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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Pres. Trump: Bannon "Lost His Mind"; Pres. Trump Dissolves Voter Fraud Commission; Book: Pres. Likes to Eat McDonalds Due to Fear of Being Poisoned; Book: Bannon Calls Trump Tower Russia Meeting "Treasonous"; 13 States from SC to Maine Under Winter Storm Warning. Aired 9-10pm ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 21:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: -- he seems to be fully on the record in this book. Here's what he said about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort. "The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers. They didn't have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad expletive, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately." Bannon went on to say, "The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father's office on the 26th floor is zero."

We're expecting to hear from Steve Bannon shortly tonight. He's expected to break his silence on the book. We'll bring that to you. As we said, the White House is reacting sharply to this. CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now.

So talk about exactly what the President had to say about Steve Bannon because it's a fascinating quote.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it was a fascinating statement that released this afternoon. And I am told the President was very much personally involved in crafting this. He diminished his role in his entire presidency. He said something like this, let's look, Anderson. He said, "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books."

Now, Anderson, I have to say, this requires a little bit of a fact check in here because at the very end of the campaign, as we know during the "Access Hollywood", a matter Steve Bannon was at the President's side, was guiding him through all of that. In fact, in the general election campaign, he was guiding him through all of that. At Breitbart, before he joined the campaign, he was the biggest cheerleader for the campaign here. And in terms of not having one-on-one meetings, I actually heard from someone inside the West Wing earlier, who said that simply isn't true. He had walk-in privileges, which means he could walk in the Oval Office whenever he was invited, which he often did and his office was only about 10 steps or so from the Oval Office. So the fact that the President and the White House now were trying to diminish Steve Bannon just simply just not compare with the facts of his time here from last January through August.

COOPER: Right. I mean it's easy to diminish like George Papadopoulos or Carter Page, certainly.

ZELENY: Right.

COOPER: A little harder to, you know, to diminish the guy you called out the stage on the night of your victory and, you know, who clearly stood by him when Reince Priebus was getting weak in the knees after the "Access Hollywood" tape.

ZELENY: No question at all. I mean Steve Bannon's whole populist to rhetoric here is something that the President was already saying but he certainly seized upon it. I mean that isn't the first time we've heard the President sort of a bristle at the fact that someone else was claiming responsibility and credit for success here. So that is a pattern we've seen. But by saying that he lost his mind, then the question is why did the President keep talking to Steve Bannon after he left the White House?

But, Anderson, the big point is this, Steve Bannon's argument undermines the entire argument the White House has been saying for more than a year that the Russia investigation is a hoax or simply isn't reality. That's why the White House and the President are working so hard in overtime, if you will, to diminish Steve Bannon and discredit this book.

COOPER: Right. The other thing was sort of mind boggling in the White House briefing today is that Sarah Sanders said, well, that she would, you know, a reporter asked, I forgot which reporter, reporter asked essentially, you know, they were on -- Steve Bannon was on equal footing with Reince Priebus. And Sarah Sanders, well, I wouldn't say he was on equal footing. And if you read the press release from when they were both appointed, it actually says that they are equal partners in this.

ZELENY: Yes, they were equal partners. And if anyone had higher footing, arguably that was Steve Bannon during those early months of this administration a year ago. Who was it that was put on the National Security Council in the first week of the administration? It was Steve Bannon. The President gave him blessing to that. Who approved the travel ban? That was Steve Bannon. So there's no question now. There can be revisionist history if they would like but it simply does not meet the facts. Steve Bannon was along for the ride through all of this, was leading the train in many respects here.

The question here though is, will this break remain or will the President want to know what Steve Bannon is thinking in the months to come, certainly in this midterm election campaign and as these years go forward here? So that is, you know, something we'll have to wait and see. Is that their friendship, relationship broken or not? But the whole point here also, there's been a feud between Steve Bannon and members of the Trump family, Jared, Ivanka, everyone. That is what is underlying most of this.

COOPER: It reminds me a little bit of the Soviet Union when, you know, they used to have those pictures on the reviewing stand and the general would be loose out of favor and would be sent to Siberia and they would actually edit him out of the photo. It's like rewriting history.

Anyway, Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

[21:04:58] More now from the book especially on Russia and Steve Bannon signals that the investigation will walk straight over to of President's red line's money and family. "This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose senior prosecutor Andrew Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f---ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. It's as plain as a hair on your face."

I want to bring in the panel, Kirsten Powers, Scott Jennings, Paul Begala, Bryan Lanza, El -- excuse me, Eliana Johnson, and Jeffrey Toobin. Eliana, I apologized for that.

Jeff, you think that thing about Deutsche Bank and Paul Manafort, that's a major thing?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That's really the devastating part of this because, you know, the one thing Donald Trump has said is the one red line that he will not allow Paul Manafort to -- I'm sorry, he will not allow Robert Mueller's investigation to cross, is investigating his personal finances other than those related to Russia.

The Deutsche Bank accounts presumably relate to all of his finances and all of Jared Kushner's finances. And here you have Steve Bannon who, you know, notwithstanding what the President said today, is obviously very close to the operations of his campaign.

COOPER: And let me just put the quote from Steve Bannon about Deutsche Bank, he says, "It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner expletive. The Kushner expletive is greasy. They're going to right through that. They're going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me."

TOOBIN: In other words, trying to flip people to get to the President. And, you know, how can anyone at this point say that the Deutsche Bank records are irrelevant when Steve Bannon says they're relevant? I mean, this argument now that this was a fishing expedition, that the whole investigation is a waste of time, which is an argument that, you know, you hear on Fox News everyday, you hear from Republicans all the time. The response now is, well, Steve Bannon thinks it's pretty useful.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: It's a pretty --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I mean, Bryan, I know a loyalist to Trump, I know it's a rough night for you. But how do you, you know, it does sound like a lot of things Steve Bannon is saying are things that have come out at the mouths of Democrats now for months.

BRYAN LANZA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: You know, listen, you know, this book is going to be a difficult book for this administration in the next week, there's a lot of things they're going to be unpacked from the book. You know, right now, you're looking at the credibility of the author. It's now being brought into question regarding quotes, blind quotes, was he part of this conversation. So it's important to have this conversation under the context that know that this author's integrity has been questioned by major publications in the U.S. and so let's look at that.

You know, talking about Steve Bannon and the Russia investigation, you know, here's the concern I have, you know, hearing this conversation, you know, Jeffrey you talked about the Deutsche Bank. What does that have to do with collusion? You know, this is -- what this proves as what Bannon has always believed is that Mueller is a fishing expedition. He's going to keep digging and digging and digging, has nothing to do with collusion and digging until he finds something else.

TOOBIN: You want answers?

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: You want an answer?

LANZA: Yes, please.

TOOBIN: Which is -- that Donald Trump had financial interests in Russia that --

LANZA: A decade before he ran for president.

TOOBIN: We don't know. Maybe a decade before.

LANZA: So you're speculating --

(CROSSTALK)

LANZA: But you've seen it. So you're speculating this is current --

TOOBIN: No. I know he has accounts at Deutsche Bank.

LANZA: Correct.

TOOBIN: And that's what I'm -- what I'm interested in are facts.

LANZA: What is -- how's that related to the Russia investigation is the question I'm asking?

TOOBIN: Because Donald Trump has been obsessed with building in Russia for 20 years. The Russian government helped him win the presidency. The financial interests of the President in Russia are highly relevant.

COOPER: But I mean, whether you believe or not, Steve Bannon now is talking about it. I mean it goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner, you know, expletive and Kushner expletive is greasy. They're going to right -- go right through that. Paul, I mean --

PAUL BEGALA, AFFILIATED PROFESSOR OF POLICY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Right. That's -- it's really -- and I do admire Bryan and I've had to defend the indefensible in my life, god knows. But that old dog will not. OK. It is -- it's always been about Russia with this President and according to Bannon, and I think a lot of smart people, the Russia story goes through money and money laundering. And that is the argument that's clearly where Mr. Mueller is going. I think Bannon is right about that. And this is why the President said it's a red line. I mean he's so transparent about this. You know, he will tell you where he's, you know, like the guy in the murder mystery, like don't look under the basement, don't look, you know, that's where this is.

And it's telling that it's not about family, and I know he loves his family. But Steve Bannon attacked the President's daughter a few weeks ago in Alabama. It took her line, he said there's special place in hell, that threw it back in her face in public, so there's a special place in hell, parenthetically for you, Ivanka, the President was silent. And he loves his daughter.

So it's not about him defending Donald Jr. who is trashed in this book or his daughter or his son-in-law. It's about Russia. It's about money laundering, it's about allegations that Bannon believes knowing the family, if he does, that the son took the Russians straight to the old man, which is what something Bannon alleged in the book.

[21:10:02] KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is also about the fact, again, Bannon's portraying himself correctly as somebody who was basically steering the ship in the Trump campaign and the Trump administration and that's the thing that drives Donald Trump the most crazy.

And so this idea, I know the White House was pushing the story that it's really about the kids and the family but read his statement, it's a four-paragraph statement. There's nothing about how dare you attack my family, it's all about how irrelevant Steve Bannon was and how easy it is to win if you're Donald Trump but Steve Bannon doesn't know anything about that.

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, I'm going to put a happy face on the book. I know Bryan used the word difficult but you know what else is difficult, like when you're addicted to a bad substance and you're trying to detox from it? The detox period is difficult but when you come out on the other side, you feel much better. And what they're doing right now in the White House is detoxing after getting over this bad drug. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: It's like the euphoria after throwing up, you know?

JENNINGS: Yes. And so --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: Let me suggest that the detox --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: The detox will be painful but they'll be better off for this. And what we learned today is that Bannon views himself as bigger than the Trump family, bigger than the President, and bigger than the office and he viewed Trump as a vessel. But when the vessel got out to sea, it got its own mind and it became more like what you would expect a Republican vessel to do which Bannon hated. Why? Because he's not an actual Republican. And he's had a hell of a couple of weeks here, couple of months.

On his exit interview, he said that administration has no credible military strategy in North Korea, a strategic disaster for this White House. He promised a civil war against the President's allies in the Senate, he led the President down a disastrous path in Alabama and now this book, if I did know any better, he was on Schumer and Pelosi's payroll all the damage he's done to Donald Trump. So it's a difficult book. It's a difficult night but they'll be better off for ridding themselves of this virus.

COOPER: Eliana?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I think the question is, you know, what are the implications of the book going forward, particularly for Steve Bannon? Bannon had an established record of backing outsider candidates before he joined the Trump campaign and -- but when he joined Trump, who had a national following as well, Trump really did make him a national celebrity. He was parodied on "Saturday Night Live". He became a household name.

And I think because he had the political background and an established record, Bannon really did take credit for some of Trump's, you know, well won victories and that got under the President's skin. They each took credit for each other's successes. And the truth is that now that the President has disavowed Bannon and Bannon has tried to positioned himself and to cast himself as a tribunal of, you know, the Trump voter, his influence will be greatly diminished among the Trump base when he goes out and tries to campaign in the 2018 midterms. That will really hurt him because what he's trying to do going forward in terms of backing anti-establishment candidates depends on his, you know, status among Trump voters.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: So I think he will be greatly diminished by this break with the President. COOPER: Right. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have absolutely more on this.

Coming up next, will Roger Ailes ask Steve Bannon, according to Michael Wolff, and what Bannon said about contact between citizen Trump and Vladimir Putin. And later, remember the President's completely unsubstantiated claim that he would have won the popular vote if it weren't for massive voter fraud or remember the commission he established who investigate it or just like that. Today, it was announced, the commission is gone. It's no longer doing anything. We'll have reporting on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:16:44] COOPER: Talking about Michael Wolff's book and Steve Bannon's extensive dishing in it, in one excerpt, Wolff describes a dinner meeting during the presidential transition between fired Fox News head Roger Ailes and Bannon. "What has he gotten himself into with the Russians? pressed Ailes. "Mostly," said Bannon. "He went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn't give a expletive about him. So he's kept trying."

Back again with the panel. It is hard to grasp, Jeff, that Steve Bannon is now basically trolling the President on Russia, which is obviously a subject which, you know, he hasn't really spoken of heretofore and the White House, you know, has denied. I guess the question is, what does Steve Bannon actually really know because he wasn't there if there was any --

TOOBIN: He wasn't there but, you know, we're talking about this book in the context of, you know, can this marriage be saved between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon? And my answer to that really is sort of who cares. I mean, I just don't think that is a particularly important subject. What's -- if you read the chapter in "New York Magazine", you see that the people closest to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Katie Walsh, this very straightforward establishment figure, they all think the President of the United States is entirely unfit to be president. They think he doesn't read anything. They think he doesn't know anything. They think he doesn't care about any policy. He is totally incurious about every aspect of his job. That to me is a lot more important and significant than whether Steve Bannon is up or down. Who cares?

I mean, the idea that all these people who care about the Republican party think the President is essentially out of his mind, that's significant.

COOPER: I got to say, I mean, I always feel bad for anybody who is surrounding by people who have their own agenda and are so disloyal that they run to, you know, do a book. It seems like that is who the President is surrounded by.

POWERS: Well, I don't -- yes, I don't know about that. I mean, Katie Walsh, I think is a good example. I don't think she is somebody who's necessarily disloyal. I think she's -- first of all, she wasn't necessarily a Trump person. COOPER: Right.

POWERS: She's more of an establishment person.

COOPER: But Steve Bannon who was, you know, with him in the fight.

POWERS: Yes. Well, you know what, big surprise you get in bed with Steve Bannon and this happens, right? I mean, should we really be surprised? I don't -- you know, I think that if you look at the things that Katie Walsh says, I did find a lot of these really the most concerning things. I mean she talks about, it's like trying to figure out what a child wants, dealing with the President. That she asked Jared Kushner, you know, just tell me what the President's top three priorities are and he said, you know, I can't. This just, you know, portrays basically I think what we have observed from the outside that she really lends credence to the idea that the President is just in over his head.

JENNINGS: Katie Walsh has just come up tonight. I think we have to say she is completely and flatly denied.

COOPER: Right --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: And I've been communicating with someone close to Katie, she actually -- I think they believe maybe Bannon is saying these things and then attributing them to Katie for the author. And that back to Bryan's point earlier --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: By the way, we reached out to her and she said what she said --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: Yes. And so to Bryan's point, some of these anecdotes about is the sourcing correct on this, may ultimately tear down this author's credibility.

COOPER: Well, I will say also, Michael Wolff did ingratiate himself -- I mean I remember he was making very pro-President Trump's statement going after other reporters for the way they were reporting on the White House, it would seems to be a way to get himself ingratiated into the White House.

POWERS: It's also --

[21:20:01] TOOBIN: Wow, wow, wow. I bet that's never happened before.

(Crosstalk)

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, look, I mean, his mission was to try to get in close with the White House. He wound up in a position where he is sitting in the West Wing. I'm jealous. I wish I'd -- I had that sort of access. I didn't. He did. And no one at least other than this Katie Walsh thing --

JOHNSON: Yes.

TOOBIN: -- which she has not said publicly she'd said through other people has refuted what's in the book. Certainly Bannon has.

POWERS: And also just remember that people often deny that they said things that they said when it gets them in trouble. So I'm not saying Katie Walsh is lying but here, you know, sometimes you have to -- which I'm not sure that I'm ready to say Michael Wolff has no integrity the way that you said, you know. I mean this is a pretty well respected --

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: But he's actually a pretty well respected reporter, you know, media reporter. And so the idea that he was just making up quotes, I mean I think we need little more evidence to support that.

BEGALA: But it's so many people saying --

POWERS: Yes.

TOOBIN: -- the same thing. I feel like when that --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Right. Once you've get to the eighth, the ninth. And here's what's different about this, goes back to Toobin's point earlier. You have these fights for the soul of the presidency. OK. I -- when I was a kid, Ronald Reagan was our president, and the conservatives had this big movement, let Reagan be Reagan. If I was too moderate James Baker, his chief of staff had moderated him. Big war for the soul of the Reagan White House. I worked for Bill Clinton. A lot of the left thought he had moved to the center, big war for the soul of the Clinton White House. That was a bad idea. It was about policies. And Scott wants to make it about policies.

Oh Bannon is not really a Republican. This critic is, as Jeffrey said, about whether this man is fit to serve as president, that Rupert Murdoch has quoted in the book calling him about blanking idiot. The secretary the Treasury and the chief of staff of White House also call him an idiot. Gary Cohn is chief economic advisor calls him dumb as blank, poop. General H.R. McMaster is quoting about calling him a dope. We know that Rex Tillerson would not deny when asked whether he called the President a blanking moron.

This is not just, oh, he's too liberal to conservative. This is people close to him screaming that he is unfit to be our president.

JOHNSON: Well, I think that's what fundamentally distinguishes this White House from every previous White Houses. And it's difficult to even compare the Trump White House to the Bush White House or the Clinton White House. And when you talk about the President being surrounded by people who have contempt for him or don't feel loyalty to him, I think one of the problems is the President isn't loyal to his staffers either. So there's not a feeling of mutual loyalty in this White House.

And when you think about the Obama White House or the George W. Bush White House, there are people to this day who worked grueling hours because they felt a real sense of personal loyalty and a sense of mission and who still now talk about their deep love and respect for Barack Obama or George W. Bush. I don't think you would find a single person in the Trump White House not even the President's children and it is telling that he had to bring his children and his, you know, son-in-law into the White House with him who would say they feel that way about Donald Trump. And I think that is the fundamental distinguishing feature of the Trump White House.

COOPER: We've got to take another quick break.

Coming up, new reporting from Dana Bash on what has motivated some of the fury that the President has unleashed in the last 24 hours in tweets. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:26:33] COOPER: Tweet after tweet after tweet, a brutal letter to Steve Bannon, a threat of nuclear war. These are just a few of the things have been on the President's to-do list in the last 24 hours. And according to new reporting, Dana Bash, it's a storm that's been brewing for a while now. She joins us with the latest.

What have you learned about what's behind some of the tweets that we've been seeing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we know enough about the President and his Twitter habits at this point to know that when he goes on an over the top rant or a series of them in this case, there tends to be something really bothering him. And what my colleague, Kevin Liptak and I learned is that this time, according to sources familiar with the President's thinking and what's going on in the White House, it is largely about the Russia investigation.

His legal team was trying to manage the President, keep him calm for months by assuring him that the probe would be over soon. They said that in public, they said that in private. Well, here we are and here he is beginning 2018 and it's not over by a long shot. And in fact, the President was actually hoping his lawyers could convince Robert Mueller to announce that he is in the clear and that is not happening.

COOPER: Do we know if the President's frustration was also connected to what Bannon said in this book?

BASH: Well, the White House was aware this book was coming obviously. But my understanding is that they did not expect it to be as soapy and a salacious as it is or most importantly, they didn't know about the things that Steve Bannon has quoted as saying on the record, especially about Russia, the fact that that came out as the President's nerves are even more raw than usual on the issue of Russia was kind of an explosive combination.

COOPER: And any idea on the President's -- I mean obviously, you know, the conversation about, you know, the White House trying to handle his tweets, is there any sense of how the Trump's inner circle in the White house is handling all of this behind the scenes?

BASH: They're trying to do so gingerly and carefully because they know he's not going to stop tweeting. I mean nobody who's -- who has any modicum of understanding of the President either from afar or up close knows that's not going to happen. However, with this series of tweets about North Korea, about Pakistan, about the other things -- other hot spots around the world, I'm told that some of the White House reached out to others who might have some influence on the President, especially on national security to try to convince him that those tweets are bad for American policy and bad for him personally, make him look unstable. Now, I don't know if the message were actually delivered to the President or in what form.

COOPER: All right, Dana Bash, appreciate that.

Back now with the panel. Eliana, it is interesting how the President's attorneys from all the reporting have been telling him that the Mueller investigation is sort of in its final phase when it doesn't -- there's no public indication of that.

JOHNSON: Yes. You know, within its final phase around thanksgiving and then it was in its final phase at the end of the year and now it appears to be in its final face once again. So this does seems to me, and senior White House aides tell me that this is clearly a management strategy on the part of the President's lawyers to keep his emotions about the investigation in check and to prevent him from tweeting something that would be potentially seriously damaging to the unfolding investigation.

The problem with that, the clear problem I think is that the President is not a complete idiot and is going to catch on to the strategy when the investigation doesn't end. Yes. Contrary to the beliefs of many, he is going to catch on to this at some point.

And I did speak to a lawyer for another member of the administration who said you know, it's a problem as an attorney when you are misleading your client.

[21:30:05] So it's not clear to me exactly how the President's lawyers are conveying this information to him. This lawyer said to me, they may just be putting the most positive span on the information they're receiving. But if they're actually telling the President faulty information, it would be a real violation of legal ethics.

COOPER: Jeff?

TOOBIN: Speaking of treating the President like a 3-year-old, telling him that the investigation is ending when it's not ending is unbelievable.

COOPER: But it seems -- I find that hard to believe that attorneys would do that.

TOOBIN: You know, I mean, it's -- this -- what you just said has the ring of truth to me. I mean I've been talking to Ty Cobb who was the main White House lawyer on this. And, you know, he says, you know, we think it's wrapping up and we -- it's not wrapping up. I mean -- you just -- you can just see that it's not wrapping up. There's a trial scheduled in May. How can it be wrapping up?

JENNINGS: I mean you have a hard time believing attorneys would do that. I have a hard time believing these guys would have lunch on the sidewalk and speak so loudly. I have a hard time believing Dowd (ph) would write that tweet the other day. I have a hard time believing Ty Cobb would put out some of the statements he has.

I'm worried on this show for weeks and weeks that the President is not being well served at times by this legal team. The best thing they can do is tell this man the cold hard truth. It's not wrapping up anytime soon. And they need to do everything they can do to protect the President and the institution of the presidency by misleading him, not telling him exactly what's happening, they're not doing that.

BEGALA: They're following the Trump model though. And in every White House, that's what you do. You follow the boss, you follow his strengths and weaknesses. And this President is not strategic. I wish he were even though I disagree whit his agenda. But he's not. It's just getting through the day.

And so if you just can prevent a tantrum with little Charlie by saying you're going to get a pony for Christmas when you know there's nothing but a pile of Bannon coming. You know, you shouldn't make the promise. But you just try and get through the day. You're just trying to stop the meltdown.

POWERS: I think there's a lot of truth to that.

(CROSSTALK)

LANZA: You know, Cobb and his attorneys reviewed the facts and they had a theory that by November this would be complete because this was a year and a half long campaign. There wasn't, you know, 20 years of documentation they needed to review --

BEGALA: But they spent the trial for May.

LANZA: Even the trial is not related to any Russia collusion, it's related to Manafort and his money laundering issue. It has nothing to do with the Russian collusion. And so what you had is this theory that came forward. The President understood the theory. They defended the theory. And now the goal post is moving. So naturally, the President, if it's true that he's frustrated by this, he has every reason that be true.

You're right, you should disclose things to the President. You should be transparent. You know, he's -- you know, you'd sent -- you say he's not strategic. He's sitting in the White House because he is strategic. The whole world -- (CROSSTALK)

LANZA: Vladimir Putin got involved in this election is because he viewed Obama as weak. He saw Obama whisper in his ear after this election I'll be able to be more flexible. Let me setup a --

BEGALA: Wanted a strong president as this adversary.

LANZA: No. What he saw is he saw weakness in the Obama administration. So let me take advantage of this opportunity because there's a president here who's tripping over bad words to accommodate me. He's not going to do anything when we do this. He proved to be right by the way.

COOPER: And so he wanted back a candidate who he felt was stronger than Obama?

LANZA: Well, any candidate was going to be stronger than Obama when it came to Russia. Well, Putin smelled weakness when it came to Russia and Obama. Every action that Russia did, Obama did nothing to respond. There wasn't the level of confidence. Putin knew he could do whatever he wants with the United States --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: This is why the financial records are so important, Bryan. And I don't think you see a connection. Which is many people believe that the Russians had their hooks into Mr. Trump before he was president by virtue of money. That's been alleged many times. We don't know that, but when he doesn't release his tax returns and when he says it's a red line when you start to investigate that, that suggests that that's probably the way in.

LANZA: What he said about this --

(CROSSTALK)

LANZA: -- he has no problem with Mueller focusing on the point of collusion but going beyond that it just becomes a witch-hunt. At what point do we stop this witch-hunt?

COOPER: Let's take a break.

Coming up next, we'll get into an excerpt that says one of the reasons the President likes to eat McDonald's is because he has a long running fear of being poisoned. More on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:37:49] COOPER: Talking about excerpts from Michael Wolff's book fire and fury with our panel, one of the excerpts give sort of an inside of one of the reasons the President likes to eat McDonald's.

Back now with the panel. I just want to read, Paul, this excerpt which says, in the first -- it's talking about TV's he ordered for his bedroom. It says, "In the first in days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there and a lock on the door precipitating a brief standoff for the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room. He reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up the shirt from the floor." Excuse me.

He said, "If my short is on the floor it's because I want it on the floor. Then he imposed a set of new rules. Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. He had a long time fear being poisoned, one reason he liked to eat at McDonald's. Nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade. Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed."

BEGALA: Some of that I don't know what to make of. Some of it is just every president has as right to have as many TVs as he wants and to have this bed where he wanted and which room he stayed. That's all fine. He has perfect right.

And the White House is -- you know, President Clinton used to joke that it was the crown jewel of the federal penal system. Say anything that makes him feel more home, its great. I'm for that. But this notion that underlies it that somehow he's worried that his own staff is going to poison him, the people in that White House, that particularly the household staff, the ushers and the domestic folks, they've been there for generations. And they're just the nicest best people he will ever meet. And he doesn't need to worry. He's got a lot of worries and a lot of fears. He doesn't need to worry.

COOPER: There's also an excerpt about his -- allegedly about his -- the evening routine from before Bannon was fired. "If he was not having his 6:30 dinner with Steve Bannon then more to his liking, he was in bed by that time with a cheeseburger watching his three TV screens and making phone calls. The phone was his true contract point with the world to a small group of friends, who charted his rising and falling levels of agitation through the evening and compared notes with one another."

POWERS: That literally could be written about someone's like 14-year- old child, right? In bed at 6:30, calling their friends, complaining, friends comparing. I mean it's kind of hard to believe that this is the president of the United States. This is what they're doing.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: I mean really, what is so terrible about that? I mean, I really actually don't think -- you know, so we -- he calls his friends at night.

POWERS: This in bed at 6:30 eating cheeseburgers? I mean he's the president of the United States. I don't know --

(CROSSTALK)

[21:40:05] TOOBIN: What's sad is there's legitimate reasons to criticize Donald Trump. If he wants to eat a cheeseburger in bed and make telephone call, that seems like a very -- COOPER: Also, for all the people who talk about the bubble of the White House, it is a way to reach out of that bubble and sort of take the temperature of things, right, Bryan?

LANZA: Listen, here's the problem that I have right now with this whole thing. This book, this Bannon stuff, it has become nothing but a bigger distraction of what was -- would have been a good last year with tax reform and a good focus on infrastructure. I mean you can make the case that the economy is revving along the reactions that the President took. But we're talking about McDonald's, we're talking about Big Macs. We're talking about Bannon taking credit for something he doesn't deserve credit for in this President's election.

Last time I checked, the President's been making these comments, these populist comments for over 30 years well before Breitbart ever became a online magazine. So, you know, these distractions are good. We can fill up cable time. But I think what the voters want to do and what the American people what to do is how is this affecting these pocketbooks?

COOPER: I hear you on that, but on infrastructure and, you know, that he could have been focusing on infrastructure. I mean the President himself yesterday was comparing the size of his nuclear button to Kim Jong-un and saying Huma Abedin should be put in jail, you know, a private citizen.

LANZA: And this is how he answered that question. You know, he has been using this rhetoric with this Twitter on North Korea for a year now. You and I were on TV talking about this. We got a December resolution against North Korea as a result of those tweets. So we can speculate that this is dangerous, this is abrupt, this is out of the norm for a president.

COOPER: No. I'm just saying it distracts from infrastructure week.

LANZA: It does distract from infrastructure week. But the theme has always been, what is the biggest threat to this country right now? And that is a nuclear in North Korea, which is why his focus is always on that.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: I really don't think it's fair to say that this is a distraction from some larger agenda. I mean Trump himself since the day he got into office has produced and manufactured distractions and crises.

LANZA: We're talking about --

JOHNSON: It's essentially his expertise and he lurches from one crisis to another. This happens to come from outside the White House, but his tweets, he is an expert --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right. But the President's top adviser who was there with him from the campaign comes out and says all these things which is things Democrats have been saying, that's the story.

LANZA: Steve Bannon has a gift for generating headlines. No different than Donald Trump. That's why they get along the way they do as they figured out how to manipulate the media --

(CROSSTALK)

LANZA: And Bannon knows for well that the President had already testified before Congress several hours. There there's not going to be another testimony that takes place. This is hyperbole.

JENNINGS: At best, Bannon was a Dalmatian on a fire engine. At worst he's a barnacle that deserves to float down to the bottom of the ocean here. But the reality is this crap cyclone for the last 24 hours has not stopped one thing from happening.

According to the Gallup weekly tracking, the President is at his highest number in several months. And he's getting ever so close to being just high enough to stave off the historical number that the Democrats would need to take the House. So for all the distraction, he's actually crept up a few points in the last couple of weeks.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But because he's been off the screen. Because he's been off -- he went away and he played golf and he got out of our face. And now he's back in our face, 16 tweets yesterday, each more psychotic than the previous one and the worst threatening nuclear war. That's not going to move him back up sky. He did well because he went to Mar-A-Lago and he played golf.

COOPER: Coming up next. Another big headline today which maybe is not going to get much attention, if voter fraud is such a problem, the President says that it is, then why did he just dissolve the commission that he insisted be set up? Searching for answers when we come back.

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[21:46:40] COOPER: With all that's in the new book on President Trump and all the pushback at the White House, something else happened there today. Something might have miss. The President dissolved his voter fraud commission. He created it back in May. Here's what led up to it.

You may remember last November, just a couple weeks after the election, he tweeted, "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Now, there's no evidence of that, absolutely none. Yet the complaining didn't stop when he took off just last January. He tweeted, "I will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even those registered to vote who are dead and many for a long time. Depending on results, we will strengthen voting procedures."

Now several folks in the presidency in the circle, including the co- chair of the commission backed the President's claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRIS KOBACH, CO-CHAIR, ELECTION INTEGRITY COMMISION: I think the President-elect is absolutely correct what he says, the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.

And I think there's been studies. There is one big came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14% of people who have voted were non-citizens. There's other studies that have been presented to him. It's a belief he maintains.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR POLICY ADVISER TO PRES. TRUMP: I have actually have been worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire, I can tell you that this issue of bussing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who has worked in new Hampshire politics. It's very real, it's very serious.

This morning on this show is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Some New Hampshire leaders disagreed with that. I also spoke to the person actually who did the study that the White House cited who said what they're saying is not true. We never actually saw any evidence from the White House. The commission request for voter files from every state, was met with oppositions to the White House, so they cited that -- and said basically never mind. They issued a statement saying they were dissolving the panel or perhaps this was the reason was dissolved.

One senior White House adviser telling the CNN, "It was a poop show." They used a different word, adding that the commission went, "Off the rails."

Scott, the President has doubled down in this notion, saying there was voter fraud, saying there's substantial evidence.

JENNINGS: I don't know that -- look, I think the President lost the popular vote. I think that there are instances of voter fraud. I don't believe it was up in the popular vote margin in this election.

I also talked to a White House lawyer tonight, high ranking lawyer, who told me that if you think Donald Trump is giving up on the deeply hell belief that there are illegal people on the voting rolls, you're crazy. And they are actually just moving this over to the Department of Homeland Security because this commission venue became untenable because of the lawsuits. So, I don't interpret this as never mind or giving up. I interpret this as moving it to another venue to try to go around when it become a different process.

TOOBIN: Let's be clear about what this is. The Republican Party since 2010 has been trying to disenfranchise poor people and black people by stop making it harder to vote, by establishing photo ID requirements, by limiting absentee voting, by limiting early voting. This is the most important civil rights issue of our time and it's about whether people can vote. It's a concerted effort by the Republican Party to stop Democrats from going to the polls. This fiasco is indicative of what a ridiculous non-problem voter fraud is, but the cure here is to stop Democrats from voting.

[21:50:07] POWERS: Yes, and even if there are, as this person at the White House said, even if it was true that are people who are illegally on voter rules, I don't even know if that's true, because voter fraud is a negligible problem in this country. That in itself isn't going to change an election. Like, you'd actually have to have someone go in, impersonate that person and vote. And that's never been proven. No one's even attempted to prove that. They've just say, oh, Mickey Mouse is on the rolls and therefore something. That Mickey Mouse has to show up and vote, right?

And even talking, you know, I don't know if it's Kris Kobach that was saying, you know, people are bused in. That's not voter fraud. That's -- if they're legitimate voters and if they go to the polls and they're bused in, that's irrelevant, it has nothing to do with anything.

So this was just an attempt of the President to try to, you know, justify not winning the popular vote. I mean that's the bottom line. That's all this was about.

JENNINGS: There has been legitimate research done about the voter rolls in many states that have a lot of people on them that shouldn't be on them, dead people, two states --

POWERS: Right.

COOPER: I think member of the Trump family has been on two --

JENNINGS: That's true. That's true. But let me take what Jeff said, I've been involved in Republican politics. My first campaign was the 2000 campaign with President George W. Bush. I have never heard a Republican political operative, official or anyone else say, hey, let's all get together and disenfranchise people, stop people from voting.

All the things you just said, I've never heard it once. I take great offense. I take great offense with that because the Republican political operatives that I know want people to vote and they want people to vote Republican.

TOOBIN: So why are they making it harder to vote? And why are they, in Alabama for example, closing the places that you can get a photo ID in the black neighborhoods? Because they want to stop black people from voting.

JENNINGS: African-American voter participation was up in Alabama, Jeff. It was up in Alabama.

TOOBIN: That's right, because they were so appalled that Donald Trump that they went to vote.

JENNINGS: But you're arguing simultaneously that Republicans made it hard to vote yet people voted. You can't have it both ways. People voted.

TOOBIN: Sure you can, sure you can.

JENNINGS: Republicans are not trying to make it harder to vote. Republicans want a legal vote. They want a fair process. They want free and fair elections. But do not put --

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: It's legitimate to use a hunter's license to get a -- it's a legitimate form of ID, a pistol permit, but a student ID is not a legitimate form of identification. It's because the Republicans are using voter -- the fake voter fraud issue, this nonexistent problem to try to win elections and it's an absolute disgrace.

COPER: All right. We've got to end it there. Thanks, everybody.

They're having fun in the snow in South Carolina. A dog named Kodak pulls a woman through the snow, she's on a snowboard, but it could be dangerous in parts of New York and New England when this massive storm strikes tomorrow. We'll get an update from the CNN Weather Center, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:33] COOPER: Powerful winter storm is dumping snow in the south tonight, threatening to pound the rest of the east coast, all the way to Maine, a rare snowy day in Savannah and Georgia, of all places. A picturesque scene in the historic district there. The Spanish moss draped in snow barely a soul on the streets.

Tonight, 13 states from South Carolina to Maine under a winter storm warning. The storm heading north on Thursday up to a foot of snow expected in parts of Long Island, New York, and New England with the potential of 40 to 60-mile-per-hour wind gusts in some places.

Our meteorologist, Tom Sater, is tracking the storm and joins us now with the latest.

So, Tom, let's talk about the snow system moving up the coast. What do the hours ahead look like?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's going to start to intensify, I think, overnight tonight, Anderson, and through the day tomorrow. The storm system, which now has a center, we can now track it, looks like it's going to be just far enough off the coast to keep the hurricane force winds away from the shoreline, which is good news. I mean, we'll still see hurricane gusts.

The snow is ending, of course, after getting its first measurable snow in Tallahassee in 28 years. Five inches fell in Charleston. I mean, that's the third highest one-day total they've had in history. But this is when it starts to cranked up. I think Washington, D.C and Baltimore are just too far to the west to get into heavy snow, maybe an inch or two.

But things are now changing. New York City has been elevated to be included in the winter storm warning. Boston proper is now included into the blizzard warning. When you look at the snowfall, I mean, the kids of all ages were loving this in the south. But now it's going to start to crank up.

Take the snow out of the equation with the storm deepening off the coast, we could see even tropical storm force winds knock out power to tens of thousands. But when you toss in that heavy snowfall in the branches, maybe 150, 250,000 people could lose power.

Now, if you look at the blizzard warnings, 7.7 million now are in the blizzard warnings. So not just zero visibility, but those strong winds and the heavy amounts of snow. When it comes to the snowfall, this is what has already fallen, even five to eight inches in a few locations, the outer banks, but in colors of pink in excess of a foot.

To break it down just a little more for you, here's Philadelphia, three to six, New York City, four to eight, and then Boston, 10 to 15. The bigger problem, I think, will be the cold that follows. If we have power outages to thousands, Anderson, it could be days before it's restored. And the temperatures are going to be extremely cold, in fact, colder than we've seen the last 11 days, east of the continental divide.

COOPER: How does a storm like this get so strong?

SATER: The classic nor' Easter. I know, yesterday, you were talking about the term has been going around, about this bomb cyclone. All that really means is that when the storm system develops and the pressure drops, the storm gets stronger. The difference between the temperatures on the land and, of course, the warmer waters of the Atlantic create this extreme strengthening.

The jet stream is the highway the storm will take. Thank goodness, a difference are just 20 to 30 miles closer or away from the coastline means everything as far as how much snow and how strong the winds are going to be. But a classic nor' Easter, that makes its way northward, those northeasterly winds bring in that moisture from the Atlantic, dump that snow.

But with this one deepening so low, we think the pressure could be equal to that of super storm sandy. Although this is a big, big difference, we're not going to have that kind of damage with super storm sandy. It's not going to make landfall, but it's going to cause a world of problems, no doubt about that.

COOPER: Tom Sater, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Thanks for watching 360. time to hand it over to Jake Tapper. "THE LEAD" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, THE LEAD, HOST: Good evening and welcome to a special prime-time edition of "THE LEAD".

I'm Jake Tapper. You know, with all the fire back and forth between President Trump and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon in Washington tonight starting to resemble the final scene from "Reservoir Dogs."