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President Taking Credit for Party's Victory; Toxic Democratic Party. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired June 21, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Breaking news on the Russia investigation. And Russia again, as President Trump takes a victory lap after his party's election win in Georgia, again.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
The president goes to his happy place in front of a cheering crowd in Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's always terrific to be able to leave that Washington swamp and spend time with the truly hardworking people we call them American patriots. Amazing people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But back in Washington, the Russia investigation gets even closer to home with new questions about why the president's son-in-law still has his security clearance.
Let's get right to CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the president's rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Good evening, Jeff. President Trump escaped the growing Russia cloud to take a victory lap in Iowa tonight after a republican win in Georgia. What do you know? What's the latest?
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Good evening, Don. It was part victory lap, part sentimental journey I think. I mean, you get the sense the president really has missed these campaign rallies.
Of course, this is a happy safe place for him, this is, as you said, as a happy place for him to talk about his proposals. He really ran through a litany of campaign favorites that really, you know, sparked the interest from this conservative group of some 6,000 or so Iowa republicans here.
But the president also was talking about the cynicism that's out there. And he was beginning to plant the seeds for democratic obstructionists as a reason he's not getting as much done as he would like. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You just have to take a look at what's happening here. Right?
If we set aside the cynics and the critics, we have a chance, and it's a great chance. It lies before us, to do extraordinary things for our country in the years ahead. History is written by the dreamers, not the doubters.
They have phony witch hunts going against me. They have everything going. And you know what? All we do is win, win, win. We won last night. They can't believe it. They're saying, what is going on? What is going on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So you heard something about the president tweets about a lot, phony witch hunts and he was talking about it tonight. But, Don, one problem with that is a reality check on that. Republicans who are controlling the Senate and the House are leading some of these investigations into Russian interference in the election. Something that was not mentioned here tonight, of course. Any concern or acknowledgment of Russian interference in the election, simply calling it phony witch hunts.
So again, it was a feel-good moment for this president. No doubt it's something that his aides said certainly is going to energize him. But Don, he also right now he's flying to Washington, where all those challenges are still waiting for.
LEMON: More reality will set in. He's also proposing I understand a new immigration rule tonight. What's he saying, Jeff?
ZELENY: He did talk about a new immigration rule. And it's unclear how brand new this is, but he was talking about the idea that people who are coming here, immigrants who are coming here could not be eligible for welfare funds. He said they have to be self-sufficient.
Well, some of the 1996 welfare reform laws already on the books already call for that, but a senior administration official also explained to us afterward that they said any immigrant coming here would have to be financially self-sufficient. It's not exactly sure what that means. He didn't put any meat on the bones her talking about it.
But he made this comment as he was talking about immigration. And the crowd, of course, chanting build the wall, build the wall. The president talked about tonight about building a solar wall, about putting solar panels on top of the wall on the Mexican border. He's talked about that privately, never publicly before.
And then he also said that Mexico wouldn't have to pay as much for it because they would have money from solar energy. So that was a bit of a tangent he went on. But Don, no doubt that this campaign-style rally was something that got him fired up.
Let me show you one thing. The newspaper here the Cedar Rapids Gazette, which is actually a conservative newspaper, it had this front page editorial for the president. It says, "Dear Mr. President," and it goes to say that, "now is not the time for campaign rallies." It says, "now is the time to govern."
It urged him actually to get back to Washington and to govern and to listen to people's ideas and to stop the campaign rallies. I'm not sure if he'll listen to that. There are more to come, of course. But certainly an interesting highlight here in Cedar Rapids.
LEMON: I wonder what the supporters in coal country have to say about those solar panels, Jeff. Thank you very much. Now I want to turn to CNN's Manu Raju with our breaking news on the Russia investigation.
Manu, good evening to you. Top democrats are demanding the White Housed turn over documents relating to security clearance of the senior adviser Jared Kushner also his son-in-law, and former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. What are you learning?
[22:05:10] MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, what they're pointing to are regulations that actually govern how people can access classified intelligence, specifically when there are concerns, credible concerns raised about someone's fitness to obtain classified intelligence that says that they should actually have their security clearances suspended while those credible allegations are investigated.
Now, as we do know, Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, was -- there were warnings from Sally Yates, a former acting Attorney General to White House, attorney White House Counsel Don McGahn on multiple occasions that Michael Flynn may have been susceptible to Russian blackmail and also appears to have misled the President of the United States over his conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
And when they're pointing to Jared Kushner they are saying that he had multiple conversations with Russian officials and other foreign officials that he left off his security clearance form and he turn in in order to get his security clearance.
And as we know Jared Kushner's contacts with Russian officials had become of interest to investigators on Capitol Hill and in Bob Mueller's special counsel investigation.
So the letter goes on to say this, it says, "In general, when there are credible allegations that employees may be unfit to continue accessing classified information, security clearances are supposed to be suspended while the allegations are investigated."
And we know, Don, that did not happen here. The White House has not commented yet on these demands. But they can also ignore them. Because they need republicans in order to get subpoenas to get records that they want. Right now the republicans are supporting this democratic request, Don. LEMON: All right. I also want to ask you, Manu, about the multiple
hearings today on Russia's meddling in the election. Here's former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifying before the house intelligence committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER UNITED STATES HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In 2016, the Russian government at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself orchestrated cyber-attacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Manu, that was on the House side. And then on the Senate side, a current DHS official said there's evidence that election- related systems in 21 states were targeted, but there's no sign that the hacks affected any votes. What more can you tell us about these investigations?
RAJU: Well, they're starting to take shape, particularly after Bob Mueller, the special counsel, spent the last couple days on Capitol Hill in last week meeting with the three committees that are now moving forward on their own separate investigations.
What they're trying to do is to make sure that these investigations can actually happen and not step on the toes of Bob Mueller's investigation. Now what we're learning is that the House intelligence committee, a republican who's influential in that committee, Trey Gowdy, does not want to move forward investigating some witnesses that Bob Mueller is investigating, so some on the committee actually do not agree with that approach.
And then on the Senate side, they're suggesting that they're not probably not going to explore obstruction of justice as the main part of their investigation. They want to look at Russian meddling, potential any collusion between the Russian officials and Trump officials.
But the Senate judiciary committee now, Don, who met the leaders met with Mueller today. They're signaling that obstruction of justice is on the table potentially for their own investigation. So those are all starting to take shape here on Capitol Hill, Don.
LEMON: Manu, in an empty capitol tonight. you can tell, I can hear the echo. Thank you, sir. I appreciate you staying up late.
Here to discuss all of this now is CNN's senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson. Michael Isikoff, the chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News. Hello to both of you. Nia, so I didn't call you Nina this time.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Right. Thank goodness.
LEMON: We're seeing two sides of this presidency. On the one hand, President Trump struggling to get major legislation passed with so much attention on the Russia investigation. And then on the other, he's coming off another election win for republicans. He has a spring in his step tonight.
HENDERSON: Yes, and he should, right? I mean, they have been able to go for in all, in all of these special elections. It's a clean sweep winning of seats. They should have won. But in Georgia, millions of dollars dumped on the republican candidate who in some ways ran away from Donald Trump.
She ends up winning pretty handily in there. So he goes out to Iowa. And this rally that we saw on that tonight was planned before, and smartly I think for him to go out there and really to get reenergized.
We've been hearing from this White House as Jeff talks about. This is something they want to see from this president. They want to put him out there on the road. He hasn't really been out there on the road much. So I think this will be good for this president to kind of underscore where he is, that he proved the haters are wrong, right?
Everybody thought the 36 percent approval rating that he has at this point would be a drag on candidates in these races.
[22:10:00] And so far, it hasn't been. You know, it's obviously still early, 2018 isn't here yet. And special elections always -- aren't always harbingers of what's to come.
You remember that Obama did very well early on in special elections. I think they went 5 and 0 as well in special elections on the House side, but then when you fast forward to actual midterms...
HENDERSON: ... it was difficult for President Obama. And it could be that way for this president as well.
LEMON: We'd see where that got him, meaning the Obama administration. President Trump is hoping to get, though, Nia, a legislative victory to match his electoral victory. He talked about the health care battle tonight. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So we have a very slim 52 to 48. That means we basically can't lose anybody. And I think, and I hope, can't guarantee anything, but I hope we're going to surprise you with a really good plan. You know, I've been talking about a plan with heart. I said add some money to it. A plan with heart. But Obamacare is dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he wants a plan with heart. He went on to talk about wanting a tax deal, an infrastructure deal. What's your reaction?
HENDERSON: You know, when he talks about this plan with heart and adding money to it, I mean, he sounds like a big spending liberal. And it looks like we'll see this bill tomorrow. That's what is being promised out of the Senate. It's been hatched in secret so far. So we'll see.
I mean, I think essentially you'll look for what are they doing with the Medicaid expansion. Is it sun setting? At what point is it sun setting? Are they putting more money in there so that premiums aren't hiked? You have to look at are people going to be kicked off of health care, right?
I mean, all those CBO scores from the House bill, millions and millions of people would go without coverage, according to the CBO. So we'll see what happens with that. The president eventually calling that health care bill a mean.
But you know, he was ticking off, you know, a kind of a wish list of what this presidency was supposed to look like before it kind of got stalled by all of these Russia investigations and stalled, in part, by the president's own way of being distracted by Russia and not being so invested in some of the legislation.
LEMON: And being his own worst enemy.
LEMON: Mr. Isikoff, you sat by, you've been very patient as Nia and have hogged up the air.
HENDERSON: Sorry, Michael.
LEMON: So will republicans be more likely to link themselves to President Trump following all these republican wins, or is there still a hesitation not knowing where all this Russia investigation stuff where that's going to lead?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, look, it is hard to say. I think, you know, this obviously ought to be a sort of note of caution for democrats that have been pushing the Russia investigation, if only given the fact that there's, you know, precious little evidence it had any impact at all on the election in Georgia.
Ossoff didn't talk about it barely, and there was no indication that voters were penetrating. That doesn't mean there aren't serious issues that need to be investigated, but you know, there may be an argument to be made that it doesn't need to quite dominate the political discussion in Washington to the degree that it currently does.
LEMON: Can I ask you something about, you know, winning despite the haters. Because Nia mentioned it earlier. So many people, Michael, said that Donald Trump was out or done after he criticized Senator McCain or when he made fun of a disabled reporter, when he criticized a gold-star family, or when, you know, that lewd audiotape came out, the Access Hollywood thing.
ISIKOFF: Or went after the federal judge.
LEMON: And he keeps winning. So, you know, the president's party keeps winning in these special elections. So why would the president believe that he's right and, you know, everybody else is wrong?
ISIKOFF: I'm sure he does. I mean, that's...
LEMON: What would stop him from believing that? That's the question.
ISIKOFF: You know, it's hard to see a scenario at this point that would. But you know, could I just say, like today's hearings in the Senate and House actually were substantive hearings where we learned information about the core issue here about what the Russians were doing in the election.
The idea -- we didn't know until today that as many as 21 states were targeted. We didn't know until today that there are pending investigations by the FBI into those hacks, which suggest it's either counterintelligence or if they're going criminal that Russian officials are in the crosshairs for indictments.
We didn't know until we heard Jeh Johnson spell it out today that he had trouble formulating a response. He went to the DNC, tried to offer DHS' assistance to the Russian hack, got rebuffed.
And then when he had this remarkable phone conference with state election officials, offering assistance, offering to designate state election systems as critical infrastructure, he gets this blowback, pushback from state election officials saying, no, you know, we don't want a federal takeover of our elections, so as a result, he put it all on the back burner. That's ...
[22:15:10] LEMON: Why -- why would they target those specific states? Was it something about their election systems or the...
ISIKOFF: Well, we don't know, we don't know for sure. But you know, the two that we know were penetrated were Arizona, which is a purple state, leans red, and Illinois, which is a blue state.
And then there are 21 other -- 21 other states and we don't know who they were. But the general theory is that the Russians with probing, they were exploring possible manipulations that they could do, that there may not have been a fixed idea to switch the vote in any particular state. They just wanted to see where the vulnerabilities are and what they might conceivably do.
LEMON: During the sound bite, I just realized something, that the president and I looked an awful lot alike today.
HENDERSON: Bright red tie on. LEMON: In this edition of who wore it best, so.
HENDERSON: You, Don.
LEMON: Thank you.
HENDERSON: You have worn it best.
LEMON: Thank you, both. I appreciate it.
When we come back, the democratic congressman who challenged Nancy Pelosi for a speaker after President Trump's election shocker. Well, he says his own party's brand is toxic. What he thinks it will take to start winning again.
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Democrats have a pounding political hangover tonight after their loss in Georgia's special House election, an election they hoped would be a referendum on President Trump. Now some are blaming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
My next guest has some harsh words for his own party. So joining me now is Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Congressman, I'm so glad you're here. So let's just be honest. You have tough love for your party. Democrats have won, what, zero of four special elections for House seats.
And here I want to show what you say and then get your response here. You said, "I don't believe in moral victories. The only measure of success in political campaigns is victory. I don't believe everyone should get a trophy. Here's the truth. The Democratic Party has a toxic brand, one that is worse than Donald Trump's and many parts of the country." Explain, sir.
TIM RYAN, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, it happens to be true. I mean, we all have a lot of anger towards what Donald Trump is doing, but we've had four special elections, and Donald Trump, 4, democrats, 0. I hate to admit that. It hurts. It's painful, but we've got to get our act together because there's a lot of people relying on us.
And I worry sometimes that we get so obsessed and angered by Donald Trump, which is OK, but you can't hold on to it because it takes your eye off the ball. We're not focusing on the economic messages.
People in Ohio, Don, aren't really talking about Russia or Michael Flynn or Putin or anything else. They're worried about paying the bills, what's happening with our pension, how much does it cost to send a kid to school, what's our energy bill like. Real bread and butter stuff. And when we're talking about Trump so much, you know, we're not talking about them.
LEMON: So how do you -- how do you then reconcile the 36 percent approval rating and still winning the special elections? RYAN: Well, you know, everything's in contrast to who you're running
against. And that's why I say I don't think people in the beltway are realizing just how toxic the Democratic Party brand is in so many of the country.
This is a party that many of us grew up hearing. This is the party for the working class. And we've gotten away from that economic message about how do we help working class people. White, black, brown, gay, straight. People who work for a living. People who take a shower after work.
That used to be the bread and butter and the backbone of the Democratic Party. And we're losing those people in droves. When you see us losing them in these special elections especially...
LEMON: How did you lose them?
RYAN: Well, the brand's just bad. I mean, you look at a guy like Ossoff. The kid is -- I thought he was a terrific candidate. The energy on the ground in our party is amazing. The resist movement, the indivisible groups, the swing left.
All of these other groups, they're doing a terrific job. But they're not only fighting the republican candidates, they're also fighting the democratic brand. That's a tough thing to overcome for a lot of candidates.
LEMON: So then they went after Nancy Pelosi. Does that, does Nancy Pelosi, does she sum up the democratic brand?
RYAN: Well, I think in some sense, yes, she does. Clearly we're coming off an election, and she's been getting pounded now for 10 years with negative ads from the republicans. I don't think it's fair, but clearly these ads using her, linking her to our candidates is still working. I wish it wasn't true. And it should -- it should -- it's moving numbers.
LEMON: Do you think Nancy Pelosi, I don't mean to cut you off, do you think Nancy Pelosi is more toxic than Donald Trump?
RYAN: You know what, the honest answer is in some areas of the country, yes, she is. That's the honest answer.
LEMON: Why so?
RYAN: I just think first, as unfair as it is, there have been a lot of people that have spent a lot of money running negative ads against her. I think that in certain areas, like in some of these special election districts, it doesn't benefit our candidates to be tied to her.
And it's not fair, but it is true, and there's a reason why the republicans are still using it. And when you hear republicans talk in the gym or running around the House floor, they say, you know, just keep going the way you're going because we're still using us.
I had a member of Congress grab me tonight, say please tell me you're not going to get rid of Nancy Pelosi, please tell me she's not going to retire because that's who I run against. She's less popular than Donald Trump in my district.
LEMON: So let me ask, you tried to unseat Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader in the aftermath of the 2016 election. You believed that it was time for new leadership then and now. Some of your colleagues like New York Representative Kathleen Rice are telling CNN it's time for Pelosi to go. Is Pelosi hurting democrats' chances, flat out, chances of winning House races?
[22:25:05] RYAN: Well, it's 18 months out, but I think it does inhibit our ability in certain seats. I mean, you know, we've got to face that fact. I'm not here crying sour grapes because I ran and lost. It's not about me. It's not about Nancy Pelosi. It's about that we have Donald Trump as President now. We've done something terribly wrong to make that so. And we've lost traditional democratic voters that don't see us as connecting to them, don't see us as advocates for them.
And we've got to put ourselves in the best position possible to be able, you know, to win these races. As I said, you opened it up, look, I don't think everybody should get a trophy in life. You get trophies because you earn them. I don't like second place. I don't like moral victories. That's not why I am in politics.
I believe in the ideas of the Democratic Party. I believe in a government that could be both nimble but yet active and support social justice issues that are critically important when you listen to what Trump talked about tonight.
But the economic message, Don, is something that we've got to get back to. There's so many families that are struggling, and we're kind of not focused on that as much as we should be.
LEMON: OK. Let me ask you something then. Where were you guys and you, voices like yours, you know, a year ago, two years ago when republicans and Trump surrogates were saying the exact same -- much of what you're saying now about the Democratic Party? Why didn't you guys stand up then and say something?
RYAN: Well, clearly we were standing up. It was in the middle of a presidential election, as you remember. And some of that message just didn't get through. I think we've got -- we got too distracted. I think there are too many consultants telling too many candidates that you talk to black people about voting rights, you talk to brown people about immigration, you talked to, you know, LGBTQ people about those issues that affect them directly.
And you know, we lost the general message, economic message, in which it would help all of those people. Gay people want a job. Black people (AUDIO GAP) job. But if we just talk to (AUDIO GAP) to a slice of the electorate, we're doing them a very big disservice. And I think traditionally, that's been the democratic mode in the last few years is to not talk...
LEMON: You're not suggesting, though, not reaching out to those groups.
RYAN: No, I'm all for it. I'm a huge advocate for voting rights. I'm a huge advocate for immigration voting reform. I'm a huge advocate for the LGBTQ community. I was at the gay pride rally that was in Washington, D.C., with my wife and 3-year-old son a week or two ago.
I'm for these issues right down the line. I'm a progressive. But if you don't have a strong economy and you don't have a message that's about opportunity for working class people, about putting people to work now, today, not training them for some job that may come, but how we create an economy that's really going to work for these people.
How do we get investment into places like Youngstown, Ohio, so we can create jobs? And you know what? That (AUDIO GAP) a tax code that's simplified and that can help small businesses grow.
That's the kind of Democratic Party we need to start being like again. And again, all of those interest groups fit underneath them. And that's important for us to talk about.
LEMON: And they're going -- the groups who you mentioned, for your words, they're going to have to understand that you have to reach out to other people and that you may not be able to reach out to them as much or you're saying you can do it all at the same time.
RYAN: There's great synergy in a campaign that pulls all of those groups together. And what should pull all of these groups together, you know, working class people, Planned Parenthood, May roll (Ph), LGBTQ, the human rights campaign, all of these different groups can come together. Because you know why? If democrats are in office, we're going to create opportunity and protections for all of those people.
LEMON: Thank you.
RYAN: If we're in the minority, we can't do a damn thing.
LEMON: Thank you very much for your candor. Tim Ryan, I hope everyone is listening to you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
RYAN: Thanks, Don. Thank you.
LEMON: We have an update for you tonight on a story of a true American hero. Capitol police Officer Crystal Griner threw out the first pitch tonight at the congressional women versus the media softball game.
There she is in a wheelchair looking great. Remember she was one of the two officers wounded when they ran to defend lawmakers under fire from a sniper during the practice for last week's game.
And you remember she is a woman of color who is married to a woman. An important fact to note during pride month. This is June, which is gay pride month. President Trump paying tribute tonight to all of the brave officers on the field that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our gratitude goes out tonight as well to the Capitol police officers who saved so many lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:30:06] LEMON: When we come back, more on our breaking news. House democrats calling for Jared Kushner's security clearance to be suspended. What it all means for the White House.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... to the Capitol police officers who saved so many lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: When we come back, more on our breaking news. House democrats calling for Jared Kushner's security clearance to be suspended. What it all means for the White House.
LEMON: Our breaking news tonight, top democrats asking why Jared Kushner still has his security clearance while his contacts with Russian officials are being investigated.
Congressman Elijah Cummings pressing the White House tonight on Kushner and Michael Flynn's security clearances.
I want to discuss this now with Ambassador James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA, and CNN's national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem. Good evening to both of you. Welcome to the program.
Juliette, you first. Let me get your reaction to Manu Raju's reporting. Does Representative Cummings have a point? Should Jared Kushner's security clearance be suspended?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Yes, he absolutely at this stage has a point. If you look at the various aspects of the investigation, and just the Mueller investigation but the House and Senate intelligence investigations, and now that Senate judiciary investigations, you've got a lot of data pointing to Jared Kushner, his failure to disclose information, his sort of amnesia about what he's doing with the Russians.
[22:35:08] Let alone, the fact that he also ran the data management side of the campaign, something that we know Mueller is looking at. It is a fair question to ask, and I will tell you anyone who wasn't the president's son-in-law would not have a security clearance at this stage.
LEMON: Ambassador, Kushner failed to report dozens of meetings with foreign leaders on his security clearance application, including foreign meetings with various Russians. Should he have access to the nation's biggest secrets until this investigation clears him?
JAMES WOOLSEY, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, I don't think you automatically pull someone's clearance. Presumably he was investigated thoroughly and carefully to get the clearance. But I don't think you pull it just because he hasn't fully filled out some forms.
I think you have to look into why. And if there appears to be some kind of pattern of attempting to limit the official people in the government's knowledge of what he was doing, it wasn't just a mess-up, then that could reasonably give rise to taking his clearance away and to process again.
LEMON: Well, this was -- but what I want to know, should it be suspended until they clear it up, or should he keep them until it's...
WOOLSEY: I think not automatically. You don't just kind of jerk people's clearances because they don't fully fill out one form or two forms or something like that. It's a serious matter, but you have to take it seriously and get into and investigate it if there's a suspicion that the person is hiding something. I don't see that yet in the Kushner case. It might be there.
LEMON: So what if he, what if they don't, as the ambassador says, Juliette they don't pull it? He says he doesn't think that -- he doesn't think it should be pulled.
LEMON: And then it turns out there is something there and he's had access to all of this information and all of these meetings in the interim. Then what happens? Because that's what happened to Flynn, right?
KAYYEM: That's why in normal circumstances the security clearance would be suspended until the questions about the omissions in the forms were resolved to the satisfaction of the classifying agency. That is normally how it works.
You're not -- you know, having a security clearance is not a right. It is a privilege of serving in government. And what we don't know at this stage is was he given the security clearance because of these omissions.
In other words, if he had put those meetings, the business meetings, the meetings with people who are known to be for agents of Russian intelligence, would he have gotten the security clearance?
So the normal process, especially at a level like that, would be until the questions are resolved, the security clearance is suspended, it's not taken away, and you let the person resolve them.
We're now in sort of a backwards view, which is, he has a right to the security clearance, and you have to show in a court of law or beyond a reasonable doubt that he has to be suspended. It's backwards.
LEMON: Ambassador, I know you want to jump in. Let me ask this question, and maybe you can answer that, you can respond to her. Because the then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was allowed to sit in on top-secret meetings given by CIA Director Mike Pompeo despite many warnings about him.
You were the CIA director. Could you imagine being in possession of that information and not informing the president, allowing Flynn to continue receiving those briefings?
WOOLSEY: I think informing the president is a very reasonable thing to do. You're in a meeting with him, the way they were running this every morning, you ask to stay a few minutes a couple of minutes after everybody else leaves and inform the president.
So it may be something that the facts give rise to an assumption that something is being hidden in which case pulling clearance would be, I think, a reasonable thing to do. But I don't think you do it automatically. I think it's something that has to get into. It's a trigger. But what happened was a trigger that should have led people to look into the issue and look into it carefully.
LEMON: Homeland security officials say the Russians tried to get into election-related computer systems in 21 states. They were scanning voter databases. WOOLSEY: Sure.
LEMON: I mean, what could they have been looking for?
WOOLSEY: They're looking to disrupt our elections. The Russians are never not interfering in other countries' elections. They have an operation called disinformatia, disinformation in which a major part of that is interfering with other countries' elections. They've been doing this for decades. They do it all the time. They never not doing it.
So what we have to do is not waste our time saying, were they really trying to do something? We need to figure out what has to be done to the voting machines, particularly getting away from ones that are only touch screen and don't have any kind of paper marked. We have to get away from those fast so that our next election is not so easily interfered with.
[22:40:01] LEMON: But in all honesty, Juliette, the only people who are saying, you know, the question were they really trying to do something and that's not important and what do we do to fix it's the president and the Trump administration.
KAYYEM: That's the problem. Is that unless you -- you know, we're still at the acceptance stage of grief with this White House, right? That they can't even acknowledge this happened. Everyone acknowledges that it happen.
States, secretaries, you know, states, secretaries of state in republican states acknowledged that this happened. The good news, though, if people worry that nothing is getting done, there is a national security apparatus that's focused on this.
There are, as Jim, as the ambassador was saying, there are mechanisms to try to actually go backwards on technology. In other words, we got so fancy with our touch screens and our all different ways of voting, we actually need to have paper trails.
KAYYEM: It's the only legitimate way to have it -- to have paper trails.
LEMON: We'll write back to the papers so you can count it and no one can, you know, no one can hack it.
KAYYEM: You bet you.
WOOLSEY: Absolutely right.
LEMON: I've got to run.
WOOLSEY: A quarter of the machines -- a quarter of the machines in the country do not have paper.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all.
LEMON: When we come back, the congressman who says we are at war with Syria. Is he right? Plus, police dash cam video showing Philando Castile shot dead. It's released. And we'll show you every angle we have so far so you can judge all of this for yourself.
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: With all the turmoil in Washington, a lot of people have lost sight of the escalating crisis in Syria and our involvement there. But listen to democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC SWALWELL, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: It looks like we are at war in Syria. But this would be a war without the authorization of Congress. And it's time that Congress votes on what is the timeline, what is the troop commitment, and what is the terrain that is covered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Excellent questions. Here to discuss, CNN military analyst major General James Spider Marks, and Colonel Cedric Leighton. Also with us, CNN counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd. Gentlemen, so good to have you on. General Marks, I'm going to start with you. Do you agree, are we getting closer and closer to open conflict with Syria?
JAMES SPIDER MARKS, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: Well, Don, good evening. I think what we're -- what we see in Syria is, has evolved over the course of time where we have the United States with coalition partners going after ISIS. What has happened is that has now crossed over in terms of these virtual lines between the war of the opposition against the Assad regime.
So you have kind of a dog's breakfast in Syria. And it's very, very -- without being flippant, it's very difficult to separate those two. So, no, the United States is not in any hurry to go against the Assad regime right now. We are supporting in a particular way, but our primary emphasis is to continue to reduce the caliphate that ISIS has created in Syria.
LEMON: Colonel Leighton, as you say, the president's lack of a coherent serious strategy is incredibly dangerous. Explain that.
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: Well, Don, it's dangerous because if you don't know where you're going to end up, it's really hard to even start on that journey. So I think what we're looking at is, you know, it's clear to me that the president wants to destroy ISIS.
On the other hand, he's also doing some things that go against the Assad regime. You know, I know we want to do a lot of different things in Syria, at least that's some of the messaging we get, but there's no coherent plan to take care of ISIS and then do Assad or the reverse. None of that has been articulated. None of that has been articulated publicly.
And it is certainly clear that if we got involved in something like this, it would be a very difficult thing for us to do and very difficult to extricate ourselves from it.
LEMON: Philip Mudd, a lot has happened this week. I want to read what's happening. Russia fighter jet flew erratically within five feet of a U.S. arcraft. The U.S. downed two Iranian-built drones over Syria. The U.S. military shot down a Syrian jet in just a couple of hours ago. A NATO F-16 fighter jet tried to approach the plane of Russian - of a Russian minister and was driven off in the Baltic Sea. Do you share the Congressman Swalwell's concerns?
PHILIP MUDD, COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, CNN: I think we need to be more careful about what he's talking about. This game is getting, in some ways, simpler, Don, and nobody wants to speak the truth. That is, the Assad regime has gained ground. The opposition that we support has little prospect of gaining ground. By gaining ground, I mean of taking power in Syria. Iranian-backed forces have gained ground.
Here's the bottom line. If we want to stay engaged in Syria, if we want to stay engaged in an operation that potentially that has lethal consequences in shooting down aircraft, we've got to face a tough reality. Assad is winning.
If you want to beat ISIS, you either accept the fact a bloody di dictator will win, and go talk to the Russians and say what do we do about Assad's victory, or you continue a civil war where the U.S.- backed forces are destined to lose. It's a difficult conversation that nobody in America wants to have.
LEMON: I find is interesting, General Marks, that you say that President Trump could actually spark a war. How?
MARKS: I think the challenge that we have right now is playing on what Phil indicated. Is that even the Obama administration, now the Trump administration, must acknowledge and in many cases did acknowledge, the Obama administration did acknowledge that keeping Assad in place was OK because we understood that Putin's relationship with Assad was not going to be broken.
However, I would suggest that Putin would shoot Assad in the face tomorrow if he understood that ultimately Russia would not lose its presence in the Mideast its presence in Tartus and the regime after Assad would be in some way favorable to Russian interests, and the United States would have to acknowledge that we're OK with Russian presence in the Mideast.
Look, the Russian were in the Mideast in a permanent way long before we were. So that's been accepted over the course of years. That outcome, I think, is acceptable and we need to embrace it as Phil indicated.
[22:50:02] LEMON: Yes. Much more to discuss. Stay with me, gentlemen. When we come back, the funeral of Otto Warmbier is tomorrow. Is his death a wake-up call for President Trump on North Korea?
LEMON: Right now I want to give you the first word on one of the compelling stories, and one that could have global national security ramifications. And I have to say it's a damn shame.
Twenty-two-year-old Otto Warmbier will be laid to rest tomorrow. He died after 17 months in North Korean prison. But the people who know and loved him would rather remember him, while they would rather remember him this way. Speaking at his high school graduation just four years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OTTO WARMBIER, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA STUDENT: This is our season finale. This is the end of one great show but just the beginning to hundreds of new spin offs. No matter where we go or what we do, though, we will always have this group here. Even when we pass the 2013 is a thing of the past. We'll have the
support of all the people around us. We'll have the knowledge we gained as a group and we'll have to meet free runs. The memories we've created to be played over and over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Phil, his funeral is scheduled for tomorrow. The president governs from his gut. Does this incident mean that the president will take a different approach to North Korea, you think?
MUDD: He better not. This is a lesson in leadership, it's not a lesson in a change in American strategic direction. By leadership I mean that American child is lost. A child of a family in America is gone.
The American president, whether it's a hurricane, whether it's a natural disaster or whether it's a national security tragedy like this one should lead the American people in mourning.
But the leadership question is American people want answers and the answer today is you a nuclear capable state that is developing ballistic missiles that could reach the American coast. Keep cool and carry on. Mourn with American but don't change direction based on the tragic loss of one life. You can't do that, Don.
LEMON: General Marks, just from reading what you had to say before doing this interview on television I think you believe the same thing. He's dealing with this on a personal and emotional level but he should remain strong.
MARKS: He needs to. This view that we've had of North Korea has been in place for over 60 plus years. If this was an easy solution that would have been -- it would have been enacted at some point in the past.
What we can do now as Phil has indicated is we want to mourn as a nation, the loss of this incredible young man at the hands of a pathetic regime must be acknowledged. But you have to lead very, very aggressively. So let's take the morning of Otto Warmbier and put it to the side. Let's focus on it for a second.
[22:54:58] But you still have a North Korean regime that is on a march to have the ability to launch a nuclear weapon that can hit the United States or you could have a launch over the South Korean, the southern part of the peninsula and have an electromagnetic pulse effect on South Korea that would blacken it, it would turn it into night.
That by itself must dictate our actions and we've got to cooperate with China and it gives us an opportunity to really redirect our energies to what is truly an existential threat that needs leadership. Very calm and focused, and very aggressive leadership.
LEMON: Colonel Leighton, I want to get your thoughts on this. Because remember when President Trump said that the images of the children coming out of Syria after that chemical attempt -- attack it prompted him to retaliate. Do you think that we'll see similar military action here? And if so, what are the options?
LEIGHTON: Well, I think the options, Don, are limited. I think that the president would love to do something that a response to his visceral hatred of the North Korean regime.
LEMON: Do you think we'll see it though? Will he do something?
LEIGHTON: I don't think he will. I think what will happen is he will be confined by the capabilities that are out there and by that I mean the American military capabilities. He's going to be briefed on those capabilities. They're retooling those plans that they've had in place for many, many years as General Marks alluded, and that those plans are going to be really be put to the test because the president is going to have to ask some tough questions.
But he's going to realize pretty soon that one of the key things is that they're going to be consequences to any actions that he takes. I think a lot of Americans would really like to go after the North Korean regime but it's going to be very difficult to advocate for regime change, for example, or to find some way to put it in a box and that's going to be a very, very hard thing for the president to learn.
LEMON: Last word here, Phil, because I think this whole thing is significantly dimmed any hopes of any diplomatic engagement with North Korea, right?
MUDD: I wouldn't rule that out. Look, every president has to face a simple question. That is, how do you protect the security of 320 million Americans?
As North Korea moves forward something's changing, Don, and that changes the capability to reach American shores, potentially with a nuclear weapon. Eventually, you've got to -- you've got to engage with the North Koreans to figure to do, what the answers to that and right now we don't have any answer.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
MARKS: And that eventually has a shorter and shorter time frame. That's the concern.
LEMON: I got to run. Thank you all. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)