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New Photo Of NY Terror Suspect On Day Of Attack; New York Suspect Charged With Support For ISIS; NYC Suspect Followed ISIS Playbook; Trump, U.S. Justice System, A Joke And A Laughingstock; Trump would Consider Sending Attacker To Guantanamo Bay. Aired 11- Midnight ET
Aired November 1, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[23:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the real misfortune in all of this, we're talking about divisiveness, we're still talking about Florida victims, we're still talking about civil war. We should be talking about tax reform. That is the big rollout tomorrow, and we're not talking about that because we have Russia hanging over our head and divisiveness.
JOSEPH PINION, CHAIR, CONSERVATIVE COLOR COALITION: I mean, we can't have a conversation about tax reform because we have to now at least confront the reality. This President does not want to have the conversation about tax reform. He doesn't want to talk about health care. The agenda is the cultural issue. This President has been fighting the cultural war in plain sight his entire life, whether going back to the central park five, when you start talking about the fact that it was Japanese currency manipulation before it was Chinese currency manipulation. That is what he wants to fight. And the deeper issue is that we as a nation have not invested the emotional capital to confront the very real issue of racism in this nation, and that is why that even in spite of the fact that we can sit here and have an honest discourse about the fact that there can be no compromise on human subjugation, there are many Americans who still do not understand fundamentally the things that still ail us this day.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: I've got run. I got to get to the next hour. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Fascinating conversation. I'll see you soon. This is "CNN tonight." I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us. It is just past 11:00 on the east coast. We are live at breaking news tonight, a newly released photo that prosecutors say is the New York City terror suspect shortly before the attack in the store where he rented a truck that he used to kill eight people and injured nearly a dozen more.
Saipov has been charged with providing material support to ISIS and violence and destruction of motor vehicles in the deadly attack. According to the criminal complaint, he chose Halloween for the attack in order to strike more people. A lot to get to, but I want to get straight to CNN's Miguel Marquez live for us, he is in Paterson, New Jersey, where the suspect lived most recently, also terrorism analyst Michael Smith joins us as well. Good evening to both of you. Miguel, the prosecutors filed a complaint against Sayfullo Saipov today. Take us through the highlights.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was a lot in that complaint. They say, look, he basically planned this thing or planned to strike America about a year ago. This specific plan he put together about two months ago, so he has been thinking about it for some time. They found two cell phones on him, one of them contained thousands of images of ISIS propaganda, also 90 videos, things like tanks running over people, those fighting ISIS being shot in the face, that sort of stuff. They also say that he claimed support for ISIS. He wanted to fly an ISIS flag on front and on back of the truck that he drove into people in downtown Manhattan, but he thought it might attract too much attention, also telling investigators once he was in the hospital that he wanted an ISIS flag flown in his room and that he was proud of what he had done. Authorities also saying he waved his Miranda rights while he is in that hospital room, Don.
LEMON: So, Michael, I want to bring you in now. I want to play a clip today of acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim on how Saipov was radicalized. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOON H. KIM, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: A search of cell phones found in a bag that he was carrying, a search conducted pursuant to court-authorized wiretaps revealed thousands of ISIS related images and 90 videos, about 90 videos depicting, among other things, ISIS fighters killing prisoners by running over them with a tank, beheading them and shooting them in the face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, another case of ISIS reaching out over the internet to lure its recruits. Is this a new training ground?
MICHAEL SMITH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY FELLOW, NEW AMERICA: Absolutely not. This is something that is been a persistent issue for years, Don. When the group announced that it had declared or established a caliphate in mid-2014, it unleashed the most aggressive and effective global recruitment and incitement campaign of any terrorist group in history and a majority of that activity has occurred in the cyber domain. What you're seeing is all of this propaganda, like the propaganda they're talking about today in these hearings, these pressers, it's oriented around not only terrorizing the groups enemies here in the west, but it also helps to do things like condition a would-be terrorist to go out and do these types of terrible things. I mean somebody who has not spent time in a conflict zone, somebody who is not accustomed to engaging in acts of violence like this does require some degree of desensitization, if you will, oftentimes, in order for them to be able to go out and do the types of things that Islamic state has been repeatedly calling on its supporters to do here in the United States, in Europe, in Canada and Australia and elsewhere in the world for years now.
LEMON: Listen, I know this is a big question, what can U.S. Authorities do to fight this? SMITH: Well, one of the biggest things that they could do is blunt
Islamic state's reach into the west across the cyber domain, and there are a variety of policies which I've discussed with policymakers, members of the house and senate for over a year now. Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in the big hearing that the senate hosted concerning Islamic state's reach into the west, the online recruitment and incitement program.
[23:05:21] Some of the biggest issues that we see are the tech companies like twitter and Facebook in particular allowing the simultaneous use of things like virtual private networks and specialized browsers like tour when account managers whose identities are unknown to them are active on their sites. And so, this makes their tools, their technologies, rather, all the more attractive tools for terrorists and a range of other illicit actors to include agents of even Russian influence operations.
LEMON: Miguel, officials say that the suspect planned the attack for two months. What more can you tell us about how he prepared?
MARQUEZ: Yes, this is a guy who, you know, he rented a truck at the home depot. Neighbors here told us they had seen him driving around in a home depot truck similar to it. We actually got a photo of one of those home depot trucks that he rented on October 26th. And lo and behold, in the complaint that authorities filed, they say that on October 22nd, he did, in fact, rent a home depot truck. He was using it to practice turns to see if it would work for what he wanted to do. This is also a guy who says that when he decided to do this, when it was ISIS own Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi who said to American Muslims, what are you going to do about Muslims being killed in Iraq? Don?
LEMON: So, Michael, you have some photos that you got from ISIS propaganda sites. What's important about this photo of children? Let's put that up.
SMITH: So, one of the things that is known in terms of the comments that the terrorists responsible for the attack in New York has made is it refers to the durability of Islamic state. And this is a theme that is very common in Islamic state propaganda. And one way that they're highlighting this durability, building this perception that the group will be capable of threatening Americans and our allies for decades to come is by highlighting that they are indoctrinating children, child soldiers like this. And that factors importantly in their abilities to convince people that they are worthy of support, that this is not a flash in the pan sort of situation that they've created in Iraq and Syria and other parts of the world where they've become especially active and declared so-called provinces in recent years.
LEMON: Michael, Miguel, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
President Trump tweeting about the New York City attack tonight, saying the United States will be immediately implementing much tougher extreme vetting procedures. "The safety of our citizens comes first." I want to bring out Rula Jebreal, she is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami and CNN legal commentator Ken Cuccinelli. Welcome to program. Thank you. It is an important conversation and I'm glad we're having it. Kim, the President is using the attack to make the case for what he calls extreme vetting, but Saipov was thoroughly vetted when he came here in 2010. Uzbekistan is not on the proposed list of banned countries anyway, so what's he talking about?
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think he is talking about specific countries in this instance so much as a much more stringent process. And you've also heard him, not in that tweet, but in other statements, talk about getting rid of this incredibly random visa lottery. I mean, there's no -- if we're supposed to have an immigration system that is good for America, there's no benefit to America in this. This was originally sold as increasing diversity among immigrants. But even without this program, we're taking people from all over the world. So, if it was needed in 1990 when it was advanced, it doesn't appear to be needed any longer, and it certainly creates and this is from the Obama state department's inspector general, says it creates counterintelligence problems it creates national security problems, and it is a targeted program for groups like ISIS to utilize.
LEMON: So, listen, the suspect came to the U.S. on a diversity visa. This was 2010. New York officials have said today that he was radicalized after coming to the United States, followed the playbook outlined by ISIS propaganda for the attack. Isn't that an argument for better detection potential recruits for people who are recruited inside the U.S., rather than people outside of the United States?
RULA JEBREAL, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Absolutely, and that is why part of the argument against what the President said today, I think, basically, we still have confusion about radicalization and terrorism. Whether ISIS is not using this visa, because their ideas are traveling online. Even if they don't have the territory and they are losing territories in Syria and Iraq, basically what they want to hold is headlines. So, ISIS is a mental state more than a real territorial state. So, what they are doing, they're trying radicalize people who exist already in the west. There are millions of people, and the only way to reach them is through online.
[23:10:15] So we need to counter radicalize those people online instead of focusing on making, we have already a vetting system that is extreme. It takes two years and others. We have no basically few foreign fighters that went to Iraq and Syria. We know that 40,000 went to Iraq and Syria. The overwhelming majority of them are Europeans, and there is a reason why Europeans and also Uzbek and from the Middle East. Most of them, even when they go back in their own countries, the country, and the intelligence is focusing on monitoring them. But what they are seeing and what we are seeing in most of the terrorist attacks that take place in Europe, who carry them out are European citizens or visa-holders that were not even monitored or detected.
So I don't know that this will work. And my concern, I just arrived from Syria, and I saw what ISIS did in areas like Al Bab. And what I've seen there, especially the liberated areas, they are paying attention to what we are doing. For example, when the President talks about Guantanamo and GTMO, you know, most of the prisoners that ISIS took and basically beheaded, they were using orange jumpsuits, exactly the same one that they are using. We have three generals, Colin Powell, basically Petraeus, and Brenan, who said not only it doesn't work, but asked to close it but said it actually gives a recruiting tool and the enemy is using it against us.
LEMON: Well, the President said today that maybe he would want to send them there. Go ahead, Ken.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, Don, one of the problems we have when we discuss this, the broad subject, is that we talk about it as if each proposal is supposed to be a silver bullet, and this is a complicated problem, as your last panel demonstrated and as the professor also speaks to I think very effectively. There are a lot of pieces to this problem. Some of it is doing a better job of confronting ISIS in the marketing arena that they're engaging in, online overwhelmingly. We've got to be careful inside this country in how we do that, because, of course, we have constitutional protections that we have to respect as well within the country. And so, how we balance that is an ongoing debate. It's certainly one I've been engaged in. I'm not suggesting that getting rid of this visa program solves problems. I am strongly standing behind, as did Hillary Clinton's state department, the notion that this particular program is part of the problem, and getting rid of problematic approaches to immigration makes sense for America's security. I'm not saying it will solve every problem.
LEMON: Do you understand that a Republican administration tried to get rid of this program by a gang of eight bipartisan lawmakers with a Republican President, tried to get rid of this program, and then the President wrongly stated today that this was a Chuck Schumer program when he was part of that gang of eight who wanted to get rid of this program?
CUCCINELLI: Hey, Don, you haven't heard me say anything partisan in any of my comments here. I'm happy to blame both parties for this. This thing is 25 years old. It's a bad and indefensible idea as part of an overall immigration.
LEMON: The only reason I said that is because you said a Hillary Clinton state department.
CUCCINELLI: Oh, no, no, no, and my point was simply that there's agreement on both sides of the aisle. That information came out when Republican now chairman of the judiciary committee in the house, Bob Goodlatte, advanced a bill that in part would have gotten rid of this program back in 2011, six years ago.
JEBREAL: I'm really happy, governor, that you're talking actually about extreme vetting and extreme -- I think most Americans, on the right, on the left, agree on this. I think the problematic aspect that is seen outside and we care about terrorism and about tackling the problem on both sides.
JEBREAL: And what we are seeing in the last, basically in the last 15 years, we had 85 terrorist attacks. 62 of them were carried out by far-right, violent extremists, and only 23 by Muslims. I'm fine with tackling all kind of terrorism, all kind of extremists. The double standard here is after Charlottesville, after Las Vegas, after what happened in the Minnesota, where somebody placed a bomb inside a mosque, or somebody even slit the throat of two guys inside of a train who are trying to defend two Muslim woman. So, we are seeing some kind of double standards. Nobody asked for harsh measurements when these kind of attacks are attacking synagogues, mosques, African- American communities, and we are seeing this President, this administration is speaking very harshly hours after against any perpetrator, rightly so in this case, that is from a Muslim country or even brown. So, I hope you would come out today and condemn all kind of terrorism without...
[23:15:19] CUCCINELLI: Of course.
JEBREAL: ...any doubt and actually push for...
CUCCINELLI: It's offensive that you suggest otherwise.
JEBREAL: I'm not suggesting, sir.
CUCCINELLI: You just did.
JEBREAL: I'm not. I'm saying I wish you and the Party would push for harsh measurements exactly the same way you would push for harsh measurement when the suspect is basically a Muslim.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, I think one of the things that differentiates what we're talking about today is that it is related to an immigration program over which is obviously a policy of the federal government and under statutes can be changed and affected by the executive branch, the President. He does have some control. We've seen this year, and of course, Don has reported on, I've talked about a lot on this network, all of the trials and tribulations of the Trump administration as they have tried, whether elegantly or not, to try and expand the security fence, if you will, related to immigration into this country, particularly from...
LEMON: I've got to run.
CUCCINELLI: ...these countries.
JEBREAL: Can we expand it also when, for example when we talk about mass shootings? It seemed like the First amendment, the second amendment, my apologies, it's somehow about freedom and about the price of freedom. But when it comes to basically terrorist attacks by foreigners or even by American Muslim, we are willing to suspend the sixth amendment, and somehow, the ability to have a fair trial.
LEMON: There's a lot more.
JEBREAL: It seems like we're cherry picking parts of the constitution when it's convenient for the President's agenda.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, Don, just one last quick one. Unlike those gun control debates where the proposed solutions wouldn't solve the underlying problem, if we didn't have this visa program --
JEBREAL: Sir, it would.
CUCCINELLI: -- the terrorist wouldn't have been here.
JEBREAL: It would.
LEMON: When we come back, why some Republicans are urging President Trump to issue blanket pardons in the Russia investigation. And a former member of the George W. Bush justice department says, well that is technically legal it would be a very bad idea.
[23:20:57] LEMON: The Russia cloud hanging over the White House getting darker and more threatening with the indictments of two former campaign aides and the guilty plea from a third. And now there are rumblings from some Republicans who say President Trump should issue pardons for anyone involved with the Russians. My next guest says the President could do that, but he shouldn't. Joining me now is John Yoo, who was a U.S. Deputy assistant Attorney General with the George W. Bush administration. Good to have you on Mr. Yoo, thank you so much. I want to get all of that, but first, I want your take on the President bashing our justice system, saying that we have to get tougher and we're afraid of doing anything politically incorrect. You drafted the memo which authorized enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding when you worked in the Bush administration. Do you agree with the President calling our justice system a laughing stock?
JOHN YOO, FOREMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I don't, and I think the thing to keep in mind is that civilian courts are good for some things and military courts are good for other things. The most important reason to have military commissions is when there is classified information at stake. So far, from everything I've seen about the Saipov case and this Manhattan bombing, it doesn't look like there is classified information or intelligence sources methods that had to be kept secret in order to prosecute him, so it seems that a civilian court would do a fine job here.
LEMON: Were you surprised to hear the President saying he considers sending this man to Guantanamo bay? Do you think he understands the implications of that?
YOO: Well, I think it would be a mistake. I think at least in the time I was in the Bush administration, we were pretty careful to make sure all citizens and permanent resident aliens who are caught for terrorism within the United States, within our borders, were handled by the civilian justice system. Placing them in Guantanamo is really an issue for the most -- is really the answer for the most dangerous terrorist leaders who are captured abroad, and it's because we don't really have anywhere secure to keep them. I don't think that is the case with this Saipov guy.
LEMON: So, should we keep Guantanamo open? YOO: I think we have to because we do have the core of the original
Al Qaeda leadership. And just, if you remember, just the security costs to try them in Manhattan, in New York City, would be millions of dollars a year. Plus, Guantanamo bay is a safe and secure facility which we can prevent Al Qaeda attacks, trying to demonstrate or even trying to free people like that, but I don't think that is the issue with the Saipov case. As far as we can tell from the reports we've gotten in the first day, after tech, he seems like a relatively low- level, lone wolf person inspired by ISIS or Al Qaeda propaganda, but he doesn't seem to be part of any kind of greater covert network.
LEMON: Mr. Yoo, I want to turn now to the Russia investigation and Mueller. You argue that even if people don't like it, Presidential pardons for anyone who falls under Mueller's charges are legal, saying "even if Mr. Trump has the constitutional power to pardon Mr. Manafort and his allies, conservatives should vigorously oppose such pardons on the ground that they would do serious damage to the presidency. In popular mind, pardons imply the commission of a crime. Indeed, a pardon here would grasp defeat from the jaws of victory, because the charges against Mr. Manafort show no connection at all between Russia and the 2016 campaign." Why do you think President Trump using his power to pardon would be such a bad move?
YOO: First I have to say, it sounds much better when you read it than when I wrote it. It sounded great. But seriously for a second, I think the President has an almost unreviewable power to pardon. The constitution only contains two exceptions to pardon, for cases of impeachment and state crimes. Those aren't subject to the pardon power. Other than that, the constitution contains no limits. But just because President Trump can do it constitutionally doesn't mean it's a good idea. Here I think it would be a disaster, actually, for our political system and the presidency for President Trump to take the advice of some and issue blanket pardons, because they don't like the way that Mr. Mueller's carrying out this special investigation.
[23:25:11] If people have gripes with the decisions Mr. Mueller is making, the answer is not to set everybody free or preemptively forgive everyone who has committed a crime like allegedly Mr. Manafort and his associates, which who seem to be guilty of really money laundering and tax evasion. The answer is to remove Mr. Mueller. If President Trump really thinks Mr. Mueller has gone beyond his mandate or is acting unethically or is biased, the answer is to fire Mueller, but the answer is not to start issuing pardons for anyone connected to any alleged conspiracy. That would be misuse.
LEMON: How would you know at this point then, because it's early on? How would you even know? And you're saying it has to do with crimes that deal with money and so on, but he is not finished with the investigation yet.
YOO: Yes, that is exactly my point. I quite agree with you, Don. The pardon power is really only for two cases. One is when the law seems harsh. That doesn't seem to be present here. It doesn't seem like the law here calls for excessive penalties for money laundering and tax evasion. And the second case the framers had in mind, the one that is more important in the federalist papers, is the idea that you might have a rebellion or a riot, and you need to pardon people in order to restore peace, like the end of the civil war and reconstruction when President Lincoln and President Johnson issued blanket pardons. That is not even close to.
LEMON: You don't think there could be a riot now considering how divided the country is, if he actually pardoned all of those people or if he got rid of Mueller?
YOO: Oh, no, no, my point is that you would only issue a pardon if there had been some kind of disorder and you need to, you know, pardon people to restore order, to end a conspiracy.
YOO: Here, there's nothing like that going on.
LEMON: John Yoo, thank you.
YOO: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: And when we come back, lawmakers slamming Silicon Valley executives for their slow response to Russia's ad buys on their social media platforms. We're going to dig into the ads that we now know Russia wanted you to see.
[23:31:32] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: The House Intelligence Committee releasing some Russia-linked Facebook ads as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, and what we're seeing in these ads is really disturbing. Let's discussion. Molly McKew is here, an expert in information warfare. Molly thank you for coming on this evening, good to see you. Let's dive right into these ads, because it's the ad content that is concerning, ok? We have a few of the right-wing ads on screen, but let's talk about this one, showing a depiction of Jesus arm-wrestling with Satan. It says "Satan, if I win, Clinton wins." "Jesus, not if I can help it," and that is from a Facebook group called army of Jesus. What's the goal of an ad like this? Is this as simple as pushing Trump as a candidate for President?
MOLLY MCKEW, FOREIGN POLICY AND STRATEGY CONSULTANT: I think there are a lot of different layers in the messaging in this ads, but the truth behind all of this stuff is they're not just information, and I think this is really key in this first batch of ads that is been released. And granted, it's only a handful and there are supposed to be thousands more, but we'll see the rest of them, but it's not just about information, it's about activation and mobilization and behavioral change within a population. And this one in particular seems to be targeting a group that has for a long time been targeted by Russian propaganda and far right propaganda, the kind of evangelical landscape and making it a simple black-or-white choice -- if you vote for Clinton, you're voting for Satan, which is a very odd message, but it does appeal to a certain audience in a variety of ways, but I think it's, again, this sort of defining an enemy and making you make a choice about it that is the interesting aspect of some of these ads.
LEMON: Ok. This is a left wing. Here are some of the left wing ads that were promoted. In this ad, a Russian shell group called LGBT united organized a counter protest against a West Baptist church in Kansas "God hates bigots," the ad reads. Is the end goal just to, simply put Americans against each other or is there something bigger going on?
MCKEW: So, this has become sort of a key talking point coming out of the hearings this week and sort of what people have learned about the Russian propaganda efforts during our election, is that much of the content is targeted toward enflaming divides and deepening divisions and creating discord, and all of that is true. But if you look at that ad in particular, what's interesting is it is, again, about activation, it's about behavioral change. It's not just information. It's not just we want you to understand this.
It's targeting a specific group of people to see if they can get them to go out and protest, to demonstrate, to organize against another group that is already meant to be demonstrating. And there was another group of ads that was shown by Senator Burr, but showing the two sides that were targeted by Russians to get both of them out at the same time to counter protest against each other. And this is really interesting. It's Russian intelligence activity. It is meant to activate specific groups to see who will respond, how they will respond and how they can use those groups within American society to create unrest and sort of spiral things out of control.
LEMON: So, Molly, I want to look at one more ad with you, if we can. It's a photo-shopped image of a comedian (inaudible) holding a sign that says "save time, avoid the line, vote from home, tweet Clinton/Kane with #Presidentialelection on November 2016 between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. to cast your vote." Hopefully, everybody knows you can't vote by using a hashtag, but I don't know, this looks more, do you think this is proof that the Russians were deliberately trying to mess with the election itself?
[23:35:16] MCKEW: I mean, it's a little bit sloppy, but it comes from kind of the traditional catalog of diversionary voter suppression activities, this idea that you can convince someone to vote in a way that they're not actually voting, so they feel they have voted, but they're not. It's an interesting tactic, because it is targeting a specific population. It is meant to again suppress the vote in sort of sloppy ways, and who knows who responded to this. Who knows if people were tweeting with this hashtag? Hopefully, there's a good pulldown of that somewhere. But I think it speaks toward goals, again, and this is about affecting people's behavior, about making them act in specific ways. And again, it's not just information, it's about getting groups of people to do things in specific ways to see how they will react to these types of messages.
LEMON: Molly, what can be done to fight the negative content spewed by these trolls, both by Facebook and from ordinary people?
MCKEW: You know, I think this was the part that was really missing from a lot of the hearings in the senate the last couple days. It is clear that the response from our tech companies is, well, gosh, gee, you know, we had no idea that the algorithms we designed to work exactly this way were working in exactly this way, but they know this is how they work. This is what they're designed to do. They are designed to create echo chambers on their platforms to keep users engaged, and the de facto by-product of that is radicalization, regardless of the topic that you're talking about. It keeps people in hardened world views of specific things.
Breaking through that is very difficult. There are certainly a range of actors manipulating that space and manipulating how these tools work, whether it be for selling shoes or vitamins or for selling ideas and convincing people of sort of different things in coercive and often not very nice ways. But breaking that down is something that is very hard to do. Our tech companies have not accepted responsibility for needing to change the way the algorithms work, but they do. They have to do that.
LEMON: Fascinating conversation. We hope to have you back. Thank you, Molly McKew. Thank you very so much.
MCKEW: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, we'll go behind the cloud covering the Russian investigation and get to the bottom of the pattern of secrecy and even the lies about members of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia.
[23:41:57] LEMON: Tonight, sources telling CNN President Trump has been spending hours isolated in the White House fuming about the indictments of two former campaign aides and the guilty plea from a third as he prepares for his trip to Asia, but what's at the root of the Russia investigation, and is this a case of follow the money? Here to discuss, CNN national security analyst Michael Weiss, legal analyst Michael Zeldin, Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Justice Department, and national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. So good to have all of you on. This will be a fascinating conversation, I know. Let's just step back, Michael Zeldin, and look at what we've learned so far this week with this Russia investigation. There have been two common threads with Trump and Russia, a pattern of friendliness and openness toward the Russians, even after they tried to influence our election in a pattern of hiding or even lying about campaign contacts with Russia. Why could that be? Explain that.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not easy to explain. It seems to me that if you go back in time, Trump's interest in Russia is financial. He wants to build the Trump tower in Moscow. In order to do that, he is got to curry favor with the Putin regime and the oligarchs. And I think that that is driving his behavior early on. He is running for President, and I don't know that he thinks he is going to win the presidency, and I still think he wants to entertain the opportunity of making money in Russia, and I think that informs his behavior, and I think that is what we see as the thread here. I don't think it was a foreign policy driven effort. I think it was a financially motivated effort. Why he is still doing that now is unclear. He still has business going on. His sons are running his business. He hasn't recused himself, essentially, from that business. There are all these emoluments and ethics issues that are arising.
LEMON: But could it be something as simple as they're just embarrassed about being drifters or they were just going there to get as much money as they can out of Russia, could it be that simple and not collusion?
ZELDIN: It could be. It could be. I think as the campaign moved forward and they thought they could possibly win, they were looking for that decisive thing, what we used to call the October surprise.
ZELDIN: And I think their October surprise was Hillary's e-mails. And so, I think they really ramped up their efforts to get this information, whether it be through Papadopoulos or Don Jr. in June. They were driving toward that information.
LEMON: Let's talk about that, then. Let's talk about some sort of connection to Russia and all the people. You mentioned Jared Kushner failed to report multiple Russian contacts on security clearance forms. Donald Trump Jr. Met with Russians at Trump tower and gave shifting accounts. Jeff Sessions failed to disclose Russian meetings during confirmation hearings, recused from Russian investigation. General Michael Flynn fired for misleading the vice President about Russian contacts. George Papadopoulos, who is new on the radar, pled guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian contact during the campaign. What's at the root of this, do you think?
[23:45:06] MICHAEL WEISS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Contact with the Russians for whatever purposes, whether it's some kind of shady financial transaction, or it was more likely an attempt by the Russian government using operatives, and not just operatives, but low-level cutouts and emissaries of the government, right? It's about plausible deniability. You don't send a guy in who says hello, I'm an officer of the SVR. You send in a businessman or an academic or think tanker to do the work of recruiting, cultivating a relationship with the Trump campaign. Because look, Trump has auditioned to be Vladimir Putin's best friend. You'd have to be an idiot if you're in Moscow center not to realize that there was an opportunity here, right? And what Papadopoulos indictment, and look, guilty plea demonstrates is, yes, it was entertained at seriously high levels of the campaign, not to just have a meeting between Trump and Putin, which is actually to me not even an issue.
I mean, candidates meet with foreign heads of state all the time. To me, the real disclosure in that guilty plea and that federal complaint, particularly if you agree with the FBI special agents affidavit that is attached to it, is Papadopoulos was told again through one of these weird, obscure cutout types, that the Russians had compromising information on Hillary Clinton, they had, quote, we have e-mails of Hillary Clinton, we have thousands of e-mails. If you're Donald Trump and you're in possession of this information, which he can only have been, this was I believe in April of 2006, about a month and a half before the "Washington Post" broke the story that Russian hackers had compromised the server of the DNC. You spend the rest of the campaign, indeed, much of your transition, much of your administration sewing skepticism and doubt about Russian interference in the election, particularly with respect to penetrating the e-mails of your opponent. That to me is the smoking gun here. Trump knew something about Russian interference in this election a month and a half before you and I did.
LEMON: Interesting. Juliette, in addition to the contacts with Russians, and this is Paul Manafort, Rick Gates now indicted for pro- Russia/Ukrainian business dealings and failing to report income. If the Feds are following that money, does lead to Russia through the Ukraine, or does it stop there?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we obviously don't know the full theory of the case, but I sometimes think that we have a tendency to sort of bifurcate sort of theories of what happened. We put sort of Manafort in the follow-the-money trail and the Flynn and Sessions and Jared in the potential collusion, and it may be quite possible, and if you look at the timing of both the indictments as well as the plea statement on Monday, it's quite possible that there is actually a single theory of the case, that Manafort somehow ends up as the campaign manager. He comes out of nowhere. He is not really affiliated with Trump. He is beholden, if not an agent of Russia, and that he does so and begins to start sort of collusion.
I mean we don't know this yet, but I think it's somewhat, I think that the two theories that we tend to talk about may very well be aligned, and we just don't know what Mueller has yet. What we do know, though, and this is why Monday must have been so scary for a lot of people in the White House, is that at least one is talking, no one knows where Flynn is these days, where the former national security adviser, Flynn, is these days. There may be ten other Papadopoulos, in which you and I have never heard before, who are speaking. And that is what Mueller did, is you're either with me or you could be going to jail, and that is your option.
And now it's the people in the White House who may know more to be able to put that theory together to speak. So, that is where I think we are. Last thing I'll say is Mueller is much better at this than any of us, right? We were all sort of very surprised on Monday by that plea agreement.
LEMON: The two Michaels I know want to jump in on this, but we'll have more on Paul Manafort's three different passports and multiple accounts under fake names, right after when we come back.
[23:52:52] LEMON: Paul Manafort remains under house arrest tonight on $10 million bond, but we're getting new information about his activities. So back now with my panel. So, listen, Michael Zeldin, Juliette was talking about this earlier about Manafort coming on to the campaign. He joined the Trump campaign as a volunteer. Soon became the campaign manager, chief strategist. What do you believe his intentions were in joining the campaign in the first place? ZELDIN: Make himself a player.
LEMON: You don't think the Trump people knew that maybe he had some influence with Russia possibly?
ZELDIN: Personally I think that Manafort was brought on, because they thought there was going to be a contest on the floor of the Republican convention and that he had done that for Gerald Ford and that he was going to be able to manage that. I think Manafort wanted to do it, because if he is the campaign manager who gets Donald Trump elected and then he goes back to being a consultant, he is the biggest and the best thing out there and he makes another fortune. So I think Manafort had a personal interest in this, not that Trump had an interest in Manafort, because of Russia connections. That is what I think. I think Manafort but more importantly Carter may well be the center of the universe when it comes to connections.
LEMON: Carter Page?
ZELDIN: No, the co-defendant with Manafort.
ZELDIN: Yes. I think he is the key for Mueller as a matter of gaining evidence.
LEMON: Rick Gates.
ZELDIN: Gates. Did I say Carter?
ZELDIN: Gates. Because Manafort is a pretty damaged witness, three passports, ten passport applications, travelling under false names and the like. He is got to be really rehabilitated to be a witness. The other guy, he is the key, because he stayed on after Manafort left. Manafort leaves the campaign.
LEMON: But he stayed on.
ZELDIN: He stayed on through the transition and he was lobbying. You see the results of his lobbying. They changed the Ukraine platform at the convention. That is a result of their lobbying.
WEISS: American novelist told an anecdote about police investigating a murder in the Deep South looking for a body that allegedly had been dump in the swamp. They didn't find that body, but they ended up finding bodies that they hadn't been looking for. For murders that occurred previous to that.
[23:55:04] I read this, this complaint of Papadopoulos and it reads to me like a kind of mad libs for compromised blowhards and scumbags. You have people unnamed in here, who know what they have done, because they are being named and because this defendant, Papadopoulos, has pled guilty to all the charge. So all of these claims are certified as true according to this guy who has now flipped and is working with them. Papadopoulos has been reported might have been responsible for that 5:00 a.m. FBI raid at Manafort's house which means that he knows a little bit more than a 29 year-old nobody intern would know about the inner workings of campaign. Mueller is looking to find out things that he doesn't already the answers to with these indictments.
LEMON: Juliette, we got 10 seconds left. Sorry to give you a short, does any of this amount to obstruction of justice.
KAYYEM: I think there's already proof of obstruction of justice from President Trump's tweets. I'm with Jeffrey Toobin on this. When you say you're firing Comey, because of an investigation that is obstruction. Whether Mueller can prove it is another question. But there's no doubt in my mind that the obstruction charges are part of a larger underlying crime of which I don't think we have a clear picture of yet and maybe it's unfolding before our eyes as more people speak up against what happened during the campaign.
LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it. That is it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.