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An Overflowing Anger; True Fighter Fighting for His Life. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired July 19, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Breaking news tonight on two huge stories.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
President Trump on fire about the Russia investigation unloads on his own Attorney General, the FBI director he fired, and the special counsel investigating it all. I want you to listen to what he tells the New York Times about Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions should have never recused himself and if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: He gave you no heads up at all?
TRUMP: Zero. So, Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said thanks, Jeff, but I can't -- you know, I'm not going to take you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: President also accuses FBI Director James Comey as using that dossier as leverage over him and issues a warning to the special counsel Robert Mueller about delving too far into his family's finances.
This comes as we're learning tonight dates are set next week for his son, Don Junior, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort to testify under oath in the Russia investigation.
Plus, this. Senator John McCain, patriot, presidential candidate, war hero facing another battle tonight, diagnosed with brain cancer. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has exclusive information on that tonight amid an outpouring of support for the senator. Let's get right now to that exclusive interview though, with President
Trump. Joining me now on the phone is New York Times White House correspondent, Maggie Hagerman. Maggie, you conducted that interview.
I mean, block buster is I think too small a word for this interview. The president blasting his Attorney General Jeff Sessions over Russia. Is Jeff -- is his position in jeopardy?
HABERMAN: I think that the president has been very upset with Jeff Sessions for quite some time. My colleague Peter Baker, he was one of the people who I conducted the interview with along with Michael Schmidt.
We had reported a few weeks ago that the president, you know, essentially had not stopped blaming Sessions. That he had been angry at him the whole time. I've heard some several sources that has remained true in recent weeks, that his frustration with Sessions and belief that he would not be in this situation had Sessions not recused himself over Russia is very real.
I think that he knows that he can't fire the attorney general. I think that he recognizes that is not where this is going. I do think his anger at him is sincere and genuine. I'm not saying it's necessary, you know, where it should be, but that is how he feels.
But if anything, I think he may be, and I am speculating here, trying to make it very hard for Jeff Sessions to remain on the job. Remember, Jeff Sessions offered to resign in a sort of halfhearted way several weeks ago.
You know, he has already -- he has already been uncomfortable and put into a bad position and I think you could see a scenario where the president, who doesn't like to fire anybody under the best of circumstances, but who certainly knows that it would be problematic right now to fire the attorney general in these investigations is creating a situation where it's untenable for Sessions to remain.
LEMON: Yes. It goes on to say, he says, if he would have recused himself before the job I would have said thanks, Jeff, but I'm not going to take you. It's extremely unfair, and that's a mild word, to the president.
So the question is here, is he trying to force Jeff Sessions hand. And you said maybe he is sending a message to Jeff Sessions. But no comment from Jeff Sessions tonight.
HABERMAN: I think Jeff Sessions is deciding what he can do. You know, I think that Jeff Sessions is not -- is not a bareknuckle fighter. I can see him leaving. I can also see him deciding to stay on.
HABERMAN: And believing that he is doing the right thing for the administration and the country by staying on.
LEMON: Hey, Maggie, can we go to some of this because I want to talk about Jeff Sessions, I want to talk about Comey, I want to talk about Rob Rosenstein, a bunch of things that he mentions here.
He also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony -- I'm reading from the New York Times -- his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said that he had not met with any Russians even though he had met with at least -- met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers the president said. He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple and then it goes on, it should have been simple answers but weren't.
And again, a spokesman for Jeff Sessions declined to comment. So he wasn't happy with that testimony.
HABERMAN: No. I mean, he was frustrated that look, to be fair to the president, there are a lot of people who said that they think Jeff Sessions had a pretty simple question of what were your contacts and he turned into a complicated comment by not being forthcoming.
[22:05:02] So, I think it's not surprising that the president is frustrated and upset by that moment. You know, I just think what's more remarkable is hearing him be so openly critical on the record and say that he was chosen.
LEMON: But isn't it interesting that everyone thought it was behind us because we asked if he had confidence in Jeff Sessions at the time during that, you know, questioning and when he had to recuse himself and he said yes. Everyone at the White House said yes. They called it fake news. But apparently, you know, even though it's been months ago, some time ago, that looks like it was not true.
HABERMAN: I don't actually remember them saying yes, forgive me if I'm misremembering but my memory of those responses was that they didn't respond. I think Sean Spicer was asked repeatedly whether the president had confidence with Jeff Sessions and he declined to answer the question. So, I don't think this is a departure. I think that he's pretty (Inaudible).
LEMON: Let's talk about Comey now because he made some explosive charge against the former FBI Director James Comey accusing him of using that dossier containing some of those salacious details. To show the president has something on him he says. Is the president now saying that the then-FBI director essentially threatened him with that dossier?
HABERMAN: I think threatened is not the right word, but I think certainly was trying to, you know, use what he had for maximum position and to retain his job seemed to be what the president was saying.
LEMON: To retain his job.
HABERMAN: Yes. He wanted to keep his job but he was -- they're telling the president, you know, what he had in his possession.
LEMON: That it was leverage over him. He was trying to use that as leverage. Let me see the quotes in the interview. "Mr. Trump said he believed that Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. In my opinion he share today so that I will think that it had -- that he had it out there."
Mr. Trump said as leverage. Yes. I think so, Mr. Trump said in retrospect, he thinks it was leverage.
Maggie, the president took on the special counsel Robert Mueller as well accusing him of running an investigation full of conflicts of interest and warning him about digging into his money.
And I want to quote here, all right, because this is from your article. He said, "I asked if Mr. Mueller's investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look into -- to look at his family finances beyond any relationship to Russia. Mr. Trump said, I would say yes, he would not say what he would do about it, but I think that's a violation. Look, this is about Russia."
So is he making the case here to fire -- the possibility of firing Robert Mueller?
HABERMAN: It's a great question, Don, and we tried pressing him repeatedly about where he is on this and then what he will be willing to do, both Mike Schmidt and I did. You know, he wouldn't go there. And I think he was very consciously not going there.
What I think he's doing is something that you I have both seen him do repeatedly over many years which is keep his options open. He very rarely rules something out. He doesn't always rule something in. I think that he likes having the option open of potentially firing Mueller regardless of how dangerous the proposition he may know that is.
LEMON: OK. So he's unhappy with Mueller. He's unhappy with Comey. He's unhappy with Sessions. He's unhappy with Rod Rosenstein, which he mentioned in the article. He's also unhappy who with a former federal prosecutor. He said he's from Baltimore. He was upset that Rod Rosenstein was from Baltimore and he didn't know that. Why was that upsetting to him? Because it was a democratic city?
HABERMAN: Yes. I don't think that it was so much that he was from Baltimore per se. I think it's just that he questioned the political leanings not overtly of Rod Rosenstein. The president tends to sort of boil things down to politics and people choosing a side.
LEMON: Yes. Let me read it here. It says, "The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod, J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. There are very few republicans in Baltimore, if any, he said, of the predominantly democratic city."
Is this a strange thing, it sounds like a strange thing for someone to say.
HABERMAN: It is. It's how he views it. Like, I can't explain it.
LEMON: OK. And then the reason I say that, because Andrew McCabe who is the acting director of the FBI, is mentioned as well, so he suggested that he too had a conflict. Mr. McCabe's a wife, Joe McCabe received nearly $500,000 in 2015 during a losing campaign for the Virginia State Senate.
And then he goes on to talk about that and Governor Terry McAuliffe is a close friend of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and on and on. So, who is he happy with? Anyone who is close to the investigation and people he appointed and people he hired, he's not happy with them already and it's just six months in.
HABERMAN: I think that -- look, I mean, as I said, I think for him in his mind, you know, Jeff Sessions recusal was sort of an original.
[22:09:59] Jeff Sessions botching that testimony was an original sin. He was very frustrated that week.
Remember, I mean, there was a whole -- what set off that whole chain of events where he was tweeting about his phone being tapped by President Obama was that a day earlier he had vented in frustration that Jeff Sessions had recused himself without telling him.
He's been very, very angry about this for quite some time. So, you know, having covered this and written about it before, it is not a surprise to me that he feels this way. Because all of this comes days after one thing in his mind. It was just surprising to me that he said it as forcefully as he did and probably (Inaudible).
LEMON: Hey, as usual Maggie Haberman, great reporting. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
HABERMAN: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: All right. Absolutely.
Now I want to bring in CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Where do we start here? I mean, we were supposed to talk about -- I thought the big day was about healthcare and that the president was filing, he's going to get something done. Also made in America, here he is again stepping on his own message. I'm not sure why he gave this interview, but it is quite an interesting interview, Gloria.
What do you think of this? The most fascinating thing to me is the Department of Justice has somehow now become political. How is that...
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, you know, first of all, let's talk about Jeff Sessions as you were talking about with Maggie. I think it's very hard for him to continue on his job. I don't know how he does it.
He's supposed to have a press conference tomorrow on another subject. I'm just kind of wondering what's going to happen at that. You have a president who is not only expressed no confidence, but he's expressed anger in his -- you know, in his attorney general.
This man, by the way, was the first person to endorse...
LEMON: First senator.
BORGER: ... Donald Trump in the Senate. Was there from day one. Was a close adviser and very important to him. And the loyalty has gone out the window because Jeff Sessions felt after he miscommunicated, if you want to call it that, in his, in testimony before the Senate about meetings with Russians that after that he had to recuse himself.
And this just gives you an eye opening look into how Donald Trump regards all the people who work for him. Forget about Comey whom he fired. But Sessions and Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe, they work for him in his mind and not for the American people.
Because the grievances that he stated against, all of them in particular Jeff Sessions was how could he do this to me. It's not fair to the president. When actually the right thing to do for the American people was to recuse himself.
But he blames Sessions for the eventual -- all of the things that eventually led to the appointment of the special counsel Mueller whom he also believes is conflicted and in some, you know, in some way because people who work for him have given contributions to democrats over the years that they're out to get him.
LEMON: Jeff Zeleny, I'm just going to read a little bit and I've got a question for you. "While the interview" -- this is from the New York Times, "while the interview touched on an array of issues including healthcare, foreign affairs and politics, investigation dominated the conversation. He said as far as he knew he was not under investigation himself despite reports that Mr. Mueller is looking into whether the president obstructed justice by firing Comey."
I don't think we're under investigation, he said. I'm not under investigation. For what? I didn't do anything."
So he insisted, you know, to the Times that he is not under investigation but he and others in his administration and his family have hired lawyers as part of this investigation. So what do they really think at the White House? Do they think they're not under investigation and they're hiring lawyers just for the fun of it?
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, you clearly know what is on top of the president's mind. I mean, this has been something that he has repeated again and again in virtually every one of the rare interviews he gives it seems it does come back around to whether he is or is not under investigation.
That has been a particular question he's addressed many times. The interview he did a few months back with Lester Holt of NBC News wanted to make clear that he was not under investigation. But of course, people have hired lawyers here. His son-in-law has. His son has. His former campaign chairman has.
LEMON: His own lawyer has.
ZELENY: He has. I mean, the reality is, you know, this is a -- you know, as much as -- he hasn't called it a hoax recently. But we obviously thinks he still thinks that.
But look, Don, the reality is there are a lot of inquiries going on in this town at this time. There's a special counsel who is looking into this. Robert Mueller, obviously. There's the House inquiry, the Senate inquiry. We're going to start to see next week potentially Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair and the president's oldest son, Donald Trump, Jr. have been invited to testify before the Senate judiciary committee by republican Chairman Chuck Grassley.
[22:15:07] So we'll see if they accept that invitation. If they don't, you can always subpoena them.
LEMON: Hey, Jeff.
ZELENY: And on Monday, Jared Kushner speaking to the Senate intelligence committee behind closed doors. So yes, they've hired lawyers because this investigation is really at pretty full speed, Don.
LEMON: Just real quickly before I get to Laura.
LEMON: Do you think that part of giving the reason for giving this interview is because of those, because they're going to be testifying or they're going to be in front of the...
ZELENY: It's a great question. I'm not sure why he gave this interview on a day when he was supposed to be turning the page to focus on healthcare.
ZELENY: Republican senators sat with him at lunch today and asked him to become more active in selling the idea of the healthcare bill. Not the specifics. But to try and get red state America, Trump America, if you will, more on board with this. And then he gives this interview and completely changes the subject once again.
I'm not sure if it's to sort of get ahead of that. I don't think so because the interview that Maggie and Peter Baker, and Michael Schmidt did at the New York Times it was earlier today before those invitations went out to appear next week.
LEMON: Yes. ZELENY: So, I don't really know why he did it. Certainly very interesting.
LEMON: I just kept -- I was reading it going is he -- did he realize that this was being recorded? It's fascinating to me. So, Laura, being the legal expert that you are, if you were Jeff Sessions, what would you be thinking? How could you continue on?
LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: I mean, the attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president. And I'm no longer pleasing you, sir, so obviously you have that conflict.
But you also have a man who's pretty ambitious and that's Jeff Sessions who knows that the Department of Justice figure head role is far more expansive than simply the Russian investigation and the Russian probe.
But what imagine what he's actually asking. he is the President of the United States is saying had I known that the attorney general of the United States was not going to be a marionette of the president, I would have found a different puppet.
Imagine what that would feel like to the morale of the Department of Justice if he in fact was somebody the president considered to be a marionette. In a twisted way, Jeff Sessions it almost betrays his own credibility by being somebody who's at odds with the President of the United States over the Russian probe.
He followed the advice of his counsel, the ethics advisers to say I should not be a part of this. And frankly, he has followed suit with that to a certain degree. Except for the firing of Comey. He did reinsert himself in there. But imagine even that did not please and appease the President of the United States.
LEMON: But isn't he saying that about the -- he's saying that about everyone. He's saying that about the acting head of the FBI, the former, he's saying it about Mueller, he's saying about everyone. Everyone who's investigating him.
LEMON: Or who does not fall in line and praise him. He's saying there's something intention -- nefarious intention there.
COATES: This is the definition of scapegoat. I mean, even Baltimore, the city itself is now being scapegoated as a reason for why this president is paranoid to the degree that he is.
LEMON: That's a very good word. It's...
COATES: It paranoia.
LEMON: It reach the paranoia.
COATES: It reach the paranoia. And the reason it's so profound in this case, is because you have somebody who on the one hand is saying, the president is saying, I'd like to -- you know, this may have been an issue. I'm not saying who was the actual culprit. It should be investigated. I'm talking about Hillary Clinton as being a villain in many respects. But anyone who tries to vilify me simply must be against me and contrary to patriotism. Very bizarre.
LEMON: Gloria Borger, so can you imagine tonight, you know, none of the representatives are on, but I'm sure the morning shows, make sure you tune in to New Day tomorrow, by the way.
BORGER: We do.
LEMON: Because they are going to have to explain -- they're going to have to explain what the president meant by this interview and somehow call it, this is the president somehow didn't say what he said and it's fake and it's not real and the media is out to get him for putting his own words back in front of him. What must his advisers be thinking tonight?
BORGER: Well, look, I can't imagine they're happy. I mean, don't forget, as you were mentioning earlier, the president today gave before his meeting with republicans, before his lunch, if you go back and you listen to that, he had a lot of talking points in front of him that were supplied by his staff who finally got him to talk about healthcare reform and why their version of healthcare reform, how that would help the American people.
They have not had a message about that previously. They have been trying to get this to come out of the president's mouth to talk about this. And he gave a very cogent sort of defense of their healthcare proposal.
Then you fast forward or backward, I don't know when this interview actually took place, to you know, to the interview that he gave to the New York Times. And it is full of grievances. It is dominated by Russia, although they went out of their way to say yes, they did -- they did hit an array of issues. But there is no unspooling this.
[22:19:57] I mean, the president said what he said. And it is very clear to me that he has no confidence in his own attorney general, that he's angry at his attorney general, and I think it's very difficult to see how those two operate in the future.
And I wonder what Jeff Sessions is thinking of doing tonight? Because I don't think he has a lot of great choices in front of him. Because what the president said to him is you could have avoided all of this for me.
Now, if Jeff Sessions wants to get up and answer a journalist's question who's clearly going to ask about this and say on my own man I have to do what's good for the country, good for him.
BORGER: But, you know, you have to wonder...
(CROSSTALK) ZELENY: Hey, Don, I think one other thing, Don, to add to what Gloria
was saying, today at the White House was all about trying to get republican senators back on board.
ZELENY: Republican senators like Jeff Sessions. He's one of them. So I think it's ending in an extraordinary way. As Gloria was saying, he has now certainly aggravated, you know, republican senators he was trying to sort of appease and win over on healthcare by saying this about Jeff Sessions.
ZELENY: So it's a very sort of odd set of events here.
ZELENY: But in many ways I think it could strengthen the attorney general as Laura was saying earlier. I mean, it certainly shows that he is his own man in this respect here. But tomorrow will be a fascinating day when Jeff Sessions reports to work.
BORGER: And by the way...
COATES: Remember Robert Mueller...
COATES: ... Robert Mueller can't just be fired willy-nilly by the President of the United States. Rod Rosenstein is the one who holds the power in that. And by the way, if Rosenstein tries to do so, the special counsel has protections with Congress.
He has to actually do it for actual reason. He can't have a willy- nilly reason and Congress can hold a full hearing to figure out whether or not the reason was in fact sound. It can't be as the president tries to just air a grievance and suddenly the strings are cut.
LEMON: Way to alienate all the people around you. You could either help or hurt. Thank you very much. Gloria, stick around. When we come right back, an American's hero's latest battle. John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer. And that news has shocked many of the people closest to him and knows who only know him from afar.
We are going to have the latest from our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta who spoke directly with the senator's doctors.
LEMON: We have more breaking news and I really hate to report this one. Americans may be divided over the Russia investigation and the healthcare battle. [22:25:05] But tonight Washington and the country united in prayers
and well-wishers for Senator John McCain. That true American hero diagnosed with brain cancer.
President Trump in a statement tonight saying "Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator John McCain, Cindy and their entire family. Get well soon."
Let's discuss now. Joining me now is CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta who spoke exclusively with Senator McCain's doctors. Gloria Borger joins me as well.
Sanjay, this really awful sad story about John McCain tonight. Tell us what you know.
SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, you know, you remember he had this operation on Friday, Don. He was having a blood clot removed from above his left eye. We found out subsequent to that that blood clot was within his brain and they actually removed a portion of the bone there to get to the brain.
We just found out just over the past few hours now that that blood clot was caused by a tumor. A type of brain tumor known as glioblastoma. Some people may know that term but that is an aggressive cancer. They bring to me that it is an aggressive cancer.
He is hearing this news now. I talked to the doctors. They said that he did very well from the operation. They feel like they removed all of the tumor. He was sent home the next day. Has been recovering at home.
But with this particular type of tumor, it almost always requires follow-up treatment. And that's the discussion that Senator McCain and his family are having right now with his doctors. But I think you put it well, Don. I mean, everyone is thinking about him, rooting for him. I think they're thinking right now the best course of action going forward.
LEMON: I know that you're want his doctor, but when something like this happens, what's -- what is the usual prognosis?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it's tough. It's an aggressive brain cancer. I mean, if you look at numbers alone, average survival is around 14 months. This is the same type of tumor that Senator Ted Kennedy had. This is the same type of tumor that Beau Biden had. You may remember, Don.
But there are people who with treatment do survive longer. About 10 percent of people will survive five years or longer, you know. So it's very tough to put numbers on this sort of thing. But that's the data that you'll read if you look at the current literature around glioblastoma.
LEMON: We talked about this earlier in the week, Sanjay, but friends just recently became concerned after Senator McCain's recent questioning of former FBI Director James Comey. Let's listen to that moment and we'll have another conversation about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: In the case of Mr. Comey, you -- president Comey.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: No, sir.
MCCAIN: In the case of President Trump, you have an ongoing investigation. You're going to have to help me out here. In other words, we're complete, the investigation of anything that former Secretary Clinton had to do the campaign is over and we don't have to worry about it anymore?
COMEY: With respect to -- I'm a little confused, Senator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Sanjay, when we discussed it at the time we didn't know what we know now. You didn't know what you know now. And I ask if he was relating, you said, well, you know, maybe. Because he said it was a baseball game, he stayed up late watching a baseball game, remember. Do you think it was related to the tumor now knowing what you know?
GUPTA: Well, you know, I asked his doctors again today, the doctors who cared for Senator McCain and they sort of say the same thing. It's possible that this tumor and the blood clot could be related.
The reason they hesitate, the reason I hesitated when you asked me earlier in the week is because this portion, this part of the brain is not really responsible for speech or your ability to remember.
What Senator McCain was really complaining about to his doctors when he showed up on Friday it was about a routine exam. But when asked, he said look, I've been feeling tired for the past few months really.
So, this blood collection, according to the surgeons, really had probably been there for about a week and that clip you just showed was earlier than a week ago. All that to say it's possible. It's possible that maybe a headache or something like that or it's just possible as his doctors said it could just be the fatigue that was compounded by the fact that he stayed up all night.
Regardless, that clearly now we know what was happening, what caused that bleeding inside his brain. That much is clear for sure now, Don.
LEMON: All right. Sanjay, stand by. I want to bring Gloria back in. Gloria, there has been a tremendous really outpouring of affection and prayers for the senator.
LEMON: And a very moving letter from his daughter Megan. And I just want to read part of that letter. It said, "It won't surprise you to learn that in all this, the one --
the one of us who is the most confident and calm is my father. He is the toughest person I know. The cruelest enemy could not break him. The aggressions of the political life could not bend him. So he is meeting this challenge as he has every other cancer may afflict him in many ways but it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has."
[22:30:07] It's so emotional, Gloria. A lot of people are very upset by this tonight.
BORGER: Yes, and I think that's beautifully written and beautifully stated. There was a tweet tonight from of all people Congressman Steve Scalise, Don, who as we all recall was shot just a month ago and he said, "Praying for my friend, John McCain. One of the toughest people I know."
You know, the outpouring has been quite honestly as you would expect. This is a man who is a lion of the Senate, who ran for the presidency twice, who has been known to work across party lines. He's angered people in his own party. He's angered people of the other party.
And I can say as a journalist, he's one of the people I've had the most fun and learned the most from covering. He calls us those jerks, right? But he has -- there's a joy for him in his career and in his political life.
And Dana Bash and I earlier this evening were talking to people who worked for him and worked with him. And they say that he's been on the phone talking about what are we going to do about healthcare, what are we going to do next, how are we going to handle this or that.
And just don't forget that over the July Fourth break he was in Afghanistan.
BORGER: And that was the tenth time he's been there since 9/11.
BORGER: So, you know, this is a man who is not going to just sort of throw in the towel and say OK, fine.
BORGER: He's going to -- he's going to fight it.
LEMON: And you know, he's served his country in so many ways. He was a prisoner of war, right? And we...
LEMON: You know, we sometimes throw the term hero around, but this is a person who is really a true American hero and we wish him the best.
BORGER: Absolutely. LEMON: Sanjay, Gloria, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Thank you.
LEMON: Former President Obama tweeting tonight about his 2008 presidential campaign opponent, quote, "John McCain is an American hero and one of the bravest fighters I've ever known. Cancer doesn't know what it's up against. Give it hell, John."
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news. President Trump lashing out at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former FBI Director James Comey, special counsel Robert Mueller, and others.
Here to discuss, Bill Kristol, editor-at-large at the Weekly Standard, CNN political commentator, Steve Israel, a former democratic congressman from New York, and political commentator Alice Stewart, a republican strategist.
So, let's start. It's a blockbuster story. No one is spared. Sessions isn't spared. Comey isn't spared. Mueller isn't spared. Rod Rosenstein isn't spared. What's going on here? What did you think of this interview?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Donald Trump is obsessed with this investigation and when he always come and he very much resented the fact as he says that Attorney General Sessions recused himself, though he was just doing what the ethics counsel of justice advised him to do.
Think about this for a minute. Everyone thinks that while he is so psychologically real guy. Why is Donald Trump so worried about this investigation? I always come back to that. He's worried about this investigation because he's worried about what they can find. He's not irrationally worried about this investigation.
He knows there are real problems I believe in his campaign's conduct with respect to Russia, perhaps his own dealings with Russia, his family dealings with Russia. Other financial dealings. You saw the way he bristled in the interview apparently when Maggie Haberman and the other New York Times reporter...
LEMON: (Inaudible) reports...
KRISTOL: He said you better not look at the financial stuff. You know what? If you lived a straightforward life and you don't have much to hide, you can't say, oh, my God, no one can look at the financial stuff, right?
LEMON: Here's what's perplexing to me, Alice, is that so many people in this country, millions upon millions of people, all Americans are affected by healthcare, right. That was the big story of the day. The person affected most by this investigation is Donald Trump. Why is he focusing on the thing that affects him rather than the thing that affects the people he is supposed to be serving?
ALICE STEWART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Because in his mind everything is about him. And the reality is, look, you can sit there and criticize the media and those for talking about Russia, Russia, Russia, but the best was to get them to stop talking about it is to stop talking about it yourself.
And give an interview to the New York Times about healthcare and what you're going to do to repeal and place Obamacare and bring the members of the Senate together.
And look, this is his M.O. when someone stands up to him he publicly criticizes them and shames them and hopefully into submission. And he did the same thing to Hillary this afternoon.
Look, you go back four months ago when Sessions recused himself in this case, he had no choice. It's improper for him to be investigating a campaign that he was part of. And the optics moving forward for him to be investigating a campaign he was part of would have been much worse than him recusing.
So unfortunately, I think the president needs to get in his head the Russia investigation has nothing to do with his winning the presidency. He won fair and square. Let's move forward. And if there's nothing to hide, don't shy away from anyone that's shining a light on it.
LEMON: Steve, so much blaming going on. Sessions should never have recused himself. Comey's testimony is, quote, "loaded up with lies." Mueller has tons of conflicts of interest. Why is it everyone else's fault? I mean, the president and this administration, have they not made some critical mistakes here that they can't -- they're not accepting responsibility for?
STEVE ISRAEL, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I mean, that is the M.O. of this administration. When something goes wrong, it's fake news. When there's an investigation, there shouldn't have been. The attorney general should have recused.
I was on the Hill all day today talking to my former colleagues. And this kind of stuff drives them crazy. Just a few hours ago the republican House members were saying well, the president is going to -- there's going to be a meeting tonight of senators, the president is going to be on message, we're going to get repeal and replace or repeal and delay. Whatever it is, we're going to get it behind us.
And then a few hours later they're talking about anything -- everything but healthcare. And the final point I would make, Don, is this...
LEMON: Well, before you -- before your final point, he's supposed to be today wasn't it kumbaya, sort of I'm going to win these guys over and get the healthcare bill through? Wasn't that what it's supposed to be?
[22:40:02] ISRAEL: Yes, it was.
LEMON: That's not doing this. This is alienating them, isn't it?
ISRAEL: Well, first of all, today, you know, he basically threatened Senator Heller from Nevada. That's not a way of winning people over. And then he goes off message on this.
ISRAEL: Fundamentally, this is an administration that wants to keep moving beyond the Russia story and it is the president who continues to blow oxygen into the Russia story to create a new cycle.
LEMON: Make your third point real quick and I want to play that part with Heller. Do you remember what your third point was?
ISRAEL: No, no. The point was that the White House says we have to get beyond the Russia story and the president keeps writing the narrative.
LEMON: Yes. This is the moment that you're talking about. President Trump is speaking to Senator Dean Heller, about Senator Dean Heller who had been against the healthcare bill. Senator Heller is seated next to him. I just want to set this up so you know. Next to the president on the left of your screen. So watch his reaction as the president goes on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other night I was very surprised when I heard a couple of my friends, my friends, they really were and are, they might not be very much longer, but that's OK.
I think, I have to get them back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: he's looking this way.
TRUMP: That's right. I refuse -- well, no, you didn't go out there. This was the one we were worried about. You weren't there. But you're going to be. You're going to be.
Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they're going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTOL: Look, Donald Trump is a vindictive narcissistic bully in my opinion and you see that behavior there with Senator Heller.
LEMON: You don't think it was a light...
KRISTOL: It was semi-light but the lightness was nasty. Listen, I wish that Heller is almost said, you know what, I won my state, you didn't win my state. And I work for the people of my state. And you can forget it, you know, I'll make my decision based on this.
I come back to the Russia thing. The truth is Trump does not go after everyone the way he's obsessed with Russia, the way he went after Sessions today. Trump doesn't -- I think he's unhappy with various of his cabinet appointments and all the stuff. You get leaks that he doesn't like this or that. Reince Priebus is in trouble.
The degree of his sensitivity on Russia is unique. And I come back to asking why is that? Why is that?
LEMON: Yes. Alice -- that is a good question. Why is that, Alice?
STEWART: Well, clearly he has it in his head that the only reason people are bringing up the Russia investigation is because their influence and interruption in the campaign affected the outcome of the election and he isn't the President of the United States.
LEMON: But Alice, he doesn't...
KRISTOL: Alice, maybe he also has in his head that he did things wrong, that his campaign did things wrong with respect to Russia, that there's fire beneath that smoke.
LEMON: But for -- but for -- as a journalist, it doesn't have anything to do with his son meeting with a Russian lawyer, with his -- Michael Flynn having to resign, with his attorney general having to recuse himself, and on and on and on.
Doesn't have anything to do with that? It's just that he thinks that it sort of undermines his credibility as president to say that thinking that he didn't win fair and square?
STEWART: I think it's both. Clearly is both. But the only thing that he will continue to say publicly is that it undermines his victory. But clearly there's a lot of smoke here and right now it's turning into fire. The more he continues to point the fingers and try and intimidate those that are trying to investigate this, the optics are really bad.
LEMON: Steve, the president dismissed questions about his second undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin saying it was only 15 minutes, it contradicts witnesses there, and what White House sources told our Jeff Zeleny, which is that, it was an hour long meeting. Why will the president say something that could so easily be proven false? ISRAEL: Well, because this president is used to saying things that
can be proven false. The facts and truth don't necessarily get in the way of this president. That is how he operates and that is a fundamental part of the problem.
You know, when you're in politics, and you know that something you say can be disproven, don't say it. He hasn't learned that lesson yet.
LEMON: Thank you all. When we come back, President Trump seems to be picking a fight with his own attorney general tonight, not to mention taking pot shot at his former FBI director and special counsel. All this, as he marks his first six months in office.
[022:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: This week President Trump marks his first six months in office and tonight like many nights of breaking news is on Russia and the investigation into this administration. It is a story that has had tremendous impact on his domestic and foreign policy agenda and there is no end in sight.
Here to discuss, New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, and Ambassador James Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. So much to talk about, gentlemen.
Nick, really this interview I think from the New York Times to me is just jaw dropping. Saying that he would never have appointed, the president saying he would never have appointed Jeff Sessions if he had known he was going to recuse himself.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I thought the Sessions stuff was remarkable. I must say to me was the really big take away was reserving the right to fire Bob Mueller as special counsel. I mean, that would be even more of a national trauma than firing Jim Comey.
It would be -- there would be nothing since the Saturday night massacre of the firing of Archibald Cox. It would be an extraordinary when Bob Mueller has impaneled an enormous number of people who seem to be making a really serious investigation.
LEMON: He seems to think that Mueller is somehow compromise or?
KRISTOF: Or maybe making too much headway. He particularly mentioned the financeas as a potential red line, that he didn't want Bob Mueller going into his finances. And I -- I mean, at a time when there are such serious national questions about ties with Russia, then to even talk about potentially firing him just left me kind of aghast.
LEMON: Yes. Ambassador Woolsey, just before we go and I want to skips some specifics into this interview. What do you think of this interview tonight? I mean, it is quite stunning as to what he is saying and suggesting about some of these people.
[22:50:05] JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Yes. It almost as if there's nobody at the top levels of justice in the FBI and throw in Baltimore for good measure that he's not worried about or opposed to.
It was really kind of an across the board blast at pretty much everybody in this part of government and it did not help him at all in trying to of course, pull the healthcare plan together and it's certainly isn't helping him get people thinking that they understand and appreciate his point of view with respect to Russia or anything else. It's really a very negative effect and very bad decision to go this way.
LEMON: What's interesting to me, Nick, is that he's -- it appears that he's intentionally undermining institutions that Americans have, you know, had confidence in because he's undermining, you know, the Justice Department and obviously, the FBI all of that. But he's undermining all of these institutions. He tries to undermine the media as well.
And it seems like a deliberate campaign especially if you look at because everyone he goes down the line in this interview. And one of those he talks about James Comey, right? He accused the FBI Director James Comey of trying to leverage that dossier and trying to keep his job, that, you know, sort of salacious dossier that came out.
In my opinion, he shared it so I would think he had it out there, Mr. Trump said, as leverage. Mr. Trump said as leverage? Yes, I think so, Mr. Trump said in retrospect.
I mean, you're reaction to claim that the former director, Comey, actually testified the exact opposite of that.
KRISTOF: I think your point about institutions is really important. Because I think that fundamentally what distinguishes President Trump from other presidents is a systematic assault on institutions since he took office. Since before then and obviously the media is one example of that, but judges and law are another example, the intelligence community.
And I think that there is an abroad sense, a battle between these classic American institutions which are mounting these investigations, which are indeed pursuing him and President Trump. And I must say that I am more confident now than I was January 20th that these institutions really do remain strong and that in the long run they will write President Trump's obituary, rather than the other way around.
LEMON: I was looking for the part -- here it is. Where it talks about the array of issues that they covered but he kept going back to the fact that he wasn't under investigation. He says "I'm not investigation. For what? I didn't do anything."
But there a lot of people at the White House, and him, he's hired outside counsel. A lot of folks at the White House even his own personal attorney has hired an attorney. But he keeps going back to the fact that I'm not under investigation, my family is not on investigation. Not that I know of, I didn't do anything wrong. Then.
KRISTOF: Defensive a little bit yet. I mean, look, he's clearly under investigation. There's an investigation that seems to involve him about Russia and there is one about obstruction of justice and we don't know the details at this point.
But you know, there are really serious questions and what we know in the public arena does not explain our policy to Russia. Even the latest meeting between Trump and Putin, even if it was as simple as the White House says, simply going over and having this conversation, you know, why with Putin rather than with Angela Merkel? That was maybe the most important leader in Europe.
Why not with Prime Minister May, our traditional ally? There is so much going on between this White House and Russia that can't be explained except in the context of some other piece which we still don't fully understand.
LEMON: The people you mentioned would not need interpreters because they speak English, right?
KRISTOF: That's something too.
LEMON: There you go.
LEMON: Ambassador Woolsey, is he under investigation?
WOOLSEY: I don't know. But I would assume that at least there are counterintelligence investigations looking at Russia and when those are the basis of a legal investigation you don't have the same kind of approach toward anything that you do when there's a criminal investigation...
LEMON: Do you think that considering the news now about Donald Trump, Jr. Would you say Donald Trump, Jr. is under investigation? Because Donald Trump, Jr. certainly he's a member of the family. He has the same name as the president.
WOOLSEY: I think unless you have evidence of a crime, if the investigation is focused on the counterintelligence issues, it is not what most people mean when they talk about under investigation. It's not as if he's a target or a subject of investigation. He has come up perhaps in the discussions about counterintelligence...
LEMON: Comey has said they're looking into collusion, ambassador.
[22:55:05] WOOLSEY: Well, collusion is an interesting word but in and of itself it's not a crime. The interesting thing here, the thing to focus on is, is there a real crime that has occurred and is there an investigation, a criminal investigation of that sort of behavior? So far I haven't seen that although I've seen a lot of what I would regard as not good judgment on the White House's story...
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: I understand what you're saying. Nothing has been proved or
disproved. I get what you're seeing but you have to investigate it in order to figure that out. Correct?
WOOLSEY: You -- if you're conducting an investigation of counterintelligence and what the Russians are doing, you don't have to charge anybody. It is, that's what you would do if you had an evidence of a crime. But it's not a crime to talk to somebody. It may be unwise, very unwise to talk to a Russian and then not go talk to the FBI or not follow up on the procedures of filing what you're supposed to file. But in a number of circumstances here, it's not a crime but it may be unwise. Those are two different things.
KRISTOF: I think we also need look beyond Don Trump, Jr. to Jared Kushner. Donald Trump, Jr. is interesting because the family. But this isn't a soap opera. This is about power and American politics and Jared Kushner is -- I mean, he has power and we know that he attended this meeting. His stated purpose was to collude with Russia.
LEMON: I don't want to -- I don't want to take up all of our time. I know that you want to say something about Senator John McCain.
KRISTOF: In many ways he's, you know, if you will, the un-Trump and in many ways an un-politician. I must say that you know, you and I and we've seen so many politicians in politics it's often a courage free zone and John McCain exhibited that courage maybe even more than those six years he was in Vietnam sometimes in politics in the most extraordinary ways.
In 2007, 2008 when he was seeking the republican nomination for president and every republican primary voter wanted a tougher stance on Guantanamo on torture and to have John McCain speak up on take on Dick Cheney on behalf of those prisoners in Guantanamo...
KRISTOF: ... was extraordinary. It was courage.
LEMON: The courage of his convictions. What do you want to say about him, ambassador?
WOOLSEY: He worked for Graham Claytor and me when we were secretary and undersecretary in the navy in the late '70s in the Carter administration and he also -- I was on the bus with him and awake very early up in New Hampshire. And he's a remarkable American politician. We all have flaws and John does too. But he's a brave man. He's a good man and he's the sort of person that I'm proud to have as a U.S. senator. I wish we had more like him.
LEMON: And we wish you the very best. Thank you, gentleman. We'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)