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CNN TONIGHT

The Moment GOP is Waiting For; Investigation for Alleged Ties Revealed; Former Trump Ally Facing Questions Over Russia Ties; Investigations Unveiled; Rewriting History. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 21, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, a late night on Capitol Hill with the GOP's health care bill hanging in the balance.

This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.

It is do or die time. Now less than 48 hours to go until the House votes on the long promised republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Paul Ryan seems working furiously behind the scenes. President Trump on the Hill today warning republicans they could lose their seats if the bill fails. But will his own party give him the win he's so desperately needs right now.

Plus, and all the president's men, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone to name a few. Do they have ties to Russia and will they come back to haunt the Trump White House?

We'll discuss all of that. I want to get right to CNN senior political reporter, Ms. Nia-Malika Henderson. And senior political analyst, Mr. David Gergen, and senior political commentator, Mr. David Axelrod. Good to see you, David, good to have you on this evening.

Nia, I'm going to start with you. Walk us through the changes that have been made to the health care bill. Who are they aimed at winning over and are more changes coming here?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, if you listen to President Trump he says there are more changes coming. In some ways this is not something that Paul Ryan necessarily wants to hear but it is music to people in the House Freedom Caucus who want to see more done in terms of Medicaid.

As sunset setting earlier one of the changes that they have made is to allow Medicaid states to block grant the funding. That is something that is very important to the freedom caucus as well. There's changes that's being made in terms of how Medicaid is funded in New York. Upstate New Yorkers very much want the state to foot the bill rather than the counties.

So that is something that's aimed at getting some of those folks off the bench and to support this bill. You know, my thinking on Thursday is it's hard to imagine Paul Ryan is going to bring this to the floor without thinking and in some ways knowing that he's going to pass this thing.

We got 48 hours to go. You imagine there is going to be some arm twisting and horse trading in the meantime, but I think it's hard to think that we get to Thursday, which of course is the anniversary of Obama's passing this thing back in 2010, it' a very symbolic date for Obama, and it's going to be a symbolic date I think for republicans as well.

LEMON: Yes.

HENDERSON: Who will remember, this is all what they've been about for seven years, repealing and replacing Obamacare.

LEMON: yes, interesting. As I said, do or die. It's really show time. They're selling this to the investors. Whether the investors will buy, we'll see on Thursday. But again show time. So, are selling it to the investors.

Let's -- President Trump is addressing the bill at dinner for Congressional republicans tonight. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The House bill ends the Obamacare nightmare and gives health care decisions back to the states and back to the American people. These are the conservative solutions we campaigned on. And these are the conservative solutions the American people asked us as a group to deliver. We are keeping our promises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And you can see, David Gergen, the president is sticking to the written script there, not going off that script. Let's -- let me show you latest whip count. It shows that 19 republicans are definite no's, seven others are likely no's.

The GOP can lose no more than 21 votes. Do you think that he's going to be able to get this done as Nia just said, Paul Ryan is not going to bring it to the floor unless it's a sure thing.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in most presidencies, Don, the president would succeed. It's early in this administration, there's usually a honeymoon feeling about things. The party wants to give him an early victory, so he doesn't you know, he doesn't stumbling out of the gate with legislation.

There are lots of factors that would suggest the president would likely win this. But we're in such an unusual year with the president's own, you know, approval ratings at historic lows for any new president. He were at 65 percent or 70 percent approval right now, I can guarantee you, I think David Axelrod will guarantee that President Trump would have a victory on Thursday.

But at 37 or 38 percent, he doesn't have that kind of persuasive power. He don't see cards and letters coming into the Congress, you don't hear an outcry from the public. If anything people have been showing up at town halls have been against this. They want to keep Obamacare in preference to this.

So, it's going to be a close call. A very, very important point in his presidency in terms of his leadership of the Congress and getting big things done.

[22:05:02] LEMON: David Axelrod, I want you to weigh in, he invoke your name here, what do you think?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look. I think it's not just that he's at 37, 38 percent approval but the bill itself is at 34 percent approval. There just isn't a consensus in the country behind this bill, and so, yes, the republicans have said for seven years they are going to repeal and replace but the devil is in the details and now that the details are here, they're not very welcome as has been bruited about quite a bit.

A lot of the impact falls on older Americans, on rural communities, on low income working-class voters, the very people who formed the base of Donald Trump's support. And the people -- the legislators who represent those areas are aware of that.

The bill doesn't go far enough for people on the republican right in terms of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, it goes too far for people who are among those suburban moderates, a couple of dozen representatives from suburban districts who are concerned about what it does to Medicaid.

And so, there's a great deal of concern on both sides of the republican -- of the republican family there if it were. I mean, it may be more like the Simpsons than a normal family. Lots of fighting going on there. But, so.

LEMON: OK.

AXELROD: So, I think at the end of the -- at the end of the day they are going to -- at the end of the day, you know, this is a heavy lift. And the argument that Paul Ryan is making and that Trump is making to the republicans is you promised this, you're going to get punished if you don't do it. Keep it going.

LEMON: Yes.

AXELROD: Don't kill it here. Keep it going. We can fix it within the process. Problem is, lot of people in the House don't trust the Senate to make it better from their perspective.

LEMON: Yes. It's interesting that you would say that, at least you didn't compare to the family, I'm not married with children, it's the Simpsons, so.

Nia, I have to ask you this, Nia, because it's kind of get it over approach and then we need to move on to other things. He's telling people, he's telling members if you don't pass this, you probably not going to have your seat, you know, come two years from now. Is that a good tactic to take do you think?

HENDERSON: You know, it's a purely political tactic, right? I mean, this is an argument about the policy details, this is an arguing that this is what the Republican Party stands for in terms of a conservative approach to health care, it's very much, you know, sort of a bottom line, almost scare tactic, right?

Him essentially saying you better have my back or I will be in your district. And you can imagine that President Trump is someone who hasn't mind it.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Is that unusual?

HENDERSON: I think it is unusual. Yes. I mean, and David was talking about this. I mean, usually you would have people who were wanting to line up behind the president, certainly not the president threatening members of his own party that he would campaign against them. So, it is, I think it is a very odd thing.

And it's probably because the Republican Party hasn't had a real philosophy in terms of health care, certainly not a philosophy that includes government intervention in terms of health care, and that's what you're having here with this -- with the way that this program is set up.

There are some vestiges of Obamacare they're going to stay as part of the law, which is angering lots of conservatives who want to see this ripped out.

LEMON: My question is, was this much arm twisting when it came to Obamacare? Was there as this much? David Gergen, then I'll get Axelrod.

AXELROD: Well, I was a...

LEMON: Either one.

GERGEN: Please, please, go ahead, David. Please.

LEMON: Go ahead, David.

AXELROD: Well, I was there. So, I can tell you that, you know, that was a long, a lengthy process. It died a thousand deaths along the way. And in certain ways they're mirroring that process because what happened was you had progressives, liberals in the House who thought that the bill the Senate passed hadn't gone far enough.

You have senators who thought the liberals were -- the bill was too expensive and generous. They couldn't reconcile. These are among democrats. And it was only at the end when it was absolutely clear to the House that the only opportunity for them was to accept the Senate bill with some amendments they could do through reconciliation that they grudgingly got on board.

And so, you're seeing some of that same tug and pull here. What I don't remember is the president going -- I do remember him going to members and saying this is why we ran for office to do this for people. And he sold the bill on its merits. He didn't make a purely political argument.

He knew that there were dangerous politics associated with the bill but he said, we have the opportunity to do something really big for the American people and for the future, and this is why we all ran for office. It's a lot different than saying I'm going to be -- I'm going to be in your business if you don't support it.

LEMON: I'm going to get you out of office if you don't support it. David Gergen, might they change the deadline do you think move it from Thursday?

[22:09:59] GERGEN: I think -- I think they are going to take this up to the brink and see if they can bring those last voters in with a lot of pressure behind the scenes and if they don't have the votes, they'll pull it, they won't go to vote on Thursday or Friday.

Outright on the brink if they don't have the votes, they'll pull back and go back to the drawing board to see if they can get something else done. I think they'll be a lot.

One of the things you face here is, I worked for Bill Clinton when he was trying to get health care through, this is really hard work. And it's very, very -- seven presidents tried to get a national health care. President Obama was the first one to succeed, and now his success looked bigger than ever because you realized now we got an eighth president who is struggling with it.

And so, I do think that in retrospect they should have thought a lot more about the policy and getting that right. It's having something they could take to the country. The turning point in all of this was when that report came from the Congressional Budget Office saying that 23 or 24 million people would be without insurance in 2026. That's huge.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It hasn't been change yet.

GERGEN: And what would, yes. And Don, it's so interesting, we've just learned in the last 24 hours that Congressional Budget Office says that if you let this bill -- Obamacare, just die, you will have more people with insurance than if you put repeal and replace and replace. Isn't that amazing?

LEMON: Yes. That is a, that's very interesting predicament. Stand by. Because, David Axelrod, and I said in the beginning of the segment, I'm glad to have you all of you on, but David Axelrod, you know, you've been traveling. And I want to get your perspective on these things.

It's been tough time in the White House lately. The health care bill as we talked about in dire straits right now. They have two failed travel bans. A criminal investigation into possible contacts with Russia, the FBI Director Comey contradicting the president's wiretapping claims. I mean, you've been there. What do you think of all of this?

AXELROD: Well, look, I know and David can speak to this as well because he's been in White Houses in times of political crisis. And you really feel under siege. And it's important to keep your wits about you.

The truth of the matter is, yes, he's got some problems here that aren't going to go away that we learned about more about on Monday. On the other hand, if they do pass this health care bill, whatever you think of it, if they do pass this health care bill and they do get Judge Gorsuch through his committee and on the bench, then, you know, things are going to look a little bit different.

So, you know, you've got to sort of keep your wits about you and not -- and not panic. But having said all of that, this is an extraordinarily dark time 60 days into an administration.

LEMON: Well, Comey is saying that there is no information that supports Trump's wiretapping claims. Does President Trump owe President Obama and the American people an apology?

AXELROD: Well, he may owe him one but he's not going to give one. That's pretty clear. That's not part of his makeup, that's not part of his character. He never backs up. He never, I mean, I think, Don, you went through a litany of things last night on which he made claims that were plainly not true and he hasn't backed up on any of them.

That's just not the way he operates. So, he will pay a price for it. There's a reason that he is at 37 and 38 percent now. And that's part of the reason. And you know, I think people would -- if Ivanka Trump achieves nothing but to get that cell phone away from her father, she will have done a great service to him and this administration.

LEMON: I think everyone -- everyone is in agreement on this panel.

HENDERSON: She's in the west wing now, so maybe she's...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes, we'll see. I know. Untitled position, which is very interesting.

HENDERSON: Yes.

LEMON: I've got to ask one more question before we get out of here. We also found out yesterday that both -- we keep saying both presidential candidates were on investigation during the campaign. Yes. But on Election Day there was only one candidate who was under investigation and the only people who knew it were the people investigating.

The American people went to the polls not knowing that Donald Trump, candidate Trump was under investigation. What do you think about learning that now David Axelrod?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think a lot of democrats are angry about that. What Jim Comey said was that those investigations of Hillary Clinton were complete by Election Day, and he spoke in July when they had completed their investigation.

This -- the investigation into Trump was just beginning and he didn't feel like he could speak about that. The problem with Jim Comey and this whole episode is that he seems to be making rules up as he goes along to try and figure out how to protect his agency. He's made a series of judgments about when to speak and when not to speak.

And he's, you know, maybe with good intentions but he's gotten himself into a lot of hot water and he's raised questions like the one you just did, which is rife with this question as whether he, in fact, was a player in this election. A lot of democrats believe he was.

[22:15:02] LEMON: yes. David Gergen?

GERGEN: Well, I have a great deal of respect for Jim Comey coming into all of this, I do think he made a mistake by not disclosing both investigations at the same time rather than disclosing Hillary Clinton investigation and not the other.

I think this notion that somehow one was closed and the other was not is spurious. As I recall when he went back and said, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: There's nothing in there.

GERGEN: Yes, well, he said -- he said, a few days before the election, we're looking at some new e-mails. He went public with that. And he said that's because we kept the investigation open. Well, it wasn't closed really, it was still -- it was still open. They just weren't doing very much with it. So, I just think he should have come with both or none.

LEMON: Yes. Nia, before we go ask you, I got to ask you, what the president's reputation now in Washington, where do we stand with that? Not many people will tell you on camera how they feel about it. But behind the scenes.

HENDERSON: Well, you know, there is a lot of hammering in among the republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: His credibility. HENDERSON: Among republicans in terms of a lot of the drama, right, surrounding this White House, the self-created drama around the wiretapping and the credibility and sort of pettiness around this issue and the inability for him to get past it.

And as you can tell I think from this White House, you look at Sean Spicer's briefing today, they are not going to let this go. We're not going to get an apology from this White House. This seems to be President Trump's new favorite conspiracy theory in many ways.

LEMON: Yes.

HENDERSON: But I do think, you know, you can turn the page on this if you're Donald Trump on Thursday if they start to get a win, it looks like a win on this health care bill and it looks good in the Senate and tax reform, then, you know, all bets are off in terms of people souring, republicans, on this White House.

Because again, I mean, they have seen him as someone who can sign their agenda and get all the things they wanted to do over these many years done.

LEMON: Yes.

HENDERSON: So if he's able to do that, I think some of these issues won't matter.

LEMON: He still has to answer to the American people and I think the media will hold him accountable for that. Thank you, all. I appreciate -- I think we should. Thank you all. I appreciate it.

GERGEN: Thank you.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come right back, President Trump's toughest opponents on health care may be conservative members of his own party. I'm going to talk to the Congressman who thinks they can kill the bill, that's next.

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Members of the House Freedom Caucus oppose the GOP health care bill and believe they have enough votes to stop it. Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama is part of the caucus, and he joins me now. Good evening, Mr. Brooks. Thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.

MO BROOKS, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: My pleasure.

LEMON: So, you call this bill a lump of coal, but Sean Spicer says there is nothing more conservative than what's in this new bill. Why won't you vote for it in the form that it's in now?

BROOKS: Well, I respectfully disagree with Sean Spicer in this major context. What you're looking at and what we're being asked to do is to vote for the largest republican welfare program in the history of the Republican Party.

Now it's very difficult to portray that as conservative. Particularly since that welfare in order to give it to one group of people either you are going to have to raise taxes and forcibly take it from other people or increase premiums for those folks who are paying their own way.

Or worse yet, steal from our kids and grandkids by borrowing the money thereby jeopardizing America and the future of our kids and grandkids, and perhaps undermining what it took to centuries of ancestors to build.

LEMON: What do you want to see in this bill, how would you change it if they -- what's to fix?

BROOKS: Well, I think what we need to do is keep our promise to the American people. First, we can have a simple two-page bill that repeals Obamacare. Effective whatever date you want to put in there, whatever is necessary in order to have the appropriate transition time.

The second thing that we need to do is interject competition into the health care industry, particularly the health insurance markets. You can do that with repeal of any trust exemptions that some folks in the health care industry enjoy. You can do that with permitting or expressly allowing and barring states that limit the ability of insurance companies to compete across state lines.

That kind of competition I think will help foster better pricing for the customers that the insurance companies want to have. And then finally, I'm a very strong believer in states' rights. I would like to see us disseminate this power as much as possible from the federal government level to the 50 states.

If we're going to put money into the federal government level, then what we need to6 be doing is block granting that to the states on a per capita citizen basis and then letting the states experiment with what they believe is the best way to provide health care to their citizens.

And if the states want to supplement that, of course, they have that ability. And if the states they like New York or California if they like Obamacare that much, their legislature can pass it and boom, you've got Obamacare in their state.

LEMON: If they want their plan, they can keep their plan as you said.

BROOKS: That is correct.

LEMON: But listen, some of your colleagues were discussing the president's meeting today because they're in full sell mode, right now. I want you to watch that and then let's discuss it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: President Trump was here to do what he does best, and that is to close the deal.

DAVE BRAT, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Yes. I mean, he's great. He's a good salesman. He put the hard sell on. He was riffing and having fun period about 30 or 40 minutes going over all the issues in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you think that's going to work with some of your colleagues?

BROOKS: Well, President Trump he was very personable. We had a good relationship, a good rapport inside the GOP conference this morning. I wish President Trump spoke. But you know, at some point, no matter how good of a salesman you have, you have to have a good product.

And quite frankly, this is not a good product. I don't think that the White House participated in the formulation of this policy to a very large degree. I think that was more the House republican leadership that did it.

And it's all subsumed in this underlying thought that we're smart enough in Washington, D.C., to control the decision making process of over 300 million Americans as they purchase their insurance or they purchase their health care or doctors disseminate that health care to our citizens.

LEMON: Yes.

BROOKS: And I'm of those that believes in liberty and I believe in freedom and I think the American people are smart enough to figure it out on their own if we take the heavy jack boot of the federal government off their throats and force them to do things that they don't want to do.

LEMON: Congressman.

BROOKS: Let freedom rule in this particular instance.

LEMON: Let me ask you this, because this is the latest whip count, it shows 19 republicans, definite no's on this. Seven others, unlikely no's.

[22:25:03] You can't lose any more than 21. OK? So, republican leaders are arguing that this is your last and best shot to repeal and replace Obamacare. Do you think you're going to get another chance? Do you think -- do you think with that, that those numbers that this is going to pass and will you get another chance if it doesn't?

BROOKS: Well, the situation is fluid. Certainly you've got the House leadership that's engaging in a full-court press. I don't know how persuasive they're going to be, but as of this afternoon I think our hard numbers were closer to 30, and probably an excess of 30.

LEMON: Wow.

BROOKS: We'll see if any of those plays are...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Excess of 30 no's?

BROOKS: Excess of 30 no's that was as of this afternoon. A hard core where we had talked with each other and made those kind of commitments that we as congressmen can hopefully be able to rely on. Understanding that you still have 36 or 48 hours before we actually going to have to vote on this legislation.

LEMON: Do you think they should move the date? Would you like to see them move it?

BROOKS: I'd like to see them change the legislation. I don't care if we had the vote tomorrow or Thursday.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But to work on it.

BROOKS: What's important is changing the legislation. There is a significant chance that what you're going to see is some more deal making to try to make the legislation more financially responsible and more in accord with the freedom and liberty principles in which our country was based.

And if they're successful at doing that then they are going to get more of us conservatives who believe in freedom and liberty to be on board.

LEMON: Yes.

BROOKS: In the absence of that it's going to be very difficult for the House leadership to get the votes to pass a bad piece of legislation.

LEMON: Congressman, a lot of people come here they're not quite as candid as you are. I appreciate your condor and we thank you for coming on.

BROOKS: My pleasure. It's very much an enjoyment to be on your show having watched you many, many hours. You do an excellent job.

LEMON: Thank you, Congressman, we appreciate it.

Up next, all the president's men, current or former associates of the Trump campaign, new questions about their possible ties to Russia.

[22:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Trump's one time campaign manager Paul Manafort facing new questions about his links to Ukraine's former president, a close ally of Russia. This comes on the heels of the FBI director confirming that the agency

is investigating possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.

CNN's Tom Foreman has that story for us. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. We don't know many details of what the FBI is considering in this look into the so-called Russian connection but do have idea about some of the people they're scrutinizing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: How many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The administration is moving fast to put distance between President Trump and the man with the key interest in the Russian hacking investigation. Paul Manafort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: Obviously, there's been discussions of Paul Manafort, who plays a very limited role for very limited amount of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Limited? And afford for Donald Trump's campaign chairman from May to mid-August last year, overseeing the staff, the budget and dismissing early claims by democrats that Russian hackers targeted their party's computers to tilt the election Trump's way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: They are certainly are getting desperate rather early in the game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: But now, a lawmaker in Ukraine says he has discovered a new document in an office where Manafort worked as he advised the former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. A lawmaker says the paper looks like an invoice for $750,000 in computer parts allegedly signed with Manafort's name.

A spokesman says Manafort does not recognize the documents and it's not his signature. And CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the invoice. If it is legitimate however, it could dovetail with the co- called black ledger, a longer list for be of last fall which purports to show 12.5 million in payments alongside Manafort's name.

That lawmaker who found the new document believes all the money could be for undisclosed services paid for through the Ukrainian president's political party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERHIY LESHCHENKO, UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST: I think it's not all money for him, it's more like for his activities as well, for his campaign activity, for some technical issues of his activity as spin doctor, 12.7 million (Inaudible) high amount of money. But for Ukrainian corrupt politicians, it was not so impressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: But why would such payments matter to the U.S. investigation of the Russian hacking scandal? Because the former Ukrainian President, Manafort's client, was a Kremlin ally, even fleeing to Russia when he was driven from power.

Manafort dismisses any suggestion there was a corrupt river of money flowing from the Kremlin as part of a scheme to elect Donald Trump and get a more pro-Russian president in the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is it so farfetched to blame the Russians and say that the motive was to help you.

MANAFORT: It's just absurd. I don't know what you're talking about. It's crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: When reports came out during the republican convention that the Trump camp pushed the Republican Party in its platform to ease up on criticism of Russian for invading Ukraine. Manafort pushed back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANAFORT: It absolutely did not come to Trump or in the campaign. I don't who everybody is. But I guarantee you...

(CROSSTALK)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: So nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?

MANAFORT: No one. Zero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Amid these latest developments Manafort's recent statement says, in part, "I had no role or involvement in the cyber attack on the DNC, I have never spoken with any Russian government officials or anyone who claimed to have been involved, the suggestion that I have ever worked to undermine the interest of the United States is false."

And yet, investigators keep looking at this chain of connections from President Trump to his one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort to a former president of the Ukraine to Moscow. I'm wondering if they can find anything actually nefarious along the way here or just what the White House insists is there, only a witch hunt. Don.

LEMON: Tom Foreman, thank you very much. Let's bring in now CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein, the legendary journalist and author, and John Dean, the former counsel to the Nixon White House.

John, I'm going to steal your line that you told me in the commercial break.

[22:35:03] We have more collective knowledge of Watergate on this show than probably anywhere else. So, thank you both for coming on. Good to see you both. So, John, as I said you were Nixon's general counsel at the White House during the Watergate. When you look at this situation, what do you think?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I'll tell you one thing, as somebody who's been involved in the cover-up on the inside, this has an awful lot of the sound and look and feel of a cover-up. These are not people who are disclosing. They're denying, they're dissembling on many facts. They're getting caught on some of those.

I would Carl as a former investigative reporter would just wear his chops over this one because it really looks like a cover-up going on.

LEMON: Carl, what do you think?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think there's any question that there is a cover-up and people in the FBI will tell you that there is a cover up going on involving a fair number of people.

The question is what is being covered up and we don't know. How might that go to Donald Trump or might not go to Donald Trump. We don't know. There are associates of Donald Trump -- I think the piece that we just saw is very focused just on Manafort.

There's a constellation of people looking and the FBI is looking at the question of whether or not the hacking of the DNC, those e-mails of John Podesta, whether people around Donald Trump had prior knowledge of those e-mails. There's some evidence that some of them, particularly with Roger Stone who will talk about a little later did.

But I think we need to look at the whole question of what is under investigation here and it is a big ticket. It's nothing quite so small as straight line from Manafort to the Kremlin. It's a lot wider than that.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about how people in Washington are reacting, and particularly, republicans. Because John McCain was -- my colleague Manu Raju caught up with John McCain earlier tonight. He also has concerns about Paul Manafort. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I have serious questions about some of the people around the presidential campaign. There were people with close ties to the Russians. And including an individual paid large sums of money by Yanukovych who was the Russian stooge as the President of Ukraine.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're talking about Paul Manafort, wasn't it?

MCCAIN: I'm talking about Mr. Manafort and his relations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: John, you know that John McCain, I mean, he has been out there. He has long been critical of President Trump's affinity towards Russia but the fact is that that we're hearing this from a key republican lawmaker. A key republican lawmaker, that is key in itself.

DEAN: It is surprising. It's actually encouraging that somebody on the Hill is taking a little distance and not being simply a shield for the White House at this point. By and large the republicans are giving the White House an awful lot of cover.

But the senator is not. And nor is Lindsey Graham. So it's kind of nice and refreshing. We've also seen a little bit of movement on the house side where a few republicans are getting to question this. But it's not deep there at all.

LEMON: Yes. Carl, I talked to you about this, I was hoping to have you on yesterday, but I have you on today.

So, President Trump attacked the media in tweets, he does it all the time. Yesterday, calling the media fake news. That was ahead of the Comey hearing. And listen to this. This is Nixon taking on the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never heard or seen such outrageous dishes started reporting in 27 years of public life. Don't get the impression that you roused my anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have that impression.

NIXON: One can only be angry with those he respects.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, nothing has been found yet right? But plenty of presidents have had it out with the press. Does this feel like it did during Watergate? Is this Watergate 2.0, Carl?

BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, Nixon tried to make the issue in Watergate the conduct of the press rather than the conduct of the president and his men. And to a certain extent or a large extent Donald Trump is doing the same.

I think we got to look at a couple of fundamental differences. One, we live in a different age than the time of Watergate. We have a political system that basically doesn't work. It worked at time of Watergate. You had a 77 to zero vote by Senate of the United States to undertake a real select committee investigation into the President of the United States and his activities.

And you have nothing similar to that happening now, no such bipartisan approach. The other difference is, I think that Richard Nixon was a far less dangerous man than Donald Trump. That we have two very different characters that we're talking about here.

[22:39:57] Yes, we are talking about a possible conspiracy, certainly involving people around the president while he was a candidate, before he was the president. Perhaps, or perhaps not involving the president, although we don't have any solid evidence of that at this point.

But, a very different situation. Richard Nixon was a capable, able man who understood history, understood the institutions of the United States government. We don't have that with Donald Trump.

We now have a president of the United States who has accused his predecessor in an outrageous bit of lying -- we have a serial compulsive liar as the president of the United States.

Richard Nixon was a criminal president. He lied to cover up his criminality. But I think it's very different than when you have someone like Trump who lies in a way we have never seen a president of the United States lie routinely. Routinely make things up out of whole cloth. Have a press secretary who himself invents things or goes along with these crazy inventions of the president. Very different.

LEMON: Yes. Lying about the lies that they lied about is how the saying goes. John, you know, Carl talked about Roger Stone. President Trump's association with these men. All these connections with Russia now. You see that Manafort, Flynn, in particular, Roger Stone, they're all deny any sort of collusion but how problematic is this now?

DEAN: Well, Stone has slowly backed off from some of his denials and admitted more things. We know Roger is somebody who prides himself on being a dirty trickster, which is quite amazing. In fact, I find it amazing anybody would have a tattoo of Richard Nixon on their back.

It strikes as me a gear might have shifted somewhere in there. But I think that Stone is certainly capable of doing anything. I don't buy his denials. He's been with Trump for many, many years. Tried to encourage him to run for president. Then he had a falling out once he did because he wouldn't follow his advice.

Roger is a deep conspiracy theorist. He has alternative views of most major historical events and I'm sure that he's very uncomfortable being in a real conspiracy right now and I think he is.

LEMON: Yes. You mentioned the tattoo, the location would be interesting as well. That makes a difference. John, if you were -- if you were, you know, advising the president now, what would you advise him?

DEAN: I'd advise him to lawyer it up. He's got a -- he's got a rookie White House counsel who I don't think has deep criminal law experience and that's how the mistakes were made at the Nixon White House. I remember warning Erlichman very early that I have no criminal law experience and he brushed it aside. And it was one of the early mistakes we made. So, I think that's what they need to be doing.

LEMON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: I would mention one similarity here between Watergate and I don't want to go too far.

LEMON: I got to -- you got to go quick for me, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: The nature of some of these people. Flynn, Stone, others, who are off the reservation, who are not considered very solid folks there, a little bit like Hunt and Liddy, the Watergate burglars. And I'm not going to say criminally like them but in terms of being people who have a reputation for not quite thinking in very straight line.

LEMON: Yes. All right.

BERNSTEIN: We've got a similarity here.

LEMON: Dean and Bernstein, it's 1974 all over again.

BERNSTEIN: No, it is not.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Interesting to talk to you guys.

BERNSTEIN: Do not go there. Do not go there.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen.

And Carl Bernstein, stick around. We'll see you a little bit later on. When we come right back, what Paul Manafort told me when I talked to him during the campaign.

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The FBI Director James Comey confirms his agents are investigating whether there was some sort of coordination between Trump campaign aides and Moscow. Press Secretary Sean Spicer trying to do a bit of rewriting history. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: Even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign. And then obviously there's been this discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's discuss now Washington Post contributor Sally Quinn here, the founding editor of On Faith. CNN political commentator Matt Lewis, and Jason Miller, and Carl Bernstein is back with us. Matt, I don't want to fight again tonight. You, as well, Jason. So we're going to be on our best behavior, right?

Sally, welcome to the program. It's good to have you. I want to give you the first question. So, you heard Sean Spicer say Paul Manafort had a limited role in the campaign. We all know that that it's not true. What do you make of this attempt by the White House to create some distance between these guys and the president?

SALLY QUINN, WASHINGTON POST CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, one of the things that -- one of the things that is so fascinating to me, and you were talking earlier about the difference between this and Watergate, is that these guys don't know how to cover up. And so it all seems to be very inept.

I mean, for them to say he no role in the campaign is ridiculous. Because of course he was the campaign manager. So how could he possibly say that?

LEMON: The chairman. He was the chairman.

QUINN: He was chairman. So, I mean, if you -- if you are going to make something up, or if you're to try to cover something up, you don't say something that is so blatantly false that it can be proven by everyone.

Now of course that's what's been happening all along anyway. And so, I think we're all used to that. But in terms of what do I make of it? Finally even though it's not funny, I have to laugh.

LEMON: My saying, well, as you know, my saying it's not funny but it's laughable, and there is a difference.

QUINN: Yes, yes.

LEMON: There's a difference in that.

QUINN: Exactly.

LEMON: Jason, I interviewed Paul Manafort on this show last May, I also interviewed him on the other shows New Day I think when I filled in and I think Erin's show when I filled in for Erin. But last May on this show while he was still the campaign convention manager about a week before he was promoted to campaign chairman. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:49:55] MANAFORT: He's an incredible candidate. His personality is just gigantic. He's very smart. He understands how to communicate things that people relate to and he's got the courage not to let conventional wisdom or political correctness get in the way of his connections to the people. That's a very unique quality.

LEMON: But does it ever become frustrating to you. Does he ever listen to you if you say, you know, don't call Elizabeth Warren goofy or, you know, Bernie Sanders crazy. Or does he ever, does he take your suggestions, does he follow then?

MANAFORT: I mean, he listens to my opinion, and he processes it. And we got a work -- good working relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I have forgotten about some of those things that he had said. It's been such a long time. Not really though.

Jason, you know, we got a good working relationship, he says. Does the White House do more harm than good by squirming out of the facts? He worked for very limited time in the campaign. He's there for six months.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I'm not going to get into the business of qualifying Mr. Manafort's work on the campaign. I think it was pretty clear what the public record was as far as what his activity and involvement was.

But I think one of the things that I can talk to is what we're seeing here, the fact that we've seen absolutely zero evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and foreign officials. We have folks like Clapper and Morell, Devin Nunez, and Senator Chris Coons, all coming out saying...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's what's everyone watching as a pivot, but go on. I like you finish your statement.

MILLER: No, I answered, Don, I was answering your question directly and I said I'm not going to get into the qualifying.

LEMON: No, it's OK. I just said, I'm letting you finish. That was a good pivot. You did answered my question directly and you can go on. That is allowed.

MILLER: But look, if I wanted to, you know, tune into some fiction involving Russia, I'll pop over to another network and watch The Americans, but the fact of the matter is these guys I think supposedly been watching this for eight months and they put nothing forward. I think it's really a disservice to the presidency. And at a certain point, it's something to put up or shut up.

LEMON: OK, so then.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: If there is something there, then put it out.

LEMON: OK. Having said that then, Carl Bernstein, then why try to rewrite history and limit, you know, the amount of time or how much contact or the role that Paul Manafort played in the campaign?

BERNSTEIN: Let's first of all, you're right about that question but where Mr. Miller just went is somewhere that nobody ought to be.

The FBI is conducting an investigation. Mr. Clapper whom he cited has since said he was talking about what the state of things was January 20th when he last looked at it. Things have moved on, Mr. Miller, since January 20th. I think you know that. There is a major FBI investigation with new information it's focused in part on Manafort, it's focused in part on Stone. It's certainly focused on...

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: What's the new information?

BERNSTEIN: Can -- again, let's see what happens.

MILLER: No, no. You're -- this is...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: Can I finish?

MILLER: Well, you're throwing out baseless nonsense.

BERNSTEIN: No, I'm not. Let me finish if I may. Let the FBI do its investigation. Let's find out what the facts are. They need time. We do know there have been -- a search is underway to see if there was prior knowledge by Mr. Flynn, by Mr. Manafort, by Mr. Stone of the WikiLeaks release of the Podesta e-mails.

We don't know the answer to that question unless you know the answer to it, which I would love to hear if you do.

LEMON: Jason, I...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: But I think there are many things that we need to know, sir, and let's slow down a little bit. Let's find out the facts.

LEMON: So, Carl, hold on. Sally, I'm going to let you get in because I saw you raising your hand and you're very polite. Thank you. I'm not used to that, Sally.

QUINN: Well, I will continue to be polite. But what I would like to say is that there is an ongoing investigation says Carl.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Which we just learned about yesterday. That's new.

QUINN: That's right. That Carl just pointed out and that we all learned about yesterday. And that is the truth. That cannot be denied by anybody.

BERNSTEIN: That's right.

QUINN: And the problem with this is, what I do not understand is that if there is nothing to hide, I would think that Donald Trump would say, you know what, let's get all the special prosecutors, let's get every investigator, let's put everybody we have on this case and we will put it to rest because there is no truth to anything. LEMON: OK.

MILLER: I just think it's highly...

(CROSSTALK)

QUINN: And if there is -- so that is what I don't understand.

MILLER: Well put.

QUINN: And if you look back at these other investigations, what happens to the administration when you have an ongoing investigation like this and just look at Bill Clinton, what happened after Monica, the last two years of his administration basely were just hopeless because he couldn't get anything, they were squandered because he couldn't -- he was so completely consumed by those investigations. Look what happened to Richard Nixon.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Matt?

MILLER: You know, I only wish...

QUINN: With two years of Watergate.

LEMON: Matt, you're on your own here. You've to jump in if you want to get in.

MILLER: I only wish the two of you put as much as time and effort into trying to find out who is leaking all this classified information which is a real crime in which we do know...

LEMON: Jason...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: Let us right there for a minute. Let me say something about that.

QUINN: Well, I have something to say about -- I want to -- OK.

BERNSTEIN: Go ahead, Sally.

QUINN: Carl Bernstein then me next. No, what I want to say, you know what, the people who scream the loudest about the leaking are the leakers.

[22:55:02] BERNSTEIN: That's it.

QUINN: And their staffers are also the leakers. And so, it really makes me...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. QUINN: ... laugh when these people start screaming and yelling about leakers. I had some FBI people come to my house a number of years ago when they were doing the confirmation hearing and they wanted me to tell them some information. I said, no. And I said, no, no, no, this is all confidential. I said, are you kidding? Where do you think we get all our information? It's from guys like you.

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: Well, look.

QUINN: So, the idea of trying to make this about the leakers is ridiculous.

LEMON: Here's what I have to say, Matt. Matt, when I hear about the leakers, when I hear about the leakers there was someone who tweeted yesterday, and again, I'm paraphrasing, that says, the House is on fire, the president is running around with a box of matches, and the republicans are up on the Hill saying who called the fire department?

MILLER: Don, we know that people leak the classified information.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's for Matt.

MILLER: There's zero proof and nothing that's been put forward that there is any collusion. It's just, I mean.

LEMON: OK. Matt?

MATT LEWIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Ok. I would use -- I would use a different analogy, Don. I would use a different analogy. I think. Look, if somebody robs a bank and then the police catch that person but then the police don't read them the Miranda rights and then the people -- and then the police beat a confession out of them, we have two issues to deal with.

Two legitimate problems to deal with. So, I don't think that focusing on the concern about leaks is, you know, misdirection necessarily. I think it's a valid concern. It shouldn't overwhelm.

LEMON: Would you have deep throat arrested? Prosecuted?

LEWIS: Possibly. Possibly. I don't -- I have to look into it. But you know, I would -- I would not go after Woodward and Bernstein. That I can tell you.

LEMON: Yes.

QUINN: But the leaks are a diversion.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Matt.

QUINN: It is a total diversion. I mean, the main story here is...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you.

QUINN: ... that there is an investigation going on.

LEMON: I have to go.

QUINN: And we need to get the information.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thanks everyone for coming on. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you. Thank you. Matt, you got to speak a little bit tonight. With this crowd you got to weigh in there. I can't help you, buddy. I appreciate it.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Presidential fact and fiction.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Wiretapping, Vladimir Putin, even the size of the crowd at his own inauguration, President Trump sometimes seems to be operating from his own set of facts.

[23:00:04] But will that thinking, will the thinking that made him a business success and won him the White House undermine the public's faith in the president.

Plus, Ivanka Trump moving into the West Wing.