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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
At Least Three Wounded, Suspect Dead in Shooting At YouTube Headquarters; Sources: President Trump Thinks "He Is His Best Adviser"; "Washington Post:" Mueller Told President Trump's Attorneys Last Month He's Not A Criminal Target At This Point; Pres. Trump Wants Border With Mexico Guarded By U.S. Military; Pruitt In The Hot Seat?; EPA Chief Under Scrutiny As He Delivers On President's Agenda; What Mueller Told The President's Lawyers About His Legal Status. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired April 3, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We're in the Bay Area tonight, in California, not far from the scene of a shooting at YouTube headquarters. This afternoon, police say a woman opened fire, wounding at least three people before apparently taking her own life. Since then, we have been learning more.
CNN's Dan Simon joins us now from San Bruno, just south of San Francisco, where authorities have just briefed the media.
Dan, what's the latest?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Anderson. We are told this investigation will last through the night. Police cars, fire trucks, are still on the scene. You can see the YouTube headquarters in the background.
What we are being told is that just before 1:00 p.m. local time, police got the call that there were multiple gunshots fired inside YouTube and they got here a few minutes later, and when they came in, right away, they saw that there was a person, a victim, who was shot near the front of the building. And then when they performed a subsequent search all throughout the building, they did find the shooter, who appears to have died of a self-inflicted wound. And then two others were found at an adjacent business or businesses.
I can tell you that I spoke to a worker at the Carl's Jr. Restaurant. She says one of the victims actually came in on her own volition. She appears to have suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. She was taken to the hospital and appears to be OK.
But obviously, a lot of rattled nerves here. I did speak to some YouTube employees who are just sort of in a business parking lot and, of course, very concerned over what happened, Anderson.
COOPER: Do we know anything about the motivation behind this?
SIMON: At this point, police not pointing to a clear motive. Law enforcement officials, though, telling CNN that the shooter, the female, does appear to have known at least one of the victims, what her connection is to YouTube, we don't know. What her connection ultimately is to the victims, we don't know. But, of course, one of the things they will be looking at of course is whether or not this was a domestic situation, Anderson.
COOPER: And what's the status of the victims at this hour, do you know?
SIMON: Right. Three victims were taken to a local hospital. I can tell you that one of them is a 32-year-old woman in serious condition. Also, a 27-year-old woman in fair condition, and a male, 36 years old, in critical condition, Anderson. We can tell you that the weapon used was apparently a handgun.
COOPER: All right. Dan Simon, appreciate that.
We'll continue to follow that throughout the next two hours and bring you obviously any late developments that we learn throughout the evening.
I want to turn to the White House today and a series of statements made by President Trump that signal possible, I said possible, major changes in military deployment both here and abroad.
Keeping them honest, the president made a series of false statements on a number of fronts today and seemed to get out ahead of the people making policy and in the case of the military, actually carrying it out. Mr. Trump also amped up criticism against the company Amazon, as well as the president of this network and leveled a new and somewhat baffling Fallegation against former President Obama. So, there's a lot to talk about.
In short, today, the president seemed to reveal more than he has in a long time, a side of himself that we and many others have been reporting is increasingly going to be coming out. Today, in two press availabilities with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and, of course, on Twitter, we got a big dose of President Trump uncut.
Here he is today speaking about the U.S. military presence in Syria which he announced last week he wants to end and he reiterated an idea that he used to talk a lot about on the campaign trail, taking another country's oil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.
We will have as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years. We get nothing, nothing out of it. Nothing.
And as you remember, in civilian life for years, I said keep the oil. I was always saying keep the oil. We didn't keep the oil. Who got the oil? It was ISIS got the oil. A lot of it. That's what
funded their campaigns. They took a lot of the oil and it was largely responsible for funding.
We should have kept the oil then. We didn't keep the oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, it should be pointed out the United States didn't keep the oil or take the oil, which is the word Mr. Trump used to use on the campaign trail. Didn't take the oil of a sovereign foreign country because among other reasons, that's called plunder and it pretty much went out with Genghis Khan.
As for the pulling out of Syria part, you can make a case for or against it from a foreign policy standpoint but that's really not the issue. The issue is this all seems to be news or still seems to be news to senior national security officials, even though it's been several days since he first broached the idea.
Now, in almost the same moment that the president was once again saying he wants troops out of Syria, his global envoy in charge of fighting ISIS was saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT MCGURK, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR THE GLOBAL COALITION TO DEFEAT ISIS: In terms of our campaign, we are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission. The mission isn't over and we are going to complete that mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the president also spoke today about NATO, something his three Baltic guests today obviously count on to deter their former Russian occupiers, which must have made it awkward when the president returned to another favorite theme.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[20:05:06] TRUMP: NATO was delinquent. They were not paying their bills. They were not paying. A lot of states as we discussed, they were not -- they were not paying what they should be paying. Since I came in, many, many billions of dollars additional have been paid by countries that weren't paying and now they're paying. And they will have to pay more, frankly. They're going to have to pay more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Keeping them honest, the president has long spoken as though he believes NATO is a dues-paying organization. It's not. There's no NATO bill that comes due on the first of the month.
But if its member nation defense spending that he's really talking about, which it seems he is, there's a NATO guideline on that. And the Baltics sharply increased theirs. They did it to counter what they perceived as the Russian threat. And for accuracy's sake, they started before President Trump was elected.
Speaking of Russia, though, the president once again insisted that nobody has been tougher on that country than him. Nobody. Ever. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Nobody's been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump. We have been very tough on Russia, frankly. Nobody has been tougher on Russia. Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have. There's nobody been tougher on Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Once again, keeping them honest, this president would be correct in perhaps saying that no president has been tougher on Russia in the last several weeks. He has, after all, joined NATO and other countries in expelling Russian personnel after the poisoning of two Russian nationals, a British police officer, and more than a dozen others in the U.K. He did not, however, exactly lead the way. Shortly before the expulsion, Mr. Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning what was a rigged re-election. On the same call, he talked about them meeting at the White House.
As for the president's claim to be the toughest president ever on Russia, that might come as a surprise to his predecessors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, has President Trump been tougher in word or deed than that? Has he been tougher than, say, President Truman who confronted the Soviets over Berlin in 1948?
Now, you can decide that for yourselves. But now, you might dismiss the president's comments about being the toughest ever as hyperbole perhaps. But it wasn't the only hyperbole. The president said this about the border with Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's like we have no border because we had Obama make changes, President Obama made changes that basically created no border. It's called catch and release. You catch them, you register them, they go into our country, we can't throw them out and in many cases, they shouldn't be here. Many, many cases they shouldn't be here. And after they get whatever happens over the next two or three years,
they are supposed to come back to court. Almost nobody comes back to court. They're in our country. We can't do anything about it because the laws that were created by Democrats are so pathetic and so weak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, as we said on the program last night, catch and release is not actually a law, Democratic or Republican. It's the result of a variety of factors, including a lack of space in detention facilities and some Republicans say loopholes in existing laws.
Now, the president also continued his attack on the company Amazon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You take a look at the Post Office. You take a look at the Post Office and the Post Office is losing billions of dollars and the taxpayers are paying for that money because it delivers packages for Amazon at a very below cost, and that's not fair to the United States, it's not fair to our taxpayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, keeping them honest on that, if the president has a beef with Amazon he should leave the taxpayers out of it. The Post Office certainly has. On their own Web site, there's a list of ten things to know about the Post Office. Fact one is, and I'm quoting, the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operation.
Now, here's another fact that might be relevant. Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos also owns "The Washington Post" which the president obviously openly despises. So far, the president's attacks on Amazon over the last several days have been blamed for sending the stock market into some wild gyrations, hundreds of points at a time.
On top of that, the president attacked our boss here at CNN, misspelled his name as well. He took yet another shot at Hillary Clinton, and then tweeted this in reaction to some new polling:
Thank you to Rasmussen for the honest polling. Just hit 50 percent which is higher than cheating Obama at the same time in his administration.
Not sure what kind of cheating he was referring to, perhaps we shall have to wait another tweet to explain that.
Mr. Trump also repeated his call today to send troops to the southern border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[20:10:04] TRUMP: I have been speaking with General Mattis, we're going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It was quite a day.
CNN's Jim Acosta was in the room for much of it. He joins us now.
So, Jim, the version of the president we saw today, is this all part of a bigger shift in terms of who he's listening to, his general confidence in his ability to do the job?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is hard to tell, Anderson. He was in Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, sort of gold- plated echo chamber listening to people like Sean Hannity and Judge Jeanine Pirro from Fox News. That seemed to be guiding some of his white-hot immigration comments we had coming into this week.
But we do know earlier today, the president did have a national security meeting with top administration officials, including his chief of staff, his defense secretary, on this situation down at the border.
I just talked to a senior administration official within the last hour who says the Trump administration does have a working number of National Guard troops that they want to deploy to the southern border with Mexico. They are not releasing that number at this point. They are waiting on the White House to make the announcement.
In addition to that, they are looking to "Operation Jumpstart" which is something that happened during the Bush administration when President George W. Bush deployed National Guard troops down to the U.S. border to help with border patrol down there. So, in addition to the president listening to people from Fox News, his own advisers, he's also harkening back to the Bush administration to try to find a solution that he likes on the border.
COOPER: We should also point out, in that -- I think it was 2006, National Guard troops were sent down, they are basically there to help out with clerical operational things, not actually stopping people from coming into the United States.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: They're basically -- the idea is to try the free up border patrol officers to do that.
ACOSTA: That's right. They were not involved in law enforcement. That's a border patrol task. But they were doing some other tasks down there that did free up border patrol agents.
So, when the president was talking about this earlier today and sounding as if this was a fairly draconian step, we should point out not only did President Bush do this, President Obama did this as well.
COOPER: You -- aides you are talking to in the West Wing, I'm wondering how -- what they're saying about what they are seeing now from the president.
ACOSTA: Well, I can tell you, Anderson, that I have been talking to aides who are still looking for some clarity on the Syria issue. As you know, the president last week made this stunning announcement that he's ready to pull U.S. troops out of Syria before the fight against ISIS is finished. I touched base with a senior administration official this evening who said no further clarity on that from this administration in terms of what is happening with the U.S. commitment to battling ISIS in Syria.
We do know that the president was essentially contradicting his own envoy to the battle against ISIS, Brett McGurk, in real-time as the president was speaking at this news conference earlier today with the Baltic leaders, and saying that basically, he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. Brett McGurk at almost the same moment was saying that the U.S. is not going to leave Syria until the fight against ISIS is finished.
So, he's not only confusing people sort of in the lower level among his aides and so forth, he's also contradicting top officials like Brett McGurk, who are widely respected, worked during the Obama administration, who are looked to around the world for guidance as to what this president is doing in a very important battle against ISIS -- Anderson .
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, appreciate it.
ACOSTA: You bet.
COOPER: The panel weighs in on all of this shortly.
Also coming up tonight, later, what could be very big breaking news. New reporting on what special counsel Robert Mueller told the president's lawyers about whether the president is or is not a criminal target of the investigation.
[20:17:32] COOPER: Well, President Trump began his tweeting day with defense of the network Sinclair that's been saying things he apparently likes and an attack obviously on nearly everyone else.
The fake news networks, he wrote, those that knowingly have a sick and biased agenda are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair broadcasts. The fakers at CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction, exclamation mark.
Well, that set the tone for today and raises questions along with all of it for our panel. CNN political analyst David Gergen joins me, as well as Gloria Borger.
Gloria, the president that we've seen over the last couple of days, I'm wondering, is this kind of the unrestrained version of him or the less restrained version that we should be seeing more of or expect to see more of going forward? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we are. I think
this is the president now who has been talking to friends and I have talked to some of his friends who are saying that he feels like he's kind of, he knows how to do this job. He's got it under control. He has said publicly that I'm sort of close to getting the cabinet I want.
He's listening to people who he's comfortable with, the people that show up in his living quarters night after night from Fox News, and those are the people I believe he's consulting as well as his own instincts because now, he told one friend you know, I've got this. I know how to do this.
And so you're seeing things not only on policy that he seems to announce as Jim Acosta was talking about, such as troops at the border or withdrawal from Syria before there's been any kind of real consultation or plan, and then he's also kind of playing games with people like he did with General McMaster on his future and like he may be doing with Pruitt, and maybe even with General Kelly, who our reporting today shows that General Kelly didn't want him to fire Tillerson the way that he fired Tillerson, and instead the president did it his way.
So, I think this is the real Donald Trump and I think we are going to keep seeing him.
COOPER: David, the notion the president has kind of re-embraced the idea that he is his own best adviser and is relying more and more on his own instincts, I'm wondering if that's something you think as someone who served in White Houses with Republicans and Democrats, if that will serve him well.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. No. Presidents, no matter how much experience they have, need stabilizing forces around them, they need someone there who can look them in the eye and tell them, you know, you're full of it or you need to hear the other side of the story.
[20:20:06] You're only hearing one version of the truth. You may be hearing the Fox version of the truth but if you consider there may be other ways to think about this. And presidents need that. So, I think it's a mistake.
I do think, Anderson, and what I'm told is there were three heavyweights who were the stabilizing forces in the past months. And two of them are now gone. Gary Cohn on the economic front and H.R. McMaster, national security, and the third is General Kelly and the president is going around him. He's ignoring him or bypassing him for a lot of things.
And that is -- and so you have a Trump who is unleashed on his own volition. And what's he doing? Fox News has now become even more important in his mind. Those are -- it's almost like people work for Fox are his advisers, informal outside advisers that he's listening to, you know, playing golf, there were a bunch of them at Mar-a-Lago, Sean Hannity playing golf and the like. So, I think what we are seeing is a new chapter in the Trump presidency, and what we don't know is the people coming in, Kudlow on economics, and Bolton on national security, whether they are going to be stabilizing forces or if, in fact, they'll play to his instincts to go outside the mainstream and harden up or go pretty far right on a lot of things.
COOPER: You know, Gloria, there was this interesting moment in the luncheon today, the president tried to get the president of Estonia to praise him for his work on NATO. I just want to show that to our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Three presidents just told me that NATO has taken in a tremendous amount of money because of Donald Trump that would have never happened, so NATO is much stronger. You may want to say that. Would you like to say that, Madam President?
Has Donald Trump made a difference on NATO?
This is a very risky question. I think if she says the same thing that she said in the Oval Office --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Well, he's kind of used to getting that.
BORGER: From his own cabinet, as we saw a couple of those "Dear Leader" cabinet meetings. He's used to getting that. He likes to get praise.
But I tell you what, the Lithuanian president was pretty honest today, I thought, when he said at one point -- she said at one point that there was kind of unpredictable leadership. And that at some point, we want to -- she kind of moved, they kind of moved around it and said but we still need leadership from President Trump.
So, there's clearly a sense in the Baltics that they'd like the president to be more predictable when it comes to Russia. So, while they were happy to praise him, they also went in there with a mission trying to get a straight answer out of him.
COOPER: David, during the joint press conference today -- go ahead.
GERGEN: I just want to say, the most disturbing part of the news to me today was this notion that he wants to now send troops to the border. You know, it's true that two past presidents have deployed National Guard on the border, because there were pressing needs.
2There's no pressing need here. This is more of a political move. And it suggests that the president increasingly sees the military as a play toy that he can make political points with. First, he wants to have his big massive parade which most people in the military look at and say, why are we really doing this, and the country is shrugging his shoulders, because he's now got the money.
He wanted to take money out of the military budget and pay for the wall. And now, he wants to send troops to the border.
There's no real reason why we need to send troops to the border other than to make his political point and to satisfy the people talking to him from Fox this past weekend, saying your supporters are getting impatient, they want to see action on the wall.
BORGER: But they're not supposed to be used for law enforcement anyway.
COOPER: Right. Gloria, to David's point, though, I mean, it doesn't seem to be a coincidence that this idea that he now has of sending the military, and by the military, it means the National Guard, because you can't send active service who are full-time U.S. military personnel inside the United States, but it's not -- it can't be a coincidence that it comes now after he's received criticism from some of the folks he's listening to who, according to all the reporting, have raised issues that maybe his base thinks he's weakening on immigration.
BORGER: Yes. You can kind of look at this -- you kind of look at this and say, OK, he invited the Fox green room to Mar-a-Lago over the weekend and he heard from people who were upset with him on immigration. He was told about what Ann Coulter was tweeting about the notion that he's likely to get impeached and she can't stand him now.
And this is a president who is concerned more than anything about pleasing his base. And so, what we are hearing from him are base sweeteners and that, you know, he's going to build the wall, he's going to send troops to the border, he's going to withdraw from Syria because we won the war against ISIS.
[20:25:05] And so, I think, you know, it's kind of, he's become the echo chamber to these people.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, David Gergen, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up next, the breaking news tonight, reporting in "The Washington Post" I want to tell you about, whether the president is or is not a criminal target in Robert Mueller's probe. The president's lawyers have been informed recently. We'll tell you what they were reportedly told, when we come back.
COOPER: There's big breaking news in the newspaper the president loves to hate tonight, perhaps not so much tonight. "The Washington Post's" Carol Leonnig and Robert Costa reporting that special counsel Mueller has briefed the president's legal team and told them he does not -- I repeat -- not consider him a criminal target at this point. Leonnig and Costa are attributing to it three people familiar with the discussions. They report that in talks early last month about a possible presidential interview, Mr. Mueller described the president as a subject of the probe. The question is, what's the distinction?
Joining us for that is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.
So, Jeff, this news that Mueller is continuing to investigate President Trump but does not consider him a criminal target, rather a subject of his investigation, what is the difference?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in federal law enforcement, there are three categories of witnesses. There are targets, who are almost certainly going to be charged, going to be indicted. There are witnesses who are just people whose information is of value to the prosecutors. And in between the two, there is something called a subject. That is someone who is under investigation, but who may or may not be charged.
Trump is a subject. And I don't think that's particularly good news for him. I mean it's a big deal to be under criminal investigation by the FBI particularly if the -- you're the President of the United States. This has been implicit in what the Mueller investigation has been doing. But this confirmation, that the President is under criminal investigation, I mean that is a pretty profound thing to think about.
COOPER: And Carrie, according to the "Washington Post" reporting to the point that Jeff just made, some of the President's attorneys have told him that's part of the danger of him sitting down for an interview, that you can go from being a subject to actually a target pretty quickly.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one could depending on the outcome of that interview. So certainly, being a subject, they shouldn't be cracking open any champagne in the White House if he's a subject of an investigation as Jeffrey just described. There is certainly risk of him sitting down for an interview, although it's difficult at this point to see a path forward for this investigation both in terms of its look at the Russian influence on the election and any potential cooperation or knowledge on behalf of the campaign and the obstruction piece, it's hard to see how it will conclude without the President at some point being interviewed by the investigative team.
TOOBIN: Well but -- but --
COOPER: Jeff --
TOOBIN: -- in a normal circumstance, a subject would simply take the fifth. Would simply say -- I mean most lawyers would advise the subject of an investigation don't talk under any circumstances. Now, the question of course is, can the President of the United States take the fifth. I think he can. I think he can just denounce the investigation and say this is a witch hunt, I'm not participating. I don't know what the political fallout of that is, but I think it's entirely possible he just will simply refuse this interview.
COOPER: Carrie, and according to the reporting, Mueller is still pushing hard obviously to interview President Trump to both determine if the President had any corrupt intent and that's why he feels this interview is so important, that he needs to figure out the intent behind some Mr. Trump's actions.
CORDERO: Certainty. And on the obstruction piece in particular, he is specific, the intent that he personally had is really important to that investigation because of course it's actions that he took, statements that he made over the course of approximately a year that potentially could put together the case for obstruction. So, on that piece in particular, he probably has the most exposure but also his statements or what he has to say about his intent is also the most relevant to that piece of the investigation.
COOPER: Jeff, you -- I heard you earlier today talking, there was news on other fronts as well in terms of the investigation. I heard you talking about some of the developments today led you to think it very possible that Paul Manafort might try to get a plea agreement.
TOOBIN: Well I thought that for a long time. I mean he is in desperate legal trouble. Now that his, you know, right hand man, Gates has pleaded guilty and will cooperate against him, I just think his case is nearly indefensible. It will take millions of dollars to prepare, because it's a very complicated case. And also he's nearly 70-years old, he's looking at a sentence that could leave him in prison for the rest of his life. If he goes to trial. There's a motion pending in front of the judge where, the judge is being asked by Manafort's lawyer throw the case out because Mueller doesn't have the jurisdiction to bring it. Mueller's brief which just came in yesterday, makes a very convincing case that he does have jurisdiction. And I just think the walls are closing it on Manafort where he's -- he's really an untenable legal position.
COOPER: And Carrie, I mean Mueller is required to report his conclusions to the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And to Jeff's point in the -- the brief that Mueller filed last night, it basically said that he has been checking in with Rosenstein all the way. At every step of this.
CORDERO: He has. It's very clear from that filing, I mean Rosenstein has been clear in his public statements and testimony before Congress that he has been conducting active oversights of the special counsels investigation. So that -- the memo that was filed there's an attachment to the government's pleading last night, confirms that oversight that he has been conducting. But on the issue of a report, this is really a question that myself and other observers of this case have really been trying to figure out, is what type of report might get filed? The regulations don't require what we might think of as a white water style report or what normally we might see in a Congressional type investigation. Of a big narrative explanatory document that is meant for public consumption. [20:35:13] There's nothing in the regulations that require that. What might happen is that the investigative team, they could write a report or could write prosecutive memos and submit those to Rod Rosenstein and his acting attorney general capacity. And then it's up to him whether or not to make those reports in whatever format they take place whether or not they make them public.
COOPER: All right. Carrie Cordero, appreciate it. Jeffrey Toobin, as well.
Just ahead, President Trump delivers another surprise today this time saying he wants American military troops to help protect the Mexican border until his promised wall is built. We talk about this a little bit with David Gergen and Gloria Borger. We'll show you more on the details on how that might work, ahead.
COOPER: During that meeting with the heads of the Baltic States today, the President said that he is asking the military to guard the border the U.S.-Mexico border, at least until his promise border wall is built.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because I've been speaking with General Mattis, we're going to be doing things militarily until we can have a wall and proper security. We're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step.
[20:40:01] We really haven't done that before, certainly not very much before.
COOPER: Well, at that same meeting, the President also couldn't resist a shot at Hillary Clinton, saying that NATO countries wouldn't receive far less funds if she were president.
TRUMP: With all of that being said, because of me, and you can speak to the head of NATO, Mr. Stoltenberg. He said that because of what I've said to the countries, they have taken in, general, I think you'll confirm this too, many billions of dollars more than they would have had if you had crooked Hillary Clinton as president OK. That I can tell you. Many billions of dollars more.
COOPER: I'm joined now by retired Army General Wesley Clark who is NATO's former supreme commander. And by retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Thanks to both for being with us. 3 So, General Clark, I mean as a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, I wonder what you make of the President's comments. What went through your mind when you heard him say that today?
RET. GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, first, Anderson, these countries have all paid their debts to NATO. What we have tried to explain for years to President Trump, but he doesn't want to hear is how much money they have been spending on their own defense. Now, full credit to President Trump, he didn't make an issue of this and several countries are spending more on their defense. So that's good thing.
For what this President's want and what NATO wants is consistent, strong, reliable leadership. NATO is our organization. It's not something that pays us to be over there. We're not mercenaries. NATO is the glue that holds the United States and Europe together. It's the bedrock of security, that we put together in 1949, carried us through the cold war, the post cold war and we need it now more than ever.
COOPER: General Hertling, I mean the President talked a lot today about the amount of money that needed for NATO and who was paying what amount. But what he didn't spend time really talking about was the -- the strength of the NATO alliance itself, and how (INAUDIBLE) Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are to that alliance.
MARK HERTLING, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. And General Clark can say that as well as I can, Anderson. Working with the partners from the Baltic's they are unbelievably strong in terms of their support not only for us as a country, but for us in our combat operations. The special operation forces of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were with us in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They suffered -- I had a Lithuanian soldier who was killed under my command in northern Iraq. These people have given more than funds. And truthfully as General Clark just said, the President is confused about this. They are not contributing any money to any pot. They are actually spending a percentage of their GDP on their own defense funds. For him to say that billions of dollars more have -- has been allocated, just isn't true. It's a narrative that has just false across the board.
COOPER: General Clark, I mean -- in terms of --
CLARK: The U.S. military to --
COOPER: -- to the U.S.-Mexico border, the President was not very specific today in terms of what he meant. He talked about them guarding the border. But my understanding is what was done under President Bush as well as under President Obama, is that it will be national guard troops and they will not actively sort of standing shoulder to shoulder on the border preventing people from coming over.
CLARK: No, that's right. And their support troops in, their national guard. So, we don't know exactly what President Trump has in mind. But whatever he has in mind, it doesn't seem to be justified by anything other than maybe the political opinion. That is to say, the apparent pressure on the border has declined. The number of illegal immigrants have declined. There are record deportations run by immigration and customs enforcement agency. So by all, sort of objective measures, situations on the border seem to be better than it ever has been. So we don't really understand this in any terms other than political. But I would say this, the United States military is under resource at this time. It's true, we got more money in budget, but we are way behind. We spent 15 years in the Middle East. We weren't going on up against peer competitors. We had a huge technological advantage.
Meanwhile, our potential (ph) adversaries, Russia, and maybe China have invested heavily a new technology, President Putin's been bragging about it. We're on the catch up mode to this. And we've got to get our forces. We focus on what would be a much different, different much more challenging combat environment, that what we've had in the Middle East over the last decade and I have.
So, I look at it as a diversion of resources it's unnecessary militarily. Might be necessary for President Trump to do it politically.
[20:45:00] COOPER: Well, I mean General Hertling, I mean David Gergen echoed that point earlier, does it concern you that a President would be using military forces, the national guard for potentially for political objectives that he feels he is under pressure that his base doesn't feel he's done enough on immigration, he's not getting the border wall funding that he wanted. And that he would be sending troops for political purposes.
HERTLING: Factually, Anderson he can do that. There's actually Department of Defense regulation called defense for support the civilian authorities. And at any given time, any other federal agency can request U.S. forces. And truthfully right now we have some active duty forces in places like Fort Bliss Texas right on the border with Mexico, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. And other -- a variety of other places who are running things like airo stats and UAVS in order to watch forces or watch illegal immigrants coming across the border and they are feeding that to the homeland security forces. But to put people there without a mission, and there wasn't a mission given and it seem to surprise the Department of Defense, seems to be like General Clark, you said a little bit senseless.
COOPER: General Clark, and Hertling, appreciate it. Thanks very much for both being here.
Up next, questionable first class travel. Murky ties to lobbyist, and growing calls for his resignation. The questions will chief of the EPA Scott Pruitt manage to keep his job and not so ringing endorsement from the President, coming up.
[20:50:43] COOPER: President Trump was given ample opportunity today to give his EPA administrator Scott Pruitt an unqualified endorsement except he didn't exactly deliver on that.
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TRUMP: I hope he's going to be good.
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COOPER: Well, ironically Scott Pruitt has fulfilled much of the President's agenda at the EPA, but all the while the atmospherics haven't been great. Here's CNN's Tom Foreman with details.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The EPA boss has raised alarms among government watchdogs for his super low cost rental of a room at a D.C. condo from an Oklahoma couple. $50 a night. Complicating matters, those landlords donated money to his past political campaigns and were lobbying his agency on behalf of an energy company. Pruitt has also been dinged for extensive use of first-class air travel and staying in luxury hotels all on the taxpayers' dime.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: What an exciting day.
FOREMAN (voice-over): And he's come under scrutiny for giving some aides substantial raises even after the White House said no.
TRUMP: Where's Scott?
FOREMAN (voice-over): So how has he kept his position this long?
TRUMP: We have the right man with Scott Pruitt.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The President promised massive cuts to environmental regulations and Pruitt has been the hatchet man.
PRUITT: The future ain't what it used to be at the EPA.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The secretary has promised to simultaneously step up enforcement while pruning federal regulations around air pollution, superfund cleanups, drinking water, and climate change.
PRUITT: I believe that we as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment, that we don't have to choose between the two.
FOREMAN (voice-over): He has met far more often with industry bosses than with environmentalist. He's praised budget cuts to his own department while pushing for states to take more control over environmental rules. And time and again, especially in the area of global climate change, he has called for the reversal of Obama-era rules.
PRUITT: I am determining that those standards are inappropriate and should be revised. FOREMAN (voice-over): And even as conservationists have howled, Pruitt has praised Donald Trump's vision, even on the biggest matters like pulling America out of the Paris climate accord.
PRUITT: Today you've put America first with regard to international agreements and the environment.
FOREMAN: But Pruitt's problems are now clearly reflecting badly on the White House, and Trump has shown some sensitivity to that sort of thing in the past. So political pundits are wondering if the hatchet man is himself about to get the ax. Anderson?
COOPER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much, Tom.
Joining me now is someone who knows a great deal about the EPA, its former administrator Christine Todd Whitman.
Governor, thanks for being with us. I'm wondering with these allegations against Pruitt, would he be in office do you think if he worked for a different President?
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I don't think so, no. I don't think there's any way. And frankly if I were he, I'd be preparing my resume, making it look as if this was going to be my decision to leave because I cannot see how he survives this. The President doesn't like members of his cabinet getting, a, more press than he does, and, b, to be under scrutiny like this. So, I'm not sure he's long for this world.
COOPER: The flip side of it, as Tom Foreman pointed out, is he is -- in terms of the President's agenda, he is following what the President wants and, you know, whether one agrees with it or not, has been very effective in that at the EPA.
WHITMAN: Absolutely. There's no question about it. But there are others who can do that job. I mean as a cabinet member, your job is to do what the President wants you to do. I mean you're not the one who was elected to anything. You're appointed and you're there to give your best advice to the President and to push back if you think he's making a mistake. But if -- once that decision is made, you salute and you carry it out. In this instance, I happen to think Scott Pruitt believes absolutely in what he's doing too, which makes it very easy for him to roll back all the progress that we've made in keeping people safe and healthy and protecting our environment.
COOPER: Do you see this as part of a bigger issue when it comes to some of the President's cabinet? I mean, you know, you had obviously Secretary Carson with the issue of the $30,000 table and a dining room set. Secretary Price was fired for using his use of private planes. Others as well.
[20:55:12] WHITMAN: Well, there seems to be a tone deafness about what's appropriate and what isn't, especially when you're talking about taxpayers' dollars and what looks right and what doesn't. For Scott Pruitt, i don't care if he was paying $50 or $500 a night for his room, but you just don't as the head of an agency accept something like that, well particularly when you're getting a good deal, but you still wouldn't do it anyway with someone who has business before the agency, who is lobbying before the agency. You wouldn't even take -- excuse me, you wouldn't even take meetings with them if you had an active case with them or something that they were lobbying you hard on. You just shouldn't do that. Not the administrator. Others. They can meet with others, but not with the administrator.
COOPER: Particularly when the President has made a point of during the campaign, talking about draining the swamp, this does seem to be down in the muck.
WHITMAN: I would say so. It is very swampy, and it's a shame because that's an agency whose sole duty is to protect human health and the environment. It is not to promote certain forms of energy. It's to encourage alternate fuels if they're cleaner. That it's to encourage cleaner things, things that will keep us healthier. And for instance, rolling back these tailpipe standards makes no sense.
Most of the car companies have already allowed for it. They're ready for it. They've started to move in that direction. Many of the utilities are encouraging carmakers to go for more -- for the electric car because they see it as a way to keep their demand up for electricity. And we know that some 300,000 people a year in this country die from dirty airborne-related causes. So when you talk about rolling back -- and cars are the major source of that, more so even than energy utilities of dirty air. So it's endangering people's health without doing much, frankly, if anything at all, for the major car companies and jobs.
COOPER: Governor Whitman, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
WHITMAN: No problem.
COOPER: Coming up, more on tonight's breaking news in the "Washington Post" about what Robert Mueller told the President's lawyers just last month about whether the President himself is a criminal target in the investigation. We'll have the latest on that, next.