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CNN: McMaster Could Leave White House by End of Month; CNN Exclusive: FBI Counterintel Investigating Ivanka Trump Business Deal; A Day After Hope Hicks Leaves H.R. McMaster Could Be Departing; The President vs. The Attorney General; Source: Pres. Trump Fuming After Sessions Defends Justice Dept.; Attorney General Jeff Sessions Pushes Back In Battles with Pres. Trump; Inside White House Gun Policy Meeting; GOP Lawmaker Says Ban AR-15 Type Rifles; NRA: We Met With President and VP Tonight. Aired 9:10p ET

Aired March 1, 2018 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And what about the President's feud with his own attorney general and the White House press secretary's carefully -- are carefully constructed answer. The question is he going to be fired?

Also new reporting on the fall out from yesterday's remarkable, a White House meeting on gun policy. The President appearing to take an NRA at times and shortly you'll hear what the NRA top spokesperson has to say. First the breaking news on National Security adviser H.R. McMaster, CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us with the latest. So, is he staying or going? Do we know?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, my colleague Barbara Starr, and I are told that General McMaster could leave his position in the White House as soon as the end of this month, certainly in the near future. Multiple sources tell CNN, and in addition it's becoming more likely that McMaster will not return to the military. There's a been a lot of discussion about him returning to command and getting his fourth star. But he will ultimately retire as a three-star general where it stands now.

In just in the last few minutes Anderson, I'm told by a source with knowledge that McMaster has spoken to the senior leadership at the Hoover Institution which is a National Security think tank at Stanford University that has and its memberships such luminaries as Condeleeza Rice, George Schultz, I'm told that McMaster has spoken to senior leadership at the Hoover Institution about a possible position there after leaving the White House.

And so it appears that plans are under way not just for his departure but the off ramp for his departure.

COOPER: Do we know -- I mean is this President looking within the military for replacement?

SCIUTTO: Well, a number of names Barbara Starr and I and colleagues are told about possible a list on the list as possible replacements among them Safra Catz, she's a CEO now Oracle, but it was also a member of the Trump transition team. John Bolton, a very conservative former U.S. ambassador to the UN. Another named mention is Stephen Biegun. He's now a vice President at Ford Motor Company although he was also a former staff member. There's the name again to Condoleeza Rice under George W. Bush, although, that we're getting push back on that name both from Ford and from others.

I should add that the NSA spokesperson Michael Anton, his calling all these reports of McMaster's departure by a favorite phrase of the White House and that is fake news. The Defense Department, they're referring questions back to the White House because they're calling this a personnel matter. But I should also add, there were told that a senior military office has been approach informally about taking that role from McMaster although he turned it down because it was his belief that he cannot filled that political job while serving in uniform which is of course, the conditions under which General McMaster did. He's still a member of the military though he's out of uniform for that job.

I'll just add one final caveat, always smart when your looking at it personnel decisions in the White House, that the ultimate decision on this is of course the President and things, circumstances all these position changes could change in the end.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, appreciate that. Again, this is just the latest in a string of breaking news whether it's Hope Hicks departure, the Rob Porter scandal, the President going after his attorney general yet again. There's also this CNN exclusive reporting on first daughter Ivanka Trump, two sources telling us that counter intelligence officials telling us scrutinizing negotiations and financing, stranding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, is apparently as part of the background check for a full security clearance. We should point out it's neither clear why the interest in this particular deal nor there are any allegation of wrong doing.

On top of that there's a "New York Times" reporting on Jared Kushner, his White House meeting with two big investment firms, and their subsequent loans, the Kushner family company. Loans between $500 million. So, a lot happening with the White House. Put it all together, makes quit a picture, certainly something to talk about with "Axe Files" host David Axelrod who worked for a President whose nickname was no drama.

This news about General McMaster leaving, I mean if and when he does, he'll be the 11th top level staffer to leave. What does that say about this White House?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's never been a parallel to this in previous White Houses. You want an experienced team. You want a team that works well with the President and each other. And you want them in place over a long period of time so you can have consistent policy and implement it effectively if your running people in and out like, you know, an NBA basketball game, is not going to -- its not going to work.

COOPER: I mean everybody have ever talked to works in the White House talks about how difficult it can be even in the best of circumstances. But you look what's going on, just this week alone, is this sustainable?

AXELROD: Yes, well Anderson, people who are close to the President said when he took office, look he's comfortable with chaos. That's how he's always operated. It doesn't bother him. But, you know, its one thing to run the Trump organization which is essentially a branding vehicle for him. A small business compared to certainly the United States government. He's now seating in the most powerful office on the planet. And everything he does is consequential. And so, for all of this chaos to rein around him, for this flouting of rules, the near potential trade war that he apparently lost rather casually today over the advice of many of his senior national security and economic advisors, those kinds of things are deeply concerning. And they have consequences that people will feel in their lives.

[21:05:20] And so, I don't know if it -- it could certainly go on like this, but it can't go on like this without catastrophic impacts on the country. And that's what people should be concerned about.

COOPER: Well and also I mean obviously there's the muscle flex we saw from Russia today. Putin claiming to have this nuclear capable cruise missile with unlimited range escapable alluding air defense system. You know, the U.S. is doubting the veracity of it, but it's another provocation from Russia with another muted response from the White House.

AXELROD: Exactly. And then you have North Korea Anderson and now these growing reports that there is real planning going on for military action in North Korea. That war would be catastrophic as Secretary Mattis has said. And there would be hundreds and hundreds of thousands, perhaps more lives lost of our allies, our troops. You don't want that decision being made in a chaotic environment or in a casual way.

COOPER: The situation now with Ivanka Trump, counterintelligence officials scrutinizing this business deal, I mean it just seems like get another example of how complicated and problematic the lines between the Trump White House and the Trump family business continue to be.

AXELROD: Donald Trump has basically lived his life flouting rules, norms, institutions, sometimes skirting laws and has made that a business practice. And so, you know, he has been opaque about his own financial dealings and so that flows down to everyone else. And obviously, this one is very close to him because it's his daughter and his son-in-law but it's really unthinkable to me and it would be to anybody else who served in the White House before this administration that you could go into the White House and have these kinds of entanglements and flout them by having meetings with people who are doing business with your businesses and so on. It's really quite something.

COOPER: But, also, I mean Donald Trump ran attacking Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information. He said should would be the only President who won't be qualified to actually get a security clearance. The irony being that he seems to be surrounded by people who are unable to get, you know, a full security clearance. They only have temporary ones. You know, the fact that this business thing is holding up Ivanka Trump's security clearance. We obviously know about Jared Kushner's clearance being downgraded earlier in the week.

How can any of this people perform their job as senior advisors to the President, if they don't have this kind of clearance?

AXELROD: Well, they can't certain not with the portfolio that Jared Kushner has. You can't be in the midst of the Middle East peace process or dealing with Mexico and the faded (ph) relations we have with Mexico right now. And the number of the other issues said he's dealing with without top secret security clearance. And I think that's why there seems to be this tension between General Kelly and Jared Kushner over this issue. You know, they can say that he can do his job without this, but he really can't. The other question is, is he really being walled off from this information --

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: -- or is it being shared with him by the President.

COOPER: Who legally can do that?

AXELROD: You have people who were -- and they can. They absolutely can. If you don't respect rules you can do anything if you're President of the United States as he has pretty much said including this. But it compromises national security and that's the reason why he's not getting his security clearance.

COOPER: The story referenced earlier from "New York Times" reporting that Jared Kushner's family real estate group obtaining business loans after Kushner met with company heads and the followup group management, Citi group in his official government capacity. I mean Kushner's attorneys said -- have said look, there's nothing to see there. Nothing there. Just the appearance of these meetings and then having loans it just seems like something that could have been avoided.

AXELROD: Well, there's no question about it unless you didn't want to avoid it. I mean, you know, it could be that this wasn't just an oversight but --

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: -- there was an intent to have these meetings. Look, when I was in the White House, the Obama administration promulgated rules that said that, you know, we would say who came into the White House and who they were meeting with. Those rules have been rolled back by the Trump administration. The Trump administration don't really believe the American people should have visibility into the business dealings of the President or anybody around him. And so we can't wholly judge these conflicts of interest. Prosecutors, however, have more visibility into it. And there in lies the rub for them potentially.

COOPER: David Axelrod. Thanks, Dave

Well, let's bring in the panel, Jeffrey Toobin, Rich Lowry, Margaret Hoover, Bakari Sellers, and Asha Rangappa. Asha, you specialized I think in national security when you were at the FBI. What do you make the -- a departure like this. How significant is that in the National Security apparatus?

[21:10:08] ASHA RANGAPPA, FMR FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, the role of the National Security Council is to coordinate National Security policy. It's to get the expertise of all the different agencies, recommend policy to the President to act on it. Now remember, that when he first came into office, President Trump put Steve Bannon on the principles committee of the National Security Council. And McMaster took him off.

Then we have Kushner having these meetings, bypassing the national Security Council and not reporting them. And we had this parade of intel chiefs who have now testified that they received no direction from the President on taking a policy response to Russia. So I think what you have here is a President who really doesn't take this council's role very seriously or kind of pay attention to that expertise. So I can imagine that it has been frustrating from McMaster's side to deal with that situation.

COOPER: Margaret you were saying McMaster was at Hoover just --

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he did visit the Hoover Institution Winter Board of Overseers meeting and had some conversations of course the senior leadership there. He had been at the Hoover Institution as a military fellow before many military fellows actually spent time at the Hoover Institution. Jim Mattis was of course in retirement at the Hoover Institution when was pulled out of retirement to go be a Defense secretary. He wrote his book "Dereliction Duty". H.R. McMaster did while he was at the Hoover Institution, it would be a very natural place for him to return.

But look, one of the things you hear from people sort of in the national security apparatus is that H.R. McMaster, because of his military background, has never been afraid to tell the President what he needs to know in those meetings. And because of that he takes on errands (ph), he take some volatile, he takes some incoming, because its hard to tell a President what he needs to know sometimes. Because this President sometimes doesn't want to hear certain things.

So there's a sense that we can only take on so much water I think with this President and in the White House. And it seems that McMaster has going to be at the end of this rope.

COOPER: Rich, how do you see, I mean if, you know, when H.R. McMaster was -- got the job, a lot of people sort of breathe a sigh of relief. What is it -- does it worry you that a person like him would be leaving this White House at this time? If he is leaving.

RICH LOWRY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well first of all -- I don't know how real this story is. There's a lot of reporting since very specific, but there also people very close to the situation who don't think this is happening.

COOPER: Right.

LOWRY: We had a similar episode two months ago where there's very specific reporting about Tillerson being at the end of his teller and he's still there. So who knows? I know H.R. McMaster a little bit, I went on a trip to him, with him to Iraq and Afghanistan in the '07, '08 time frame. He's one the finest people I've ever met, he's a brilliant guy, he's physically brave but nothing quite prepares you for this kind of position in this sort of administration and we've seen a lot of reporting that is much too buttoned up and serious for Trump who likes a more meandering style and he's never really made a connection with him. but I think with everyday that passes and you have more this kind of stories, whether there's McMaster or Jeff Sessions or Tillerson or whoever else, its harder to attract good talent into this administration.

So I think they're looking potentially at a slow rolling, low level personnel crisis. And they should basically want to keep everyone who is there. Because be very hard to replace any of them.

COOPER: Margaret?

HOOVER: Which is ironically why you have the people who are saying, yes tend to be military service members. But there is a sense of duty to service to the presidency, to the country. Well it was much easier to get somebody from the military in the past than there is to get from the private sector. People don't want to -- as much their reputation, they feel like they have more to lose.

COOPER: But when you look at the departures though from this White House, I mean normally after a year for there to be turnover, I mean it is a Jeffrey Toobin is to large.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's beyond the well, well, beyond the normal in terms of turnover. You know, I think most people and I would certainly include myself in this, you know, we don't really care too much about sort of how this sausage is made as long as the results are good. And, you know, this administration is actually been very fortunate that in 13, 14 months there's not been major national security crisis. Now that Korea has stayed at a low boil. But, you know, every administration gets tested whether it's here or whether it's going to be in Iran. And then it's really going to matter that there are people there who know what the hell they're doing. And I think whatever you think of McMaster, you know, in terms of the substance of the administration, everybody acknowledges that he is a -- they are going professional.

And if he is gone and, you know, it's just Steve Miller, you know, who knows nothing about National Security. Who seems to be the only policy person who survive to this period, you know, then that's a very scary scenario.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the reason you have a lot of military men and women who join this administration is because they know and understand that one it's about service of your country but two, very practically, they will have a job or an opportunity when they leave this White House. This White House is damaged. This White House is not a place where any up and coming super star who is an expert in his or her field wants to work, because the problem is when you leave this White House, you will carry with you the stain of this White House.

[21:15:23] So people don't want to endure that. And, you know, as a Democrat, just as an American, I can tell you that there are couple of people who are thankful for in this White House. And there was a point in time when I had General Kelly on this list but he's kind of become wayward. But General McMaster, is someone that as a Democrat you're honestly thankful that he's there because he upholds some of the fundamental tenants of our democracy. The other is General Mattis. You know, you're thankful you have somebody with that experience who appears to be certainly level headed. And these are the only two people along with Nikki Haley who haven't taken on the personality of their boss. And everyone else has been tainted by Donald Trump. And the then they -- you look in the mirror and you become Donald Trump.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. When we continue, more about the White House that seems to be well in turmoil almost daily. And we'll examine the curious on President and possible fractured relationship between President Trump and his own attorney general.


COOPER: Let's continue with the breaking news tonight. Another big departure apparently coming in White House, before the break here with David Axelrod, said this would have a catastrophic impact on the country if it continues where the chaos he's talking were barely pass the one year mark for this administration already as we showed you the senior staff looks much different than it was at the beginning.

[21:20:04] Again these are just a few of the top people who have gone since the west wing. Luckily the panel is still all here at least for this break.

I mean --

TOOBIN: We've just been fired.

COOPER: Margaret, I mean as a White House how unusual is this just in terms of sure volume and the sort of -- I mean just the -- does it seem chaotic to you?

HOOVER: Well we've -- I mean we've all acknowledge it's incredibly chaotic because the turnover is so fast. But what that does to, I mean it takes a while for any administration to get rolling. Sort of to get their sea legs to begin to understand and work functionally with the other apparatus as the executive branch with the Congress. And that's even if you have, you know, a consistency throughout the first 365 days of any White House. So it makes it incredibly difficult for a White House that wants to be effective or pursue any policy agenda or get -- you really get anything done if there this much turn over, your have your building relationship, your not -- it is makes it incredibly discernment (ph).

COOPER: Do you think -- Rich, I mean as a conservative or how concerned are you about the ethics of having, you know, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, you know, still in some capacity involved with their businesses. Meeting with, you know, I mean there's this latest reporting I guess from "New York Times" about this meeting with Jared Kushner.

LOWRY: I don't think they should be there in the first place. I understand why they want to be there --

COOPER: You don't think they should be there because?

LOWRY: Well, one, they know nothing about government. Two, it's going to inherently make the policy making and the politics within the White House more complicated --

COOPER: Right.

LOWRY: Because you don't know whether you can openly disagree, you know, with the son-in-law or with daughter. And three, they're just compromised in terms of the business. So I understand why they want to be there. They want to protect their father or father-in-law and certainly there plenty of other Presidents of relatives serving in administrations. Sometimes in quite high level capacities. But I think this was a mistake from the beginning and it's probably not going to end well. We're already seeing signs of that.

TOOBIN: There's a difference between normal just sort of normal White House chaos which I don't think most people care about as long as the results are good. What makes the Ivanka and Jared particularly problem so different is that he has divided loyalties. You know, he's negotiating with countries whose money he needs for his business. You know, Qatar, China, Mexico. His company, never perhaps not him, is trying to get investment capital from people he is talking to in business. That's a conflict of interest. That's a security risk. That really does impact the way, you know, the government could function where as the other stuff about, you know, whether it's McMaster or someone else, I don't think we can really judge what difference it makes.

COOPER: There is -- even Jared Kushner, it's -- even if you're not involved in the financing, trying to get financing for 666, your big building here which has a huge loan coming due, you cannot eliminate that from your mind?

TOOBIN: And of course. And neither can the people -- I mean these people are smart they're talking to. You know, China has sovereign funds. Qatar has sovereign funds, he's dealing with crisis involving both of those countries. At the same time his company, which he is still an investor in, though not, you know, an active management, supposedly, is trying to desperately save their company needing hundreds of millions of dollars. He's already getting hundreds of millions of dollars from other people he's negotiating with.

COOPER: But, you know, the argument (INAUDIBLE) made in last hour it said look, the American people knew Donald Trump was a businessman. They liked that about him. And, you know, are you saying that business people should not have jobs in the White House?

RANGAPPA: They -- the problem is when they can also be targeted by foreign countries, by intelligence services we just found out that Ivanka's business might be, being investigated by counterintelligence agent at the FBI. Now this doesn't -- it's not a criminal investigation. It doesn't mean that she's done anything wrong. But what this means is that foreign intelligence services likely, if the FBI is investigating it, either there's been contact or some kind of targeting because they have identified a vulnerability that they can exploit. And they're not going to waste their time unless they see that. And she has access. And I think as Rich mentioned, why are they here? It's not like they have an expertise that can't be replaced anywhere else.


HOOVER: Can I just --


HOOVER: -- the Steve Moore's argument. Steve Moore's argument is completely erroneous. You guys, they have the American people hired him because he's a businessman, that's fine. They hired him then under the premise because of the talents he brings to the job, but not so he can have his business and the job of presidency at the same time. When you're the President, you have one job. And it's taking care of the American people and securing the homeland. It is not also enriching yourself. And I think what ends up happening is when they are not clear laws or regulations in place as there aren't in this case, there are no anti-nepotism law that the executive level. We need to rely on the legislative branch to fix this on the back end.

[21:24:58] SELLERS: Can I just bring up one thing. I mean we've been talking about the ethics of Kushner and the ethics of Ivanka and, you know, we talked about this White House but I think for most of the American people what they're seeing is not an ethical dilemma. I mean I think people set that aside for Donald Trump when they elected him. There was no way that Donald Trump ran on morals, values and ethics. But we're starting to see a lack of competence in the White House. I mean is just very fundamental -- fundamentally a lack of confidence. I mean look at the people he's hiring. I mean you have move (ph) just communications director. What (INAUDIBLE) does he bring to the table, Omarosa. I mean you fire her on "The Apprentice" but you hire her in real life. I mean where does that work?

And you just go down the list of people. And, you know, Ivanka, Jared, I mean you love your daughter to death. You love your son-in- law to death, but that does that mean that they need to be top secret clearance.

LOWRY: Well another thing is going on here.

SELLERS: Competence is the problem.


LOWRY: The shadow war -- its shadow war between Jared and General Kelly. I think it's very important for the administration that Kelly win that war and not go anywhere.


COOPER: We have to take a quick break.

Coming up the latest word from the White House and whether Attorney General Sessions may be on his way out.


COOPER: As we mentioned off the top tonight, another day in the White House, another day of questions about whether the President has confidence or even likes his own attorney general. Here is what Sarah Sanders said when asked about it at today's briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the President want to get rid of his attorney general?



COOPER: Not that I know of. I imagine that may not be the most comfortable statements if you're Jeff Sessions or maybe his assistant. Back now with the panel.

I mean it is extraordinary and again I mean Jeff Sessions whether you like him or not, he's executing the President's agenda perhaps more efficiently than any other cabinet official that we know about.

LOWRY: It has to be so painful for Jeff Sessions.

[21:30:00] One just the public humiliation of it, but two the irony of it. The first to endorse Trump. Someone who on Trump's signature issues was there before any other Republican. And he's actually implementing the agenda except for one thing which the President doesn't consider him personally loyal enough. And the President hates him. He is derisive and insulting towards him.


LOWRY: -- in private and if he could fire him, he would. And apparently his policy is trying to humiliate him into quitting which I don't think it's going to happen. But if he fired him or he quit there would be a crisis in the justice firm and be very hard to get another Senate confirmed attorney general. So I think he is there for the duration. And whether that's a reprieve or a punishment, I don't know.

TOOBIN: And let's remember what exactly his complaint is about Jeff Sessions. His primary complaint is that he recused himself --

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: -- and led to the appointment of Mueller, which was obviously the right thing for Sessions to do under any definition of legal ethics. But if you look at the continuing complaints, its why isn't the Justice Department prosecuting Hillary Clinton? Think about what that means about American democracy that the President of the United States is calling for the criminal prosecution of his political adversaries. That's something that's never happened in this country. It is a completely outrageous thing, but even just this early in the administration we're all sort of, well, you know, that stuff.

COOPER: I mean, honestly, it reminds me of like Equatorial Guinea.

TOOBIN: Equatorial Guinea.


TOOBIN: Turkey.

COOPER: Right.

HOOVER: Russia.

TOOBIN: Russia. I mean, you know, these authoritarian countries where the political enemies wind up in prison, these are the countries that Trump, you know, Guinea that you -- that appear to be his models. And that is just so un-American.

SELLERS: I mean, if --

TOOBIN: And the fact it's just gone on for so long and we just sort of normalize it.

COOPER: Equatorial Guinea not Guinea.

TOOBIN: Equatorial Guinea, sorry.

SELLERS: If Jeff Sessions wasn't so anti-immigrant, anti-voting rights, anti-minority, anti-women's rights, I mean, that the list goes on and on and on. You could actually feel sorry for this man. But the fact is, you signed up for this. You know who you working for. You know the horse or the person that brought you to the dance.

So now you're looking at Donald Trump and you're expect him to be something different. I mean, I don't have a lot of sympathy for Jeff Sessions now and to quote his former Chief of Staff being the proverbial whipping boy that he is. I mean, the fact is, I don't know who in their right mind would want to go work for this administration at any level. And he gave up a great seat. He gave up a seat in the United States Senate to now be demoted to whipping boy for the Trump White House and all of Donald Trump's friends.


RANGAPPA: Well, I want to give him credit for actually making a strong statement in response to the President.

COOPER: Because it's really the first time we've heard him push that (ph).

RANGAPPA: It's the first time he's done that. And I think -- I really do think that the career men and women at the Department of Justice and the FBI really needed that statement to be made. And then he made a very symbolic gesture by having a very public dinner with Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein.

And I do have to say, when I tell people --


TOOBIN: -- to the general

RANGAPPA: -- when I tell people is whether you like Sessions or not he is actually critical to keep there because it is him that it -- he served as a buffer between President and Mueller. Because -- it is because of his refusal that Rob Rosenstein is in charge of the Mueller investigation. If Sessions left and was replaced, Mueller would then report to the new attorney general and may not have the same, you know, latitude and discretion that he is exercising apparently under Rosenstein. He is also a Republican appointee.

COOPER: But, George (ph) is fine, it would be difficult for another candidate to pass the confirmation.

RANGAPPA: But he could fill that.

LOWRY: Yes, and --


LOWRY: -- and look, if Trump wants a crony, he's not going to get a crony through the Senate. He -- the only person the Senate would confirm I believe would be old kind of gray beard type with a lot of independent credibility. And someone like that really going to sign up to serve --

COOPER: Right.

LOWRY: -- Donald Trump. So I'm a fan of Jeff Sessions. I think it's ridiculous the idea he's anti-minority. But it's very painful to see he is a dignified guy. He would never treat anyone the way the President of the United States is treating him.

SELLERS: That's a low bar. I mean, listen, I mean, let's not forget who Jeff Sessions is. I mean, Coretta Scott King told us who Jeff Sessions was when she wrote a letter to prevent him from being a federal judge. I mean, this who Jeff Sessions is, so when I say he's anti-immigrant or anti-voting rights act. I mean, I'm not coming without any basis or fact.

But even more importantly, I mean, I think that I have more faith in our systems of government to than to believe that Jeff Sessions is -- with all due respect, somehow indispensable. Jeff Sessions is not indispensable by any stretch. I mean, if he wants to stay, so be it, God bless him.

LOWRY: So who do you think the next attorney general would be?

SELLERS: Man, I have no idea. I mean, for me to actually guess who Donald Trump would appoint to anything is beyond my capability or beyond my realm of fact. I mean, if I had to bet right now, who he would appoint, Jared Kushner. I mean, we really don't know what Donald Trump --


[21:35:12] LOWRY: And the Senate would confirm him.

HOOVER: Rudy Giuliani.

SELLERS: Rudy Giuliani: I mean, we have no idea where that could come from. But my only point remains, Jeff Sessions signed up for this so now Jeff Sessions is the whipping boy.

COOPER: Thanks everybody.

Coming up next. Breaking news on how the President statement said yesterday's a remarkable of gun policy meeting upset plans to unveil new White House gun proposals today, than and the NRA's top spokeperson her reaction to what the President said, some of which her group sharply opposes.


COOPER: There's breaking news in the wake of yesterday's gun policy conference at the White House. CNN is reporting that his remarks derailed some carefully laid out White House plans to role out some different proposals. Here is the sample of what the President had to say.


TRUMP: Now, this is not a popular thing to say in terms of the NRA, but I'm saying it any way. I'm going to just have to say it. But you can't buy -- I mean, think of it. You can buy a handgun. You can't buy one. But you have to wait until you're 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18.

I think it's something you have to think about. I can say the NRA is opposed to it. And I'm fan of the NRA, I mean, it's no bigger fan. I'm a big fan of the NRA. That one are (INAUDIBLE), these are great people. These are great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything.

[21:40:06] It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a hand gun, but I can get this weapon at 18. I don't know. So I'm just curious as to what you did in your bill. You don't address --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't address it Mr. President. But I think --

TRUMP: And what that you're afraid of the NRA.



COOPER: Dana Loesch spokesperson for the National Riffle Association. You may remember she was in center of some pretty fierce debate last week at the CNN Town Hall in Florida. I spoke to her earlier tonight.


COOPER: Dana in that meeting yesterday the President seemed to express support for raising the age for purchasing certain guns from 18 to 21 as well as the mansion to me bill even taking guns in certain circumstances without a due process, which is obviously due processes is something we hear a lot from the NRA. Do you -- does the NRA feel betrayed by the President?

DANA LOESCH, NRA SPOKESPERSON: Well, there's a lot of stuff discussed during the meeting. And I don't think any of it really made for good policy to keep our kids safe and with regards to increasing age restrictions, purchasing long guns, this is something the NRA opposes because it doesn't --

COOPER: That's a no go.

LOESCH: Well, I wont -- it's a no go. Yes, there's no point in punishing millions of young adults for something that they didn't do. I mean I want to be quite clear what it is we're discussing.

We're talking about putting their liberty on the chopping block and holding them responsible for the incompetency of the government that's there. It's the government's responsibility, we had 45 missed calls. Two missed FBI tips.

The murderer called the Broward Sheriff Department himself and said I'm a danger. The family members called. Neighbors called. It's not these law-abiding Americans. They didn't get this call.

So it's unfathomable to me to think that they're responsible and they should be paying the price for this. And not to mention, Anderson, too, you know, we have to address all of these, you know, all of these politicians who for decades have ignored this huge mental health crisis that we have in the United States that I hope that we can have a genuine discussion on because its truly -- I mean truly problem.

COOPER: If President Obama has said I can't, you know what, I cannot believe in taking the guns first and then going through due process. Second, I would imagine the NRA would have spoken out incredibly strongly about that as would many Republicans. Again, I guess it just officially to do -- does the NRA feel betrayed by this President?

I mean his due process is something I hear you and the NRA talk about all the time and understandably this President just said -- LOESCH: Right.

COOPER: -- you know what, due process comes second. Take the gun. That's the fear of so many gun owners in the NRA.

LOESCH: Right. And it -- well and it is. I mean it is -- it's the concern and we want to make sure that we're just not stripping constitutional rights from people without making sure that they have their day in court. I mean that's one of the things the NRA leadership stressed to the President Sunday when they met with him for lunch. That -- Look this is a corner stone of America we have to respect people's due process.

And we can also do that while keeping everyone safe. Now where at concerns, you know, previously President -- the previous President Former President Obama they definitely did have a very different approach. And we know that a former President Obama they definitely did have a very different approach and we know that former President Obama did not -- he did not even come close to thinking as President Trump does on for instance, you know, national reciprocity or a number of other issue. I mean he was pretty clear on that. But I think the response would have been the same.

COOPER: So if the President continues down this road continues to want to raise the age to 21, fights for that, fight for bomb stocks, fights for eliminating bomb stock, you know, fights for all the things he talked about in that meeting, even taking gun, to worrying about due process later. What's the message from the NRA to him on that in terms of what's going to happen in the voting booth?

LOESCH: Well, we've made it clear where the NRA made it clear where they stand in, in terms of, you know, where we are with increasing the age. I mean it just doesn't -- you know, it just doesn't make sense to punish people to do that. I mean I lived on my own before I was 21 years old.

And I can't imagine not, you know, in my mind Anderson I'm like 9 feet tall and weigh 500 pounds but in reality I'm 5'6 then I weigh about 25. I will be easily overpowered. And I can't imagine living by myself and not having an ability to defend myself.

And there are millions of young adults, that age that are in that same predicament. It doesn't make any sense to punish them for the failures of government. But one thing the President has talked about and that I like hearing and that a lot of members of the NRA they like hearing as well is -- it has to do with school safety and whether or not teachers want to be armed.

And I know that there are a lot of media reports. They say, well, Trump is talking about mandatory arming of teachers, which he's not. I think it's unfair to betray --

COOPER: I haven't heard anybody say that.

LOESCH: -- that way he's -- COOPER: I mean --

LOESCH: I have, I've read some of this stories on air. There were a couple of stories on air written --


COOPER: Yes. And I mean, he's saying, look if teachers want to do it, teachers who have the skill for it who want to receive a training.

LOESCH: Yes. And if parents and schools determine that that's -- if they determine that that's best for their school district then they have the freedom and sovereignty to make that choice for their district. And that's encouraging. This is something the NRA school shield program is something when appears to talk a lot about.

[21:45:00] COOPER: Right.

LOESCH: He was really ridiculed when he first discussed these really hardening schools. But now this is something everyone thankfully is talking about. We live in an era where it seems that evil can go unaccounted for. We've got to protect our kids and teachers.

COOPER: Let me just try this one more time. You said that as that you feel betrayed to the -- NRA feels betrayed and the President should be worried about the NRA. It does feel like you are, you know, with respect, going out of your way to give the President a wide -- you know, a wide berth here and not go after him or not threaten him in any way which I have to feel like if this was another President or a Democratic President saying these things, there would be some warning shots from the NRA or, you know, some red flags raised from the NRA saying look, do not go down this road.

LOESCH: I don't think that anybody just, just speaking for me personally for a second. Anyone who knows me for any length of time and particularly during the primary would ever accuse me if going easy on anybody. But the thing is this can't react and I don't think NRA members can react to something that hasn't happened yet.

COOPER: So you think it's just talk from him?

LOESCH: I mean we did come out --

COOPER: Maybe just talk.

LOESCH: It could be. I mean I think he's just entertaining both sides. I think he's listening to see what both sides have to say.

COOPER: He does tend to agree with the last person he has spoken to if it's, you know, Dianne Feinstein or Republican. But you don't believe that he really wants to raise the age to 21 or you believe maybe he does but other people will influence him not to do that. I mean you're not manning the ramparts at this point because you don't think it's necessarily going to be something the White House is pushing for? LOESCH: Yes. They -- I mean, because right now they're just -- it seems that they're just in a discussion phase and which is good. And I hope that they would -- I hope that they wouldn't be talking to everyone and really hearing what voters are thinking about this and there -- they're representatives and senators are saying. I mean that's really suppose to say --

COOPER: Right.

LOESCH: I mean that's what his job is and I was glad to see it on T.V. But -- and just kind of getting ideas and seeing what he likes and what he doesn't like. But we'll -- You know, we'll react --I mean we --


LOESCH: The NRA has already made it clear in terms of increasing the age. And we'll wait and see what else comes out. Remember there are more of these listening sessions. So let's -- This is just the first one, let's see what else he said.

COOPER: All right. Dana Loesch, appreciate your time. Thank you.

LOESCH: Thank you Anderson.

COOPER: All right.


COOPER: All right, stay with us on a very busy night. A conversation with a Florida Republican congressman who was at the televise the White House meeting who now favors a ban on assault style weapons. That's ahead.


[21:51:35] COOPER: Well, again, the breaking news, the White House delaying the roll out of gun policy proposals because they no longer track but the President said of yesterday's White House meeting, also we're getting word just now, the NRA just tweeting that they met tonight with the President and the Vice-president.

Joining us now Florida Republican Congressman Brian Mast, who was at the meeting. Before the Parkland shooting, he didn't favor banning the sale of assault style weapons. Now he does. Congressman, thanks for being back with us. I'm wondering, what your thoughts are on this news that the White House is delaying its announcement because of that meeting yesterday? You were in the meeting, are you surprised by the news? Did you have a clear sense at the end of the meeting where exactly the President stood?

REP. BRIAN MAST, (R) FLORIDA: I think so. He said very clearly that if we get him a bill that addresses bump stocks, background checks and buying age, that he's going to sign it. He said he's going to address bump stocks himself, but buying age and background check, we get him that he's going to sign it. COOPER: You heard what NRA Spokesperson Dana Loesch said just in the last break that she basically views the meeting yesterday as a discussion, a conversation, rather than putting concrete proposals out there. It certainly sounds like you got the sense it was more than just a, kind of open-ended listening discussion session.

MAST: There was a lot that was discussed and there's a lot more that needs to be discussed. That was a great thing. But he did make it clear that he would sign a bill if we got it to him. He said that to a number of senators there, Senator Toomey, Senator Nugent and I think other people came away with that sense as well.

COOPER: Learning that the NRA met tonight with the President and the Vice-president, do you think the President may tack back to his original positions which were more in line with the NRA positions?

MAST: I certainly hope not, you know. He's had a great deal of strength in this issue, you know, telling all the other lawmakers, look, you've got to be strong in this. You can't be afraid, you going to go with your gut, you going to do what you think is right. You can't say that and then walk away from that. You do have to do that. You got to go with what you think is right because this is an issue of life and death. It's an issue of life, of the kids that go on our schools and that's the way that we've got to look at it.

I'm not trying to buck the system just to buck the system. I'm going at this and looking at this because it matters to the lives of the kids in my community.

COOPER: Yesterday the President kept calling for a comprehensive bill. Are you clear on exactly what the President wants in that bill? I mean, you mentioned bump stocks and other things. But, because some of your Republican colleagues, like Senator Lindsey Graham, are saying they don't know where he stands. They want to see it put in writing.

MAST: Well, we do need to see it put in writing. That's going to be where the arguments all come in between the House and between the Senate. You've seen this movie played out before. So, there is going to be what goes on with background checks, making sure hopefully that there's no more loopholes within any background check system, give people confidence in that system that we could read out the next Nikolas Cruz or the next Stephen Paddock.

And then beyond that looking at, are we going to get resources to the schools so that they can have, you know, more fortified facilities, have the protection that they need there? Had the alertness to connect between the law enforcement and the schools themselves. What are we going to do with all of these different things surrounding the FBI and the state agencies and what goes on with those that have been detained for mental illness and their ability to purchase firearms?

All of these things need to be addressed but I came away with those two very concrete points or rather three very concrete points, bump stocks, background checks, and the buying age for individuals. I hope he sticks with that. COOPER: I just keep going back, you know, there was that immigration meeting back in January, bipartisan meeting where President Trump seemed to agree with the Democrats and then also agreed with the Republicans who were holding different points of view.

[21:55:06] Nothing in the end really ended upcoming out of that meeting. I know you're passionate about this. You hope that something is going to happen. What are you hearing from your Republican colleagues on the Hill? Is there really an appetite for some sort of comprehensive bill?

MAST: Well, no question there's an uncomfortable appetite for it. Everybody knows that this is something that has to get done. I'm sandwiched right here in my district. I'm sandwiched directly between two of the worst shootings that have occurred in our country's history. One in Orlando, one in Parkland. Everybody is aware that this could happen in their community. It may happen in a school, it may happen in a park, it may happen in a movie theater. It may happen at any number of gathering places. Nobody wants it to occur anywhere, especially in their district. But that's why there is this uncomfortable, unsettledness about this that we have to do something. We can't allow it again. But for a lot of people this is unchartered, uncomfortable territory, me included.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman Mast, I appreciate your time as always. Thanks very much. We'll be right back.


[22:00:01] COOPER: Quick programming note coming up this weekend, David Axelrod is going sit down with Senator Jeff Flake. You can catch the conversation, "The Axe Files", airing Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Don Lemon, "CNN Tonight" starts right now.