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U.S. and Russia relationship was in a political charade; Growing tension between the president and chief strategist Aired 11:00-12:00mn ET
Aired April 12, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:35] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Remember the bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Seems like they are on a break right now.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
But the only thing President Trump and Putin agree on right now, relations between the U.S. and Russia are bad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia is a strong country. We are a very, very strong country. We will see huh that all works out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Also former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, he tells CNN he is not a foreign agent. But how did the FBI get a warrant to monitor his contacts?
Plus you are about to launch cruise missiles against Syria. What do you do next? Well, if you are President Trump you have yourself a piece of cake. And not just any piece of cake, the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you have ever seen, of course. We'll explain that.
Let's get right now to CNN's Paula Newton. She is live in Moscow for us this evening.
Hello, to you, Paula. I want you to give us the big headline out of Russia today. What do we know about secretary Tillerson's meeting with Vladimir Putin?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know it actually went on a little bit longer than anyone thought they couldn't. What I had been saying is, and you have talked about it on the show. These are two men that know each other. Look, Don, they went way beyond, hi, how are you, thanks for coming. Probably, shook hands. Sat right down. Got right to work. What they got to is more of the bottom line.
So what we heard from Russia was that, no, we don't have to support Bashar al-Assad. We are not wedded to one personality. So he was able to give Rex Tillerson that message.
And on the chemical attacks, I'm sure they were able to come, and you heard this, because, even Donald Trump had said, that, "look, we don't have any information that Russia knew about this chemical attack." That was a little bit of opening for them to sit down and actually get to the points that they don't agree on.
You know, Don, the list of things they don't agree on, a long list. They have to work out. That's working in the Trump administration favor. And I know you guys have been talking about it all night now, is the unpredictability, is the change in policy.
I mean, look, Don, when Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton came through the capital in terms of talking strategy. They - Russian administration kind of knew where they were going. The allies knew where they were going. Now it is so unpredictable that I do think that it gives strategic advantage. Not so great for the allies. But for people that are put more in a, in a category of adversary. Actually what the Trump administration is doing, can end up playing in their favor. And Don, we are just starting. This is just starting the beginning of this in terms of seeing the next months to come exactly if they can get to any cooperation with the Russians on Syria.
LEMON: And the Reaction from Russians and the Russian press to what is going on there?
NEWTON: Incredible. I mean, it went from applauding, literally applauding the win of Donald Trump to what you would more likely see during the cold war. And again that unpredictability of Donald Trump is coming through in the media here. And the rhetoric has been very, very heated. And again, the country itself here, doing a 180 saying basically you are no better than the last administration, Donald Trump. You may even be worse for Russia. And that's been really interesting to see.
One thing I want you to look out for, Don, in the next few months is how China behaves. It was interesting that Donald Trump seems pleased at the U.N. when that Syria resolution came to the table. About the same time that Rex Tillerson was here meeting with Putin, China abstained. And what Donald Trump is trying to do, they are trying to put Russia into somewhat of a corner, and saying look one of your friends and allies, we are now making head way with them. You know, try, try to come to a table and see if we can come to arrangement to first fight ISIS on the ground in Syria. And then, move on to that regime, that, you know, Donald Trump is very clear. He thinks he is a butcher and animal.
LEMON: Paula Newton in Moscow. Thank you for that. Appreciate it.
I want to bring in now CNN military analyst, major general James "Spider" Marks, General Wesley Clark, a former NATO supreme allied commander and CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier.
Good evening to all of you. And generals, especially I want to say thank you all for your service. I want to start with you, General Clark. Here is what secretary of state Tillerson said today in Russia then we will discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I expressed the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is a state is at long point. There is a low level of trust between our two countries. The world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And here is what President Putin said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:05:03] VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This was fully unexpected. In fact if you consider that it was just a bit before, we actually got to know about it. I think that -- the level of trust, the working level, in particular, militarily has certainly not got any better. It's degraded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: General Clark did you expect the relationship to sour so quickly?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, look. I think you have got to look at this thing from the broad perspective. The United States and Russia have different interests. And when you go into a discussion like this, you have got to maintain level emotions. And so -- you don't want to get into the position of, it's never been so bad and then the next day, it's so great. Because-- the truth is, that we have different interests.
Now, if you want to look at other times, that we are bad, Russia invaded Ukraine. That was pretty bad. And when we are looking to what came out of this meeting today, I can tell you the Europeans are looking at what came out of the meeting. They're concerned because when you put Ukraine on the table, with Syria, as two things that they are, the United States and Russia are going to discuss, people in Europe are saying what is there to discuss about Ukraine. There its Russian sanctions, Russia sees Crimea, does this mean that, that the United States is going to trade off -- something in Syria for, for giving up on sanctions and protecting Ukraine. And so, it raises some concerns, and maybe that wasn't the intent, of the statement. But, but that's -- the way it will be interpreted by many in Europe.
LEMON: Yes. What -- does that concern you, especially when he says, he says, what is he especially at the military level, Putin says? What does that mean?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Russia wants very desperately to have some type of military cooperation with the United States. Russia understands that our military is, is far superior to theirs. And in terms of highly unlikely, but, that potential of a conventional fight, we would overmatch the Russians and all of our capabilities. We can see further, we have stealth, we have abilities they simple don't have.
Russia has a military presence in Syria, (INAUDIBLE) a warm Walter port. They want to maintain that. We are going to have to balance. We are going to find areas where we can cooperate with the Russians in Syria. But it will always tie in our relationships, our EU partners. That is a very, very tentative thing, General Clark just described. But we can find - we can try to find an area where we can get along with the Russians. It has to be very nearly to find.
LEMON: Before I get to Kimberly, I want to ask you this. What do you make of the president's flip-flop on NATO? NATO is obsolete, now it is not obsolete.
CLARK: Well, I mean, this is stage craft. OK. And NATO hasn't changed. NATO has been on a steady course. The United States needs its European partners. NATO is very important. And I'm glad that the president said that it is, it is now not obsolete. But, there is already been damage done. Because in Eastern Europe there are people in, every one of the countries that, that when he said NATO was obsolete, and he, attacked the European Union and he came out in favor of Brexit. There are people who begin to cult their deal cut their deals with Moscow and undercut the principles democracy, principles of westernization that we have, have had NATO standing for. So, when you are -- when you are the United States of America, you have to have a strong, steady, consistent message.
LEMON: And your word really do matter, Kimberly, as you know. And the president, really has the not minced words when talking about Syria, President Assad and Russia. So let's listen in and then we will talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A person that is truly an evil person. I think it is very bad for Russia. I think it is very bad for mankind. It is very bad for this world. But when you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs, have massive barrels with dynamite and they drop them right in the middle of a group of people, and in all fairness you see the same kids, no arms, no legs, no face, this is an animal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Kimberly today, Tillerson made it clear, to Russian foreign minister Lavrov that Syrian President Assad cannot stay in power. President Trump is making that same connection here. Do you think the U.S. and Russia can find common ground to get Assad out?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well the interesting thing is, White House official told us today that Trump actually sees an opportunity in this chaos. In laying out his position to Russia, they made sure to leave Russia a way out with the strikes last week. They have been careful in speaking to reporters. Not to say they are sure that Russia knew there was Sarin being dropped on that town. They said all they know at this point is that, yes there were Russian military forces, co-located at the same base, but, beyond that, secretary Mattis was careful to say, we are not sure. In other word, they are inviting them to look at this case together,
they know that right now, we have got international inspectors looking at it who might then combine with the U.N. just as they did back in 2013. And that led to U.S. Russia cooperation. So, in other words, despite all these tough talk, what they are trying to do behind the scenes is give Moscow room to maneuver to get on the same side as Washington. And that's why while you had all of these tough statements out of Tillerson, out of Lavrov, you don't have a two-hour meeting and not get anything done with the president of Russia. This is in a sense to take your, analogy of the bromance being over between Moscow and Washington, D.C. This is a couple in marriage counseling, airing everything publicly no one has left the room.
[23:10:53] LEMON: OK, interesting. So listen, Tillerson is in Russia at the same time that Russian investigation dominating the news, the news here at home. Just like the FBI director James Comey said that Americans need to inoculate against Russian attempts to undermine faith and democratic processes. When that is your backdrop, how can you, what can you really expect to accomplish here?
CLARK: Well, I think you, still have to represent the interest of your country. Russia is going to represent the interest of its country. And our interest, and some areas, coincide and others they don't. I mean, you have to understand, that we have press for democracy for a long time in Eastern Europe and throughout the world. We support democratic institutions. Vladimir Putin doesn't. And so, he sees our press for democracy as a threat to the stability of his regime. And so, he is striking back against us. And there is a constant struggle going on underneath it. But nations work through this.
MARKS: You understand this is really about Russia. What's taking place in Syria is this passion play. And Assad is on decline. Putin knows that. Certain Putin is tired of propping him up and the United States understands that. So what we have is a situation where if you look at civil wars over the course of history, they have flamed out after ten years. We are at year seven. So within the next few years, past this prologue, we might expect to see Assad gone. That would been the best interest of the United States. It's probably not as quick as we would prefer. But it might allow both the United States and Russia to have an agreement and to see an in state that we can agree to.
LEMON: Generals --
CLARK: My European friends tell me the Russians already have Assad replacement picked out. But we may not know who that is. And if they have got him waiting in the wings, he is somebody who is going to slant in a certain way. So there is a lot of wrinkles in this that have to be worked out. We just have to be, strong, steady, and consistent.
LEMON: Kimberly, we have, a big show ahead. But I want to ask you, can we tell now who came out ahead in today's meetings?
DOZIER: I think the best thing about today's meeting is that they agreed to set up a working group to keep talking between Moscow and Washington, D.C. This group, this relationship, had to go through a rough patch in order for it to get better. From Washington's point of view, Moscow had to be put back in its place.
LEMON: Thank you, Kimberly. Thank you, generals. Appreciate it.
When we come back, one of President Trump's foreign policy advisers denies he is a foreign agent. So how did the FBI get a warrant to monitor his contacts?
[23:17:39] LEMON: President Trump who campaigned on improving U.S. relations with Russia saying today they are at an all-time low while there are new questions at home about just what kind of ties his team had with Russia.
So let's discuss now, Nada Bakos is a former CIA analyst now is now a senior fellow at national security foreign policy research institute and Evan McMullin is a former CIA operative who was in 2016 presidential candidate. Good evening to both of you.
Evan, I'm going to start with you. You think what we saw today between the U.S. and Russia was a political charade. Why do you say that?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Yes, I guess I am just not buying into the narrative that things are so bad between the Trump administration and the Putin regime. It just, you know, there are a couple of indicators that I would point to. Number one is just the day before yesterday, in fact, Tillerson was in Italy talking to European foreign ministers about how it wasn't in the U.S. interest or how what happens in Ukraine isn't of interest to U.S. taxpayers.
Then he gets to Moscow. He has his press conference with Lavrov. And in his prepared remarks he doesn't even mention Russian interference in U.S. elections. That should be one of the primary issues that he would address in those remarks and he didn't.
Then today with Trump in his press conference with NATO secretary- general, he avoided criticizing Putin once again. When he mentioned what NATO's chief challenges are, he talked about terrorism, which is understandable and migration. But, again, didn't mention Russian aggression.
LEMON: So a strategy from the Trump White House. You are not saying that Trump and Russia are the Trump White House and Russia, are in on it are you?
MCMULLIN: No, not, well, I don't know. Not necessarily. I'm just saying that there are several signs here that are a bit more subtle than, than the --
LEMON: That it is stage craft more than anything.
MCMULLIN: Yes. Well, both, both the Trump administration and the Putin regime are very skilled at, at, political theater. And, I think that's what we are seeing here. The fundamentals are the same.
LEMON: All right. Nada, I want to turn now to the former Trump campaign, foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. The "Washington Post" is reporting that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor communications of page and adviser to then candidate Donald Trump. Now, according to the post, the FBI was able to obtain the warrant after convincing a judge there was probable cause to believe that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power which was Russia. Page was the, on "THE LEAD" today with Jake Tapper, my colleague. And here's some of what he said. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:20:11] CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN POLICE ADVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: This is, just such a joke that it beyond word. I talk to diplomats all the time. And based in New York, a good portion of the time, the United Nations is based here. You are always meeting with foreign diplomats. And the reality is whenever you talk to a foreign government representative, the assumption is that on some level it is going to go back to the government in question. So again, I never gave him any information which its material or classified or in any way improper. And the assumption is that it would go back. So, it's a quite an irrelevant question mine view in terms of my involvement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He thought it was a joke. And, but clearly the FBI and the department of justice didn't think it was a joke or run of the mill meetings as Page said, right?
NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Right. I mean, if you, he is actually, according to "the Washington Post," under a FISA warrant at the time. So that is completely separate from just talking to a foreign diplomat, possibly divulging information. What the standard for a U.S. person on a FISA warrant is much higher than it is for a foreign person. So he would knowingly be engaged in working with a foreign power to clandestinely gather intelligence and information. So it is not something that is part of a casual conversation that he would have been swept up in.
LEMON: I have to ask you. This is a former CIA operative, Evan, because last night, the former CIA chief of Russia operations Steve Hall, he told me he felt Carter Page was involved in a classic Russian intelligence operation. Do you agree with that?
MCMULLIN: Well, if you read "Washington Post" reporting on this, they say that, that the U.S. intelligence agencies or law enforcement agencies and then the FISA court agreed that Carter Page was knowingly cooperating, clandestinely with the foreign power. So that's Steven Hall is right in that regard. That's what was described.
LEMON: I think I want to get. He said what was described in the post article was similar to a Russian intelligence operation.
MCMULLIN: Yes, that's what it is. When you say, when you say that some body is knowingly cooperating clandestinely with a foreign power, you are talking about that is an operation. That is a Russian intelligence operation. All countries run them. But you know, they take local cooperation with an operative from a foreign power. That's what an intelligence operation is. That's what is being described in these, in the, apparently, according to "the Washington Post" in the FISA application. It is a very big deal.
LEMON: Let me ask you. When Carter Page was brought on to the Trump campaign as foreign policy adviser, what did you and others in the foreign policy community think? Was he known as a foreign policy expert?
MCMULLIN: No. He wasn't known. And it struck many of us as bizarre frankly. But, you know, Donald Trump's entire campaign was irregular of course. So, you would factor that into it. But, yes, I had a number of conversations actually with people about that list of foreign policy advisers. And, one of the people who we discussed most was Carter Page in how we never heard of this guy. How it didn't make any sense.
But now sort of in retrospect when we see that there are so many connections between the Trump campaign and Russia and there is an FBI investigation into it. Now, we learn more, that, about Carter Page's own connections to Russia. And now all of a sudden it makes more sense. But I think the question we need to get answered which is the one Jake Tapper asks correctly is how exactly did Carter Page get on to that list of advisers? Who brought him in? Carter Page wouldn't answer that question today.
LEMON: So Nada, I'm going to ask you then, having said that, Paul Manafort, campaign manager for nearly five months as he was expected to register as a foreign agent as a way to resolve questions about his past work for Ukraine. And you have questions now about Carter Paige as well. What do you think that this - what other questions do you have, about Manafort and about people like Carter Page who have been associated with this administration or at least with the campaign?
BAKOS: Well, certainly from an intel gathering perspective, I would want to know what Manafort's involvement was with Ukraine. We saw today from a Reuter's article that he is involved with payments from the Ukrainian government. So at this point, I mean, I think it is fair to say that the FBI would want to sit down and clear up some of the stuff if it is true that, that Carter Page says today on the show. He wasn't involved in any kind of clandestine activity.
Well then some of the actions need to be explained. And I think in addition to some of the travel that exist to Russia in addition to the connections that they had. Because many of us working in those circles have met with foreign dignitaries including intelligence officers but we have not been part of a FISA warrant application.
[23:25:20] LEMON: Thank you, Evan. Thank you, Nada. Appreciate it.
MCMULLIN: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, tension between the president and chief strategist. Will Steve Bannon be pushed out of the White House? I'm going to speak to two of his former employees.
[23:29:27] LEMON: Is President Trump preparing to cut chief strategist Steve Bannon loose from his inner circle?
Let's discuss with two men who work for Bannon's Breitbart News. Lee Stranahan was a reporter there and Kurt Bardella, you him on the show all the time, resigned as Breitbart's spokesman.
Good to have both of you on. And I'm interested to gain your insight.
Kurt, I'm going to start with you. Let's talk about Bannon. Earlier tonight the president told "the Wall Street Journal" that Bannon is just a guy who works for me. Yesterday he told "the New York Post," I like Steve Bannon, but you have to remember, he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I already had beaten all the senators and all the governors. And I didn't know Steve. You worked there. You worked at Breitbart. What's the truth about the connection between the president and Steve Bannon?
[23:30:09] KURT BARDELLA, RESIGNED AS BREITBART SPOKESPERSON: Well, it is certainly not as distant as President Trump is trying to make it look like it is. You know, many know that Breitbart and Steve Bannon started a daily radio show on Sirius XM patriot. And Donald Trump was a frequent guest of that show. And in fact during the campaign, it is really where a lot of reporters went to really get an idea of where Trump's true ideology and stances on many public policy issues were because that's what came up in these frequent discussions. And not only was Donald on the show a lot. You had Ivanka on there. You had Jared was on there. I mean, it was a very Trump-centric congregating platform. So to say that they had no relationship, and that he really didn't know him until he came, officially aboard the campaign it is flat out wrong.
LEMON: Is this like a Carter Page, who or a Manafort, who? Steve Bannon. I don't really know him that well. I just started to know him. Is that what is happening do you think?
BARDELLA: It is just absurd - I mean, and just beyond belief. And it really does show there how much it really bothered Donald Trump that Steve Bannon was on the front cover of "Time" magazine, that he was being parodied on "Saturday Night Live." That stuff really truly got to him.
LEMON: Why did you say that Steve Bannon, set himself up for failure, Kurt?
BARDELLA: No, because I think when you work for someone who is as ego-driven and public profile driven as Donald Trump, he has to know that he wants the spotlight to himself. When you all of a sudden become the topic of conversation on the cover of "Time" magazine, you are just inviting a different spotlight that take as way from your boss. And that's flying too close to the sun. That's why he is getting burned.
LEMON: All right. Lee, you say it is not Steve Bannon. It is about the agenda he ran on. Explain that.
LEE STRANAHAN, FORMER BREITBART REPORTER: Sure, yes, I think that stew understand this you have to understand again without trying to argue the issues. People supported Donald Trump, the Donald Trump base, whether they were registered Republicans in Texas or disgruntled Democrats in Pennsylvania or Michigan. They were opposed to the political establishment whether it is the Bushes or the Clintons.
You have to remember in the primary, of course, Jeb Bush was Donald Trump's primary and first target. And then, of course, Donald Trump, you know was very, very upset about Hillary Clinton and her connection to the establishment. And, by the way, Trump also went after Hillary for connection to Goldman Sachs. He went after, to, after Ted Cruz for his connection to Goldman Sachs. And though Steve Bannon who, I am a big admirer of and big fan. And even though Bannon was a former Goldman Sachs guy. He has a different view of this than a lot of people.
He did not like the 90s, sort of -- sort of Goldman Sachs greed era. And so -- for a guy like Bannon and for the Trump supporters. When he was brought on to the campaign, like Kurt mentioned, Bannon did about a thousand hours of radio before he was brought on to the Trump campaign. So Breitbart listeners knew who he was and the readers knew who he was. And when they brought Steve Bannon on it, it was a signal that look, this guy is one of us. He is somebody whose ideology, anti-elitist, pro-American, right, anti-globalist is another way to put it. His ideology matches with those of millions of Breitbart readers.
LEMON: OK. So let me ask you this. You spent so much time working at Breitbart. Steve Bannon was editor and you said he did a lot of radio time. You know that he is a hero to the far right. You said you admire and respect him. If he leaves the president's side at the same time as president as he moves towards more centric positions, what happens to the base then, Lee?
STRANAHAN: Well, so first, I don't know if I would use far right. I would use a different right because I think it is an anti- establishment right. I think that's closer to it. I think that the base right now is confused by a few policy moves, the Trump administration has made in the past few days. And, they are particularly confused by the growth and power of Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and two key people they brought in, Don. That's Gary Cohen and Dina Powell. Now, this group of people and they are all connected. Dina Powell is Ivanka's adviser. Gary Cohen is very close and was brought in by Jared Kushner. They did gain a lot of power. Dina Powell has become a deputy national security advisor.
LEMON: Why is that concerning or confusing to them? You said confusing, but is it concerning, and why so?
STRANAHAN: It is concerning. For one thing, Gary Cohen and Jared Kushner are both registered Democrats, not former Democrat. I am a former Democrat, right. But they are current Democrats. They are Democrats right now. With a clear record of supporting the establishment. In the case of someone like Dina Powell for instance, one of her friends is Valerie Jarett who is currently living with the Obamas, right now. That may not mean much to you.
But if you are a Trump supporter, hearing that she is close to Valerie Jarrett or Ariana Huffington, for instance, which she is, is very concerning. And it's an ideological concern. Really, as much as anything.
[23:35:10] LEMON: Well then, Kurt, you remember during the campaign when conservatives were saying well, Donald Trump is not really a conservative. He is actually a Democrat. He is running on this ticket because he thinks he can win. That has been said, is now the real Donald Trump coming out. And the people who supported him the Breitbart crowd now saying, well, this is the person that everybody warned you about. Here is the real Donald Trump.
BARDELLA: I think what you are seeing is a symptom of really a failure. I think Trump expected by having Steve, you know, as a senior adviser, you know, chief counselor kind of role. That he would be able to deliver conservatives when he needed them. And when Steve kind of threw down the gauntlet during the Obamacare repeal conversations with lawmakers, and they rebuffed him, and they didn't respond to that, and it led to the with the polling, voting of the repeal of Obamacare, I think Trump in his mind. First sought that, well apparently, Steve can't deliver these things. Why do I really need him at this point? If I can't, if I can't use him, to speak to the conservatives and the alt right to get this stuff done.
I think for a lot of Republicans right now, Conservative Republicans who read Breitbart, it reminds me very much of what happened when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California back in 2003, two years in replaced his team with a Democrat chief of staff was being advised by his wife, Maria Shriver who is a very prominent Democrat and moved very much more to the center left. And that infuriated all the Republican who voted for historic recall of Governor Gray Davis and put Arnold in. I think you are going to see potentially that type of setup right now.
LEMON: Yes. It is fascinating conversation.
Lee, I will have you back. Kurt, I will have you back as well as you know. Thank you so much, gentlemen.
STRANAHAN: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: We have news tonight on another member of President Trump's inner circle. Press Secretary Sean Spicer, he has spent the day making apology after apology for his stunning claim that Hitler didn't use chemical weapons. But that hasn't stop critics calling for him to lose his job. Congressman, Mike Kauffman, a Republican in a key district telling a town hall audience tonight that's what he thinks should happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: Spicer made a terrible mistake yesterday and he admitted it. If you are not familiar with what he did. Is that he -- I mean, he needs to go. You know? (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: When we comeback President Trump not letting FOX get in the way of the story of any story he wants to tell. We are going to breakdown the bluster and get to the truth.
[23:41:31] LEMON: President Trump has had a rocky relationship with the truth in the first month of his presidency.
Let discuss now. CNN political commentators Kayleigh McEnany, Paris Dennard and Symone Sanders and CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen.
Hello, everyone. Let's see - Hilary, you first. I want to play a clip of President Trump on FOX business this morning. He continues to double down on Susan Rice saying he was wiretapped. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you look at Susan Rice, what is going on, and so many people are coming up to me apologizing now. They say, you know, you were right when you said that. Perhaps, I didn't know how right I was because nobody knew the extent of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that what you were referring to, Susan Rice?
TRUMP: Sure. We are talking surveillance. It was wiretapped in quotes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said she didn't do it for political reasons. Susan Rice --
TRUMP: Does anybody really believe that? Nobody believes that. Even the people that tried to protect her in the news media. It is such a big story. And I'm sure it will continue forward. But what they did is horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I didn't have a better phrase than doubling down because it is more than that. But members of both parties say there is no evidence people who have seen the papers that Susan Rice was spying on the Trump campaign or that she did nothing unusual or illegal. But it doesn't stop the president from perpetuating a false story. And still again, it has nothing to do with his original tweets.
HILLARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, unfortunately, in this instance, my old friend, Maria Bartiromo didn't actually know the facts here because if she did she would have been able to push back on him that the original story wasn't about Susan Rice. That it wasn't wiretaps that Susan Rice called for or the like.
So but what we do know is that over the last couple of days, a bipartisan panel in the House said that there actually were was no evidence that either Susan Rice did anything unusual as national security adviser and that there is still no evidence that the Obama administration wiretapped President Trump or his associates in Trump tower.
So you know, the fact that he is so mesmerized by his own crap is just -- and his own bull is just astounding. And you know, it is exhausting I think for journalist who interview into constantly harp back to him and say, actually no, that's not true. No that's not true. You literally would spend your entire interview contradict him with facts.
LEMON: Go ahead.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But the fact is that we don't know what is true with regard to this claim. None of us have seen those documents.
ROSEN: In this case we do.
MCENANY: No, we don't. Because if you read the whole CNN story, a few lines down on the same story, they said other congressional, individuals who have seen these documents say that they are real questions raised. So some people say their question were raised. There are another group that say they want one questions raised. None of us is going to document. SO to speak with authority and act as if the claims of unmasking are wrongful or unmasking of untruthful. You are speaking on absolutely no firsthand knowledge and no firsthand basis.
ROSEN: That's not true, Kayleigh.
MCENANY: You have seen the documents. You have firsthand knowledge. That is news, breaking news.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We can clear this up real quick. The White House should declassify the documents so the American people and that is sitting right here on the program, can know for a fact that nothing is amiss or nothing is afoot or wrong. And I think Trey Gowdy, who is no liberal snowflake, by the way, had also -- when he first took over, he noted that Susan Rice did nothing wrong.
I think the bigger story here is one, Donald Trump just has a disregard and administration has a disregard for the truth. And what does it say when the commander-in-chief and his administration is so hell bent on twisting things to, to meet his, the president's point, as opposed to the real truth like we are in deep doo-doo here, OK.
[23:45:26] LEMON: Well, the story has gone from President Obama wiretapping him to whether Susan Rice had the right to mask and unmask. And so, far there has been no evidence of any of it, none of it has been proven true, mostly it has been proven false. So, one wonders why the president with disposal of every single intelligence agency and asset at his fingertips, will continue to go on with this with no proof. And if he wanted to show the proof, he could do it. So obviously there is none because he doesn't do it, Paris. PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think we have to be
careful in our dialogue to the American people about what is going in using large terms and phrases like the entire administration and this, this president, and things of that nature, talking about things using, saying things that are false. I mean, that is just not true.
What we do know is that the president believes that what secretary -- ambassador Rice did was not appropriate. Now, whether or not it was legal.
SANDERS: To say that illegal is not the same thing though. He is literally saying she did something criminal.
LEMON: There is also, that it is inappropriate.
SANDERS: To be a little more careful.
LEMON: To say it is inappropriate as well is also not true, Paris.
DENNARD: The president believes that if --
LEMON: The president is believing something that is not true.
DENNARD: If the president believes that ambassador --
LEMON: If the president believes that frogs can flay and they can't, it doesn't make it so.
ROSEN: That's exactly right, Paris. And you know that the president --.
DENNARD: I didn't get a chance to say anything, so I don't know what is right.
ROSEN: The truth at any moment. But I don't think you are going to have to go to national security issues which tend to be a little more opaque than other issues. To just look at sort unfortunate this constant stream of falsehoods that come out of his mouth whether it is about, you know, XM bank or jobs being created or what he said today about the Kansas special election and how handily, that, you know the Republicans, let the Democrat win.
LEMON: Let's let Paris. Go ahead, Paris.
DENNARD: Listen, listen. Hillary, hold on. Hillary, there is a constant stream of you talking and not letting other people speak. At the end of the day, a win is a win. And like, Ricky Bobby said in the famous movie.
ROSEN: But he doesn't say that.
DENNARD: Ricky Bobby said -- your first or you're last. You got to win, winning is important.
LEMON: Going to Ricky Bobby now.
DENNARD: Ricky Bobby.
LEMON: Hold on, him ear. Hold on.
DENNARD: For us, for the president to tout this win when everybody was against it is a totally -- it is true.
LEMON: Paris, I want to get your response to this.
DENNARD: You're first or last. Either he won or he lost. He won. Or he lost.
LEMON: Can you let me get it in here so we can discuss it, please. OK. So this is a special election. He said, Kansas special election. That was narrowly won by Republican. He has great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes, easily winning the congressional race against Dems who spent heavily and predicted victory.
But here is the truth about it, OK. There were several lies in that tweet. Estes won by less than seven percent. In 2016, Republicans won by 31 percent. That was not an easy win. Donald Trump won the district by 27 percent. It is actually a massive drop in Republican support. The national democratic organizers basically said they sat this one out. They spent all most nothing knowing how red the district was. Democrats never expected to win the seat. They definitely did not predict victory. Yes, a win is a win. But his tweet, what he said, Paris, is not true. So why even say it?
DENNARD: Because when you are the president of the United States you are also the head of the party. And what the president was doing was being a cheerleader for the GOP, waving the banner, encouraging other special election that are going on across the country in South Carolina, in Georgia and things of that nature making sure people --.
LEMON: So you say a lie to get people behind you?
DENNARD: I don't think it was a lie.
ROSEN: He talks a lot about the value for him. And you know, he talks about this for years. The value of hyperbole. Look, here is the key take away.
LEMON: Quickly, Hilary, I have to get to the break.
ROSEN: Republican across the country looking at that drop from 27 percent margin down to a seven percent margin.
DENNARD: Still a win.
ROSEN: Look at that.
DENNARD: It's a win.
ROSEN: The president is not going to carry my district the same way.
LEMON: We will be right back.
[23:54:20] LEMON: All right and we are back. We don't have much time. My panel is back.
OK. So everyone, in the same FOX interview that president gave a bizarre firsthand account of when he decided to pull the trigger on Syria while eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake with the Chinese president in Mar-a-Lago. Look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had finished dinner and we are having dessert. And we have the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that we have ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded. What do you do? And we made a determination to do. So the missiles were on the way. And I said, Mr. President let me explain something to you. This is during dessert. We have just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit by the way, unbelievable, from you know, hundreds of miles away. So what happens as I said, we just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Headed to Syria?
TRUMP: Yes, heading toward Syria. And I want you to know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Kayleigh, he got the country wrong, but no mistake, you know, that was an amazing piece of chocolate cake.
MCENANY: And I loved it. I loved it because you just have (INAUDIBLE) the most powerful man in the world with the second most powerful man finally exhibiting strength on the world stage over a piece of chocolate cake. Love it.
LEMON: Yes, right.
Symone, I will let you get the last ten seconds.
SANDERS: I thought it was a commercial for his -- the lovely chocolate cake and his lovely private establishment. And how, again, we have Donald Trump's businesses all mixed up in our national security.
DENNARD: The problem is that we missed the mark. We didn't focus on the fact that the president had a brilliant strategy that was effective.
SANDERS: The president thought he was hitting Iraq.
DENNARD: No, he thought he was sitting Syria, he hit Syria's targets.
LEMON: That cake must have been good. Good night.
SANDERS: That cake was real good.
DENNARD: The mission was effective.