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Snub for Hand Shake; An Awkward Moment; Moment of Truth; Dead on Arrival Bill. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 17, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching. Time to hand over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now. Have a great weekend.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Just when you thought it couldn't get worse. The president turns his wiretapping allegation into international incident.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.
This is not politics as usual. Let's be clear about that. It is not politics as usual for the president of the United States to accuse his predecessor of spying on him, which is exactly what President Trump has done. It is not politics as usual for the president to double down, joking that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have something in common, wiretapping.
It is not politics as usual for the White House the press secretary to repeat allegations from Fox News disavowed today by that very network, that very network, that a British intelligence agency spied for President Obama.
And it is not politics as usual for Spicer to deny that the White House apologized to the British government. None of it is politics as usual. And we'll talk about all of in the coming hours here on CNN.
Breaking news, though, two government officials tell CNN that classified report delivered from the Justice Department to House and Senate investigators does not confirm President Trump's allegations that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him.
So let's get right to it. CNN's Fareed Zakaria is here, he's the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS right here on this very network. Fareed, let's talk about all of this. Let's start with Angela Merkel. Two of the most powerful people in the world met today at the White House. They met to talk about trade and terrorism and Europe and then international relations. But all everyone was talking about was this. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as wiretapping, I guess by, you know, this past administration; at least we have something in common perhaps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So here's my question. Did you see the look on Angela Merkel's face when the president made that joke? What's going on here?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, you couldn't have two more different people, right. Angela Merkel is this East German daughter of a minister, physicist, deeply analytic and also somebody who is deeply committed to the western values of liberty. And she was born in communist dictatorship. And while all of that is going on Trump doing what he was doing in New York in the 1980s and going on the Howard Stern show and boasting about his infidelities.
You know, this is two very, very different people. But I think what the philosophical difference really is that she deeply believes in the western project, you know, the idea that the west -- the west has created these institutions of liberty and democracy and kind of politically cohesive to stand up to dictatorships like Russia.
With Trump, you know, you don't get that sense. And I think that that tension is probably at the heart of it. It also doesn't help that Donald Trump was extraordinarily uncharitable toward Angela Merkel last year when she took in a million refugees from mostly Syria.
He and she was starting to hemorrhage in popularity, Trump did something he often does, he kicked her when she was down. You know, he used to say very nice things about her when she was popular. And he said w she's ruining Germany, she's a disaster. I mean, this was -- this was her lowest moment in tenure as chancellor.
ZAKARIA: She's not going to forget that.
LEMON: Yes. And you would -- you would think that if you're running for president, you would realize that, well, some of these things if I actually do make it to that high esteemed office, that this is going to come back to haunt me, but apparently it didn't matter to him. Give us the back story to that reference, though, the joke that he made.
ZAKARIA: So he was referring to the fact that the NSA one of the leaks we have from Edward Snowden is that the national -- the NSA, the National Security Agency, was listening in on phone conversations of world leaders, which by the way something that all spy agencies try to do. The U.S. has more capacity.
As Bernard Kushner, the former Prime Minister of France said, look, we all try to do this stuff, we're all just a bit jealous that America gets, does it better than we do. So that was the reference.
Now, again, as president of the United States you would not want to make fun of your government's -- your intelligence agencies' normal activities, which is to monitor phone conversations of important people around the world to figure out what information you can provide to the president of the United States.
And so it was weird thing to do to, you know, Merkel clearly didn't think it was funny. She didn't laugh. The reporters got it after a few minutes. But the whole thing is, it's just baffling that the president of the United States would be in a sense making fun of the United States government that he heads.
LEMON: Yes. It's -- it's embarrassing.
[22:05:02] ZAKARIA: Well, what's much more embarrassing, you know, and I think consequential is the accusation that the British government helped to spy on him.
What I've never seen, Don, is the British government came out and repudiated that report with language I've never seen before. They said something like this is ridiculous, people should stop talking like this. What they are referring to is ridiculous official statements from the White House.
ZAKARIA: When was the last time the British government has spoken like that? Probably, 1812.
LEMON: Let's -- OK, let's talk about it. Because what you're referring to is the National Security Adviser General McMaster has had to walk that Sean Spicer's comments at the press briefing yesterday that British intelligence wiretapped Trump Tower. Also completely unsubstantiated charge. Here's the president's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We said nothing, all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn't make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn't be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he's referencing something that happened on Fox News when he has the intelligence agencies at his disposal. They work for him. But here's how Fox News, he is Shepard Smith of Fox News, here's his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST: Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary. Fox News knows of new evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. And Sean Spicer saying there was never an apology to the British. How upset are the British about this?
ZAKARIA: Well, as you could tell from that language the British government does not respond to the White House in the way that it did, calling its claims nonsense and ridiculous.
LEMON: It should be ignored.
ZAKARIA: It should be ignored. Look, I think that ultimately what this is all about is the credibility of the United States, United States government and what is sad about this is Trump is not just degrading the office of the presidency, he's degrading all these people around him.
Sean Spicer is having to humiliate himself every day. You know, McMasters is having to talk to his British counterparts. Presumably when Tillerson at some point has a press conference or an interview, he'll have to explain what he thinks about these wiretapping claims because the president doesn't relent.
Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist and commentator on Fox, he said there is not a person in Washington who believes that Trump was wiretapped, that Obama wiretapped Trump. And yet, this is all we're talking about. I mean, we're all pretending like there's something here when there's nothing, no the a shred of evidence.
LEMON: There's not -- that's why I'm flabbergasted every single evening. You know, when I came on and says breaking news. I wanted to go, duh, there's no evidence. There's no evidence. It's so obvious that there is no evidence. And when you see folks like our Manu Raju or people in Washington, Jim Sciutto, when they speak to people, and they say have you, you know, did the former president wiretap the current president or Trump Tower, and then they pause and go -- I've seen no evidence.
LEMON: Because you know...
ZAKARIA: Well, it's like saying, you know, did aliens land in Washington yesterday and everyone has to pretend like this is a serious question and say well I haven't seen any evidence yet.
And the whole thing is degrading. I think everyone involved in this is belittled because at some level, you know, the country has serious problems. The world is facing important issues. He and Angela Merkel should be dealing with issues about Russia, issues about trade, issues about, you know, all the big Atlantic issues that these two countries faces. You say this is the leader of Europe, the United States is the leader of the free world, and yet, we're consumed by this nonsense.
LEMON: And they have, not to mention that they have difference on those issues but before we get to that. Do you think the president really believes that, really believes that he was wiretapped or do you think he...
(CROSSTALK) ZAKARIA: I got into trouble during the campaign saying something about the president which I still think is true. I think the president is somewhat indifferent to things that are true or false. He has spent his whole life bullshitting, he has succeeded by bullshitting, he has gotten the presidency by bullshitting, it's very hard to tell somebody at that point that bullshit doesn't work because look at results, right?
But that's what he does. He sees something, he doesn't particularly care if it's true or not. He just puts it out.
ZAKARIA: And then he puts something else out. And notice again what he did this press conference, when pushed on it, he doesn't take responsibility. I wasn't saying that. I was just quoting somebody else. When you have the White House press secretary quote somebody to prove a point, you are endorsing that view.
[22:10:01] LEMON: To prove a point to quote something that's actually not.
ZAKARIA: Right, right.
ZAKARIA: So you can't suddenly retreat and say, hey, it wasn't me, it was Judge Napolitano. No. When you use your authority, your podium and your platform, you're endorsing it. And don't -- don't weasel out of it. Don't, you know, take responsibility. If you think that that's true, say it.
LEMON: Carl Bernstein I heard him say on Anderson's program, that we should be doing stories on the president being a pathological liar. That's Carl Bernstein's words. Do you think the president is pathological?
ZAKARIA: I think there's clearly a pathological element to his behavior by which I mean, you know, quite strictly that he almost can't control himself. I happen to know from having to talk to some of the people around him, people have tried to stop him and he can't. So in that sense I think, I'm not going to go with the second word because as I said, I think there is an easier explanation.
LEMON: Not a psychologist.
ZAKARIA: And in terms of the liar I mean. But what is clear is that he is pretty -- what strikes me as even surprising for me was the office has not in any way weighed on him. He's saying this stuff as president of the United States. He's saying it about our closest ally Britain, the United States' closest ally since 1941.
LEMON: Is he willing to destroy an ally just to sort of fix a lie? ZAKARIA: I mean, if you look at the way he has attacked the courts
and the media, I think Donald Trump's mode is to attack anything in his way. If there's something that comes in his way, he doesn't worry about the lasting damage that could be done. So, he will attack courts without thinking about, well, I'm president, should I really be assaulting an independent judiciary? I'm president, should I be assaulting the media that is protected by the first amendment? No. At that moment, let me lash out and let me make those people feel it.
LEMON: I have one more before I let you go, and we spend a lot of time. But why aren't people more outraged by this? Imagine if former President Obama had accused the president before him or someone before him of a criminal act with no evidence. Why aren't people more outraged about this? Even the people in Washington, who know, as you said no one in Washington believes that this is true.
And you can tell from their responses, they're being very measured when they get in front of the cameras. Behind the scenes I'll tell you this is not true, even his surrogates will tell you he should not have said that, it's not true. Why aren't people more upset about this?
ZAKARIA: Well, I think that a lot of the people who work in the White House in the -- for the administration they're hoping that -- so there's two elements to this administration. There's the Trump freak show which is what we've been discussing.
But then there are very serious people in government. Tillerson, Mattis, McMaster, Gary Cohn. These are all heavyweight serious people and I think they probably feel if we just could do our jobs, if we can, you know, we don't want do get distracted and we don't want to -- we can't dis the president but we want to just move on and actually get stuff done. But how can you do that when the guy at the top, your boss, is spewing falsehoods every day.
LEMON: It's dangerous. And someone has to say you're not wearing any clothes.
ZAKARIA: And it demeans the office of the president and he demeans American -- it degrades American credibility around the world. What happens when he has to go to the world and say North Korea has this x capacity, are the people going to believe the guy who said that Obama was spying on him?
LEMON: Yes. Or that the crowds were bigger, and on and on and on. Thank you. Always a pleasure.
When we come back, what is it with President Trump and handshakes, not only did he failed to shake hands with Angela Merkel, today he didn't even looked like he wanted to be in the same room with her.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Breaking news, two government officials telling CNN that the classified Justice Department report to Congress does not confirm President Trump's wiretapping allegation. But he's not backing down. I want to bring in now CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, global
affairs analyst David Rohde, senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, political commentators, David Swerdlick, and Andre Bauer.
Good evening to all of you. Glad to have you on. And by the way.
ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hello, Don.
LEMON: That's not the first time B.S. has been uttered on this show so no one should seem shocked. All right. So, Kirsten, I want to play this moment again today when President Trump repeats his claim that Obama wiretapped him. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there from time to time tweets that you regret inside...
TRUMP: Very seldom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very seldom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you would have -- so you never would have.
TRUMP: Very seldom. I probably wouldn't be here right now. But very seldom. We have a tremendous group of people that listen and I can get around the media when the media doesn't tell the truth. So I like that.
As far as wiretapping, I guess by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Kirsten, the president is making a joke but still he believes he was wiretapped despite top lawmakers confirming otherwise what gives here? And maybe the answer should be Jeff Sessions. No?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, there's no evidence for it. We know for it. It just keeps piling up more, you know, more and more evidence to the contrary frankly, if you have, you know, enough people coming forward at pretty much every, you know, level of the government saying that this didn't happen and he is just doubling down on it.
And he, I think is never going to apologize for it, I don't think he's ever going to walk it back. I don't think there's anything that actually could happen that would make him say that he was not under surveillance, I just don't think...
LEMON: I don't think he realized this particular series of tweets, what the consequences were. I don't think -- when you -- when you accuse a former president of a crime -- because I was discussing this with my producer earlier, it's a story no matter which way it shakes out, right?
POWERS: May be a story...
LEMON: Either the former president committed a crime.
LEMON: Or he has no proof that this current president is lying or that they did wiretap Trump Tower and if they did what was the legitimate reason for them doing it?
POWERS: But he seems to really believe that this happened despite the fact that everyone else is saying this didn't happened. So I think...
LEMON: I just have pictures of crowd size -- crowd sizes as well.
POWERS: Yes. Right. But that's the point. Like you can show him the crowd sizes and it doesn't change his opinion. You know, he doesn't think it was raining on inauguration day. I mean, I don't --its nothing will change what he thinks about this. And the people who support him seem to be willing to defend this.
LEMON: Yes. David?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's just coming at a price. I mean, this unbelievable response from the British government, this is a key alliance. It will come back to haunt him.
[22:20:04] You know, Fareed mentions this. You need to have credibility. We could need go to war somewhere to deal with North Korea, there could be confrontation with Iran. Who is going to trust him, you know, internationally and I think you see that partly even domestically in the health care debate. You know, these unforced errors, these statements and insults, you know, it doesn't help you build a coalition in the United States or around the world.
LEMON: I want to welcome our Jon Meacham to the panel, a historian. Jon, what's the name of the book again that you wrote about Jefferson?
JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN & AUTHOR: Jefferson wrote "The Art of Power" Jackson, American life.
LEMON: All right.
MEACHAM: So, as long as you're president with a J, I write about it. LEMON: Someone ask you, so let's get to what's happening now. Because
you guys saw Angela Merkel there, the two meeting today. So, Jon, since I have you, the awkwardness between these two people, two of the most powerful people in the world. We saw the non-handshake in the Oval Office they later shook hands at the press conference. We've seen this meeting with male leaders happened before and there were handshakes, right.
LEMON: And there's the prime minister, the Canadian prime minister there. There's been very different body language. What about this particular moment with Merkel. What happened?
MEACHAM: Well, he doesn't want to be there with her, obviously. And I think he -- there's no Trumpian capacity for shame. I think we've learned that certainly. But he's spent a great deal of time on the campaign trail attacking her, saying she's ruined Germany.
Saying that one of the reasons we needed our ban on refugees from troubled regions was because Germany had ruined its countries by having refugees.
But I think all in all what we're facing here, I honestly believe at some level President Trump believes that the White House is a reality show and it's not yet occurred to him that it's reality itself. And he stages these things. The hand shake is one.
He knew exactly that we would be talking about this. You know, he understands the theatrics of this. The wiretapping charge, you know, it's just -- he perennially creates these dramas in order to perpetuate a narrative with himself at the center. And what I don't think he understands is that it's the country that's at the center now, not him.
LEMON: Yes. Let's get a Trump supporter in. Andre, good evening to you from Charleston. President Trump...
BAUER: Hello, Don.
LEMON: ... rallied against Merkel's policy during the campaign. He said that she was ruining Germany. Jon Meacham just mentioned that. He also didn't like that she was chosen as Time magazine's person of the year in 2015. Is there something more personal here, is this just about different -- differing world views?
BAUER: I think it's totally a different, you know, approach to politics. They are two vastly different leaders. I will say this. He actually shook her hand. I went and checked when I was watching Fareed, when she got out of the car at the White House he actually shook her hand as she was getting out of the car. So it wasn't that he didn't shake her hand at all. And then he actually shook her hand later on as well. So I think he just missed it. I don't think that was actually a snub.
But they're two different leaders. She's a globalist and he's more concerned about America. And he said that when he was running. I wish he'd show a little more love in the press conference. Sometimes, you know, even if you don't love somebody you try to -- you try to show a little bit more love.
And I think you just see two vastly different folks that have different opinions on what their country should do. And I think he sees a lot of flaws that Germany made and not vetting people more thoroughly. And her popularity my understanding has gone down because of some of the problems they've experienced.
And I think Donald Trump feels vastly different that we've got to pump the brakes and make sure the people that are coming to this country actually should be here and care about this count and want to assimilate.
LEMON: Yes. Well, I think it's interesting. And Jon, I tend to agree with you he may have shook her hand before but that moment in the Oval Office when all the cameras are in there when it is customary to do it, he didn't do it and so he need to make a point of that. Michelle.
MEACHAM: This is a man who loves to cut ribbons and shake hands.
MEACHAM: He understands photo ops, he doesn't foreign policy, so.
LEMON: Yes. Michelle, you cover foreign affairs and you've been doing it for a while. The president's wiretap claim. Now a diplomatic incident with the U.K. after Sean Spicer quoted a pundit on Fox News who claimed that the British surveillance agency was involved in the president's wiretapping claims. Here's what the president said on that. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We said nothing, all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn't make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, the buck stops with Fox News and one of their legal analysts who Fox News has said tonight, there's no evidence to what he's pointing to. No apologies? What are your sources saying?
[22:25:03] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that was one of the most stunning parts of the press conference I think when he said that. That there was almost a silence as people digested what he was just saying in public at a press conference standing next to Angela Merkel. As well as the joke about, you know, that makes two of us.
But you know, as for whether there was an apology, I think that's really unclear. Everybody wants to know what went on in these conversations. There was phone call between the two countries' national security advisers and there was -- it was an in-face meeting between Sean Spicer and the U.K. ambassador to the U.S. but it was at the White House's St. Patrick's Day celebration.
It seems like that might have been an impromptu meeting but what transpired between them was very serious. And you know, what officials are saying are look at GCHG, the British version of the NSA. They never say anything -- I mean, the most you usually hear from them is we're not going to confirm or deny whatever is being talked about.
And in this case they said that this is ridiculous and nonsense. And British government officials are saying, you know, draw your conclusions from that, what these conversations were like between U.S. and U.K. officials. These were not pleasant conversations.
And it seems clear at the very least the Brits got an assurance from these U.S. officials that this claim about Britain in particular was not going to be made again. But again at this press conference you don't hear an apology, you don't -- from President Trump. He seemed to be reinforcing his belief in the wiretapping although, you know, he's not mentioning Britain here or Europe.
LEMON: Yes. And also was beyond belief is to Fox News, the organization which he quoted there, David Swerdlick, here's how Fox News responded, and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: Fox News cannot confirm the Judge's commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the new president of the United States was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So David, what happened to the buck stopping at the president? Why won't the president take responsibility instead of quoting -- it's like saying.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
LEMON: You know, Anderson had a really good analogy earlier like, well, I didn't tweet it, I just re-tweeted it. Well, I didn't say it, I just repeated it.
SWERDLICK: Yes, Don, look, as of tomorrow morning it's two weeks since that four tweet, tweet storm that started this off. This is already plan c for the White House. Plan b was last week when they were trying to kick this to Congress. Plan c was this week when they were trying to, you know, change the definition of quotes, change the definition of air quotes, walk back the story, and now deflect it on to news outlets, it defected on to the Brits. If you go by Sean Spicer's statement yesterday. And this is already
falling apart. And all of it of a piece with the president not taking responsibility as you say with his actions. And what you wind up with as we've been talking about is this level of disrespect toward our allies. Whether or not an apology, you know, happened or whether it was just a back channel cleanup.
You have a situation where we've had to reach out to one of our most important allies, the U.K., and then there's this other thing going on today with Angela Merkel and Germany, and in both cases the president not showing due respect to allies that have fought with us in Afghanistan that we rely on for intelligence sharing, that we work on with a whole host of issues economic, military, et cetera. It's just a bad setup in his 100 days for whatever is to come.
LEMON: I wonder how much sleep the president and the administration will get this weekend. Because Monday the big man comes to town. Comey. We'll discuss that next.
[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Trump standing by his wiretapping allegation yet offering no proof ahead of Monday's public hearing by the House intelligence committee.
I'm back now with my panel. Panel, welcome back.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Don.
LEMON: OK. Kirsten was the first one so I'm going to give her the first question. She acknowledged me at least.
So, the administration seems to be at its weakest position heading into next week. Republicans are planning to vote on Thursday on the repeal of Obamacare. Unclear if they have the votes at this point. They're dealing with a budget that no one likes, the FBI director who is going to testify and likely say no wiretapping took place. How are they going to deal with all of this, what are they going to do? Walking and chew gum at the same time I'm sure...
POWERS: I don't know, maybe Trump come up with another conspiracy theory that we can all chase after, right? I mean, he wants to...
LEMON: These are all important issues.
POWERS: Maybe he wants us to be talking about things that don't matter in the sense of things that didn't happen, such as him allegedly being wiretapped, so he has sent everybody screwing around all throughout the government, all throughout the media to try to cover something to basically prove a negative. Right? I mean, there's -- how we ever -- he's convinced, you know, that...
LEMON: But Kirsten, this is not just about the media. Because he's actually taken U.S. intelligence, the government apparatus.
POWERS: Yes. No. That's (Inaudible) he's taken the whole government apparatus.
LEMON: Taxpayer money.
POWERS: Of course, that's what I'm talking about.
LEMON: Congress, people who could be working on other things.
LEMON: To try to prove something that's not true. When all it would have taken is a phone call. And then he could have said this is what I've learned from the phone call and then unclassified the information is not...
POWERS: Right. So it makes you ask the question of why did he do this, right. I mean, I don't...
LEMON: I don't think -- I don't think he realized the repercussions that he has to prove himself right.
POWERS: Yes. But at this point he has to have to -- but the only place I would disagree on that is that at this point he has to have realized them and yet he doubled down on it again today in the meeting with Angela Merkel. I mean, he didn't have to say what he said, he didn't have to reiterate the fact that he believe that this happened and then invoke this Fox News report.
I mean, he doesn't -- he's not trying to step away from it, right, despite all the repercussions that it has, despite the fact that it's alienating our partners around the world and making the world less say. He doesn't care.
LEMON: Yes. And speaking of which, Michelle, yes, go on. How's the world reacting, are they paying attention?
[22:34:55] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think in this deflection that is kind of like a tiny glimmer of admission that OK, there was something wrong there.
But to your question about the rest of the world watching, I think yes, in a word, absolutely. I mean, this is really the biggest -- I'm not saying that what's going on immediately today is.
But the Trump presidency, you know how much America is watched around the world. And you know, even if it's not even the president but a U.S. official's one word or one sentence can make headlines and change ideas and change actions among other governments. So when you look at headlines around the world. Asia is very
interested in what Trump says, related to their region but also they're looking at Rex Tillerson right now in China this weekend. Europe is fascinated by this awkward, awkward press conference today that almost transpired like a low grade argument.
I mean, there was this very, very, like kind of low background back and forth going on. So they're interested in that. And of course in the U.K. they're talking about GCHQ allegation. And now this, you know, tension between these two governments and, you know, what the British press is reporting as a quote, "formal apology from the U.S."
LEMON: Yes. So Jon, I really -- I really get the sense though, that he did not -- I just think that this one he didn't anticipate what was the repercussions of this one and that there could be international repercussions. I don't think he anticipated that.
JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN & AUTHOR: Well, if I could tell you what was going on in his head I would be calling derivatives and I'd be on my own island somewhere.
LEMON: And you would be my broker. But, go ahead.
MEACHAM: So, yes, yes. You all be working for me. So, who the hell knows? I'm not sure he does honestly. I think -- I keep -- I think historically as you know, and what this is like is if Richard Nixon, who used to sit, you know, when it was warm outside he would turn up the air conditioner and build a fire in the Lincoln sitting room. And he would sit and he would listen to victory at sea and he would write on legal pads stream of consciousness, he'd about his enemies, he has write about what I wanted done.
We would decide bomb the Brookings Institution and he would decide because that was, you know, that was a brilliant idea he had one night.
And there were people like Bob Haldeman around and others who by and large managed to keep a lot of that from happening. They couldn't keep Watergate from happening but there was a lot more that could have happened.
Imagine if Nixon had had a cell phone and instead of writing on his legal pad sitting there and listening to victory at sea, he's been saying this for the whole world to see. And I think that's where we are.
LEMON: Interesting. David, I got to ask you quickly. Because I said, you know, the big man was coming to town. Meaning James Comey, I know he's already in Washington, just a figure of speech. Do you get the sense that no matter what the FBI director says on Monday, when he says there is no proof, and if he says there is no proof of the president's claim that he still won't believe it?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Are you talking to me, Don?
MACDONALD: Yes, that David. Yes. Sorry.
SWERDLICK: OK. Yes. Got a lot of Davids. So, look, if we get past Monday, if director Comey doesn't provide any substantially new information, then we are at this point where look, There are six living presidents, Carter, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Obama, Trump.
One has -- that's a very small fraternity, one has accused the other of spying on him, ordering spying on him, something that potentially as a felony, and it won't have been cleaned up and the president, the one making the accusation is in the best position to provide any evidence if there is in fact any evidence of what he is alleging.
And we'll be past the point where Congress or Fox News or British intelligence can really do anything to clarify this.
SWERDLICK: I think President Trump probably would be wise to start thinking about how this will look in the history, Don, right?
SWERDLICK: I mean, 10 or 20 years from now, there's going to be an A.P. high school history question whether they are going to ask something like, you know, which president accused his immediate predecessor of spying on him.
SWERDLICK: You know, choice a, Millard Fillmore, choice b, you know, Harry Truman, choice c, Donald Trump. It's a very unusual and very disturbing situation.
LEMON: That will be the -- that will a question in the CNN quiz show I'm sure, you know, in 20 or 30 years. And I wonder if, you know, you mentioned the other presidents. If that's why every picture of President Obama he looks like that. He's like I'm done. He's all healthy and tan and lean. It's like, whew, that's over.
So then, David Rohde, what is the point of congressional investigation if it's not, you know, if you're not going to listen to it, if it's not going to matter much? Why put the American people through this?
[22:39:58] DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: you know, I don't know. Look, he has a pattern of making this sort of self-destructive statements. A quick story we had today, you know, the president said he didn't have any business ties with Russia. So we looked at investments in his businesses in Florida, we found investment by 63 members of the Russian elite for nearly $100 million.
There's -- and we tried to find out how much money the Trump organization made from that, and he wouldn't tell us that number. This could be innocent but it's a $100 million of investment from some of the richest people in Russia. Some with ties with the government. We did not -- we don't have any proof of wrongdoing, but simply disclose what happened with these deals. LEMON: Plus, the taxes.
ROHDE: You know, close your taxes. And why say you have no business with Russia? You're setting yourself up for, you know, being accused of making a false statement.
LEMON: Andre. We're silencing you in this block only because you get to come back and everybody else gets to leave.
So, thank you, all. Andre, I'll you later on.
ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank goodness.
LEMON: When we come right back, two men who know what Americans really think about President Trump. They hear from them every day on talk radio.
LEMON: The Trump administration doesn't have many allies on Capitol Hill when it comes to the president's wiretap allegations but what do the American people think?
[22:45:00] My radio guys are here to tell me. Bill Press, the host of the Bill Press show, and syndicated talk radio host, John Fredericks. My favorite part of the broadcast. I'm so glad you guys are here. You come back every time.
BILL PRESS, RADIO HOST: Hi, Don
LEMON: Again, as I say, gluttons for punishment. Welcome, gentlemen. Hi, John. Are you doing OK?
JOHN FREDERICKS, SYNDICATED TALK RADIO HOST: Doing fine. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Don, Bill. Great day.
LEMON: I'm wearing green. I don't see Bill Press.
PRESS: Yes, I'm sorry. I forgot.
LEMON: Are you wearing green, John?
FREDERICKS: Yes, I got a green tie on.
PRESS: I just say unlike Donald Trump I don't fake it, Don.
LEMON: OK. John, this is for you. President Trump hasn't had a great week. Health care plan, the budget proposal under fire. Press secretary really looked like he was going to implode trying to defend the president's baseless claims about wiretapping that his party won't defend. Do you think this -- help this White House get back on track. FREDERICKS: Well, the first thing they've got to do is focus on the
big issues that got them there, trade, jobs, infrastructure getting out of these wars, all the things that matter. We're spending a lot of time on a lot of nonsense right now, both sides of the aisle. We got a big agenda coming up, for Trump there's a big week coming up.
And one of the main things he's got to do with this repeal bill for Obamacare is republicans have got to get this right. Right now the bill as it stands, this thing is dead on arrival. They're not going to be able to pass it as it is right now. It doesn't make sense. Too many people are not covered, costs not going down and...
LEMON: Bill, mark your calendar and time. He broke with the president. John Fredericks did. I mean, perfect segue to you. So today, the president said, Bill, he is flipping republican no votes. I want you to take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We met with 12 pretty much no's in Congress. They went from all no's to all yes', and we have a lot of yes' coming in. It's all coming together. We're going to have great health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, but that wasn't his harshest critics. CNN is keeping track of the votes. As of now 14 republicans are no's, 11 are leaning no. That's 25 republicans. And can only afford to lose 21. Is he a little bit overconfident or does he know something we don't know?
PRESS: Look, first of all, I think he's overconfident. I don't believe what he says about those 11 votes. But as you point out, he does and John just admitted, he does not -- they do not have the votes in the House. I think Paul Ryan has sold Donald Trump a bill of goods which contradicts everything that Donald Trump promised about health care during the campaign.
They may be able to twist enough arms and break enough arms to get some piece of crap out of the House, but let me tell you. It's dead on arrival in the Senate.
I think President Obama -- I'm sorry, President Trump, would be very, very smart to walk away from this and then forge together a bill like John pointed out that covers Americans and does what Donald Trump -- and doesn't gut Medicaid and gives people better plans at lower cost. This bill doesn't do it. I think he's in real trouble on this bill.
LEMON: Well, a then also there's a moment where he admitted that his own bill could hurt his own voters.
BILL: Yes, it does.
LEMON: We'll discuss it right after the break. Don't go anywhere. [22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now with my radio guys. Mr. Fredericks, I want you to listen to what president told Tucker Carlson in response to another big issue with the republican plan. It could hurt the very people that made up Trump's base.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: A Bloomberg analysis showed that counties that voted for you, middle and working-class counties would do far less well under this bill.
TRUMP: Yes, I know.
CARLSON: When the counties voted for Hillary the more affluent counties.
TRUMP: I know.
CARLSON: It seems like maybe this is inconsistent with the message of the last election.
TRUMP: No. A lot of things aren't consistent but these are going to be negotiated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: John, so it sounds like you realize that he's got to deal with this. He knows this bill has problems. Why is he twisting arms to get people to support it then?
FREDERICKS: President Trump is going to have to negotiate this thing to the top. This got to be the art of the deal on steroids. Because right now what you have is a bill, it's not Obamacare 2.0 or Obamacare lite, this is Obamacare 50 percent.
You're cutting out 50 percent of the people that are covered now that need the coverage. That doesn't make any sense. You're not bringing down the costs. That makes no sense. You're bailing out the insurance companies, you're bailing out Wall Street, how does that make any sense?
The people at the top end of the income spectrum they get a tax break and seniors get hammered.
FREDERICKS: This thing is a complete disaster that needs to get renegotiated. It has the potential to sink the Trump presidency in that movement if they can't negotiate this thing right.
LEMON: I have to look at the monitor to make sure that wasn't Bill Press talking. But go on, Bill. PRESS: Don, I just want to say I think John has been listening to my
show because he quoted me exactly. Now, for Donald Trump, not just for American people, for Donald Trump this is a bad piece of legislation.
I know he watches your show Don, so let me just say, Mr. President, take an exit ramp, get the hell away from this piece of legislation and design a bill that does what you promised to do during the campaign and you'll get some democratic support for it.
LEMON: OK. So then let's go back then to, you know, the president said that he's got support, you know, he's twisting some arms and he's got these no's that are turning to yes'. So, neither of you guys think this is going to pass in its current form. So then what happens on Thursday then?
PRESS: I think on Thursday -- they're either going to just barely get it through or this bill is going to lose in the House and there's going to be a monumental embarrassment for Paul Ryan and a wake-up call for the White House that put all their faith in Paul Ryan's ability to deliver. And he, I don't
think he can deliver it.
FREDERICKS: Bill, there you go. You nailed it right there. Bill Press nailed it. Donald Trump who has a revolutionary movement in America, putting his faith in Paul Ryan and the very republican leadership and their ineffectiveness which is the reason that he became the nominee to upset the entire system because they couldn't get anything done.
[22:55:13] LEMON: OK. John, let me ask you.
FREDERICKS: One of the most mind boggling things I've ever seen.
PRESS: Right. So, I don't get it. I don't get it.
LEMON: So then what are people saying to you, I want to especially when I hear things from John Frederick, what are callers, your listeners telling you when they call?
FREDERICKS: Our phone is blowing up, Don, we can't -- we can't take. I'm on four hours a day. Ninety five percent of my calls.
LEMON: They don't like it.
FREDERICKS: And remember, I do morning drive. These are blue-collar workers going to the ship yard, going to defense base, going to the coal mines. They got to punch a clock. Ninety five percent, 95 out of 100 I've had this week or incensed over this thing. They're outraged over it. They want it to be defeated and they want Donald Trump to go back to the table and get something that makes sense. LEMON: I have to go, Bill, I have like 10 seconds. Maybe democrats
are saying, let it go, let it pass and then they'll see how terrible it is and the voters, Trump voters won't support him the next time. I don't know, maybe that's the strategy, no?
PRESS: No, I would say let's get it right. Let's get it right.
LEMON: Yes. OK, guys. Thank you. Wow. Fascinating. I can't believe you guys like agreed on almost everything.
PRESS: I have faith again in people's ability to grow.
FREDERICKS: It's St. Patrick's Day.
LEMON: Yes. Last time you see these guys on the show. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Happy St. Patrick's Day. We'll be right back.
PRESS: All right. Happy St. Patrick's.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)