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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
White House Accuses Philadelphia Eagles of Political Stunt; White House Still Stonewalling on Air Force One Memo. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired June 5, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:09] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
As White House ceremonies go, hosting a championship sports team normally ranked right out there in difficulty with the annual Easter egg roll. It's not a heavy lift. In fact, even presidents embroiled in controversy have welcomed athletes the White House even when some of their teammates very publicly chose to stay away. It's an easy way to look gracious, to basking a little reflected glory and reach people who happen to be fans whatever team you're posing for photos with that day.
Today, though after canceling an appearance for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and spreading falsehoods about the reasons why, the president instead hosted what was billed as a celebration of America in which the National Anthem would be proudly played and sung.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
COOPER: In addition to singing it, the president also talked about how much he respected the national anthem and by unspoken comparison, a little the Philadelphia Eagles allegedly do.
Last night in canceling the team visit, the president said, quote: They disagree with their president because he insists they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.
Now, keeping him honest, the fact is that during the regular season last year, not one Eagle took a knee during the anthem. One player did in the preseason but was cut before the regular season began. Some players did raise a fist.
The president later sent a tweet implying that members of the Super Bowl-winning Eagles stayed in the locker room during the anthem: Staying in the locker room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country's kneeling. Sorry.
Well, keeping them honest, that's also not true. They didn't stay in the locker room, when it became abundantly clear that the event had been canceled more for lack of the Eagles than anything else, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders then tried a little gaslighting, saying, quote: The vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans. Now, it's hard to find a team more loyal to its fans and vice versa in good times and bad, notwithstanding insinuation from the White House the ties run deep then late today yet another line came from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, if this wasn't a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn't have planned to attend the event and then backed out at the last minute. And if it wasn't a political stunt, then they wouldn't have attempted to reschedule the visit when they knew that the president was going to be overseas. And if this wasn't a political stunt, they wouldn't have waited until Monday well after a thousand of their fans had traveled and taken time out of their schedules to offer only a tiny handful of representatives to attend the event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A political stunt, she says.
Now, it certainly is a fact that some players disagree politically with the president on race, gender issues, on many things.
One Eagle today telling Jake Tapper, quote: Reasons vary from player to player because the president gives people so many reasons not to want to go. Lots of guys who are white and even conservative balked at the possibility of going.
And it's a view other players and other leagues certainly share. Here's LeBron James today who's currently playing the NBA championship series against the Golden State Warriors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, CAVALIERS: I know no matter who wins this series, no one -- no one wants the invite anyways. So, it won't be Golden State or Cleveland going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, a political statement on the part of many Eagles? Sure. Political stunts though, a stunt like the vice president traveling at taxpayer expense to a Colts 49ers game last season, only to very publicly walk out when a number of San Francisco players took a knee which everyone knew they would, it sounds like the White House doth protest too much on the stunt front, especially when the president seems to relish any chance he gets to attack players on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you go down and take a knee or any other way, you're sitting essentially for our great National Anthem, you're disrespecting our flag and you're disrespecting our country. Before watching a football game, you want to see those players be
proud of their country, respect our country, respect our flag and respect our National Anthem.
You cannot have people disrespecting our National Anthem, our flag, our country and that's what they're doing. And in my opinion, the NFL has to change or you know what's going to happen -- their business is going to go to hell.
Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired!
You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, as you can see, the president has been returning to this issue again and again, which may be a genuine reflection of his belief and the importance of this issue, or may in itself be the biggest stunt of all.
More now from our CNN's Jim Acosta, who was at today's White House event.
So, I mean, is there a political strategy behind all this on the president's part?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. I think that it -- that is what's going on here and I think the penalty flag should be thrown here for untruthful-like conduct on the part of the White House.
[20:05:01] The only political stunt being staged here was by the White House. They had this celebration for America event which by the way we should point out only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes, and yes, there were Eagles fans in attendance, but also plenty of White House and administration officials. I counted two cabinet secretaries and the vice president all at this event today.
But, yes, Anderson, I've talked to several sources and my colleagues here have talked to several sources who say that the president plans on making the NFL and patriotism an issue throughout the midterms of the -- of the 2018 midterm campaign, essentially because they believe it just drives up the base and gets them out to vote.
And so, you know, in the words of this one source close to the White House that I spoke with earlier today, the NFL has a long way to go to get off the president's radar screen.
COOPER: And Sarah Sanders was pressed today about whether or not the president is aware of what the protests are really about. She didn't answer the question though, right? ACOSTA: No, she didn't answer the question. Our friend and colleague April Ryan asked that question at the briefing today, tried to, you know, desperately ask that question at the end of the briefing. Sarah Sanders almost wouldn't take the question and April Ryan reminded Sarah that these players who were out there occasionally protesting and kneeling during the National Anthem that they're protesting against police brutality.
But, Anderson, one thing that we have to point out to our viewers and we can't point it out enough, none of the Philadelphia Eagles players during the regular season or postseason took a knee during the National Anthem. They simply didn't do it and so, for the president to lump those players in with other players who did this or have done this over the last couple of years is the height of untruthful like conduct and the penalty flag should be thrown in -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Conservative commentator Paris Dennard joins us now, so does former Democratic mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.
Mayor Nutter, was this a political stunt by the Eagles?
MICHAEL NUTTER (D), FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: No, Anderson. The president is the one who canceled the event on the false premise of some dispute about the national anthem or kneeling or anything and as Jim Acosta said and everyone has said all day for the last day and a half, none of the Eagles ever did anything like that, they never stayed in the locker room, there have been no games since the Super Bowl.
So, there's been none of this kind of activity. This was planned I believe a long time ago. Donald Trump relishes this reality-like TV world that he lives in all by himself and knew that he would get much more mileage out of this by canceling or disinviting the Eagles than by actually being a normal person and actually having a ceremony with whomever showed up. The fans would have been about that and it would have been business as usual.
But, no, of course, he has to drive attention to himself, to his narcissism. He's an emotional and intellectual Lilliputian. And so, he cannot think beyond the moment. He doesn't care --
NUTTER: -- what the real underlying issues are and what the players are actually demonstrating about.
COOPER: Paris --
NUTTER: That's something he could actually do something about.
COOPER: Paris, I mean, you heard Jim Acosta reporting that this is an issue the president views is something that could help him in the midterms isn't that a kind of political stunt? PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that the president believes in patriotism. He believes that this is an issue that --
NUTTER: So do the Eagles.
DENNARD: This is an issue that the president believes a lot of Americans care about and I think the president is right for raising this cultural --
NUTTER: What issue?
COOPER: Let him finish. Let him finish.
NUTTER: This cultural issue of what we do as Americans.
Look, we've taken prayer out of schools. A lot of schools, when I grew up, we used to say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. I did it because I was student body president, I led it for the class. We used to do things like that.
And I think that what we've seen is the erosion of civility and the erosion of civics that is not prevalent. Look, there's not --
COOPER: Wait a minute, Paris, I mean -- I just got to jump in there. The erosion of civility, I mean, the president called these players sons of bitches. I mean, is that appropriate?
DENNARD: And I have said and -- I mean, I know you all like to keep running that line and I've said repeatedly that I didn't think that that was an appropriate thing for him to say, but I stand by the president. I was at the event today, I went to the event because I thought --
DENNARD: You know, Mayor, I didn't interrupt you. I think you should have some civility and allow me to finish what I'm saying.
I went to the event because I thought it was an important thing to do because I stand for the National Anthem and for this country. And I think it's an important thing to do.
The NFL's policy is an important one to do, but I think overall, this is a logistical issue. It takes a lot of planning. The White House was planning this since February, and I know that if the players decided at the last minute, which is what it seems, to -- on one day, Friday, 80-some-odd people were coming, and then right before the event, they call and let them know that -- well, not all those people are coming is to be a very small amount of coming. So, that seems --
COOPER: What's wrong with having a smaller -- what's wrong with having a small amount coming to Mayor Nutter's position? [20:10:04] I mean, if it's to honor the team and there's a number of
players there -- I mean, it does seem like it it's maybe about either the president trying to gin this up or also about his ego being upset that more players weren't coming. There wasn't going to be a big enough event for him.
DENNARD: Yes, one thing I know about team sports is that when you are on a team, you go as a team. You don't have the luxury of saying, oh I don't want to play for that, I don't want to go to play that team because I don't like the quarterback. So, half of the team --
NUTTER: This is not a game, Paris. It's an event.
DENNARD: So, half of the team decides to go.
And the one thing about team sports about being on a team, you do things together and this was an invitation from the White House which is traditionally done, and they were they should go as a team. And one or two wasn't able to go, three or four, that happened in past administrations I know because it happened so I worked under President Bush, but this is different, and it felt like a political stunt.
And the president said, if you don't want to be here, if you all don't want to come, you originally did, then fine. We'll salute the flag --
NUTTER: The only stunt was the canceling of the event. That was the stunt, Paris. Come on.
DENNARD: No, the stunt was saying that you wanted to go and then declaring 80-some-odd people --
NUTTER: Who said it? Who said it? So what?
DENNARD: The Eagles --
NUTTER: So, if ten players went, you have the event. Every event is not going to be the biggest event that ever happened in your life. This is back to crowd size and the inauguration.
COOPER: Let the mayor finish.
COOPER: No, you just spoke for a long time. Now, he gets to speak, and then you'll get to speak again. That's how it works on TV.
NUTTER: Let's whomever comes --
DENNARD: No, not on this show (ph).
NUTTER: Attend, celebrate with them, don't disrespect the fans, don't make a political statement and move on with your life. COOPER: So, let me --
NUTTER: Everything that you said had nothing to do with today's event. We're not talking about Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom and civics class. This was a boldface political stunt.
DENNARD: By the Eagles.
NUTTER: The president has continued to ignore the underlying real issues about inequality, racism, police brutality, bad relations between police and community, community and police. Why don't you have a meeting about that?
NUTTER: You could have had a small event with the ten players invited them to sit around the table and have a serious discussion about serious policy. But he doesn't care about that. He cares about himself.
DENNARD: Well, that's not true. And I think when you saw what the president did with prison reform and now he invited a series of people at the last minute, very high-profile rapper was pressured and not going because he felt that that wasn't going to be good for his brand, when they could have done something.
COOPER: Paris --
DENNARD: And I think that's what we saw here. The Eagles were coming to this event. They were --
COOPER: Paris, let me ask you. Sarah Sanders was asked today about how this compares to the Supreme Court ruling yesterday in favor of the baker turned away a gay couple, which the White House came out in favor of. I just want to play what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The White House supports the baker's right of free speech. Why doesn't the White House support players right to free speech?
SANDERS: The president doesn't think that this is an issue simply a free speech. He thinks it's about respecting the men and women of our military. It's about respecting our National Anthem, and it's about standing out of pride for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, Paris, isn't -- I mean what she's saying is the president doesn't believe there's an issue of free speech and then she went on to describe -- I mean, she may not like this free speech, but is this not an issue of free speech? DENNARD: Well, I think that those two issues are totally separate. One dealt with our religious -- someone's faith and working out of their faith tradition and this is dealing with --
COOPER: Right, but I'm asking you, do you believe the players? I mean, don't they have a right to free speech?
DENNARD: Well, I mean, everybody has the right to free speech but it has its limits, Anderson, because listen, if your employer says -- you know, if CNN says Anderson there are certain words you cannot say on the air, while you have -- while you do have a right to say them, you can't say them. And if you do say them, you run the risk of being fired or you can go to another network or another organization that allows you to say it.
So where there are limitations. The NFL has said that if you are going to be on the -- on the field, you've got -- you're going to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem.
NUTTER: The Eagles always stood, Paris. The Eagles always stood.
DENNARD: That's not the point. Mayor, we're not talking about that.
NUTTER: They were never in the locker room. And they don't work for Donald Trump, Paris.
DENNARD: They work for the NFL.
NUTTER: They don't work for Donald Trump.
DENNARD: They work for the NFL and NFL put in something in place and so while they do have --
NUTTER: That's the next season. That's the next season.
DENNARD: And while they have freedom of speech --
NUTTER: That is for next season, pay attention.
DENNARD: So, Anderson, you're going to let him do that?
COOPER: Isn't not -- Paris, isn't not choosing to come to the White House an expression of free speech?
DENNARD: Yes, it is an expression of free speech and I think that the White House should reconsider how they do this. I would not extend invitations to teams. If teams want to come to the White House, they should ask to come and there should be a guarantee that the team is going to come.
[20:15:01] The team is everybody that's on the field. You win together, you fight together, you play together. And when you want to go celebrate, you celebrate together.
DENNARD: And I think that that's how it should be done.
NUTTER: So, if two people don't go, the whole team doesn't go?
COOPER: Mayor Nutter, do you see -- I mean a racial component in this? Obviously, a lot of people have brought this up when the president you know called player sons-of-bitches and, you know, whether this is about ginning up the base. You know, Paris said it appeals to certainly the president's supporters, I'm paraphrasing.
Do you believe that there is a racial component to this?
NUTTER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is the biggest dog whistle. I mean, you know, anybody could hear this whistle from miles away. This is all about again pushing aside the real issues of that are at hand -- you know, I mean, I won't say the word, you did. But, you know, SOBs.
I mean, you're -- I mean you've just gone down a rabbit hole that any righteous man and certainly any rights his black man was going to be fighting with you all day long if you talk about his mother like that. So --
COOPER: Paris, I want you to have the final though, the final comment.
NUTTER: Absolutely a racial component and that is what Donald Trump is really all about.
COOPER: All right. Paris?
DENNARD: This is -- this is not a racial issue. We're looking for a racial issue and I don't think that this what -- this is one.
DENNARD: This is an issue about patriotism. This is the issue about what the White House logistically decided not to do when it came to having this event because the players decided not to come and be there for the thousands of fans who wanted to be there to support the team.
COOPER: Paris Dennard, I appreciate it. Mayor Nutter, as well.
Coming up next, why the White House can't seem to admit that a key statement about the Russia affair was false even after newly released letter shows the release by the president's own attorney to Robert Mueller. We're keeping them honest on that.
And later, the stunning news about designer Kate Spade who has died apparently by suicide. I'll tell you what police here in New York had found so far.
COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) after a key White House talking point on Russia was revealed to be a widely repeated falsehood, a new line emerge from one of the president's attorneys and one of the perpetrators of that falsehood again stonewalled on the issue.
It's a falsehood on top of another falsehood, namely that President Trump had nothing or as the line later went, had very little to do with drafting of the false statement about what transpired of the meeting between his son, son-in-law and campaign manager, and the Russians.
And just to refresh your memory, here's Jay Sekulow, one of the president's attorneys, followed by Sarah Sanders, with what we'll call narrative number one. And this is what they were claiming last July and August that the president did not write or dictate the statement about the meeting on Air Force One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: That was written -- no, that was written by Donald Trump Jr. and I'm sure with in consultation with his lawyer. So, that wasn't written by the president. The president didn't sign off on on anything. He was coming back from the G20. The statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. And I'm sure in consultation with his lawyers. The president wasn't involved in that.
[20:20:01] The president was not -- did not draft the response the response. The response in that was -- came from Donald Trump Jr. I'm sure in consultation with his lawyer. Let me say this, the president -- I do want to be clear that the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr.
SANDERS: He certainly didn't dictate but, you know, he -- like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that was a narrative number one, and it was false. We don't yet know if Sarah Sanders or Jay Sekulow knew it was false at the time or whether they were simply repeating someone else's falsehood. Were they lying or have they been given false information by the president or someone close to him?
We do however know that another member the president's legal team has his own theory which we'll call now narrative number two, which he rolled out last night to Chris Cuomo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: You think maybe somebody could have made a mistake?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": It's a lot of mistakes, a lot of mistakes. GIULIANI: Why is it always that somebody -- you think Jay Sekulow lied? Maybe he just got it wrong, like I've gotten it -- I got a few things wrong at the beginning of the investigation. Meaning my knowledge, this is a complex investigation.
You can make a mistake -- you can make a mistake and then if you don't -- if you don't -- if you want to, you could say it's a lie. But it was a mistake. I swear to god, it was a mistake. The guy made a mistake and then he corrected it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the way he says it, it almost sounds like he slipped the tongue. But if it was just a mistake, how come no one did correct it like he claimed? It's been nearly a year and if it was just a mistake, how was Jay Sekulow and Sara Sanders both making the same mistake?
We just learned that Jay Sekulow wrote a letter to Robert Mueller back in January saying the president did dictate the response is that plenty of time to publicly correct his alleged mistake.
Keeping them honest, the key point of fact about a central question regarding potential collusion and obstruction isn't the sort of thing you get wrong because of some kind of snafu.
Yesterday, Sarah Sanders refused to address the issue. Today, the stonewall got even higher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Once again, I'm not going to go into detail and go into a back-and-forth.
REPORTER: So why can't you correct the record now?
SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to answer questions that deal specifically with conversations between the outside counsel and the special counsel.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) not to answer the question?
SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to into a back-and-forth with you on that, and I'd refer you to outside counsel.
REPORTER: Was you statement accurate or inaccurate?
SANDERS: Again, I know you want to get me into a back-and-forth with you on this conversation --
REPORTER: You said it back before. You said something. We're wondering if it was accurate or not?
SANDERS: I know your goal is to engage me in a conversation about matters dealing with the outside counsel and I'm not going to do that today. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, narrative one, narrative two and growing stonewall is clearly a job for CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and former federal prosecutor Anne Milgram.
So, Jeff, just explained the why the continuing inconsistencies about the Air Force One statement legally are important?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right, I mean, the Air Force One statement is very important. It's not just some tangential issue where the White House got caught in a lie. It's central to the Mueller investigation, in part because it relates to making false statements lying about what went on in terms of what went on with Russia and the Trump campaign.
It is evidence not alone -- it's not to proof, but it is evidence of possible obstruction of justice, misleading investigators, misleading the public about what really happened. But even more important why this statement is important is that it suggests that the president knew that the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia was wrong, was corrupt.
So, he lied about it. It shows consciousness of guilt. You know, he's --
COOPER: Well, and while -- that's while he was president.
TOOBIN: Correct, and he's -- and, you know, one of the things, you know, he said all along is that there was no collusion and even if there was any relationship, it was perfectly legal. Well, if he thought the relationship was perfectly appropriate, why was he lying about what went on at Trump Tower?
COOPER: And, Anne, I mean, obstruction of justice doesn't have to be successful to be a crime.
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That's right. I mean, it can be an attempt --
COOPER: There doesn't have to be an underlying crime.
MILGRAM: Right, that's right. That's right. You can obstruct -- you can obstruct justice even though there turns out not to be a crime there.
And here I think Jeff is completely right. This is what they're investigating. They're looking at what the president did. It's not just Donald Trump Jr. It's also what the president did and what he said. And, of course, I think if there's nothing to hide, you would tell the truth about this kind of a meeting.
COOPER: And we know -- I mean, Mueller has interviewed basically everybody who was in that -- around that --
MILGRAM: That's another piece of this. TOOBIN: And that's why it seems the White House had to change its story. Hope Hicks is a central figure in all of this. She was intimately involved in how --
COOPER: She talked to Congress about it, but we don't know what she told Mueller.
TOOBIN: Right. And she did talk to Mueller. And undoubtedly, she told the White House what she told Mueller. She knew what really went on with how the statement was drafted.
And after she spoke to Mueller, the White House changed this story, because they can't really claim that Hope Hicks was lying about all this. That would be really too improbable.
[20:25:01] COOPER: Let's about Manafort, Anne. I mean, he hasn't flipped. There's possible incarceration because Mueller is alleging that he's basically violated his -- the terms of his parole.
Presumably -- I mean, his spokesman says he's innocent. Presumably, Mueller still wants to use him from some sort of leverage, or we don't -- do we not -- we don't know?
MILGRAM: I mean, I think they could be connected but I suspect they're actually probably right now two separate things. You have an individual who's been charged with a crime who we know once already was trying to publish an op-ed, get someone to publish a pro -- an op- ed in his favor with Ukrainian government, then you have the second instance which is even more significant where we have what appears to be evidence from two people that he was trying to tamper with these witnesses by saying to them, here's what you should be saying essentially.
And so, that's very significant. When you are released from a judge on bail, he's out on $10 million bail, one of the conditions is that you not commit any other crimes. And so, that is incredibly important.
The second piece, which is connected is that if the judge holds him in, it is a lever. It is much more pressure on him to plead guilty to cooperate with Mueller. I do think those are two separate things that right now the special counsel is just focused on. You can't bring with witness.
TOOBIN: I was shocked by how meek the Mueller investigation -- the Mueller team's response was. They filed this motion that said, well, you should -- you should revoke his bail or at least revisit the issue, why didn't they tell him to lock him up right away?
I mean, this guy barely got on out on bail at all. This -- he has lots of money, lots of money, a motive to leave, he had three passports, ties around the world.
COOPER: So, the judge decides that? TOOBIN: Well, if the judge decides it, and the judge has put this on
a pretty slow track. I mean, the judge just said, well, let me hear from Mueller's lawyers on Monday and we'll have a hearing next Friday, you know about 10 days away.
You know, if you're the -- if you're the Mueller team, you should be screaming and yelling. This guy got a sweet deal and then he -- and then he broke it. I mean, they should be saying he should be locked up today.
COOPER: I mean, the chutzpah of violating the terms of your parole in a federal case, I mean, it's pretty extraordinary. I mean, he was in a lot of trouble before this.
MILGRAM: It is pretty extraordinary. I mean, I've done state, local and federal prosecutions, and you know, particularly, you do see obstruction cases, but you don't see this generally where somebody's already been charged with a crime. They've been before a judge.
They've got a lawyer who's clearly going to tell them, look, don't talk to anybody, don't try to influence anybody. And then he goes and does it. It's stunning.
TOOBIN: And he's using, you know, a special sort of coded email -- not like a regular email, so that he showing he knows he shouldn't be doing this.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Anne Milgram, thanks very much.
Breaking news tonight, new details about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and what she said to a congressional committee about a new federal school safety commission. The commission was created in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. It seems it's missing a key component however.
[20:30:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Pretty remarkable exchange at a Senate Subcommittee hearing, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says looking at the role of guns in school safety is not a focus of the new federal school safety commission that was formed after Valentines Day shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida
Now, you may remember when the commission was actually formed by the White House, one of its publicly declared areas of focus was -- according to the White House, "age restriction for certain fire are purchases." Here is how it went with Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Will your commission look at the role of fire arms as it relates to gun violence in our schools?
BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: That is not part of the commission's charge, per se. LEAHY: I see, so you are studying gun violence but not considering the roles of guns.
DEVOS: We're actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You might recall it's only a few days ago, a child asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders a question about guns in schools and she seemed to be shaken up a bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that affects my and other students' mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Specifically, could you tell me what the administration has done or will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that as a kid and certainly as a parent there is nothing that could be more terrifying for a kid to go to school and not feel safe. So I'm sorry that you feel that way.
This administration takes it seriously, and the school safety commission that the President convened is meeting this week again, an official meeting to discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe and to make parents feel good about dropping them off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, just repeat what she said there. The commission is meeting to "discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe."
Cameron Kasky is a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. I spoke to him just before our air time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Cameron, when you hear Secretary DeVos' comment at the rule of firearms as related to gun violence in our schools is not part of this commission's charge, I'm wondering what is goes through your mind?
CAMERON KASKY, STONEMAN DOUGLAS SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Well, Betsy is just about as fit to run this committee as somebody in the public school she failed is. She is a millionaire and another member of Trump's cabinet who brought their way in and has no idea what they are doing. And not addressing gun violence in schools especially when it was created to -- after a horrible gun tragedy in school it makes you realize this is just another thing that these politicians who want to do nothing are using to get out of this with a clean slate. I mean, it's very clear they are creating this school safety commission to look like they have done anything when the number one thing that is common in school shootings is the fact that they are done by guns. The fact that they won't even address the word "gun" it's like the STOP School Violence Act. They didn't use the gun a single time.
COOPER: When the White House announced this very commission back in March, they list, you know, several areas of focus, the first of which first and 3foremost was age restrictions for certain firearm purchases, what do you think it's now shifted, where there not going to even address that?
KASKY: It is just like your typical Trump. He will say anything at the time to get people to like him and then once the time goes on and people care less and less as we move on, we are going to get dismissed. So sure addressing things like age restrictions on the purchase firearms looks good then. But now that it's -- now that a lot of people are forgotten about they don't want to do that. They are paid by the NRA.
COOPER: Do you worry about that? Do you worry about momentum being loss? I mean, obviously, you know, there was the march that you and other students organized, do you worry that sort of people kind of have moved on?
KASKY: Well, one of the main things we are doing is going on tour this summer and bringing this to everybody in the country's backyard saying we come from a tragedy, we are here to tell you what is happening in this country and get you register to vote and get you ready for the midterm. So I'm not necessarily worried that the gun violence move and has loss any steam because the truth is gun violence will not stop until we do something about this.
And the reason that we are getting so many people registered to vote and the reason we're focusing so much on the importance of the midterm elections is the last midterm in 2014 had the lower turnout -- has lowest turnout since World War II.
Right now we're focus on getting the youth of America united, moving and ready to get to the polls. So we can have a elected officials in office who will take steps to prevent gun violence unlike people like the secretary of education and make this not a problem anymore. I hope the ten years down the line. The gun violence movement has lost steam because it doesn't exist anymore because we have politicians who will put in laws that address the number one issues with gun violence which is guns.
[20:35:15] COOPER: Last week Sarah Sanders was asked about school shooting from a kid reporter at the White House briefing she said this administration wants to "do every single thing in its power to protect kids in school." You clearly don't believe that?
KASKY: I think this administration wants to do every single thing in their power to avoid this, to side step this issue so they could focus on tearing more kids away from their families at the border. This administration does not care about gun violence. They certainly do not care about school safety. They are trying to get out of this with a clean slate, trying to appease crowd there in front of and there are people in this country who will believe them.
The thing is the majority of the country understands that this is a whole bunch of garbage. The STOP School Violence Act is in fact a patter that will do nothing to save anybody in any schools. And that's why we are getting out and voting this midterms and every election ahead of us. We have taken the right to vote for granted and we are making sure we are holding our politicians accountable, not only by marching in the streets but by marching into voting booths and hint them where it hurt, which is their polls.
COOPER: All right, Cameron Kasky, I appreciate your time. Thanks.
KASKY: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Up next, we're going to talk live with the Former U.S. attorney for southern district of New York Preet Bharara about the man he prosecuted, who subsequently received a pardon from President Trump, conservative activist Dinesh D'Souza.
And later, the death of a design icon, Kate spade found near her New York City apartment, authorities say it was an apparent suicide.
COOPER: In the broadcast conservative commentator, Dinesh D'Souza said that his prosecution and subsequent guilty plea for campaign finance fraud was politically motivated at least his prosecution was because he was a severe critic of the Obama administration. President Trump pardoned D'Souza last week. Here is part of what he said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[20:40:01] DINESH D'SOUZA, PARDONED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I became suspicious that part of the reason I was being targeted was because I did something very upsetting to a very narcissistic president.
Anderson, if this was a routine case, Preet Bharara was on CNN, my prosecutor saying recently, oh this was a garden variety case, tangle just like any other case. But why are my politics highlighted in my FBI file? My evidence is that the FBI is signaling to the Justice Department, look, we got one for you. Here is a prominent critic of Obama. You need to know that this is your political enemy you may want to go after this guy. What I'm suggesting is that under Hillary and under Obama, we are basically seeing this sort of new phenomenon, the use of the weapons of the state against political adversary, and may case is not unique into this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: D'Souza's prosecution in fact was led by Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for southern district, he joins me now.
This notion that this was a slate to prosecution, he really -- he didn't argue that in court, he is arguing this in TV interviews. He doesn't really have any evidence other than what he says is a reference in an FBI file to sue his opposition to Obama administration. I mean did President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder get tick off by the FBI about his political beliefs and seek you on him?
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: No, look, he has got (inaudible). He is upset that he was prosecuted. Most people who get prosecuted are upset. We have a sitting President who is being investigated, who is upset he is being investigated. It happens all the time to prosecutors and every district from time and memorial. The fact to the matter is -- there was a garden variety crime that he committed and not the crime of the century that we prosecuted before. We prosecuted a lot more Democrats then --
COOPER: For this crime?
BHARARA: For this crime, for paying -- for having a straw purchaser donate to a political campaign and overall --
COOPER: Right, he didn't just over donate himself, he convinced some friends of his to donate and then -- that he would immediately pay them back?
BHARARA: He tried to evade the campaign finance laws that have limits to make sure that the integrity election process if, you know, controlled. And then offer to repay them and he did it over time, he did it in multiple times. Again, not the crime of the century but a crime that was uncovered by routine analysis of this thing like we did in other cases including with respect to Democrats. And you have no choice but to prosecute such a case and other people have been charged with the same felony, with respect of the accusation, which I barely want to dignify that somehow because he makes films that are critical to people and -- the former president of the United States that as he says it, they sick their dogs, refer to me, colder as President Obama's dogs on him. I think it could be further from the truth.
I never had a conversation of any sort with the former president of the United States. Barack Obama never called me about the case, never would think to call me about the case, he will call three times. President Trump called me three times and the last time he called me I refused to return the call and I was asked to step down the next day.
Nobody in Washington told us to bring a case or not bring a case. We did -- what we normally do in all of these situations, career prosecutors and agents made a recommendation to bring a particular charge and that charge was brought. This issue of whether or not selected prosecution, he didn't use it to try to dismiss this indictment and the judge made that clear. But it was talked about and litigated in the district court, and the district court judge who is very respected, said it is all hat and no cattle. There's no basis for it. He pled guilty. He admitted he was guilty. He said he regrets his action. The judge found no selective prosecution --
COOPER: And he also said he knew it was illegal at the time what he was doing. He said he didn't know it was a federal offense but he knew it was wrong?
BHARARA: His lawyer, Ben Brafman, who is one of the great defense lawyers in the country today represents other people including Harvey Weinstein at the time, is no slouch, literary said in court, we have no legal defense to this crime.
COOPER: Why do you think he was pardoned?
BHARARA: I don't know. The other thing that is important to understand is that Mr. D'Souza didn't get jail time. He got probation.
COOPER: Right, and --
BHARARA: I'm sure it's wrong was being (inaudible). I don't know who Donald Trump makes his decision about pardons, it seems to be there's a political aspect to it and so the reason you have a system and you have a pardon attorney and the way that most pardons have been granted over time and some people have not agreed with them and I think Bill Clinton, issued a terrible pardon that my office sought to investigate with respect --
BHARARA: There are bad pardons on all time. I don't know why Donald Trump does what he does, but it sounds like he didn't read any documents, he didn't consult with anybody at the Justice Department, decided to pardon to please his political base.
COOPER: I want to ask you about this new filing from Robert Mueller saying that Paul Manafort was witness tampering in connection with the case, A, do you think he should -- his bail should be revoked?
COOPER: And are you surprise that -- I mean, Jeff Toobin was on before and Anne Milgram saying it's moving very slowly that decision.
BHARARA: Yes. Jeff and I talked earlier -- I saw him in the building earlier today and I said to him that -- and I don't know and I think they're very confident attorneys and they're pretty aggressive folks. I'm a little bit surprise, they didn't ask right away for him to be -- for his bail to be revoke and they suggest in their court papers today that I read either bail revoke or revise in some way.
[20:45:09] It seems to be an egregious, violation. I think Paul Manafort is bottoms up a lot of trouble. A, he might have this bail revoke. B, I think it's possible that they will bring additional charges under 18 USC 1512, which is the obstruction statute that they referred to win the papers. And then C, there is a decent chance of this evidence is going to come in at the underlying trial to show that he was conscious of what he was doing was wrong.
I am surprised as you asked why the hearing on this is going to take place 11 days from now as suppose to sooner. Maybe they're -- you know, the judge is bending over backward, trying to give the defense a chance to respond to allegations. But if you read the documents, the allegations seem strong.
COOPER: Yes. Preet Bharara, I appreciate it. Thanks very much. When we come back, EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is in trouble once again for yet another alleged ethics violation. This time it's in connection to Chick-fil-A. We'll explain how.
And then, Kate Spade dead apparently by suicide in New York but police are saying, a look back at her life in fashion legacy.
COOPER: Washington Post is reporting tonight that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, three months into this new job, had a member of his staff email, the head of the fast good chain Chick-fil-A asking for meeting with Pruitt about a potential business opportunity. The idea according to the Post was for Pruitt's wife to operate one of the restaurant franchises.
Meantime, Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst is calling Pruitt, "as swampy as you get" because of the laundry list of his alleged misuse of agency funds.
Josh Dawsey broke the latest story in the Washington Post asked Sarah Sanders about it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asked an aide, we reported today, to help his wife get a Chick-fil-A franchise. Does the President think that's ethical behavior?
SANDERS: I haven't spoken with the President about that since that report came out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that President Trump continues to have confidence in the EPA Administrator, assuming that he still does?
SANDERS: Once again, I haven't had a chance to speak with the President directly about the Washington Post's new report. We continue to have concerns and look into those, and we'll address them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Not exactly a full truth endorsement from the White House press secretary. Josh Dawsey joins me.
[20:50:03] So Josh, this communication between Chick-fil-A and Pruitt, explain how it played out?
DAWSEY: Sure. So Scott Pruitt wanted his life to have employment in Washington. And he asked a senior aide, the EPA obviously the administer to make an introduction to the CEO of Chick-fil-A and the goal of doing this introduction was a subsequent meeting where a potential franchise could be discussed. When Marilyn Pruitt, Scott Pruitt's wife could become a franchise owner of Chick-fil-A, that obviously was problematic, according to ethics experts and a lot of folks who watch government because you're asking a government official to help, you know, make private fortune for a wife of an administrator.
COOPER: Right. I mean, there are ethics laws, which says that a cabinet level official cannot do something or ask an underling, an aide, to do something that benefits them financially, correct?
DAWSEY: Correct. And, you know, several layers of issues there. A, he is asking, you know, a scheduler on government time to set up a meeting. He is going into the meeting as EPA administrator but also discussing private business. Whatever gain she could have gotten from this would be imputed to him, obviously, and it is murky in several ways. He is essentially looking for his wife to make money and using his government powers, his government time, his government aides to try and make that happen.
COOPER: Right. It is also interesting because according to your reporting, it is not like he just called up, you know, Chick-fil-A and said, hey, can you send me some information -- I mean, shouldn't my wife getting a -- doing a franchise or apply for franchise, I mean, you basically was wanting direct communication with the CEO of the company, not saying what the purpose of it was, kind of using his office in order to get direct contact?
DAWSEY: Just think a business opportunity, not asking specifically why he would be meeting with the Chick-fil-A CEO. And then setting up the meeting at Chick-fil-A, the CEO and the lawyer came and met with Scott Pruitt. Eventually, the franchise opportunity did not come through for Marilyn Pruitt, his wife but it went through several layers. She even began filling out an application and surprisingly, Anderson, at least just surprising to me, these are very competitive to get. There are thousands of people who ask for them every year and only a few dozen often get these franchise applications accepted. So this was a perk that he was trying to get for her that you can't just get as a normal person unless you're particularly qualified or have some connections.
COOPER: Pruitt didn't stop though with Chick-fil-A he also approached the CEO of Concordia, which is a non-profit organization but I understand according to your reporting that he was actually going to be speaking at and he got it so that his wife would do some, like event planning for the actual event where he was speaking?
DAWSEY: Yes. He would going to be speaking at a conference and while he was there he also secured a contract for his wife to do some unspecified event planning tasks for the conference. It unclear what she did but unlike Chick-fil-A deal, this actually went through and she was actually paid for this. And you know, that was described on the record today by the Concordia official.
COOPER: Josh, thanks very much.
DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: I want to check in with Chris to see what's ahead at the top of the hour in Cuomo Prime Time. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME: What is that like the 13th open investigation of Pruitt and he's still on there? I mean, it really does make you think that the White House just won't let him go because maybe they see him as one too many. We'll going to take that on.
We have Anthony Scaramucci here now, as everybody remembers, he was an early architect of the communications strategy for the White House and actually have very different ideas than they're employing right now, right? He open, put the President out there, do more media. How does he see the President disinviting the Eagles? What does he think it is really about? What does he think about the White House and its relationship with the abuse of truth?
We'll going to talk politics with him. We'll also going to talk policy. We've got Peter Navarro on, OK. He is the trade guru inside the White House. Why does he believe a two-front war with friends and foes is the right move for U.S. taxpayers? We'll take all that on and we got a new segment you're going to love, Anderson.
COOPER: All right.
CUOMO: Why I am wrong.
COOPER: Oh yes? I would like to see that.
CUOMO: Yes, I know you will.
COOPER: Chris, thanks very much. That's 9:00 p.m.
Just ahead, fashion Designer Kate Spade has been found dead at 55, apparent suicide note found at the scene referenced her, her husband and daughter according to the New York police sources. What we know, next.
[20:57:17] COOPER: Tragedy in New York today where fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead of an apparent suicide this morning. New York police sources say, Spade hanged herself and left a suicide note. She was just 55 years old. She had a husband and a daughter. Alex Marquardt reports.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 55-year-old sudden death Tuesday came as a shock to countless fans around the world, after Kate Spade's body was found Tuesday morning by her housekeeper in her apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
DERMOT SHEA, NYPD CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: There was a suicide note left at the scene. I'm not going to get into the contents of that note.
MARQUARDT: Spade had used a scarf to hang herself. Sources telling CNN that in her note Spade addressed her 13-year-old daughter. JOE ZEE, FASHION STYLIST: We lost an incredible vision. We lost an incredible human being. We lost an incredible woman who really paved the way for all these other designers to be able to do what they do.
MARQUARDT: Spade was born Katherine Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, the fifth of six children.
KATE SPADE, FASHION DESIGNER: I didn't grow up thinking I'm going to be a designer.
MARQUARDT: She met her future husband and business partner Andy Spade, the brother of Comedian David Spade at Arizona State University where she majored in journalism.
SPADE: Hi, I'm Kate.
MARQUARDT: She moved to New York and went to work for Mademoiselle Magazine.
SPADE: I really did like fashion and I really though I was very innovative. So my mother was actually very good at encouraging me to dress however I wanted.
MARQUARDT: She rose up to become senior fashion editor but in 1992 Spade quit to launch her own handbag line.
SPADE: Andy and I were out, honestly, at a Mexican restaurant and he just said, what about handbags? And I said, honey, you don't just start a handbag company. And he said, why not? How hard could it be?
MARQUARDT: At first they sold just six styles of bags, soon expanding to include jewelry, shoes and clothes for women who could often feel excluded by high end fashion.
ZEE: What Kate did with her collection was so unfounded back then. She created this idea of needing handbag but at an accessible price point.
MARQUARDT: In 2006 Kate and Andy Spade sold the last of their shares in the company, it was eventually resold last year with $2.4 billion.
MARQUARDT: And Anderson, we are learning more about that suicide note that in addition to addressing her daughter, she also references her husband, according to an NYPD source, to my colleague (inaudible).
The Kate Spade Company tweeted out their condolences today saying our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly heart breaking time. We honor all the beauty she brought into this world.
And Anderson tributes have also been pouring in from fans and celebrities alike. Many of them talking about the very first case made bags that they got. Anderson.
COOPER: Alex, thanks very much. For anyone suffering out there, the number for the national suicide prevention life line is 1-800-273-talk. That's 1-800-273-8255. They provide free confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. There is help out there, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Again, 1-800-273 talk.