tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN February 28, 2018 5:00pm-6:00pm PST
jeanne moos, cnn, new york. >> and thanks so much for joining us. you can watch "outfront" any time, any where, "ac 360" begins right now. >> what a day. a lot of breaking news tonight. on top of more big developments all day long. knew reporting on the president and jeff sessions. mueller is focusing on the first time he did. also, the sudden departure of white house communication director hope hicks and late words of the presidential berating she got for it. lying on his behalf. white lies she called them.
an exclusive conversation with bob woodward and carl bernstein. tonight they will talk about it in depth. we begin with cnn jim acosta in the white house. >> reporter: a former trump campaign official told me earlier today that during this ex-aides sati ex-aides session told us that comments made by white house hope hicks came up during these meetings with mueller's team as well as with investigators in the house and senate intelligence committees. this former campaign official says what is at issue is what hicks told the new york times about trump campaign contact
with the russians. in the new york times hope is quoted to saying we are not aware of any campaign -- who has spoken with mueller's team, the investigators with the special counsel office have asked whether or not hicks' comments was accurate and whether she in fact knew whether there were trump campaign contacts with the russians given in fact as we have seen many of those contacts have come to light in recent months. this is one part of the investigation, and according to the former campaign official not only is mueller interested in this but so is the house and senate committees. >> do we know why she resigned. she said the thing about telling
white lies yesterday on capitol hill, what do we know about what actually happened. >> according to the white house official i spoke with there was nothing nefarious quote-unquote about hicks' departure. according to white house officials this had nothing to do with rob porter and the comments she made yesterday. when she said from time to time she has to tell little white lies on behalf of the president. it was said to me this had nothing to do with the mueller investigation. we will have to see if that comes to light. this is something she wanted to do. and the white house put out glowing statements from the president and the chief of staff praising hope hicks. and the president in his statement left the door open with working with hicks in the future.
he may have a communications director in mind for the campaign. >> it does seem weird today of all days, suddenly decision to announce that she is going to pursue other opportunities. the president had this bipartisan meeting on guns which i assume the white house would want to have a lot of focus on and it was shortly after that meeting that the hope hicks news broke and dwarfed that meeting. >> reporter: i think it goes to show the white house needs a new communication director. if you were the communication director you would not schedule things in this fashion. you don't want a sudden departure of a key white house official and nobody was as close to president trump as hope hicks. she was frequently and she is probably still is and will be over the coming weeks in the residence with the white house,
with the president dealing with the news media. we know that all too well. dealing with hope behind the scenes. obviously this stepped over the president's message on gun control. in fact it was the departure of his communication director. >> or take your pick, going after his attorney general yet again. >> reporter: exactly. >> gloria, it is hard to overstate the reporting of hope hicks. during the campaign, i remember doing interviews with then candidate trump and it would be the whole campaign ad for a while was trump, hope hicks, and corey lewandowski. >> she is loyal. she is young. she is as one source said to me, she is his emotional support.
period. that is what he has. and he predicted to me with some trepidation that the president would go into a tail spin without her then. >> his former body guard, he has also left. >> when you look at the people he was close to, corey lewandowski, hope hicks, keither schiller, problems with jared, which means he has problems with ivanka. this is a president who is more and more isolated sort of on the personal side. general kelly is cutting off his phone conversations with all of his old friends and he is kind of alone. >> a source told cnn that the president berated hope hicks about the statement she made
yesterday. >> we know this president responds to the headlines and the news coverage that he consumes and it was a terrible day of news coverage between hope hicks and her testimony last night. everywhere, hope hicks speaks on behalf of the president of the united states white lies. it does not surprise me that he would have concern about how bad the news coverage was. i am sure that was not the reason as reporting indicates. the porter was not easy for her to go through as she was in a relationship with him. she is also, i don't know how to convey, but so close to the president, i mean no communication staffer in any white house that i know of would spend as much time with the president as hope hicks did.
she is also emotional in this. she is a pure loyalist to the president. >> jen, you were white house communication director. you know the job. >> there is no question hope by all accounts played an important account. she was the tamer of the savage beast that is donald trump. she protected many people on the staff from his whims and mood swings. the communication directors and the role of the communication director is not to print off cable coverage or print off tweets. that is not entirely her part. in large part donald trump is the communication director. and he is not going to allow somebody to serve in that role. her departure is significant. it leaves a major emotional gap in the white house. for trump and for a lot of the
staff. when people like that leave, you can see things come apart at the seam. >> you can go to people, what is his mood today, we need to get this done. you need somebody who kind of gets it. and she is that person. >> so we have to ask, again, the president publicly shaming his own attorney general. this is so bizarre. i mean it has happened before, but now it is happening again. it has got to be embarrassing for jeff sessions, humiliating for him but yet he continues to hang in. >> he issued the statement that he is defending the constitution. he has become the kate mckinnon version of snl. i can't think of a cabinet member or senior member of the administration to have to suffer this kind of humiliation for one
year. he was on board with trump in the primaries and went out there for him and campaigned. the lesson about the one-way street of loyalty. >> and comes on a day where the "washington post" has been reporting, that mueller is looking into the past comments, the public shaming that president of the united states did of his attorney general to see if it is part of an obstruction of justice to get rid of him and put in somebody more compliant to oversee the russian investigation. >> do i keep him? i made him the incredible shrinking jeff sessions. if you are jeff sessions, you are at the end of your career and thinking i want to leave at my terms. which is going on with a number of people in the white house. but what he has allowed trump to do is minimize him. >> in terms of somebody who is
executing conservative agenda r, he is actually doing it. >> even when it does it, saying we are going to crack down on leaks, people are reporting, oh, he is just trying to get in with the president again. trying to get in on his good side, when in fact jeff sessions is a real conservative. but today, jeff sessions did for the first time come out punching a little bit. i am not sure it is going to do him that much good. he did defend the department of justice and did release a statement saying we are doing the right thing by sending this to the inspector general. and he publicly said something which he hasn't done in the past. so maybe he is making progress. >> we are going to talk to the "washington post" reporter who broke the story coming up. hope hicks rise from hope who?
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♪ i'll stand by you. ♪ and i'll never desert you. ♪ i'll stand by you. more now on something gloria borger mentioned. solidarity on jeff sessions and rod rosenstein. that is on top of all the rest. hope hicks joining a long list of people who have done the job who is just the latest chapter. she has never held a job like this before. never worked in the white house before, never worked in washington. she is at the center of the scandal over security clearances. all in all, hope hicks, her story is quite a story and it is not over yet. more now from randi kaye.
>> i am 28-years old and i am the press secretary. >> reporter: it was a swift ride for hope hicks who went from modelling and acting to handling pr for ivanka's fashion line. and soon, her job would change again. >> she used to be in my real estate company. i said what do you know about politics. she said absolutely nothing. i said congratulations you are into the world of politics. >> reporter: hicks told new york magazine, mr. trump looked at me and said i'm thinking about running for president and you're going to be my president secretary. she had a note from candidate trump saying hopie, you are the greatest. >> get up here. she is always on the phone talking to the reporters. >> reporter: hicks had zero
political experience. she didn't even release a statement after a public screening match with former campaign manager corey lewandowski and at this campaign event in alabama she seemed hesitant to say a few years. >> merry christmas everyone. and thank you donald trump. >> reporter: with her position in the white house, hicks gained access to the world stage. and also the japanese prime minister state banquet where she stole the spotlight. on russia she has been interviewed by mueller team several times. yesterday she was answering questions for eight hours admitting sometimes she was required to tell white lies in the trump administration but insisting she never lied about
substantive matters. >> so much stuff goes through her as a conduit that she sits in a particularly important seat for mueller. >> reporter: and hicks was involved in the aftermath of don juniors meeting last year. helping craft the infamous press release saying the meeting was about adoption. she also craft the initial allegations of domestic abuse by porter. porter denied the allegations and resigned. the woman who rarely says a word in public will be taking her silence with her as she departs the white house. randi kaye, cnn, new york. >> more on her departure, joining us now quajoaquin castr
>> can you say anything more about what she meant by white lies? >> no. and her indication was it was small stuff and not substantive stuff. the question was actually has the president ever asked you to lie. it was not whether you have ever lied for the president. and what we are trying to get at is the president's actions and behavior in that question. >> her resignation does come a day after testifying. do you think the two are related? >> quite possibly. also the president may have berated her for being honest. people asked me what was your impression of her. and there was a point when she was going through that series of questions that her face almost
looked as if she was saying why did i get involved with these people, with donald trump. >> that was the sense you got. >> that was my sense when i was looking at her when she was struggling to answer these questions and remember, she was not involved in politics before the president asked her to become part of a consequential, the biggest campaign you can join. >> as the president said, she knew nothing about politics before he decided to make her communication director. she basically did not answer as many people had, she refused to answer questions basically citing executive privilege. >> it went beyond that. even when there was a question where it was clear that the answer would not be covered by executive privilege. i saw something yesterday which is for her lawyer to say we will take that under advisement or we are not going it answer that question. that was the first time an
attorney came in and was that arrogant about flouting the jurisdiction. >> the only way to subpoena her is if the committee decided to. and that seems unlikely. >> we ought to subpoena her. if she comes in on subpoena and doesn't answer those questions still then you hold her in contempt. and at that point you go in front of a court and a judge decides what happens. >> i don't think a departure of a communication director like this would be such a big story if this white house wasn't organized in a disorganized way it is. there aren't clear lanes. >> and she mentioned when you work for donald trump, you work for donald trump. that he has the final say about the campaign manager, above the chief of staff and above everybody else.
>> congressman castro. thank you. robert mueller looking into the circumstances last summer when president trump wanted to fire jeff sessions. reporting for the "washington post," played a key role in the unraveling of the president. their take on what is happening now. ...it starts a chain reaction... ...that's heard throughout the connected business world. at&t network security helps protect business, from the largest financial markets to the smallest transactions, by sensing cyber-attacks in near real time and automatically deploying countermeasures. keeping the world of business connected and protected. that's the power of and. oh! there's one.a "the sea cow""
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well, another one of those nights. more breaking news, "washington post" is reporting that mueller is taking a look at last summer when president trump wanted to fire attorney general jeff sessions. josh, what can you tell us about mueller's interest regarding jeff sessions and president trump. >> president trump was publicly shaming jeff sessions saying he was disappointing him. he was calling him beleaguered on twitter. what special counsel mueller's
investigation is trying to discern is whether in those conversations he was trying to fire jeff sessions or push him out so he could exert more control over the investigation. and in these efforts, special counsel wants to know was he trying to fire jeff sessions so he could put someone in who would handle the investigation deferently. >> mueller is looking at this was this a part of an attempt to obstruct justice. >> i think that is accurate distillation, our reporting indicates that over many months, a number of instances occasions of firing of jim comey being one. the statement on air force one that aides crafted was misleading about a meeting at
trump tower. was there an effort to obstruct justice. as was reported last months there was an effort where the president was thinking about firing mueller. a number of instances this atell me to oust jeff sessions that fit into a broader narrative. >> the story comes on a day when the president is publicly going after his attorney general. according to your reporting there was a remarkable amount of public vitriol and aimed at sessions. >> several days of relentless tweets. trump's aides asking for jeff sessions to quit. one of the things we reported ton t tonight in our story is the pressure has been on jeff sessions so sharp, that his
aides pitched in and bought him a bulletproof vest with his name on it. suggesting that he might wear it to work. >> you are learning about the kind of things the president says to others about the attorney general. >> derisive about attorney general sessions referring to him as mr. mcgoo, the comic character that was shortsighted and bumbling. he likes to refer to him as a mr. mcgoo. >> i always thought mr. mcgoo was sweet. >> i don't think president trump thinks jeff sessions is sweet. >> thanks very much.
>> thanks for having me. >> casetting the standard. reporting won the pulitzer surprise. and their book became a movie. bob was also an associate editor of the "washington post" and carl a senior political analyst. thanks for being with us. what do you make of the "washington post" report that the special counsel is looking at president and asking questions about president trump's beratement of his own attorney general last summer. >> it would be logical it thel. and if you talk to people who are interviewed by mueller's people, sometimes the interviews run ten, 12 hours. so they are going to ask every question.
i don't think you can draw a conclusion from it. >> from what questions, some of it is checking -- it would be remiss if they didn't ask. >> they are in a position where they have to tell the truth. that they are going to be, you know, careful or they may be forth coming with some leads. so i think it is part of the puzzle and the matrix we are seeing in all of this. >> i mean, again, on a day normally that would be the lead story, on this day we have had this meeting on gun control, and hope hicks stepping down. when you both look at this white house, just in terms in the way it is organized, the way it is run, have you ever seen a white house like this? >> no. and i think what's going on now, there are two stories that are coming together. there is the mueller investigation. the russian story. and the possibility of collusion and the possibility of
obstruction of justice. but there is now a sub text that people in the white house will say to you, it is unclear to them whether donald trump can effectively govern. whether he is capable of it in te terms of his own ability, conduct and whether or not things have gotten to the point where the wheels are coming off of this presidency. we don't know that. but certainly people in the white house are openly with each other and with journalist raising those kinds of questions. >> it is not clear who has authority and what authority. >> and it has been that way from the beginning. >> indeed, but as people disappear like hope hicks was one of the side kicks and i remember talking to her about what job she was going to take after the election. and she said, i just don't want to be involved in the hand to hand combat of the daily coverage. and she did step back from that.
and now you know, off she goes. so lots of people are going or have gone or may go. >> i was just re-reading the final days of an amazing book you wrote about the last year of the mixon administration. we have been careful about comparisons to watergate. did president nixon have anybody who was as close to him as hope hicks as jared kushner, as ivanka trump in that inner circle? >> one of the realities of all presidents is they have the disease of isolation. that there is not that kind of, where people come in and telling the full story and so presidents become protected and disconnected and i think that is happening. >> one of the other things that are similar, there are
similarities with watergate and a truck load of things that are very different. one of the similarities are people around the president of the united states who try to restrain the worst instincts of the president in both nixon's case and in trump's case. although i think it is more egregious in trump's case. we now have in the white house, kelly, over at the defense department, mattis. a group of people around the president of the united states who is almost primary function is to keep him in line. keep him from doing things that might be dangerous in their eyes. it is an kpord snaextraordinary the final days, of the nixon presidency, there were those lines. >> he had a chief of staff who was a general who was relatively new in the administration.
was hague's role similar to the role kelly is playing? >> well, we are seeing. i remember the month nixon resigned, we went to hague's house. his son let us in. >> i am sure he was thrilled. >> he was a happy guy. >> his son lost the four weeks of allowance or something. then hague told us, it was astonishing interview. he was so worried about nixon that nixon might take his life, that he took away nixon's pills. at one point nixon said, in your business,al, they would leave a revolver in a drawer. now, i don't think we would suggest at all.
emotional stress and toll that a president under investigation, by and large the stories are really well done, but how do you think trump looks at this? it is piling on. it is unfair. >> it is a witch hunt. >> how come they are doing this. it is a witch hunt by mueller and by the press and we have to be careful about being as accurate and adopting a tone that is rep pra torial. >> in some ways, let me ask, comparing the stress that nixon was under and the complexity of the watergate, in this story, potentially involves his
children, his past business dealings, is this more complex for this president and perhaps closer to home? >> very emotional events for president of the united states. nixon reacted, he was presiding over a criminal coverup. >> nixon wasn't -- >> that is what most of his efforts went into. whereas trump, we see trump's reactions every day. and yes, he is under siege and he thinks and feels and believes he is unfairly under siege. >> do you wish nixon had twitter back then. in terms of a real time ror shaq's test. >> he had the tapes.
and then thousands of hours. and if you listen to these, and carl and i do this somewhat obsessively for the historical lesson, it is appalling what nixon used the president as personal. the criminality was staggering. we don't know with this investigation goes and in the final days, we wrote about the firing of archibald cox who was a special prosecutor. >> quick break in and we will have more from bob woodward and carl bernstein. whoop, whoop! [crowd 1] hey, you're on fire! [mascot] you bet i am! [crowd 2] dude, you're on fire! [mascot] oh, yeah! [crowd 3] no, you're on fire! look behind you. [mascot] i'm cool. i'm cool. [burke] that's one way to fire up the crowd.
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catch phrase for investigators worldwide. take look. >> you tell me what you know and i will confirm. i will keep you in the right direction if i can. about that's all. just follow the money. >> this is deep throat. >> from the fbi. do you, i mean this is a dumb question but do you miss the days when you were talking to sources in dark garages? >> we still do. >> in all the president's men, you write extensively you wrote the term rat efing. it is amazing when you think about that compared to the
russian efforts which is rat efing on a major scale. >> both of these events. watergate was about richard nixon's attempt to undermine the electoral system of the united states. the most basic element of american democracy. what the object was nixon wanted to run against george mcgovern the weakest candidate the democrats could put up. he did not want to run against the strongest candidate. and he and his aides set out to devise this was to determine the outcome of an american election. in both cases ironically enough
you are dealing with the same allegations in some way. >> nixon succeeded as carl pointed out. but we don't know the impact of the russian meddling. and that's a big issue and maybe we'll never know. and we don't know, there is so much noise out there. and there is so much, you know, all they have determined the election, no they didn't. half these ads that are being questioned actually ran after the election and so could not effect the election. it is a lot of work and i think one of the points we agree on is there is a lot of work that mueller and the house and the senate investigations need to do. but so does the media. and not just a reaction to the daily event, but doing the four-hour interviews, going and
knocking on the door at night, meeting people and really establishing a relationship of trust so you can find out what they really know. >> one other aspect though, of this story that is very different. and that is whatever the russians did and we might not ever find out what the effects were, they have destablized us. and the fax thct that we are in this, the destabilization that has taken place through russian's efforts is kprord snary. >> was nixon able to do that?
the criticism that has been made against president trump is that essentially there has been reporting that briefers are loath to bring up russia him because he takes it personally. >> your pointe, it takes a toll. and when you have emotional people like nixon was and like trump is, and you, the idea that you can shut your -- shut it down and say oh yeah, let's talk about the budget and do this, some of that is going on. i, you know, you really wonder and something that everyone needs to think about, what is the governing impact. are we being governed? this discussion, we'll do this legislation, oh, we can't do that. maybe they are going to do none.
>> i want to put up one of your headlines from july 1973, nixon sees witch hunt insiders say. >> how did you find that? >> hardworking producers. clearly that push back was not effective for nixon. >> i also want to play a clip of nixon talking to his press secretary on the phone. let's play that. >> i want it clearly understood that from now on ever, no reporter from the "washington post" is ever to be in the white house, is that clear? >> absolutely. >> unless it is press conference. never in the white house. no church service. you tell connie don't tell mrs. nixon, because she'll approve
it. no reporter from the "washington post" is ever to be in the white house ever again, and no photographer. is that clear? none ever to be in. and that is a total order. and if necessitiary, i will fir you. do you understand? >> i understand. >> it is also about a mind set and that is, this shows again that nixon didn't understand the press. the answers to watergate questions weren't in the white house. not going to walk in and talk to those people. you have to go see them at night and you have to develop a method and technique of just saying, you know, we are not going to stop. we had editors and owners at the post who said don't stop. >> so much of the language used. ron ziegler said i personally quote this is shabby journalism
by the "washington post." we hear this time and time again about unnamed sources by this administration. >> nixon always had an adversarial relationship with the press. what you have with trump though, trump's career was built on manipulating the press on having a great relationship with the new york post and the new york daily news. even to the point that donald trump impersonating as someone called don barren. he has been accustomed to having a fawning press. and now he cops to washington and has got caught up in his own conduct. the question whether it is criminal or not, we will find out. the question about his
stability, republicans in congress have asked. and he cannot believe that the press which he once so controlled will go with these stories and he goes and says they are the enemy of the people. >> but he takes them seriously and he believes lots of those stories that are critical because they are coming from people who work with him. >> we have to take another quick break. more with bob woodward and carl bernstein. president trump has the letter to prove it. more from both men, next.
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together, we're building a better california. back now with bob woodward and carl bernstein. you wrote in a piece in "the washington post" a couple weeks ago about the conflict, the growing conflict between president trump and the department of justice. you said -- your article began with, we're here again, and it's interesting because president nixon thought that his attorney general, elliott richardson, who was sort of from the eastern waspy establishment, which nixon didn't necessarily like, but he needed richardson, but he sort of thought richard southern was going to be an ally of his. >> we tried to make him one, and also this is an interesting contrast. nixon wanted to bring richardson in, kind of mr. straight arrow, because he could redeem the justice department as attorney general, and of course that was
all part of trying to suck richardson into the cover-up, which he wouldn't -- >> but nixon, when he brought richardson to camp david, if my memory serves me correct, he had this talk with richardson in which he said, a, don't take the job unless you think i'm innocent. but you have to protect the presidency from the president. so on the one hand, he gave richardson hope that this investigation would be legit and independent, and at the same time, he was sort of asking for a loyalty test, it seems. >> yes. but it really was part of the cover-up. >> yes. >> it was to bring richardson in, and we know from the tapes and the things during this period, it was all a front. >> from the beginning? >> well, i -- yes. from the beginning of nixon's presidency. and this is the point that -- you know, we've written about this. there were all kinds of wiretaps on reporters. >> break-ins. >> break-ins. >> ordered by nixon. >> ordered by nixon and this
kind of whole idea of, ah, i won. democrats, you get the irs, the fbi, the cia. it was an assault on democracy in a fundamental way. >> it's hard to imagine even in this day the criminality that was involved. >> it is, but what's so interesting to watch the trump situation is another president assert that he has these extraordinary powers and has an authoritarian bent, certainly in his words, that are suggestive of being willing to do all kinds of things. he might pull back from an illegal act, but the words are really dangerous in terms of what he advocates and what he -- >> but he does have that authority. i mean presidents -- >> yes. he can fire -- >> all these people. >> sessions in a minute.
that's his -- >> and you see this buildup of hostility toward his own justice department, his own attorney general. you know, at some point that's going to stop. that's going to -- >> do you think that's because sessions was one of his earliest supporters out on the campaign trail, that he believed sessions would be more of an ally just as nixon hoped richardson would? >> in part, but he has said aloud, and he says through the white house, walking the halls and complaining to people about sessions, that sessions will not do his bidding. and sessions appointed rosenstein, who appointed mueller simply because he fired the -- the president fired comey. >> it's an explosive situation, and at the same time, part of the remedy, if we can talk about remedy, some transparency. i mean let's kind of come clean and answer some questions about
that. yeah, probably it won't happen, but i think we have to be there asking those quoestions. >> we could talk for hours. up next, a new bombshell kpits from the white house. hope hicks stepping down as president trump. she told white lies on behalf of the president and what the president's response was to that admission coming up. what did you have in mind? i don't know. $4.95 per trade? uhhh and i was wondering if your brokerage offers some sort of guarantee? guarantee? where we can get our fees and commissions back if we're not happy. so can you offer me what schwab is offering? what's with all the questions? ask your broker if they're offering $4.95 online equity trades and a satisfaction guarantee. if you don't like their answer, ask again at schwab. ( ♪ )
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swelling of your face, tongue, or throat, dizziness, or confusion. ask your health care provider if you're tresiba® ready. covered by most insurance and medicare plans. ♪ tresiba® ready ♪ breaking news tonight and throughout the hour surrounding the departure of the president's communications director hope hicks and the president's fury that she told the truth to congress about telling white lies as she described them on his behalf. and new cnn reporting that special counsel mueller's interest in a statement that she made just after the election denying ties to russia. there's also new "washington post" reporting tonight on mueller's interest in the president's public shaming of his attorney general last summer, which also continued today frankly. i want to start the hour with cnn's jeff zeleny at the white house. what's the latest? what have you learned? >> reporter: anderson, of all the times we have stood here and talked about people leaving the white house, none is as perhaps consequential to the president as this. hope hicks, the communi