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Vice President Mike Pence Working Underground for a Presidential Run; Muller Going Deeper into Trump's Financial Accounts and Business Ties; No One is Spared When Mother Nature Hits the World. Aired 10 -11p ET
Aired August 7, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: You just saw the CNN special report why Trump won. But would he win today?
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Our brand new poll has the approval rating at its lowest point in CNN polling. Lowest point in CNN polling, and that's just 200 days into his term.
Meanwhile, he is holed up at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, giving new meaning to bully pulpit as he launches his latest tweet storm. The target, democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal who just happen to be talking about Russia's election meddling on New Day this morning and admitted, the president who says he never watches CNN by the way, tweeted an attack on the senator as, quote, "a phony Vietnam con artist."
Senator Blumenthal will join me in just a minute, you don't to want miss that. he calls the president a bully. But first, let's break down our latest poll on the president's approval 200 days in.
Here to discuss, CNN political director, David Chalian, CNN political analyst, Mark Preston, and political commentator, Scott Jennings, former special personal assistant to President George W. Bush.
Good to see all of you. Good evening, gentlemen. David, you've got the goods, I'm going to start with you. Because the brand new CNN polling out tonight, just 38 percent of Americans approve President Trump's handling of the presidency. That's the lowest, as I said in our polling ever. What do you have?
DAVID CHALIAN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CNN: It is indeed. That's sort of the big report card number that you just mentioned, Don. I want to dig in a little bit, but it's worth noting, this is also low not just the lowest CNN, but low historically for a president in the modern era at this point in their presidency.
But we wanted to see sort of where was the most sort of passionate response. Strongly approve, only 24 percent. Right here. Look at the strongly disapprove, 47 percent. So we look for where the most fervent response is, by a 2 to 1 margin, it's with the disapproval. And then then we looked of course at republicans because this is the president's own partisans, Don.
And take a look at this. This is republicans only. How they answered if they strongly approved of the president over time. In February, 73 percent of republicans strongly approved of his job performance. In March, it was 69 percent. Now it's down to 59 percent of republicans who strongly approve.
He's still at 83 percent approval among all republicans. But this is the chink is in his armor, the most sort of fervent passionate support among his fellow republicans is diminishing here.
LEMON: Scott, what's your reaction to them, I mean, it's shrinking support among republicans. There is really no way to spin it. What's going on?
SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, during the campaign, you might remember that he was always around 80 percent amongst republicans in most public polling, and then on Election Day, he wound up with 90 percent of the republican vote.
Ultimately, republicans decided well, it's worth it to go ahead and vote for someone we have questions about because we to maybe save the Supreme Court seat. The question now is it regresses, why did he get 90 on Election Day and now he's back in the low 80s? I think if you look inside the poll, the one issue that's hurting him is clear, it is health care.
He's doing pretty well with republicans on almost every issue except for healthcare, and he's down in the 60s on healthcare. This poll was taken in the wake of the failed vote on repeal and replace Obamacare. I think this is why the republicans had to go back and get this right, if they don't, I think you're going to see republican base voters very upset with the president and the Congress.
LEMON: You think that was a breaking point? Because remember as we sat here on that night, it was you and Margaret Hoover, I think Margaret said this is where she believes the president's support would start to fracture among those who are most loyal to him. Do you believe that's when I it happened?
JENNINGS: Well, I think for the overall Republican Party, failure to keep it core campaign promise that's been made for seven years and was a core promise of the Trump campaign is absolutely agitating to base republican voters. And it bears it out in the survey.
If you look at him on the economy, if you look at him on national security, immigration, other issues, he's in the mid to high 80s on almost all of those issues with republicans. But when you get to healthcare, he's down in the 60s.
LEMON: But let me ask you this, Scott.
JENNINGS: This poll was taken just after the vote, so it's a clear thing. LEMON: Let me ask you this. Because, OK, but he has said that that is a failure of republicans in Congress and in the Senate. It's not a failure on his part. And I think you may have and other supporters have said, well the people aren't going to look at President Trump as losing on healthcare, they're going to look at those people who are in the Congress as the losers in healthcare. That's not what you're saying is happening now.
JENNINGS" No, look, I think the entire Republican Party loses when the Republican Party and the people who are in leadership positions of the Republican Party fail to keep promises. I think this portends bad things for the midterms. And if they don't ultimately get it right, it's going to be a broken promise for the Trump White House.
That's why I want to see him continue to put pressure on the republicans in Congress to eventually find something that lowers premiums and deals with the problems that every day people are having. Look, this was a core promise, failure to keep it means hell to pay from the voters who voted for this not just once, but repeatedly over seven years.
[22:05:00] LEMON: But listen, among republicans and the healthcare bill, all of them had very low support among republicans.
I want to bring Mark in now. Because, Mark, the president also has a trust issue. Seventy three percent of Americans only believe some or nothing at all in terms of official communications coming out of the White House. I mean, that is a credibility problem.
MARK PRESTON, POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR, CNN: It is a credibility problem. And just continuing with what Scott was saying been when you dig into the numbers and you look at where republicans on the issue, they're actually split on whether or not they believe what they're hearing out of the White House is true.
That is very problematic for republicans at this time. Even more problematic though is because we know that elections are one the edges, they're not one necessarily with the bases.
Look at independent voters, more than seven in ten of these voters don't believe what they're hearing out of the White House. Don, this is a big issue, and I won't even say it's a big issue heading into the midterm elections because we're not there yet.
PRESTON: But it is a big issue when you're trying to get big agenda items through and you are trying to get members of Congress to come on your side, and then they see that you have this big issue. It may be less inclined to support you, that being President Trump on some of these key issues.
LEMON: Mark, is it also a warning sign too, as well that he needs -- because he keeps going back to the base, he keeps going back to the same people who voted he wants big crowds. He wants loyal followers. He needs to reach out otherwise these numbers are going to continue to shrink.
PRESTON: Don, you and I have been talking about this now for six or seven, so at the time that President Trump could have come into office and still can at this time and not all is lost and could be transformed if he could reach across party lines...
LEMON: Is he capable of that though?
PRESTON: Well, a lot of people didn't think that he had the ideology, the conservative that was set in bedrock stone. But to your point, we have seen him, all he does is play to his base. And quite frankly, he talks about it all the time. He loves going to this big campaign-style rallies. That's fine, but that's not helping yet his agenda through Congress.
LEMON: Yes. It makes him feel better and probably his supporters feel better because they are literally leery that he is not getting much accomplished, especially any big legislative agendas. Big legislative agenda is all but nothing.
When you only have, Mark, a quarter of Americans believing most or everything out of the White House. I mean, that's remarkable. What happens if there is a serious crisis?
PRESTON: Well, I mean, you could argue we're in a serious crisis right now. We're dealing with North Korea at this point, we know that Afghanistan, you know, continues to be a powder keg as does the Middle East at this point. So you could say that we are in a crisis right now, the best thing that you could hope for is that, President Trump, will turn it around a little bit.
He'll be able to curb his social media habits and be very careful about the statements that he is making and the declarations that he is saying on social media. Not only for, for our folks here at home dealing with domestic policy issues, but dealing with foreign leaders and dealing with our allies and enemies.
LEMON: I want to ask you about the same thing, when you had just that number, David Chalian, just believing, you know, what's coming out of the White House. You have it in the wall now, what does that say? Because Mark as you can say we're in a crisis now, but it's not like a big terrorist attack. It's not something going on, we're in eminent danger so to speak. If that does happen, God forbid it does. What's going to, who's going to believe him? What's -- will the While House will he have any credibility?
CHALIAN: I mean, that's a huge danger. There's no doubt about that. This is a credibility gap. This is Donald Trump's trust deficit with the American people and to those numbers that Mark was mentioning if you look at it broken out by party with you could see democrats aren't with them at all, independents, as Mark was saying, 73 percent of them don't trust what they're hearing. But this split among republicans, 48 percent of republicans don't
believe a little bit or anything at all of what's coming out of the White House. You raise the point, what if it comes to a moment where they really need to believe their president? It's a valid question, his supporters will say look, he wasn't a trust worthy character when he got elected. And he's there now so he can continue to govern this way.
But this is not in the campaign context. This is in a governing context now where presidents rely on that trust with the American people where they have to convey information in a time of crisis.
LEMON: This is where the rubber meets the road. Come on, Scott, I mean, when you look at that, you got almost half of republicans they don't believe anything coming from the White House, come on.
JENNINGS: Yes, it's a serious issue, but it's not just an issue that plagues the White House. I believe in this country right now, we're in an epidemic of mistrust of almost every major institution. The Gallup organization in fact...
LEMON: The president is not helping with that because he keeps undermining major institutions. He keeps doing it all the time.
LEMON: That's his fault as well. Partially his fault as well.
JENNINGS: If you -- if you look at the things that they test, you know the White House does have more credibility than the Congress, some news media questions, they have more credibility than the news media in some scores. About the only things that score really well right now on confidence and institutions is police, small business owners, and the military.
[22:09:55] Everything else right now is really low. And I think it is an epidemic of mistrust. I think it is extremely troubling. If we, as you raised, if we did have a national crisis who do you believe? If you don't believe in government and you don't believe the news media, what information do you believe?
And I think it's something, it's beyond politics. It's really more cultural and societal, something we have to tackle as a society right now. Who do we trust to give us information and that we can believe in? Especially if there was a crisis. It's a real -- it's a real issue for America right now.
LEMON: Before you...
CHALIAN: Hey, Don, can I add something?
LEMON: Go ahead, go ahead, David. CHALIAN: I was just going to say, to what you were saying earlier
though, about not getting those big legislative items done. One of the things that I noticed in this poll is that, the notion of Donald Trump as a change agent is taking a bit of a hit. Can bring about needed change, he's about five points lower, I think 48 percent of the population said he could bring about needed change at his 100 day mark. That's down to 43 percent of the population now.
This was the thing he promised was to be able to blow things up and get things working. Status in Washington is the way things were, he now has to be worried that that veneer of being a change agent is wearing off.
LEMON: He keeps going back to the wall on that. I put this up before I let you guys go. Forty-five percent say his tweets are effective. Fifty-two percent say they aren't effective and then 70 percent of Americans believe he is responding too often to what he sees on TV news an indication that maybe he should be tweeting about something else.
Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
When we come back, the president attacks (AUDIO GAP). That senator joins me next. I'm going to ask him why he (AUDIO GAP).
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump using Twitter to lash out against Senator Richard Blumenthal, a democrat from Connecticut. Tweeting this afternoon, he said, "I this Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam where he lied about his service so he can at least say he was there."
It was part of a tweet storm that began nine hours earlier after the senator appeared on CNN's New Day talking about the Russia investigation. The president presumably watching TV from his vacation and then he tweeted this, "Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal talking about hoax, Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist. Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and conquest, how brave he was and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now, he judges collusion."
Senator Richard Blumenthal joins me now. Senator, I mean, four tweets that are incredibly personal, very strong language, I'm sure you had a reaction to it, it's awful.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Don, there is an ongoing special counsel investigation underway right now. It is real. It's based on real facts. And that issue ought to be where our attention is, that ought to be our focus, our national security, and our rule of law are at risk and that ought to gravely concern us. It's not about me.
LEMON: I think people understand what you're saying, and I know that you want to take the high road on this, but I mean, that is a personal attack on you. And I understand. You're right. It's a very serious investigation, but those words have to hurt when the sitting President of the United States targets you. You have to feel that.
BLUMENTHAL: I'm determined that I won't be distracted by these bullying tweets and, if anything, they redouble my resolve to seek legislation that I've co-sponsored with five of my colleagues, republicans or democrats to protect the special counsel against exactly this kind of bullying, intimidation and threats.
The president is on a collision course with Bob Mueller. A looming confrontation that could be a constitutional crisis. The effort to avoid is to protect the independence and integrity of the special counsel. So I think he did this before.
LEMON: Why do you think he bullies -- he has bullied other people and some he'll hold his powder for? He won't do it. Why do you think he used that it's bullying, in your terms. Why do you think he bullies you so much? And why do you consider this bullying.
BLUMENTHAL: I have no idea what is in Donald Trump's mind, but I know that for myself it only increases my determination to avoid distractions and to focus on the important issue here which is to protect that special counsel from these kinds of tactic tactics.
What we've seen is the president saying that financial dealings are out of bounds, drawing red lines about certain issues, saying that the investigation is a witch hunt and a hoax, and these kinds of tactics require us to take preventive action. This stop the ultimate contempt for the rule of law which would be to fire Bob Mueller.
And we need to send a message that a check will exist, the judiciary will provide it, a three judge panel will be in place to stop firing Bob Mueller unless a good cause is going to be shown under established standards. And the bipartisan coalition we had two leading republicans, four democrats, I'm proud to be among them who are going to work for this legislation.
LEMON: My ultimate question, do you think that the public sees through these attacks because President Trump inflated how many people attended his inauguration. I'm sure you remember that. He lied about phone calls with the boy scots, the president of the Mexico. Talks about things being the biggest or the best, he's exaggerator in chief some have called him.
I mean, this is our new CNN poll, only 24 percent of people say that they can trust what's coming out of this White House. So, again, my initial question, do you think the public sees through these attacks?
BLUMENTHAL: The public knows that this nation faces real problems, an immigration system that is broken and needs to be repaired, made fair and more humane and more effective. It know that we need a better healthcare system that reduces the cost of pharmaceutical drugs in healthcare generally. It knows that we need a more inclusive economy that gives people a fairer rate.
[22:20:02] And it knows also that we need better education, skill training for the jobs of the future, better tax reform and that the special counsel should be permitted to do his work. He's assembling a team of experts, bow tested prosecutors. He's convened a grand jury, the investigation is clearly widening in scope and severity. And the...
LEMON: Well, that's the problem, I think, I think people -- I think the president realizes that, as you said, broadening in scope. He wants to limit the power of the special prosecutor. And you know Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein his special counsel Mueller can investigate any evidence of any crime he uncovers. Do you think the president is threatened by that?
BLUMENTHAL: Again, trying to anticipate or know what's in Donald Trump's mind is a pretty hazardous occupation. But the point is that the grand jury provides a measure of protection of permanents because it is an arm of the court.
The president can perhaps try to fire the special prosecutor it would be an egregious extreme step, but he can't fire the court or the grand jury. And that's why also we need an extra level of protection which our bill would provide. I'm going to fight for it and work for it as well as addressing the other problems and issues that are our nation very, very urgently needs to address.
LEMON: The target of the president's attacks today on Twitter, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for your time. Always appreciate it.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: And when we come back, Dan Rather will join me. I'll get his take on the president's falling poll numbers and whether Trump's own party is abandoning him after just 200 days.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: This is our breaking news tonight. A new CNN poll just out tonight showing big trouble for President Trump.
Here to discuss, Dan Rather, the host of AXS TV's The Big Interview. Good see you, sir.
DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS TV: Good to see you, Don.
LEMON: Two hundred days in. Let's talk about these polls. Our latest CNN polls shows that the president's approval rating is lowest point in CNN's polling, 38 percent. How would you characterize this polling in the first 200 days?
RATHER: Well, it's unprecedented. We've never had since we've had polling, there's never been a president this low this early in his presidency, that's number one. Number two, what Donald Trump has to worry about and those who still support him have to worry about is the trend line. The trend line is headed downward, not up. That isn't to say that you can't turn it around. You know how strong an athlete, Don, that in the end, people bought their pocketbooks.
And if the economy continues to be pretty good, then Donald Trump can write out a lot of things. I'm not sure he can write out a tough set of indictments or accusations by the special prosecutor, but these polls are real trouble for Trump presidency. And it's trouble for the country. I think that's what you need to concentrate on.
As Thomas Jefferson reminded us that governing is basically about honesty. And what these polls indicate is overwhelmingly most people, even almost 50 percent of republicans do not trust what Donald Trump says. And you know, what Donald Trump he had such a great opportunity when he came into the presidency.
He told people, you know, I'm going to be such a good president that you can't even believe it. Well most people, overwhelmingly most people don't believe up to now that he's been a good president. In fact, the image of it is that he's flakey as dough baked pie crusts and he is mean as a margay, and besides that, he is lazy. That's the perception that most people have.
And until and unless he turns that around, he's going to have a presidency in trouble.
LEMON: Because he talks a good game, but he doesn't follow through. And part of that -- part of that is talking on Twitter. And if you look at it most of the people say that I think 45 percent say tweets are effective. Fifty-two percent of Americans say those tweets are not effective.
And so with that you have 70 percent of Americans who believe that he responds too much and especially because he responds mostly by Twitter to what he sees on television. So they think that he should be doing something else. Tweeting about something else.
RATHER: Well, by any objective analysis the tweets have been a disaster for Donald Trump. Not the fact that he's tweeting, tweets can be pretty effective but what he does...
LEMON: The subject, yes.
RATHER: It's the substance, that's what eating him up. But you know, again, I want to get back to the overview, Don.
RATHER: What's at stake here is our own national security and the rule of law and the strength of our institutions. And what these polls are indicating is that people at the very least are concerned about it. And many are deeply concerned about it, and that includes some of Donald Trump's heart's base, that down deep, they still believe in what they think are his policies. But they have deep concerns about what he's saying, what he's tweeting, the way he conducts himself?
LEMON: Whether he's the right person to carry out his own policies. Because he doesn't seem to be doing it now.
RATHER: And the Atlantic has a very good article which points out that you have right now, basically two governments, the public government coming out of the White House...
LEMON: The shadow government.
RATHER: And the underside of the government in which Donald Trump has from his standpoint and the standpoint of his followers accomplished some things. He's changed the whole direction of justice system, rewritten environmental laws, changed the regulations by public lands and so forth.
LEMON: Let me put it up there and then we can talk about. Because 59 percent of Americans say the president's first six months in office had been a failure according to the new CNN poll, but the Supreme Court pick was confirmed. He withdrew from the Paris accord, he withdrew from the TPP, he green lit the Keystone pipeline.
The Supreme Court is allowing parts of his travel ban to go forward. The Justice Department announced that they'll withhold federal grants to sanctuary cities.
[22:29:55] There's a lot of focus on Russia too because the president is focused on Russia, but should he get even with all of that, even the Russia thing, should he get the credit for all of this, despite the chaos and despite even his focus on Russia?
DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS TV: Well, if credit is the right word, look, he has move the U.S. government to a far ideologically far right position. If the democrats had moved the government as far left as Donald Trump has moved it to the right, republicans would be almost berserk about it.
But if you wanted a sharp ideological shift to the right, in many important ways and you tipped off the reasons there, he has been quote, "successful.'
LEMON: Let's talk, can we talk about Mike Pence? The New York Times reporting that Mike Pence is positioning himself for 2020 just in case, you know, looking at the possibility that the Trump presidency doesn't go well.
LEMON: Pence is denying it. Now if you're a Pence person, if you're someone who's looking out for Mike Pence, you won't be doing your job if you weren't doing this.
RATHER: Well, exactly.
LEMON: This is our works, isn't it?
RATHER: Yes. That's exactly he's for.
LEMON: He's got to be careful.
RATHER: But here, I think we don't necessarily have a disagreement. Vice President Pence is entitled say we take him at his word for the moment. He's saying that he is not involved in any way, but as you point out, people who like Pence, they may like Trump as well, but say look, what if the Kremlin investigation really takes a hard turn, it would be foolish of them not to be thinking of, look, we need to have a few things in place for the '20 presidential election.
So in that sense, the Times story was right. That doesn't mean that Vice President Pence is wrong when he says listen, it's absurd from his standpoint.
LEMON: Why does -- here's what -- so he's -- what I found interesting because I was on vacation last weekend. And I haven't had vacation in years, he won't admit that he's on vacation, that he's taking a vacation. That he's going away for two weeks, but he won't say he's on vacation.
Let's see, 200 days of his presidency, 47 of those has been spent at a Trump golf course. Why won't they admit that he's vacation -- why don't they even admit that he golfs?
RATHER: Well, I have no idea. Because the American people as a whole, even many of the people who don't like Donald Trump would clearly understand in these the dog days of summer. If the president said listen, I want to take two weeks off just to relax, try to...
LEMON: There's nothing wrong.
RATHER: Nobody would hold that against him.
LEMON: But you remember what he did with the last president. This president takes too many vacation days. This president golfs too much. He's taking more than the president that he criticized so much for it.
RATHER: Well, exactly. And you know, this is where he runs into himself so often because when Obama was president, every time Obama played golf, just about Donald Trump had something to say, he's not doing his job. Now here, how many days it was, 47 out of the first 200 days he's played golf.
LEMON: Forty-seven out of the first 200 days.
RATHER: And that leads the perception of him as I said before as being lazy. Not being able to do his job.
LEMON: Maybe he was upset because President Obama wasn't playing at the Trump golf course. Thank you, Dan Rather.
RATHER: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: I appreciate it.
RATHER: Always a pleasure to see you.
LEMON: Always a pleasure to see you. When we come back, Rod Rosenstein defending the Russia investigation. Saying Robert Mueller has the right to investigate any evidence of a crime he uncovers. Two men who had been involved in the biggest investigations in modern American history will join me next and then to get their expert take on the investigation, so far, in what the grand jury is doing.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Special counsel Robert Mueller expanding his investigation looking at possible financial crimes and issuing grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump, Jr.'s infamous meeting with Russians. President Trump calls it a witch hunt. His allies call it a fishing expedition. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations in the Department of Justice and we don't engage in fishing expeditions. If he finds evidence of a crime that's within the scope of what Director Mueller and I have agreed is the appropriate of this investigation that he can, if it's something outside that scope, he needs to come to the acting attorney general at this time for permission to expand his investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The question is, what is the grand jury doing behind closed doors? Joining me now, Robert Ray, the former Whitewater independent counsel and special prosecutor, and former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, the author of "Conservatives Without Conscience."
Always love having you guys on. John, I'm going to start with you. The president and his surrogates have been screaming that the Mueller probe is a fishing expedition, but Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, you heard him there in that sound bite, says it is not. That's not what the department does. So explain though how a grand jury often expands a scope of an investigation, how that works.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, what the deputy attorney general did was just really give a nice summary of the regulations under which the department operates and the special counsel operates, and that is that they are focused investigations and they need a grand jury, a grand jury does give him the ability to reach out and get documents that he might not otherwise be able to get.
The FBI agents can't get through just friendly inquiry. When people won't talk to FBI agents, they don't have that option unless they plead the fifth and come before a grand jury.
So it's a good investigative tool for Mueller and that's what obviously he's using it for. And if he was fishing, you know, it would just be so uncharacteristic of both the man and the departments -- you know, their procedures. It just doesn't fit at all.
LEMON: Robert, I'm sure you know who Ken Starr is, you remember him?
ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL & SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Of course.
LEMON: The independent counsel who led the Whitewater -- who led the investigation against President Bill Clinton. I want you to listen to what he said and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN STARR, FORMER SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I do think it is certainly a serious matter when a special counsel is accused, and I was accused of that, of exceeding his or her authority. That's a serious matter because we do not want investigators and prosecutors out on a fishing expedition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So it raised eyebrows because Whitewater, it started as an investigation into a land deal, right? And it ended up with Monica Lewinsky and the blue dress and the DNA and all of that.
[22:40:04] RAY: Right.
LEMON: So how did that happen?
RAY: Well, it happened because in each instance, theoretically, each one of those individual matters could have resulted in the appointment of a separate independent counsel. Rather than do that, the decision was made in conjunction with Ken Starr's office and the then-Attorney General Janet Reno to seek an expansion of Ken Starr's jurisdiction in each of those instances. Even though the bits and pieces were, you know, obviously unrelated to one another.
LEMON: Does Mueller have that much leeway?
RAY: Well, he has the authority -- look, you have to understand there's basic three levels of authority. He has the mandate which is Russia collusion investigation.
LEMON: Right. RAY: He has anything that arises directly from that, and finally, in
connection with the investigation he has the authority to prosecute obstruction of justice false statements and perjury.
RAY: Now if it's outside of the direct mandate and something is uncovered during the course of the grand jury's investigation, he has the authority to go back to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general for an expansion of jurisdiction which is what Mr. Rosenstein was talking about over the weekend and what obviously Judge Starr was talking about as well.
LEMON: OK. So, then was that a fishing expedition when -- into Clinton or no?
RAY: Well, you know, ZI would sort of smile when people talk about fishing expeditions. Investigations in some sense are fishing for the facts and evidence to determine whether or not a crime has been committed and who may have committed it.
LEMON: So this fishing -- it sounds good, but it really...
RAY: But it's kind of a misnomer because in some sense, I mean, one way to look at it is that a grand jury by virtue of its charter in some sense is a fishing expedition. You don't want prosecutors just with sort of free license roaming all around in places where they're not supposed to be. And this is, you know, a special counsel which is specially constituted with regard to a singular task which was the Russia collusion investigation to the extent that it strays far from its mandate it's just wise into the political process to go back to the attorney general, or in this case the deputy attorney general to get an expansion.
LEMON: Let me ask you, this is just for my own identification. You said, he has a mandate to Russia than anything that directly from that. And then you said he has the authority for what the third was again...
RAY: Obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury. In other words, things that would interfere or impede his investigation. He's entitled to prosecute those...
LEMON: False statements and perjury.
RAY: False statements, obstruction of justice, perjury.
LEMON: I'm going to keep that note because that's important. So, John, President Clinton was ultimately forced to testify before a grand jury. President Nixon testified before Watergate grand jury after he resigned his office. Could President Trump be compelled to do that and under what circumstances? DEAN: Well, he certainly can. If the grand jury wants to call it
first of all, that prosecutor Ray -- excuse me, prosecutor...
DEAN: ... Mueller could call him and bring him before the grand jury. One of the grand jurors might want him to come in. So, there are many reasons he might and as you cited, the two precedents of presidents coming before grand juries.
Bill Clinton during his presidency and post President Nixon came in, no one knew it at the time, but, in fact, there wasn't a full grand jury rather they flew a couple of the grand jurors out to St. Clemente and took his deposition with them present and then took it back and read it to the grand jury. So they made a special situation for Nixon.
LEMON: His advisors and attorneys know this, and that's why they're trying to limit the scope of the investigation, correct?
DEAN: Exactly. You don't want your client in front of that grand jury, because they may say something that will get them in trouble. And if I've heard one thing from lawyers who've deposed Mr. Trump, it is that he is truth-challenged in all of these situations. So I think they're going to fight mightily to keep him out of a grand jury.
LEMON: That is a new one. I have to make a mental note of that one. Truth-challenged as well. Write that one down. Thank you very much. Thank you, gentlemen.
When we come back, some of the State Departments top jobs still haven't been filled. Two hundred days and is that an accident? Is it delay intentional and what effect does it have on foreign policy? We'll be right back.
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: I want you to pay close attention to this. Because it shows you actually what's happening. At 4.15 this afternoon, President Trump tweeted, "The fake news media will not talk about the importance of the United Nations Security Council's 15 to zero vote in favor of sanctions on North Korea."
Fake news, huh? Well, I want you to take a look at what my CNN colleague Jake Tapper reported two minutes before that tweet.
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: Breaking news in our world lead now, North Korea is vowing revenge against the United States after the U.N. Security Council led by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley unanimously adopted the toughest sanctions yet against that country.
LEMON: And that's not all. At the same time, President Trump was tweeting about the lack of coverage of sanctions on North Korea. CNN was reporting on, that's right, U.S. sanctions against North Korea. Note the clock on the bottom right.
In fact, CNN has been reporting on North Korea all weekend including interviewing Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley on North Korea. So here to discuss all of this is James Fallows. He is the national correspondent for the Atlantic. We're so glad to have you on, Mr. Fallows. Thank you, sir. Welcome back to the program.
JAMES FALLOWS, THE ATLANTIC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: So with North Korea, the threat and the Russia investigation, what does it say that President Trump is tweeting something that's 100 percent false about the media rather than focusing on more pressing matters.
FALLOWS: Well to look on the bright side, maybe it shows that he wasn't watching TV at that moment so he didn't know you were covering it. But I think the point to bear in mind, even in light of what is probably the greatest diplomatic achievement of the six months of this administration which is this 15 to nothing vote in the Security Council which is a hard thing to do.
[22:50:01] So it's impressive they did that -- is that it is so difficult just to make the machinery of international relations run properly and just to deal with all the countries around the world and these complex problems in which North Korea is in attempts one right now, that it is the fact that the leader of this enterprise can be spending his time on Twitter making complaints is abnormal as you've heard in other contexts with all your other guests.
Just one other point I make is the main lesson I took from working for a president years ago, I worked for Jimmy Carter when he was in the White House is that every second that passes in a president's administration, you have the sense it's gone forever because there's so many things to do. And the way this president spends his time is unusual.
LEMON: So in response, let's talk about the sanctions, OK? So in response to the sanctions, North Korea the official news agency says that the U.S. will pay the price. This is a quote, "pay the price for its crime thousands of times."
So given how quickly their missile program he is moving forward, should this be all hands on deck at the White House and the State Department right now?
FALLOWS: Well, certainly there should be the proper lineup of people in the State Department and the Pentagon and the National Security Council recognizing this is not a threat for this week or probably this month but it is as the cover story in this month's Atlantic says it is the worst problem we have in a security aspect.
So, I think it doesn't need to be treated as an emergency but certainly it is a serious problem. And I that the argument our cover story by Mark Bowden is that there are only bad answers here. And the least bad one is the one that for the moment the U.S. seems to have settled on which is getting the rest of the world lined up in trying to apply long-term systematic pressure because every other alternative is even worse than that.
LEMON: He is relying on time to do a lot of the work here because he tweeted this saying he's disappointed China has done nothing to help. Do you think the president has relied too much on this personal relationship with prime minister Xi of China, maybe too much on their bonding on over that chocolate cake at Mar-A-Lago.
FALLOWS: Certainly the coverage in the Chinese press was that President Xi Jinping of China seemed to have figured out learned how to play Donald Trump of flattering him and being nice and then Donald Trump would think it would like a real estate del, he could get the Chinese just to make the North Koreans do what the Chinese or the U.S. wanted.
Decades of experience have taught all previous American leaders the Chinese have only so much influence over the North Korean regime. They have more influence than anybody else but still not as much as the rest of the world would like.
So, again, it is a problem that's unsatisfying to talk or think about because there really isn't an answer other than the one of trying to get China and Russia and Britain and everybody else aligned to continue to pressure.
LEMON: I want to read something from the New York Times, this is from Gardener Harris and he writes, he talks about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been neglecting State Department priorities. He writes this that "Tillerson has failed to nominate anyone to most of the department's 38 highest ranking jobs leaving many critical departments without direction while working with a few personal aides reviewing many of the ways the department has operated for decades rather than developing a coherent foreign policy."
At this stage, 200 days in, do you think that this is intentional, Mr. Fallows?
FALLOWS: I don't know whether it's intentional or accidental or just collateral damage how the administration runs. But here is the analogy I use to think about this under stepping at the State Department. It would be if somebody named you the captain of the 747 or the space shuttle and said, OK, take this thing across the world or across the Atlantic.
It takes a lot to make that work, the mechanics and air traffic controllers and the weather people and the engineers. And so Rex Tillerson appears to be ignoring all these other people it takes to make this 747 fly. So far it's been smooth weather relatively so but sooner or later there will be something that will require real all hands on deck.
LEMON: I don't know if you have had a chance to read it. I've just started reading it myself. But it's just out tonight in the New York Times story that is very significant. There's a draft report on climate change prepared by 13 federal agencies and it will say climate change is real, it's affecting Americans right now. That has not been the position though of this president and this
administration. And some of the scientists who've worked on it think the White House may not even release the report. What will happen if they don't release this report?
FALLOWS: Well, I think that I was reading actually a couple dozen pages of this before I was talking with you. It's a very serious report. I know some of the people who produced it. I think I view this in the same context as the leaked transcripts last week of the president's conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia where organs within the government think that the normal channel of getting information processed are not going to work and so they're taking this step of leaking these things to the news media.
In the long run, there are a lot of bad potential ripple effects of doing that. But you can understand why the scientists think if they don't get this report out, they don't know whether it's going to become public or not.
[22:54:57] LEMON: And you're right. It's serious. I mean, the first line says the average temperature of the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980 and recent decades have been the warmest for the past 1500 years according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.
FALLOWS: Indeed. And they say also that a lot of the extreme weather we're having now, the hurricanes, the cyclones, the floods, the droughts they say a lot of this can be attributed to climate change, not just the luck of the weather. And also they say we're feeling the bad effects even now and it will intensify.
So, again, I think at the very least, deserves very serious scrutiny. I'm glad it's becoming public.
LEMON: James Fallows, always a pleasure. Thank you.
FALLOWS: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, we're on day 200 of President Trump's presidency and our brand-new CNN/SSR poll shows almost three-quarters of Americans don't trust what the White House is saying. How big of a problem is that for the president?
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Bad news for the president in our brand-new poll.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.