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Shakeup in the White House; Caught Through Intercepts; Let Trump be Trump; Another Leak About Jeff Sessions. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 21, 2017 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Breaking news tonight, on the Russia investigation.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

The Russian ambassador reportedly told his superiors in Moscow he discussed campaign-related matters with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign. That is according to the Washington post reporting on intercepts by U.S. spy agencies.

Sessions has repeatedly said he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials. And this is not the first time information has come to contradict -- come out to contradict his statements about Russia.

Plus, a stunning White House shakeup today to tell you about. Embattled Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigning after Anthony Scaramucci, a Trump fundraiser with no communications experience is named communications director.

Let's get right to all of this. CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein is here, justice correspondent Evan Perez, CNN contributor John Dean, the author of "Conservatives Without Conscience," and intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer, the author of "The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins."

Good evening to all of you. Evan, I'm going to begin with you with this breaking news. Another blockbuster report tonight from the Washington Post. They are reporting that Attorney General Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matter with Russian ambassador U.S. intelligence intercept show.

So let me read the intercept, an excerpt from this article, OK? It says "Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race. Contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general according to current and former U.S. officials."

What does this mean for the attorney general? Can he stay in his job?

EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, you know, Don, I think when you have an attorney general with the word 'embattled' in front of his name, it's always a bad sign. And I think that's what we have here. The attorney general, I think, is already, frankly, on thin ice. An dwe don't know how much longer he can last, given the fact that the

president just this week told the New York Times that if he had to do it over again, he wouldn't have hired Jeff Sessions as his attorney general because he didn't, you know -- not knowing that he was going to recuse himself from this Russia investigation.

So this is a very crucial moment. If Jeff Sessions is going to stay in office, he's going to have to come out and explain this to members of Congress who are asking about it, Don. And I think, we hope, that this might be the last of these revelations because he certainly can't handle another one of these.

LEMON: Bob, the DOJ issued a statement tonight, so let me read from the statement. It said, "Obviously, I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources described in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and has not been provided to me, but the attorney general stands by his testimony from just last month, before the Senate intelligence committee when he specifically addressed this and said that he never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election."

But that is a response to interference with the campaign. That's not what the Washington Post is reporting, right?

ROBERT BAER, INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: It's a non- denial denial. Look, at this point, we can't trust Sessions. I mean, he said, I can't remember what happened in the conversation. I was as a senator. And all of these leaks from Kislyak conversations back to Moscow have proven to be right.

I mean, I think this is just horrendous. As a former intelligence officer, American official, senator, campaign worker, it doesn't matter, where colluding with a foreign power, talking about campaign, a hostile foreign power, it's treasonous. I just don't -- I know technically it's not indictable, but for a former intelligence officer, it's treasonous and I think he should resign.

LEMON: Carl Bernstein, I want you to listen to what Sessions said when he recused himself from the Russia investigations, this is back in March.


JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me be clear, I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign. And the idea that I was part of a, quote, "continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government is totally false."


LEMON: So, Carl, that is a direct opposite of what the Post says, quoting current and former U.S. officials, who say they intercepted former Ambassador Kislyak, talking to the Kremlin about these meetings. How much trouble is Sessions in?

CARL BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: He may or may not have committed perjury. And the Senate intelligence committee needs to call him back to testify again. And I would hope that finally, now that the President of the United States has thrown the attorney general of the United States under the bus, that maybe Mr. Sessions would open up and come forward and tell us what all of his conversations with the Russians were about, what his conversations with President Trump about the Russians were about and perhaps he can be the enabling of this cover-up to unravel.

[22:05:06] Now, I realize that might be a kind of dream here, but he has not been forthcoming. Nobody in this administration has been forthcoming about any of their dealings with the Russians because there is a cover-up. That does not mean that there's been an obstruction of justice. There might well have been.

But we need to know why it is the president, the president's family, Mr. Flynn, Mr. Sessions and on and on and on, nobody has come forward and said, hey, here's what we talked to the Russians about. Here's what happened.

So that's why we have the special prosecutor. That's why we have congressional investigations. And it's also why the attorney general of the United States is now under a great cloud that could be perjurious.

LEMON: But after many changing story many times...


BERNSTEIN: That's right. Perjurious.

LEMON: The number of times Don -- but Don Junior finally releases e- mail but after changing his story.

BERNSTEIN: This is what has happened continually with everybody from the president to his children to the attorney general of the United States to the national security adviser, Mr. Flynn, to the President of the United States. Everyone has changed their story under duress, yet nobody has come forward and said, here's what the hell happened.

LEMON: Yes. John Dean, if this -- if this reporting is true, this entanglement with Russia goes all the way up to the top law enforcement officer in the land. He has recused himself, but is that enough?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well, he certainly has put himself in jeopardy with this situation by not coming forward. I think he's a man who wants the job. He wants to stay in as attorney general. He's going to have to come forward in the next 24 hours and address this in some way.

He's got to square it with the president first. He's got to square it with the department he represents. So he's in trouble right now. And as I say, it's quite evident he likes this job. It is a dream job for him. And I think he'll fight for it.

LEMON: Yes. Because even though the president threw him under the bus in the New York Times interview...

DEAN: Yes.

LEMON: ... he's still saying he is going to stay in that position. So, Evan, if Sessions resigns, could the president appoint someone who hasn't recused him or herself on Russia, someone who could make the Mueller investigation go away?

PEREZ: You know, Don, that's actually the most interesting -- one of the most interesting possibilities here for the president. I mean, we know that he's very angry. The focus of his anger is Bob Mueller, the special counsel and this investigation. He thinks he's going to get a raw deal on this.

He preferred Sessions to have some reign over it. And so if he were to get rid of Sessions in some way, he could appoint a new attorney general. Obviously, the Senate would have to confirm that person. And that person, you know, presumably would not have any of the issues that Sessions has.

He didn't -- you know, you find somebody who's not, who didn't work in the campaign. Wasn't part of any of that, and that person would be able to now take over the leadership of this investigation. What Mueller would be is still the special counsel but he'd be reporting to this new attorney general. And that person still has a lot of power over the investigation.

LEMON: Mr. Baer, I would imagine that a big question for investigators would be, how reliable is the information in the intercepts of Kislyak? Because unlike in the case of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, whose own communications were intercepted that was via incidental collection, these are Russians speaking to other Russians. How do they know who is telling the truth here?

BAER: Well, you know, frankly, I love intercepts. It's two people on the phone. They expect privacy, especially when you're talking to your boss back in Moscow. You're not making stuff up.

Intercepts are, you know, gold standard of intelligence, frankly. And I always go with the intercepts as opposed to somebody like Sessions, you know, who right now, we know his credibility is -- whatever he has to say, we just can't believe. So I'll go with the intercepts over Sessions, for sure.

LEMON: Yes. Carl, this bomb shell comes just two days after the New York Times interview that we've discussed so much, where the president really unloaded on Sessions that he would never have hired him if Sessions, if he knew Sessions was going to recuse himself. So you think this a coincidence? I know you've been on earlier. I think the Washington Post is saying our reporters saying they've been working on this a long time.

BERNSTEIN: They've been working on the story since June, apparently. I think something much more important happened. And that is, that the President of the United States, in his interview with the New York Times, expressed himself in authoritarian tones and substance unlike anything we've seen on the record from any President of the United States in our modern history. And that is what the real story is here.

He has threatened to people that I've talked to that he wants to undermine this investigation, that he wants Mr. Mueller's investigation shut down, that he wants him fired, that he wants his people pardoned if need be. This is extraordinary.

[22:09:57] This is the way the dictator in the banana republic talks about the judicial system in Caribbean Islands. This is something we've never undergone before, having a President of the United States talk on the record like this. And that's what we're dealing with here while we have a cover-up that we don't know exactly what the cover-up goes to.

LEMON: Six months to the day almost.

BERNSTEIN: Six months to the day.

LEMON: And six months and one day that this happened.

BERNSTEIN: But how is it that the president and none of the people around him have said, here's the story, American people. This is why I did what I did. This is what I said. This is what Mr. Flynn said. Let's open this up and make it go away, if nothing happened here that was not nefarious.

LEMON: Yes. John Dean, this made in America week, six-month old administration, what do you make of the upheaval in the president's team and staff of just over the last 24 hours? Take us inside the White House when that sort of thing is happening.

DEAN: Well, they've now appointed a new special counsel who, apparently is going to be outside of the office of the White House counsel, who is going to be a coordinator of all the counsel that are outside. I don't know how this is going to operate, where you have Ty Cobb as a special counsel in the White House who has no attorney/client privilege, is going to be controlling and directing the messaging of the outside counsel.

Don, I'd like to say something else.


DEAN: If you look closely at the regulations under which Mueller was appointed, it is not as easy as people think for Trump to fire him. He has lots of protection. He has due process. He can go to court if this is necessary, if he is preemptively removed.

So I think people are wringing their hands a little bit about how easy he can be disposed of, when as I read those regs, first of all, it's going to be for cause, it can be a new attorney general, could replace the deputy attorney general now in charge, but it's not going to be that easy to dispose of Mueller, particularly if he wants to fight and stay in the job.

LEMON: Yes, Laura Coates of CNN, the former prosecutor said the same thing on this program the other night. It's not as hard as people think it is and some make it out to be.

Evan, we've learned tonight something else. That Donald Jr. and Paul Manafort they struck a deal with the Senate judiciary committee about appearing not in public, though. What more can you tell us?

PEREZ: Well, that's right. The first thing, what they want to do is they're going to provide -- they're going to provide documents and information that the committee has already requested, Don. And then secondly, they're going to sit down with the Senate -- with the investigators from that committee, the judiciary committee, and they're going to answer the questions.

So that was a big compromise that was struck, frankly, at the last hour. We were, you know, monitoring the situation today. We were being told that there were negotiations on the phone between the sides, pretty much right up to the hour that this was announced, around 5 p.m. Eastern.

So it looks like they managed to avoid a standout, where they had to do a subpoena. Or you could have a witness who would show up and plead the fifth because, obviously, you know Manafort is under investigation and he's got some real criminal liability issues that he could run into if he were to testify open-endedly in a hearing like this.

LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate you all staying up late to do this. Carl, especially you. I know that you had other plans but you came in.


BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.

LEMON: What a trooper for the breaking news. Thank you, all. Have a great weekend.

When we come right back, 182 days of Sean Spicer, the White House shakeup that leaves the embattled press secretary on the outside looking in.


LEMON: Sean Spicer is out. Anthony Scaramucci is in. Embattled Press Secretary Sean Spicer quitting today after Scaramucci, a Trump fundraiser with no communications experience is named communications director. Spicer's 182-day tenure as press secretary has been rocky from the start.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I say rocky start, I mean it in the sense of "Rocky" the movie because I came out to punch you in the face.


LEMON: Well, you know who wasn't laughing at that? President Trump. Now Spicer is gone. Scaramucci is in. Listen to what he said about Trump.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're close to Walker.


LEMON: All right. That was two years ago. Now he really, right now, loves President Trump. Really.


SCARAMUCCI: But I love the president. I'm very, very loyal to the president. And I love the mission that the president has. I love the president. I obviously love the country. I love the president.


LEMON: So here to discuss now, CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, political analyst April Ryan.

Good evening to both of you. It's going to be some interesting times, you covering here as our media correspondent and also you covering from the White House, April. Brian, I want to start with you. Because we heard the lavish praise of the president, his professions of love.


LEMON: You know, it sure to please his number one viewer, and that is the president, but the question is, can he help get this White House out of this crisis mode?

STELTER: No. I don't think any smooth talker, no matter how smooth, no matter how affable, no matter how slick, can get the White House out of this crisis that it finds itself in. If Scaramucci can help this administration be more honest, Don, to stop making so many misleading and false statements, that would be an improvement. That could help the White House credibility.


LEMON: So you're saying this is beyond messaging?

STELTER: That is very difficult.

LEMON: Is he, she is in charge basically of messaging.


LEMON: The problem you think the White House has goes way beyond messaging.

STELTER: Way beyond messaging.

LEMON: Messaging is part of the problem.

STELTER: But I do think we're going to see Scaramucci encourage the president to give more interviews. You know what Frank Bruni said this time last year all other times, let Trump be Trump. Let Trump be Trump. That was the advice that T.V. commentators were giving to the campaign. Just let the president, now president, then the campaign boss be who he is. Let Trump be Trump.

And then that's when we're going to see Scaramucci encourage the president to go. Go out and give more interviews, say whatever you want, don't feel restrained. Even though his lawyers don't want him talking about the Mueller probe, I think we may see more of that from the president.

LEMON: Yes. You know, maybe he can, April, and I'm sure people around the country are hoping that he can, help this White House in whatever way he can, at least with the messaging.

[22:19:58] He can't really help them with the investigations because that's not his daily work. But Spicer was as combative as Scaramucci is smooth. So I want you to listen to this clip, this is from his press room appearances.


SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.

When we use words like travel ban, that misrepresents what it is. I've said it from the day that I got here until whatever, that there was no connection. You got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow it is a Russian connection.

But every single person -- no, well, no, I appreciate your agenda here, but the reality is -- no, no, no. Hold on. At some point, report the facts. Let me answer. OK.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am just reporting what...

SPICER: But you know what? You're asking me a question, and I'm going to answer it. Which is the president -- I'm sorry. Please stop shaking your head again. We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II, you know. You had a, you know -- someone has despicable as Hitler who didn't sync to the -- to using chemical weapons. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sean, do you have...





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sean, come on. Sean.


LEMON: So, April, we saw a lot in that clip.


LEMON: You're reliving all of it, right?

RYAN: Sean's greatest hits.

LEMON: Yes. So, do you think -- well, do you think Sarah Huckabee Sanders is named press secretary now, do you think that we'll see a change in tone, maybe not as combative, maybe not so much, you know, fake news, espousing from the podium?

RYAN: We'll have to see, Don. I mean, because what they've been doing before is just not working. And we've seen that because Sean Spicer is now gone. I mean, he's been embattled since day one. But he's now gone. And he was one of those on the list that President Trump had a bull's eye on.

But when it comes to how they're trying to deliver the message, you know, this administration is very much steeped and spin to the point where they contradict themselves. Well, let's say before today, they contradict -- they contradicted themselves.

Not only that, they just came out saying things that just didn't make sense in some instances. And then you had a president who would contradict them. So they have to rein in the staff and also maybe rein in the president and for the president to be himself that's one thing.

But when he goes out there and does a 'covfefe,' or said that former President Obama was wiretapping him, and some of the other allegations, and also the thing about Comey and this tape, you know, I wish there was a tape, that's where the damage is.

You can have the best communications machine in the world, but when that principal is just doing what he wants to do, you can have meet with the New York Times, American or everybody on networks anyone, Brian Stelter, with you, but when he continues to defeat himself, there within lies the problem. You can spin, you can send a message out, but when you continue to do the same thing over and over again, you just defeat yourself.

LEMON: Brian, what do you think?

STELTER: I think April would make a great communications director. I think a lot of reporters have this same sense. Sitting in the brief room every day, feeling frustrated by the non-answers and by the spin and by the nonsense. I think a lot of reporters are wondering, can it improve with Sarah Sanders at the podium and Scaramucci behind the scenes? I'm very skeptical. (Inaudible) has been very skeptical that this can actually cause improvement to the message.


LEMON: Can I ask you and April something? Because we all know Sean Spicer.


LEMON: We all interviewed him.


LEMON: He had a lot of political capital. He had a lot of -- he'd garnered respect from the media. And then all of a sudden, within like a day...


RYAN: Yes, he did.


LEMON: ... it was gone. What happened?

STELTER: Trump happened.

RYAN: The first day...


STELTER: Trump happened, right, April?

LEMON: What happened, April?

RYAN: Yes, I'm going to agree with Brian, yes. That first day, when he walked out there, challenging the numbers, size matters, it was an ugly day. You do not use that podium for that.

And then he came out there, discombobulated, very angry, when this should have been a day of celebration. Even though, he had women walking around the nation and the world protesting against him. You know, you're supposed to be above the fray, but it showed right there that there was a disarray within that White House. And whenever the press secretary came out...


LEMON: What was your relationship like with him? Because you knew him before, and others. Did those relationships change?

RYAN: I knew him before. I knew him before. I was shocked. I was shocked that Saturday. I was shocked that Saturday when he did that. Sean was -- you know, Sean was great prior to. And you know, first couple of weeks, he was great.

[22:24:59] But after a while, when the Twitter verse came in, the trolls came in off of Twitter and said, why is she asking questions, when that base said that April Ryan shouldn't be in the room, the mood changed. And even the president -- you know, I had a former White House press secretary call me and say, do you think the president told Sean Spicer to do that about shaking your head?

So after that, things changed with us. I wish him well but, you know, unfortunately, he lost his credibility in that job standing up for press. I mean, sometimes going out, spinning to the point where you questioned if it was a lie. So, and the credibility issue, we didn't know if we could believe him. I mean, we're always fact checking. But it was a way bigger issue now with this administration. So, I don't know.

LEMON: I've got to ask Brian, can he get it back? Can he get the credibility back?

STELTER: I think that's a -- I don't have a yes or no question -- answer to that question yet. I think this White House's credibility is a bigger problem than Spicer's personal credibility. Certainly Spicer can go out and get a television deal.

CNN notably said today that we're not interested in picking him up as a contributor. I thought that was notable. Fox, you could see Fox hiring him or NBC, or another network. I could see him rebuilding his public image through a television commentator deal.

But whether he can do that or not, the important issue is the White House's credibility. Whether we can trust what the president is saying. And Scaramucci has got a heck of a challenge now, trying to improve that.

LEMON: Good luck to him. And I mean it sincerely. But you know what? If Sean Spicer wrote the book, I'd read it but chances are he probably signed a non-disclosure, so.

STELTER: Right now, he's trying to be very cordial with the press.


RYAN: But he's not going to tell everything.

STELTER: We'll see if that changes.

LEMON: Thank you, both.

RYAN: Yes.

LEMON: I appreciate it. RYAN: It's not going to be a tell-all.

LEMON: Thank you.

Up next, why President Trump is bringing Anthony Scaramucci into his administration even though the Mucc, as he is known, supported Scott Walker and Jeb Bush in the election before backing Trump.


LEMON: The new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci leaving no doubt for his feelings about President Trump. Saying over and over during his introductory news conference he loves the president.

Here to discuss, CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth About Trump." Good evening, sir.


Never ending, right? Let's talk about Scaramucci. Smooth businessman. He's very polish. He's likable. Dana Bash says she thinks that this is what President Trump feels he sees when he looks in the mirror. Do you agree?

D'ANTONIO: I agree. This is exactly the person he sees. I felt that way across Macron, too. Donald Trump imagines himself to be in his 30's, a very nice head of hair, and Scaramucci has a nice head of hair, except this is normal hair and very good salesman.

You know, he is a fellow who could talk a lot of rich people out of a lot of money, which is what he's done throughout his career. So this is exactly the person he wanted. I think he would have preferred him from the start.

LEMON: He does care about appearances. he cares about looks. Because he told -- meaning President Trump. According to the New York Times, he said that Mike Pence looked like a vice president out of central casting. The reports he didn't like John Bolton's mustache and that kept him from getting a role in the cabinet nomination.

And he basically told Sean Spicer to get a makeover. Because you remember the initial press conference the ill-fitting suit, and what have you, the tie wasn't quite right. The shirt wasn't quite right, to get a makeover. How much -- how much do -- how much of this is about optics for this president?

D'ANTONIO: Optics are incredibly important to him. We had -- the president and I, when we did our sessions of interviews, we talked about my appearance. And he told me I was a good looking guy, although later on, he changed his mind. Because he wants to flatter people but he wants them to flatter him, as well.

So he has a very strict dress code at the White House. He wants people to look the part. And you know, in a way, we occupy this age when the surface matters more than ever. LEMON: Well, that comes from probably reality, television and also

comes from the beauty pageants.

D'ANTONIO: Absolutely.

LEMON: Having to give an appearance when people walk into a building, especially if you're trying to sell real estate, right?

D'ANTONIO: Well, and he spoke to me actually about how cheerleading is really important. And this is a beef that he had with President Obama. He said Obama started out, he was a really great cheerleader, but something happened to him. I think the cheerleader function is real to him.

LEMON: Today, Anthony Scaramucci used the podium at the White House to say how much he loves the president and how much he -- you know, how loyal he is to him. He also said this. Watch this.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The president himself is always going to be the president. I was in the Oval Office with him earlier today, and we were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity. I think he's got some of the best political instincts in the world, and perhaps in history.

If you think about it, he started his political assent two -- and two years and two months ago and he's done a phenomenal job for the American people. The people I grew up with they so identify with the president and they love him. And so we're going to get that message out.


LEMON: So the strategy is to let Trump be Trump, right? Isn't that what's getting him in trouble, especially if you look at the latest round of interviews and so on? But is that why Scaramucci got the job, because he's like, let Trump be Trump?

D'ANTONIO: Absolutely. Think back to who also said that. It was Corey Lewandowski. Both of these people, we have men who project a certain tough guy image. Scaramucci's far more polished than Lewandowski and I think he'll stick in a way that Lewandowski didn't. But the president likes people who say, I love you and buy into the president. Scaramucci is never going to forget that.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, he hasn't always been, Scaramucci, so loyal to Donald Trump. It's just not -- it's not that surprising, because a lot of people -- a number of people who are around him now were very critical of him in the beginning. And then all fo sudden overnight, they loved him.

But this is, he said this. This is Fox Business News, August of 2015, after Trump criticized hedge fund guys paying nothing in taxes. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARAMUCCI: He's a hack politician.

BARTIROMO: You're in trouble now.

[22:35:01] SCARAMUCCI: He's probably he's going to make Elizabeth Warren as vice presidential nominee with comments like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think he's...


SCARAMUCCI: It's anti-American. It's very, very divisive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think Donald is a...

SCARAMUCCI: I'll tell you who is going to be president and you can tell Donald, and I said it's the Queen's County bullies association. You got to cut it out now and stop all this crazy rhetoric spinning everybody's head.


BARTIROMO: Why is he resonating?

SCARAMUCCI: You're an inherited buddy dude from Queens County, bring it, Donald.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're close to Walker.


LEMON: You know, it almost, hey, look, he takes it as good as he can give it, right?

D'ANTONIO: Precisely.

LEMON: It's like, it's like the same as what Trump does.


LEMON: But I don't think Anthony Scaramucci is as thin skinned as Donald Trump because he is very self-deprecating. But before you answer, today, Scaramucci was asked if the president was aware of those comments and here is what he said.


SCARAMUCCI: He brings it up every 15 seconds, OK. One of the biggest mistakes that I made because I was an inexperienced person in the world of politics. I was supporting another candidate. I should have never said that. So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: A lot of people made comments about that, about Donald Trump like that, including Kellyanne Conway, who came on CNN.


LEMON: Saying he, you know, made his business off the backs of poor people. And on and on and on and on. That he should release his tax returns. And now these are people who are closest to him in this administration.

Why wasn't he punished, why wasn't she punished? There's a lot of people will get punished for saying bad things about Donald Trump or being critical.

D'ANTONIO: What Trump assumes, what the president assumes is that they didn't really mean it and that they were just battling. And this is what the president himself does.

LEMON: It is politics. This happens.

D'ANTONIO: It is politics. And I think...


LEMON: I don't get it but it happens.

D'ANTONIO: I don't get it either. But you know, the president will say three different things before lunch. And he doesn't expect to be held accountable. And he's not really going to hold these people to account if they will serve him.

And right now, you know, this is another billionaire in a Brioni suit. I think Brioni should make the uniforms for the White House softball team. Because this is exactly what the president wants.

LEMON: The White House, the administration billionaires row.


LEMON: Right, that's the fraternity. It's a big fraternity house. It's a nice one, too. Thank you, Michael D'Antonio.

D'ANTONIO: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, more on our breaking news. Jeff Sessions reportedly discussed Trump campaign-related matters with the Russian ambassador, this according to intercepts of Russian conversations. Now, should Sessions step down?


LEMON: One year ago tonight, Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican Party's nomination for president. And you know what else happened at that convention? A meeting between Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador. We don't know what they talked about. But tonight, the Washington Post is reporting that Sessions had

conversations about campaign-related matters with the ambassador. That's according to intercepts of the Russians.

Let's discuss now with CNN political commentators Scott Jennings is here, Alice Stewart, Simone Sanders, and CNN contributor, Jason Kander.

It's so good to have all of you on. Scott, I want to start with you. Because this is what the Washington Post is reporting that then- Senator Jeff Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with the Russian ambassador, this is according to intercepts with the Russians discussions.

So do you, if this reporting is true, has Jeff Sessions been misleading the American people, the people who have been asking him about his interactions with Russians?

SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: It's true that it would have been better had they gotten all the initial disclosures about these meetings correct. Here's what we know about the thing tonight.

All we know is the Russian side of the story. We know Kislyak sent a cable back to Russia. The story makes clear, they frequently lie on these things or embellish to throw off American intelligence. We also don't know what the content of the meeting was. It could have been a meeting about nothing.

And so right now, all we really know is this sort of Jeff Sessions and somebody that republicans think is of a man of high integrity verse the word of a Russian who sent a cable that no one has seen. So until someone shows me something that says Jeff Sessions did something wrong, I'm going to inclined to believe in Jeff Sessions more than the word of a Russian cable.

LEMON: Even though he misled?

JENNINGS: I acknowledge it would be far better had they gotten these disclosures or the meetings correct on the front end. There's no question about that. And I suspect what's going to happen now is they'll have to go back and clean it up with the Congress. And I'm sure he's going to get a chance to do that. But I think somebody who served the country the way Jeff Sessions has deserves a benefit of the doubt.

LEMON: Do you think he should step down or continue on?

ALICE STEWART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think right now his main goal and his focus has always been on following the letter of the Constitution. And he, in his recusing himself from this case, I think it was the right move to make.

Clearly, it would have been inappropriate for him as the attorney general to investigate a campaign that he was part of. He was right to do that. He did it for all the right reasons. The only issue here, I think the meeting itself, there's not a problem with that, it's just the changing story line about what was discussed. Same with Don Jr. and his meetings. The changing story line.

LEMON: The disclosure.

STEWART: And this was a very, very important question he knew was going to be asked during his confirmation hearing. There should have been a very set and concrete response to that and stuck with it every time he was asked. Unfortunately, it's changed a little bit. But then again, I want to see more evidence and more information about specifically what was said in the meeting.

LEMON: Jason Kander, after the former FBI Director James Comey, was fired by President Trump, he testified before the Senate intelligence committee and he said that -- well, here's what he said about the attorney general. Watch this.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: Our judgment, as I recall, is that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself. For a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.

And so we were -- we were convinced. And in fact, I think we'd already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer. And that turned out to be the case.


LEMON: So, Jason, he was aware of facts that he couldn't publicly discuss. Is it possible this new reporting is what he was talking about?

JASON KANDER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes, it is entirely possible. Likely. But even if it's not, what we know now is that regardless of everything else, even if you don't believe the intelligence community, which is generally what the Trump administration would prefer, even if you don't, what we do know is that Jeff Sessions was asked a question a while back in a hearing and he lied.

[22:44:59] And then he came up with a different answer. He said, no, I'm sorry about that. Here's the truth. And then now we have this information. What he's saying is, what I need you to do is believe the thing I said after you caught me lying. I'm inclined not to believe him about that.

LEMON: Symone, what do you -- what about the timing in all of this? This reporting coming out the same week we heard the president throw Jeff Sessions under the bus.

SYMONE SANDERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes, I mean, look, I was on a plane. When I got off the plane and I read this, I was like, this looks like something that the Trump people planted. We don't know. We also don't know if perhaps this is something that came from the White House came -- a leak that came at the behest of Donald Trump. Maybe because of something that Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions had recently discussed and maybe he's upset about.

We have no clue. But what we do know is that where there's smoke, there's usually fire. People are lying. And the links to which are my colleagues and some of our republican friends are going through this, stay silent on this, or to twist it so it's not such a big deal, is absolutely concer concerning.

I think we need to get to the bottom of this. Jeff Sessions needs to come out and tell the truth. It's something we haven't necessarily gotten from this Trump administration just yet.

LEMON: So, Scott, I see you -- unless you have a giant television, it was imperceptible.

JENNINGS: Look, I talked to the reporter who wrote the story. This reporting on this issue tonight has been in the works for weeks.

LEMON: Has been on the work for a while. Right.

JENNINGS: The concept that somehow there is a conspiracy, where Donald Trump is leaking something, that's ridiculous.

LEMON: But it did come up.

SANDERS: It's not unheard of. Wait, this is something that Donald Trump has done. He has a track record of doing this. When he was a businessman in New York, this is what he would do, he would call up the tabloids, he would call up the newspapers, he'll pretend to be someone else and he would leak information.


SANDERS: He would give it to other people to leak. So let's not pretend the president is...


LEMON: Stand by.

STEWART: It's what the Russians do.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: The new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci says he wants to let Trump be Trump. But there's a lot more to the job than that.

Back now with my panel. Alice, every single day, every time you come on, we're covering something. I mean, Anthony Scaramucci sure he thought that he was going to have an easy first day, right? And then all of a sudden Sean Spicer resigns and it becomes something bigger than it is. I don't think it would be as big a story if Sean Spicer had not resigned.

STEWART: Certainly. I mean, that was the driving force for today without a doubt. And yes. In this administration, you know, there's no -- the honeymoon period is generally quickly over. And his philosophy, let Trump be Trump, that is awesome for a campaign.

LEMON: Right.

STEWART: However, in the administration there needs to be a little bit more discipline. However I don't think we're going to get that with him. I think he's phenomenal. He'll be a great supporter of the president, clearly a great cheerleader, clearly he loves him. That's what Donald Trump wants. But what we need is an administration that's a little bit more on message and is on offense, not defense.

LEMON: And you, she knows of what she speaks because you were the communications director for ted Cruz. And listen, he has no experience as a communications director. When you run a press shop and you have this deepening Russia thing, that is not easy.

STEWART: No, it's not. But what you do is you put all the information out there to those that are doing the investigation, let it run its course and you spend your time as a communications shop driving your message, pushing your legislative agenda, working with Congress going out to this country and repealing and replacing Obamacare, and talking about federal burden and some government regulation...


LEMON: And keeping your boss on message.

STEWART: And leave on message and take the Twitter out of his hands and leave Russia alone.

LEMON: Yes. Good luck with that. Mucc is like. So, Symone, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were both in favor of hiring Anthony Scaramucci. What do you think of that especially when you consider the reports that Jared was vocal and calling for Comey's firing he pushed for a more aggressive defensive Donald Trump, Jr., that meeting. Does it seem like Jared is quick to shake things up and fight harder?

SANDERS: I think they're quick to shake things up and I also think Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have no idea what they're doing.

Look, the fact that the family members went and push for Scaramucci it lends to the fact that, you know, this is somebody that knows the president. The president feels comfortable with Scaramucci. They've been friendly for a very long time, and apparently Scaramucci loves the president.

And so clearly, Ivanka and Jared wanted the president to be comfortable. But that does not mean this was the absolute best decisions from a communications and press perspective. I'm concerned as communications and press person that we've got a communications director that has never run a communications operation, let alone probably written a communications plan and a press secretary that up until recently probably had never run press release. This is -- this is just unfounded.

LEMON: Jason, you know, there's something else. Anthony Scaramucci used to work at Goldman Sachs. There's Scaramucci now, there is Steve Mnuchin, there is Steve Bannon, Gary Cohen, Dina Powell, are you surprised by the long list of Goldman Sachs alum on payroll, considering how critical the president was of that company during the campaign and you know, tying Hillary Clinton to Wall Street?

KANDER: I'm repeatedly disappointed in the fact that the president doesn't actually stick to any of the things he promised the American people in terms of, you know, actually standing up for people instead of big companies, big corporations. But I'm not surprised by it.

It really gets to what I think is the larger issue here which is that if the new guy, if new guy comes in and just crushes it. I mean, he just does incredible with the job, that would improve the life of exactly one American, President Trump.

I mean, and look at how much time they spend on what are they going to do about communications? What are they going to do about the message? Maybe if they put that kind energy into actually trying to improve the lives of the American people, instead of just trying to make the president look good all the time, then maybe people would like what they're doing a little bit better.

LEMON: Jason, I've got 30 seconds really, you're going to -- not Jason, I'm sorry. Scott. So, you're going to get short trips.

JENNINGS: I'll keep going.

LEMON: What do you want to see from Scaramucci?

JENNINGS: Well, you know, there's really no qualifications for this job except for one. Does the president think you can do it? And clearly he likes Scaramucci style. He likes his combative nature on the television camera. And so, I think we're going to see a combative, forceful argument from a communications director.

I think what we'll be looking forward to is what kind of planning apparatus can he put in place to not just make sure the president's on message but the entirety of the federal government is working on a communications strategy that also delivers the president's message.

LEMON: And taking the Twitter out of his hand and keeping people honest, especially on their disclosures. Thank you all. Have a great weekend.

[22:55:00] Coming up, Sean Spicer just might be breathing a sigh of relief tonight that he won't have to deal with Melissa McCarthy's spicy.




LEMON: The minute Melissa McCarthy took to the stage as Spicy on Saturday Night Live, the bit became a classic. To be fair, it couldn't have been easy for the real Sean Spicer to step up to the podium day after day with every one laughing but he did it even poking fun at himself occasionally. Now we may have seen the last of Spicy. But here are some of the greatest hits.


MCCARTHY: And our president will not be deterred.


In his fight against radical moose lambs. Just eat as much candy as you want because it's probably our last Easter on earth.


MCCARTHY: Are you kidding me?


LEMON: The real Sean Spicer giving as good as he got.

SPICER: I think tweeting out great way to start a Friday, here are the actual numbers that you all have reported is a bit -- I mean -- don't make me make the podium move.


[23:00:00] LEMON: Stay tuned to see what happens next. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. CNN special report after O.J. the Furman tapes revealed starts now.