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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Wash Post: Trump Asked the Acting FBI Director Whom He Voted for During Office Meeting; President Trump Denies New FBI Director Threatened to Resign Under Pressure from Attorney General Sessions; Schumer Withdraws Offer to President Trump for Border Wall Funding; First Lady Will No Longer Join The President in Davos; 2 Killed, 17 Wounded in Kentucky High School Shooting. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 23, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with a major development in the Russia investigation, word tonight that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the president of the United States about the firings of FBI Director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

And "The Washington Post" is reporting that interview could come within weeks. Now, that's the biggest development, not the only one, because Mueller's investigation has already for the first time reached the president's cabinet. CNN has learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last Wednesday by the special counsel's office. Today, at the White House, the president claimed he is not at all concerned about that development and that he didn't discuss it with Sessions, who was at the White House yesterday.

We also learned today that investigators spoke with Comey last year. "The New York Times" says Comey was asked about memos he wrote about his interactions with the president.

And there is more. The president today denying that current FBI Director Christopher Wray threatened to resign under pressure from Sessions to make staffing changes in the senior ranks of the bureau.

We're going to have more on all of that during the hour ahead. The most potentially explosive development of course as "The Washington Post" is reporting, Mueller wants to speak with the president himself in the coming weeks. What we don't know is what the president will do, if he'll cooperate. He certainly changed his tune when asked about it in the past.

Here is what he said back in June, a day after Comey testified, when asked if he would be willing to give his version of events under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One hundred percent.

REPORTER: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that?

TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, just two weeks ago he was asked again and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I mean certainly I'll see what happens. But when they have no collusion, and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, it doesn't seem that unlikely given tonight's breaking news.

Pamela Brown joins us now with more from the White House.

Pamela, why is Mueller's team so interested in interviewing the president at this juncture in the investigation, do we know?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president is a key figure in the obstruction of justice probe, Anderson, and that is certainly a signal that that probe is nearing its end. Sources tell myself, my colleague Gloria Borger that Robert Mueller's deep has reached out to the president's lawyers asking to question him on a couple of areas under the obstruction of justice umbrella, the firing of James Comey and the firing of Michael Flynn. Investigators would want to talk to the president ideally for them.

Now, whether the White House would allow that is a different story. But they would want to find out his state of mind, his intent. Why did he fire James Comey? What was the reason? Was it to obstruct the Russia probe?

As you'll remember, there was the reporting that the president allegedly asked James Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. Why was that?

So, this is all being worked out, they're in the process of it. Sources tell us, though, Anderson, that these discussions are still in the preliminary stages at this point. That, you know, don't expect anything very soon because there is a lot to be worked out still, Anderson.

COOPER: Is there any indication about how the interview would take place or if it will happen?

BROWN: So, right now, sources tell us that basically, what the lawyers would like is to sit down with Mueller and first try to present a case to them, to tell them why there is no case, essentially, on the obstruction of justice front. From there, I think there is more of a willingness to open the president up to perhaps written answers to questions as sources have been telling us. An in- person meeting would be sort of a last resort. But these are all things that are being worked out. And again,

sources are telling us that this isn't something that will likely happen in just the next couple weeks or few weeks because there is still a lot to work out. The terms are still being addressed. And what that might look like is still sort of an open question, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Pamela Brown, appreciate that.

Joining me are CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN legal analyst and former U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara.

So, if this reporting is true and Mueller's team wants to interview the president in the coming weeks, what does that tell you about where the investigation is, or at least what would be the most important part of the investigation?

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, this is not typical investigation because it involves the special counsel who's appointed and it involves the president of the United States. But in most investigations like, this and I'm guessing that Jeff had the same experience, by the time you're getting to sort of the top level person, the most high profile person who is a potential target in the investigation, you probably have gathered as much evidence as you probably can from every other source. So, you don't have to go back to that person a second time.

COOPER: You want to save the most important interview towards the end?

BHARARA: Yes, I think so. In virtually every case that I'm aware of, that's how we did it when we investigated very high level folks in organizations or in government. You save that person for the end because you might not get a second chance.

COOPER: Especially with the president.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You definitely are not getting a second chance.

BHARARA: Right.

TOOBIN: It's going to be difficult enough to negotiate one interview with the president. So you don't want a month from now or a month afterwards come across some document that you want to ask him about that oh, by the way, I'd like another interview. You're never getting another interview. So --

COOPER: So, does this mean the investigation at least into the Comey firing or Michael Flynn is nearing an end?

TOOBIN: I do think so. I think this news, if it's accurate, and again, this is still just a leak it appears from the White House, and the White House has been pushing out the wishful thinking line that this investigation is almost over since last fall. But if they really are trying to interview the president in the next couple of weeks, that is very good news for the president, because it means they are starting to wrap up.

COOPER: What does it tell you that they seem, according to again to this leak that it's the focus is on the Flynn and Comey firing?

TOOBIN: Well, I have thought from the beginning that, you know, prosecutors don't like esoteric crimes. They don't like crimes that are difficult to define, difficult to prosecute. And collusion is not a federal crime.

Now, it is possible to shoehorn relationships between the Trump campaign and Russia into some sort of criminal statute. But it's difficult.

Obstruction of justice is a crime. And it is one that presidents have been investigated for. Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, for quite some time. And when you have the president firing the FBI director who is investigating him, there is a lot of basis there. That's the heart of this investigation, at least I've always thought.

COOPER: And, Preet, the president's team is having the president answer questions and written answers.

BHARARA: Right. I don't know what that means, but a hybrid situation that was reported on means. Typically in case like this, for it to be productive for the prosecution and afford, by the way, the target of the investigation an opportunity to explain himself, you want to be able to sit in a room like way are now, face-to-face, be able to ask follow-up questions, to be able to nail people down on the specifics of things.

COOPER: Because a written question would be written by the attorneys?

BHARARA: I suppose. Look, sometimes defense lawyers will submit documents and say would you please consider this stuff. And we wouldn't throw it in the garbage. But it was not anything close to, as valuable, necessary and relevant to the investigation as actually having the person in front of you.

TOOBIN: Can you imagine any scenario where you as a prosecutor would say oh, well, we'll just give you written questions and answer?

BHARARA: Not only that. When they talk about being a hybrid, that makes even less sense to me, because I'd suggest, the lawyers want to say, with respect to some subjects, we're going to send you a memo. With respect to other subject, sure, we're going to make him available, that doesn't make any sense to me.

TOOBIN: I just think there is no way. No, Preet is right.

BHARARA: Just admit something.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: You always when you're a prosecutor, you say to someone you're investigating, well, show me any evidence that you think I should say that suggests you're not guilty. And that's entirely appropriate. But if you want to question someone, you want to question them, and you don't want to give the lawyers a chance to, you know, craft answers, that Donald Trump might not even read, much less write.

COOPER: If the president refused to do this interview, he could be subpoenaed?

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: And probably would, I would assume.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. That's the leverage that Mueller has here.

COOPER: And if it's responding to a subpoena, that's in front of a grand jury and the lawyers aren't present? Is that correct?

BHARARA: Correct.

TOOBIN: Well, that's -- I mean, it would certainly be a court fight then. The president is in a unique constitutional position. So, I mean, he's not like any other witness. And remember, Bill Clinton gave grand jury testimony of a kind, but he did it by video, and he did it from the White House.

You know, President Bush in the 9/11 commission, which is different, it wasn't a criminal investigation. But he did just an informal interview with lots of people present in the White House, no transcript taken. That's certainly what the White House would prefer something like that. That's what the fight is going to be about.

COOPER: Also, Preet, the reporting that Jeff Sessions has been interviewed by Mueller, would that have even been possible if he hadn't recused himself?

BHARARA: Well, I would put it a different way. It shows the necessity of his having to have recused himself. This idea that the president has been angry about, that Jeff Sessions recused himself. The fact that he actually has been interviewed, showing himself to be a witness in the particular thing that Donald Trump said he should still have overseen, I think speaks volumes about how silly the position is that the president has had on this.

TOOBIN: Well, and, Preet, what about this? I mean, one of the things that I find peculiar about this investigation is, why isn't Rod Rosenstein recused?

BHARARA: I have a theory on that.

TOOBIN: OK.

BHARARA: So, Rod Rosenstein has not recused himself in part because I haven't heard any Democratic politicians clamoring for his head, clamoring for him to be recused. And my theory about that based on something a little more than speculation is that because Rod Rosenstein took it on the chin after he wrote that memo and appointed Bob Mueller to be the special counsel, he has gained a measure of trust on the part of people who might otherwise call for him to recuse himself.

And I think people like the devil they know versus the devil that they don't know. And if Rod Rosenstein goes, the theory goes, people are not as trustful that the next person to come in will allow the Mueller investigation to proceed unfettered.

[20:10:09] That's my thought.

TOOBIN: Well, I think you're right as a practical matter, that's right. But legally, if you're a witness, as Rosenstein is, how can you be supervising the investigation?

BHARARA: I agree, but someone has to complain.

COOPER: The idea that Comey's already been interviewed, that seems logical?

TOOBIN: I mean, he's the key witness in this case. I'm sure they spent many, many hours with him.

I mean, remember, he has all those notes of his interviews with the president, that he was so freaked out by these conversations with the president, that he immediately wrote down what happened. He is no question that he would be interviewed at great, great length.

BHARARA: And my guess is his recall will be very fine and specific.

COOPER: Preet, Jeff, thanks very much.

BHARARA: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, coming up, there is more breaking news tonight. "The Washington Post" is now reporting that after the president fired James Comey, he summoned the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to the White House and asked him who he voted for. The latest on that next.

Also ahead, the president and the porn star. After word broke about a reported payoff to Stormy Daniels in exchange for silence about her alleged affair with the future president, the first lady is suddenly no longer taking a scheduled trip with the president. We'll take a look at that and see if that's just a coincidence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:15:02] COOPER: Well, there is more breaking news tonight.

"The Washington Post" is now reporting that after the president fired James Comey, he summoned the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to the White House, asked him who he voted for and vented anger at him over his wife's politics.

Joining me on the phone is "Washington Post" reporter Devlin Barrett.

Devlin, thanks for being with us. So, explain what happened. This is after Comey was fired, Andrew McCabe who was the acting FBI director, goes to the White House. What went on? DEVLIN BARRETT, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): So,

Andrew McCabe is in the Oval Office, we're told. And essentially, it's a very touchy time for everyone involved. Andrew McCabe's boss, someone he's very loyal to, Jim Comey, has just been fired by the president. And the president, frankly, has long distrusted and disliked Andrew McCabe, dating back to the election.

And what happens, we're told by multiple people, is that the president asked McCabe who he voted for, and McCabe basically ducks the question by saying I didn't vote in the last election. And the president offers, frankly, a critical commentary of McCabe's wife, who had run in 2015 in a Democratic -- as a Democrat in a Virginia state election.

COOPER: And she had received campaign contributions from a political action committee controlled by the Clintons, is that right?

BARRETT: Mostly. So, she -- the root of Donald Trump's distrust of McCabe stems from the fact that McCabe's wife had run as a Democrat and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the political action committee of Terry McAuliffe.

COOPER: Terry McAuliffe.

BARRETT: And McAuliffe, as many folks know, is a very close Clinton ally.

COOPER: Right.

Your article also talks about how Andrew McCabe felt about this interaction and how McCabe felt about this interaction, about how other people within the FBI felt when they heard about it.

BARRETT: Right. You know, this is pretty much unheard of to ask a civil servant or someone you're screening for a government job. You know, it's one of the rules of government work is it's simply not done. And there have been all sorts of, you know, past instances where government officials have gotten in trouble for asking exactly this type of question.

But, so, you know, there is a great deal of frustration as has been expressed to me within the FBI about the way Trump talks not just about Andy McCabe, but to Andy McCabe. And so, there is that frustration. There is also a sense I have to say within the FBI that this is just how Trump thinks of McCabe. That he is never going to like him, and he is always going to have an issue with him.

COOPER: And McCabe has been the focus of a number of president Trump's tweets?

BARRETT: Well, right. I mean, you saw -- we did a story back in December that McCabe was planning to retire in March, and almost immediately after that story posted, the president was tweeting angrily about McCabe. So, it's clearly someone that -- we're told that Trump often just in conversation in the White House criticizes McCabe, calls him a Democrat, says he doesn't trust him, things like that. COOPER: And has McCabe commented for this story at all?

BARRETT: No. The FBI declined to comment. McCabe, as much as this stuff has been swirling around him and at him, he has actually tried to keep a fairly low profile. He's only got what's expected to be a couple more months left on the job.

COOPER: Devlin Barrett, appreciate the reporting. Thanks very much, from "The Washington Post."

BARRETT: Sure. Thank you.

COOPER: With me now is former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, along with Asha Rangappa and Philip Mudd.

Phil, you used to work at the FBI. The news that the president asked McCabe who he voted for, talked about his wife's political beliefs and history, what do you make of that?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, this is personally painful. And let me confess up-front, I know Andy McCabe personally. I've had dinner with him.

I joined in 1985, that was President Reagan. Then we went to President Bush, President Clinton, then we go to President Bush again, the son, and we go to President Obama. I served under all of them.

What are you supposed to do every time we change president? Are you supposed to say, I didn't vote for you and therefore I can't serve in government anymore?

I served in the Bush White House in 2001 for President Bush 43. He was the president-elected by the American people. You serve him, hopefully loyally.

I was nominated by President Obama in 2009 for a Senate confirmable job. I would have served him loyally had I gotten that job.

In government, the position you take is I can vote for anybody I want after hours, but nine to five when you're working on the job, whoever the American people vote for, you serve him.

It is not appropriate for the president of the United States or anybody else to ask a federal official who they voted for. We voted private and we serve anybody the American people elect. That's it, Anderson.

COOPER: Phil, have you ever been asked by a president or an elected official who you voted for?

MUDD: No. And in fact, I served under Robert Mueller for four and a half years. I can't remember ever having a conversation at the table that involved politics.

[20:20:04] And I'm not talking about once a year. I'm talking about maybe with Robert Mueller, 2,000 plus conversations. The issue you have when you're at the FBI or the CIA is, first, you to execute the rule of law. What is federal law say in terms of, for example, in the Mueller investigation, whether there was inappropriate contact with the Russians? At the CIA, your question is what does the president direct us to do overseas?

It doesn't matter who you vote for, and it shouldn't matter, because if you have 30 years of service, or in my case 25 years in government, you're going to serve both Republicans and Democrats, and you're responsibility is to serve both of them loyally. This is not that complicated.

COOPER: John Dean, does it appear to you that the president understands the firewall that is supposed to exist between the White House and the Department of Justice? Because the politicalization of the FBI, the loyalty, the suspicion, those were hallmarks frankly of Watergate too.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That's exactly right, Anderson. He doesn't understand it. In fact, what happened post- Watergate is that's when these norms were established because Nixon was all over the FBI and the Justice Department. That was a part of his impeachment proceedings, the tapes of him talking to Henry Peterson, the head of the criminal division, his conversations with Pat Gray, the acting director.

These were to be -- these were to be forbidden activity in the future. That was made very clear. So, I don't think Trump has a clue that these norms exist, and I think if he continues this activity, the next time Democrats get control of Congress and the White House, they're going to codify this and stop this kind of behavior.

COOPER: Asha, I mean, the president is the head of the executive branch. If he asks an FBI agent who technically works for him who they voted for, if you ask you that, would they feel obligated to answer?

DEAN: Well --

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I wouldn't.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Sorry, this is for Asha.

DEAN: OK.

RANGAPPA: Oh. It would be an incredibly uncomfortable question to answer because your vote is private, as Philip has said.

You know, Anderson, what strikes me about this conversation is that it is evocative of the loyalty test that the president allegedly gave Comey in his private dinner conversation, and it kind of goes to a sense that he believes that the people who are working there have to be politically on his side in order to be able to do their job.

And I think it actually supports the version that Comey has of that conversation, which you know he contests because he's essentially, this is Groundhog Day. He had the same conversation in a different way with the new person who stepped into Comey's shoes. And I think it's very problematic in how he sees the role of the FBI in his administration.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Phil, it does sound a little bit like a loyalty test.

MUDD: It is. And if you look at where the president came from, you can understand that. Do you support the Trump enterprise business? Do you want to support us in terms of growing the business, whether it's golf courses or selling wine and water, which Trump has done over time.

But one of the complications when you transition from New York to Washington, you're dealing with federal officials who are required to not only by law, but required by a sort of sense of loyalty and government to serve whoever the American people elect. If the American people choose to elect Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Bush, you're responsible to say if you give us an order that doesn't violate the law and that's ethical and moral, we will execute that order. And you don't have to ask us who we voted for because we are loyal to you as the president.

He doesn't understand this. And at some point, after a year plus in, he should. It's not that complicated.

COOPER: John Dean, the reporting that the president is going to be interviewed by Robert Mueller, perhaps even within the coming weeks -- negotiations are under way, according to the leaks. What does that tell you about where this investigation is? We talked to Preet Bharara and Jeff Toobin just before who said, look, you don't interview somebody like the president of the United States unless you are at the end of it, you know, because you're not going to get a second chance.

DEAN: I think that's correct. That's certainly the reading I had on reading those reports. He's drawing near the end. He's got all the basic information that he needs so he won't have to go back and try to get another interview. He knows what he wants to ask.

Trump doesn't know what he wants to ask. So, it's also a difficult interview for Trump and a troubling one. But it does signal that the investigation is coming to a head on this part of it.

COOPER: Yes, Asha, I think the key phrase there is on this part of it. The fact that according to, again, to these leaks, that the focus of this is going to be the Flynn firing, the Comey firing. That points to questions about a possible obstruction of justice as opposed to questions about collusion or conspiracy.

[20:25:03] RANGAPPA: Right. So, I would say two things.

With the obstruction case, it's important to remember that the key piece of evidence that Mueller needs to prove is corrupt intent on the part of the president in firing James Comey. And so, getting his testimony and his own words is really important because, you know, he is not a mind reader. So, he has to get something from Trump that goes to that.

I do think that the obstruction investigation is severable from the Russia investigation. So it doesn't necessarily mean that the threads in the Russia investigation are over.

The Flynn conversation can actually touch on some of those things, but many of the other crimes that he may be looking at, for example, financial crimes, crimes involving social media, you know, money doesn't lie. The money trail doesn't lie. Digital trails don't lie. He doesn't necessarily need Trump's interview to necessarily build a case on those fronts.

COOPER: Phil, do you think -- do you agree with Asha that there could be other prongs of this still, even if the president is going to be interviewed in a couple of weeks?

MUDD: I agree. Let me give you a totally different perspective on this. This is not about obstruction, and it's not about Russia. At this point in the investigation, the Mueller team is looked at financial records, the e-mails and phone records of the people involved. They interviewed dozens, if not hundreds of witnesses.

When you go into a conversation with Jeff Sessions to the president, you're not trying to pursue a charge of obstruction of justice or inappropriate cooperation with the Russians. You have a picture, a timeline. And that's the simplest way to think of this. A timeline of what happened during the campaign and after.

You go in and you know the answers already. Mr. President, what happened during the campaign? What happened after the campaign? Why did Flynn feel that it was required to lie about his conversations with the Russians about sanctions?

You want to ask about the facts. You're not trying to go down one rabbit hole or the other. You're just trying to determine whether everything you learned is factual or not. I think that's what we got here.

COOPER: All right. Thanks, everybody.

We're going to get our political panel's take on the breaking news next. More ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:30:36] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Two breaking news we are following at this hour, the Washington Post reporting that after firing James Comey, President Trump summoned the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to the White House and when they chatted, the President asked him who he voted for.

Also tonight, we've learned the Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to question President Trump about the firing of Comey and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Joining me now CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod, a Veteran of the Obama White House and CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

David, I wonder -- I mean, can imagine any scenario under which any President should have ask an acting FBI director who he voted for?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not. And particularly, under these circumstances, but under no circumstances should a President do that. You know, the irony of what's going on right now, Anderson, is that the complaint about McCabe who by all measures apparently is a very highly regarded career FBI person is that he somehow is a political person because his wife ran for office.

Meanwhile, the President is trying to reach into the FBI. The Attorney General reportedly tried to have McCabe fire order the FBI director or strongly suggested that he fire McCabe, the new director. I mean, if anybody is politicizing the FBI is the President and the supporters. And that is a threat to the rule of law. It's a major deal here.

COOPER: Yes. I mean the idea that the President doesn't understand what the norms are, I mean, does that fly? I mean, you know, he is president of the United States, someone can --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN'S CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. It doesn't fly. But it's also reminiscent of him asking Comey whether he would be loyal to him. Take the loyalty oath. And it's also why the President is suspicious of the so-called deep state because people who work in government may not all be Republicans and may not all have voted for him.

So, I think that the President it's either you are on my team or you are off my team. The notion that somebody can be a career civil servant, be dedicated it justice. Andrew McCabe is a long serving public servant. The idea that politics could be put aside is sort of foreign I think to this President. And he doesn't understand the separation of powers. You know, these people work for the people of the United States. They are not Donald Trump's personal attorneys.

COOPER: Right. I mean, David, whether it's Jeff Sessions or the FBI director or in this case the acting FBI director, to Gloria's point, it does feel like the President believes that this is like, you know, his -- an extension of his own power and that they are supposed to work for him.

AXELROD: Well, there is no question. Yes, well, there is no question. I mean he was furious at Sessions for recusing himself which was entirely appropriate -- the recusal was because he thought he should be there to protect him. There is always this sort of reference to the Justice Department as if it is an adjunct to him and his tweets in his comments. He often speaks about the fact that he could fire this person or that person and he is also giving instruction to be the attorney general, instruction to the FBI through his tweet. This is wholly new ground and it does reflect his attitude which is the Justice Department, the FBI, the entire criminal -- the entire justice system of the country is an adjunct of his political operation.

COOPER: And Gloria, it does sort of put a new light, the reporting, you know, the other breaking story tonight that Sessions are putting pressure on the FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Andrew McCabe.

BORGER: Right. And you know, don't forget, the President has been tweeting about Andrew McCabe for the last six or seven months and suddenly you have this story about Sessions telling the FBI Director to fire him which shows you in an odd way that Sessions may be listening to the President on this which is also kind of frightening that Wray apparently, my reporting is today that Wray objected strenuously to this. And that the decision was made to kind of back off since McCabe is going to retire anyway. But you do have Sessions listening to this Presidential pressure going to the FBI Director and say, why don't you please do this. And that again, I believe is out of order.

[20:35:19] COOPER: David?

AXELROD: We should also point out that Sessions participated in the firing of Jim Comey.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: He was part of that process which is undoubtedly is one of the subjects that he was talking with Bob Mueller about when the special counsel questioned him last week.

COOPER: It also, David, puts a lot of pressure on Christopher Wray to, you know, be seen as -- whether it's distancing himself or just showing himself to be independent not only from the President but independent as an example to everybody else in the FBI and the Justice Department.

AXELROD: Exactly. Well, he is under an enormous pressure. I feel for him. Apparently threatened to resign under this pressure. It is difficult to run that department, maintain your oath, and do it with integrity and keep the loyalty of people who have also taken an oath if they believe that you are a political functionary. And Wray obviously understands that and is struggling to fulfill that role.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria.

BORGER: And that's why, you know, the push back that he gave to Sessions was probably very good for him internally at the department there and the FBI where morale is so low.

And they had a director who said, no, I'm taking orders about this. I'm gong to run my own job.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria, David. Thanks very much.

Coming up, new move by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in the battle of immigration, he withdraws the offer to President Trump to fund the border wall. We get reaction from the former President of Mexico Vicente Fox. He made no secret at all about his feeling toward President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:32] COOPER: Breaking news tonight in the ongoing immigration debate. The leader of the Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is saying his offer of last week to support funding for President Trump border wall is now off the table. That offer was part of the back and forth between President Trump and Senate Democrat Schumer agreeing to the money and in exchange the Trump administration would support restoration of the so-called DREAMers program. Now action on DREAMers postponed at least until February eight and Schumer says the offer to fund the wall is dead.

Here with me to discuss all of this and much more is the former President of Mexico Vicente Fox. He has got a new book. Let's Move On: Beyond Fear & False Prophets.

Before we get to the book and who the false prophets are, which I think I know in your opinion, you have said President Trump was never going to build up for the wall. Do you think he will? Do think -- they have some prototypes up now?

VICENTE FOX, FORMER PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: Well, it depends on American people and taxpayers because the money has to come there.

COOPER: Mexico is not going to pay for it?

FOX: It has to be -- No, absolutely not. I mean, Congress has his steadily position in Mexico. No way, Mexico would pay, the actual President the same thing and the three candidates running for the June election for President same thing. So no way Mexico would pay for the wall.

Now, it can be built if taxpayers in the United States want to afford for that, want to pay for that. I think for taxpayers it would be much more convenient to invest some money in universities, in schools, in hospitals, in building jobs, creating jobs and many other good alternatives.

COOPER: According to the Homeland Security Department, the number of people crossing illegally into the United States is at a 46 year low. Does, President Trump deserve some credit for that is?

FOX: No because it's a trend that started two or three years ago and because of Mexico -- because Mexico has dropped down since --

COOPER: People coming from Central America?

FOX: Yes. Maybe Central America is reacting to Trump's problem. You know, migrants are very wise. They know where to go, when to go and what they are coming in for. It's making money is what they need. So --

COOPER: You don't think the tough rhetoric from the President and about cracking down, about sending people back that has had an impact? FOX: No the stick doesn't work anymore. You have to convince people and that we could do together, United States and make -- could work on a program like we developed with President Bush administration, just having some proposals. The thing is economic. Economic, when you can make 10 times, what you are making by jumping a wall or learning how to swim, you take advantage of that opportunity. That gap has not worked from 10 to one, to five to one after 25 years of NAFTA. And I am absolutely convinced that in the next 25 years, we will go on a one-to-one like Canada and the United States. And we will forget about this problem.

COOPER: You and I have talked in the last year since President been elected. You had some very strong words, very tough words against the President, have you changed your view of him at all?

FOX: No, not at all. I mean, I'm deeply offended as well as 120 million Mexicans have deeply offended.

COOPER: Offended.

FOX: So we need an apology from him. We need him to stop speaking about Mexico and Mexicans. Every day he comes back with a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. Everyday he comes out with offenses. So he has to change. He is the President of the United States. A President has to behave like a President.

COOPER: It's interesting though, his Chief of Staff John Kelly in a meeting has said that some of the President policies -- or well, during the campaign, some of his rhetoric was uninformed. I certainly I think you would agree with that. Does it surprise you that Kelly would say that?

FOX: It surprises because for the first time he might be taking his own position and trying to advise Trump that he has to change but he has to show Presidential capacities. And I'm sure more and more people in the White House, more and more people on his team are ashamed of his behavior. They don't know what to do. And the best thing to do is to tell him face to face like we do in business. I mean, you're wrong, why don't you change.

COOPER: They're obviously the comments he made about countries in Africa, about Haiti, using the language he did, do you think those were racist comments?

[20:45:00] FOX: Absolutely, yes. Absolutely, yes. He is subconscious treason him (ph). But he cannot change. It comes within his own self being. And yes, he's absolutely racist. And what he has said about Mexico and Mexicans same thing. You cannot generalize that a race or a color or a nation is like that. It's individuals. I know there are criminals on terrifying million Mexicans that are here in the States, some of them are criminals and they have to be caught by justice in the United States. But saying that all Mexicans or that Mexicans are that way is incredibly stupid.

COOPER: In your new books -- let's move on, you say, the United States -- I can see your neighbor's house smoking and will soon be on fire. It's my moral obligation and duty to speak out. What do you mean by the United States will soon be on fire?

FOX: I mean that things are getting worse and worse here. The more divide -- I mean, you have --

COOPER: The economy is certainly doing well.

FOX: Yes, yes. But let's wait and see because when you decrease taxes, the result you see it on the long-term.

COOPER: So you are talking about divisions within the United States are getting worse.

FOX: Absolutely. This division, this divide that the United States is not taking positions, decisions and coming up with public policies. I don't understand why Congress submit and it has to bring Trump something that he likes. I mean Congress are totally independent and autonomous. And they can decide. I don't understand why they have to please Trump. That's a big mistake to me and that's weakening democracy.

COOPER: President Fox, thank you very much. The news book is, "Let's Move On: Beyond Fear & False Prophets."

Coming up, news that First Lady Melania is not traveling with her husband to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland after initially saying she would. The announcement coming as questions continue to swirl about an alleged hash money payment from the candidate Trump's attorney to Porn Star Stormy Daniels. More details on that ahead.

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[20:50:13] COOPER: First Lady Melania Trump will not be accompanying her husband to the annual world economic forum in Davos Switzerland tomorrow. The White House originally saying she would in fact, attend, the change in plan comes amid the reporting about her husband, the President and the alleged hush money payment, his attorney paid the Porn Star Stormy Daniels before the election.

In fact, Mrs. Trump hasn't made a public statement of any kind since January 12th, which is the day the "Wall Street Journal" first reported $130,000 payment to the porn star which was allegedly made during the 2016 election campaign.

Now, the liberal watchdog group, Common Cause argues in an official complaint the money amounts to a violation of campaign finance laws.

CNN'S Kate Bennett joins me now from Washington with more. So what are you hearing from the White House about the First Lady's change in plans?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: This is interesting, Anderson. I was originally told that she was going to Davos on the 15th, which was actually after the Stormy Daniels story broke. But then, in the past several days, something has changed. They cited logistical and scheduling issues with the trip and pulled out last night, saying she would no longer go. She had initially -- I was told she was going to go support her husband and watch him give his speech there at Davos and perhaps do some things on her own, but scheduling and logistics have prevented it. However, you know, the silence about what's been going on in the headlines leads people to draw their own conclusions perhaps about what's happening behind closed doors.

COOPER: Yesterday was actually the President and the First Lady's wedding anniversary, correct?

BENNETT: That's correct, their 13th wedding anniversary although you wouldn't know it. There was no sign of it on social media. We're used to maybe the Obama's or even the Bush's saying back and forth to each happy anniversary. There was nothing, no sign. I even called the White House and said was there a special dinner. Did anyone go out? Did they celebrate? Did not hear back from them.

It's interesting, though, I mean, this is, again, a First Lady that has used social media. As we remember on Saturday, the one-year anniversary of her husband's inauguration, she did tweet marking that occasion, but she did not use a photograph of herself with her husband. In fact, he was nowhere to be mentioned in this tweet, talking about her year of wonderful moments. Nowhere did Donald Trump get a mention. And sort of this sort of faceless, if you will, military escort, I think it speaks to perhaps some loneliness or some isolation. Again, it's reading the tea leaves with her. She's one of the most mysterious and private first ladies of modern history, and I think -- though she's getting high marks for subliminal messaging, what she's not saying is perhaps more interesting than what she would be saying.

COOPER: Kate Bennett, I appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Up next, deadly shooting at a Kentucky high school, two students dead, more than dozens others are wounded. We'll get the latest on that.

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[20:56:38] COOPER: A heart breaking day in Kentucky. Two students are dead, 17 others are injured after a school shooting. It happened at Marshall County High School as school was getting under way this morning. Authorities say a 15-year-old student opened fire in a crowded atrium as soon as he arrived at the school. He was arrested at the scene. Investigators held a news conference tonight. CNN'S Nick Valencia was there. He joins us with the latest. What have you learned, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Anderson. A very somber news conference given just a short time ago by state and local officials here in this very small town of Benton, Kentucky. We know the 19 victims as a result of this shooting, 14 of them had gunshot wounds. Five of them are still in the hospital tonight. Local area hospitals battling for their lives. We also learned the identities of the two who were killed at the scene, 15-year-old Preston Cope is a male, 15-year-old Bailey Holt is the female victim who died at the scene here. A very little information given so far about the shooter, we're still digging on that. Anderson. COOPER: What have you learned about the scene? I mean, about what happened this morning? It sounds like as soon as he got there, he started.

VALENCIA: Yes, it was about 7:57 when he entered this high school and started shooting according to police, in a common area. We know according to eyewitnesses what they've been telling us all day there was a scene of just utter chaos and panic. In some cases, hundreds of students running for their lives, jumping over fences, trying anything they could do to get away from the gunshots.

I talked to a local business owner who told me that he saw the shocked look on these students' faces and that when the students' parents showed up, it was even more panic. I talk about this being a small town. And in fact, some of these first responders, Anderson, they have kids that go to school here. And in one case, one of the first troopers who responded to the scene thought that 15-year-old girl who died at the scene was his own daughter.

This is a community. They say they don't worry about leaving their car keys running while their cars are running. Not at least something like this, so tragic happening here.

COOPER: Did the shooter give himself up? Was he, I mean, apprehended some way?

VALENCIA: Yes, according to the Kentucky State Police, he was apprehended without incident. We asked at the press conferences if there were any gunshots exchanged between officials and this shooter. They didn't give us much detail on that, only to say that he is believed to have used a pistol in this. And one of the outstanding questions, of course, is whether or not he's going to be charged as an adult. We know that he is facing murder charges but according to state police, they're still consulting with state lawyers here as to whether or not they're going to charge him as a juvenile or as an adult.

COOPER: And he's 15 years old, any comments from his family?

VALENCIA: We haven't heard from his family just yet. Just so far the community here just really rattled by this all. It is worth mentioning about 20 years ago in West Paducah, 20 miles from here or so, there was another school shooting in 1997. A lot of residents have been talking about that, reminded of that tragedy unfortunately today. Anderson.

COOPER: And just to reiterate this, in terms of the status of those who were injured or wounded?

VALENCIA: Yes, five of them still in critical condition. We tried to get an update about one of the victims. We understand that it was a special needs child, one of them that was shot earlier today. We tried to get a condition update on him, but the state officials here said they just didn't really want to get into the specifics to differentiate one victim from the other. Everyone here, they say tonight, is suffering. Anderson. COOPER: It's unbelievable. Nick Valencia, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris.

[21:00:07] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, thank you very much.

There are two big breaking headlines in the Russia investigation tonight. We're going to talk with the reporter at the center of the story.