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Staff Shakeup; North Korea's Brutality to Americans; An Intentional Amnesia; The Most Expensive Election. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired June 19, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: That's all the time we have for tonight. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Breaking news right now, it seems Michael Flynn forgot to mention another foreign trip on his security clearance form. Another one. And this one is a doozy.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
The House democrats want to know a lot more about Flynn's 2015 trip to the Middle East. That, as the leaders of the Senate judiciary committee say their investigation could look at whether President Trump crossed the line in his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey.
Meanwhile, a bunker mentality spreading inside that place you're looking at right there, the White House. Press briefings cut back, as rumors fly that Sean Spicer may be leaving the podium. We'll discuss all of this.
But let's get straight to CNN's Jim Sciutto with more on our breaking news right now. Jim, good evening to you. We have new reporting tonight on what must be a thorn in the president's side. The former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn failing to disclose a Middle East trip about a Russia deal. What can you tell us?
JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's exactly right. This is a letter from the ranking members, ranking democrats on the House oversight committee and the House foreign affairs committee to General Flynn's lawyers as well as two of his business partners asking about a trip in the summer of 2015 to Saudi Arabia, to arrange, it appears, a nuclear deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia to build nuclear power plants.
Undisclosed on General Flynn's security clearance renewal form when he took a position in the Trump White House. They're also asking about a trip later that year in October of 2015 that General Flynn provided no details for including where he stayed there, who he traveled with, and the purpose of the trip and in addition to that, the fact that on that security clearance form, General Flynn did not list any meetings with foreign officials for the seven years prior to his application for the security clearance to enter the Trump administration.
All these things required by law to report on what's known as your SF- 86, your application for security clearance form, they're asking for details. I contacted Flynn's lawyer today. He would not comment on the letter, but he did confirm that they received the letter from House democrats.
LEMON: Interesting. Jim, CNN is also learning that the Senate judiciary committee widening the scope of their investigation. They're now going to look at obstruction of justice allegations?
SCIUTTO: That's right. A moment, it seems, of bipartisanship, or at least some bipartisanship. The ranking democrat on the judiciary committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, agreeing on the outlines of their probe.
Big picture, they're going to focus on Russian interference in the election, but they're also going to look at the possibility of interference with the FBI investigation, not just by the Trump administration, but by the Obama administration.
What's interesting about this is that you have the republican chairman of the judiciary committee, at least including in the scope of the investigation the possibility that Donald Trump interfered in the investigation, meetings with the FBI Director James Comey, what he asked him to do.
But it also could mean that it's the judiciary committee that ends up going down this path of obstruction of justice, if the Senate intelligence committee, we've seen their hearings, we broadcasted them live here on CNN. They'll focus on Russian interference, maybe the judiciary committee now takes the lead on the possibility of obstruction of justice, including by the president.
LEMON: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. I appreciate it. I want to turn now to stonewalling in the White House briefing room. And that those rumors about the embattled Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
CNN's Jim Acosta joining me now. And Jim, some details of the story you're about to report should have every American outraged tonight. But let's talk about the reporting about the future of press briefings with Sean Spicer. Does he still have a job?
JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, I think he still has a job, I'm not sure about Melissa McCarthy, she may have to seek out new impersonations to pick up. But what we understand from talking to our sources, Don, is that the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is being talked about in a different role -- for a different role inside the West Wing.
That role I'm told by sources would oversee the White House press secretary job and also the job of communications director. Those are two very big jobs here at the White House. And so, Sean Spicer may be overseeing that in a future role.
Now, we should point out that I talked to a different source over here earlier this evening who said some of this may not be completely set in stone, that the process seems a bit, quote, "chaotic" right now.
And Don, we should underline, we've heard this palace intrigue stories before about the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, that he was going to be on his way out, and we've heard different incarnations of Sean Spicer leaving the scene at various stages in this administration and those things have not come to pass.
But from what we do understand from talking to our sources this evening, is that this discussion is happening, that Sean Spicer may be leaving the podium. No timeline set, though.
[22:05:03] LEMON: OK. So staff shakeup. All right. That happens. But Jim.
LEMON: This is 2017. And the White House is refusing to let you ask questions on camera or audio today. I mean, what is going on over there?
LEMON: Is it the Russia investigation, they don't want to answer questions? What is happening?
ACOSTA: It sure seems like the Russia investigation. I mean, let me just paint the picture for you, Don. You've been here at the White House before. I know you've sat in the White House booth with us here at CNN. But when you walk through that briefing room, you know when we have a press briefing at the White House, and those reporters who are in their different spots and they're asking questions of Sean Spicer, that is almost exactly what occurred today in the White House briefing room.
We had a briefing going on today inside the White House with the exception of cameras and audio. So we essentially had the same thing that the press secretary does at any other time during a briefing except the White House said, well, you can't record what is said in the briefing on video or on audio.
And what is shocking about this, not only is it the year 2017, but you have a lot of questions that need to be asked. Like, is the president under investigation? He tweeted that he was under investigation. Is he under investigation? What about these recordings over here that the president floated this prospect of having?
The White House, Sean Spicer said earlier today, well, we might have an answer for that by the end of this week. By the way, they said that last week, and on and on. And Don, I think what they're trying to do here is perhaps give us the same evasive answers that we've grown accustomed to receiving inside the White House.
They just don't want to have that -- they don't have the courage to see that on camera or hear it on the radio, or in audio fashion anymore. They just wan t to cover that up. And I think that's what we saw today. But at the same sometime, we should point out Sean Spicer, even though
this wasn't on camera today, is limiting the number of questions that are being asked. For example, today, I'm not making this up, a Russian reporter asked a question at the press briefing today of Sean Spicer, but he would not call on CNN, yours truly, sitting in the press briefing room.
That to me is sort of staggering. I talked to a friend of mine who works at Fox News last week, whose name I will not mention on our air but you recognize that name, who said during the Obama administration he could only remember one time when the press secretary under Barack Obama would not call on Fox News. And it was because he left the press briefing early.
This routinely happens to CNN, and it is part of an ongoing scaling back of press freedoms that we have inside the White House here. Shutting off the cameras and the audio is just part of the deal these days.
LEMON: This is America, Jim.
ACOSTA: Yes. We...
LEMON: I mean, and you don't shut off the -- and I'm going to bring the panel in, in a second here. But Jim.
LEMON: Here's why it's outrageous in one sense, but can you imagine if the Obama administration had done this.
LEMON: And other administrations previously. People would be calling, you know, for the president's head or for the press secretary -- it doesn't matter that it's CNN, if it happened to any other news organization, it would be outrageous that they're not calling -- if it happened to Fox news, if it happened to MSNBC, if it happened to ABC, or NBC, whatever, it's outrageous.
LEMON: Or the New York Times or whatever. But here's the thing. I don't think this White House understands that Sean Spicer actually works for the American people. He doesn't work for the president.
ACOSTA: He does.
LEMON: We pay his salary. And part of his job description is to give press briefings. And if he's not going to do that, is he going to give some of the money back that he's making from the -- off the backs of the American people?
ACOSTA: I couldn't agree more, Don. And I think what this is going to boil down to, and this is something that mainstream news organizations are going to be reluctant to do, we're going to have to consider banding together and saying, you know what, we're not going to cover your gaggle, we're not going to cover your briefing if you're not -- if you're just going to have this press briefing going on in the briefing room without video or audio.
That is just too strange and bizarre and out of the tradition of covering the White House and we're just not going to do it. The question becomes, and herein lies the rub, do these news organizations band together and do this? I'm not saying that they won't. But it's a very difficult thing to pull us all together, you know.
LEMON: What happens...
ACOSTA: It's a little bit of a herd of cats.
LEMON: You know, pen and paper, maybe they're going to hand out some stone tablets and, you know, a big rock. I mean, it's just absolutely ridiculous. Jim, stand (AUDIO GAP) that you can join the panel. It's already (AUDIO GAP) Yes, you got to get off, yes, you got to get off the lawn. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
ACOSTA: All right.
LEMON: I want to bring in the panel now. CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston is here. Political analyst, Abby Philip, and political commentator, Ryan Lizza. Ryan, it's outrageous, there's no other way to put this. It's ridiculous.
RYAN LIZZA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: No. It's completely absurd. Look, the press secretary's job as Marlon Fitzwater, Reagan's Press Secretary, famously said, he's not to be a mouthpiece for the president. He's not to work to cut off access to the White House, he is to be a bridge between the press and the president, serving both the press, and therefore, the public, and the president.
[22:10:02] He's sort of dual-hatted is the way it's traditionally thought of. And we have not seen that from day one from this press secretary or from the whole communications operation at the White House. They see themselves either as simply a vessel to get out a message of the day. And frankly, when they are answering questions, they're not doing so in a very forthcoming or truthful manner, which has been a problem for this White House much more than any previous White House in the modern era. And this is -- this is absurd.
LEMON: But do they know? Do you get the sense that they're communicating with the president, because we have to find out more from the president? Or it's just does a stonewalling tactic...
LIZZA: I don't Sean...
LEMON: ... that you know, this president believe in climate change or global warming? Well, I'll get an answer but no one is telling that.
LIZZA: Well, I think one of the problems is obviously Sean Spicer doesn't have a very good relationship with Donald Trump, right. He doesn't have a relationship where he can walk in, ask him a question, get the answer and then relay it to the press.
LIZZA: He seems like someone who lives in fear of losing his spot because Trump famously creates an environment where everyone is a little bit nervous about whether they're going to be, you know, fired at any given time.
LEMON: But why would want to work for someone like that? Why?
LIZZA: I don't know. I mean, if you're a communications person in D.C. like in republican politics or democratic politics, the pinnacle is to be the press sec secretary. So Sean Spicer is sort of, he's like, you know, the dog that caught the car.
LEMON: Yes. But can you imagine, and this is what happens. I want to -- Mark, I want to read you something. This is from Maggie Haberman. I want to get your response to this. Maggie Haberman just tweeted this out. She said "Trump is now trapped in a white-gilded cage of his own making desperate to defend himself and told he can't because he has gotten himself into legally dicey situation."
Is this why they're not having press briefings? What do you make of this?
MARK PRESTON, POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR, CNN: Yes, no doubt. Just the image of the gilded cage, this always strikes me, Don, is that Donald Trump could be looking out his window and watching Jim Acosta basically just tear him apart on his front lawn. Which I always find very amazing and the fact that someday we're going to see Donald Trump come storming out that door and try to wring Jim Acosta's neck, right? I mean.
LIZZA: Get off my lawn.
LEMON: Get off my lawn, right.
PRESTON: Right. I'm keeping your baseball kid. So here's my thoughts on this...
LEMON: No, I'm taking your microphones and cameras what he would say exactly.
PRESTON: So I agree with Jim and Ryan, although I'm more sympathetic I think to those who have to try to carry the message out to the reporters every day on behalf of President Trump. I don't think that anybody in that White House has a very good relationship with President Trump other than his daughter and his son-in-law.
I don't think that President Trump turns to them and says, listen, I need you to go out and I want you to say this and this is the truth. I don't think that happens. We saw that occur just in the last 24 to 36 hours when Jay Sekulow went out, his personal attorney, and tried to clear up something that President Trump did, and in fact, couldn't do so because it wasn't 'cleanupable.' I mean, it is what it is. So, I really do think...
LEMON: I like that. A new word like that not 'cleanupable.'
PRESTON: Well, it is. Right. It just isn't. I mean, it is what it is. I hope my kids are not watching since it's not proper English. But the bottom line of it is, is that I do think that people are put in positions now in the White House and perhaps they can't get out or they don't feel like they should get out or they feel like if they do get out, then perhaps that is going to create more chaos and what have you. So, I just think...
LEMON: They're adults, Mark.
PRESTON: ... it's a terrible situation.
LEMON: Mark, they are adults and they chose to get themselves into this situation and here they are. And let's hope that they're proud of it.
Abby, the White House isn't answering questions. Neither is the president. Here's a photo op of the president with the president of Panama. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel?
JUAN CARLOS VARELA, PRESIDENT OF PANAMA: I would like to thank...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you investigated...
VARELA: I would like to thank President Trump for...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Abby, you're in the pressroom, too. Do you get the sense that everything will just be left to Twitter or the president's personal attorneys to spin?
ABBY PHILIP, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: I think it's by necessity that that's where they are. The fact that it's being left to Twitter is definitely not anybody's plan. That is the president really acting on reflex here. He's doing what his gut tells him to do. When he's angry, he tweets and no one can tell him otherwise.
At the White House at this point, his aides have actually gotten to the point, where they realize they can't tell him to stop doing that now. He gets very defensive, he gets kind of upset when they tell him to stop tweeting. And so they've stopped even bothering to try so that where we are today with the only source of information about his mindset, coming from him directly, which as reporters, that's actually kind of interesting.
Because at least we know exactly how he feels and what he thinks is going on, but as far as his lawyers are concerned, his lawyers are not actually answering substantive questions in a way that is enlightening, either. I mean, I think that one of the reasons that Marc Kasowitz has been pointed to as the person to answer Russian inquiry questions is that he's not around every single day.
[22:15:05] He's not in the presses briefing room. Reporters can't walk into his office and ask him things. And so it makes it much harder for them to -- it makes it much harder for reporters to get real answers from this White House or from the president's aides about what is going on.
Just one quick note about Sean Spicer, this idea that the White House is pulling back from the press briefing is coming directly from the president, himself. He believes that those briefings are not useful to him. They're not advancing his message. And he also...
LEMON: It has nothing to do with him.
PHILIP: Yes. But that is how he feels about it.
LEMON: It's the American people.
LEMON: And here's what -- here's what I would ask, if it is true what you're saying, here's what -- if you're a Trump supporter and the president is saying this, do you want a president who is unchallenged who only delivers the message that he want? That is not the American way.
Presidents, anyone who is in authority, should be challenged, should held to account, by the American people, the people who put them in office. And that's what the media does whether he likes it or not. It's not about the president. It's about the people who actually pay the president's salary.
PHILIP: Right. Well, this challenge here is that the siege mentality isn't just Trump. It's -- it extends to all of his supporters, too. His supporters believe that the press briefing has become a medium by which the media persecutes the president and so they view it as a way that he... (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: Then get better press people.
PHILIP: That's the challenge here.
LEMON: Then tell the truth at the podium. And then it won't become a dog and pony show. Tell the truth. Get better people to represent you. Get people who will challenge you. Get people who aren't afraid to tell you the truth. Who will stand up there and say, look, this is the truth.
Get people -- stop tweeting so that people don't have to defend you when what you write is indefensible. But go on, Ryan. I know you want to jump in.
LIZZA: No, I was just going to say this is also happening at a time when Trump, himself, has retreated from the media. Right? He's not doing as many press conferences, or press availabilities.
LIZZA: He's very rarely taking questions recently. He has, you know, as we showed with Maggie Haberman's tweet, he's in this sort of bunker mentality.
LEMON: Do you remember how much guff the Obama administration got when he didn't hold press conferences for a while?
LIZZA: Yeah, there was like a clock at the RNC.
LEMON: That there's a -- right. Can you imagine if the Obama administration had done this? I'm just saying.
LIZZA: No, absolutely.
LIZZA: I mean, the one thing -- look, Trump tweeted the other day the media wants him to get rid of Twitter and you know, we're trying to get him to stop using social media. That is not the case at all.
LEMON: What would we talk about? Go on.
LIZZA: Seriously, the one unfiltered way we have access to Trump these days is through Twitter.
LEMON: It's through is social media.
LIZZA: It's his lawyers and White House aides that want him to stop tweeting.
LEMON: Yes. Hold these thoughts. We're going to talk about this and also talk about that expensive congressional race down in Georgia. The most expensive in history. And both sides are really counting on it. We'll be right back. [22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now with my panel. We're going to talk about the 6th congressional district down in Georgia. But let's get back -- Mark, did any final words on the press briefings? It's like you know...
PRESTON: Look, I mean, I think the bottom line is we're all in agreement that the fact of the matter is whether you're the president or you're a congressman or you're an aide that works in the administration or you work on Capitol Hill, you work for the American people. There's no question about that.
LEMON: Yes. And I can hear people saying when I said the whole salary thing, he thinks, he doesn't need -- it doesn't matter.
LEMON: He works for the American people whether he needs the salary or not. We're still paying it. It still comes out of our tax dollars. And as an American citizen I think most of us would want the president and his administration to hold press briefings so we can ask questions that we know exactly what's going on. This is America. Go on.
PRESTON: But I do -- but I do think it's worth saying his, though.
PRESTON: The buck stops here, the buck stops with the president. And you know, as much as we have anger directed at those who work for him and oftentimes it is legitimate, the bottom line is, it's the president's fault that we've got into this situation. Everything as Abby said is being directed by him.
LEMON: Abby, let's talk about the high-stakes election that's happening in Georgia's 6th congressional district. The most expensive House race ever. Things are getting really ugly. As democratic Jon Ossoff versus republican Karen Handel. What are you expecting when the polls open in the morning?
PHILIP: Well, it seems pretty clear that we're in for a really, really tight race. I mean, you know, it's a congressional election, it's an off year, it's a special election. So, the chances that we will be looking at razor-thin margins I think given what the polls have looked like are pretty darn high.
And not to mention the fact that what I think has really been surprising and fascinating about this election is in the last 48 to 72 hours, the degree to which outside groups have been pouring money in with ads. Some very dubious ads sort of hitting the air.
LEMON: It's gotten dirty, right? PHILIP: Yes. It's been very interesting how these ads have really
took a really -- turn to the left. Some innuendo about the attack on republican congressmen last week suggesting that Jon Ossoff is sort of in line with the man who shot the...
LEMON: That in some way that he's responsible for that.
LEMON: Let's play it, Abby, and then we'll talk about it. Here's one of the ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting republicans. When will it stop? It won't if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's one of them. What do you think of that?
PHILIP: I think it's just really remarkable. I mean, I think that -- given the fact that Karen Handel, the republican in that race, actually had to come out and condemn that ad kind of tells you that it's not really the -- there's no real gray area here in terms of how people -- how appropriate people think that is.
But it shows you the stakes are really high right now and they're so high that there are some outside groups who are willing to put it all on the line in order to sway a few voters in a really tight race. The republicans absolutely need to win.
LEMON: Ryan, that ad is disgusting.
LIZZA: It's disgusting.
LEMON: It is disgusting.
LIZZA: It is absolutely deplorable. It's one of the worst ads I've seen in politics. It reminds me of an ad years ago in Georgia that tied the democratic candidate to Osama Bin Laden. That shocked a lot of people. So there's a bit of a history of this in the dirty -- you know, sort of dirty...
LEMON: How much smear do you think it will have an impact?
LIZZA: You know, I don't know. Sometimes these things can backfire. But I mean, this is like this nerdy centrist, you know, Jon Ossoff who is not running a particularly left-wing campaign and to tie him to political violence, I mean, it's -- it's disgusting. [22:25:08] But, you know what, these kind of negative ads like that, they don't use them -- they use them for a reason because often they work.
LEMON: It's a politics is dirty business. So, listen, there's also this radio ad about that put -- put out by a pro-Trump group. It used former President Barack Obama's voice out of context. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Police brutality rampant. When the so-called black committeemen came around election time, we'd all line up and vote the straight democratic ticket. Sell our souls for a Christmas turkey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's not sell out for another Christmas turkey.
(END VOICE CLIP)
LEMON: Obama's spokesman said this is a fraudulent use of his voice. He said it is shameful, by the way. And by the way, what the ad doesn't say is that the audio is actually President Obama reading a passage from his book, "Dreams of My Father." And he's actually quoting someone else.
LIZZA: He's playing a character.
PRESTON: Playing a character, right.
LEMON: What the hell -- what the hell is happening here? Mark?
PRESTON: Well, I mean, look, we shouldn't be surprised that any of this is happening. In politics it's always been dirty. It's now just becoming more pronounced. I mean, we see it on social media.
If you were to go back and look at history and look at dirty play in politics, it was always done. It was just done at a different level. We're now just seeing it exposed, quite frankly, in kind of being thrown out there.
Oftentimes, though, these ads that we're seeing like that television ad, I'm sure that this radio ad, there's not a whole lot of money behind them. Might run a couple times and most people will never see the ad except the media, us, who then look at the ad and say, I can't believe that this is happening. It actually gets a lot more play.
LEMON: But for people who hear it, though, I mean, Ryan...
PRESTON: No doubt, it's gross.
LEMON: Because this was supposed to be the information, tech age, I mean, you're supposed -- people are supposed to be informed. LIZZA: No, you can do -- what Mark is saying, with a little bit of
money, you can blow something up because of social media and the way, the saturation coverage of these things.
LEMON: I got to run. Thank you, Mark, thank you, Abby, thank you, Ryan. I appreciate it.
Breaking news to tell you about. More breaking news. President Trump speaking out on the death of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who spent 17 brutal months in prison in North Korea. And was just released last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Otto Warmbier just passed away. He spent a year and a half in North Korea. A lot of bad things happened. But at least we got him home to be with his parents where they were so happy to see him even though he was in very tough condition, but he just passed away a little while ago. That's a brutal regime, and we'll be able to handle it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The 22-year-old college student's alleged crime, stealing a political poster. He tearfully begged for forgiveness but was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Doctors say Otto Warmbier suffered severe brain damage while in detention. He died this afternoon in Cincinnati surrounded by his family.
Senator John McCain issuing this angry statement tonight. Quote, "Let us state the facts plainly, Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime."
We'll be right back.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: A source is telling CNN the West Wing staff has tried to convince President Trump to stop tweeting about the Russia investigation. Good luck. You'll see how well that's going, right? We already do.
So here to discuss, CNN political commentator, Charles Blow. CNN senior economics analyst, Steven Moore, a former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign. Good evening to both of you, gentlemen. I saw both of you smile when I said good luck with that because it's the truth, he loves his Twitter.
Charles, you have a new piece out in the New York Times, I want to talk about entitled "Trump is girding for a fight." And here's what you write the Russia probe. You said, "The investigation is in its early stages but Trump has no plans to wait for it to either condemn or clear him. He's taking a much more aggressive approach, one that in the end may do more harm than good. He's attempting to defame, discredit and delegitimize."
Why do you think the president is doing what you write?
CHARLES BLOW, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think it's just part of who he is. I mean, he -- this is how he has operated in New York City forever. Is he's a very litigious person, he has been party, according to USA Today, to over 300 and -- I mean...
BLOW: ... 3,500 lawsuits. He understands that the legal system can bend under the weight of a lot of pressure and a lot of money. And so he constantly fights these cases. And it's less successful for him.
LEMON: He's only lost, since you brought it up.
LEMON: The USA Today says that he's been involved in 3,500 legal matters. He's only lost 38. So fighting worked for him in the past.
LEMON: Why would he (Inaudible)
BLOW: And I think part of the frustration for him is that, you know, this is the big league. It doesn't work the same way as when you're fighting in a local court about a zoning rule, about some tenant who won't move or about, you know, somebody who says...
LEMON: You have way more money to weight them out.
BLOW: Well, also, he literally he has as much money as he wants. I mean, the special counsel can hire as many lawyers as he likes, he can hire whichever lawyers he likes. The courts on that level are not necessarily, you know, kind of worried about...
LEMON: I understand. The point is, my point is, and I think you'll agree, he can't weight people out with money, right? Until they run out of money and you have billions and you can fight.
BLOW: What you're seeing is someone who's acting out of a loss of control and realizes he can't control it.
LEMON: Stephen, do you think it's distracting the comments that he's making on this investigation, that it's taking away from his agenda?
STEVE MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST, CNN: Well, I sure am concerned that the whole Russia investigation and the Comey testimony and so on has put the republican economic agenda on hold. And I think that's problematic. I think it's hurting the stock market. [22:34:55] I think it's, you know, I talked to CEOs, Don, and I talked
to investors who say we're getting nervous about whether the republicans are going to be able to do the things that they said they were going to do, because let's face it, the last four to six weeks have really been a total distraction from Trump's economic agenda.
You know, he got elected because he said he was going to create jobs and grow the economy. There hasn't been a lot of movement on the tax bill or the health care bill for that matter.
LEMON: But do you think he bears any responsibility for it? Because a lot of it was, most of it was his own creation.
MOORE: True. Sure. I mean, I think there's no question. Trump made some bad unforced errors. I still think that they're going to get the health care bill done and I think the tax bill is going to get done this year but there's no question about it.
Remember, about what, four or five weeks ago he introduced his tax plan with his treasury secretary and his head of national economic council and then it's kind of just laid there and there is a lot of concern right now that -- I think, by the way, Don, the reason you're seeing a stark stock market that's very jittery right now, the confidence levels that we saw, you know, at the start of the Trump presidency have waned a little bit.
This is what I keep saying get going, guys. You got to get this done.
LEMON: And Stephen, I mean, with all due respect, I don't mean to cut you off, but I speak to Trump supporters as well.
LEMON: And they say the same thing, like when is it going to happen? Especially small business owners. We wanted some tax cuts. We wanted, you know, all the incentives. None of that is happening. Since you brought it up, I want to -- let's talk more about health care.
As a matter of fact, let me show you the Senate floor now. I think Cory Booker, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker speaking tonight, specifically this is about health care. Democrats are trying to bring the senate to a halt with a night full of speeches.
They are -- they're protesting the way that republicans get -- you know, keeping many members, they say, in the dark with this health care bill and it could come to the floor as early as next week. What are republicans, Stephen, gaining from keeping this so secretive? Why not debate this out in the open for everyone to hear?
MOORE: I'm all for transparency and openness. And I think republicans, look, they can do their behind-the-door deliberations, but when this plan comes out, Don, they better give the American people and members of Congress plenty of time to go through this compromise that they come up with. I'm very much opposed to what... (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: But if they don't do that, what do you think will happen? You said they better, or what?
MOORE: Well, I think they'll look hypocritical. I mean, remember, republicans made a lot of fun of Nancy Pelosi, remember, Don, when she said, we'll read the bill after we pass it.
MOORE: Republicans I think are going to lock pretty shameful if they do the same thing. I'm not saying they're going to do that, but I think there's a kind mood among republicans, let's just get this done as quickly as possible so people can't see the bill. That's a dumb strategy. You should be proud of it.
LEMON: We have a digital time machine here. So let's take you back to 2009 and 2010. And this is what republicans said when democrats are trying to push through health care. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, UNITED STATES SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Democrats on Capitol Hill are working behind the scenes on a plan aimed at jamming this massive health care spending bill through Congress against the clear wishes of an unsuspecting public.
JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER UNITED STATES HOUSE SPEAKER: And look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!
BOEHNER: With transparency and accountability?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!
BOEHNER: Without backroom deals, instruct behind closed doors, hidden from the people? Hell, no, you can't.
PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We want to do it right. And if you rush this thing through before anybody even knows what it is, that's not good democracy, that's not doing our work for our constituents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Charles, I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
BLOW: I mean, what do you even say to that?
LEMON: That's what I said, I'm not saying, but I'm just saying.
BLOW: It's actually kind of sad and pathetic, right, because it -- I mean, on one level, it is about Washington and just the hypocrisy of Washington politicians. But on another level, it's specific to these particular politicians and whether or not they -- the principles that they were saying that they stood for, you know, including whether or not this is even democratic.
And they're doing the exact same thing. I mean, it's -- and if you follow their kind of thinking, they want to pass it by July 4th, there's no way to...
LEMON: It's faster because the ACA took a while. They did pass it. It's sort of under the cover of darkness, but it took them a while to get to that point.
BLOW: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLOW: And, I mean, it will be smaller.
BLOW: Because you're taking a sledgehammer to something is not the same as creating it.
BLOW: But that ought to push it out even kind of faster because it's a smaller bill.
LEMON: Yes. And you mean into the public, so the public can have some say in it.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
When we come back, why the president's -- why the president's lawyer insists he isn't under investigation despite the president tweeting that he is under investigation.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Our breaking news tonight. House democrats digging into whether Michael Flynn misled officials about two Middle East trips including one that reportedly led to 100 -- a $100 billion deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia's nuclear power agency.
Let's discuss now, John Q. Barrett is here, who was the associate counsel for the Iran-Contra investigation. Matthew Whittaker, the former U.S. attorney, and CNN contributor, John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel and author of "Conservatives Without Conscience."
I always love having you on together or individually. John Barrett, I'm going to start with you. Your reaction to this. Flynn may have misled officials on his security clearance form about two Middle East trips during the presidential campaign. One of which involved Russia and that $100 billion nuclear deal I talked about earlier. I just mentioned. What do you think?
JOHN BARRETT, FORMER ASSOCIATE COUNSEL, IRAN-CONTRA: Well, forms are hard to fill out. It's laborious. But they're very high stakes and they're very important. And security clearance personnel position clearance form is something that someone like General Flynn knows to take seriously. It's a problem.
LEMON: OK. So here's the thing. Everyone I know -- listen, I don't know, you know -- but I have a bunch of friends who are in the military and they say that they -- john and Matthew and John Dean, they say that they take the SF-86 very seriously as members of the military because they can be prosecuted if they get it wrong.
[22:45:07] So, as a general, someone who is a general in the armed services, would General Flynn not take it as seriously as the rank and file members who come in, you know, as civilians and then come in?
MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think he would take it more seriously and it's something he clearly, you know, had experience with. And this is something that you don't want to read into the motives, but if he doesn't disclose things, you wonder if maybe he didn't want people to know about it.
And that -- that's -- as a former prosecutor, I mean, you always look for not only what the evidence shows, but what also didn't they do that they should have done.
LEMON: OK. So one hear there. You could say, you know what, that was complete oversight on my part, I'm sorry, I should have -- but not when it starts to be a pattern. I mean, right? Because congressional investigators say that they have no record of Flynn ever identifying a single foreign government official he had contact with in seven years prior to submitting his application.
John Dean, that's a problem.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It is a problem. Also, that FS-86 form has a very conspicuous statement at the beginning and at the end that misstatements on it are subject to criminal prosecution under 18 U.S.-C-1001 which is a tough statute which prosecutors know a lot about.
LEMON: Do you think he's cooperating -- some have said that they believe he's cooperating with the FBI, with the investigation, do you believe that?
DEAN: I don't yet. I think we'd have more evidence of it. But you know, if anybody has got good reason to help out and become a witness rather than a defendant and get a good play, it would be him because the offenses are certainly stacking up. This latest is just so conspicuous that one wonders what he had in his mind when he was filling those forms out.
LEMON: John -- John Barrett, also CNN is learning tonight that the Senate judiciary committee is now going to look at obstruction of justice allegations. Do you think that's the right move? BARRETT: It's within their oversight jurisdiction, obviously, and the
sort of Watergate precedent, John Dean, forgive me, is special prosecutor and the Senate committee investigation proceeding on parallel tracks.
And, you know, there's serious evidence that indicates possible obstruction. It's, I think, obvious that Mueller is investigating it for law enforcement purposes and it makes sense that the Senate and, indeed, whereas the House should dig into it for congressional purposes.
LEMON: Is that the right move, do you believe, Matthew?
WHITAKER: Well, this is where I have to disagree with the professor. And that is, you know, as I said the other night, the only difference between this current investigation and Watergate is Watergate actually had evidence of real crimes being committed. Right now we have two acts by a president that appear to be constitutionally lawful and without more, for example, bribery, or some other illegal act, I just don't see as we sit here today any evidence of crimes being committed.
LEMON: Yes. So, the president says he's under investigation, but his lawyers says he's not under investigation. The president insists he's under investigation, but his lawyer insists he's not under investigation. His lawyer says he is under investigation. I'm not making this up. After the break.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: All right. We're back now with my panel. So let's talk about the president, his lawyer says he's not under -- first, the president tweeted that he was under investigation. And then his lawyer went on television yesterday and today and said a whole bunch of stuff that contradicted the president and himself, the lawyer himself. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: So the president said, I am under investigation even though he isn't under investigation?
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: That response on social media was in response to the Washington Post piece. It's that simple. The president is not under investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, you've now said that he is being investigated after saying that you didn't...
SEKULOW: No, he's not being investigated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just said that he's being investigated.
SEKULOW: No, Chris, I said -- let me be crystal clear. So you completely understand. We have not received nor are we aware of any investigation of the President of the United States. Period.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you just said two times that he's being investigated.
SEKULOW: No. The context of the tweet, I just gave you the legal theory, Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN: Why don't you pick up the phone and get the answer and then you could actually say no, I asked Mueller, he said, I'm not. We're not looking at this. Why don't you pick up the phone?
SEKULOW: We have a lot in this case, I mean, look, you're asking me to pick up a phone on an investigation that right now we don't know exists.
There's not an investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know whether there's -- oh, boy, this is weird.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It says right here on this dossier the president, anytime you say let me be crystal clear. What does that mean?
WHITAKER: Let me be crystal clear because I think what Jay -- I'm going to do some interpretation here of what Jay is saying. But I think what he's saying is that the president was responding only to the Washington Post article, right?
WHITAKER: And three months ago, Jim Comey said that the president was not under investigation.
LEMON: Three months ago.
WHITAKER: Well, whenever the last time that Jim Comey and the president spoke about it.
WHITAKER: And he said that he wasn't under investigation. And that's the last time they've heard anything from the FBI. So they're assuming that they're not under investigation. That's the interpretation.
LEMON: Do you believe that? As a former U.S. -- does someone have to notify you? And that's what Chris Cuomo was trying to get at because I watch him. No one has to notify you you're under investigation. And I think it's obvious that he is -- it doesn't mean he's guilty.
LEMON: But isn't it obvious. WHITAKER: Yes.
BARRETT: He is under investigation. Lots of people are under investigation. We each might be under investigation.
BARRETT: Most subjects don't know that. You're not entitled to an answer until the government wants to reach out and tell you your status as part of negotiating with you or interviewing you or calling you to a grand jury.
LEMON: Yes. Before I get to John Dean, quickly, when actors say what's my motivation, why?
LEMON: What was -- why?
WHITAKER: Well, I've been thinking why Jay Sekulow would go on all, you know, the circuit and say this is -- this is the message that I'm trying to drive. And I think really what they're trying to do is they're trying to say that the president isn't under investigation as far as they know. That's what they're trying to say.
LEMON: But don't they drive home the message that the president is under investigation just by the...
WHITAKER: It's called hanging a lantern on it.
LEMON: Exactly. I mean, John Dean, you've been, you know, in the White House before. You've been around. When you don't want something to be out there in the ethos, you don't give it oxygen, right? You shut up about it, you don't respond to it.
DEAN: That's the general rule. But we've got a situation here, Don, where the Justice Department really doesn't have the power to indict a sitting president. So they might be driving the point home right now and starting to lay the base for it that they don't think the special counsel should be even snooping around these areas if they are beginning to target a president. Because they don't have that authority.
That's been the ruling since the '70s and now it was renewed in the 2000's and it's been the existing policy of the Justice Department. So that might be what the counsel is doing here.
[22:55:05] LEMON: But even if that is so, which it is as you say they don't have the power to do it, does that mean people still shouldn't get to the investigative agencies, shouldn't get to the truth here?
DEAN: No, what will happen is, you know, a president can be a collateral subject of the investigation. He certainly is not free from investigation from his days as a candidate. And that's one of the issues that's being looked at. Was there collusion?
We keep -- we're focusing a lot on obstruction and not on the underlying problem that started all this is whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in the hacking.
LEMON: I've got to go, John. But remember that Richard Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator.
DEAN: He was and an indicted co-conspirator.
DEAN: And they did that largely for evidentiary reasons because they wanted to get his tapes into the trial, the cover-up trial which is a conspiracy case.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. When we come back, democrats say Michael Flynn misled officials about yet another foreign trip. And guess what, it could link him to Russia.
Plus, we're just hours away from the polls opening in Georgia's special congressional election, a race a lot of people say is a referendum on President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
[22:59:58] LEMON: Breaking news. Another overseas trip that Michael Flynn never quite got around to disclosing.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.