Return to Transcripts main page
Bias Media Coverage; Former Obama Official in Hot Water over Surveillance Issue. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 4, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Time to hand things over to CNN Tonight and Don Lemon.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Russia bomb shell. A member of the House intelligence committee warns somebody may go to jail.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Democrat Joaquin Castro tell Wolf Blitzer this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: My impression is that people will probably be charged and I think people will probably go to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's as President Obama's national security advisor Susan Rice fights back against accusation that she leaked the names of Trump associates. Rice insisting she never has and never would leak anything.
Is this just another distraction from the White House? We'll discuss that. But first, I want to address something. We're spending an awful lot of time on this show
lately knocking down lies in this environment we have to.
And here's one more lie that we've have to knock down. Today on Twitter, Fox News Bill O'Reilly accused me of refusing to cover the Susan Rice story. Nor I wouldn't address this but he has a lot of followers and people are believing alternative facts now.
That is 100 percent false. And if you were watching this show last night you know that is 100 percent false. And you saw I began by laying out the various ways the White House has attempted to distract us from President Trump's false wiretapping claims. Those are original tweets that he had.
The most recent being the claim that President Obama's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, unmasked the names of Trump associates. I then turned to a panel of experts to bring us a thing called "facts."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The unmasking by itself is not leaking, it's not illegal and I'm told by multiple officials who served both...
NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: When you have a need to know and you're especially if you're a national security advisor, you have the right to be able to ask the intelligence community for more information and for more context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Bill, we covered the Susan Rice story. We did it for a long time on this program last night, and tonight we're going to cover it again. Another story that we're going to cover again tonight later in the show, the sexual harassment allegations against you.
So let's get started. Let's bring in Mark Preston now, CNN contributor Jason Kander is here as well. Political commentators Kevin Madden and Jason Miller, and Van Jones, the host of CNN's The Messy Truth.
So glad to have you all on, and then welcome, Jason to the studio. Season studio, it's good to have you.
So, Mark, I want to start with you. National Security Advisor Susan Rice under President Obama pushing back against these accusations that she mishandled classified information Intel related to Trump associates.
Here's how she responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN RICE, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That's absolutely false.
There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided, just U.S. person and sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that U.S. official was. But let me...
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you leak the name Mike Flynn?
RICE: I leaked nothing to nobody. It never have, it never would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What is your take on these accusations from the White House and the right wing media on how Ambassador Rice is responding to. MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, a couple two things. One is if she did leak that information or she did at least put it out there inappropriately, we will find out. I mean, because the way that it's being described is that it went far and wide, you know, within the intelligence circles or in Washington, D.C.
I will tell you I did speak to somebody who was involved in the intelligence gathering operation back during the Obama administration. And they said, from their understanding, that is not true, that it was false and in many ways Susan Rice can only say so much given what her position was with the government.
At this point she can't go into a further explanation based upon what she does know. So that is why we perhaps we're not getting the full story that we would want to get from her.
LEMON: But also when you understand the procedure here and what it takes to unmask a name.
LEMON: Might they be incriminating themselves. Maybe that's where Philip Mudd comes in. I want to bring in Philip Muds. Philip, is ambassador might they be incriminating themselves even further because of the process of how you actually unmask a name or get it unmasked.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is not that-- this is not that complicated. And she is not under risk. This is how you do this operation. That is when you see an intelligence product that says an American official is involved in undermining the president's initiative to establish sanctions against Russia, there's a standard question any national security advisor would have.
Who is that American official or that American citizen who is undermining the president's initiative? Don, this is not that difficult. It happens every day in the intelligence business. And this is what she should have done. Who was involved in talking to the Russians in a way that suggests that they want to undermine the sitting president's ability to establish sanctions against the Russians. It's very simple.
[22:05:05] LEMON: Do you think that, again, Mark says we may found out something else. But do you think that this is a diversion from this Russia story because so far we see no evidence that she's done anything improper and it seems like an effort to tar and feather her to try to make a lie the truth the original tweet by the president.
MUDD: There are couple simple questions here and they are separate. The first question which we continue to lose track of is what happened in the electoral process where a foreign government, in this case a foreign adversary interfered with that process. Valid question for the Senate committee, valid question until a few weeks ago for the House committee. And valid question for the FBI.
LEMON: Yes. MUDD: There's a separate question that's been happening for the past 100 years in Washington. In the midst of that investigation who is leaking information. I think that's a significant question that the FBI will investigate. If you ask me as a former intelligence professional, compared to the question of Russian intervention in election, who leaked information is about third tier.
That happens all the time on issues related to national security. If she leaked the information she should be investigated but we're losing track, Don, of the number one question.
MUDD: Can Americans break free and secure. That's the question we ought to be pursuing.
LEMON: And listen, don't get me wrong. I think that if someone leak that should be investigated, but that is a separate story.
LEMON: If there is a problem with the way -- hang on. If there's a problem with the way that we collect information or we listen to Americans or listen phone calls, that is a legitimate thing to investigate and talk about but that is a separate story and it should not be put into the mix into this story.
I'm going to bring you in, Jason. But first I want to get Kevin. And Kevin, republican Senator Tom Cotton weighed in on these accusations. I want you to listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM COTTON, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Susan Rice is the Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration foreign policy. Every time something went wrong she seemed to turn up in the middle of it whether it was these allegations of improper unmasking and potential improper surveillance, whether it was Benghazi or many of the other fiascos over the eight years of the Obama administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Kevin, Susan Rice is named radioactive for conservatives especially following the Benghazi controversy, you know that it was a film or what have you. Is that part of the reason why there's so much inclination to call for an investigation now that her name is coming up?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. I think it is. I mean, I think that Typhoid Mary reference was lost on a lot of people but at the heart of people but at the heart of it is that there is a lot of skepticism about the veracity of Susan Rice.
And I don't think that's just with conservatives. I think the media has a right to be skeptical of Susan Rice given her role and Senator Cotton eluded to it in pointing to a YouTube video as the sole source of the Benghazi attacks.
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Come on, Kevin.
MADDEN: So those questions and her credibility, you know, there is a lot of skepticism about that. And some of that is warranted. And I think if you couple that with the fact that many days ago prior to the MSNBC interview that Susan Rice conducted today, she did indicate that she had no knowledge whatsoever about the unmasking allegations that were made by Congressman Nunes. When in fact, today, she seem to elude that she did have knowledge about unmasking. So, those are questions, those are doubts that have been raised.
LEMON: But I do have to say, Kevin that she...
MADDEN: And as Mark Preston and Philip Mudd have eluded to it, that is why we have a Senate investigation and that's why we have that congressional oversight to get to the bottom of it.
LEMON: Today I watch very closely she spoke in generalities about the unmasking process and in the other interview she said she didn't know. And maybe she has no idea because she doesn't know what in the information that Nunes has.
And listen, that's going to be up for her, up to her to, you know, to whether she's telling the truth about that. But I understood those two interviews to be different. Van Jones, go ahead.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Well, look, this is much to do about nothing. I mean, not even nothing. You got to go to the hood and say much to do about absolutely nothing.
JONES: Listen, Susan Rice is being tarred, feathered and burned alive for doing her job in a good way. What is she supposed to do? She's a national security advisor. Somebody puts information on her desk that says people are trying to undermine the President of the United States and they may be, you know, involved with Russians or whatever.
The only thing she's supposed to do is say, well, gees, who is doing this? That's all she did.
JONES: And now you've got this entire thing a whipped up and ginned up and people are jumping up and down doing back flipped and talking about Benghazi because that's what they do when they don't want to talk about not who was unmasked but what was unmasked, what has been unmasked is the fact that there are Russian villains playing tootsies with the president's team possibly.
LEMON: OK. Jason.
JONES: Let's talk about that. [22:09:59] LEMON: Jason Miller. I know you want to weigh in. Go
ahead. Here's your chance.
MILLER: Thanks, Don. Well, I think today's interview with Susan Rice and Andrea Mitchell was a complete disaster. I can't believe how unprepared Ms. Rice was going into this thing and the basic questions that she wouldn't answer like would she be willing to testify.
But as Kevin pointed out a minute ago, I mean, here's the reality. A couple weeks ago she said that she knew nothing about the unmasking of names and it wasn't in generality and she was very specific and she said she knew nothing.
LEMON: That was today.
MILLER: And today...
LEMON: Today was a generality. The other one was that she knew nothing about unmasking, but she doesn't know -- but listen -- she doesn't know...
MILLER: I mean...
LEMON: Hold on, hold on, she doesn't know the information that Devin Nunes has so how would she know specifically what he's talking about.
MILLER: But it goes from I know nothing to, well, sometimes it was necessary. As if she just looked down and magically found this unmasking document that would routinely get pinned to her lapel before she left her house every day, like mittens on a wintry morning.
I mean, this is so absurd and the fact that also that we found out today that when we talked about the unmasking, she was quick to say that she wasn't doing any of the unmasking or the administration wasn't doing any of the unmasking for political purposes but still she was involved with the unmasking not once, not twice as we know from Eli Lake or from Bloomberg dozens of times.
JONES: It's not illegal. she's supposed to do that. That's her job.
LEMON: Even Devin Nunes original statement said that there was nothing illegal done. And he also said that it was incidental information.
JONES: That's her job.
LEMON: And the other Jason is we're getting. Go ahead, Jason. Do you think, Jason, do you think people understand exactly how this information is collected? And I'll you the same thing that I ask Philip Mudd. And the process of actually having things unmasked? Do you think they get it?
MILLER: I think it is a big deal...
LEMON: No, the other Jason. The other Jason Kander.
JASON KANDER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this has been confidential for a long time because that's how the process is supposed to work and the reason the Trump administration is trying to open this up is for the same reason that since Election Day they've been conducting a misinformation campaign against the American intelligence community.
They know these investigations are going on, they know what they've done and they're very concerned what happens when the American people find out. So they want to make sure that the American intelligence community doesn't have credibility when that happens.
KANDER: And as a former intelligence officer I'm offended by it. And as an American I'm frightened by it.
LEMON: I want to hear someone who in there who is afraid of speaking truth the power and that's Ana Navarro. That was sarcasm, Ana.
This is the ranking democrat of the House intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, what he says that their committee seems that it's back on track now. Here's what he told our Wolf Blitzer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SCHIFF, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I think there are a few things going on. There is, in the first instance, a strong desire by the White House that we lose our focus, that we not pursue the investigation of Russia, particularly as it might impact the Trump campaign. I think that's priority number one for the president and the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So listen, Ana, if she did something wrong, she did something wrong and she should face the music for it. But how much do you think that these Rice accusations they are going to divert from the actual investigation Russia meddling in or possible collusion which there's been no evidence during the campaign.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Don, investigate it all. Let's not make it a diversion, let's not make it a distraction. Let's include it in the investigation. And you're right. There are two separate things but they also have some correlation.
And let's just be clear about something. There's political issues involved and there's legal issues involved. The political issues, Kevin Madden was completely right. I would not have used Typhoid Mary but I would tell you that in a Republican Party if you put five republicans in a room, you'll get 10 opinions.
One of the few ting that unifies us all is this dislike and distrust of Susan Rice. I think we think that she lends herself to being political, too political above all things and that makes this issue bigger.
If it had been practically anybody else in the White House, it would be a shoulder shrug. It's Susan Rice and that puts our hairs on end.
Now the legal issues. OK. Listen, if the person that she was asking questions about was Michael Flynn, for the love of God, give the woman a medal. I think that whether you're republican, a democrat or anything else, if you are looking on a paper at the things that Michael Flynn did, which got him fired by the Trump administration because he even lied to the Vice President of the United States.
Anybody who is in a national security role should have been alarmed and should have been asking questions. And what we're talking about is Michael freaking Flynn? Absolutely she should have been asking questions and she should have no qualms about answering and telling why she did what she did in front of a committee.
NAVARRO: So I'm in the team of investigate it all.
NAVARRO: And do not make an excuse not to investigate Russia because that is the one laser focus. Russia, Russia, Russia.
LEMON: Investigate, investigate, investigate, Ana has spoken, Mark. I know you want to get it, but can you do it quickly?
[22:15:02] PRESTON: Very quickly. I just think whether you're a republican or democrat, whether you're a journalist or a security analyst t comes down to this. As Ana says, investigate, investigate, investigate. However, do not conflate.
PRESTON: The investigation into a Russian hacking is a lot different than the unmasking.
LEMON: All right. Stick around, everyone. When we come right back, a leading democrat on the House Intel committee predicting Trump associates will end up in jail over the Russia investigation.
LEMON: All right. And we're back. As the House intelligence committee tries to get its Russia investigation back on track a sunny prediction from two of its members.
So, back with my panel now. I can't wait to hear what you guys think of this. So, democratic Congressman who sits on the House intelligence committee dropped a bomb shell earlier saying that he wouldn't be surprised if people would end up in jail after this Russia investigation. That was on Wolf Blitzer. His colleague on the intelligence committee Congressman Danny Heck also spoke out about this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASTRO: My impression is I wouldn't be surprised if after all of this is said and done that some people end up in jail.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Really? And how high does that go in your suspicion or that's all we can call it right now?
CASTRO: Well, that's yet to be determined.
BLITZER: But you think some people are going to wind up in jail, not just one individual but people plural, is that what you're saying?
CASTRO: That's my impression, yes.
BLITZER: You want to elaborate a little bit on that, give us a little bit more because that's obviously a very intriguing statement.
[22:20:01] CASTRO: I wish I could but I can't at this time.
BLITZER: But at this point you're confident that at least some Trump associates would wind up in jail.
CASTRO: If I was betting, yes.
JOE HECK, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE:I want to respectfully disagree with my dear friend, Joaquin Castro, next to whom I sit on the intelligence committee. He said he would not be surprised if people ended up going to jail. I will be surprise if people don't end up going to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Wow. So Wolf is being generous saying intriguing, Jason Miller. I mean, this is -- is this the first time that we've heard a sitting congressman say something like this?
MILLER: And this is unbelievable I think for a member of the House Intel committee to be out there throwing out such inflammatory rhetoric. I mean, if they're supposed to be going with an actual honest and sincere investigation and they'd be throwing out comments like that.
I mean, look, all I got to say is if he wants to go there then let's make some extra room in the jail for whoever they find out has been leaking all this confidential information and especially who is involved with leaking some of this unmasked American names. I mean, this is absolutely ridiculous and I can't believe that he would go and say that. I got to think that some of that were members of the committee when they got behind closed doors, really gave it to him.
LEMON: Hey, Philip Mudd, we don't know what Congressman Castro has seen. So what's your reaction?
MUDD: I don't care what he's seen. A week or two ago we have democratic congressman saying it's inappropriate for a republican congressman to go behind the closed to the White House to get information we haven't seen. We call that bias.
Now before we get deep into this investigation, we have a democratic congressman saying before I see all the information I've decided that people need to be jailed.
LEMON: OK. Great point.
MUDD: Hold all these people out, Don. That is inappropriate bias before you go in to what is supposed to be a nonpartisan investigation and this is why people like me say listen to the Senate, don't listen to the house. They're bias.
LEMON: Great point. Van, do you agree with that, even as a democrat?
JONES: I see it somewhat differently. I didn't hear him saying that someone should go to jail. If he said that, that is 100 percent bias and he actually step down.
LEMON: Well I think the second guy basically said that, but anyway.
JONES: Yes. I'm talking -- I'm talking about Castro. And the thing about it, Castro is usually...
LEMON: Yes, OK. Got you. Go on.
JONES: Yes. But Castro is usually very measured. He's not a bomb thrower in our party. So I was -- it really made me sit up and notice when he said it. But I don't think that he was saying that he thought it should happen. I think he was making a prediction that it would happen. It's a distinction. If he's saying it should happen without the full evidence, that's different.
LEMON: What do you think, do you think it's careless, Kevin, should he have said that?
MADDEN: Yes. Look, I think it's an indication of prejudging. I think what people really need right now is a certain level of confidence and that this is going to be an investigation that is not prejudged and there's go being full examination of the facts.
And I think when you -- when you make comments like that you start to, you know, put the partisan bias on display.
LEMON: Yes, yes.
MADDEN: And that is something that I think is emblematic of just how poisoned the house intelligence committee investigation has gotten to this point.
LEMON: And that's... (CROSSTALK)
MADDEN: And I think Philip Mudd is right. I think people need to have confidence, and I think they're starting to look more and more to the Senate to find a bit more of a transparent and a more bipartisan process focused on the facts.
LEMON: Again, we don't know what we saw. And that, you know, for him to say something like that, but that's been the criticism is that take the politics out of this so that there can be a clean investigation.
NAVARRO: Too late.
LEMON: Yes. Well, Ana, OK, Ana, go on because I had another question for you. But what do mean?
NAVARRO: Look, I just, you know, I think that when you take a look at how the Senate is conducting their investigation and what the House is doing. The House looks like Keystone cops. You've got on the one hand, Devin Nunes, who is a highly paid errand boy, water boy for the Trump administration carrying their messages and you know, bidding their wars.
That is just tainted with partisanship. And then on the other hand you've got these democrats who just can't shut up.
LEMON: We missed the reactions from these guys.
NAVARRO: Just loose lips sink -- loose lips sink ships and these guys need to focus on the work at hand. They need to take partisanship out of it. A lot of the American people are looking at the investigation and just either on one side or the other thing that it's not credible because there is just, you know, there's just too much premature speculation. I said speculation now.
Don't anybody start tweeting me. But this premature speculation by the democrats is not a good thing.
LEMON: All right.
NAVARRO: And Devin Nunes being in bed with the White House is also not a good thing. The entire thing stinks to holy hell, does not pass the smell test.
NAVARRO: And we are, you know, Dear Senate, America has its eyes on you and is hoping that you can conduct a real full bipartisan investigation.
LEMON: We need an Ana Navarro reaction cam because you can see the faces off camera when you say these things.
NAVARRO: Yes. I can just imagine all those guys getting uncomfortable. What can I tell you?
LEMON: So, Jason Kander, I want to -- let's get to, if she said, you know, there's a lot of smoke, right. So let's walk through this now what we have.
[22:25:02] We have Trump donor, Blackwater founder and Betsy DeVos' brother, Erik Prince who held a secret meeting to try to establish a Trump/Putin back channel. This on top of Jared Kushner, we have the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, we have the former Trump adviser Carter Page, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, former trump campaign manager Paul Manafort who have all had meetings and they talked with -- I mean, it's just a couple of people.
KANDER: It's just about everybody. At some point you got to wonder whether or not they really need Huntsman to be the ambassador to Russia. Because in the Trump White House everybody is an ambassador to Russia. That's just how it works.
LEMON: So there may be nothing there though, but I mean, there's a lot of smoke.
KANDER: Well, here's -- we're at the point where the people who are arguing that it's all a coincidence they are the ones who sound like conspiracy theorists. Because you have to make a lot of leaps and go through a whole bunch of hoops in order to get to the point where it's all just a coincidence.
LEMON: Phil Mudd, congressional source telling CNN that the timing and the proximity of the meetings between these Trump advisors and the Russian officials during the transition is raising questions and whether the loosening of U.S. sanctions were discussed. Are we going to get those answers do you think?
MUDD: I think we will. We keep focusing on what the Senate and House is doing. I think the critical investigation is the one we're not talking about. That is the FBI. There's only one entity here that can actually walk across the street on Pennsylvania Avenue to the Department of Justice and bring the file over and say this is what we found. Should we prosecute someone?
I don't think the House should continue the investigation. They're tainted. I think the Senate should. Their question should be how do we secure investigation - how do we secure elections in the future? There's only one entity that will look at individuals and say should we prosecute them? That's the FBI going to the Department of Justice. And I'll you, Don, I think in the next few months we'll find that answer, and we'll have the answer of the questions we have tonight.
LEMON: Did I get you, Mark in a second, did you say anything?
PRESTON: This has been such a riveting conversation.
LEMON: That's you were just sitting there, so I ask you. Kevin, I was going to ask you but I'll ask Mark Preston. I got another question for you. Do you think the House -- I mean, the White House can continue to ignore and dismiss all of this as just suspicion as Jason was saying as it, you know, it's just, you know, sort of coincidence. But it could be.
PRESTON: Look, it could be coincidence, right, and it could be bad actors who have associated themselves with Donald Trump and we just don't know. Let the investigation get us to a place where we need to be, right?
But I do think that in many ways we have seen a lot of diversionary tactics by the White House.
PRESTON: To try to draw our attention away from or at least create a lot of white noise around issues that they find problematic. I also do think that the honeymoon is over right now.
We saw the Trump administration use a very big legislative battle. They are going into several more right now.
LEMON: Listen, I think the honeymoon is over but I'm an adventurist that I think...
NAVARRO: Honey, they never had a honeymoon, what do you guys consider a honeymoon.
KANDER: The honeymoon ended about 7 a.m. on November 9th.
LEMON: I think that it's more so that honestly the people I've said this to people around Donald Trump and to Donald Trump himself who would know about these things which speaks to judgment. Speaks to judgment about people...
PRESTON: And quite frankly, his successes have all been done by executive order.
LEMON: So I don't know if you'll be able to connect the president to this but the people around him have definitely done some things that -- I mean, you can see that there a little bit suspicious.
hey, listen, I know we have to go. I want to get this John McCain thing in there. Can I get this for Kevin Madden. Kevin, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: This is a centipede, a shoe will drop every few days. The latest the meeting in the Seychelles. Look, this is a requirement in my view why we need a select committee in order to get through all this because there's lot more shoes that are going to drop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Kevin, quickly because we have another block after this. But what do you think? Is it time for a select committee?
MADDEN: Well, look, I think that's up to the folks in the Senate. But let me just speak to why I think John McCain is making, is delivering remarks like that. This is the last thing that folks up in the Senate want to be talking about.
They have a very ambitious agenda on a lot of big issues that they think are very important for the American public, related to the economy, related to energy, related to health care. And every single day they're dealt with another distraction and having to talk about these investigations about Russia.
So, I think what John McCain is really focused on is trying to get some level of finality when it comes to these investigations and almost sort of take it off the congressional plate and put it in a select committee so they can actually go about focusing on some of the bigger problems that we have to address to the American people. I think if anything it's emblematic of the frustrations of many folks up on Capitol Hill right now.
LEMON: OK. Thank you very much. We're going to come back with this panel. But just to note, the second congressman in that sound bite is democratic Congressman Denny Heck. So, sorry for the incorrect name that we put under him as he was speaking.
So, everyone stay with me. When we come right back, republicans say they want overhaul healthcare again. But the Congress heading home this Friday can they get the job done?
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: OK. So, House republicans still trying to come up with a healthcare bill that repeals and replaces Obamacare.
Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill meeting with GOP factions including moderates and conservatives. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the whole thing is a work in progress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So it's premature to say where we are or what we're on because we're that conceptual stage right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So my panel is back with me. Mr. Preston, so we saw the vice president up on the Hill, you saw the speaker of the House. Today is Tuesday. Congress goes on recess what?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Friday.
LEMON: Right, at the end of the week. Is there hope that this could get on the table before they...
PRESTON: Absolutely not. I mean, this is a show. This is another strategic blunder by republicans to try to get healthcare passed. A couple of things. One is they try to do it too fast. They try to govern by their slogan of repeal and replace instead of fix and move on.
And the fact of the matter is, Paul Ryan, at least being honest there, is that it's a work in progress. When you hear out of the White House is we're going to get a deal in. We'll work with democrats if republicans don't want to work with us.
[22:34:57] That's now how you build coalitions on Capitol Hill. I really think that the Trump administration, you know, needs a little help in diplomacy, not just overseas, quite frankly but on Capitol Hill to try to get things done.
PRESTON: Correct. You need to be able to work with several of your guests here that are on this panel tonight can tell you the same thing. That you need to work hand in glove with Congress, not try to look at them as adversaries and switch alliances as quickly as he...
LEMON: Van Jones, have you ever heard of humility as well, maybe? Do you think that was...
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: It might help. I mean, part of what I think if you take a big step back here what's bizarre is, you know, Trump could have just sort taken that loss as a victory. I don't have to own healthcare for the whole country.
LEMON: Right. And you guys have been fighting for this for seven years.
LEMON: I was not here. This is yours. But instead...
JONES: And then he could have actually moved on to things much more popular when whether you're talking about tax cuts, infrastructure, all kind of stuff to try to bury some of his lost populous credentials. I mean, he had a terrible budget he put out there. Luckily we've moved on talking about that budget.
It was basically cat food for grandma. I mean, just a horrible draconian budget and he couldn't get the healthcare thing done, but instead of moving on, he turned -- he does U-turn goes right back into the play pen with this broken healthcare problem.
And I don't -- when you look at his poll numbers now, 35, 34. Listen, I know he can survive very low poll numbers but nobody can survive the 20's and he's headed towards the 20's.
LEMON: So I don't know if you remember, I don't know if Kevin was on the panel or Ana or Mark, I think I know Mark was on the panel when I said if he does not get this passed, then it would not be viewed so much as a loss for the president but it would be viewed as a loss for the GOP in Congress. Go ahead, Kevin.
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't think that's right. I think, and I disagree Van respectfully. I think to make the kind of promises that the president made and make the kind of promises that republicans made over the last seven and a half years about repealing and replacing Obamacare and then not to deliver on it would have been a huge mistake.
Not only that, but you can't just, it's not, you can't just move to tax reform. You need the revenue in order to get the tax reform that you need. So, inside that healthcare bill was about a trillion dollars in savings that they were going to need to lower the rate. So, you really need have one...
JONES: But Kevin, let me ask you a question.
JONES: Kevin, you get to this stuff, let me ask you a question though. You can't get there. I mean, sure it would be great if you could. They're not going to be able to cross that river. Don't you think just politically, optically, it would be smarter for them to at least spend a couple of weeks on something besides this. I mean, I just...
MADDEN: Well, right now, yes. This is where I agree with Mark Preston. And this is about the pageantry and the optics of continuing to drive this repeal Obamacare...
LEMON: So when they go and look at they're trying to do something.
MADDEN: They cannot wave the white flag on that because it's so important to so much of their base but this is a mistake, to Mark Preston's point.
MADDEN: Because if we continue to run up that Hill and come rolling back down every single time, it does look like we have one failure after the next. And I think, you know...
MADDEN: ... there are many folks on Capitol Hill ...
LEMON: Jay Miller, go ahead. Is this pageantry, what do you think? Is that -- Jason Miller.
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. The president has to get this right but he doesn't have to get this right now. These things take time. We cannot afford another loss. I think it's important that they're continuing work on this.
I mean there are millions of people who are suffering and when we come up this fall we're going to have millions more who are going to see their premiums fill through the roof, we're going to see more kicked off of their insurance plans.
So this is something the president talked about on the campaign trail and when you start working on the process, but to go rush into it right now -- especially I think the president he's going to have a big week this week with Neil Gorsuch, as we talk about the meeting with Xi coming in and the summit in Mar-a-Lago. We don't need to go and elevate this healthcare debate right now. It's going to take lot of time. Get it right and they're not going to solve it overnight.
LEMON: Ana Navarro, you're a republican strategist. I mean, last time I check that's what you do. So who's behind this big push?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Frankly, I think it's the White House. And frankly, I wouldn't be -- you know, I don't know Donald Trump but I wouldn't be surprised if it was him. Remember that this is a guy who is impulsive and not strategic. And he comes from the real estate world.
What do you do in real estate? You make an offer and if that doesn't get accepted you make another offer and those counter offers and you try to get to a deal. I think that's the kind of mindset that Trump comes with, you know, to everything, frankly, including policy battles.
Now, I don't think he's realized what a big defeat and what a big loss this dealt him and dealt the entire Republican Party. I don't think he realizes the effect of picking a fight with the freedom caucus. There's 40 of them. They are principled ideologue, something which he is not.
They are not going to budge and give in because he's tweeting at them. That's just not who these guys are.
MADDEN: And you know what, Ana?
NAVARRO: So the factions in the Republican Party are getting worse but I think Donald Trump is trying to be the art of the deal guy.
LEMON: All right. Quickly because I want to get Jason in.
MADDEN: I was going to say real quick, Ana. The big difference is this isn't real estate where it's one party across the table. There are 535 parties across the table. Coalition building is much harder than making a deal in real estate.
LEMON: And this is something where you...
NAVARROO: And he doesn't know that. He's never done it. The guy, you know.
[22:40:00] LEMON: But this isn't something where you're saying...
NAVARRO: He's got nothing -- he's got no experience in this and a lot of the people around him don't either.
LEMON: This isn't something, Jason Kander, where you say, you know, this is my final offer. Either you buy this building or this apartment or not. It's a final offer's on the table. It doesn't work that way where you're playing in Washington. Especially...
NAVARRO: He's just, he's learning that.
LEMON: Especially when 57 percent of Americans disprove of the bill, 17 percent approved of the bill that was on the table. I mean, even if they try to get something the consensus, the public is not on board with it.
JASON KANDER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he should take the hint. Honestly, I think he should just, you know what people...
LEMON: You broke up or let's move on, right?
KANDER: Yes. I mean, take the hint. Like, it's over. Like probably, I mean, I'm not going to continue the analogy but like that's where I think you should go. I mean, the fact is people don't like it because it's a bad idea and the only direction that he can go in order to get the Freedom Caucus on board is to go further right which means he can make it where people like it a lot less. And there's not very far to go from...
LEMON: The moderates and he alienates moderates.
KANDER: It's actually, I mean, forget the politics. It's a bad idea. And he should quit doing it.
LEMON: OK. Thanks, everyone. Listen, I know when I have to read this, Van Jones, I may be late coming to me tomorrow because here it is, The Messy Truth, a live town hall tomorrow with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And then Van just decides when he wants to toss to my show, you know, after that. The Messy Truth tomorrow night at 9 Eastern and Pacific. We love Van and we'll be watching him tomorrow. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Shock and outrage around the world in the wake of the suspected chemical attack in northwestern Syria that killed scores of civilians. The video is very disturbing but we are showing it without blurring so you can see the devastating effects of this attack on civilians. Unbelievable.
At least 70 people, including 10 children are dead. Activist say the Syrian regime is responsible.
President Trump condemning the attack but also blaming the Obama administration.
Joining me now, CNN contributor, Michael Weiss, CNN military analyst, Major General James 'Spider' Marks, and Jill Dougherty, former CNN Moscow bureau chief. All of them with heavy expertise on this.
Thank you so much for joining us. This is a horrific story. Michael, it's horrible, it's heart wrenching. The White House didn't immediately respond and then they did. They did nine hours later.
And they released a statement calling them reprehensible and saying, "These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing."
What do you make of the finger pointing?
[22:44:57] MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there is some truth to that, yet to me the Middle Eastern or European officials who doesn't think America squandered a huge amount of credibility by not enforcing the red line. It essentially gave Assad license to carry on with his, you know, campaign of extermination as the U.N. called it.
However, Rex Tillerson, let us not forget a few days ago in Ankara was asked, so what about Bashar al-Assad and his transition of power and essentially said look, we don't have a quarrel with the regime. The Syrian people, he said, will decide the fate of Assad.
Now that line is the euphemism that has been used by Damascus, and Moscow, and Tehran from the beginning of the crisis to essentially mean he is not going anywhere. So, one could argue that this administration has also said to Assad, carry on. Now I'm glad to see that Donald Trump has blamed the regime and not let us as an open question as he wants to do sometimes when he doesn't have all the facts.
And maybe nine hours is how long what it took to give him the intelligence that it was Sarin gas according to the eye witnesses and observers.
LEMON: And that would be the prudent thing to do is...
WEISS: And we know drop -- according to the European Union foreign ministry dropped from helicopters. The only person or the only entity with an air force in Syria are from United States which is not dropping Sarin gas is the Russia and Syrian regime.
WEISS: And you know, the U.S. is not fingering this thing. Another point, though. Remember, Sarin gas is a chemical nerve agent that Assad is no longer supposed to possess. This was the grand of achievement supposedly of Obama brokered with Vladimir with Vladimir Putin for the chemical decommissioning of the stock piles.
WEISS: How does Assad still have Sarin gas if he had a green light or a clean bill of saying he doesn't possess?
LEMON: That's a good question. And as we have talked about this before, the situation is Syria at least, General Marks, I think we've wondered openly whether this would be President Obama's Rwanda, much as it was, you know, Clinton. What Bill Clinton said that was he believes one of his greatest failures. How does one, why does he have Sarin gas?
JAMES SPIDER MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the issue, Don, is what Michael said is absolutely correct from my perspective coming at this from a leadership challenge is that the President of the United States has to embrace this chaos. I mean, this is his. It doesn't matter.
President Obama is history. What was done, what wasn't done reflects on our nation but our ability to move forward is based on our president's desire to try to get his arms around this and the key issue is clearly Putin wants Assad to stay, we would love Assad to leave.
We've, in fact, President Obama acknowledged that we could not get our arms around that incongruity, if you will, and so we have now acknowledged that Assad is going to stick around. It is a reality.
However, we've got to have some type of relationship with Russia that allows us to apply the appropriate pressure. Because it's a national security -- it's in our national security interest to resolve this issue not because of the horrendous suffering. That is outrageous. It's because it became a breeding ground for more terrorism and until we resolve, help resolve this thing, we have our focus that's irreconcilable and will be there in perpetuity until this thing kind of resolves.
LEMON: Jill Dougherty, you think the administration's response shows that they have no coherent foreign policy strategy and no understanding of Vladimir Putin's priorities, can you explain why?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, if you're talking about Syria right now, saying Assad goes or doesn't go or maybe he should stay is just one part of it and I think that's maybe kind of the easiest part to really define, yes or no.
But when you get into really the details of the policy and what should happen, this is where you get these kind of head snapping statements by people -- let's say by Secretary of State Tillerson who, as was pointed out just a few says ago said his fate should be decided by the people and he's talking about reprehensible or Nikki Haley, kind of the same thing.
It's not our job. We're not going to sit here and wait him out, et cetera. And then also being very, very critical, as she should be of these attacks. But I think in a broader sense President Trump does not understand at all what motivates Vladimir Putin in Syria.
I mean, the important thing for the Trump administration is they really hate Iran, want to get rid of Iran, get them out of Syria and get them out of everything and Vladimir Putin sees utility in using Iran in Syria. And they have, they do other things. They sell weapons to Iran, et cetera.
DOUGHERTY: So there's a really important dynamic and for President Trump not to understand that is surprising at this point because it is a major, major factor.
LEMON: OK. Ok, everyone, stay with me. When we come right back, we're going to talk about North Korea launching yet another missile tonight. The latest on the U.S. response.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: North Korea fired a projectile into the Sea of Japan tonight. U.S. official saying it was likely a ballistic missile. One of the several countries that test fired in recent months.
Back now with me my panel. General marks, you first, what about North Korea, they have been flexing their muscle. And tonight we saw another launch of a single ballistic missile. North Korea has been trying to assert themselves in these early months of the Trump presidency. How worried are you about this?
MARKS: Well, North Korea has been flexing its muscles forever, I mean, it's been a regime that's been in place since the early 40's. This is a troublesome problem which goes to the top of the lest of things that our administration needs to be mindful of and to do something about, not to discuss, not to have a conversation, but to galvanize some real energy around it. And clearly, the only way to get North Korea to do anything, we've
never demonstrated an ability to modify the behavior in that regime. China has, over the course of time, to a certain degree, albeit over the course of recent years, it has backed away and Pyongyang has essentially shot the bird at Beijing.
We need, we, Washington, must be able to engage with Beijing in a way that's really meaningful and can put some real pressure on North Korea. Because they buy their gas and oil from China, there are also some economic benefits, but there will be a kinetic solution to the problem in North Korea, over the course of the next year-and-a-half, not because of this administration, but because this administration happens to be in place during the period where there is decreasing time between when North Korea has a nuclear tip ICBM, which is an inevitability by in 2020. They should probably have 16 to a hundred of those. That's frightening.
LEMON: Jill, I want to get your thoughts on this Secretary of State statement, Rex Tillerson. He says, and this is the full statement. He said "North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."
[22:55:07] What do you think?
DOUGHERTY: Well, I think what he is saying think what President Trump is saying, you know, that if China doesn't solve it, we will. I'm not quite sure where they're headed with this.
But I agree that it probably will be kinetic. In other words, there could be some type of conflict, because President Trump is setting it up in such let's say a stark black and white scenario, where either this stops or we do something. And that doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room.
So I'm presuming that they are prepared to do something militarily. And if they're prepared to do something militarily, I would presume they know the consequences of some act like that. Both with China and with South Korea. So it is I think it's very worrisome.
LEMON: What's the position of Russia when it comes to North Korea developing a nuclear weapon?
DOUGHERTY: Well, they don't like it. They have worked with the United States on trying to put some pressure on North Korea. But here, too, you know, this idea and I think General Marks was just talking about that. The idea that any one country can really, really change another, let's say China with North Korea or let's say Russia with Assad, it's not as easy as that, and it's not always predictable as that.
So again the administration comes in with I think with some pre- conceived notions and a lot of ignorance, quite frankly, on how diplomacy and tough diplomacy has been conducted. So, we're in these situations where they're pushing the envelope and then I'm not totally convinced knowing where they go, if it really comes down to it. LEMON: All right. Michael Weiss, we'll get you in next time when it
comes to that. Thank you very much for that. Thank you, General. Thank you, Jill. I appreciate it.
MARKS: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: When we come right back, allegations of collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials casting a shadow over his presidency. Can the White House get things back on track?
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)