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Yates Warned White House Flynn Could Be Blackmailed by Russia; Federal Appeals Court Divided Over Trump Travel Ban. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:05] SALLY YATES, FORMER U.S. ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone.

Welcome to your NEW DAY. Up first, President Trump, deflecting after a dramatic day of testimony about one of his closest advisors. Former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, says she repeatedly warned the administration about Michael Flynn, telling officials Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russia, opening the door to possible blackmail.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And add this to your time line. We're also learning that former President Obama warned President Trump on November 10 against hiring Flynn so just days after the election. The big question: why did it take the president weeks to act on Flynn? We've got it all covered for you.

Let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider -- Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, that is the question. Why did it take 18 days for Michael Flynn to resign?

For her part, former acting attorney general Sally Yates tried to lay it all out for lawmakers. She disclosed that she warned the White House three times about Michael Flynn's misstatements, and he's also filled in the chain of events that eventually led to General Flynn's ouster as national security adviser.


YATES: We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House. We believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Sally Yates testifying that she urgently warned the White House on three separate occasions that former national security advisor Michael Flynn misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. YATES: Not only did we believe that the Russians knew this but that

they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.

SCHNEIDER: Her testimony directly contradicting the White House's muted account in mid-February.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The acting attorney general informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give, quote, "a heads-up" to us.

SCHNEIDER: Yates explaining that she stressed to White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had engaged in problematic conduct just two days after President Trump's inauguration.

YATES: We told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action.

SCHNEIDER: But President Trump didn't take action, waiting 18 days to fire Flynn, only after Flynn's false statements became public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Flynn might still be there but for "The Washington Post" report that, in effect, shamed them into getting rid of him.

SCHNEIDER: President Trump attempting to downplay pointing to former director of national intelligence James Clapper's testimony that he has seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia before he retired in January.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Is that still accurate?


SCHNEIDER: But Clapper noted that he was unaware of the FBI's investigation until it was announced publicly by James Comey in March. Hours before the hearing, CNN learned that President Obama warned Trump against hiring Flynn just two days after he was elected when the two men met in the Oval Office.

SPICER: President Obama made it known that he wasn't exactly a fan of General Flynn's which is, frankly, shouldn't come as a surprise that, given that General Flynn had worked for President Obama, was an outspoken critic of President Obama's shortcomings.

SCHNEIDER: Press secretary Sean Spicer continuing to blame Obama for the Trump administration's failure to properly vet Flynn.

SPICER: If President Obama was truly concerned about General Flynn, why didn't he suspend General Flynn's security clearance?

SCHNEIDER: But Clapper challenging that assertion, saying Flynn's high-profile position would typically require extensive vetting.

CLAPPER: The vetting process for either a political appointee or someone working in the White House is far, far more invasive and far, far more thorough than a standard TS/SCI clearance process.


SCHNEIDER: But one question not definitively answered in that hearing, whether Sally Yates' warnings made it from the White House counsel all the way up to President Trump. Sally Yates also said he doesn't know if the White House everywhere viewed the information it requested from the Justice Department since she was fired just days later for refusing to defend the president's first travel ban executive order -- Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: Jessica, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

So another story: a federal appeals court in Virginia appears to be split over President Trump's revised travel ban deciding how much weight to give the president's words during the campaign about wanting a Muslim ban.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. What have you learned, Joe?


Thirteen judges on the 4th Circuit testing a not-so-novel question whether President Trump on the campaign trail meant what he said when he called for banning Muslims from traveling to the United States. A common-sense question aimed directly at the White House.


JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims putting his revised travel ban in jeopardy again.

[07:05:02] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

JOHNS: Several judges pointing to the president's own words as evidence the executive order was intended to target Muslims.

JUDGE HENRY FLOYD, 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: Shortly after the executive order two was signed, Sean Spicer said the principles remain the same.

JOHNS: The White House countering that the court should not question the president's national security decisions based on past statements.

JEFFREY WALL, ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: This is not a Muslim ban. Its text doesn't have anything to do with the religion. Its operation doesn't have anything to do with religion.

JOHNS: One judge expressing concern about the future implications of using the president's previous comments to evaluate future policies.

JUDGE DENNIS SHEDD, 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: Can we look at his college speeches? How about his speeches to businessmen about 20 years ago? Are we going to look at those, too?

JOHNS: Another noting that President Trump has never walked back his Muslim ban promise.

JUDGE ROBERT KING, 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: He's never repudiated what he said about the Muslims, and it's still on his website.

JOHNS: The White House promptly removing that reference after Monday's media briefing.

SPICER: I'm not aware of what's on the campaign's website. You'd have to ask them.

JOHNS: President Trump's travel ban also a contentious topic on Capitol Hill.

YATES: I believed that any argument that we would have to make in its defense would not be grounded in the truth.

JOHNS: Former acting attorney general Sally Yates defending her decision not to enforce the first version of the president's travel ban, saying it was not based on politics.

YATES: I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful. I also thought that it was inconsistent with the principle of the Department of Justice.

JOHNS: Yates insisting she did her job by looking at the intent of the order.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Are you aware of any instance in which the Department of Justice has formally approved the legality and the policy and three days later, the attorney general has directed the department not to follow that policy and to defy that policy?

YATES: I'm not, but I'm also not aware of a situation where the office of legal counsel was advised not to tell the attorney general about it until after it was over.


JOHNS: Bo timetable on that 4th Circuit case for a decision, at least. Out on the West Coast, the 9th Circuit is expected to take up a travel ban case there next week with the possibility that either of these cases could end up right here in Washington at the Supreme Court. The president has no public events on his schedule today -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Joe, thank you very much. So there are a lot of complex issues at play, but there is one fairly simple question. Why did it take President Trump 18 days to move on Michael Flynn after getting this information?

Let's ask Anthony Scaramucci. He's an informal adviser to President Trump and a former -- former president of the Trump transition team. It's great to have you here.


CUOMO: There are a million different directions to go. There's a lot of unresolved information and questions. We know that now from just hearing what was said about Yates and Clapper yesterday in terms of what did Russia do, how did they do it? What can we do to stop it again? And then the questions about people around Trump and what they did. So there's a lot there.

But 18 days. Sally Yates comes. You've run big business. Somebody comes to you in that kind of position and says we're really worried about what he said. He didn't tell the truth to the vice president. What you are saying he said is not true and I can prove it. Nothing happens for over two weeks.

SCARAMUCCI: So you're saying that 18 days is a long period of time?

CUOMO: I'm not saying it's a short period of time. It's a long period of time, yes.

SCARAMUCCI: See, I think in this case, again, I can't speak for the president, but I work closely with him. I think he's a very loyal person, and I think he looked at what General Flynn did for him, not only during the campaign but in the transition.

And so my guess is he said, OK, let's have some level of due process go before we really make a decision here. So 18 days, you know, you and I were talking at the break about business people versus politicians. And so 18 days, to me, doesn't seem like a long time.

SCARAMUCCI: If Jack Welch were sitting in this chair, he would say that good employees are people that are valuable to him. He would wait a little while before he would make a decision to let somebody go. So I don't see 18 days as a long period of time, but maybe in the political landscape, maybe it is.

CUOMO: If somebody comes and gives you that type of urgency, we're worried he could be compromised by Russia. And there is no curtailment of his activities. In fact, Flynn was right by the president's side and the president in very, very sensitive meetings. You're making an assumption I can't make which is the president knew and asked for some kind of due process. All we know is McGahn knew.

Why do you have any confidence this went up to the president and they made a call?

SCARAMUCCI: I'm not suggesting that it did. I honestly don't know the answer if it did or it didn't. But what I do know reasonably well is the president's personality about leadership and loyalty, how he thinks about his people and what he cares about.

And what I love about the president is he really cares about people first more than he cares about that sort of nonsense that goes on in the political arena. Also, I think...

CUOMO: Loyal to a fault here? Because this isn't, we don't like Flynn. That's not what this was.

[07:10:05] SCARAMUCCI: I understand. Let me finish.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

SCARAMUCCI: You're brand-new to the presidency. You have the opposing party railing on a guy that you think is super valuable to you. And so I think you're going to be cautious. You're going to be patient and deliberate, because you know what happens in these things. A scrum takes place. People are throwing eggs and tomatoes at each other, Chris. And you're sitting there saying, OK, what is the truth? Let's parse out the truth and let's figure it out.

So from that point of view, I think that a deliberate approach is probably better, because it sends a message to all your people about the kind of person you are, that you're a loyal person. You're willing to stick up for your people, even if there's a political fight or there's a press fight. And I think that's why the president has been able to galvanize and recruit some of the finest people in our country for his administration.

CUOMO: Here's the problem with the theory. There's no proof that there was any due process going on. The White House did not come out and say, you know, "We did this, this, and this after we heard from Yates."

And frankly, the president, when he was told on November 10 by former President Obama, "Be careful with what you do with Flynn. I got rid of him for a reason. I don't know that he's the right guy. He ignored that for the following reasons, and we did this, this, and this." There is none of that. It's "This is on Obama. We did the right thing. We got rid of Flynn."

So I don't know that there was any due process involved, if there was any of evasion. Could it be that every time the president and his people hear "Russia," they go like this? (PUTS HANDS OVER HIS EARS)

SCARAMUCCI: I don't necessarily agree with that. I'm more arguing the president's style, his management skill set, the reason why he was able to ascend to the presidency. This is a guy that knows how to recruit people, and stay loyal to those people in breach.

And so, for me, you know, if you take 18 days to make a decision like that, I don't think it's a long period of time as a business person. Maybe politicians think it's a long period of time.

CUOMO: But you're assuming a process. I don't know where that comes from.

SCARAMUCCI: But here's the problem, because I understand the president -- you know, had a pretty good working relationship with him and my guess is, is that he's a loyal guy to a fault in certain ways. But that's benefited him in terms of recruiting people into his team. Here's the problem that I have with the whole thing. We go tit for tat in Washington. I thought that that testimony yesterday was another clear example of

the witch-hunt that we're now fighting in Washington and the news cycle that we fight, Chris. Because now we're parsing syllables about in terms of what she said versus what the Congress said and who won. Did the senators win? Did she win during the debate? And so on and so forth.

I think it's a bunch of nonsense, that we have to focus on is the president has a jobs-creating agenda. He's got a tax proposal that he wants to bring that's going to reduce corporate taxes and possibly personal income taxes for middle-income families and lower income families, which is going to unleash growth in our society.

CUOMO: Right. And Russia just tried to undermine our democracy and is now having its strongest head of influence ever in our lifetime.

SCARAMUCCI: Talking about the French now or...

CUOMO: No because we don't know what happened in France. But I'm saying what Russia did here, but by consensus with everyone except the president of the United States, because he still doesn't seem to accept that it was Russia.

SCARAMUCCI: Didn't Clapper say yesterday that there was no involvement between the Trump campaign and Russia?

CUOMO: Anthony, it's interesting you go to that, and I'll tell you why. This is about what Russia did during this election with great effectiveness, how they did it, how they were able to be so effective and why to stop it.

It seems that you Trump guys can't get away from that issue without connecting it to the collusion argument. That is a separate issue. It's a separate aspect of the investigation, because you two conflate them all the time.

Maybe that's why we saw the White House deaf to what they were told about Flynn. And just to be clear about Clapper, what Clapper said yesterday was, did I know anything about collaboration? No. Collusion? No. The president loves it. He tweets. See, he also said, "I didn't know anything about the investigation. I don't know the facts. The FBI didn't tell me. I don't know what they have."

That's very different than saying, "I know everything they have, and they have nothing."

SCARAMUCCI: So, again, we can argue about this or not.

CUOMO: I don't think it's much of an argument, Anthony. I've got to tell you.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, but you're mixing things now, because now you're saying.

CUOMO: No, I'm trying to keep them separate. You're mixing them.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm really not trying to...

CUOMO: You're saying the collusion thing is the same as the Russian...

SCARAMUCCI: The next thing I'm on I'm going to have a "Trump Guys" T- shirt and make you wear the "Trump Guys" T-shirt with me. OK? We'll sit here together.

CUOMO: Listen, in a way I could wear it, because I'm an American, and you've got to be concerned about what Russia -- what Russia did as an American.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, as an American, we both want -- as Americans, we both want the president to be super successful. I don't think that you or I or even the president can look at the Russian situation and say, "Hey, it damages our democracy." Did they try to damage our democracy? I don't know. I don't have the intelligence information.

But even if they tried to damage our democracy, Chris, I don't think they were successful at it. The process worked. President Obama said that the process worked. The -- Secretary of State Clinton, we can talk about her, if you want to go back to that. But I think she had some flaws in her candidacy which allowed President Trump to extend to the presidency.

[07:15:09] CUOMO: True. True. There were opportunities.

SCARAMUCCI: And he took advantage of it. So the guy -- the guy went from June of 2015, 20 months into the American presidency -- I mean, this guy is not a politician by definition in terms of his life experience.

And so I think what I love about him is that he's bringing that nonpolitician status to Washington. I think it's very disruptive to the people down there. And I think it's very good for the American people.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see in the results. It's still early. All I'm saying is this.

SCARAMUCCI: You're going to wear the "Trump Guys" T-shirt?

CUOMO: I'll wear this. I'm very conservative with what I wear. I'm not like you with the fancy suits. What I'm saying is this. What Russia did is real. It got results. It mattered. Senators on both sides of the aisle were saying it yesterday. Nobody thinks Russia failed in their reference.

I'm not saying they controlled voting this year, or they changed the outcome. That's not what I'm saying. You have to understand what they did. You have to fix it. The president doesn't want to deal with Russia, because just like, as you did, every time the president hears "Russia," he thinks, "They're talking about me and that I did something wrong."

And that's dangerous, because it -- it stops progress on figuring out what happened and how to stop it for the next set of elections.

SCARAMUCCI: I actually think that you're making a fair point so I'm going to actually cede this point to you, which could be the first time in television history between the two of us.

CUOMO: Wow. We should go to break on that.

SCARAMUCCI: I'll cede the point to you that, if the Russians are a problem, one thing I know about President Trump...

CUOMO: The Russians are a problem when it comes to meddling in elections.

SCARAMUCCI: So one thing I know about President Trump, he's not going to take any guff from the Russians. He's not going to take any guff from the Chinese or the North Koreans. What he's going to do is he's going to protect the American people and the standards of our democracy. And so, but let me tell you, he's got a lot of stuff going on at the same time, and let's let him take one thing at a time.

The No. 1 thing, at least from what I can see from my vantage point, is jobs, Chris, opportunity for American people, lower taxes to make our corporate tax base more competitive around the world.

How about repatriating the trillions of dollars off the shore so that we can get jobs for people and see wage growth again. But I hear you, and I'm going to cede that point to you, and we can litigate it. And I'll say "if." You'll say it's definite. And if it is definite, the president will be on it with his team to prevent it from happening next time.

CUOMO: We'll see. One other quick take on something. The conflicts of interest, whether it's what we saw with the Kushners recently in China, what we saw with Eric Trump. You know, you have the same issue on both sides. It's transparency. That's all this is all about is transparency.

Eric Trump says, "This is B.S. what they said I said about the golf courses getting Russian money." All he has to do is show audited financials of the courses and show there's no debt on the books. I don't want to see his personal taxes. Forget about the president taxes. He should show them, but that's his call. Why not more transparency?

SCARAMUCCI: But why, Chris? Why?

CUOMO: Why should the president show his tax returns?

SCARAMUCCI: Why does Eric Trump have to do that, in your mind?

CUOMO: He does not have to. Absolutely not. But if the suggestion is made, and he wants to prove that it is false, him saying it is false is not enough. When he has every ability to prove that he's right -- he could prove it in ten minutes.

SCARAMUCCI: This is my problem with the whole thing. OK? And I don't know which Kushners were over in Beijing, but I do know personally, Eric Trump is not the politician in the family. Nor is Don Trump Jr. And so what are they doing? They're running that business, and they're running that business with the standards that businessmen run.

CUOMO: They're all double dipping, Anthony. They're all going and speaking for candidates. They're an extension of their father. They're an extension of the White House.

SCARAMUCCI: Hold on a second. As a private citizen, you're allowed to speak on behalf of candidates. I don't know if you do that for Governor Cuomo or not.

CUOMO: I don't. That's the whole point. Not just because I'm a journalist.

SCARAMUCCI: But you are a journalist.

CUOMO: But you have to -- you have to draw the line. SCARAMUCCI: If my father -- if my father was running or my father was

involved in a political campaign and I was a private citizen, not a journalist, would I go out and speak on his behalf? A hundred percent. Would I be saying, "OK, I've got to be totally transparent on my business and my finances"? I would say, "Absolutely not. It's nobody's business."

CUOMO: Unless it all leads back to Trump. Because those courses, he gets a part of them.

SCARAMUCCI: That's the Eric Trump issue. On the Kushner issue, and again, I didn't read the thing super carefully...

CUOMO: His sister.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, but let me give you my reaction to that. It's not -- that's not Jared's fault. A mistake was made. These are people that are new to the political environment.

What I don't like about our current political environment is that every morning we wake up, we take a dozen eggs out and we say, OK, who are we going to throw these eggs at today? So today it's going to be the Kushner family. I'm going to hit Eric Trump on the side while we're throwing some eggs at the Kushner family.

And it's not fair to either of these people, and the reason why it's not fair is they're private citizens who have people in their family that are serving the American people as public servants. I just think it's very, very unfair to bring everybody into the mix and start throwing eggs at the private citizens and the family.

[07:20:03] Now, you may disagree with me on that. But I bet you the average American person is saying, "Hey, why don't we leave the family members alone here?"

CUOMO: Right. SCARAMUCCI: We want to -- we want to hit the people that are in public service, no problem." One thing about the president I know, he can take the hits. And I've seen him take it. He's a very resilient guy. Jared can take the hits. But let's leave the family members out of it. There's no reason for it.

CUOMO: I think you leave families alone.

SCARAMUCCI: This is how you prevent really good people, Chris, from getting into government. Like jeez, I don't want to put my family members through this hassle.

CUOMO: I think that that is all well and good until you get a combination effect of the private side seeming to gain access and exploit access from the government side. And when you see that, this unique situation, you have to call it out.

SCARAMUCCI: Didn't the Kushners apologize for that? They certainly...

CUOMO: Yes, after it was exposed. The way they got rid of Flynn after "The Washington Post" exposed what happened to him.

SCARAMUCCI: See, you're thinking...

CUOMO: The exposure matters.

SCARAMUCCI: You think it's intentional. I think it's accidental. I don't think that...

CUOMO: They wouldn't let journalists into that meeting that they had in China. Why, Anthony?

SCARAMUCCI: Because journalists are nosy, and journalists throw the eggs.

CUOMO: Good thing. Good thing they are.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. I'm glad you're throwing eggs, Anthony.

CUOMO: I'm not throwing eggs. I'm throwing facts.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm going to have you wear the shirt with me that says "Trump Guys."

CUOMO: Bring the shirt. Make sure it's an XXL.

SCARAMUCCI: You need that.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Wow. You guys could have gone back and forth for a few more rounds there.

One warning after another. So we're going to take a look at what we know today as the investigation into Michael Flynn pushes forward. That's next.


[07:25:38] CAMEROTA: Well, it was a dramatic day on Capitol Hill yesterday. We learned more about the repeated warnings to the Trump White House about former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Let's discuss what we now know and what we still don't know with our panel.

We want to bring in CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza; CNN global affairs analyst and senior national security correspondent for "The Daily Beast," Kimberly Dozier and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Chris Cillizza, I'll start with you. What did you think were the big headlines?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, I heard Chris Cuomo's interview, Anthony Scaramucci, who said 18 days isn't a very long time.

But, to me, what we learned is what exactly Sally Yates told Tom McGahn, the White House counsel, which is "Your national security adviser is compromised by the Russians and is a potential blackmail target."

That's not like saying, "Hey, we're -- you know, some minor thing that we're looking into." This is a huge deal. This is the top national security person in your White House, one of Donald Trump's closest allies.

To me that is stunning that it took 18 days and more "Washington Post" reporting on the fact that he -- not he, Flynn, had not told the truth to Mike Pence to fire this guy.

And I would say, by the way, Donald Trump four tweets last night essentially saying this is all fake news.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: And that Sally Yates said nothing new. She did say new things. That is a fact. You can -- you can argue what the new things mean, but we know things today about what she told Don McGahn that we didn't know yesterday.

CUOMO: And we know that Clapper did not clear the president of any allegations of collusion the way the president is suggesting he did.

CILLIZZA: That's right. He said he didn't know.

CUOMO: He said he didn't know anything about the investigation.

Kim, Anthony Scaramucci is smart. He's wired into the Trump people, and he made a good effort. Here's the problem. There is no proof of any process. There is no proof that they did anything after the White House told them about Sally Yates except eventually respond to "The Washington Post" reporting by as quickly as they could throwing Flynn under the bus.

Do we know anything else that they did anything to process this, to think about it, to balance loyalty and fact, anything?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, "THE DAILY BEAST": From everything I've heard from people inside, working with Mike Flynn, working with the vice president, Pence, what really brought Flynn down was the misrepresentation to Pence.

In terms of checking, in terms of vetting Flynn's background, Flynn had been part of this team for almost two years. He was one of the few people who had come in from the campaign, as opposed to we see a tightly-knit team now presenting its face to the public. But when -- at that time, they were still getting to know each other. And Pence was still part of the outside team for those insiders.

So you can see a situation where Trump simply didn't want to believe what he was being told, if all the details were getting to him. And that's why, in the weekend that we saw everything blow up before Flynn finally resigned, I heard from both sides that on the Pence side there was anger, there was -- you know, you can't let this guy keep in this job with what he did to us.

But on the Flynn side, there was, you know, "This is too much of a distraction. I saw Benghazi. I've got to step down for the good of the president."

CAMEROTA: So, Jeffrey, I mean, in Sally Yates's recounting her conversation with the general counsel, White House, Don McGahn, and when she was trying to alert them to what she thought was the danger of Michael Flynn, I mean, you said that Americans have never seen anything like that conversation.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, really, it is like something out of a spy novel. You have the attorney general of the United States going to the lawyer for the president, saying that the closest national security aide to the president may be under the control of the Russians. I mean, just think about that. That is just an unbelievable turn of events.

And then you have nothing done about it at the White House until "The Washington Post" embarrasses them by disclosing just part of the Flynn problem. And then they eventually get rid of him. And it also illustrates the larger issue, is that why were so many people involved in the Trump campaign whether it's Manafort or Carter Page or Roger Stone or Mike Flynn. Why were they all involved with the Russians? And why did so many of them make false statements about it?