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Michael Flynn worried about son's legal exposure on Mueller's investigation; CNN poll on President Trump's honesty and trustworthiness; Democrats win on elections. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 8, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Breaking news on the Russia investigation. Sources telling CNN that President Trump's first national security adviser General Michael Flynn is worried about the potential legal fate of his son Michael Flynn, Jr. in the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Also tonight, President Trump always first to give himself an A plus on his handling of the nation's business, but what grade do Americans give him one year after his stunning upset victory in the election? We have the results on of CNN's eye opening poll on how Americans feel about the state of the economy.
The president's honesty, if he deserves re-election and if they're proud that Donald Trump is president. A lot to get to in the next two hours but I want to begin with the breaking news in the Russia investigation and CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, what are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Don, I'm told by multiple sources familiar with the matter that Flynn has expressed concern about the potential legal exposure of his son, Michael Flynn, Jr. who like his father is currently under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Flynn's concern could be a factor in decisions about how to respond to Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign as well as the business dealings of key Trump campaign advisers. I'm told as well, Don, that Flynn's wife, Lori, she shares his concerns about their son's possible legal exposure, something that you can well imagine.
LEMON: And what legal questions is the special counsel focusing on regarding Flynn?
SCIUTTO: So this is somewhat revealing. Two witnesses, I spoke to two witnesses interviewed by the special counsel investigators and they tell me that the questions regarding Flynn focused on his and his son's business dealings, including their firm's reporting of income from work overseas.
There is a law, it's called the Foreign Agents Registration Act, FARA. It requires those Americans acting as agents for foreign companies or countries they have to publicly disclose those relationships with those entities as well as any financial compensation they receive for such work. I should note that Flynn, Jr., he was central to Flynn's business. He served as his father's chief of staff, a top aide, actively
involved in his father's consulting and lobbying work at their firm, which was known at the time as the Flynn Intel Group. And that included joining his father on some of his overseas trips, one of them to Moscow in December 2015 when Flynn famously dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala for RT, that's the Russian television network.
I should note that Flynn, Sr. is also under legal scrutiny for undisclosed lobbying during the campaign on behalf of the Turkish government as well as Flynn's alleged participation in discussions about forcibly removing a Turkish clerk who has been living here in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in exile. I should note as well in the past a spokesman for Flynn has denied that those discussions took place.
LEMON: All right, so moving forward, what happens next in the investigation, Jim?
SCIUTTO: So, clearly Robert Mueller is working hard here. There's no sign that this is going to end anytime soon. I should note that the Flynn investigation has been going on for some time. His business dealings have been subject to federal investigation since November prior even to Mueller's appointment in May of this year. And it's not clear that either of the Flynns' will face charges once that investigation is complete.
I should note that we of course reached out to Flynn's attorney. He did not respond to multiple requests to me for comment. Flynn, Jr.'s lawyer, he declined to comment. But I might draw your attention, Don, to a tweet from Flynn, Jr. just this past Sunday in which he said, quote, the disappointment on your faces when I Don't go to jail will be worth all your harassment. So, quite a defiant response there from the former national security adviser's son.
LEMON: And we shall see. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. I want to bring in now CNN contributor John Dean, former White House counsel for President Nixon and Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. Good evening, gentlemen. Welcome to the program.
John, you heard Jim say that Flynn is concerned about his son and that could factor into how he responds to the Mueller investigation. Is that an indication that he could flip against the president?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTIBUTOR: Well, it's certainly possible. We have not heard much news about Mr. Flynn in a long time. This is the fist time in some thought he had flipped. This indicates that hasn't happened. So that's one thing we do take off the table, but it certainly looks like the special counsel is putting pressure on him to do so by leaning on his son. And that would be a very strong tool and not one unfamiliar to hard ball prosecution.
LEMON: Renato, the potential charges, how serious are they? RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They're very serious. You
know, with regard to Mr. Flynn, you're not only talking about, for example, failure to report that he's a foreign agent, which of course is a federal crime. It's a felony. But, you know, that really explosive charge that you spoke about a moment ago is that he was receiving a lot of money from the Turkish government in exchange for pushing certain policies, you know, while he was in the Trump administration. That's the sort of thing not only juries Don't like but I think a judge would very seriously want to
[22:05:00] punish if he was convicted. So, you know, if I'm Michael Flynn, I'm concerned about my own liability. I'm concerned about whether I'm going to go to prison for some period of time and then also obviously as John and you were talking about a moment ago, I'm concerned about my son.
I will tell you, Don, when I first saw the tweets from Michael Flynn, Jr. some days ago, I was thinking, OK, clearly this guy thinks he's getting a pardon because that's the only rational explanation for what is otherwise completely irrational behavior because in addition to the tweet you showed, you know, he was blasting Mueller and making all sorts of unfair and false charges against Mueller. That is not something you typically do when you get indicted and go to prison.
So, what today's news tells me is that things are more normal, more like what I would expect as a former federal prosecutor, which is that Mr. Flynn is very concerned and he may cooperate with Mr. Mueller, what's called vicarious cooperation in exchange for leniency for his son.
LEMON: That's interesting. Well John, it's not clear whether either Flynn will face charges once the investigation is complete. But how concerned should the president be about this?
DEAN: Well, he certainly was concerned about Flynn when he talked to Comey. So we know it's been on his mind that he thought that Flynn should get a pass, which would probably include his son. Another thing, Don, that Renato mentions is the seriousness of the crimes. There also happened to be, with the exception of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, state offenses. So these are beyond a pardon.
And that should trouble Trump also because he can't give them any grace and let them have a pass. And this wouldn't send a smiling Michael Flynn, Jr. off to his new twitter account either.
LEMON: Renato, remember it was Trump who asked former FBI director James Comey to go easy on Flynn in the Oval Office. That's according to Comey's Capitol Hill testimony. Flynn has been a central figure in all of this early on.
MARIOTTI: That's for sure, Don. And you know, what it suggested is that the president had a close relationship with Michael Flynn and took an intense interest in his investigation. I mean, it takes a lot for the president of the United States to interrupt a busy day for -- and obviously a lot of very serious concerns and weighty concerns to personally talk to the FBI director and ask him to drop the case against Mr. Flynn.
So that is, you know, something that is very unusual and in addition to that, I will say, you know, one issue I would be thinking about if I represented the president is if he does pardon Flynn, if he does pardon Flynn's son, is that evidence that Mr. Mueller is going to use in support of his obstruction investigation, and we know that is ongoing as well.
LEMON: There's also, John, there's this. We learned from Carter Page's testimony that Corey Lewandowski Okayed Carter's trip to Moscow as long as it wasn't affiliated with the campaign. Corey told "Politico" back in March, I had never met or spoken to Carter page in my life. Well, here is what Corey told Fox News. This was last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COREY LEWANDOSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You have to remember in the context of the campaign world, now, my memory has been refreshed, but to be clear, from what I understand and what I recall, that e-mail was sent on June 19th of 2016 so about 18 months ago. It also happened to be Father's Day on a Sunday. And it also happened to be the day prior to me being terminated from the campaign.
So with all due respect, there were many other things on my mind that day other than trying to understand why a volunteer was telling me he may or may not be traveling outside the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Renato, he went from saying that he never spoke to Carter Page in his life to his memory being refreshed. In fact, they had exchanged e-mails.
MARIOTTI: Yes, well, I'll tell you, Don, it's amazing how federal criminal investigations tend to sharpen one's memory. I think that -- you know, a lot of people have had refreshed recollection as of late. I know at a certain point Attorney General Sessions also seemed to have his memory refreshed.
One thing I will say is, you know, what this should tell viewers at home is that all of these individuals are making a big mistake by talking on television, talking on twitter, talking to anyone, frankly, about what's going on here because what they're doing, every time they speak, their words can be used against them.
And you know, when I was a federal prosecutor -- and I'm not telling you a secret here. This is something that Rob (INAUDIBLE) used talk about how he would get video tapes that my office would make of his public appearances. His office's lawyers would get those videotapes as potential exhibits against him.
And so, you know, those statements can be used against him and Mr. Lewandowski and others could potentially get themselves in legal trouble if they keep speaking inaccurately about what they did and what they said.
LEMON: Does Corey's refreshed memory hurt him, John?
DEAN: Well, I'll tell you, amnesia is
[22:10:00] not a good defense in front of juries. It was tried in Watergate. It's been tried in many, many federal cases and it does not impress juries. So refreshed recollections helps as the process of the investigation go along, and they can save themselves from getting in trouble. But when all is flattened out at the end, you've got to be truthful and forthcoming and appear that way all the way along.
LEMON: John Dean, Renato Mariotti, thank you. I appreciate it. Just ahead, more on our breaking news. Michael Flynn expressing concern about the legal fate of his son in the Russia investigation. Also, the Democratic upset on Election Day one year after Donald Trump's stunning victory of the election results a referendum on his presidency? I'm going to ask legendary journalist Dan Rather.
LEMON: Here is our breaking news tonight, former national security adviser Michael Flynn expressing concern about the potential legal exposure of his son, Michael Flynn, Jr., in the investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller.
I want to bring in now Dan Rather host of AXS TV's "The Big Interview" and the author of the new book "What Unites Us: Reflections On Patriotism." I cannot wait to read it. Number one on my reading list. I have another book that I want to read but I think I'm going to get to yours first, Mr. Rather. Welcome to the program. I want to talk to you about this new reporting.
DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS TV THE BIG INTERVIEW: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Absolutely. I want to talk to you about this new reporting on Russia tonight. Robert Mueller may be putting pressure on former national security adviser
[22:15:00] Michael Flynn. Flynn and his son are both under scrutiny by Mueller. Is Mueller trying to get Flynn to flip and testify about Russian interference or possible collusion to protect his son?
RATHER: Well first, obviously, I do not know for sure. But having covered prosecutors over the years, it's pretty obvious that and justifiably so that the Mueller operation is trying to get various people to flip. And putting the pressure on Flynn, frankly, Don, for the last couple of weeks I've been saying to myself we haven't heard much about Flynn. Now it's out.
You can bet that Special Counsel Mueller and his people have been talking to Flynn a lot more than is apparent in what we know from the public prints. And now we have this information that in addition to putting the pressure on Flynn himself, putting the pressure on his son. But a key question, Don, that needs to be continually asked as the Mueller operation goes on is one thing to put the pressure on Flynn and increase the pressure by mentioning his son as somebody who possibly could be indicted and put in prison, possibly. But how much does Flynn actually know and does what he know tie the
collusion question directly to the president? I think there's a widespread belief, suspicion with most of the media and I would include myself, suspicion that Flynn knows a lot. But they have to leave open the possibility that no matter how much pressure you put on him, he may not know as much as we think he does.
The second thing is there's always the lure of the pardon. The president has this tremendous pardon power. And if you're in Flynn's role or for that matter his son's role, you have to keep asking yourself well, am I better off to fully cooperate, tell him everything I know or to stay loyal, put that in quotes if you want, and better in a pardon. So that's where we are with that.
LEMON: What a night last night because this time I want to talk about the election and get your perspective on that. The results were a sweeping victory for Democrats, Mr. Rather. It was supposed to be very tight in Virginia. What happened in your view?
RATHER: Well, I think what happened -- first of all, this is a big deal. This is a big win for the Democrats. No other way to read it. They among other things particularly in Virginia, the Republicans found out that running a Trumpism kind of campaign without Trump himself campaigning directly for you doesn't work.
And also this campaign in the end, the Republican candidate for governor, thinking he was behind, began to run a very dirty campaign. As I said before, this campaign was nasty enough to gag a buzzard. That didn't work. So, by any reasonable analysis coming out of last night, good news, very good news for the Democrats and not only Virginia but New Jersey and other places.
They did it the old-fashioned way. They really got organized and they got people out to vote. You know, the book you mentioned, "What Unites Us," I wrote it because I'm optimistic about the future. I think it will take us awhile to get there. I wanted to talk about something about hope, but hope and optimism they only work if people are willing to act.
So, it's a very old story that in our system of government what counts the most is the vote. And in this case the Democrats worked hard to get their vote out. They were in a climate. I think generally speaking that people want the country to be united. And much of the rhetoric and the tone coming from the Trump administration has been to divide us.
RATHER: You know, race against race, in some cases religion against religion. And that's contrary to our history and the natural American spirit. And I think that some of what moved these (INAUDIBLE) Democratic last night. But any reasonable reading of those results, a lot of Republicans who are up for re-election next year, their fingernails will begin to sweat now given these returns. But you and I know, Don, that in politics overnight is a long time. A week is forever. And the 2018 off year elections are still a long way away. So the Democrats need to go out against about celebrating too much.
LEMON: Let me ask you because I'm going to put our poll up because CNN has a poll. It's a very troubling numbers for President Trump here. Only 34 percent of Americans say the president is honest and trustworthy, 64 percent think he is not. One year in, I think that's pretty astonishing. What forces are at work here?
RATHER: Well, you know, generally speaking with the Trump administration, his problem and it's a growing problem with the electorate and I think for the country as a whole is the tone of his administration.
[22:20:01] You know, with some policies you can say that he's not that far out of the mainstream. But it's the whole tone of the presidency that I think what he says, what he tweets, people want a president to be strong, but they want him to be noble or at least have some noble instincts. And these are pretty hard to find with this presidency and it's beginning to tell at the polls.
LEMON: Yes. Hey, Mr. Rather, can we talk a little bit more about "What Unites Us," your book. "What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism." There it is. Why is it so important? You said you wanted to talk about bringing the country together and what's really important in America, but take us behind the story. Why did you do it?
RATHER: Well, you know, Don, there are things that through our history that have held us together and one of those things, for example, is we are an empathetic people. I just pick one -- it's my own favorite chapter in the book about empathy, that we have belief in the vote. One person, one vote. We argue about this in some policies in our efforts to even now, keep certain people from going to the polls primarily on the basis of race.
But the fundamental American belief has always been, you know, one person, one vote started out. Certain people, only white men who owned land. Women were kept from it for a long time. My point is this, you know, we need to have a discussion about what patriotism is here in the second decade of the 21st century.
I have my own ideas about patriotism, but the book's goal is not to be a polemic, not to preach to anybody. Just say we need to have a conversation about what patriotism is. And I would say, Don, very important to understand the difference between patriotism and nationalism.
And some of the extreme nationalism that's being preached now and including trouble with what the president and his aides say is extreme nationalism, it's economic nationalism, and it's racial nationalism. And that we know from history is very dangerous. So the book makes an effort to point out some of those things and say, you know, let's have a civil discussion when we can while standing for our principles and let's get back to listening to one another and see if we can get the country back on a steady course.
LEMON: Dan Rather, thank you. I appreciate it. The book is called --
RATHER: Thank you, Don. Always appreciate it.
LEMON: Absolutely. The book is called "What Unites Us: Reflections On Patriotism." And we'll see Dan soon. When we come back, our new CNN poll that the president should be paying attention to. We're going to break down the startling numbers about his re-election chances one year after President Trump shocked the world and won the White House. Do Americans have buyers' remorse?
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: One year later, President Trump is still touting his massive Electoral College win on twitter, but today it's the Democrats who are celebrating. Here to discuss, CNN political commentator Jason Miller. He's a senior communications -- was a senior communications adviser to Donald Trump during the campaign, and Bill Burton, former deputy White House Press Secretary for President Obama. Good to see you Jason and Bill. Welcome to the program. I haven't seen you in awhile.
Bill, I want to ask you about this. The president tweeted this today. Let's put it up, Congratulations to all of the deplorables and the millions of people who gave us a massive 304 to 227 Electoral College landslide victory! That's great, but that was last year. Do you think that what we saw last night is the start of a wave of Democrats taking back power?
BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well look, if I were President Trump, I would want to be talking about anything but what happened last night as well. I think that the elections that happened all across the country were a real repudiation of him and his kind of politics. And I think Democrats have a lot to look forward to.
And if I were Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, I'd be very nervous about my majorities in the House and the Senate and things like tax reform and you know, members in California where I am right now have to be looking at that tax reform bill and being quite nervous about what's in it, what it means for the people of California and what Donald Trump means for their re-election prospects.
LEMON: I'm wondering if last night worries you, Jason and also if you look at this, right, because a year ago tonight President Trump was elected president. Today only 33 percent of Americans think Donald Trump deserves to be re-elected. What do you think?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and those numbers were very similar before the election last year, but happy anniversary, by the way. But the thing with the tweet, here's what really got me going about the tweet. Is why did he put 306 electoral votes? That's how many he got. I know a couple people decided to go and cheat on the whole deal, but he got 306. Let's be proud about the 306 electoral votes. Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest.
LEMON: Last night doesn't worry you and the poll numbers don't worry because Bill said he would be worried if he was a Republican and if he was President Trump. Are you worried about that and do the poll numbers factor into that -- MILLER: I think there are a couple of takeaways, but I think the fact
that Democrats won a couple of blue state elections isn't the time to go and set off the alarm bells. I think there is a message that's being sent to Republicans on Capitol Hill that they need to get with President Trump's agenda and they embrace his economic populism.
This message that he's been doing and actually started getting things done because here's the thing, we can't just go and pass tax cuts as Republicans think that that's going to magically fire up all the Trump voters. Trump voters aren't magically aligned with all Republicans. Think about the Democrats and the independents that he was able to get on board.
LEMON: -- let's be aligned with Trump's policies?
MILLER: No, but there are a couple things late in the game that he came on board. Voters can see right through that if someone is not fundamentally on board. We have to have candidates who are going to inspire and excite people and I think there's a real danger as we talk about the Democrats if they don't come up with a positive message on their end. Look, the threat of a Speaker Nancy Pelosi is something you're going to see Republicans talking about.
And the other thing too, I think there's a real concern for Democrats if they keep running around with this crazy impeachment talk for this year, I mean, that could really hurt their chances and turn out Republicans next year.
LEMON: Listen, Bill, Ed Gillespie hadn't even given his concession speech last night and the president had already thrown him under the bus.
BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I know. I mean look, I pray that Republicans listen to Jason and believe what he's saying and think that what they really need is more Trump. Here is the problem for President Trump. He won with 46 percent of the vote last time around. Right now in CNN's last poll, his approval rating is at 33 percent.
So that means one in four people who voted for Donald Trump, who were there for him through all the awful things that he said during the election somehow have gotten to the point where they say you know what? It's been too much. And the thing that has happened between Election Day and yesterday is that Donald Trump has been president and people have seen the proof in the pudding of what that means in their lives.
So, if Republicans think that Republicans need more Donald Trump in their lives, I'd be happy to pay for the plane fair for Donald Trump to come out to California and go to Steve Knight's district and Darrell Issa's district and get with them because he is the ticket to Republicans not being able to hold on to their majority in the House and in the Senate.
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But Bill, if they're going -- the Republicans are talking about some of the things that the president ran on, think about the speech that he gave at Gettysburg last year before the election, the ethics reform, draining the swamp, they talk about term limits on Capitol Hill, making sure that members of Congress can't go and become lobbyists. His infrastructure plan, school choice going into African-American neighborhoods and doing three points better than Romney did.
I mean, these are some policies that I think can really go and motivate and fire people up, bring out the Trump voters like we saw last year. But that's what you're going to have to do to get some of this excitement back.
BURTON: Here is the problem though for the Trump message, is that if you look in Virginia at the heavily -- at the places where Trump did very well in 2016, Ed Gillespie did very well too. The problem is that Democrats were energized and people who were in the middle, especially millennial voters who came out in force for Ralph Northam, we are energized as a party in coming out and voting.
And even where Republicans are performing at the same levels as they did for Donald Trump, it's not enough to win. And so if you look at this district --
MILLER: Are they going to be that excited for Pelosi next year?
BURTON: I tell you what, I don't think anybody is out there confusing Ralph Northam with Chance the rapper. It wasn't because he's so hip that they were out there supporting him. It's because Donald Trump has been president that Democrats are showing up in force and millennials are saying enough is enough. We've got to find places where we say this is the line. We're not going to cross it and they're engaged and they're in the game. And that's a real problem for Republicans.
LEMON: Hey Bill, I want to ask you about this. Joe Biden reacted to last night's results as well. Here he is today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did any one of ever think that you would see in one of the historic cities in America, folks coming out from under rocks and out of the fields with torches carrying swastikas, literally citing the same, the same exact anti-Semitic bile that you heard and we heard in the 30s. Did you ever think that would happen and then have those who were protesting compare it as a moral equivalent to those people?
Folks, this is eating at the fabric of this country. It is wrong. And I think what happened last night all across the country, including with Republicans, is tired of this. It's undermining the social fabric of the nation and this phony nationalism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He is so running. But that's not my question, Bill. Do you think he's right?
BURTON: He's so right. He's great and it's great to have him out there on the public stage. What Virginians said was that they saw Ed Gillespie's campaign that tried to echo Donald Trump as it relates to immigration, as it related to the confederate monuments and they were like no, no, no. This is a place where we need a correction.
And if you look deep down in the races, the fact that the first trans- candidate won is going to be a legislature in Virginia running against the most homophobic legislator in that state. You have examples of this all across the country where, you know, people are bending the arc of progress towards the kind of America that they want to live in. And so there was a real rejection of Donald Trump and his rhetoric on race, on immigration and a real step forward for this country.
LEMON: Am I right, though, Bill? Is he running?
BURTON: I don't know. I would think that Vice President Biden wants to keep that door open and I think that he would be awesome in the race for president and would bring a lot.
LEMON: Jason, I think it's a yes.
MILLER: I think that he's running?
BURTON: I hope so.
LEMON: His book tour will be the launch of his campaign. Thank you. I appreciate both of you out. Former President Barack Obama doing today what millions of ordinary Americans do every day. He reported for jury duty, showing up at the courthouse in Chicago where he still has a home, even though he currently lives in Washington. Obama was assigned to a panel
[22:35:00] but did not get called, and so he was ultimately dismissed from the jury pool. Can you imagine having him on the jury? Nobody would even listen to what was happening in the courtroom. They'd just be staring at him so, not surprised that he didn't get picked so to speak. All right, when we come back, our breaking news why President Trump's former national security adviser and his son are being swept up in the Russia investigation and what this could mean for the administration and for their agenda.
LEMON: Drip, drip, drip. The Russia investigation headlines never stop. Tonight, sources telling CNN about the pressure being felt inside the family of former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Mike Shields and Angela Rye here and Republican strategist, Rick Wilson. Good evening, welcome to the program everyone.
Rick, I'm going to start with you. CNN is reporting that former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is concerned about legal exposure of his son, Michael Flynn, Jr. Both Flynn and his son under investigation by Robert Mueller, do you think Flynn might try to cut a deal with Mueller because of this?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I've heard that Flynn -- I've heard that the older Flynn has
[22:40:00] probably missed his launch window on cutting that deal. And if I was him I'd be nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. This is a guy who is in deep trouble. I mean he has got a lot FARA violations that are pretty out and evident. And I think Robert Mueller can bring tremendous pressure.
He doesn't have the resources to defend himself and Trump is not going to cover the bill. So if I were him, I would make a deal as quick as I could.
LEMON: Now that the indictments so have been handed down to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, does it make sense that Mueller would shift the focus to Flynn?
WILSON: Look, Mueller has enough prosecutor horsepower to target all these guys simultaneously. These are guys who are very accustomed to running complex multi-varied investigations and operations against things like drug syndicates and terrorist rings and all things like that. So they understand how to go after complex sets of relationships like this. He can walk and chew gum and indict Mike Flynn all at the same time.
LEMON: Mike, before we go any further. I just got to play this. This is Michael Flynn. It's at the RNC last year responding after chants of lock her up broke out in the crowd. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Damn right. Exactly right. There's nothing wrong with that. And you know why? And you know why? You know why we're saying that? We're saying that because if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mike, do you think that he regrets those comments that he made during the heat of the campaign and how much do you think this investigation played into all those voters' decisions at the ballot boxes yesterday?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I can't speak to whether or not he regrets it. Look, we've known all along. This isn't like Papadopoulos which was kind of a new name. Manafort and Gates and Flynn and his son are people that we've known this entire time were targets of this investigation and that may be brought in. So, there's nothing super surprising about hearing about this tonight.
I think we've all been sort of saying when will this happen when it comes to, you know, news coming out about Michael Flynn, but what he was talking about from the stage there, of course, are the things that Hillary Clinton was accused of doing in the election.
LEMON: But it's not a big deal that a national security adviser and his son who was his personal assistant, that's not a big deal? You're not down playing it, are you?
SHIELDS: No. Look, if they did something illegal, they should be prosecuted for it. If anyone ever did collude with the Russians, they should be prosecuted. And Russia is an enemy of the country and I don't believe that we should take it lightly that they tried to meddle in our election and there should be an investigation. I believe all of these things you know.
What I've been on the record with you many times is saying is I find it hard to believe that there was some grand conspiracy to collude inside the Trump campaign because they could barely collude with themselves. They just weren't professional enough to even pull something like that off. So I think there's going to be some random people that may have done some things that are getting wound up in this investigation, but that's a far cry from some huge conspiracy.
LEMON: They were incompetent potential colluders.
SHIELDS: Look, what I'm saying is it's not news that Flynn has been brought up. We've known this was going to be talked about.
LEMON: Angela, so yesterday's races were state and local, but with the way the president and the Russia investigation has dominated the national discourse, it seems like that it was at least something voters thought about, right, when they went to the polls.
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they not only thought about the Russia investigation, but they thought about the integrity of the president and what he represents. The fact that you can't take him at his word, the fact that he changes his mind with the wind, and that type of instability is not only dangerous, I think it certainly threatens our national security interests. They also --
LEMON: But didn't they know that from the campaign, Angela, and all the time we sat here and discussed that. They knew that --
RYE: You know, Don, you would certainly think so, wouldn't you? I mean, I think that from a personal standpoint it's been maddening to me that it took all of this time for Donald Trump to prove that he was exactly who he said he was from the moment he came down the escalator to announce his campaign. I think many of us all knew that, but maybe other folks were fooled because they might have watched him on a reality show called "The Apprentice" so they wanted to give him a chance before they fired him. I don't know.
But what I do know is that this is no laughing matter at this point. There are a number of issues at play. The fact that Flynn lied about his contacts with the Russians while he worked at the White House, the fact that his son made contacts and the fact that Jeff Sessions frankly perjured himself during his nominations hearing and there are so many other folks who had some type of contact.
So, I know Mike you said that they wouldn't have gotten away with this because they could hardly collude with themselves. It looks like they're not getting away with it.
LEMON: All right.
SHIELDS: I didn't say will get away with it.
LEMON: Hold your thought. I'll let you respond on the other side. Stick with me. When we come right back, will more Republicans embrace or reject Trumpism after last night's resounding win for Democrats and why didn't it work for Ed Gillespie?
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: It's been a year since Donald Trump's upset victory in the presidential election, but when you take Hillary Clinton off the ticket, is Trumpism still a winning formula? Back with me now, Mike Shields, Angela Rye and Rick Wilson. Mike, you were saying what you didn't say that they were going to get away with. You were responding to Angela.
SHIELDS: Well, I was saying that the idea that there's some grand conspiracy to collude is what I find laughable, not that anyone would get away it. No one should get away with anything, but to talk about Virginia, Don, I was a strategist on Karen Handle's campaign in Georgia's sixth congressional district. In fact, I wrote a column on CNN.com. You should check out about lessons Republicans can learn from it.
And I think it's really interesting to look at sort of -- that was a district that was a 48-47 win for Trump. So Democrats thought it was in play and we ended up winning by six points. It really isn't -- you know, Virginia, let's just look at the numbers. Virginia has gone Democrat presidential for the last two presidential elections. It's elected two Democratic senators.
It had a Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe and it just elected a Democrat, Ralph Northam, who by the way was saying he was for sanctuary cities. So what I find really interesting today is watching Democrats -- every one of their talking points is about
[22:50:00] tone and believe me, I think tone matters. But they're not talking about the things that Northam stood for and I think there is a real lesson for Republicans from this election, too.
LEMON: What do you say to that Rick? Go on, go ahead, and finish your thought. I thought you were done.
SHIELDS: There is a lesson for Republicans here in terms of how they deal with Donald Trump in the midterms and what the issue agenda that they are talking about is. I believe that Trump really did motivate Democratic voters to show up. I believe that in the suburbs, the independent voters looked like Democrats.
And if you are a Republican right now in the House or the Senate that's thinking about voting against tax reform, you should learn a lesson here that they have got to pass an agenda and speak to those suburban independent voters because we know that Trump --
LEMON: I got to get to the other guys in because we're running out of time. Go ahead, Rick, how do you respond to that?
WILSON: Look, I think that there is no question that Virginia is a swing state still. It is a purple state still. Ed Gillespie in the senate race prior to this race set a record for Republican turnout. And the fact of the matter is while northern Virginia has become quite Democratic, the rest of the state still is a pretty swingy state and the fact of the matter is, something happened with Donald Trump causing these people to come out up and down the ballot. I mean, down to the state assembly races where they come out explicitly to blow Donald Trump out of the water.
SHIELDS: So Rick, do you think it was a policy agenda or tone?
WILSON: I think there is a twofold problem here. The policy agenda that the campaign on the Republican side became associated with was MS13, confederate monuments, Donald Trump's defense of Charlottesville and the racial incidents there, and so that became the Republican de facto policy set (ph).
You know, Ed Gillespie is a very bright guy with a lot of considered opinions and policies but it became this campaign about confederate monuments and this race to be the (INAUDIBLE), you know, Trumpism without Trump and of course that is a political poison and people in Virginia rejected it out right. And they rejected it because in fact, Donald Trump has about 33 percent approval rating in the Old Dominion. And this is a guy who was deeply unpopular --
LEMON: Well let me ask you -- hey, I got to get Angela in Rick. She hasn't spoken and I'm going to run out of time. President Trump would have us believe that Gillespie's failure has nothing to do with him and in fact tweeting, Angela, Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Considering what Rick just said, how worried should Republicans be today ans is the president correct?
RYE: No, of course the president isn't correct. He absolutely embraced Trumpism but he absolutely denied Trump. He supported confederate statue staying in place. He supported sanctuary cities. He is also a George W. Bush guy and I think folks also know that. He's a very traditional Republican so I think it shocked some folks who are more moderate in their thinking whether they are Democrats or Republicans that he would even take this line considering what just happened in Charlottesville.
I think the real issue for Republicans to consider is not one of tone at all. It's the policies that you continue to push that are very poisonous. Even when you talk about tax reform, Virginia voters went to vote against what was happening with healthcare. That is what you see overwhelmingly in the exit polls. I think the issue with tax reform is you're kind of tone deaf.
If you're sending out -- I talked about this earlier today. If you're sending out e-mails saying, if you want to just simplify the tax code and just fill out your tax returns on a note card or postcard and send it back, support this movement, and that's not accurate. People know these are tax cuts for the wealthiest among us and it's going to be tax and pain for the middle class. And so if you're messaging this off and your policy that are even worst.
LEMON: I have a question for all of you. So we saw last night that Trumpism may not work without Trump, maybe it doesn't, but does it work without Hillary Clinton? We'll go into that after the break.
[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now with my experts. So Rick, I want to ask you this, one of the reason Trump was so popular during the 2016 campaign was because he had Hillary Clinton to attack and to use as a foil. How much of Trumpism success -- how much was that about Trump and how much was it about him being the, I don't know, anti-Clinton?
WILSON: Well look, Hillary Clinton was this figure that we built and frankly guys like me helped build her into this figure in the Republican demonology for 30 years, as this complete, you know, avatar of everything wrong with America. And so using her as a foil was something he needed and he relied on.
We heard in focus groups over and over again, Republicans would say, my god, if we don't have somebody else, if we don't have Trump to show and point 15 Supreme Court justices and all of this, so the fear of Hillary was an enormous factor in that. And I think Trumpism without it is sort of a dead letter because you look back, he's constantly relitigating the 2016 election.
LEMON: Angela, does it work without Hillary, Trumpism?
RYE: I'm sure he's going to find another boogey man or in her sense, a boogey woman. And it's a common messaging tactic. It's also translated of course to politic. It was interesting to see it worked with someone who was clearly a bully and trying to be the boogey man himself. I think we all remember the moment where he was standing right behind her in the presidential debate.
So, I think that absolutely it can work. The problem is their policies as I said in the last segment and we have to ensure that we're telling people just how detrimental they are. And so far that's worked.
LEMON: Mike, does it work without Hillary Clinton? Is he going to have to find another foil?
WILSON: Well yes, because there is one person in politics that he despise even more than Hillary Clinton, that's Nancy Pelosi and especially in swing races. And so you have a combination of Republicans are trusted more on taxes, are trusted more in the economy. The economy is doing well.
We're going to run against Nancy Pelosi. It works every single time. And so, it's probably one of the problem Ed Gillespie did not have a foil to run against and now we have Nancy Pelosi and she's even better for us than Hillary Clinton.