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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

GOP Senator: Trump Setting Us "On the Path to World War III"; VP Pence Walks Out of NFL Game; Cowboys Owner to Bench Players Who "Disrespect" Flag; Melania and Ivana Trump Spar Over "First Lady" Title. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 9, 2017 - 21:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The president wages open warfare on a powerful Republican senator. The senator says he could be putting the country on the path to World War. The president launching tweet after cutting tweet and a White House official saying he's not through yet with Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, better known as a Republican vote he needs on tax reform, immigration, health care, you name it.

Senator Corker said what he said to "The New York Times," he all but called the president unfit for office comparing the White House in a tweet yesterday to an adult daycare. The fact that he's speaking out says a lot about where we are these days, the president's inability to let go also says a lot.

CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with the latest from the White House.

So, how is the White House dealing with this? What's been their reaction since "The New York Times" article?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you pointed out, White House officials say the president is not done with going after Corker, a top Republican, a vote he needs. There are mixed feelings about that.

Obviously, the president thinks this is a worthwhile strategy. He thinks he can go after Corker with no problem, but not everyone in the West Wing is convinced of that and certainly Trump's allies outside of the West Wing are not convinced of that. They believe that this is someone Trump is going to need over the long term and also that he's just creating another spectacle that's not necessarily going to move forward the legislative agenda that he's hoping to advance.

COOPER: Is there concern amongst the president's allies that this could affect, I mean, his ability to pass that legislative agenda?

MURRAY: Absolutely, there's concern. I mean, Bob Corker has not set off this rush of other Republicans who were going to say these same things publicly because he's in a different position. He is retiring. He is not going to run for re-election so he is unburdened by this re- election fight. But he is, for now, a vote the president needs. He's an important voice on foreign policy, he's an important voice on budget issues and President Trump has a very narrow majority right now in the Senate. And he has seen his legislative agenda stymied over and over again.

So when you are on the precipice of another big thing, in this case, tax reform, you need all the help you can get. And so fighting with Republicans, fighting with members of your own party, is probably not what's going to get you there, Anderson.

COOPER: Sara Murray, thanks very much. A lot to, as they say, unpack. Maggie Haberman is back this hour. Joining us also is Kirsten Powers, Scott Jennings, Van Jones, who got a new book out called, "Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together." Also joining us is Matt Lewis.

Maggie, I mean, to hear -- you were saying the last hour that what Senator Corker is saying is not out of the ordinary for what you hear others saying on Capitol Hill but to say it out loud.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's shocking to hear him say this out loud. Frankly, look, he is clearly liberated by the fact that he's not running for re-election. He is liberated, I think, to some extent by having been pushed pretty far.

Remember, the president has -- look, this has been simmering for a while, but this weekend's episode began with the president tweeting that, you know, a version of events that people around Corker completely -- and Corker, himself, to my colleague, Jonathan Martin, completely contested that Corker had begged to be the Secretary of State and so forth.

But he is saying things really about the president's fitness for office and it's beyond that because that's something that I think we've been hearing about, frankly, since the campaign.

He is being very specific that it is daily battle to try to control this president. It is a daily battle to keep him from doing something more dangerous than he has done, that he -- and the thing that I was very struck by was there was a degree of sort of helplessness, as Jonathan characterized it correctly as he was talking about how the president tweets things that are not true and he said I don't know why he does that and maybe you don't know why he does that, but he continues to do this.

And that seemed to be what was really jarring to him. That is the thing that people increasingly are not sure how to deal with.

COOPER: And I mean, again, this guy, you know, running the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for him to be saying -- talking about World War III and the people around the president needing to rein him in all the time, and it's -- I mean, it's frightening.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is, and I think it's also key that this is not somebody who was an anti-Trump person. So, you know, if this was somebody -- there are people who just -- who were skeptical about Donald Trump from the very beginning. This was somebody who was, you know, playing well with Donald Trump and was a supporter and, you know, maybe even going to be his vice presidential candidate.

So the fact that he's saying these kinds of things shows that he gave him a fair hearing, was willing to, you know, give him a try. And he's -- it's become pretty clear that this is, you know, a highly problematic president.

COOPER: Van? I mean the --

VAN JONES, AUTHOR, "BEYOND THE MESSY TRUTH": Well, I mean, part of the thing that is worrying to me is that we're starting to see everything through the prism of here's another Twitter scandal, here's another bit of the crazy. How crazy?

You're talking about somebody who has more access to information about threats to America than almost any human being on earth, you know, Senator Corker, saying that he is afraid of World War III, to the paper of record for the country. That should be a full stop, all traffic comes to a halt moment, because this is a cry for help for the country. And yet --

[21:05:00] MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: It comes -- it doesn't come until after Donald Trump personally insults him on Twitter.

If he really is concerned about the country, I thought Donald Trump was, you know, not a -- was a bad hombre a couple years ago. I do have better insight than Bob Corker? Corker helped give this guy the presidency. And he doesn't speak out to the paper of record until he's insulted on Twitter.

JONES: Well, here's what I think. People are saying that because he's supported Trump in the past, that he somehow can't speak out now. People can have relationships that go bad. There's something called divorce, OK? You can be that close to somebody and later on say this was a bad person.

LEWIS: I'm just saying it's motive. I don't know that this -- that he is sort of shrouded in mobility here, either.

JONES: I don't know Corker but he's my home state senator and I -- and even as a Republican, I've never had a cause to feel anything other than proud of him and the decorum and the way that he's conducted himself as a senator.

So this is not a fire brand, this is not an irresponsible guy. When someone like him is talking about an adult daycare center, you have to then read into that the level of threat that he feels and level of frustration he feels. This is one of our best senators and he's saying something very serious.

COOPER: How do you see it?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Corker is not the only senator that Trump has a problem with. At any given time, he's feuding with six or seven.

And on top of that, his strategist, Steve Bannon, is now recruiting primaries for six other Republican incumbents. So that's 12 of 13 out of 52. Now, even if you are moderately proficient at math, you can see how this is a problem for getting the Republican agenda passed.

There is significant concern on Capitol Hill. They're not going to pass the budget resolution next week which is the key to unlocking the door of reconciliation, which is the key to tax reform. We have significant policy agenda problems and these feuds don't help.

And I sit here with someone who wants the president to succeed and wants the Republicans to succeed and these feuds are not getting us there.

COOPER: So, but who bears the lion's share of the blame, in your opinion? I mean, is it the president for going after Corker or is it Corker for doing this or it some combination thereof?

JENNINGS: I think there's combination blame in all of these kinds of feuds. Look, these people are all supposed to be one big happy family. Now, granted, some of these people are like cousins who have never met but have to sit next to each other at Thanksgiving dinner.

But at some juncture, we all have to sit here and eat together and be civil until it's over for the purpose of satisfying the voters who sent the Republicans to run Washington, D.C. So that's the issue.

LEWIS: It's Trump's fault. Because Donald Trump, this is obviously a pattern. I don't know of Bob Corker having a vendetta or feud with anybody else. Maybe it's happened. But what we do know is that Donald Trump, it's -- he goes from person to person. He's always fighting one person, usually not all at the same time, but he sort of goes from enemy to enemy. So he's -- I think he's to blame.

JONES: And I think that's part of the problem, you know, the sort of cascade of enemies, these cascade of scandals, these cascade -- so then you don't actually realize when something significant happens. This does not -- I mean, in the overall abnormality, the absurdity that we have now adapted ourselves to, this is actually scary. Because --

COOPER: This is not Ivana and Melania Trump having an argument today.

HABERMAN: You know, it's a really important point, when everything gets kind of reduced down to the same --

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: -- prism of, you know, he's fighting with someone. This is -- I heard an objection about this understandably when he was attacking the mayor of San Juan and the headlines were all, they're in a dispute.

They were not in a dispute. He was attacking this woman who was in the middle of -- his supporters would say she's looking for a partisan fight, what have you. You look at the situation that she was in and she's wading through sewage to help people and you wonder whether it is a wise idea for the president to be attacking her and it is an attack.

This is -- what is going on with Corker is just so fundamentally not normal, but to Van's point, we are on this kind of slow cascade downward on this and it is hard to realize sometimes when something is much bigger.

COOPER: But also Corker, I mean, I don't have the exact language in front of me, but one of the things he said was, you know, he knows for a fact that every day it's a battle in the White House to contain the president. That's -- that's --

JONES: That's not, you know, saying mean things about your, you know --

COOPER: And that's not somebody on the outside saying, oh, you know, it seems like they always can -- that's him saying I know for a fact this is a daily battle.

HABERMAN: But we -- and we've all written versions of that, to be clear, but the difference is him, this prominent Republican senator --

COOPER: Senior senator.

HABERMAN: Senior -- well, but -- who has, you know, has worked with the campaign since last year, who was very helpful during transition, who has urged other Republicans to work with this White House, him saying that is a real breach. It's very different.

COOPER: Yes.

POWERS: But also the adult daycare center, I think everybody, a lot of people thought that was just such a delicious thing to say and they were so excited about it.

I think it was a mistake for Corker to do that. Trump is debasing our culture so much. And when you have somebody like Bob Corker now engaging in this kind of back and forth, I just think, look, where is this going to end up? Is this now we're going to have senators name calling and -- I just think at some point you have to step back and be a grown-up.

[21:10:05] LEWIS: Didn't work when Marco Rubio tried in the campaign.

POWERS: Right, yes.

HABERMAN: Everybody else ends up a little bit degraded when they try to take him on --

COOPER: But nobody survives the --

POWERS: That's right.

COOPER: -- the back and forth really. JENNINGS: It's probably not unusual for presidents and members of Congress to not get along all the time, but, boy, it is unusual for it to be playing out in public. And of course when it plays out in public and people start calling each other names you never want to feel like, well, I let the guy get the best of me. So you want to come back and respond and then he wants to respond and this -- you know, where does it end?

COOPER: In other words, we're flunking kindergarten.

POWERS: Yes, exactly.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We're going to pick this up after the break, including a top presidential advisor criticizing the senator for tweeting. Also later, the vice president's protest of the NFL players' protest in the controversy surrounding why he walked out of the Colts/49ers game and the storm he caused.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We've been talking about Senator Bob Corker's critique of the president, the president's reaction, no surprise he's not happy about it. No surprise that White House officials signaled he'll have more to come. What I supposed ought to be surprising but isn't, is that the White House, namely senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, is attacking Senator Corker for irresponsible tweeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is, and world leaders see that. We've all worked with Senator Corker over the years. We thank him for his service, but I find tweets like this to be incredibly irresponsible. It adds to the insulting that the mainstream media and the president's detractors, almost a year after this election, they still can't accept the election results.

[21:15:01] It adds to their ability and their cover to speak about a president of the United States, the president of the United States, in ways that no president should be talked about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And that happened. So back now with the panel.

I mean, for -- I mean, the irony, of course, is for Kellyanne Conway to be saying Bob Corker's tweet is irresponsible and yet to completely back the president on all of his tweets. I suppose --

POWERS: It's completely bonkers. Like I cannot think of another word when you listen to that, you know. I actually agree with her as I said on the last panel, but I don't think that what Bob Corker did was senatorial or mature or really an appropriate way to respond. But neither is pretty much everything that Donald Trump tweets. And so, you can't have two standards, one, the president can act like a maniac on Twitter then and a senator does something one time that's fairly mild -- COOPER: She publicly embraces the president's tweets.

POWERS: And yes. I mean it's --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- every time. Every single time. Covfefe -- I mean, there's never been a tweet that she didn't figure out some way to justify, defend, be outraged that anybody didn't understand. That's her -- it's her whole shtick is getting out there and defending this stuff.

So for her to then wander out into the vast tundra of American society and begin lecturing our hectoring anybody about anything on Twitter is ludicrous.

COOPER: Right. And the idea that is because world leaders see it.

JONES: That's our point. Now you're mad because what -- you know, he might be saying something about Trump on Twitter that's maybe discrediting. Trump is saying stuff himself on Twitter that is discrediting, of himself. You might point that out.

HABERMAN: This is -- I mean, I think this is always the conflict is that there's a genuine frustration among the part of Trump's aides and I understand it where they feel like he does not get the respect that has been afforded to other presidents. The problem is that it never factors in whether he, himself, is showing respect to the office in some of his behavior and that's always the problem.

JENNINGS: I think Kellyanne has a job to do. Her job is to defend the president. She works there. I mean, I think would be --

HABERMAN: Absolutely.

JENNINGS: You know, her job isn't to go out and be a pundit like we're sitting here doing --

HABERMAN: Right. And there is a thing where people keep looking for people who work in the White House to come out and trash the president. That's not going to happen. So I understand.

COOPER: Right, it wouldn't happen, anyway.

JENNINGS: Correct. That is correct.

I'm worried about the long-term political implications of the White House continuously being critical of Republican members of Congress especially the ones -- it doesn't apply to Trump -- to Corker because he's not running, but especially the ones who are on the ballot.

If grassroots Republicans hear the White House saying these people are bad or not loyal, they're not worth voting for, and they don't turn out, those voters don't turn out in the midterms, what are the political implications of this? And I -- I think the party has got to worry about this in November of next year. LEWIS: I think, you're absolutely right and this could have ramifications. Republicans could lose the majority. They already have been repealed Obamacare, they already probably are not now going to do tax reforms. The last couple days haven't helped. But those were actually fairly short-term implications.

I think the long-term implications are, is this the new normal? Will the next president be a celebrity who attacks people on Twitter? And, you know, I mean, this didn't -- Donald Trump didn't completely come out of nowhere. I mean, we've had a degradation, I think, over time. And even things like norms -- violation of norms like Ross Perot announcing on a TV show he's going to run for president, right? Not -- today, not shocking. But, you know, will this begin something very dark in the future?

POWER: Yes, I'm not also willing to cut Kellyanne the slack that you guys are cutting her. I mean I don't think just because you work in the White House it gives you a right to come out and say up is down, and down is up. I mean, that's what she's doing.

I mean it's a complete Alice in Wonderland insanity where she's saying just things that aren't true. I mean why is that OK? I don't -- this idea, like, that somehow Bob Corker's the one who's problematic --

HABERMAN: I don't think that's what I was saying, I don't think that's what Scott was saying. What I'm saying is I think that there is -- I don't think what she's saying is different than what the president is saying.

And so I think that if you are going to take issue with the president which many people do, people can leave or not leave the White House. I don't understand the surprise --

JONES: I guess what I'm saying is that if she wants to come out and defend the president, that's her job. I agree with that. She should do that. But she should do it on nonludicrous grounds.

POWER: Yes.

JONES: I mean she could say I don't think that Senator Corker is doing well by his people in Tennessee because he should have his eyes on tax reform, et cetera, et cetera.

HABERMAN: I don't think that was --

JONES: She's criticizing him over Twitter? That's nuts.

HABERMAN: I don't think that would -- just think about that for a second, though. I don't think that would sound any less ludicrous, to use your word. You know, he should keep his eye on tax reform. People are going to say the same thing about the president. He should keep -- what is the line of defense that you think would work better?

POWERS: It's the lecturing about Twitter when she's -- when she defends --

LEWIS: She's actually a very good propagandist.

POWERS: Exactly.

JONES: I think it's very effective.

POWERS: It's propaganda.

LEWIS: But I wouldn't have her on if I were interested in actually getting to the truth or insight or gaining insight into what's happening.

[21:20:04] But she's very good at like blindly defending the president and as you said, that's kind of her job.

HABERMAN: This is the whole point of why Corker has a different patina in the first place is that he is somebody who had defended the president and now he is not. That's why this --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: -- working at the White House or whether you're, you know, bagging groceries at the corner market, if you go out on national television and trash your boss --

JONES: You're done.

JENNINGS: -- you won't be working there the next day. And so I think -- I think she's doing what she's supposed to do.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: Yes, but nobody is saying she should be trashing him or just saying don't say these things that are just completely bonkers that don't -- that we know or not -- I mean it's just not accurate.

COOPER: It's the ease with which they can be juxtaposed with what you previously said, you know --

POWERS: Yes.

COOPER: We got a lot more ahead tonight, including Vice President Pence's own protests at the NFL game this weekend and how the president is trying to use it to his advantage.

And later, my good friend Andy Cohen on the first lady, the ex-wife who claims she is the first lady and what it all means, if anything.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Vice President Mike Pence and his wife had their own protest at the NFL game this weekend. They were back in Indianapolis attending the Colts and San Francisco 49ers game on Sunday. They decided to walk out and leave the stadium after some 49ers players knelt during the national anthem.

[21:25:03] Shortly after, the vice president explained why on Twitter writing, "I left today's Colts game because @potus and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag or national anthem."

Not too long after that tweet, the president posted his thoughts on the matter, "I asked Vice President Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and second lady, Karen."

And then this morning the president returned to Twitter to share more thoughts writing "The trip by Vice President Pence was long planned. He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country."

To complete the circle on all this, the president is now fund-raising for his re-election campaign off of Pence's walkout. And we're back with the panel.

I mean, was this just a preplanned stunt?

JONES: Yes. It was a stunt to protest -- the protest because this is completely off the rails. Nobody remembers, this is not -- this was supposed to be about police/community relations. That was the initial concern that there were some police misconduct issues. They want to raise that.

It's now become about free speech for athletes. It's become about disrespect for our soldiers. Not one player has ever said one bad thing about our soldiers. This just crazy on top of crazy inside of crazy, deep fried more crazy and apparently it is good politics because they're trying to raise money off of it.

But I think the saddest part about it for me is that Pence had an opportunity. If you wanted to deal with this to say we are actually going to do something about the underlying cause of these protests. Nobody now is talking about the underlying cause of the protests even though the concern continues in the neighborhoods these guys come from.

And don't forget, these guys are rich, these guys are rich. They shouldn't complain. Trump is rich, he complains all the time. These guys come from neighborhoods where they are still getting text messages from their cousins about being pulled over. These guys are two years, three years out of those neighborhoods. They are desperate to get something done and we're not talking about it at all.

LEWIS: I wrote a column Sunday for The Daily Beast making that point which is I actually do not support kneeling during the national anthem, but I still think there's a problem with police brutality and we need criminal justice reform. And I don't think that conservatives should allow this culture war controversy to prevent us from pursuing --

JONES: Real remedies for real problems.

LEWIS: Exactly. So I think we should be doing that.

So I'm actually with Mike Pence substantively on this, but I think it was a stunt and --

COOPER: You think he went to the game with the idea that he's going to walk out?

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: If there's any team that is going to kneel -- by the way, I don't see it as an act of disrespect. When they were just sitting there and not standing up, that was disrespectful. The idea that you stand and you take a knee, that's what you do when there's somebody hurt on the field, they're saying somebody is hurt in our country. They are showing respect.

But the idea you're going to go no a 49ers game and nobody is going to kneel, give me a break.

LEWIS: Mike Pence could have easily stood, as he did, with his hand over his heart is I think is appropriate and he could have tweeted, I'm standing up, you know, honoring our flag, our flag, our soldiers, our first responders. And I think it's inappropriate that others -- he could have done that. He could have still made a political statement.

It seems like this was meant to whether it's a fund-raising or just to, frankly, divide the country, which I think is a dangerous thing to do.

COOPER: We should point out that we have this latest CNN poll, which is I think more people disagree with what the players are doing, saying -- it's 49% say it's the wrong thing.

JONES: But you know what, that makes this the most popular black protest in history.

Let's not forget, when they were doing the sit-ins, when they were doing their freedom rides, those same polls were showing 70%, 80% of Americans saying stop it, cut it out, you made your point, quit. So the fact that you have almost half the country saying that it's OK, these are the most popular black protests in history of the country.

HABERMAN: Somebody was talking to me about a poll in which they had seen an uptick in the number of voters who believed that there was mistreatment of African Americans in the country. And that is a change since this whole controversy.

I mean I think one of the problems that this president has had with literally everything is recognizing that there's an equal and opposite reaction in life and in politics and when you are in the Oval Office, it is not as if you're running a constant re-election campaign. So, yes, it's certainly -- I don't know if it was a stunt, I don't know, but they were out with their statement, the vice president's office, very quickly.

COOPER: Right. The traveling pool --

HABERMAN: We're told -- they were told he might leave early. I mean they clearly had thought of what would happen but it was beyond just thinking of what would happen. It wasn't just that he left. It was that they put out this statement, the statement was followed by a picture of him there.

I mean, so this was a -- at least a choreographed response and it was done pretty quickly. If you want to look at what this administration wants to talk about, it's usually pretty clear with these releases.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: The most popular thing Donald Trump has done since he's been president is work with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. But he's -- he's not drawn to that. He's actually drawn to this culture war stuff.

[21:30:02] HABERMAN: He is obsessed, according to literally everyone I talk to, and obsessed is the word that they use, with losing his base, losing his political base. He talks about it all the time.

COOPER: You have the reporting about, you know, was in Alabama when --

HABERMAN: Yes.

COOPER: -- he talked about this --

HABERMAN: Yes.

COOPER: -- that -- you had the reporting about him back -- coming back on the plane --

HABERMAN: Yes.

COOPER: -- that he felt this was -- that was the big success from that night in Alabama.

HABERMAN: It went well. It played well with the crowd. And then he spent the whole weekend at Bedminster when, you know, he would to talk to a couple people in the ding room at the club, he would say what do you think of this? And most people told him they didn't think it was wonderful and said, no, no, no, my base loves it, my people love it.

COOPER: Right. I mean the polls seem to support his instinct.

HABERMAN: Right. And that's what his people cite, his advisers cite whenever you ask them about this.

POWERS: But, you know, this isn't about disrespecting the flag. I agree -- I have Van's point of view that it actually isn't just disrespectful, we've gone through this before about how -- why they're doing it the way they're doing it, to not be disrespectful. But the reason it's also not about that is because that would mean that the only problem here is that they're doing it during the national anthem. And I just don't believe that.

So, I -- you're asking me to believe that if instead they waited till the national anthem was over, and at some other point decided to come out and maybe put their fists up and do something that Donald Trump wouldn't be attacking them and the people wouldn't be complaining. And I don't believe that. And so I think the problem is what they're protesting.

COOPER: Scott?

JENNINGS: It wouldn't be as clean of a political issue if the flag and the national anthem weren't in play. But I'm just going to give you the raw political analysis. This is a complete and total winner for the Trump White House.

COOPER: Which is why they're coming back.

JENNINGS: In the national -- in the national survey it looks good. But if you look at the surveys in the places where he's got a whole hold on, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, among his people in those states, he's not even close. And that's why they come back to it. I suspect they're going to keep coming back to it.

COOPER: We're going to -- there's another twist to the NFL protests. The owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones is now saying any of his players who don't stand for the national anthem should be benched. Players could toss a penalty flag on this move. We'll get that in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:35:55] COOPER: More now on the NFL protest. Players kneeling instead of standing for the national anthem. As we mentioned Vice President Mike Pence walked out of the Colts/49ers game yesterday in protest after some 49ers players took a knee.

Then later in the day, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke to the reporters in the locker room and said, "There is no equivocation. We're standing for the flag. If there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play."

Tonight, Jerry Jones still talking about this. He then interview tonight with ESPN reporter, Chris Mortensen, and guess where it seems Jerry Jones got the idea? Here's what ESPN reporter tweeted a short time ago, "Jones emphasized NFL game ops manual several times and then this. You know, who reminded me about the game ops policy? Donald Trump."

Mr. Jones' admission comes a couple weeks after he joined the Cowboys kneeling before the anthem at a Monday night football game. They ended up standing once the flag was displayed. Back now with the panel. Joining the conversation, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. So, Jeff, legally can employers tell their employees not to do something which they feel expresses their right to free of speech?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. The constitution, the 1st Amendment, only applies to the government. The government cannot punish you. They can't throw you in jail for expressing your opinions of any kind. But the 1st Amendment does not apply to private employers. Private employers can fire you for exercising your 1st Amendment. Just today, an ESPN analyst was suspended for two weeks for expressing her views about the current situation.

COOPER: Jemele Hill.

TOOBIN: Jemele Hill. You and I could be fired from CNN if we start endorsing candidates. I mean that is a -- you know, a power that employers have in the United States. The only issue in the NFL situation is there's a collective bargaining agreement between the union and the NFL. And there may be some provisions in there that the players could argue that it would be an unfair act by the employer, but I think by in large, it is clear here that Jerry Jones, if he wants to, could fire or suspend players who wouldn't stand up.

COOPER: Van, there's a chapter in our new book, and the chapter, it's an open letter to conservatives and you say, "More than anything you place great value on protecting and upholding the foundational liberties enshrined in the constitution particularly the right to free speech, movement, association and religion." Those conservative principles, how did they square with opposition to taking a knee?

JONES: Look, I think that the conservative movement has some real trouble and I -- I wrote this book, you know, "Beyond The Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together," trying to figure out how we can better Republicans and better Democrats. I think we need two strong parties.

The conservative movement now seems to be an anti-liberal movement. It's much more interested in figuring out ways to poke at liberals than to actually lift up values that the country can actually be united around. There's really a huge missed opportunity here.

The Republican Party, everybody's forgotten this now, has been leading the charge on criminal justice reform. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, closed prisons and brought crime down. Governor Diel in Georgia closed prisons, brought crime down. Kasich in Ohio, big criminal justice reformer. This is their issue. They've thrown it in the garbage can because they want to do cultural war nonsense. And it is completely outside of any national policy to lift the country up.

You could say to these young people, I mean don't forget. When you talk about these football players are coming from neighborhoods that are still struggling. They're doing well maybe the past couple of years. Their families are not. You could say, listen, I want to talk about not the people who are kneeling or standing, but the people falling down in this country, who are falling down because they don't have jobs, they're fall doing down because they're afraid of what's going on in their neighborhoods. And I have to look beyond your symbols and deal with the substance because I have conservative values that can help you. They're missing that opportunity because they'd rather do this nonsense and that's the tragedy I see.

LEWIS: What he said. I agree with everything you just said, but, you know, Jerry Jones, and I'm a Redskins fan, so very hard for me to say something good about this man.

[21:40:08] But as you mentioned, he is the owner. You know, in the NFL right now, you can't celebrate in the end zone, right? If I want -- you know, if Tom Brady wanted to wear, like, an NRA sticker on his helmet, he couldn't do that. You know, that would be banned. The New York Yankees, I don't think you can have facial hair, right? Like you can't have long side burns or a goatee. That's their policy.

And I actually like this. I think we need to get back to more sort of old guys, old women, old people, whoever, like basically saying, no, that's not who we are. You know, it used to been an editor like in a newspaper would be like, we're not going to cover that story, because we're not going to cover Twitter. It's junk.

Now, we don't have that anymore. So I kind of think this is a --I'll say one, the first good thing I've ever said about Jerry Jones, I think it's a moment of leadership and, in fact, in the Arizona game, the other week, he did go out with his team and kneel in solidarity, not during the national anthem.

HABERMAN: I guess my question is, though, most people took the kneeling when he did it the first time as if it was in solidarity with what the players were doing about the national anthem even though it wasn't then. What I find notable about this is the president has been looking for an NFL owner to agree with him. I mean he's been pushing this for a while, this is what the team owners should be doing. And now he has one who seems to be going in that direction.

I guess it's a little surprising to me to hear people supporting a president telling private enterprise how they should run their private enterprise. And that is how this is going.

COOPER: The idea of going back to, like the olden days when things weren't covered, I mean, I hear that and think there's a lot, you know, the evening news used to be what, 15, 18 minutes and everybody on it was white and all the stuff that got covered was --

HABERMAN: Very few women.

COOPER: Right. Was a very limited views of what was actually happening in the world. And so, I actually think the idea -- I think for a lot of people in America, the idea of going back to the good old days, they weren't that good for --

LEWIS: I think there were some bad aspects to the way things used to be done and we've made progress on that, and I think we've also gone in the wrong direction in some ways.

POWERS: You're saying that they should be able to, you know, decide this is not w ho we are to the owner could say that. And I don't know, maybe you're one of the conservatives who had a different position on this but there was a big case with a man named Brendan Eich at Mozilla who was fired because he had given money to an anti- same-sex marriage initiative and he lost his job. And Mozilla said that's not who are we. And conservatives went insane.

LEWIS: They have the right to do that.

POWERS: No. The conservatives said that that wasn't OK, that was an infringement, he should be able to express that. So I don't know why he was able to express that but then these players should --

COOPER: We have to take a break because we're out of time. But I want to thank everybody.

Coming up, the real housewives of the West Wing. The president's ex- wide and current wife spar over who's the first lady. Joining me next, the only person for this job, experts on all things reality TV, Bravo's Andy Cohen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:47:14] COOPER: Disagreement, insults, fierce words within President Trump's inner circle. This time it's not among his top aides and cabinet secretaries. It's between his wives. The president's first wife, Ivana, made waves in an interview this morning as part of a promotional tour for her upcoming look. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER WIFE: I have the direct number to the White House but I don't really want to call him there because Melania is there and I don't want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I'm basically first Trump wife. OK? I'm first lady, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, in response, Melania Trump's spokeswoman quickly released a fiery statement, I read in part, "There is clearly no substance to the statement from an ex, this is unfortunately only attention seeking and self-serving noise." It all sounds a bit like a plot line from a reality show. Earlier today I spoke to my friend and expert on all things real housewives, Bravo's Andy Cohen. He's executive producer of Real Housewives franchise and host of the Real Housewives reunions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, Andy, you have tweeted out that only you as the executive producer of "The Real Housewives" franchise can mediate this dispute.

ANDY COHEN, TV EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Absolutely. You know, it's funny, I watched you host all those "Housewives" reunions last year --

COOPER: For presidential debates -- I moderated presidential debates. You can --

COHEN: OK. You can call them what you want. But to any they looked like "Housewives" reunions. But I'm watching --

COOPER: If fact, you claimed the second debate with President Trump and Hillary Clinton, you claimed --

COHEN: You stole my bit.

COOPER: What was the bit? COHEN: The bit is that when things are going so scorched earth at a

reunion show, I say can you please say something nice about each other? And that's how you ended -- sometimes it's the only trick you have left, to end on kind of some sort of positivity.

COOPER: That is how we ended the debate. But I think that came from an audience question.

COHEN: Yes, which came from me. But anyway, I was watching this play out today and I just thought, you know what, and I would like to be, you know, I'm here on CNN, open invitation to the first lady, to the honorary first lady, Ivana Trump. I'd like to get Marla Maples in there. I think she maybe has some unresolved issues. And I feel it would be great to have Ivanka Trump there as well. I will set up two couches, get this thing going, and just put me in the game. I can do this. I can -- I can make this OK.

COOPER: Would Ivanka have, like a walk-on, would Marla Maples have a walk-on?

COHEN: No. Marla would be there from the top. But we would bring Ivanka out later. Because I think she's got things with everybody.

COOPER: You for the longest time, though, have believed this is an episode -- this is an ongoing "Real Housewives" show.

COHEN: Listen, we are now however many months into "The Real Housewives of the White House" and, you know, I'm calling for a reunion show early. The term isn't up. But I think we need to get one going. The president has been tweeting like liberally like a real housewife.

[21:50:08] COOPER: Well, you've been saying this for months now. I want to read you some of the president's tweets because you believe that they correspond. President tweeted, "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn."

COHEN: Well, this is a classic housewife move. Rescind invitations liberally. You saw it with Bethenny and Luann in the New York housewives, Bethenny and Ramona in Mexico, Dorinda and Sonya at the Berkshires.

COOPER: This is a move they do, a rescinded invitation.

COHEN: Yes, a rescinded invitation. Yes.

COOPER: All right.

COHEN: Now, he had already said that he wasn't coming, so it didn't really work in this case, but that's the fine print.

COOPER: All right. The president also tweeted "Spoke to president of Mexico to give condolences on terrible earthquake. Unable to reach for three days because of his cell phone on reception site."

COHEN: You know, blaming cell reception, a classic. It works every time.

COOPER: Housewives do that?

COHEN: Oh, yes. Works every time. Yes.

COOPER: The president also tweeted "Drain the Swamp should be changed to drain the sewer -- it's actually much worse than anyone ever thought, and it begins with the Fake News."

COHEN: OK. Something that works throughout all the franchises is you keep repeating the same lines over and over until someone listens. We saw it with Strippergate in New Jersey. We saw it with BookGate with Carole and Aviva in New York. Just stay on message, and if you keep repeating it, then it will sink in.

COOPER: All right. Final tweet from the president, "What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians? Also, is it true that the DNC would not let the FBI in to look?"

COHEN: OK. Well, this is -- well, there's a few things there. I mean he does remind me sometimes of first season of housewife who will say anything to stay on the show, but bringing up former housewives who are no longer on the show is often very effective. They don't have a voice, so when he brings up Hillary Clinton, she's not on the show anymore, but it's still an effective tool to get people to think of, you know, other things, former housewives.

And, you know, listen, I will say the housewives are entertainment, and that's what they're meant for. This all is distracting nonsense from what's really going on in the country. I should point that out. But I'm here for it.

COOPER: And you want in the game.

COHEN: Well, I want in the game. Let a pro in. Let a pro in.

COOPER: Anything else, Andy?

COHEN: No. It's fun. I mean, I'd like to co-anchor the show with you sometime. I feel very comfortable here.

COOPER: You think our worlds have completely enmesh? You feel that --

COHEN: They really have -- listen, there is a reality star in the White House. He teases things coming up. He'll say, oh, I have a decision coming up. Stay tuned. I mean, his modus operandi is --as a reality TV star. So, yes, our worlds are meshing. I would like to host an actual presidential debate.

COOPER: You think you're ready for that?

COHEN: Yes. No doubt.

COOPER: Andy Cohen, thank you.

CONEH: Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, coming up, if you saw this video from Puerto Rico, your first thought was I wonder how soft those paper towels really are. Well, you re in luck because the president has the answer for you and the ridiculous is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:44] COOPER: Time now for the ridiculous and tonight we're revisiting this bit of nonsense because the president talked about it over the weekend. You remember the scene from when he went to Puerto Rico last week and threw paper towels at people. To update you, as of today 40% of the island does not have water, 85% does not have electricity. But what the president seems most concerned about and this may come as shock is himself. Here he is in an interview with Mike Huckabee that aired on Trinity Broadcasting Network, Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did a great job, and we weren't treated fairly by the media because we really did a good job. I mean, one example, they had these beautiful soft towels, very good towels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, I think I speak for all the media when I say we stand corrected. We were not aware that they were beautiful soft towels. That I got to say does kind of change everything. From now on we will absolutely wait to hear from the attractiveness and texture of whatever you throw at people before we report it. Our bad. SNL also apparently was not aware of how gorgeous and supple the paper towels were.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN JOST, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Nothing says I understand the gravity of the situation like a billionaire tossing six rolls of paper towels to hurricane victims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The president's interview was really eye opening. I want to quickly pick it up, just a quicker picker upper from the part about the pageant ready paper towels.

TRUMP: They'd these beautiful soft towels, very good towels and I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people and they were screaming and they were loving everything. And we were -- I was having fun. They were having fun. They said throw them to me, throw them to me, Mr. President. And so I'm doing so -- so the next day they said oh, it was so disrespectful to people. It was just a made up thing. And also, when I walked in the cheering was incredible.

MIKE HUCKABEE, TRINITY BROADCAST NETWORK: You were a rock star. I saw the video of it.

TRUMP: It was crazy. The cheering, it was deafening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Mike Huckabee, you were a rock star. Yes, the president bragged about getting cheered. And yes, they are still talking about Puerto Rico. Again, as of today 40% with no water, 85% with no electricity. Let's take another look at the video.

I hope you can hear me over the deafening cheers of people catching those alluring velvety paper towels. Can you hear me? Can you hear over the cheering by the rock star? I believe we have cracked the code of the president's whole fake news thing. Factual information, fake news, fawning praise, real news. Please, tell us more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The media is really the word I think one of the greatest of all terms I've come up with is fake. I guess other people have used it perhaps over the years, but I've never noticed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm sorry, did he just kind of indicate that he invented the word fake or he thinks he's the first person to use the term fake news? Let's not forget that during the election fake news mostly was used to describe the fabricated untrue stories that trolls posted online. That was until the president himself commandeered the term, latched onto it like it was a great looking satiny roll of paper towels, for instance, and constantly hurled it at everyone until it meant something else entirely.

That could be the saddest most frustrating part of all of it. But it's not even close. We love you, Puerto Rico. Thanks for watching 360. Time to turn it over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.