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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Says He Didn't Know About Stormy Daniels Payment; Sources: Trump Floated Replacing Sessions With Pruitt Despite Scandals. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired April 5, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:01] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with breaking news on the ground and aboard Air Force One. The president making headlines tonight -- breaking his silence on Stormy Daniels, speaking out for the first time about the $130,000 hush money payment his own lawyer made to Daniels, talking about his embattled and some say ethically challenged EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
We also have new reporting on that. Sources telling us the president has actually been considering Pruitt, despite the allegations, to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president denies it.
The president also returned to key campaign themes today. Immigration, alleged voter fraud and more, uttering as you'll see, a whole string of red meat slogans that also happened to be factually untrue.
We want to begin with the president talking for the first time about the hush money facilitated by Michael Cohen to keep Daniels quiet. Today, aboard Air Force One, the president was asked by a reporter and he answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. What else?
REPORTER: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make it, if there was no truth to his allegations?
TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael.
REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, both Daniels and a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, have alleged affairs with then citizen Donald Trump. But until today, the president has refused to answer questions about either woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you all very much.
REPORTER: Mr. President, is Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal lying about the affairs?
REPORTER: Mr. President, is Karen McDougal telling the truth?
REPORTER: Mr. President, any comment on Mrs. McDougal?
REPORTER: Will you watch "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Mr. President?
REPORTER: Will you watch "60 Minutes", Mr. President?
REPORTER: Mr. President, are you going to watch "60 Minutes"?
REPORTER: Are you going to watch the big interview today?
REPORTER: Is Stormy Daniels a liar, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, in the past, he's left it up to the White House spokespeople to try to answer. They've never said any more about them than variations on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president has addressed these directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true.
The president's denied the allegations.
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETRY: The president strongly, clearly, and has consistently denied these underlying claims.
SANDERS: I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.
I haven't spoken with him about that specifically.
The president has denied these allegations. I don't have anything else further to add on that.
I believe I've addressed this question pretty extensively. And ongoing litigation, I'm not going to comment any further than I already have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, now, the president has broken his silence, denying any knowledge of the money paid, the hush agreement and putting it all on his attorney, Michael Cohen.
Now, we wanted to ask Mr. Cohen directly of course. We reached out to invite him on the program tonight. We have yet to hear back.
Joining us now is Ms. Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.
So, Michael, I mean, on the face of it, the president's comment seemed to back up what Michael Cohen has been saying all along. You tweeted out earlier this makes your case stronger. How so?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: Well, it's a great night for us, Anderson. It's like Christmas and Hanukkah all rolled into one. You can't have an agreement if one party claims they knew nothing about one of the principal terms of the agreement.
So, the president has just shot himself in the foot, thrown his attorney basically, Michael Cohen, under the bus in the process, put him in dire straits with the state bar of New York, because according to the president now, Mr. Cohen was negotiating this agreement and doing it all on his own without consultation with the president. We don't necessarily believe that, by the way, and we're going to test the veracity or the truthfulness of the statement.
But you know, Anderson, we knew sooner or later he was going to crack. This is a man that is not disciplined. He's not a disciplined client. And we knew sooner or later it was going to happen. We were patient, and lo and behold, the gift came from heaven this afternoon when he responded to this question on Air Force One, which he never should have responded to, he should have left it alone and now, he's put himself and he's put Mr. Cohen in a world of hurt.
COOPER: Well, I want to read you a statement that was released in response to what the president said. He said, quote: This is an accurate assessment of the facts. This is exactly what I have been saying all along. Michael Cohen made the payment to protect reputation, family and business. It had nothing to do with the election.
Now, you obviously believe that, you know, it's no coincidence this was done 11 days before the election. If the president is right and he didn't know about the payment and Mr. Cohen did this, in fact, as an in-kind campaign contribution, that would be a violation of election laws, correct?
AVENATTI: Correct. And Michael Cohen could face felony charges in connection with that and could face serious, serious problems.
And, Anderson, I think what we've seen over the last seven to 14 days is, an effort to effectively put Michael Cohen in the crosshairs.
[20:05:00] The president and others are putting a lot of weight on this man's shoulders, and they better hope that he holds up, because if he doesn't hold up under questioning by me or Mr. Mueller, if he caves, the president and the administration should be -- could be in a very, very bad place. They could pierce the attorney-client privilege based on a crime fraud exception. They are putting Michael Cohen in the crosshairs, Anderson. It's clear as day, and I don't think it's going to work out well. COOPER: You talk about interviewing Michael Cohen. You obviously
want to depose the president as well. Your motion to do that -- and you can correct me on the legalities of this, or the legal terminology -- essentially, the judge declined or said it was premature to rule on that because the other side had not filed their motion. They have now filed. So, are you going to refile that motion to depose the president and Michael Cohen?
AVENATTI: Absolutely. As we said when we got the judge's order, we were going to wait for them to file their motion to compel arbitration, they filed it on Monday. This next Monday, we're going to be filing our opposition to that motion, together with a motion to take the deposition of the president and Michael Cohen, a two-hour deposition of each, and we're going to get to the bottom of what happened here relating to this payment, relating to the agreement, et cetera.
You know, Anderson, it's one thing to answer a question as you board Air Force One and potentially deceive the press. It's a completely different story when you're placed under oath and you have to raise your right hand and actually attest to things. I mean, we saw that with Bill Clinton. We've seen that with other politicians in years past.
History teaches us that those things are vastly different, if you will. But make no mistake about it, our case just got a whole lot better. We knew the day would come. I just didn't know it would come this quickly.
COOPER: Well, Michael Cohen's side, David Schwartz said that you're not going to be deposing them, because this is going to be -- the judge is going to push this to arbitration because that's what the NDA called for.
AVENATTI: Well, David Schwartz, let me just put this kindly, he doesn't know what he's talking about. The fact of the matter is, by way of the motion to compel arbitration, the Federal Arbitration Act is very clear that if the other side contests the existence of the agreement, which is what we are doing, we are entitled to a jury trial on that question, and that's before the court makes any determination as to whether the case goes to arbitration. And in fact, when the judge issued his decision, calling our motion premature, the judge backed us up on that point and bolded it in his order.
And yet again, they stepped right into it. They went ahead and filed their motion anyway, which I consider to be a legal blunder. We're going to get a jury trial on the question of whether there was an agreement and we're going to get discovery in the lead-up to that jury trial, and we're going to find out what the president knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it. We're going to place both of these gentlemen under oath.
COOPER: Michael Avenatti, appreciate your time. Thanks very much.
Let's get some perspective now from CNN legal analyst, Mark Geragos, as well as Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today". Mark, I'm wondering what you -- what kind of impact you think the president's statement today might have on this case if any.
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think Michael's spot-on. I was actually waiting for how long he was going to get to it, and he got to it right towards the end, that you've got a whole truckload of ways to get to -- kind of get into the attorney-client privilege.
I think he's absolutely right that now, there's a real question as to whether there's an agreement. I didn't think they had a whole lot of hope in that area, but I think they do, and I think they're in a much better spot today than they were yesterday.
COOPER: Well, explain why you think it's a better spot today.
GERAGOS: When he tells the reporters, I didn't know about it or something to that effect, and then go talk to my lawyer. That's a one-two punch. I didn't know anything about it is an admission that he wasn't a party to the agreement. And, go talk to my lawyer is an invitation to drive right into the attorney-client privilege.
So, it's a -- in just that one simple statement, the president took a case that was extremely difficult for Michael to make, and he just helped him make it.
COOPER: Susan, do you agree with that? I mean, for weeks, the president has refused to answer any questions at all regarding Stormy Daniels. Why do you think he chose to do that today?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: You know, I don't think he chose to do that today. I don't think he came back with the intention of answering that question. I think if he had thought about it, his plan would have been not to answer the question as he has declined to do over and over again in the last couple weeks.
I think what happened was, he came back on Air Force One because he wanted to talk about other things and reporters being reporters, they ask about the things the person doesn't actually want to answer. And very difficult in those quarters to what -- to pretend you can't hear it.
[20:10:02] I think that's why he spoke so briefly. That's just a 25- second clip from start to end, with the president's comments. But I think -- I believe he just felt compelled to respond to something that the White House has spent almost a month convincing him he must not talk about in public.
So, I'll leave it to the legal experts, what the legal consequences of this could be, but I think politically speaking, this is a kind of turning point, because the president has addressed this with clear answers that the other side is going to contest as being untrue.
COOPER: You know, Mark, the judge's previous ruling on Michael Avenatti's motion, saying it was premature, you know, clearly, Cohen wants this just in arbitration, the president wants this in arbitration. The judge's ruling was not merit-based. Do you believe Michael Avenatti is correct when he says he's going to
get a jury trial on this question of an arbitration?
GERAGOS: I don't know that he's necessarily going to get a jury trial, but he's a lot closer to surviving and not having this compelled arbitration, and I mean a lot closer than he was yesterday. The idea that he's just conceded, the president is telling the press, basically telling the American people, that he didn't know about it, you know, that -- then how can he come in at this point and tell a federal judge, by the way, I want to be a party to an agreement I knew nothing about?
I mean, legally, it's a very difficult position, as much as the law favors compelling arbitration, this may be one of those cases where a judge just says, I can't do it. There's enough of a doubt there that we're going to let somebody, a fact finder, make that decision.
COOPER: Susan, now that the president has spoken out on this, do you think he can then remain quiet or do you expect more from him?
PAGE: Well, you know, the president, I think, on most issues likes to speak out, especially when he feels like he's under attack. And it's been the anomaly with Stormy Daniels that he hasn't either spoken or tweeted about her, despite this barrage of attacks that she and her lawyers have made and the very interesting interview that you did a week ago.
I think his instinct is to punch back. And it, maybe it becomes more likely to do that in the wake of having broken ground today with the exchange on Air Force One. But I don't think we know, because I think it is pretty clear that his advisers, his lawyers, do not think this is a great idea.
COOPER: Susan Page, Mark Geragos, great to have you on both, thank you very much.
Coming up next, late reporting on EPA Chief Scott Pruitt and how he's somehow both reportedly on the brink of losing his job over ethical concerns and also, according to our sources, under consideration, recent consideration by the president to replace the Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Later, a local Texas sheriff weighs in on the president's border talk, the wall and the idea of keeping troops on the border until the wall is built.
[20:16:51] COOPER: There's breaking news tonight about a member of President Trump's cabinet whose job has been reported to be in jeopardy for weeks now. Yet at the same time, as new and potentially damaging details emerge about some of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's alleged ethical problems, and it seems his appetite for VIP treatment, CNN is learning that the president has also been weighing the possibility of making him the nation's top law enforcement official. That's right, people close to the president say he has been thinking
about naming him attorney general of the United States. Now, in a moment, the president's latest public statements on Pruitt late today on Air Force One which add yet another layer to the story. But if the underlying report still holds, it means that as recently as this week, the president has been thinking about firing Jeff Sessions, who as you know, he holds a grudge against for, among other things, recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
Now, earlier today, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said and I'm quoting, I can't speak to the future of Scott Pruitt. Later aboard Air Force One, the president did just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think that Scott has done a fantastic job. I think he's a fantastic person. You know I just left -- I just left coal and energy country. They love Scott Pruitt. They feel very strongly about Scott Pruitt, and they love Scott Pruitt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's get more on breaking news from one of the correspondents who broke the story, CNN's Pamela Brown who joins us from the White House.
So, explain what you learned about the president and Pruitt.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've learned that as recently as this week, the president floated replacing Attorney General Sessions with embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, even as Pruitt faced this growing list of negative headlines about ethics concerns. In fact, one source I spoke with said the president was trying to protect Pruitt as a fill in for Sessions.
Now, the president is known to float several people a day for multiple positions in his administration that are already occupied. But this proposition this week reveals how confident he has remained in Pruitt, despite a dizzying number of ethics issues. Now, Pruitt has remained in Trump's good graces for the most part, though a source familiar with the matter said the president's confidence in him has faltered some earlier this week in light of some of the ethics issues that continue to surface.
Now, he is hesitant, however, to fire him, because he likes entertaining this idea of replacing Sessions with him eventually, feels confident that will continue to advance -- that he will continue to advance his agenda at the EPA.
Now, aboard Air Force One, the president maintained that Pruitt has done a fantastic job, that he needs to look at those reports, though, raising these ethics concerns. Reports, Anderson, that have been out since last week, in our reporting is that he did watch Pruitt's interview with Fox News about the revelations and he wasn't happy with his performance. So, he is aware of what's going on. The president also saying aboard Air Force One today that he doesn't
have plans to switch Pruitt from his role. But as we know, the president has said similar things about other cabinet members and then has done the opposite of what he said he would do, and he's also repeatedly complained about firing many in his administration, in this case sessions and it doesn't necessarily mean that he will -- Anderson.
COOPER: And as far as the chief of staff, Kelly and others in the White House, do you know their feelings on this?
BROWN: Well, Kelly has a different posture toward this, I'm told.
[20:20:01] He does not have the same level of confidence in Pruitt that the president does. And in fact, he had advocated to the fire him before the headlines got worse. I was told by a source that he called Pruitt on Tuesday morning and basically said, if there's anything else out there, we need to know. You better tell me.
And I'm told that the interviews that Pruitt did with Fox News and "The Washington Examiner" only made matters worse. That the White House told him not to come out and do these interviews. He did them anyway, as we know.
And I'm told from sources that if these negative headlines about him continue to come out, that could be very problematic for Pruitt, Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Pam, stick around.
I want to bring in CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza into the discussion.
What does it say, Ryan, you think about the president's thinking right now that he was not only considering firing Sessions but also promoting Pruitt, who's facing this -- obviously, this growing list of ethics concerns right now.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it seems, Anderson, that he -- the president can't decide whether he should get rid of Pruitt or give him a promotion. And that Pruitt, with these ethical issues is sort of, you know, thwarting this plan that the president seems to be bandying about. You know, there are a lot of issues, legal issues, with whether, even -- even if Pruitt didn't have any of these other issues and Trump wanted to replace Sessions with Pruitt, it's not totally clear that he could even do it, right?
If you fire the attorney general, normally, the next in line moves up as the acting attorney general until someone is appointed and confirmed by the Senate, right? And that would be Rod Rosenstein. I don't know if Trump would want him in that role.
So, Trump's whole plan here is built on a sort of legally tenuous argument that he could use something called, use the Vacancies Act to put Pruitt in place of Sessions. It's not -- it's clear that that would be challenged. And there are all sorts of issues of whether Pruitt would have to
recuse himself from the Russia investigation, right? Which would thwart the idea behind this. Not to mention, would Mueller view firing Sessions as another act in his -- in his case of obstruction of justice, similar to how the firing of James Comey is being investigated for obstruction of justice.
So, I think there are a lot of reasons that this plan might not get off the ground, you know, and, of course, Pruitt being mired in this scandal makes it even more unlikely. But the fact that Trump is thinking about it and that he is obsessed with this idea of getting rid of Sessions, that he would still consider this tells you something.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Pamela, if the president replaced sessions with Pruitt, could Pruitt fire special counsel Mueller, because Pruitt wouldn't have to recuse himself -- Ryan said maybe he would have to recuse himself, but it's not clear that he would have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as Sessions has.
BROWN: That's right. I mean, hypothetically, if this plan were to take off and he did become the attorney general, he would then oversee the probe if he didn't have to recuse himself, and therefore he could fire Robert Mueller. As Ryan pointed out, there are several reasons why this all may not work out, I mean, just even getting the confirmation, in and of itself would be difficult. There are the other factors at play.
But I think what this shows, beyond just the fact that, you know, that this is out there, that the president has floated this, is that he isn't that bothered by the allegations surrounding Pruitt. He was floating this earlier this week, amid these growing allegations, scandals surrounding Pruitt. So, if anything, it shows even if he's not serious about it, because it's tough to take his temperature on the seriousness of it, considering how much he floats names for cabinet officials, that kind of thing, it shows that he really hasn't been that bothered by the allegations, Anderson.
COOPER: Ryan, what's also interesting about this, this obsession with Jeff Sessions and his anger at Jeff Sessions and his public humiliation he's directed at Jeff Sessions, Jeff Sessions has been among his cabinet secretaries executing the president's policies very effectively throughout the judiciary.
I mean, he's -- you know, he's not only one of the president's earlier supporters on the campaign trail, but he's actually pushing the president's agenda hard at the Justice Department.
LIZZA: Absolutely. I think that's why a lot of Republicans like Sessions. You look at immigration, civil rights, across a whole spectrum of issues, Sessions is more Trump than Trump.
We all know that the president is not nearly -- he's not an ideologue, right? He has his views. But he cares, frankly, about himself and the legal jeopardy he's in far more than any conservative policies that Sessions is pushing. I mean, one, one theory about this is that he wants Sessions to resign so that he can very cleanly use the vacancy -- theoretically could use the Vacancies Act to fill that role.
[20:25:12] The legal question is, if he fires Sessions, can he do that? So, Trump pushing Sessions to resign gives him a stronger hand to replace him with a hand-picked temporary successor. So, that's one theory, that his torture of Sessions is to push him out without having to fire him.
COOPER: Ryan Lizza, Pamela Brown, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Now, as we've heard tonight, President Trump is in full-throated support of his EPA chief, Scott Pruitt. At least he is tonight.
When we continue, a closer look at just why Pruitt is in so much trouble in the first place.
COOPER: He's one of the president's most ardent enforcers, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has won raves from conservatives for carrying out Trump's agenda and as we reported earlier, was even being mentioned as a possible replacement for Attorney General Sessions by the president, something the president himself denies.
But as we've been discussing tonight, Mr. Pruitt is facing a dizzying number of ethics issues.
Randi Kaye tonight takes a look into his tenure to date at the EPA.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Onboard Air Force One, the president is asked about his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.
TRUMP: I think that Scott has done a fantastic job. I think he's a fantastic person.
KAYE: A confidence boost from the president, despite the ethical questions hounding Pruitt. Just weeks after Pruitt took over at the EPA, he asked his security detail to turn on lights and sirens to avoid traffic. He was told no, that it was only for emergencies.
Later, the head of his security detail was reassigned, and replaced by a new agent, who has since determined Pruitt needs to to fly first class because of specific ongoing threats associated with his air travel.
Which brings us to Pruitt's recent flight to see his home team play in the Rose Bowl. And another trip with his family to Disneyland, all with his taxpayer fund the 24/7 security detail in tow.
And there's more. The EPA boss was renting a condo in Washington, D.C. for just $50 a night and only paying when he slept there. Turns out that condo belongs to an Oklahoma couple that donated money to Pruitt's campaigns as a state official and lobbied his agency, too, on behalf of an Oklahoma energy company.
The White House is looking into it, as well as a substantial pay hike of more than $80,000 given to two of Pruitt's employees. Speaking to Fox on Wednesday, Pruitt suggested he had no role in his employees' pay hikes.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I corrected the action. And we are in the process of finding how to place -- I did not know that they got the pay raises until yesterday.
KAYE (voice-over): Pruitt's future uncertain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can speak to future Scott Pruitt.
KAYE: Likely because Trump is torn about whether Pruitt, a loyal foot soldier, should stay or go. CNN has learned that many of Pruitt's supporters are in the President's ear telling him, this guy gets things done and that Pruitt's work at the EPA is far more important than draining the swamp.
Among his accomplishments, rolling back a series of environmental regulations and advocating for Trump to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. Pruitt himself just this week clearly trying to keep the President happy.
PRUITT: This President has shown tremendous courage to say to the American people that America is going to be put first.
KAYE (voice-over): Pruitt has aggressively pushed to repeal President Obama's clean power plan and weaken many of the EPAs clean air and water enforcement programs. The President likes Pruitt's progress on deregulation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I just left coal and energy country. They love Scott Pruitt. They feel very strongly about Scott Pruitt, and they love Scott Pruitt.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Randi Kaye joins us now. So Scott Pruitt has had some problems with those working for him at the EPA as well.
KAYE: He certainly has Anderson. He's having some real issues within his own agency, the "New York Times" is reporting tonight that a handful of EPA officials were reassigned, demoted or requested new positions after they raise concerns about Pruitt. Their concerns according to paper, had to do with EPA spending on office furniture, first class travel, security details, such as demands for a bullet- proof vehicle. One of those EPA employees was reported an early hire in the Trump campaign, but was placed on administrative leave without pay after raising concerns about Pruitt. A spokesman for the EPA told the "New York Times" Anderson, that the agency disputes those accusations.
COOPER: All right, Randi Kaye, thanks very much. During that Air Force One shot with reporters, President Trump said, he thinks between 2,000 and 4,000 National Guard troops will be deployed across the U.S.-Mexico border. Just ahead, Gary Tuchman talks with the Texas border sheriff who is back. The idea in the past, but now says he's not thrilled. Why he's against the move, when we continue.
[20:37:11] COOPER: In his brief session with reporters on board Air Force One say, President Trump didn't provide any details about where or when those National Guard troops will be deployed once plans are in place. Tonight all the Pentagon will say is that the guard will support border patrol agents. Both President's Bush and Obama send National Guard troops and support roles for the border.
Tonight our Gary Tuchman travels to one Texas border area for talk with a local sheriff who's seen it all before. Gary joins us now at the border. Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're in Maverick County, Texas. Behind me, the Rio Grande, behind the Rio Grande, the Nation of Mexico. You can see two men over there, they are not planning as far as we know to swim across here, they are fisherman who are fishing on their side of the Rio Grande. But this area seven years ago, is where troops did come to watch over when the immigration problem -- the illegal immigration problem got very serious. Many people supported it back then.
But we're finding in this county right now, there is a lot of people -- there are a lot people who are not supporting it, including the sheriff, who doesn't want to see it happen.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tom Schmerber was a U.S. border patrol officer for more than a quarter century, and now he's a sheriff, the top law enforcement officer in Texas's Maverick County on the Mexican border.
(on-camera): Do you want to see the U.S. military come to your county to help control the border?
TOM SCHMERBER, SHERIFF, MAVERICK COUNTY: No, no, I don't. I think that the border patrol are well trained, well equipped. I don't think we need the military here on the border.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Sheriff Schmerber did support the National Guard coming to the border under President Bush in 2006 and President Obama in 2010. He said the help was needed then. But things are different now.
SCHMERBER: That was when we had groups coming in, groups of 20, 30, dope, but everything has change.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): So you're saying that's not happening anymore in your county? SCHMERBER: It's not happening anymore, yes.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): So when the White House says this is a crisis and things are getting worse, your feeling is?
SCHMERBER: Not here, not in this county.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The sheriff says illegal crossings have been dropping for the past decade here and he attributes a big part of that to aggressive law enforcement in his county. Dob Cunningham, 800 acre Maverick County ranch is right on the border
(on-camera): Dob, how old are you?
DOB CUNNINGHAM, RANCH OWNER: Be 84 this month.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): What year did you move to this ranch?
CUNNINGHAM: In 1949.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): So that's almost 70 years.
CUNNINGHAM: Close to 70 years.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Your 14 or 15 years old?
CUNNINGHAM: Exactly, yes. And, I grew up right here and raised my daughter right here.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): His ranch is on the left side of the Rio Grande, the right side is Mexico. In the past, Dob they have given military permission to stage troops and equipment on his property. He was asked to sign a form.
CUNNINGHAM: We signed a lease that would allow them to come in without I guess suing all.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And Dob was grateful at the time.
(on-camera): Climbing from the Rio Grande to Dob Cunningham's ranch is not easy. You have to climb steep hillside, covered with thick vegetation and the occasional rattlesnake. But Cunningham says he's seen it happen thousands and thousands of times in the years he's lived here.
[20:40:12] (voice-over): However, like the sheriff, he says things are now different.
CUNNINGHAM: We had groups of 20 or 30, up to 100 in a group. And they would come one group to three groups every day.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Do you ever see groups that big anymore?
CUNNINGHAM: No, no. Definitely no. We don't really need any help right now, other than what the border patrol provides. TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tthere are certainly still plenty of people illegally crossing here, and this remains a drug smuggling route. But the sheriff says his department combined with the border patrol happened under control and cites the sad story of Esequiel Hernandez Jr., an 18-year-old Texas high school student who was shot and killed in 1997 by a U.S. marine who mistook him for an armed illegal immigrant.
SCHMERBER: I'm afraid that happen here that, some soldier getting nervous with a weapon seeing somebody one of my constituents, walking towards to the border, and think that is going to be a danger to a solider and this, what went to fire him and shoot him.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): For now, the sheriff waits to see what happens next.
(on-camera): As the governor, as the White House reached out to you as a border sheriff.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): And tell you what's going on?
TUCHMAN (on-camera): No, information?
SCHMERBER: Not from D.C., not from Austin, here with capital, nobody.
COOPER: Gary, does the sheriff expect to get any notification from the governor or the White House that the National Guard troops that are coming to county before they actually arrive?
TUCHMAN: Anderson, the sheriff certainly thinks he's entitled to get advance notice, but he doesn't think he will get any advance notice, particularly and like to the fact that he's now been publicly exposed as a nay sayer. He is a Democratic sheriff in a mostly Democratic county. I asked him if they did call him, the White House, where the governors office, what's the first thing he would say? And he told me, he would tell them that this is a waste of money. And money should be used to hire more people for the sheriff's office, more people from the border patrol, more technology and more equipment for the sheriff's office and the border patrol. Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Gary Tuchman, thanks.
We'd like to hear from different viewpoints. That Texas sheriff is one into the spectrum when it comes to deployment of those National Guard troops. On the other end is former Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu who joins us now.
Sheriff, thanks very much for being with us. You hear what that sheriff of Maverick County --
PAUL BABEU, SHERIFF, ARIZONA: Absolutely here.
COOPER: -- border patroller, well trained, well equipped.
COOPER: What do you make of that and what's your opinion?
BABEU: Well, our border patrol heroes are well trained and well equipped. They're undermined, not only by current law with immigration, but the fact that those numbers pre-election to Trump, those numbers are returning. We saw 70, almost 80% decrease in illegal entries after Trump was elected, because he was saying he was going to build a wall, he was going to enforce the law. Many in his cabinet, namely Jeff Sessions and Secretary Kelly at the time said we're going to add all resources to the border.
So that had a real impact, because people south of the border, namely, the coyotes who were escorting those who were being brought illegally into the country and drug smugglers understood that hey, there's a different President, there's a different approach. There will be consequences that are real if you break the law, and enter into the United States.
Now we're seeing a probing of that, a testing of that, if you will, when you see this caravan that's coming up from Honduras, with the thousand to 1200 that are down near Mexico City, and to see what happens as they approach and look to request either refugee or asylum status to come into the United States.
COOPER: So, but you view that as a probe. I mean apprehensions at the border are at their lowest level since 1971, and obviously, the most illegal immigrants, you know, immigration occurs from people overstaying their visas in the U.S. I guess, you know, critics of the President say that this is basically more about politics to kind of please his base, because he hasn't been able to start building the border wall like he said he would.
BABEU: Well, nearly 40% is the number that we often hear, could be half of the 12 million illegals who are here currently that are overstays of their visa. The rest are those who have entered illegally. That's a big number. And so when you're talking that we're hearing numbers from the border patrol that these numbers are starting to tick back up, yes, it's never was to the same numbers that it was under President George Bush when he had deployed under operation jump start, there were 600,000, 700,000 just here in the Tucson sector that were apprehended in one year.
So we're not seeing those numbers, but if we have 300,000 illegals coming across the border that are apprehended, is that too many? I would say yes. I think because not only we need a secure border, but it's not just about the illegals. It's about the drug cartels that we're fighting.
[20:45:02] Most of the heroin, 90% that comes into the United States is coming from this unsecured border, and then lastly --
BABEU: -- the National Security concern that few talk about, that people from countries of interest, possible terrorist threats that can easily slip through an unsecured border with Mexico.
COOPER: But I mean, have, you know, the President talked about enemy combatants coming across the border. What's evidence of that?
BABEU: Well, I could tell you, I don't look at it as, in terms of enemy combatants, I served as a commanding officer down in Yuma for a year and a half, and what we saw there, we didn't have rules of engagement. We had rules of force. Our soldiers and air men did not have law enforcement authority. We actually served in direct support of our heroes in the border patrol, and it worked famously. There in Yuma sector, we saw a 94% reduction in illegal re-entries and drug smugglers. So, it's not --
COOPER: Were there terrorist or enemies combatants coming across?
BABEU: Well, we saw, there was next to nobody coming across, because we had armed, National Guard soldiers and air men that were directly on the border, and even at nighttime, very different than anything we've done in the military, we had a bank of lights that actually lit them up, operated by a generator, so anybody south of the border could clearly see that my god, there's armed soldiers right there. So that acted as a real deterrent. There was no incident. There was no conflict. It was just the fact that hey, you're not coming across the border, and that's essentially what the President is saying, that until the wall is built, he's going to deploy these soldiers, so I hope he does it in this capacity and not mechanics or support in the offices or doing surveillance.
COOPER: Sheriff Paul Babeu, appreciate you being on always. Thanks so much.
Coming up, from --
COOPER: -- to investigations. The Russian saga heats up. Diplomats expel on both side as you know Russian Oligarchs entering the United States questions. A question in several cases by the special counsel's team. We've learned -- we'll talk to former CIA director Michael Hayden. Get his take on that. And the President starts to get troops out of Syria, next.
[20:51:28] COOPER: Russia state run media reported the busses carrying expelled U.S. diplomats left the U.S. embassy in Moscow today. Russia kicked out diplomats from at least 23 countries including 60 Americans after an international respond. The poison they had to Russian, a former spying his daughter in United Kingdom, that case was the subject to United Nation Security Counsel meeting that started today with a familiar sounding accusation from Russia's ambassador who called the poisoning allegations a "fake story". Joining me now is CNN national security analyst, former CIA and NSA director General Michael Hayden.
General, does expelling personnel on either side make a difference as far as collecting intelligence is concerned, because in my understanding, I mean, it takes a long time to get people trained up to be able to, you know, into Russia and do what the CIA does.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it will make a difference, Anderson. Even though, the bullets aren't being force away. The individuals are being kicked out. We can replace folks but the training line for folks going to Russia is quite long. And frankly, I think the Russians have a bit of an inherent advantage here. I think they will find it easier to replace their people than we will ours. Frankly, I think they have more people who speak English than we have people who speak Russian. And frankly, I think Russia is a more difficult operating environment which requires more training than it's required for Russians who want to operate inside the United States.
So both countries will suffer, it will take us a little longer to recover.
COOPER: I want to ask you about CNN's reporting about special counsel Mueller's team has taken the step of stopping questioning several Russian oligarchs, entering the U.S. even searching electronic devices in some cases. What does that tell you about where the investigation is? And as the former director of the NSA, I'm just curious, is that the most effective way to net electronic communication?
HAYDEN: It's actually quite an effective way and it takes advantage of provisions in law that allow government at a border to actually have pretty invasive rights into these kinds of electronic devices. I think there's another reality here too Anderson that I think we're seeing. And that's the use of the Russians of cut outs for what it was they did or doing with regard to the United States social media. Our electoral process out.
That's when (INAUDIBLE) the lawyer who met with Don Jr. in Trump Tower. A lawyer concerns with orphans. Not technically an agent of Soviet -- or Russian security services. (INAUDIBLE), the business partner for Manafort, who appears to have been the contact with other members of the campaign. The internet research agency in St. Petersburg, the Troll Farm, all of this are indirectly connected with the Russian government, so they have plausible deniability.
If you want to inject money into the American electoral process doing it through oligarchs privately so to speak, gives the Russians that plausible deniability again.
COOPER: CNN also has some reporting on the President at odds with his top military brass, the National Security seen this week over whether or not to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Seems for now, he's been convinced to hold off on what he'd, you know, talked about publicly last week. If you were advising the President, what would you tell him? HAYDEN: I go back to an example I used (INAUDIBLE) on air Anderson, that when we planned to go do these kinds of things, we have four phases. Deploy, shape the battlefield, fight. That's the part we all call war and then stick around to create stability on the ground. Stabilization operations.
[20:55:08] Those you do this for a living though, that if you don't do phase four you get to do one two and three again. Three, five, seven years in the future. Unfortunately, I think the argument with the President now between the President and his military advisors is not about phase four. It's about allowing them to finish phase three. And so even if they talked the President into staying a bit longer, it will be about simply the combat destruction of remnants of vices, and not phase four which is desperately needed. Otherwise we turn the future of this region over to the Iranians, to the Russians, to the Turks, to the Syrians.
COOPER: And so your saying, I mean if we're still toward the end of phase three, ISIS not completely destroyed, the amount of time then that you believe U.S. forces would be needed on the ground than Syria is even longer perhaps than the President might be imaging.
HAYDEN: I think that's right. And frankly, I think that since senior military advisors believe and know that, in their heart, what they're doing with the President who wants to leave. I mean he really does sound like President Obama in 2011 with regard to Iraq. The tide of war is receding, Al Qaeda is on the run. It's time to do nation building at home. And of course that's what we did in the year preceding, the rise of ISIS. And then the requirement for us to go back into the region and fight another war.
COOPER: General Hayden, appreciate your time, thanks so much as always.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead, it has to be a busy night at he White House, a widening scandal involving the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt. The President speaks out in that and other issues repeating a false claim about millions of people voting illegally. And finally answers a question about adult film actress Stormy Daniels.