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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Louisiana Governor Declares State of Emergency, Activates National Guard; President Trump Blasts Sessions Over Indictments of Two of His Earliest Congressional Supporters; Trump Administration Withholds 100,000+ Pages of Kavanaugh Doc; Trump Cites "The New York Times" In Latest Witch-Hunt Tweet; According to "New York Times," Ohr And Steele Worked To Flip Russian Oligarch; "Build Bridges, Not Walls;" "RBG" Premieres Next On CNN At 9PM. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 3, 2018 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

A very full holiday night including a new attack by the president on his own attorney general and critics say on the rule of law. One lawmaker, Republican, using the words banana republic in his criticism. That's just ahead.

We begin, though, with breaking news on the tropical storm that is expected to become a hurricane, Hurricane Gordon, when it hits the Gulf Coast. Louisiana's governor has just declared a state of emergency, activated the National Guard. We've also just gotten new information on the storm.

Our meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now with the latest.

So, this could very well strengthen into a hurricane and new advisories just in. What's the latest?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The latest is just moments ago, they have dropped the warnings for south Florida, Anderson, which is good news, which means the system is moving northward now. The center is about 95 miles just to the west of Ft. Myers, which has been inundated with heavy rainfall. The pressure has been dropping, which means it's getting stronger, and the winds have kicked up from 50 miles an hour to 60. It needs to get to 74 to be declared a hurricane.

The question is how much time and space does it have to generate that strength. And it does look like it has this. It's moving at a pretty good clip. You can see the warnings are from near New Orleans just to the east, all the way over to the border of Florida and Alabama. So, as this system approaches, we're still looking at a landfall roughly 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. tomorrow night as a category 1 hurricane.

COOPER: And what about the possibility of storm surge?

SATER: Well, the storm surge is probably the biggest threat with this, because such a vulnerable area. But we may have an area of three to five feet. Now that's significant. Now, it does not include downtown New Orleans where there are voluntary evacuations, but it does include areas of Gulfport, Biloxi, Bay Saint Louis could be a problem, all the way over to Pascagoula with 3 to 5 feet.

But don't forget about the Parishes of Louisiana. It doesn't not take much to inundate them. So, even right around Plaquemines Parish, 2 to 4 could be affected. And the inundation map in areas of yellow really show what could be a problem. More from around Slidell and that would be eastward towards Pascagoula again.

COOPER: So, when is it expected to make landfall in the gulf, in the Gulf Coast?

SATER: Yes, I think around 10:00 or 11:00. Now, give or take an hour. This thing has been moving fast, about 17 miles per hour. And that's actually a good thing.

COOPER: You're talking about tomorrow night, obviously?

SATER: Tomorrow night. Yes. Thank you for making that clarification. But the tropical storm-force winds are broad enough that we could have some other threats, and obviously that could be not just power outages, downed trees and things of that nature, but because it is moving faster, we should keep the rain totals done a little bit, Anderson.

COOPER: I also saw some reporting about the possibility of a few tornadoes.

SATER: Yes, good question. I want to make sure everyone understands. The strength and magnitude, it doesn't have to be a category three or four. I mean, tropical depressions spawn tornadoes, and it's not just at landfall. It's these outer bands.

I think we could have tornadoes from the panhandle of Florida, southern Georgia is possible, south central areas of Alabama, Mississippi, even up towards Arkansas. Again, it doesn't have to be a large storm. But again, those feeder bands and the instability in the atmosphere are definitely with the storm.

It's the first one to really affect the lower 48 this year. So everyone's heart gets pumped up a little bit. This is a little surprise. It wasn't even declared a tropical depression. It went right to tropical storm status early this morning, and it disease look like it will intensify to a category 1 hurricane landfall tomorrow night.

COOPER: All right. We're going to follow it throughout the hour, bring up any updates as warranted. Tom, thanks very much.

President Trump today did something striking, and really without precedent in the White House, or this White House or any White House until now. He signaled in plain English that he believes the criminal justice system should not be impartial or apolitical, but instead should work for him and his party, which sounds completely outlandish until you actually read what he tweeted this afternoon.

And I'm quoting: Two long running Obama era investigations of two popular Republican congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge just ahead of the midterms by the Jeff Session Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job, Jeff. By Jeff, he means the honorable attorney general of the United States. A minor detail, his attorney general, by the way.

And keeping him honest, the two investigations were actually begun during his own administration, not the previous one. The congressmen he is talking about are Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California, and they were more than fellow just Republicans and political allies, they were also the first two sitting House members to support Mr. Trump's candidacy.

Keeping them honest, the president with that tweet not only interfered in two active prosecutions, he flat-out admitted he was doing it out of partisan political motives. There is really no interpretation need. He just says. Two easy wins now in doubt because there's not enough time. Now, it's not clear from the tweet whether he thinks the two shouldn't

have been indicted at all, or that they shouldn't have been indicted before the voters could reelect them, safely ignorant of the serious charges they face.

[20:05:03] And just to be clear, they are serious charges. In the case of Congressman Collins, alleged insider trading. As for Duncan Hunter and his wife, charges include wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violence, conspiracy to convert funds to personal use.

Now, you might be saying maybe the president just thinks they shouldn't have been indicted before the election because it's wrong to level serious allegations against anyone so close to Election Day. Keeping them honest, he seems to have another standard for Democrats, or at least one Democrat in particular.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton is being protected by a totally rigged system. And now it's up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box tomorrow. That's what's going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was Donald Trump just a day before the election arguing that it was wrong, totally rigged for the Justice Department not to pursue charges against candidate so close to the vote. He still clearly believes that. Quoting attorney Joseph diGenova, he recently tweeted, quote, Hillary Clinton clearly got a pass by the FBI.

As you know, a lengthy investigations found no basis for criminal charges against Clinton, but when lengthy investigations uncovered serious alleged law breaking by Congressmen Collins and Hunter, it was suddenly wrong to charge them.

Again, here is what the president said about Hillary Clinton as early as last Thursday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I mean, look at what she's getting away with, but let's see what she gets away with. Let's see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, if you're thinking there is a double standard at play here, you're not alone. Just ask Republican Senator Ben Sasse who put out a statement that reads in part, the United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice, one for the majority party and one for the minority party.

That may not be what we have right now, but it sure seems like it's what the president wishes we did have.

Aside from Senator Sasse, there has been mostly silence from congressional Republicans.

I want to get more now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He joins us from the White House.

So, I mean, the attacks on Sessions, they have become routine for the president, but this certainly seems to go even a step further than normal.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it went much further than normal. One, it was not about the Russia investigation which has become a bit routine, as you said. But this is the way it was different.

In one respect, the president was commenting directly on an open investigation, a case that has really just been filed. The indictments were handed down earlier this summer. So, very unusual for the chief executive, the president to be weighed in on that.

Two, he was essentially urging his attorney general or scolding him for not weighing in for political purposes by sort of giving special treatment to Republicans so essentially saying they're above the law.

And three, he was also essentially saying he is afraid that these Republicans now are going to lose their seat. One undercurrent here at the White House as we sort of head beyond Labor Day is Republicans losing control of the House. Republicans losing control of Congress. The president thinking a lot about that. So building all of that into his frustration here today.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, the president, A, would comment on specific cases while suggesting the Department of Justice should overlook allegations for political reasons. You know, again, it may seem normal, but it's completely not normal for the president to do that. What has been the response from the GOP?

ZELENY: Well, Anderson, it's Labor Day, so most Republicans are not here. They'll be coming back to Capitol Hill tomorrow. But it was quite striking how silent Republicans were. Perhaps not surprising, but striking nonetheless.

But it was Nebraska's Republican Senator Ben Sasse who also had some other things to say. He was weighing in on this just a short time ago earlier this evening. He also says this. He said: These two men have been charged with crimes because of evidence, not because who have the president was when the investigations began.

Now, Speaker Paul Ryan was a bit more tepid in his response. He said the DOJ should be apolitical, did not go much beyond that.

But, Anderson, I was struck as the words from the McCain funeral are still reverberating around Washington, this is about the rule of law. This I suspect would have been something that Senator John McCain would have weighed in on about the rule of law. So, certainly, the silence from other senators, Republicans and House members about this was striking here tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, we'll see if there is any tomorrow. Don't hold my breath. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Reaction as well tonight from fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. She tweeted: Repeatedly trying to pervert DOJ into a weapon to go after his adversaries and now shamelessly complaining the Department of Justice should protect his political allies to maintain his majority in the midterms is nothing short of an all-out assault on the rule of law.

Perspective now from our legal and political team. Former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent joins me, CNN Legal Analyst and former Justice Department Legal Counsel, Carrie Cordero, and Norm Eisen, Obama White House ethics czar, former ambassador of the Czech Republic and author of the new book "The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House."

[20:10:03] Congressman Dent, you heard Sally Yates calling the president's tweet nothing short of an all-out assault on the rule of law. Is she right?

CHARLIE DENT (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSMAN: Yes, Sally Yates and Ben Sasse have it exactly right. It's outrageous that the president thinks the Justice Department should only go after, prosecute their political enemies and lay off their allies.

I'd like to point something else out too, Anderson. You remember Jesse Jackson Jr., Corrine Brown, Michael Grim, Chaka Fattah, all of whom were investigated under the Obama administration and convicted. In fact, Corrine Brown was sentenced during the Trump investigation. Nobody suggested it was partisan investigation. These were based on the facts and the evidence.

And likewise with Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, they're entitled to the presumption of innocence. Let DOJ make their case. But the president is doing a terrible disservice to the men and women of the Justice Department, to the FBI and especially to Jeff Sessions and Christopher Wray. He's basically saying these guys are politically motivated in their work and I don't believe they are in these cases. COOPER: And frankly, Congressman, there are a few others in the

administration who have executed the president's agenda as effectively, whether you agree with it or not, as Jeff Sessions.

DENT: I agree. Look, yes, Jeff Sessions is an appointee of Donald Trump and is working to advance his agenda on a number of issues, immigration and others. But when it comes to dispensing justice in these criminal matters, I believe he is trying to behave appropriately and professionally in all cases, and for the president to call him out is really beyond the pale. This is what happens in autocratic governments and banana republics as Ben Sasse has said.

COOPER: Carrie, I mean, President Trump obviously ran on being the, you know, quote, law and order candidate during the campaign. You've said you believed then that candidate Trump had the intent to potentially improperly influence judicial or prosecutorial matters. I'm sure you don't want to be right about that. But it sure seems that's what's happening here.

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Anderson, I'm not the least bit surprised about what he tweeted today. This is what he campaigned on. He campaigned on, in part, using the instruments of the Justice Department for political retribution against his political opponents. He was consistent about this throughout the campaign, and here we are two years later, and he is still saying the same thing.

If he could, he would use the Justice Department and prosecutorial powers to engage in political retribution and to pervert the system of justice. His current nominees who are in place, Attorney General Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, his own FBI nominee Director Chris Wray, they have held this off. They have run the Justice Department the way that it's supposed to be run, insulating the career lawyers and the prosecutors from political influence of the president.

But he's doing this out in public, and he has an intent, I have thought throughout his presidency going back to the campaign to be able to influence the Justice Department in a way that's completely inappropriate and that contravenes the rule of law. It's un-American what he wants to do.

But he doesn't care. He hasn't learned over the last couple of years, and so he continues on this tack. And really, the question is when are other members of Congress, Republicans in particular going to say that this is not only not OK, but that they are opposed to his firing Attorney General Sessions or Rod Rosenstein.

COOPER: Y know, Ambassador Eisen, you know, earlier when I was talking to Jeff Zeleny, I said it's normal for him to attack the attorney general. It's not normal in any other time, but it has become normalized for him to do that. But to Carrie's point, this does seem, you know, several steps farther than that.

NORMAN EISEN, BOARD CHAIR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Anderson, it is. He is escalating the pressure. It's something that I write about in my book. This is straight out of the autocrat's tool kit. And the attacks that we see, the first thing that autocrats do, and we've seen some far worse ones in the past century, the first thing they try to do is seize the levers of law enforcement and turn them against their political enemies, because that's one of the most -- the most powerful domestic weapon they have.

Also, not to be minimized, he is feeling the heat from multiple investigations closing in. And this is not just about these two early allies of his. It's also about him. He wants to delegitimize the whole system because another thing I write about, democracy is more powerful than this autocracy, Anderson. And it's coming for Donald Trump, so he is pushing back.

COOPER: You really believe that, though, that the institutions are stronger or strong enough to resist this kind of thing from the president of the United States?

EISEN: I do, Anderson. I spent the past four years living with five people who were involved in those fights over the course of a century, all of whom lived in my house where I was ambassador.

[20:15:10] And in every case, sooner or later, every dog gets his day. And sooner or later, democracy is more powerful, including because of the rule of law. And we're seeing that with Donald Trump, the extraordinary moment that Manafort and Cohen being brought to justice simultaneously, the coming obstruction report. There is going to be powerful evidence that the president obstructed justice.

And then the conspiracy issues around his campaign with reports that his long-time confidante Roger Stone, maybe even his own son may be in jeopardy, that is all pointing to him.

COOPER: Yes.

EISEN: And now, Anderson, he is looking at House of Representatives that is going to investigate him as well.

COOPER: Well, Congressman Dent, do you have the same confidence in institutions that Ambassador Eisen does? Because I mean, again, to the point that Jeff Zeleny was making, there's been very little reaction from Republicans in Congress.

DENT: Well, Anderson, I do have confidence in the strength of our institutions. It's -- we should be very proud that of in this country. But they are taking a beating right now, these institutions, and there is another issue here that we should discuss. I'm sitting here in the city of Philadelphia. Two mayors in this region, the mayor of Allentown and the mayor of Redding, both Democrats, have been convicted, one just a few days ago and the other a few months ago.

Both Democrats are appealing. They might say in their appeal, they believe the DOJ, these are politically motivated prosecutions when in fact they were not politically motivated. The investigations began under Obama. They completed them under the Trump administration.

And so, I think the president is going to create problems for cases that are pending. I'm not a lawyer, but I can hear the appeals right now that they're going to say this Justice Department is politicized. And in this case, it's two Democrats who are convicted based on the weight of the evidence. So, I do have confidence in our institution, but as I said, they're taking a pounding right now.

COOPER: Carrie, what impact does this have on whether it's the attorney general or other people, the Department of Justice. What kind of affect does it have?

CORDERO: Well, on a day-to-day basis, the prosecutors who are in the U.S. attorney's office and those supporting them at Main Justice, it's not going to affect them. They're going to continue to go about their job, they're going to tune him out and they're going to continue to work with the FBI and other investigators and bring the cases that they deem to meet the standards of prosecutorial discretion. In other words, if they think that's it appropriate under attorney general guidelines to bring a case, then that's what they're going to do.

But it is up to the current U.S. attorneys who are political appointees and were confirmed, and to the leadership of the Justice Department to continue to insulate the career officials and the career prosecutors and lawyers so that they can continue to do their job. And that's why it's important politically for the leadership to be protected and for members of Congress to speak out so that the president does not lay on the leadership more in a way that removes them from office.

COOPER: Yes. Carrie Cordero, Ambassador Eisen, Congressman Dent, thank you very much.

Again, Ambassador Eisen's new book is "The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House".

Coming up next, what we're learning about Democratic plans to oppose the president's Supreme Court nominee who begins confirmation hearings, of course, tomorrow.

Later, the murdered woman that President Trump has turned into a martyr in his fight over illegal immigration. Now, Mollie Tibbets' father is speaking out, and what he is telling the president and the public is making headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More reaction tonight to the president's tweets slamming Attorney General Sessions and the Justice Department's decision to prosecute two allegedly corrupt Republican Congressmen Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter. Our senior legal analyst and fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara tweeting this, by the way, is next level crazy, inappropriate, unethical, stupid, incriminating.

With that as the backdrop, Senate confirmation hearings begin tomorrow for President Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who might one day be called on to rule on some of what's transpired now. However, lawmakers will not have all the information some might like to have about his record. That's because of a last-minute White House decision to hold back documents. They were withholding more than 100,000 pages of his record.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says they released another 42,000. We're also learning tonight about the Democrats' plan to attack him.

CNN Supreme Court Analyst, Joan Biskupic joins us now with more.

So, Joan, the documents being held are from Kavanaugh's time in the White House counsel's office under George W. Bush. What more do we know about them?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, let me tell you this, Anderson. There are several categories of documents all of which are being held in one way or another. Brett Kavanaugh worked for George W. Bush as a White House counsel lawyer and a staff secretary.

And, first of all, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has withheld all the staff secretary documents. Those are from 2003 to 2006. And that is when Brett Kavanaugh was right at the side of President Bush during Katrina, during Supreme Court appointments, during lots of fallout from the 9/11 policies.

And then the ones you're talking about now, the 100,000 pages withheld are from his White House counsel years where, you know, he wasn't even that close in with the president, but they're asserting that based on broad privileges, they're going to withhold them. And I just have to say, Anderson, that John Roberts had a similar job in the White House counsel's office for Ronald Reagan. And in 2005, many, many, many of his documents were released. He had to answer for what he wrote as a White House counsel lawyer, and he somehow survived it.

So, it's a real hole in the record of Brett Kavanaugh here.

COOPER: Obviously, Senate Democrats have been quick to complain about this.

BISKUPIC: Right.

[20:25:00] COOPER: Chuck Schumer is saying all the makings of a cover-up.

Is that just politics? Or, I mean, to your point earlier about Roberts, how unusual is this?

BISKUPIC: Well, you know, doesn't it sound like politics for how polarize we are right now? But it actually is more than that. It's a real hole in the public's understanding of Brett Kavanaugh, because he himself has talked about how formative those years were for him, not just as an individual, but toward his legal thinking. He's talked about that.

And I have to say of the documents that have been released, we've done a pretty extensive review of them. And even those are so slight, they're only a small fraction. Tens of thousands of documents that have been released originated with Brett Kavanaugh. There are mass circulations of news clips, of talking points, of schedules. So, it's very hard to get any kind of new picture of this nominee.

COOPER: So, just looking ahead to the nomination to the hearings which obviously begin tomorrow, Manu Raju has some reporting on how Democrats plan to push him on issues. It doesn't seem to be setting up to be a sail-through nomination.

BISKUPIC: Well, I think the sheer numbers, though, will make it a sail-through in the end. I think the Democrats are going to ask some tough questions, as Manu has reported. They're going to focus on whether he was fully truthful back when he was up for the D.C. Circuit nomination. I think they'll hit him hard on some questions of discrepancies in his testimony.

They're going to really probe on his thoughts about the Affordable Care Act, because that really matters to senator, and it matters to the American public. They'll also ask obviously about Roe v. Wade which is such a perennial. But more important this time around, Anderson, because Brett Kavanaugh would secede Anthony Kennedy who was the swing vote to uphold abortion rights.

COOPER: Yes, it's fascinating. We'll be watching tomorrow.

Joan, thank you very much. Joan Biskupic, appreciate it.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

COOPER: More now on the man who will be taking the seats for the hearings if confirmed, taking place in the High Court for life, Randi Kaye tonight has a look at his life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I am deeply honored to be nominated to fill his seat on the Supreme Court.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judge Brett Kavanaugh, now hoping to occupy the seat of a man he once clerked for, Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh has been on the D.C. Court of Appeals since 2006 and spoke of Kennedy during that confirmation process.

KAVANAUGH: He conveyed to his clerks and certainly conveyed to me to use one of his favorite phrases: the essential neutrality of the law.

KAYE: Kavanaugh spent years working for independent counsel Kenneth Starr, helping investigate President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

"The New York Times" says Kavanaugh urged prosecutors then to question the president about oral sex and masturbation. Kavanaugh also helped outline grounds for President Clinton's impeachment.

(on camera): Later in 2009, Kavanaugh wrote: the nation's chief executive should be exempt from time consuming and distracting lawsuits and investigation.

Some have interpreted this as opposition to the indictment of a sitting president. CNN has learned that the Trump White House was aware of these comments during the vetting process.

(voice-over): On health care and abortion, Kavanaugh has already made controversial decisions. Last year, he sided with the Trump administration to block an abortion for a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, noting the government's permissible interest in favoring fetal life. He has never expressed outright opposition to Roe v. Wade, but during his confirmation process in 2006 was hardly forthcoming in his personal views.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Do you consider Roe v. Wade to be an abomination?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, on the question of Roe v. Wade, if confirmed to the D.C. circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent on the court. It's been decided by the Supreme Court.

SCHUMER: I ask you your own opinion.

KAVANAUGH: And I'm saying if I were confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, Senator, I would follow it. It's been reaffirmed many times, including in Planned Parenthood --

SCHUMER: I understand. But what your opinion? You're not on the bench yet. You've talked about these issues in the past to other people I'm sure.

KAVANAUGH: The Supreme Court has held repeatedly, Senator, and I think it would be appropriate for me to give a personal view on that.

SCHUMER: OK, you're not going to answer the question.

KAYE: More recently, Kavanaugh raised eyebrows when "The Washington Post" reported when he racked up $60,000 to $200,000 in credit card debt, buying baseball tickets and taking on a loan.

"The Washington Post" reported his debt exceeded the value of his bank accounts and investments.

A White House spokesman told the paper that Kavanaugh had bought Washington Nationals season tickets and play-off tickets for himself and a handful of friends who then reimbursed him. He said the judge has stopped buying season tickets.

Kavanaugh attended Yale University and Yale Law School, graduating in 1990. In 2001, he met his wife when they were both working for President George W. Bush. They have two daughters. He coaches one of his daughter's basketball teams where the players call him coach K. Now he's looking for a new title on the highest court in the land.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well coming up next, the President tweets another complaint about what he calls the rigged witch-hunt, and this time he cites as his source the, quote, failing "New York Times." Strange Labor Days indeed. We're going to hear from the "New York Times" writer that he quoted about what the President actually left out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's Labor Day, but the President isn't taking a day off from tweeting out half truths or attacks on the press. In a tweet a few hours ago, the President curiously cited as a source one of his favorite targets in the "New York Times." A "Times" article lays out how the FBI and Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to flip a Russian oligarch with close ties to Kremlin. The President tweeted and I quote, "According to the failing "New York Times" the FBI started a major effort to flip Putin loyalists from 2014 to 2016. And quote, "it wasn't about Trump. He wasn't even close to a candidate yet. Rigged witch-hunt."

Now that quote was something "New York Times" Correspondent, Matthew Rosenberg said on CNN, and Matthew joins us now.

[20:35:09] So the President did quote you that this effort started before the President was a candidate. he left out your reporting that things changed by the fall of 2016, right?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, by the fall of 2016, the FBI showed up on the doorstep of this oligarch and wanted to know about Paul Manafort who had had a business relationship with this Russian, wanted to know if Manafort was the link between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. You know, the President also sort of misconstrued the larger point here which is that this outreach started in 2014 long before he's candidate suggesting that his allegations of a witch-hunt, of a deep state plot out to get him aren't the case, that it only turned to the investigation into his campaign after a totally separate FBI investigation began, it's a totally separated kind of evidence or sources that they had developed.

And so he is both misquoted, kind of left out an important part of what I was saying and misconstrued the larger point here.

COOPER: Right. In fact, he's arguing against, you know, other -- the whole idea of the rigged witch-hunt, because as you said, the effort to flip the oligarchs as the President said went on before the President was a candidate. So it runs counter to his argument that he's been making.

ROSENBERG: Exactly. And, you know, the other piece of this is that this effort involved Bruce Ohr which is the Justice Department official which has become a favorite of the President to attack. And Christopher Steele, the former British spy who had compiled the dossier of these allegations against -- about Russia and the Trump campaign. And, you know, the President has kind of painted them as both functions of this deep state plot, but we now know that their communications in 2014, '15 and '16 were largely about this effort to flip a number of Russian oligarchs, that it was an FBI-led operation supported by the Department of Justice.

That's why Ohr was involved. It was focused on Russian organized crime at the beginning. Christopher Steele was using as an intermediaries, he had long dealt with the world of kind of Russian organize crime and Russian intel.

COOPER: So you're saying Ohr and Christopher Steele, they had a reason that they were in communication and it began before the President was even a candidate.

ROSENBERG: Exactly, it was a legitimate kind of attempt to create or cultivate sources within incredibly powerful community of people who are close to the Russian President, who know a lot about how organized crime and -- and the economy in general works in Russia.

COOPER: And according to your reporting the effort to flip this Russian oligarch their (INAUDIBLE), it eventually failed?

ROSENBERG: It didn't work. You know, we also know that every time the FBI had contact with their PASKY, he apparently reported to the Kremlin. I mean I think everybody understood this is a pretty low probability low percentage shot in the beginning, but it's what one does in the law enforcement and intelligence. You know, you've got to try and find sources who know about what's going on. Those people tend to be the least likely to tell you anything.

COOPER: What is Bruce Ohr's connection to the dossier?

ROSENBERG: You know, his connection is that he has known Steele since 2007. There is a whole world of kind of people who are focused on Russian organized crime, Russian intelligence. Ohr was among them. Ohr's wife Nellie was among them. Chris Steele was among them. Over a breakfast in July 2016 in Washington, Steele was passing through town. They were all having breakfast. What we've heard is that Ohr apparently said hey, what are you're working on? He told him about the dossier.

And they kept in touch on that and/or definitely told people in the FBI and in DOJ and I'm hearing this from Steele, but we also know that independently of that entire connection, Steele was trying to get that dossier into the hands of others in the FBI, that he had been hired to do this work. What he found he thought was incredibly alarming and that law enforcement needed to see it. And so totally independent of Bruce Ohr, Chris was actually going through other contacts he had to try and get this into investigators.

COOPER: All right, Matthew Rosenberg, appreciate your reporting, thanks very much.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, a blistering pushback from the father of slain college student Mollie Tibbets, directed at politicians who he says are using her murder for their agendas.

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[20:42:58] COOPER: The father of murdered Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts has written an emotional op-ed about the death of his daughter. He once again asking people to keep his daughter out of the immigration debate. He says she would not have wanted it. Her murder has become a political talking point because her suspected killer is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

Over the weekend Mr. Tibbetts in "Des Moines Register" quote, "Do not appropriate Mollie soul on advancing view, she believed were profoundly racist." He added quote, "The person who was accused of taking Mollie's life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie." Mr. Tibbets also said to build bridges, not walls. His op-ed came one day after President Trump's oldest son Donald Trump Jr. had his own op-ed in same paper and pointed blame at liberals for Ms. Tibbets' death. He wrote quote, "The mask is off from the true radical face of the Democrats has been exposed. They're seemingly more concerned about protecting their radical open borders agenda than the lives of innocent Americans."

Joining now is CNN Political Commentator, Steve Cortes, a former Trump campaign adviser and Kirsten Powers, a CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist.

Steve, let me start with you. I mean clearly, Mollie Tibbetts' father doesn't want her death to be politicized. Is it appropriate for Donald Trump Jr. and the President and others in the GOP to continue using Mollie Tibbets' death for political purposes? Or framing it in an immigration debate?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's appropriate to talk about policies. It is. I certainly won't kick my quarrel with him. He is entitled to grieve however he wants, he is entitled to his political views. I would tell you a group of people who also though grieve and have very strong political views, and those are angel parents, the parents of people who like his daughter have been killed by dangerous illegal aliens, and they have a very different view. They believe their children would be alive today if our country had the will to enforce our existing laws and to have a real border. So people like Marianne Mendoza, who --

COOPER: Right, I'm saying but should the bit President -- I mean I understand the President has held press conferences with the parents that you're talking about. Should he continue to use Mollie Tibbetts' name in this example?

CORTES: I believe we should continue to talk about the policy. The point here again, it's not specifically Mollie Tibbetts, the point is that --

[20:45:09] COOPER: Well, he is talking about Mollie Tibbetts.

CORTES: And she is -- OK, she is an American citizen. And the fact that she is dead at the hands of an illegal alien is a reasonable policy talking point. Yes that is a reasonable policy discussion.

COOPER: OK.

CORTES: And even if it doesn't matter, her father that the killer was here illegally, it matters to a lot of us. And to me as a father Anderson, it matters a heck of a lot to me because I don't want my daughter killed by an illegal alien who shouldn't be here in the first place, particularly ones who have proved themselves dangerous already and haven't been deported.

COOPER: Kirsten, does the fact that the man accused of killing her, the fact he is an illegal immigrant or illegal alien, does that -- should that be part of this debate?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. And this is very similar to the debate that happened around Kate Steinle, who was tragically killed in California. And this is a tragedy, and tragedies happen. But that doesn't mean that you need to demonize an entire group of people because of a tragedy. And I think if you have the father saying please, out of decency, leave us out of this, then you are sort of obligated to leave him out of it. I disagree that just because you're afraid of this happening to your daughter, that it's OK to exploit this girl's death when her family has asked her not to.

Now, if we look at the statistics, which I think do matter much more than how people feel, the statistics are very clear, which is that undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants commit crimes at much lower rates than the average American. That's from the CATO Institute, which is a conservative libertarian think tank. There is another study in criminology that found a similar outcome. So this isn't really up for debate. This is an old story. We've seen it a million times, demonizing people that are --

CORTES: Kirsten?

POWERS: -- different and saying that, you know, whether it's Italians or Jews, now Irish, now it's people from Central America and Mexico.

CORTES: Kirsten, nobody is demonizing anybody. I am Hispanic. And by the way, the victims are largely, if not majority Hispanics when it comes to dangerous illegal aliens like Sergeant Mendoza, Hispanic- American who was killed by an illegal alien who already should have been deported because of convicted of a crime. And secondly, I hear this all the time, this canard that they commit crimes at a lower rate. Well, that might be fine. The point is tragedies happen, OK you're right. But most tragedies are not preventible. When you're talking about American citizen who decides to do something evil against another American. When you're talking about an illegal alien who doesn't belong here in the first place, that is 100 percent preventable.

So every single crime, even if it's just one is preventable, and it's an outrage. It's why we need a wall. It's why we need an end to sanctuary cities, and most of all we need it, Kirsten, to protect Hispanic-Americans who bear the brunt of these takers in our society. It's very easy I think for a lot of elites to hide because they don't deal day to day with dangerous illegals. You know who do? People with names like Cortes and Mendoza and Jamiel Shaw Jr. in Los Angeles, California.

(CROSSTALK) POWERS: OK, I listened to. I'm sorry that you're saying --

COOPER: Steven, are you not an elite by the way, because your name is Cortes? You are an elite right? I mean where do you live, Washington, D.C.? You mean you work in Washington? You're an elite.

CORTES: I don't live in Washington, D.C. I certainly didn't grow up an elite. I'll tell you that.

COOPER: Right, well -- all right, I've seen your cuff links. You're an elite.

POWERS: So first of all, I'm sorry you think statistics are a canard. That's interesting. But more importantly, if you look at the cities where you have the most undocumented immigrants that happens to be in major urban environments where a lot of so-called elites live and actually do interact a lot with people who are undocumented immigrants. New York City, for example, one of the places that has -- I think maybe the most undocumented immigrants in the country. And the elites have no problem with them.

So I don't understand this idea that you think that somehow elites are not living in cities where there are undocumented immigrants. That's just a complete falsehood.

CORTES: My point is -- no. My point is that the victims of illegal immigrant crime overwhelmingly are working class people, largely people of color, not elites who live in generally very safe places, gated communities, a high-rise buildings.

POWERS: Who lives in a gated community? I literally don't know anyone who lives in gated community.

CORTES: Really? Really?

POWERS: Who lives in a gates community in Manhattan? I'm sorry.

CORTES: I didn't say in Manhattan, but all over America. My point is working class Americans are the ones who deal with the realities. Both competition in the workforce and the dangers to their communities. They're the ones who deal with the consequences every day of illegal immigration. The people who like illegal immigration quite frankly are the elites of corporate America because they want cheap labor. That has worked very well for them and terribly for the working class masses, which is one of the main reasons that they so clamored to the idea of a wall, an enforcement. And one of the reasons they elected Donald Trump in 2016 is they said enough of what has served that kind of globalism and open borders nonsense has served the elites well. It's been disastrous.

[20:50:08] POWERS: Meanwhile nobody actually supports open borders. If you want to talk about canards, this is the biggest canard of them all. I'm as liberal as you're going to find on immigration and I don't support open borders. So the idea that Democrats support open borders --

COOPER: All right.

POWERS: -- is just some crazy talking point.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Steve Cortes, thank you --

CORTES: Is it really?

COOPER: -- Kirsten Powers as well.

POWERS: Yes t is really.

COOPER: Appreciate it. In just a few minutes, CNN airs the original film "RBG", revealing look at the trail blazing life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I'll speak with the filmmakers next.

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COOPER: Earlier Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh begin tomorrow. Tonight in just a few minutes, a really fascinating look at Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

[20:55:03] The new CNN Original film "RBG" takes an intimate look at the Justice's personal and professional like. I'm going to speak with the filmmakers in just a minute. But first I want to show you a clip on her friendship with Justice Scalia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though they had differing points of view, they were dear friends. I'm sure they were picking at each other the whole time, but they kind of enjoyed it.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Justice Scalia would whisper something to me. All I could do to avoid laughing out loud, I would sometimes pinch myself. People sometimes ask me, well, what was your favorite Scalia joke? And I said, I know what it is, but I can't tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They enjoyed going to the operas together. They enjoyed discussing particular operas, and of course they appeared together in an opera.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: With me now are the directors and producers of "RBG", Julie Cohen and Betsy West. Thanks so much for being with us. Congratulations. I mean this film has gotten amazing reviews. It's -- I'm excited that people are going to be able to see it on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So are we.

COOPER: Yes. What was the importance of the relationship she had with Scalia?

JULIE COHEN, DIRECTOR & PRODUCER, RBG: Well, you know, their friendship really symbolized, I think, a lot. I mean these are two people very much known for ideologically opposite views.

COOPER: Yes, completely.

COHEN: Yet who had just huge respect. And as you saw in the clip, even affection for one another. And, you know, in these divisive times looking at a relationship like that, like I think there's a lot to take away from and feel pretty good about.

COOPER: Yes. The relationship also that you talk about in the film of RBG -- I guess I'll call her --

COHEN: She signs her name RBG.

COOPER: But the relationship between her and her mom, I mean it was this extraordinary history.

BETSY WEST, DIRECTOR & PRODUCER, RBG: Yes. I mean her mother had a tremendous influence on her. She was -- that she came of immigrants, and her mother emphasized learning, reading. And, you know, kind of imparted two lessons to her that she talks about a lot. One is, you know, if you're going to find a man to marry, that's great. But make sure that you can fend for yourself.

COOPER: And her mom wasn't able to go to college.

WEST: Yes.

COOPER: She became a bookkeeper.

WEST: Yes.

COHEN: Right.

WEST: She has said that the difference between being a bookkeeper and a Supreme Court justice, one generation in America.

COOPER: And only in America would that kind of take place.

WEST: Yes.

COHEN: Yes.

COOPER: Also I mean the Justice's relationship with her husband and the sacrifices -- I mean they both made a lot of sacrifices, but the sacrifices he made are particularly interesting given the times that they were made in.

COHEN: Absolutely. I mean even by today's standards, he was an incredibly progressive feminist kind of a husband, supported everything she did. At some points, that meant taking a back seat so that he could be pushing her career forward.

COOPER: Taking care of child care.

COHEN: Child care, all the cooking. COOPER: And even they moved to Washington really for her career, and he basically got another legal job just so that they could move to Washington.

WEST: Yes. Yes. People couldn't quite believe it. They'd say oh what's it like commuting back to New York, you know, because they couldn't believe Marty would have moved to Washington so she could be a judge.

COOPER: What do you think -- you know, she's become such an icon for so many people, particularly young women. What do you think it is about her that has struck accord?

WEST: You know, I think there's something about this very tiny, elderly grandmother who speaks her mind and who stands for principles. And what's interesting to us is seeing the audiences that it's across the generations. I mean older women who come out of the film and they know exactly what Ruth Bader Ginsburg was up against as a young woman when she faced tremendous discrimination. And then you have like little 7 and 8-year-old girls who come dressed up like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you know, with a collar, the glasses, and their hair back. I mean they really identify with her.

COHEN: And the huge millennial fan base who look at her like literally as a rock star. People lined up for blocks to see her give, you know, a talk at a law school, which is usually about constitutional principle. And yet, you know, people waiting kind of at the stage door afterwards wanting to get an autograph. Like literally everywhere she goes we saw this again and again over the year that we filmed.

COOPER: I'm also amazed, you were telling me before we went on air, she hadn't seen the film until it actually showed publicly at the Sundance Film Festival.

WEST: Yes. I mean she didn't ask to see it ahead of time, and so when we found out that we were going to Sundance, we asked if she'd like to go, and she said yes, she would. And so we sat across the aisle from her as she watched the film, which was I would say --

COOPER: Stressful.

WEST: Yes, rather nerve-racking. But she seemed to enjoy it a lot. And she laughed and cried, pulled out a tissue a few times. But afterwards, she said she was very happy.

COOPER: Can (INAUDIBLE) watch this Julie and Betsy, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you Anderson.

WEST: It's great to be here.

[21:00:01] COOPER: CNN Original Film, "RBG" starts now.