Republicans didn't anticipate that, and have proper messaging and stay on that to explain how this benefits, yes, it's good for business, but it's also good for the middle class. (CROSSTALK)

RYE: There are some problems with it --

SETMAYER: -- but there are some good things that they're going to push this through at least explain where the good parts are. The Republicans haven't done a good job. Look at the approval rating, terrible.

SHIELDS: Should also talk about how the current tax code is pro China. And this is a bill that China does not want, and that will break for a lot of American --

MOORE: China is the big loser.


COOPER: We got to take a quick break. The president still doesn't accept the evidence that Russia had meddled in the election to support him. A new reporting in "The Washington Post" says, those around him know better than to even bring it up. We'll talk to David Gergen about that and the panel, coming up.

Also, now that the former Apprentice contestant is no longer working in the White House, what is in the future for African-American outreach in the administration? A unique question for unique time, so we'll talk about it ahead.


COOPER: New reporting tonight, "The Washington Posts" says the president still doesn't accept evidence that Russia interfered and supported him in the election. Those around him know he gets agitated when he even hears about it. "The Post" spoke with current and former officials who say that his daily briefing is often structured to avoid upsetting him with Russian related Intel. Only in the written brief and not brought up in person. I talked about that with CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen who is an adviser to four -- to President's Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.


[21:15:07] COOPER: David, I mean, according to "The Washington Post". The idea that the president doesn't even want to hear intelligence about Russia's meddling in the election is a stunning thing. Now briefers have to kind of figure out a work around is really eye opening.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's unique as far as I can tell -- no American history. It's an alarming report, Anderson, partly, because "The Washington Post" has interviewed more than 50 people. So it has -- it's (INAUDIBLE) a lot of background and more solidly built report. But what comes out of it is, the president, because of his personal insecurities. His personal insecurities does not wanting to have his election diminished, discredited in some way. If he accepts the Russian -- the conclusion of his intelligence agencies, that the Russians meddled, he thinks that's somehow going to diminish him and he feels very uncomfortable about that so he pushes it off.

COOPER: What he said that publicly time and time again, you kind of assume, well, maybe privately he's --

GERGEN: Exactly.

COOPER: You know, we're able to -- that's just a public facade. But it's so deep and ingrained he can't get over it.

GERGEN: I think that's right. And what this story really makes clear, and what -- some of this, you know, people have wondered about is because of his aversion to hearing this, he still does not want reports in his intelligence briefing, they have to dance around it gently so they don't irritate him in the briefings. But because of that aversion, the government itself is not taking the kind of aggressive actions you would expect from a government whose voting booths have been -- or whose voting processes have been manipulated by the Russians. You know, under ordinary circumstances, the president would order a crackdown, let's figure out what happened --

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: Let's go after it. Let's pass laws. Let's hold the Russians accountable. None of that. So in effect, the elections coming up are much more vulnerable than they would be otherwise, a president whose insecurities are putting a threat -- putting a danger over our own election process going-forward.

COOPER: Right, and this is something which the entire intelligence community has said, you know, is concerned about. General Michael Hayden former director of the CIA says it's the political equivalent -- the Russian meddling is the political equivalent of 9/11.

GERGEN: Yes. Yes. Well, that was really, really interesting quote I thought. I haven seen quite the graphic (INAUDIBLE) terms. But if that's the conclusion of someone who's really seeing the intelligence, I think we have to take it seriously. And what again, it says is -- that the Russian threat, this does not say that it tossed the election to Hillary, it does not say there was a collusion, but it does says the meddling itself, constituted the direct threat to American democracy, and we're not cracking down on it as we should. And we're further at risk in future election.

COOPER: I mean, what it does also is -- I mean, for a president who's so obsessed with winning. It allows the Russians to win. I mean, if the idea of the strategy of the Russians was to so discord, to meddle in the election, not only did they meddle in the election, they've also won by not allowing the United States to actually prevent it the next time.

GERGEN: Exactly. And let's see -- the story (INAUDIBLE) not just about the voting, it's about they wanted to increase political polarization, they wanted to increase polarization between the races in this country. And they wanted to diminish America's influence overseas. And they've accomplished all three of those without tossing the election necessarily and still left us vulnerable. That's a very damning report.

COOPER: It's incredible. David Gergen, thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. Joining the conversation also is Former Congressman Jack Kingston.

Mike, does this concern you? I mean the idea that -- one reading of "The Washington Post" report is that the president's own -- I don't know if it's insecurity or belief that people are trying to diminish him or diminish his, you know, totally legitimate election result is preventing him and preventing the U.S. government from really addressing a very serious national security problem.

SHIELDS: And it's worth noting. He is publicly said that he trusts his intelligence agencies and he believes that there was meddling. So --

COOPER: He did say that only after controversy?

SHIELDS: He did. But he had said it publicly. This is a report of what's -- trying people -- trying to characterize his briefings. Look, the Russians interfered in our elections early they tried to. And it's being investigated. It's being investigated on Capitol Hill. I think the president should take a stronger stance in pushing back on this, but I also think we go a little too far. David Gergen just said, they interfered with our processes. There's no evidence of that, there's evidence that they tried to influence the election by buying, you know, Facebook ads and those sorts of things. As someone who does that, I can tell you what we've seen so far at a very, very,, very minimal level. So there's no evidence they actually influenced the election. There's no evidence that they divided people, the way that David Gergen discussed.

So, what frustrates the president, I believe, is that this turned into a partisan issue. And it becomes a political football. And so, I don't think he should react to that. But he does have a good point. And this becomes a very -- we're getting ready to hear it, it becomes a very partisan issue as opposed to just an investigation.

COOPER: But just in terms of national security, there has never been a cabinet level meeting to discuss future, you know, cyber efforts to prevent Russian interference? I mean --

[21:20:07] SHIELDS: No, and I agree with that.


SHIELDS: Look, Russia is -- I consider Russia as a state, not the people, the state of Russia is an enemy of United States. When they do something like this, this is -- in some country might be considered an act of war. We have to take incredibly seriously, and I'm agreeing that the president should take it more seriously.

However, I think that the tone of this -- I guess we're going to hear it, goes into a partisan place that is also not appropriate. There's no evidence the Russians actually changed the outcome of anything in the election.

COOPER: Angela.

RYE: So having worked for the committee on Homeland Security before I worked for the CBC, where I was very proud of the many things that we did on a bipartisan basis, being able to take an offensive look and approach toward a strategic approach toward cyber security was one of those spaces. And to me, it's maddening that we can't have a conversation about not only what Russia could do, but any country could do, because it's one of our most vulnerable spaces. We do so much online, not just the ways in which precincts were vulnerable and attacking, there's proof of that. But it's not just Facebook ads, there are multiple spaces in which this was a problem.

SHIELDS: And precincts like voting machines, have you seen any evidence --

SELLERS: That's not what happened, but that's not, but you're also minimalizing and that's not (INAUDIBLE) dishonest.

SHIELDS: No, I'm trying to give context as opposed to becoming a partisan --

RYE: I didn't make it partisan.


SELLERS: -- context, because what we do know is that there have been a number of secretaries of states and there have been a number of states where their voter rolls were hacked and voter information was taken.

SETMAYER: Twenty one.

SELLERS: Twenty one, to be specific. So that's more than just buying Facebook ads. What we do know is that individuals impersonated Black Lives Matter activists in places like Ferguson and Baltimore to sow discord. That's more than just buying Facebook ads.

What we do know is that John Podesta's e-mails were hacked and leaked by a Russian agent. That's more than just buying Facebook ads. And so what I'm saying is, we can minimalize it all you want, and you can say it's just (INAUDIBLE) as you want, but that's not the facts, and the president of the United States Democrat or Republican, if someone in -- and this is not a partisan issue, because what you've seen on the Hill is, you've seen Democrats and Republicans alike.

RYE: Yes.

SELLERS: You've seen Thom Tillis who is the United States senator from North Carolina, and Mark Warner work diligently in a nonpartisan fashion to make this happen. So do not minimalize -- JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I don't think anybody is minimalizing it. But I do think --

SETMAYER: The president is.

KINGSTON: I don't think he is. And remember, part of his criticism of the Obama administration, is that they always told our enemies what we were about to do. We're going to withdraw from the Middle East, from Iran, at a certain time, frankly, for example. I think part of his strategy is to do things quietly. I mean, I do not --


SETMAYER: No one knows but him.

KINGSTON: The CIA, the Homeland Security. Mattis, McMaster, do you really think they're sitting --

SELLERS: But let me tell you --


SELLERS: -- can I tell you --

KINGSTON: I don't think that Pompeo would be doing that.

SELLERS: But let me tell you how quiet it's been, though, Jack. This is how quiet has been. It's been so quiet, that right now in Syria, Russia has now built and has an agreement to put two more air force bases.


KINGSTON: -- that's a great point bombing the Russian --


KINGSTON: -- Syria, by the way.

SHIELDS: Series of great points.

SETMAYER: Here we go.

SELLERS: He bombed an air force base, and what did they do the next day? They sent planes for --

COOPER: -- Syria.

SELLERS: But I'm just --

SETMAYER: OK, so I worked for a member who also was on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and so we saw a lot of cyber security issues concerning China initially, years ago, in asymmetric warfare. Is what she they used to call the cyber warfare attacks coming from China, and it would be naive to think that Russia wouldn't be involved in a similar strategy to attack the United States. And Russia has been involved, this is part of a 40 year strategy on Russia's part of reflexive control theory, which is basically perception management. And what they do when they done this in the Ukraine, they done this in Europe, and now they have employed this tactic in the United States. They manipulate, they have disinformation campaigns, they manipulate information to try to convince people of a predetermined outcome that the Russians actually want. If this is not a textbook example of this theory, of reflexive control theory, I don't know what is. And for the president of the United States to be in denial about this, because it hurts his little feelings, is --

KINGSTON: It's not -- that is so disrespectful to say --

SETMAYER: He had never criticized Vladimir Putin. Mike Shields just had a stronger attack on Putin than the president of the United States ever had. After what the Russians have tried to do with this country. There's a problem with that.

KINGSTON: -- always want to make this personal. This is --


KINGSTON: Can we all agree that --


SETMAYER: -- he's the president, he makes everything personal, Jack, that's why we have to talk about it in this context. His ego is so fragile. He can't handle --


SHIELDS: Look, when it comes --


[21:24:56] SHIELDS: But here's where this -- it is exactly what I'm talking about. So it goes from an investigation, to now we're talking about the president's policies toward Russia. So now they're getting tied in together, right? Was there -- and let's look at the president's policies toward Russia --


SHIELDS: He has brokered a peace in Syria against Putin --

COOPER: Hold those thoughts.

SHIELDS: -- and in the Ukraine.

COOPER: -- we got to take a break. We're going to continue the conversation. Mike will start it off.

President Trump was also reported raging mad over the Russian sanctions bill. We'll talk about that and more ahead.


COOPER: Back now with the panel, we're talking about "The Washington Post" reporting President Trump continues to reject intelligence that shows Russian interference in the 2016 election and supported his run for the White House. In the daily briefing, according to "Washington Post" reporting structure not to upset him.

SHIELDS: Well, I just -- I think it's important for us to focus on rhetoric versus actual policies. Because to listen to Democrats, the president is in the Oval Office to basically just, you know, do Putin's bidding I supposed the way they talked about it. And he brings some of that on himself, because he needs to do these things. So I understand that.

But if you actually look at the policies that he has enact (ph) since he's been in office. They've been decidedly not what President Putin would want. He brokered a peace in Syria directly against the wishes of Russia. He has bolstered NATO nations. He took a look at it first. But he, since then, reaffirm countries like Poland and said, I'm with you, we will protect you, directly against what Vladimir Putin wants. He has began giving aid to Ukraine after, by the way, Joe Biden said to Ukraine, just stand down and let the Russians invade Crimea. He's actually started sending aid to Ukraine.

So I think it is worth in context to put some -- what his actual policies toward Russia are versus with the things that partisans try to add on to this as a part of the debate.

SEMAYER: Except that he was yakking it up in the Oval Office with Russians after he fired Comey. Bragging about how, oh, now that Russian thing is off my back. He gave away intelligence concerning our ally --


SETMAYER: -- that's right. It was that -- really, upset the Israeli and rightfully so. He was not happy with the sanctions bill that was passed in Congress. That was passed bipartisan. He's thinking about now reinstating some of the sanctions that the Obama administration --

[21:30:03] KINGSTON: Well, let me explain this. Number one, --

SETMAYER: In response to the intelligence about the Russians interfering in our election. The Obama administration at least did something and the president of the United States currently now wants to reverse some of those things. So, you know, let's be fair about what he's done also. And also, he's never ever criticized Putin. He's criticized NFL players, he's criticized Gold Star mothers, and wives, but he had never uttered a bad word about Putin, because I guess Putin likes me and he thinks I'm a good guy.

COOPER: It's interesting, though, Jack, I mean, "The Washington Post" reporting of more than 50 people interviewed. They said that if you say Russian interference to the president. He views it through the lens of -- being about him, that it's an attempt to delegitimize him.


COOPER: I mean, that's scary that the leader of the free world is so wrapped up in it personally that it affects, perhaps, I mean it seemed the indication is -- I don't know, you know, that it affects his national security decision.

KINGSTON: You know, if that was true, and I'm not necessarily saying that it is. But I don't -- I don't think that that's really the case. I think any leader has to separate himself from the issue to the degree that you would hope. Yes, he or she can look at it objectively.

I want to point out on Israel and that, you know, that bothered me, but Israel's never had a better friend in the White House, and I think you get that from Israel.

SETMAYER: It's a double edged sword.

KINGSTON: But I think in terms of what the president is doing, the things that Michael has outlined, they're substantive, and maybe he hasn't said something about Putin publicly, I don't remember Barack Obama doing it, I do remember Obama opposing the sanctions, and let me say this, it's not a partisan statement. He absolutely did, I was in there. I was there when we were looking at it --

SELLERS: -- little while --

KINGSTON: But let me say this, all presidents oppose sanctions, because it takes away a diplomatic tool from them. And that's the --

SELLERS: First of all --

KINGSTON: -- the sanctions for Iran, for example, Obama administration was against it, not because of philosophy, but because sad they wanted to make the decision.


KINGSTON: I'm just trying to --

RYE: You guys can't ever have a conversation about what's happening right now. I don't understand.

SELLERS: But that's not -- that's also not true. Because what we do know is that -- we know Russia's economy was crippling.

RYE: In the stock market now --

SELLERS: We know Russia's economy is crippling. We know Russia's -- I mean --

KINGSTON: And then there was that recess from Hillary Clinton.

SELLERS: We're talking about just recently. Before Donald Trump became president of United States. Anyone who knows anything about what's going on in Russia will tell you that they were just basically a gas station in the arctic. Their economy was fundamentally crippling. And when we're talking about the public stance, that Donald Trump takes. He will not. So you can say all that you want o say, but Donald Trump has been more critical of someone like Jemele Hill than he has with Vladimir Putin.

COOPER: Let's take a quick break. Up next, Omarosa Manigault Newman is now saying about her time in the West Wing. It sounds like she's shopping a book. We'll get the panel's take ahead.


[21:37:02] COOPER: We should televise the commercial breaks, I'm telling you. The morning after Omarosa Manigault-Newman resignation from the White House was announced she was on "Good Morning America" teasing a tell all book. Take a look, of course.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, LEAVING THE WHITE HOUSE: 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 the to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it's a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.


COOPER: And we're back now with the panel.

Angela, I mean, you know, I'm big on loyalty, and I just think you leave your job under whatever -- you know, you had the opportunity of a lifetime in the White House to serve the American people, and the next thing you do is go on a morning television show and you're suddenly raising questions about the people you've just been serving with to pitch a book? To not even answer those questions is just to dangle them out there like, what the appetite of the publisher or reality. It just seems --

RYE: Yes, I'm reminded of a song of about loyalty that I shall not say it on air. The only thing that I will say to you, Anderson, is that there should be no surprises here. Number one, Omarosa was fired not once, not twice, but this is the third time. We should understand that Omarosa and Donald Trump are cut from the same cloth. And it's about her first, self-preservation, saving face. Although, you clearly can't save face any more, like, everyone knows exactly what was going on.

She talked about her political accumin and why she was so ready for this job. And I'm still trying to understand what her job description and what it is that she was doing. She talked about my community and my people. And I'm having hard time (ph) to understand who her community is, who her people are, because she even went so far as to support the president's position on Charlottesville. She didn't criticized him during the campaign. I've never heard her or say anything about the --

COOPER: I heard you say, we talked about this in the lasts hour. That more African-Americans may have more of an opportunity in the White House with her actually not there, is that -- I don't want to mischaracterize what you said --

SETMAYER: I can talk about that.

RYE: -- I'll defer to the Republican next, but I think that's -- it may be true, but I would be frustrated with the black folks that would opt to go in there. I don't see any policies that are designed for us, that are good for us. Maybe they would say they're going to go and to make it better? I think that's --

SETMAYER: So, as someone who worked within the confines of minority outreach for many years with the Republican Party, very frustrated about the way things went or didn't go, so I kind of backed away from that for a little while, and let the new generation come in and take that, that across to bear.

But I still have a lot of friends that are in that space, and I can tell you that the presence of Omarosa was disruptive, it was frustrating. There are a lot of very qualified black Republicans that would have been able to serve in different capacities in this White House that would at least tried to do something good. I have a friend of mine now that's in one of the economic councils trying to do good, and it's not easy. But they're trying.

[21:40:07] However, Omarosa was constantly an impediment to anyone qualified to come in there and do their jobs. The stories are numerous, and she was so revealed by so many people. First of all, she was completely unqualified. She's been doing nothing but stealing the taxpayer's money this entire time. Because no one knows what the hell she was doing.

SELLERS: That's how you feel.

SETMAYER: When you have -- you can just -- the stories are lengthy, from her -- the despicable way that she used the White House as a backdrop for her wedding and thinking that she was just going to bring 39 people into the White House to do some kind of photo shoot without giving anybody a heads up. Those kinds of things you just don't do. And she was notorious for that. Not only did that. She was just a terrible ambassador. She's an embarrassment at every single event that she went, representing the minority outreach. She was -- damn, they booed off the stage at NABJ where she got nasty with Ed Gordon at the National Action --

SELLERS: Can I defend --

SETMAYER: What's there to defend?


COOPER: OK. All right, all right.


SELLERS: I'm just joking. I just wanted to speak.


SETMAYER: When she went on "The View" and told people that they were going to bow down to Donald Trump, you've got to be kidding me. You know, and this is who is a senior adviser in the White House, representing the black community, minority outreach, no wonder there's no other African-American adviser there's.

SELLERS: Well, I think that African-Americans need a voice in this White House, if we need a voice anywhere -- the politics and the policy that have been coming from this White House or emanating from this White House, (INAUDIBLE). Omarosa wasn't it.

SHIELDS: I was the chief of staff of the RNC when we had the growth and opportunity report. I believe that the Republican Party has a great message for African-Americans, Latinos, Asian --

SETMAYER: Not any more.

SHIELDS: Yes, they do. Yes, they do.

Right now, we have a 20 year low in black unemployment in this country. A 17-year low in a gap between white and black unemployment. An historic all time low in Hispanic unemployment. The Obama White House was much more diverse. Trump's White House should be much more diverse. But Obama's White House oversaw the worst recovery in the black community, economically in modern history. We now have a 20 year low in black unemployment there. That is something to he talked about, and someone in the White House needs to be putting the message out that's better than this.

SETMAYER: That would be great.

COOPER: I got to get a break in. I want to thank everybody.

Up next, former British Prime Minister David Cameron says President Trump's fake news jabs are dangerous for democracy worldwide. We got (ph) very real consequences with Christiane Amanpour and Ambassador Ryan Crocke, next.


[21:46:18] COOPER: On this program, we try not to talk about the president's fake news jabs any more than necessary. They're clearly designed to undermine the reporting of this outlet and others that the president is simply doesn't like no matter how many sources or facts are included. But shouts of "fake news" are not just an annoying distraction or political dog whistle, they're actually dangerous, at least that's what former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is saying, he's blasting the president's rhetoric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID CAMERON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And let me say this, when Donald Trump uses the term "fake news" to describe CNN or BBC, it's not a questionable political tactic, it is actually dangerous. Of course broadcasters make mistakes and it's right they correct them. But what is the attempted here goes far beyond that, it's an attempt to question the whole legitimacy of organizations that do have an important role in our democracies.


COOPER: The facts support what he's saying there, according to "The New York Times" leaders of Syria, Venezuela, Myanmar and Russia have all used the term fake news to dismiss credible reports and stories that they just disagree with. That includes an amnesty international report about prison death in Syria. And claims from an official in Myanmar that the Rohingya Muslims were systematically raped and killed are quote "fake news."

Senator John McCain also weigh in yesterday afternoon retweeting a report from the community that protect journalist with this comment, "Press freedoms annual report shows record number of journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2017, including 21 on fake news charges. The president must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters and silence the truth."

Earlier I spoke to CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to six Middle Eastern countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.


COOPER: Christiane, we're in this extraordinary situation where dictators now can dismiss free press as "fake news" and -- or basically given permission to do so by the leader of the free world.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, you know, from my vantage point here overseas and I've been following and tracking this ever since the word "fake news" came out of the president's mouth before he was even inaugurated.

We have seen an exponential increase in the harassment, the imprisonment, the assaults of journalists all over the world. You just have to look at the statistics that the committee to protect journalist and others who track journalist safety. It really is a problem, whether it's in Russia with Vladimir Putin, whether it's in Turkey with President Erdogan or in the Philippines with President Duterte, and many other countries.

Of course, when they see the president of the United States, first of all, it gives them a carte branch. But even words, they figure if it comes from the president of the United States, at least he must know what he's talking about, there must be a grain of truth. It's not like they're saying, he's giving us cover. They think maybe he's speaking the truth against us and that's what's very, very dangerous.

COOPER: Ambassador Crocker, I mean, Russia, Syria, China, Myanmar, Philippines, Turkey, Libya, to name just a few are all countries whose leaders have recently invoked fake news to dismiss legitimate news stories. You've certainly dealt with repressive regimes.

RYAN CROCKER, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO LEBANON, KUWAIT, AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, PAKISTAN & SYRIA: Well, exactly, Anderson, as Christiane says. This is just their golden opportunity that if the president of the United States says it, they can say it too. The climate has gotten a lot dicier out there around the world because of "fake news." It's also gotten dicey with the media as the enemy of the American people. A lot of other autocrats out there just too happy to pick that up and substitute the nationality of choice for the American people, so, you know, what happens in Washington doesn't stay in Washington.

[21:50:00] COOPER: You know, Christiane, the Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was given an opportunity to speak out on the importance of press freedom and freedom of the press around the world, and I want to play you what she said when she was asked about this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House concerned at all about authoritarian regimes adopting this phrase, "fake news" to try to delegitimize the press? And does President Trump bear any responsibility for the popularization of this phrase amongst some leaders (ph)?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the White House is concerned about false and inaccurate information being pushed out and to mislead the American people. Our concern is making sure that the information that the people receive in this country is fair and accurate. And when it isn't, it's corrected and corrected in the same fashion in which it was first presented when it was wrong, which is very rarely the case.


COOPER: I mean, that's it.

AMANPOUR: Anderson, listen, this is really a moment that needs to be crystallized and run with because what she is saying is, you know, there are things we don't like, what you say about us, therefore, we say "fake news." You know, I know, everybody knows that when legitimate news organizations make mistakes like ours, like "The New York Times", whatever it might be, we correct it, we take accountability measures and we do not let false or mistakes stand. So it is unfair and incorrect to accuse legitimate news organizations of deliberately peddling "fake news." This is really serious. And it just has to stop because it is undermining not just our safety but the credibility of democracy and the fight against corruption and the legitimacy of our order, our world order.

COOPER: And Ambassador Crocker, I mean there are thousands of journalists who have paid with their lives at the -- you know, there's the wall of the fallen journalists, fallen reporters who have tried to expose corruption or bare witness to war at the museum in Washington D.C., 2,305 names and counting, including Americans like Jim Foley, Marie Colvin is on there, who Christiane certainly knew. I mean, do you think the president realizes what is at stake or cares at all?

CROCKER: I don't think he realizes it. Over the years, some of my very best friends have been international correspondents. They get the story right, that's the mission. And often getting the story right means putting your own life in danger, I think of your Ben Wedeman, Arwa damon who had a very, very close call. Anthony Shadid who died in Syria. Alissa rubin, also of "The New York Times" who came within an ace of dying in that helicopter crash when ISIS rolled through. Dictated a story from her hospital bed and took a full year to recover.

So, you know, to bring you news that is anything but fake, some of the best journalists in the world put their life at risk.

COOPER: Ambassador Crocker, appreciate your time. Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much.

Up next, we remember the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years later.


[21:56:29] COOPER: Tonight, we remember the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. We remember the 20 young lives cut short in their classrooms, and we remember the six school staffers, including teachers and the principal who were also killed, 26 lives taken in all, five years ago today, in one school in Newtown Connecticut.

Five years on, the heart break continues, the loss still profound. It always will be.

But tonight on this anniversary we want to take a moment to remember and honor those lives that had been lost, most of the victims were just six and seven years old, dancers, painters, budding readers, little sisters and big brothers. They should have celebrated their 11th or 12th birthdays this year. They should have been in sixth grade.

You may recall a month after the shooting country music star Kenny Chesney performed "Amazing Grace" on this program, in tribute to all those lives taken at Sandy Hook School. Here's that performance and once again we remember.


KENNY CHESNEY, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see, It was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed, amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see, I was blind but now I see.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Our thoughts and prayers are with amazing grace McDonald and all the others who lost their lives at Sandy Hook and their families tonight.

Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon, "CNN Tonight" starts right now.