Return to Transcripts main page


More Jobs in Trump Administration; Trump and the Media Getting Heat; James Clapper States His Views on Controversial Intelligence Report; Possible Conflicts of Interest in Trump's Administration. Aired 10:10-11p ET

Aired January 11, 2017 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Thank you very much, Van Jones, I appreciate that.

We are going to begin with some breaking news. And that breaking news is about the director of national intelligence speaking out tonight, speaking with the President-elect Donald Trump.

And I want to bring in CNN's senior White House correspondent, that is Jin Acosta, and also political analyst, Kirsten Powers, a columnist for USA Today, and chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Again, a big developing story happening tonight. Jim Sciutto, I want to go to you first. Minutes ago, the director of national intelligence issued a statement concerning the report presented to the president- elect and what was included in it. What does it say?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. In a statement he says that he spoke to the president- elect about the briefing. Let me read it in full now.

"This evening, I had the opportunity to speak with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss recent media reports about our briefing last Friday. I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that habe been appearing in the press and we both agree that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security."

"We also discussed the private security company document which was widely circulated in recent months among the media and members of Congress and congressional staff, even before the I.C., that is intelligence community, became aware of it."

"I emphasize that this document is not, an emphasis, a U.S. intelligence community product and I do not believe the leaks came from within the I.C. The I.C. has not made judgment that the information in this document is reliable and we did not rely upon it in any way for your conclusions."

"However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."

"President-elect Trump again affirmed his appreciation for all the men and women serving in the intelligence community, and I assured him that the I.C. stands ready to serve his administration and the American people."

It is signed James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence.

Don, if I could just highlight a line in that statement, it's the line at the end. First of all, it references this document that was part of CNN's story, not the contents of the document but CNN's story yesterday, which was an exclusive, was that this document had been included, a synopsis of it, in that classified intelligence briefing on Friday to the president-elect, as well as to President Obama that FBI is investigating the allegations, though, it's not yet confirmed them.

And that members of Congress, republican and democrat, consider them serious and have also ask for further investigation.

You'll remember today, that Donald Trump at his press conference denied any veracity of that document but also attacked CNN called us fake news, called the story fake news and that's a line that was continued by Kellyanne Conway with Anderson Cooper in quite a substantive interview just about a little more than an hour ago.

[22:10:09] He emphasizes the document, which again, we did not detail the allegations inside it but we did detailed that the synopsis of those allegations was included in the briefing. He mentions that document and then he goes on to say, let me repeat that sentence, "Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."

It is hard, Don, to read that in any other way, but to confirm that as part of that obligation they presented some this information as we reported yesterday in that intelligence briefing.


SCIUTTO: A remarkable statement from the director of national intelligence to an effect reveal a private conversation with the president about this and on a matter that the president has contested very boldly in public just a few hours before in his press conference.

LEMON: Yes. And Jim, again, I think you pointed out that important line and it is important to point it out again. But this is an essentially confirming CNN's reporting.

SCIUTTO: I find no real other way to read that line. We were already very confident in our reporting. I'll remind our viewers that we spoke to more than a dozen high ranking officials from a number of agencies and buildings around Washington.

We are already confident but here you have a public reference to that document, those memos, rather, that it contain these allegations regarding President-elect Trump and possible or at least exposure to compromise by Russia. He references that document and immediately after he says that the

intelligence community has an obligation to provide all information. And it's at the end of the sentence that also caught my attention, "any matters that might affect national security."

LEMON: Right.

SCIUTTO: That gets to why they included it in the briefing. Because they made a judgment while not confirming these as factual and he says that in a statement but they made a judgment that it might.


SCIUTTO: Or knowledge of this might affect national security.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, stand by, I want to bring in Jim Acosta now. Jim, what's your reaction to the statement tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think it's important statement. I think it's the director of national intelligence who is on the way out has no loyalty to Donald Trump trying to set the record straight. And I think that's exactly what is implied in that memo that Jim Sciutto just read.

It was interesting to see Donald Trump today he went after the news media, he went after the intelligence community. Let's not lose sight of that. He once again went after the intelligence community and essentially accused them of being part of this political sphere to delegitimize his presidency. And we play a clip of that from the news conference earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's all fake news. It's phony stuff. It didn't happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours as you know because you reported it and so did many of the other people. It was a group of opponents that got together, sick people. And they put that crap together.

But it should never have been released. But I read what was released and I think it's a disgrace. I think it's an absolute disgrace.


LEMON: So, this statement from the Director of the National Intelligence Jim Clapper -- James Clapper clearly refutes what he said at that podium today.

ACOSTA: I think it does. I mean, it would be great to have James Clapper come on, and perhaps Jim Sciutto will get him on camera at some point, that would be great. But it is essentially is confirming to us that additional information was provided to the president-elect at this meeting last Friday.

It is something that if you -- when we pressed Donald Trump about this today he said well, I can't comment on classified matters, it's essentially what you've also heard from other senior transition officials.

But this is the director of national intelligence saying you know what, there were other things presented to Donald Trump besides our assessment, our findings and that includes this other material which essentially there to give the president-elect a heads up that perhaps the Russians may have something damaging on you.

LEMON: And just because the whole thing that was in question is whether or not they spoke about it verbally but it was in the actual report, and one would assume that he would read the entire report.

ACOSTA: One way or another it appears to have been in that presentation, in that presentation that occurred last Friday. And the director of national intelligence appears to be confirming that in this statement.

LEMON: A lot to discuss here. And we're going to spend some time with this because this is a very important update and facet to this now and development in the story.

Let me bring in now Carl Bernstein as well. He is CNN's political commentator. And he joins us now by phone. Carl, you've been working on the story, what do you make of James Clapper's statement?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Essentially says that the story that we reported that Donald Trump was presented with this two- page document, was indeed accurate. And it even goes to why it was presented, which is pretty much what we said in the story as well. That it was seen as affecting the national security.

[22:14:57] Our report which did not make any value judgments about any of the memorandum, the 35 pages of really raw intelligence obtained by a paid investigator, that our story did not go into those allegations but rather the fact the intelligence community, the chiefs of the national security, the intelligence agencies of the United States have decided that the information in the -- in the two-page document and was important enough, that the underlying materials were important enough to call them to the attention of the president of the United States and the president-elect. And that's really what this statement confirms.

LEMON: So, I want to bring in -- stand by, Carl. I want to bring in Kirsten Powers. Kirsten, before I have -- I want to move one and talk about another part of this but what's your response to the statement?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's pretty incredible, and I think it's really incredible if you consider the interview that Anderson Cooper did with Kellyanne Conway earlier, this is essentially confirming the reporting and Kellyanne Conway was not only saying...


LEMON: I have that. That's not what I want to ask you.

POWERS: Yes. LEMON: So, let me tell me you, though.


LEMON: Let me sort of...

POWERS: Got it.

LEMON: ... explain what's happening here. At this press conference, Donald Trump and Sean Spicer, his spokesman tried to conflate CNN's reporting with BuzzFeed's reporting. BuzzFeed published a 35-page unsubstantiated report that CNN did not. And tonight, Kellyanne Conway had this exchange with Anderson Cooper which Kirsten is talking about.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: What CNN said was and I quote, "Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump."



COOPER: Multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN."

CONWAY: Anderson, your sources are not correct. And the fact is that I understand you're telling me...


COOPER: So, you're saying in that intelligence -- you're saying in that intelligence briefing there was no information in any of the documents that's -- of that two-page summary?

CONWAY: So, two things on that. Number one, we don't discuss the classified information that is presented in intelligence community that's why there are close door...


COOPER: Well, you just said it wasn't true.

CONWAY: Excuse me. But Anderson, if you just -- if you want me to talk. I know CNN is feeling the heat today.


COOPER: I think you guys are feeling the heat.

CONWAY: But (Inaudible) enough to come on and discuss it. We feel, what heat do we feel? That you've got this raw information, this complete ridiculous fake news.


LEMON: So, in light of what you know tonight which...


POWERS: Yes. Well, I mean, I think that not only that she said wasn't true there, she also went an extra step and basically was telling Anderson Cooper that CNN was going to need to clean house, essentially I guess fire you and fire other reporters for doing bad reporting.

So, they are now, they have moved this into an area that I think is kind of unprecedented, actually telling media organizations that they need to fire people because they wrote stories that they didn't like that she knew was true. She knew it was true. And she sat there with Anderson Cooper and she said it wasn't true and we now -- we now have a confirmation that it was true.

LEMON: Well, when you talk about fake news, fake news is putting something out there that you know not to be true.


POWERS: Intentionally. People literally sit down and they make things up.

LEMON: So, if anyone is doing fake news it is the other side who is saying that this is who are intentionally putting out falsehoods.

POWERS: Right.

LEMON: Putting out lies.

POWERS: And they're conflating this, you know, she conflated BuzzFeed and CNN over and over no matter how many times Anderson straighten that, try to straighten that out with her. And so to go on and claim that people literally should be losing their jobs when she knew perfectly well that this happened is really incredible.

LEMON: It's interesting, Carl Bernstein, and I'm wondering if you, you know, having dealt with Watergate and there are people who are comparing this to Watergate and the Nixon administration and his, you know, contentious relationship with the media, is this all at different to you? Do you feel, are you concerned about that this administration in that comparison?

BERNSTEIN: First, let's say that Watergate and the events of Trump and the underlying facts are different events. But when you come to talk about the press, in Watergate the basic response of the president of the United States to what we were reporting in Watergate was to make the conduct of the press, The Washington Post, the issue in Watergate instead of the conduct of the president and his men.

That is exactly what is been happening here. We are watching the president-elect of the United States make the issue the conduct of the press, in this case, CNN, as well as sometimes some other news organizations and quite often some other news organizations. They make conduct of the press the issue rather than the conduct of

the president-elect and the men and women around him. That is a really important parallel because it is a way of trying to move and deceive the country about what the real questions are here.

[22:20:02] It's not conduct of the press. We need to know about the underlying issues of Mr. Trump's businesses. That's really what all of this started as.


BERNSTEIN: And so far we have seen the response to attack the press rather than be transparent and forthcoming about Mr. Trump's businesses. And then it has escalated today in his press conference and then with Kellyanne Conway tonight to a kind of declaration of warfare that yes, is similar to what we saw in Watergate in terms of trying to deflect attention from the president-elect and put it on the press instead.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, I want you to stand by because I have you put a button on this. But Carl Bernstein brought this up. He brought attacking the press. Jim Acosta was part of that today. After Donald Trump mischaracterized CNN's reporting, Jim Acosta tried to ask a follow-up question. Let's listen to the whole exchange.


ACOSTA: Since you are attacking our news organization.

TRUMP: No, not you, not you.

ACOSTA: Can you give us a chance?

TRUMP: Your organization is terrible.

ACOSTA: You are attacking our news organization. Can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir?

TRUMP: Go ahead.


TRUMP: Quiet.

ACOSTA: Can you state...

TRUMP: Quiet.

ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you state categorically -- Mr. President-elect, can you give us a question for attacking us?

TRUMP: Don't be rude.

ACOSTA: Can you give us a question?

TRUMP: Don't be rude. I'm not going to give you a -- I'm not going to give you a question.

ACOSTA: Can give us a question?

TRUMP: I am not giving you a question, you are fake news. Go ahead.

ACOSTA: Sir, can you state categorically -- sir, can you state categorically that nobody...


TRUMP: Go ahead.

ACOSTA: No, Mr. President-elect, that's not appropriate.


LEMON: Has this ever happened to you before?

ACOSTA: No. I've covered four presidential campaigns, I've covered democrats and republicans. I once asked President Obama why can't we take out the bastards when referring to ISIS.

Listen you ask hard questions and you expect answers. This is the president of the United States. Welcome to the NFL.

LEMON: Here is what I expected, and if I were the reporter behind you following you, I expected that the person the woman or man who followed you to say, I yield my time to Jim Acosta, or my question is Jim Acosta's question.

I was surprised and this is not the -- maybe the reporter wasn't thinking but I think this is a time for the press to stand up for each other. And I thought that it would have been.

ACOSTA: I don't hold anything against my colleagues today. Everyone is on the heat of the moment of the moment.

LEMON: Right. Exactly.

ACOSTA: And a lot of people had a lot of questions to ask. We haven't had a press conference with Donald Trump in almost six months. We haven't had a news conference with Donald Trump since he was elected president of the United States. That is unprecedented.

And you know, a lot of people have asked with you know, what are we going to do about Donald Trump? What are we going to do about this guy? And I said I'm not going to do anything about Donald Trump.

LEMON: You're doing great.

ACOSTA: We're going to do the news. That's what we're going to do. We're going to do the news and rest will take care of itself. And you know, this week he's coming after CNN, next week it could be your news organization.

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Well, that's why I said...

ACOSTA: We do need to stand together.

LEMON: Yes. That's why I said it could be Fox, it could be MSNBC...

ACOSTA: That's right.

LEMON: ... it could be ABC, it could be NBC. And the person who is behind is they continue to do that, all the other person has to do is say, I yield my time to the reporter before me, please answer that question it's an important question or restate the question for the person...


ACOSTA: When I have Sean Spicer, the incoming Press Secretary coming to me during the news conference...


ACOSTA: ... and saying to me if you do that again, I'm going to throw you out of this press conference, that's never happened to me before.


ACOSTA: In all of my years of 20 years covering the news, more than 10 years covering campaigns it's never happened before. And what it tells me, Don, and what we saw during this campaign where Washington Post reporters were barred from events, BuzzFeed reporters were barred from events, this president and his team they do not have a respect for the First Amendment the way other presidents have coming before him. We are in a new environment.

LEMON: Yes. It was interesting because I saw Sean Spicer and he said that you were rude. And I thought if...


ACOSTA: The First Amendment is...

LEMON: ... you called him a fake news, what if you called him a fake president? I mean, it's just this...


ACOSTA: I don't want to get into name calling. I respect...

LEMON: I know, you don't have to get into that.


LEMON: But for him to say that you were rude was just completely ironic to me. I can't believe it.

(CROSSTALK) ACOSTA: Well, you know, he says rude, I was being persistent.


ACOSTA: You know, and listen, I like Sean Spicer, I respect him. He probably doesn't want me to say that on national television right now. I also like Kellyanne Conway and I respect Kellyanne Conway. But we've got a job to do and if this president doesn't want to answer questions, he shouldn't hold a news conference.

LEMON: he said, Jim Sciutto, tell us, I want you to tell us how the top level officials handle this information that goes to the president and the president-elect and then -- and the importance of the verification, all that, and put a button on this, all of this because -- for all of us. You have been at the forefront of this reporting.

SCIUTTO: I'm going to start with this. And I'll be clear it was a team effort. Myself, Evan Perez, Jake Tapper, Carl Bernstein on here tonight and larger team behind that.

Let me just say this. Today we had the president-elect of the United States accuse CNN and my colleague there Jim Acosta, is our representative of that press conference, but accuse our organization of fake news. Terrible. He repeated multiple times.

When in fact a short time later, the director of national intelligence speaks to the president-elect and then releases a statement that directly contradicts the president. Directly contradicts. He says in a statement. I'll read it again because, you know, the words they disappear into the ether quickly.

"Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security. Immediately after referencing the document that we were first to report."

[22:25:05] He's contradicting the president's accusation that we reported fake news. And this is the highest national security official in the land. And just an hour after Kellyanne Conway for a half hour accused us of fake news.


SCIUTTO: I think it's remarkable moment. And James Clapper, he will go -- he'll go to hearings, he's certainly done interviews, he's done a number of interviews with us, with myself at CNN and others. But to issue a statement in his name after speaking directly with the president-elect, he's setting the record straight here.

And we did a lot of work, hard work on this story, we are already very confident on our reporting, but just note this is some fairly powerful backing on paper.

LEMON: Yes. Kirsten, quickly.

POWERS: Well, and how much do you want to bet they're going to now attack Clapper and claim that he's part of the big conspiracy of making up lies about Donald Trump?

ACOSTA: They're running out of people to be in the conspiracy.


LEMON: Fantastic reporting. Thank you, Jim Acosta.

ACOSTA: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you, Jim Sciutto. Carl Bernstein, thank you as well. And Kirsten, I appreciate you being here as well. Stay with us. Much more on our breaking news right after this break.


LEMON: All right. This is our breaking news tonight on CNN. The director of national intelligence speaking tonight with President- elect Donald Trump and releasing this statement.

And I'm going to read it in full. "This evening, I had the opportunity to speak with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss recent media reports about our briefing last Friday. I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press.

[22:30:08] And we both agree that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security."

"We also discussed the private security company document which was widely circulated in recent months among the media and members of Congress and congressional staff, even before the I.C. became aware of it."

"I empathize that this -- I emphasize -- excuse me -- that this document is not a U.S. intelligence community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the I.C. The I.C. has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions."

"However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."

"President-elect Trump again affirmed his appreciation for all the men and women serving in the intelligence community, and I assured him that the I.C. stands ready to serve his administration and the American people."

And it is signed, James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence.

I want to discuss this now with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. What do you think?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "GPS": Well, I think Jim Sciutto and Jim Acosta said it seems to -- I think it'd be important to say that what Clapper is saying implies that this was briefed to Trump. We now have a lead story in the Washington Post by Greg Miller in which they spoke to several U.S. officials. And it says, I'm quoting here, "The U.S. official who would like to spoke on the condition of anonymity said the nature of the summary was fully explained to Trump and put into context."

He again affirms that in fact Trump was briefed on this document. It was explained to him, it was not essentially what Clapper said, this is not U.S. intelligence product but we want you to know this thing is out there and you might need to know about it.

LEMON: So, this report essentially confirming CNN's reporting.

ZAKARIA: Exactly.

LEMON: And then you're saying that he was briefed on the...


ZAKARIA: Because the Washington Post report which talks to multiple U.S. officials.

LEMON: So then why the denial?

ZAKARIA: Look, I think that if you look at press conference it really was it was almost not a press conference. It was a campaign event. It began with Sean Spicer, it then went to Mike Pence, this was a series of choreographed attacks on the media.

Then Trump began with the lengthy attack on the media. So, I think if you think about this in terms of the campaign, which essentially what they have been running even after Trump was elected president, this has been the campaign strategy, which is attack, attack, attack, it puts everybody else on the offense.

And by the way, it means you don't have to answer some of the harder questions. Jim Acosta's question which was to remind people has anybody in the Trump organization or the campaign had any contact with the Russian government? He refused to answer.

And ABC News reported did then asked the same question but then appended and do you have any message to Vladimir Putin. He chose to answer the second half of that question, not the first. So, clearly there is a strategy here.

And, one of the purposes of the press briefing which was to divulge how Trump was going to deal with the conflicts of interest with his business only came up one hour and 40 minutes into the press conference.

And so, part of the strategy here has to be understood as part of the, you know, a campaign, a kind of theatrical campaign event in which they control the agenda, they put everybody else on the defensive and you know, I mean, we'll see if it works. It's very unusual. The whole strategy of running a campaign once you have been elected president is highly unusual to put it mildly. LEMON: So then, the question is, so then what happens now? Where do

we go? Because I spoke with Jim Sciutto, Jim Acosta, Carl Bernstein, Kirsten Powers basically all of them saying this is unprecedented. What happens next, what does the press do now? And what does the country do now?

ZAKARIA: Well, I think -- right. The real -- the press has to keep doing its job, and you know, continue to ask these questions, continue to hope that there will be greater access and greater transparency.

The question is whether this works. You know, what the country's reaction to this. Does the country view this as legitimate defense that Trump is doing, you know, that he's embattled and he's the victim? Or does it view it as a strategy of obfuscation, a strategy of, you know, refusing to answer questions?

LEMON: Well, I'm glad you said because there's never any true -- there's rarely any truth to when you ask a spokesperson a direct question. They rarely answer directly and truthfully, there may be strings of truth in it sometimes and or they just completely deflect.

There was Kellyanne Conway was on with Anderson, Sean Spicer was on Fox tonight. Sean Spicer a stand-up guy and Kellyanne Conway is very good at what she does, but they don't always answer the questions unfortunately.

[22:35:00] ZAKARIA: Well, that to be first. You said that's often happened but certainly what's unusual is, if you start -- after he gets elected president he goes on a thank you tour. This is very unusual because usually the minute you're elected a president you are now president of all the people, the people who voted for you and the people who didn't.

You don't single out your supporters. This sort of campaign mode which has persisted into the president -- the transition team, if it persists into the presidency, it poses a huge problem because in a way he's continuing to govern almost just for the people who voted for him.


ZAKARIA: And let's remember, a majority of Americans who voted didn't vote for Donald Trump.

LEMON: And if you challenge, it's a message that if you challenge him, I will shut you down as which is what happened to Jim Sciutto -- Jim Acosta today?

ZAKARIA: Well, I think that sometimes what you see is right, it gets more emotional outbursts, I don't know whether that, well, those threats will actually be followed through. Or the Washington Post was, he threatened to ban them from his campaigns. He did it for a couple of weeks and then, I don't know, lost interest and they were let back in.

LEMON: I have to run, but where do you see the relationship with the intelligence community in this administration? I mean, it has to, it has to get better. And I can see in this -- in this statement that director of national intelligence is trying to, you know, -- I assured him that we have this best interests at heart, as what he was saying, and he assured me that we would work together. They're trying to establish a relationship here which will be tough.

ZAKARIA: Yes, and it's very -- it's worrying. Because, you know, when Trump is conducting foreign policy, when he is dealing on the North Korea issue, he's going to be relying on U.S. intelligence and showing it to American allies And saying, trust me, this is credible.

When he is dealing with Russia on Ukraine on any issue when he is conducting a drone strike, and he goes to the Pakistani government and says we have to do this.

In all those cases you're taking the same group of people who you've been denigrating and calling, you know, comparing to Nazis. And now you're to have to affirm their judgment, their value, their credibility, and their morality and say to the rest of the world, trust these guys, you know, certainly a kind of unusual -- as I said, many things with this presidency, highly unusual.

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, always appreciate it. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Breaking news, the director of national intelligence speaking tonight with President-elect Trump.

And I want to bring in Emily Jane Fox, staff writer for Vanity Fair, Jon Meacham, historian and author of "Destiny and Power," and Richard Painter, a law professor at University of Minnesota and former chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush.

I'm so glad to have you all here. Jon Meacham, we have been reporting on a statement by director of national intelligence confirming CNN's reporting. What's your response?

JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN & AUTHOR: Well, it's a vindication seems to me from this morning for the reporting that CNN did. I think what we're seeing overall is the hyperbolic has become the new normal.

We had the president-elect of the United States sort of manufacturing as he tends to do during the campaign, a feud, a fight that sometimes resembles a little kid's soccer game. He kicks the ball and all the kids follow it. And I think that's the pattern going forward. And it's responsibility of all of us, citizens, reporters, everybody to try to keep our eye and hopefully, push him toward the real business of the country.

LEMON: Yes. Keep our eye on the ball as they say, but which is not necessarily the one they want to push but the real business of the country, I think I like the way you put that.

Let's talk about the press conference now, Richard Painter, this is for you. Because we finally learned about Donald Trump's plan for his business empire. So, let's run through it. He says as he's going to resign leadership of the Trump organization, he is not divesting instead he is transferring control to Don Jr. and Eric.

He is still going to receive reports on his company's profitability his company will still make deals in the U.S. but won't make deals in t foreign countries, and Trump will donate any profits from foreign governments from his hotels to the U.S. treasury. What do you make of that?

RICHARD PAINTER, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, that wasn't a press conference, that was a P.R. event and that was not a divestment plan, that was merely passing management of the business over to his sons and other people appointed by the family while he will continue to profit for the business.

And leads all the problems we had intact. And he made a token effort to deal with the Emolument Clause issue which is the foreign government payments, by saying that the foreign government payments, some of them at least from the hotels would be given over to the United States government.

But a lot of other foreign government sources of payments and loans from foreign government owned banks throughout the Trump business empire. There's no plan to deal with those. And how about the buildings with his name on them all over the world that are posing a national security risk and global security risk, who is going to protect those buildings? Is it going to be the foreign governments, the United States government?

Are people going to lose their lives when there are attacks on buildings because we had the president's name up on a building in a place like Mumbai or Philippines, Indonesia or wherever?

All of these problems are made intact. We heard no solutions today. I'm very disappointed. And it's most unfortunate because he has about a week to figure this out before he becomes president and he has a very important job to do, and not just looking out after his own financial interests.

LEMON: Emily, you say that Trump's plan to donate to the U.S. treasury profits from his -- from the foreign government payments to his hotels, you say that it could make things more complicated for him. Explain that, because is that because of the Emolument Clause in the Constitution? Why do think that could make things worse?

EMILY JANE FOX, VANITY FAIR STAFF WRITER: Well, the whole reason that he's getting rid of this whole system of -- there's a problem here. The problem is that a foreign official can stay at the Trump hotel, pay the bill at the hotel.

And that can be seen as conflict of interest and a violation of the Emoluments Clause because it's a foreign official giving money to a president of the United States and that's a violation of the Emolument Clause. [22:45:03] So, he said today that instead he will give that money to

the U.S. treasury. So it will be foreign money potentially influencing the U.S. treasury. I'm not really sure I understand the logic of how that argument clears anything up when it comes to conflicts of interest.

LEMON: Richard, you said this is a direct threat to our democracy. And to Emily's point, how does this -- how does this make a difference because it's going to the U.S. treasury?

PAINTER: Well, we have in the Bush administration, if people received gifts, whether from foreign governments or other impermissible gifts one answer was to turn that over to the United States government. So, that can be a solution to some impermissible gifts.

But the problem here is that he's only talked about the profits in the hotels. And the foreign government money extends well beyond the hotels. And the loans from the Bank of China I believe are outstanding, that's controlled by the Chinese government. We don't -- have not yet been told about foreign and wealth funds and whether any of their partners in these business ventures around the world.

There's an awful lot going on here in this Trump business empire, there is going to a lot of foreign money going in there.


PAINTER: It's not going to be just limited to the hotels. So, he needs to divest himself or come up with some other plan and make a clean sweep of foreign government money out of there.


PAINTER: There's a lot more in the foreign government money to worry about, as I say, a lot of its private foreign money.


LEMON: Richard, yes, stand by, because I want to get to the break. And we're going to talk more about that and we're also going to talk about -- we're going to play something from the press conference. Because I don't think he believes that there are any conflicts. And Jon Meacham, I want you to weigh on that -- weigh in on that after the break.


LEMON: And we're back with now with our panel and we're talking about possible conflicts of interest, and the press conference that was had today at Trump Tower.

I want to bring back Jon Meacham, Emily Jane Fox, and Richard Painter. Jon, I want to play this sound bite and I want to get your reaction to it.


I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East. Hussein Demac, a friend of mine, great guy. And I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai, a number of deals. And I turned it down.

I didn't have to turn it down because as you know I have no conflict situation because I'm president, which is I didn't know about it until about three months ago but it's a nice to have. But I don't want to take advantage of something.


LEMON: So, the whole idea is to, you know, I guess to make the American people feel like there is no conflict of interest, but then he's pointing out a potential conflict of interest that he turned down just last week. What -- explain that.

MEACHAM: Well, I was reminded of when Abraham Lincoln mentioned his Dubai deal at Cooper Union on the way to the presidency. I mean, this is, it's funny but it's not. Again, it's this hyperbolic new normal that we're in.

He wants us to give him credit for not entering into what would be an ethical morass in the Middle East. He exacerbated, the whole situation is exacerbated by his realization that he does not have many of the traditional conflict of interest policies that apply to the Executive Office of the President himself.

And I don't know about anybody else but when Donald Trump is able to say it doesn't apply to me, that's not the most reassuring ethos in which to begin. Here's what I think overall.

If President Trump can deliver for the people who have supported him and beyond, if he can help the economic growth rate, if he can keep the jobless rate going down even farther, if he can actually produce in a real way, then a lot of these issues will probably not achieve a great deal of political traction.

If he does not deliver, then I think these kinds of questions about the businesses about the trusts will gain political traction with justice -- with prosecutors, with Congress, and we'll see it really beginning to consume even more of our political time.

LEMON: As you watched that, Emily, what was your reaction?

FOX: Well, when I watched it live, I really felt like I had to lift my jaw off the floor. It was really an amazing thing. And quite interesting strategy for someone to call a press conference to address their conflict of interest and then shine a spotlight on a glaring conflict interest that he said he avoided.

But who knows what other conflicts he's been approached with, what other deals people are coming to him with, we have no way of knowing what's going to happen, what has happened. He still hasn't released his tax returns. So, I found this to be a very interesting tactic, it doesn't exactly put a lot of confidence in him and the American people.

LEMON: To Jon Meacham's point, it's all about performance, Richard. It's al about performance and if he does perform then this won't -- this won't matter.

PAINTER: Well I'm not sure I agree with that. I think the American people expect standards of integrity from our elected officials. And that statement that I don't have a conflict of interest situation because I'm president, that's just not true.

There's one criminal conflict of interest statute that does not apply to him. He cannot be prosecuted criminally for his financial conflicts of interest. It is up to the voters to vote against him when he runs for re-election if he has financial conflicts of interest; it's up to the United States House of Representatives to investigate conflicts of interest on the part of the president, as well as other executive branch officials.

[22:55:02] And if necessary take action to impeach and remove the president if he is conducting himself in a manner that consists of high crimes and misdemeanors.


PAINTER: And that doesn't mean that you have to have a crime prosecutable under its United States Code 208, which is, what's the specific statute that doesn't apply to him.


PAINTER: The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution applies to him, the bribery laws apply to him and he's going to find out very quickly that he's not above the law. And I don't care how well the economy is doing, we're not going to tolerate a president in this country who thinks that he is above the law. That's going to happen in the United States.

LEMON: Speaking of -- this is another example of potential conflict of interest. And I want to - this is part of Emily's reporting. Excuse me. And you say, "It remains unclear how Trump will handle the lease for his newly built Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. which is the leased from the Government Services Administration."

"The lease states that it can't be held by an elected official but this decision is to be determined by the head of the GSA, an individual whom Trump will appoint once in office. Other Trump appointees too will be asking a critical decision affecting Trump businesses."

I mean, that last is key. "Other Trump appointees will be making decisions that affect Trump businesses." What are some examples?

FOX: I'll give you two examples. The first example is the attorney general. So, Trump currently has $300 million worth of debt with Deutsch Bank. Deutsch Bank happens to be under investigation by the Justice Department. The Justice Department is headed an attorney general who will be appointed by Donald Trump.

The second example is the IRS, Donald has said over and over again that the reason he won't release his tax returns is because he's under tax audit. Who is head of the IRS who heads of tax and other thing? Someone who Trump will appoint. So, either just blatant conflicts of interest and the things he didn't address today in the press conference held to address conflicts of interest.

LEMON: Thank you very much. That's going to be the last word. I appreciate it. Thank you, Jon. Thank you, Richard. Thanks, Emily.

MEACHAM: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.