ANDERSON COOPER, “ANDERSON COOPER 360” HOST:
Dana, you interviewed the Vice-President there, the DMZ. What did the tell you?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was really clear, Anderson, from the moment he uttered his first words here on the Korean Peninsula that he was coming with a different kind of message, intentionally so, from the Trump administration to the North Koreans. And when he talked about it, he sounded a lot like somebody who is not as interested in diplomacy as we’ve seen from past administrations. So I asked him about that.
BASH: You said the era of patience, strategic patience is over. What does that mean in real terms?
MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It was the policy of the United States of America during prior administrations to practice what they all strategic patience. That was to hope to marshal international support to bring an end to the nuclear ambitions and the ballistic missile program of North Korea. That clearly has failed and the advent of nuclear weapon testing, the development of a nuclear program, even this weekend to see another attempt at a ballistic missile launched all confirms the fact that strategic patience has failed.
BASH: So what does it mean to end it in practical terms? It’s either use military force or find a diplomatic solution that has alluded all of your predecessors.
PENCE: Well, I think as the president made clear that we’re going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience. But we’re going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably. And I know the president was heartened by his discussions with President Xi. We have seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea. But there needs to be more.
BASH: So it was really clear that he was talking about what we have seen in the public over past few weeks, from President Trump, trying to be more aggressive, trying to pressure the Chinese to use its leverage with North Koreans.
But, Anderson, we have seen that movie before. I looked up a story that I did 13 years ago this month on this very trip with then Vice- President Cheney talking about the same thing that the Chinese need to get more involved, that they need to use the leverage.
So it is still not really entirely clear how and how much more the American administration, the Trump administration is willing to do to make that happen with the Chinese.
COOPER: It’s also interesting, I mean just how public this visit to the DMZ was. And a clearly, you know, the administration wants to send a message to North Koreans who are watching with the images, not just words they’re using but the images of the vice-president in a military as jacket looking over the border.
BASH: That’s right. And I thought one of the things that was really fascinating to watch is how the vice-president made an audible. And it was a real audible given the fact that they did want to send a message, a symbolic image with imagery.
And initially, up until the last moment, Anderson, they told us that the vice-president would not leave the so-called freedom house, which would mean he would be behind glass looking over at the DMZ, looking at those North Korean soldiers. And when he was there, he realized that that was not the picture that would really threaten the North Koreans of the Vice-President of the United States being shielded with bullet proof glass.
So he said, I’m going out there. Secret service, security, they were not thrilled about it. But there was nothing they can do. Just when it comes to pure symbolism, he clearly made the right call, Anderson.
COOPER: Dana Bash. Dana, thanks very much.
Joining us now is Former Ambassador of South Korea Christopher Hill. He’s dean of the Josef Korbel School of international studies at the University of Denver. And also wrote the “Outpost, A Diplomat at Work”. Also CNN Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen and Robert Litwak, Director of international studies in Woodrow Wilson Center. He recently like in the Korea stand off to the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.
David, let’s start with you. The fact that you have North Korea’s U.N. representative saying that thermonuclear war may break out at any moment. Maybe it’s by verbally and maybe not. It’s certainly, you know, incredibly a tense time between the two countries. Where do you see this going?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Anderson, I have had the privilege of going to the DMZ twice with President Reagan and then with President Clinton. I can’t remember a time since then when we have been so close to a dangerous breakout of war in which the two sides could I think go after each other.
Robert, look, compared this to the Cuban missile crisis. A sort of Cuban missile crisis in slow motion. That was a gripping phrase. There are big differences.
The Cuban missile crisis was not an existential threat to the United States. And this is also much more complex than the Cuban missile crisis. We went head-to-head against the Russians then. This time around, there really is five nations with serious interests in the outcome of this. You have to conduct diplomacy among them. But there are some similarities, Anderson. You’ve got two leaders who are untested facing each other.
President Kennedy deeply believed after history of World War I that the biggest danger was miscalculation. And that danger is here. But finally, President Kennedy understood that the best way to resolve this was to bring a show of force but to combine it with creative diplomacy.
And that’s what really at the end of the day saves the situation. We didn’t go, you know, we went eyeball to eyeball and the other side blinked. And it was really a critical show of presidential leadership.
GERGEN: One of the most critical in all of American history the way President Kennedy combined the threat of force but also created diplomacy. He never abandoned that pursuit at the whole way.
COOPER: You know, Robert, you did, you talked about this as the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion. Explain that how you see it.
ROBERT LITWAK, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, WOODROW WILSON CENER: Well, this is a Cuban missile crisis in slow motion. It’s not taking place in 13 days. But in the next several years, North Korea could attain the capability to strike the U.S. homeland with a miniaturized nuclear weapon on a multi-stage ballistic missile. And this would be a game changer. And this new threat requires us to pivot to serious diplomacy.
We essentially have three options in dealing with North Korea. We can negotiate, bomb or acquiesce. And we can’t bomb because it carries the catastrophic risk of escalating into a second Korean war. And when we won’t negotiate, we end up acquiesce. And my argument is that we should pivot to serious diplomacy now to bend the curve of this trajectory so that North Korea by 2020 does not have a nuclear arsenal approaching one half the size of Great Britain’s.
When I got into this business, I couldn’t have imagine a North Korean arsenal that size. And that supposed that to its economy, $50 billion, that’s about the size of the economy of Dayton, Ohio. So, North Korea is a failed state with nuclear weapons.
COOPER: Yeah. Ambassador Hill, you said that President Trump is “Trying to out North Korea” the North Koreans. How is that going?
[21:10:07] ROBERT HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Well, he certainly tried to play some brinkmanship with them. And it’s kind of a game they enjoy playing. And so the question is, are they going to call him on this? And the concern is, of course, when you send a carrier battle group into the area, you risk the possibility of the North Koreans just slightly going ahead with some kind of test. And then what are we going to do?
I mean, the key ally there is South Korea. They’re the ones with 20 million people within range of North Korean artillery. So anything we do in the area of war really would have to involve the South Koreans and they are not up for that right now.
I think overall, the administration has done the right thing. They have sent the vice-president to South Korea. They’ve also continued to have I think very close contact with the Chinese. So, I think the issue, and for me the analogy with Cuban missile crisis has to do with making calculations and with the possibility of preemption. And I don’t preemption is something we can do especially when we’re talking about an ally there.
COOPER: You know, David, I mean every administration has pointed to the Chinese as obviously a key player in the region with actual influence over North Korea and wanted them to do more. And this administration certainly wants to. They say they have seen some signs on coal and other things.
But I mean China does not have an inherent interest in a North Korean regime which collapses or goes away and a unified Korea that is an ally of the U.S. that would change the balance of power in the region.
GERGEN: Absolutely. But what China is trying to do is to find balance. They don’t want to see the regime toppled, have chaos on their border, have people trying to pour into China. That would be a catastrophe on the Peninsula. But at the same time, the Chinese certainly don’t want a fight to go on. Because that could be even more catastrophic as both as Christopher Hill just pointed out.
So, you know, I think China is going to try to sort of do it balanced. But it seems to me the administration has moved now in the last 48 hours to put more emphasis on we want to settle this short of war. We want to do it — we want to be aggressively pursuing a peaceful outcome and increasingly expressing some sense that they’ll give the Chinese more time to get there. But I think they’re pinning a lot of hopes right now on China helping to pull this off.
COOPER: Robert, for you, is China, you talked about intense diplomacy. Is China critical in that?
LITWAK: Absolutely. A North Korean breakout would be a game changer for the United States. But it would be a game changer for China, because of the strategic implications of it. South Korea and Japan might reassess their non-nuclear status. The United States would bolster the region. This creates the political occasion for a reset. How we think about North Korea, the views of the China.
And what I have argued for — I called for a pivot to serious diplomacy. The focus of that diplomacy should be the negotiation of a freeze, locking in North Korean capabilities where they are now. And that’s a near term optimization point for the parties. Because for North Korea, the regime would remain in power but they would retain a minimum deterrent. For China, they would maintain their buffer state but avert these adverse strategic consequences I referred to.
LITWAK: And for the United States, it would be an interim agreement towards long-term denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
COOPER: On the night before Americans have to come clean with the government about their finances, the White House is under fire for not coming clean with the voters on a number of things including the president’s taxes or even just the names of people visiting the White House. Now, before going further, we should say that there is no law mandating either of those things. However, in withholding, no pun intended, on taxes or the White House visitor or log administration is reversing precedent. Some of it recent, some of it going back decades and today, reporters called them on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why does the president object to people knowing who is coming in White House?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It’s not a question of objecting. It’s about following the law. We’re following the law as both the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act prescribe it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why didn’t he take this opportunity to one up the transparency game? If Obama is — SPICER: Because I think I’m trying to explain that to you. I think that we recognize that there’s a privacy aspect to allowing citizens to express their view. And that’s why we maintain the same policy that every other administration did coming up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Keeping him honest, here is what Sean Spicer said about transparency during the transition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: Conflicts of interest arise when you’re not — when you are sneaky about it, when you’re shady it. When you’re —
KATE BOLDUAN, “AT THIS HOUR” ANCHOR: No, they just exist.
SPICER: No, no, if you tell everyone here is what’s going on, here is the process, here are the people playing a role, that’s not — that’s being transparent. What we have seen in government for so often is that people have been shady about their roles, hidden things, not released things. At some point the level of transparency has exceeded any modern president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that’s a very bold claim. The question is though, has the administration lived up to it. More now from our Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us tonight. So these rules from the White House, how are they explaining them?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they’re relying on something that they do a lot, they blame the Obama administration or try and switch focus today.
Now, Sean Spicer today in the White House press briefing was saying, look, the Obama administration was not that transparent. He called it a thaw transparency. He said that they would have secret meetings and they would not include everyone on the visitor log.
But at the end of this administration, at the end of the Obama administration, there were some 6 million individual, visitor logs released. Now, it’s true after covering the Obama White House as well, not every meet, not every visitor was on that visitor log. But there were a lot of them. In fact, thousands and indeed up to millions of them.
The administration here is Sean Spicer is saying, look, the Obama administration is only acting transparent. They weren’t really being transparent. So that’s on the visitor log. But on the tax returns, the tax release that was so interesting because he said, look, the president not releasing his tax returns. He’s under audit.
Again, well of course, tomorrow is tax day. So it’s sort of unclear how he would know if the president is already under audit for 2016. But that’s their answer to that as well, Anderson.
COOPER: Has this administration made any changes that actually increase transparency, done anything to back up Spicer’s claim, you know, during the transition that this is the most transparent presidency or will be?
ZELENY: I was trying to think about that today. I’m looking for some examples.
And I think, in a couple respects they do list more meetings that this president has on his schedule. We know who he’s meeting with during the day, who he’s having dinner with some evenings. We don’t know unfortunately anything about his weekend schedules. And as we know, he has a weekend working schedule at Mar- a-Lago or the other golf course.
So overall, I think in terms of more transparency, I am really hard pressed to think of more ways overall that this president is more transparent. Perhaps on social media because he sends out these things himself but I don’t think that’s quite an apple to apple comparison. So in terms of Sean Spicer backing up if they’re more transparent, Anderson, I just don’t think that’s true.
COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks. We got no problem releasing the names of panel members. Ryan Lizza is here, Anthony Scaramucci, Matt Lewis and Kirsten Powers.
Anthony, for somebody who is obviously a supporter of the White House, Donald Trump very effectively talked about draining the swamp. Isn’t figuring out who is visiting the swamp part of that?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: Well, I see it differently. Because I think that what the president is trying to say even with his North Korea policy is that he wants to be a little bit less predictable. He doesn’t want to signal too many different things.
I also think that if you’re going to be a deal cutter which the president obviously is, he wants to bring in many different faces and many different voices into the White House, Anderson. And I think one of the big risk that he has, let’s say he brings in a staunch Democrat to help him cut a healthcare deal or help him with tax reform.
He doesn’t want an egg on the face of that Democrat because of the extreme partisanship that’s going on in Washington. So I think it’s a combination of different things. My guess is there going to be more transparent than they are saying right now.
But as he’s trying to cut deals and try to get his legislative agenda in place, my guess is he wants to offer some protective anonymity to some of the people that he’s meeting.
COOPER: Ryan, I mean that’s one way to look at it. It makes —
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Look, the law does not require the public release of these people. I believe it’s under executive privilege that the White House is allowed to block the stuff from being released. The Obama administration did it voluntarily after they were taken to court and that’s what’s being rolled back, now, that voluntary release.
I think there are two things going on that sort to intersect. One, there’s the executive order that the president put through in January that changed a very important ethics rule that Obama had in place. It — the Obama rule required anyone, any lobbyist to not be allowed to work for an agency it had lobbied in the prior two years. That is no longer the case. So you have lobbyists who can get a job working in the same agency that they lobbied over last two years.
So, you’ve got the lobbyists, making it easier for the lobbyist to come in and work in the government. And then with banning the release of the logs, you are preventing the public from knowing the lobbyists that are coming in and lobbying this new group.
So, for example, “The New York Times” reported the other day that there’s a woman she hear a night at the National Economic Council who for last few years has worked at Fidelity lobbying on retirement issues.
She has now has the job of the person she lobbied over the last few years. And the person that comes in to lobby her, we won’t know who that is because they won’t release the logs.
COOPER: Matt, is that draining the swamp?
MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, “THE DAILY BEAST”: No. I mean, look, I will sit as a journalist, I want more transparency. I want more information. If I’m working at the White House, I probably would say let’s maybe keep things quiet. It could jeopardize cutting a deal with a Democrat, people who know that Donald Trump is toxic, at least to the left, to that base.
But to ultimately what it comes down to me is, you know, we care about process here a lot. But I think the public is going to care about results. The people, you know, in Western Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, my relatives. If Donald Trump, you know, gets North Korea under control, if he gets, you know, Syria under control, if he gets the economy running again, I don’t think they’re worried about whether or not the visitor log is kept, you know, is put on a website.
COOPER: But it was — I mean, I thought the draining the swamp thing was one of the most effective and powerful things. I remember Corey Lewandowski when Trump said that in speech. Corey Lewandowski was like, you’re going to be hearing a lot more of that because it is something that really does resonate with people.
KIRSTEN POWERS, “USA TODAY” COLUMNIST: Yeah. I mean, look, the Obama administration and they got criticized for this. But they did say that they would not release the names of particularly sensitive meetings. So that would be the way of getting around what you are talking about where you don’t get to, you know, a lobbyist meeting is not a particularly sensitive meeting. Something like, maybe what you’re talking about are your interview with Supreme Court justices, that’s particularly sensitive and you can hide that.
But what’s strange about what the Trump administration is doing is Sean Spicer is basically standing up there and saying, criticizing the Obama administration who did more than they did. Who was doing more than the Trump administration.
So there’s — he’s sort of suggesting that, sort of an imperfect system under the Obama administration is better than no release. That doesn’t really make sense.
LIZZA: That we never — the names were released every few months. So, you know, for which I think is a good point. Because, you know, I think politicians should have some space to negotiate where not everything is in the public.
[21:25:01] But they were on a time release under the Obama administration, three to four months after you were in the White House, that’s when the name was released on that side.
COOPER: On taxes, again, President of the United States does not have to release his taxes. It has been the tradition I think of every president since Nixon. The White House they said — was asked at point blank I think by John Carl at ABC, why don’t you just say you are never going to release them and be done with it and Sean Spicer said, I got to get back to you. Anthony, do you think that’s going to happen?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think it’s in the same vein. I think the president likes to leave all of his options open. He’s an optionality person. If it’s in his interests to release those tax returns, he will, Anderson.
I think he has proven it was in his best interest not to release those tax returns. I sat in on more than one strategy meeting related to those tax returns. I mean, I also worked for Governor Romney back in 2012 when in September he released his returns and there was a whole swarm of journalists that got on his returns and started beating up on him unnecessarily.
And so I think the president as a candidate was a phenomenal strategist by not doing that. If there was something illegal or that varies in those tax returns, there’s enough IRS agents in the United States pouring over those returns. So we would have heard about it by now.
We also — when those returns — on of them came out in 2005 or one even earlier than that during the campaign, what do we learn about the president? He makes a tremendous amount of money. He built an incredible brand and he pays a tremendous amount of taxes, Anderson.
And so I think the American people have litigated the issue even though people —
POWERS: The IRS isn’t going to tell us something unethical is going on. And plus, you really saying we’re dependent on some IRS —
SCARAMUCCI: They would bring different illegal action I guess for —
POWERS: — person illegally leaking information, like that’s how we’re supposed to get the information?
SCARAMUCCI: No, no. They would bring — they would get an enforcement agent involved and they would bring a legal action against the president.
COOPER: Right. The person is not —
SCARAMUCCI: Of course it’s not something illegal going on —
COOPER: — going to say something illegal but just for an understanding of —
COOPER: — who did the president have loans to, Russian banks, have they loaned the president money in the past. Things like that. I mean, I guess, Ryan, those are some the issues that —
LIZZA: Yeah. And when before —
COOPER: And obviously, a report is going to jump on it. I get politically why, you know, why he wouldn’t want do it. Who wants to be as transparent at that? But —
LIZZA: What’s also interesting, Anthony, it sounds like you were in a strategy meeting where this was discussed and the politics of the issue is what won the day.
SCARAMUCCI: I think it’s more than that. I think it’s — and then I think the president made a decision as a candidate, wasn’t necessarily just the politics. It was like, here are all the big issues that are going on in the world. This could be a major distraction.
He had a tweet on twitter where the tax return went up to the ceiling. He’s like, look how ridiculous this return is. We’ve got to get massive tax reform in the United States.
LEWSI: That was —
SCARAMUCCI: And so, my guess is if he gets tax reform, maybe he’ll want to release those old 4 million page returns. I don’t know the answer to the question and I think he wants to leave that optionionality out there.
LIZZA: But it wasn’t just about — is it safe to say it wasn’t just about the audit that prevented the campaign from releasing his tax returns?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think that the president wants to maintain that position it was related to the audit because, again he — and I literally — I heard him say this on the campaign trail. I heard him say it in front of an open mike. He didn’t want 500 people looking at it, questioning every single thing in the return and having that be a cannon fire or powder for the auditors. And so, for me, you have to remember why he got elected. He is a phenomenal business person and a great deal cutter. And it turns out that he’s a fairly nifty political strategist. His decision not to let out the returns I think was a good one because he’s president.
COOPER: We should point out on the audit thing, I mean, and I’m a broken record on this but his own attorneys did release a letter saying that his returns prior to 2003, 2004. I can’t remember the exact date, are not under audit.
COOPER: So —
LEWIS: No, I mean, clearly it look, I mean, I think it’s pretty obvious that Donald Trump is guilty of rank hypocrisy. That he says things —
SCARAMUCCI: You don’t like him?
LEWIS: He says things that aren’t true. But I think he’s a smart politician. And I think you actually have a very good point. Look, if he had put out his tax returns, let’s assume that there’s nothing nefarious there, that he is not hiding anything, you know, that would be, you know, Russian ties or something like that.
You never know where that might go. Like, the press could have focused on that a lot and the election might have turned out differently. I think it was probably a smart strategic move. Obviously, if you’re a journalist, you want more transparency.
And look, I think we should change the law. There should be a law. If you’re going to run for president, the highest office in this land, then you should be required to disclose your taxes. But that’s not the law.
COOPER: Kirsten, final thought about that?
POWERS: You just — we just — I guess we keep talking about the campaign. The campaign is over. So why can’t he release them? I mean, we don’t — this isn’t about strategy anymore. And look, other presidents have released this information and haven’t gone up in flames. So why is Donald Trump going to?
SCARAMUCCI: So he doesn’t want it to be a distraction. I think that’s a distraction.
[21:42:08] COOPER: Tonight, a new legal fight for President Trump. Tied to one of his campaign rallies. This one, a little more than a year ago in Louisville, Kentucky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Get out. You know, in the old days, which isn’t so long ago, when we were less —
COOPER (voice-over): The video of a 75-year-old veteran in the middle of the action. He’s accused of assaulting a woman getting pushed. That veteran Alvin Bamberger is now suing President Trump alleging he lost his cool at the “Urging and inspiration of the president.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That’s the latest lawsuit tied to the rally. Already, three protesters, including at least one you saw on that video are suing President Trump as well claiming he urged his supporters to assault them. The president’s legal team disagrees. They’re asking a court to drop the suits against him claiming he won immunity because he is now President of the United States. Reaction from two of our legal analysts Jeffrey Toobin and Laura Coates.
Jeffrey, it’s interesting, I mean not only the protesters are suing but also the guy who did the pushing saying he lost his cool because of the president. The president’s legal team has a variety of defenses. One of which is that the president can’t — that the president has immunity and that he was talking to a security, not the people.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think — well, let’s just start with the immunity argument. I think that’s completely wrong.
Under the Supreme Court’s decision in the Paula Jones case from 1995, we know that presidents are not immune from civil suits. However, I do think the president is very safe on the merits here. You know, incitement barely exists at all as a tort. I mean it is almost impossible to prove.
You know, the First Amendment protects virtually every kind of political speech. President Bush or a candidate — candidate Trump did not tell anyone to hit anyone. He simply, you know, just talked generally. I don’t think he has any vulnerability on the merits here, even if he could have behaved in a more gentlemanly way.
COOPER: Laura, do you agree with that?
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Actually, I have to disagree with what Jeff has to say. It’s true that incitement can be hard to prove because you often don’t have somebody who is the person who was the one to carry out the actual assault point the finger back at the person and say, this is the person who told me to do it and I was following it.
The fact that he has incited violence is actually — think it this way. One, you had to actually try to compel a result. And it had to be imminent. Meaning it had to happen shortly thereafter. Context will be very important here. You had a series where violence was a theme at these campaign rallies. And you have a president now president, then candidate, who was saying, look, I will even pay for legal defense if it’s actually Trump is your problem here.
What he did was say, get them out. But you remember, he did it in a coy sort of way where he says things like, well, I can’t say to touch him. I can’t say hurt him, et cetera because I would get me in trouble with the media, et cetera.
So you have this theory of this person, this president, that then candidate was actually trying to compel exactly what indeed happened. I certainly commend that young woman for having the composure to withstand the abuse.
TOOBIN: And she I think has a lawsuit against the people who hit her.
TOOBIN: That’s, you know, that’s very straightforward. There’s no speech issue there. But I think you have to listen to what candidate Trump said. He didn’t say hurt anyone. He didn’t say, you know, assault anyone. You know, he said in the old days it would have been different. I mean, sure, he was not urging restraint. He was not behaving in a way to calm the situation down. But, you know, the First Amendment protects people who say irresponsible things.
COOPER: And Laura, the president’s lawyers say his statements like get them out of here were actually referring to his security team, not individuals attending the rally.
COATES: That is their theory. However, as it’s actually portrayed and carried out here, he is pointing out the protesters throughout the speech. Identifying them with gestures and commanding people to look in their direction. The security is not who removes them. The security is not who were shouting with people out. And in fact he’s almost jeering the crowd on to do this very thing. And this is not just my thought.
The person you saw in the video is actually saying the same thing. And remember, the courts — of course we believe in the First Amendment and we want to honor it. But the courts have already said that the excuse that you’re going to not be taken at your word and will look at other contextual clues. They said that’s with the travel ban, for example, your campaign statements, the words you make actually mean something, you will look behind it. Here, you’ve got a candidate who was saying things like, pick them out, get them out and playing to them and cheering them on when they actually effectuated it.
COOPER: We’ll see, Jeff, I mean what — do you think this thing will even go to trial?
TOOBIN: I don’t think so. I mean, come on. That 75-year-old man, he says, I was forced to behave the way I did. Come on. I mean what about a little personal responsibility? He acted like a moron. But Donald Trump didn’t tell him to do that.
COOPER: Voters in Georgia will cast ballots tomorrow in a special election to replace Congressman of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in the states’ six district. Eighteen candidates are running and has been seen as a test of how Republicans are fairing under the Trump Presidency. A potential harbinger things to come in the mid-term elections.
Georgia is a red state, but it’s a Democrat, Jon Ossoff, who is grabbing the spotlight. President Trump made a robocall against him and of course tweeting about him as well. “The super liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressional race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes.” To which Ossoff responded in a statement “While I’m glad the president is interested in the race, he is misinformed. I’m focused on bringing fresh leadership, accountability and bipartisan problem solving to Washington to cut wasteful spending and grow Metro Atlanta’s economy into the Silicon Valley of the South.
Joining me are CNN Political Director David Chalian and CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
David, I mean, there surely have been a lot of attention this race. Realistically though, how much can be taken away from tomorrow’s results?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. I’m always a little skeptical of over interpreting special election results, but they can be those canaries in the coal mine that tells something is going on or a shifting electoral landscape, Anderson. And that is why I think tomorrow is really important because it is the kind of district where Democrats, or Hillary Clinton specifically, did make inroads into Republican turf last year.
It was the kind of Republicans that were resistant to Trump. And so, if indeed, there is an anti-Trump thing happening out there after the first 100 days outside of those deep blue cities where we see the protests, this is the kind of place that it may be happening. And therefore, it could indeed give us a sign of things to come.
COOPER: Yeah. I mean, Gloria, you look at the history of it, I mean Newt Gingrich held it for 20 years, Romney won it by 23 percentage points. Trump only won it by one.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. These are establishment Republicans, and they’re not the kind of Republicans that are generally attracted to Donald Trump. So it’s no surprise that the Democrats really see an opening here, and you have a lot of infighting on the Republican side.
And these are the voters that Donald Trump would like to keep and that the Democrats would like to get. And as David was saying, Hillary Clinton made some inroads here, but it would be considered a huge victory for the Democrats if they could take back the district that Newt Gingrich had, that Tom Price had, and that Mitt Romney won by 23 points.
COOPER: Yeah. I mean, David, even if the Democrats get close, they’ll probably try to spin it as a victory even if it’s not an actual victory, and the fact that Donald Trump is tweeting about this tells you he at least in the White House is focused on the race.
CHALIAN: Certainly focused on it. And Republicans have been for quite some time. I mean more than $14 million combined, Democrat and Republican ad dollars have been on the air, Anderson. This is a race even if Jon Ossoff falls short of the 50 percent mark and it goes to a June runoff.
This is a race that’s going to remain competitive. Both parties are going to spend on it because of the nature of the district and because the potential opportunity for a Democratic pickup. It really is, when you look at all the landscape of all these special elections this spring, it is the one place that the Democrats think they have the best shot of trying to show some anti-Trump movement electorally and therefore, a shot in the arm of enthusiasm, fundraising and all of that follows.
BORGER: You know, I think, look, this is Ossoff’s best chance tomorrow. Because, if he were to win over 50 percent and win it outright, that’s it. But if he were in a runoff with Karen Handle, who is a pretty well known Republican in the state. She’s tried for statewide office twice. She’s lost, but she’s got name recognition. He’s 30 years old, hasn’t had any experience and Republicans could then circle the wagons and decide they’re not going to hand this seat over to a Democrat.
[21:55:06] So I would say tomorrow is his best shot, and it’s going to look a lot harder for him if it goes into a runoff with her.
COOPER: David, in terms of other races, I mean, there’s a lot of folks, a lot of liberals, a lot of Democrats around the country who are going to be watching this race as sort of a bellwether and to see whether or not, you know, their chances might increase the next time around.
CHALIAN: Yeah. So, actually, I think that if, indeed, the Democrats pull this upset victory and convert this seat into their column, what it will actually do, Anderson, I think, is create a seismic event inside the Republican Party.
You are right. Liberals are looking at this, lots of money poured in on line for Ossoff, but I think what you will see is very nervous Republicans will start wringing their hands pretty publicly and a concern that Donald Trump is a real weight on them heading into next year’s midterm elections.
BORGER: You know, they’re going to have to get their act together if they were to lose this, because there are lots of those Republicans who held their nose and voted for Donald Trump because they didn’t like Hillary Clinton, and you’ll have to see what happens in this district, because there are a lot of voters like that in this district.