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Double Standard in Politics; Kushner Misleading Statements; Jeff Sessions Moved on with Kislyak Controversy. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 17, 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 first on CNN. The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, told congressional investigators that he had no communication with WikiLeaks. He also said he did not recall any other member of the campaign who had. But Kushner did receive and forward an e-mail from Donald Trump, Jr. about contact Trump Junior had with WikiLeaks according to a new report this week and a letter from the Senate judiciary committee.
We do not know the content of what was in that e-mail. Kushner's lawyer just released a letter saying in part this. "As to the WikiLeaks document to which you refer, this has been mischaracterized in the press. Mr. Kushner had no contacts with that organization and was along with others forwarded an e-mail from Donald Trump Jr. that has been widely reported and disseminated. This is no new document concerning Mr. Kushner. There is no new document concerning Mr. Kushner."
We'll have more on this in a moment for you here on this program. But first I want to turn to President Trump. Seemingly doing everything he can to avoid talking about Roy Moore and the sexual allegations against him.
He wants us to believe Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Clinton's accusers, but not his own. More than a dozen women, as a matter of fact. And today he sent Sarah Sanders out to take questions that he should really be answering himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That is absolutely true. The president hasn't admitted anything. He'd like to sweep the allegations against him under the rug. He'd like you to forget all about the women who accused him. And here they are in no specific order.
Number one, Ninni Laaksonen, a former Miss Finland. In 2006 while posing for a picture with Trump and another contestant and another contestant she says, quote, "he grabbed my butt before an appearance on the late show with David Letterman." Number two, Jessica Leeds says she sat next to Trump on a flight. It was around 1980. Here is how she described that to our Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA LEEDS, TRUMP ACCUSER: He was grabbing my breasts and trying to turn me towards him and kissing me. And then after a bit that's when his hands started going -- I was wearing a skirt, and his hands started going towards my knee and up my skirt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Donald Trump told a New York Times reporter, quote, "none of this ever took place." Number three, Mindy McGillivray. She told the Palm Beach Post that Trump groped her 14 years ago when she was assisting a photographer at Mar-a-Lago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MINDY MCGILLIVRAY, TRUMP ACCUSER: He didn't give me a second glance. He knew what he did. I know he knew what he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The Trump campaign threatened a lawsuit, which has yet to happen. Number four, Rachel Crooks says 12 years ago she was a receptionist at the building where Trump worked. After she said hello and shook his hand, she says Trump kissed her on the cheeks and then on the mouth.
She told the New York Times, quote, "I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that." Jason Miller, who was then a Trump spokesman, called the Times, that article, fiction.
And number five is Natasha Stoynoff, a writer for People magazine was at Mar-a-Lago in 2005 to write about Trump and his wife Melania's one year anniversary. She says Trump pushed her against a wall and started, quote, "forcing his tongue down her throat."
Trump's campaign told People the incident never happened.
Number six, Temple Taggert, a former Miss Utah claims Trump gave her a none consensual embrace and kissed her on the lips during a rehearsal for Miss USA when she was 21 years old. Taggert says did it again later during a meeting at Trump Tower. She spoke to our Erin Burnett.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEMPLE TAGGERT, FORMER MISS UTAH: He's married. This is awkward for me. He's much older. This is not at all what I came here for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Trump toll NBC, quote, "I don't even know who she is." Number seven, is Kristin Anderson. She says she was at a Manhattan nightclub. It was the early 1990s, sitting on a couch talking to friends. This is what she said happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:05:02] KRISTIN ANDERSON, TRUMP ACCUSER: The person on my right, who unbeknownst to me at that time, was Donald Trump put their hands up my skirt. He did touch my vagina through my underwear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Spokesman Hope Hicks called the story, quote, a "political attack designed to take down Mr. Trump."
Number eight is Summer Zervos. She was an Apprentice contestant. She says Trump first kissed her during a meeting in New York, but since she says she hoped to get a job at the Trump organization, she met with him, met to have dinner with him in Los Angeles and says that she was he escorted into a room next to where he was getting dressed. Zervos claims he later kissed her, quote, "very aggressively and placed his hand on her breast."
SUMMER ZERVOS, TRUMP ACCUSER: He treated me as if an object to be hit upon. I was incredibly embarrassed by his sexual advances and shared this information with a select few people close to me. You do not have the right to treat women as sexual objects just because you are a star.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And in another statement Trump said, quote, "I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago." Here is number nine. Cathy Heller. She says she met Trump at Mar-a-Lago. It was during Mother's Day at brunch 20 years ago. She told the Guardian she had been introduced to Trump by her mother-in-law. She said he, quote, "took my hand and grabbed me and went for the lips all without her consent." Jason miller called that a false accusation.
Number ten now, Jill Harth says she and her then boyfriend were involved in a business venture with Donald Trump. She says Trump made unwanted sexual advances towards her including groping her under her skirt on two occasions in 1992, in 1993.
And then there was a statement from Hope Hicks again to CNN, quote, "Mr. Trump denies each and every statement made by Miss Harth."
Number 11 is Jessica Drake, an adult film performer and director says Trump invited her to his suite at a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. That was in 2000 of. She brought two other women with her because she says she didn't feel comfortable going alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA DRAKE, TRUMP ACCUSER: He grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission. He was wearing pajamas. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: She also says Trump offered her $10,000 and the use of his private plane if she would go out to dinner or attend a party with him. The Trump campaign's statement called the story totally false and ridiculous.
Number 12, Karena Virginia, a yoga instructor and life coach. She said she encountered Trump in 1988 while waiting for a car service outside the U.S. Open.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARENA VIRGINIA, TRUMP ACCUSER: He then walked up to me and reached his right arm and grabbed my right arm. Then his hand touched the right inside of my breast. I was in shock. I flinched. "Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who I am?" That's what he said to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So that was 12. That's a dozen. But there's a 13th accuser, who wishes to remain anonymous. She is a friend of CNN's Erin Burnett and she says Trump tried to kiss her on the lips at Trump Tower in 2010. She says he invited her into his office alone, told her she was special and gave her his cell phone number. She told Erin, quote, "I ran the hell out of there."
Thirteen women, 13 stories of behavior that was at the very, very, very least inappropriate. Maybe President Trump is right. Maybe you think they're all lying. But how to explain Donald Trump's own words?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Here to discuss all of this, CNN political commentator Jack Kingston, also CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers and April Ryan. Good evening. Interesting we put it all together like that, Kirsten?
KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes. Look, I mean, it's tough to watch, I think, and I think it's tough to watch in light of what we've been watching almost on a daily basis. It's just -- you know, we're just having a lot of video of women telling stories about being mistreated by powerful men.
[22:10:07] LEMON: But Kirsten, here is the thing. The message from this White House is to avoid any real position on Roy Moore. You're supposed to believe Al Franken's accusers and other accusers, right, every single one of them. But then when it comes to Trump's accusers, all of them are liars.
LEMON: Does that about sum it up?
POWERS: Yes. And look, if you're on Twitter and you ever criticize Donald Trump for -- when these women came forward, what's the automatic response? It's always Bill Clinton. They always want to talk about other people who have accusations against them and they take them completely at face value. They're completely true whenever they are made against a democrat. When they're made against a republican, specifically Donald Trump, there's no truth to them whatsoever.
LEMON: Jack, so talk to me here. Do you see hypocrisy wafting from the White House?
JACK KINGSTON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I do see some -- a standard that if I was a big critic, that I'd have some questions about. And I'm a big fan and I have some questions about. So I think that the criticism is legitimate.
LEMON: What are your questions?
KINGSTON: I do think that the president attacking Al Franken and maybe being less on Roy Moore is disturbing, but I do want to point out that Ivanka, Jeff Sessions and the president have -- Sessions and Ivanka have issued statements about Roy Moore.
Jeff sessions said he had no reason to doubt the women. And Ivanka saying there's a place in hell for men who molest young women, young girls in this case. I can't remember the exact quote. And then the president did say if this is true he needs to get out of the race.
And he back up the Senate decision to withdraw money from the race. I think, though, that if the president goes out saying more, that he's just going to have more of these type shows where, you know, allegations against him are going to be resurrected over and over again.
You know, I was involved in the campaign during this week in particular. I remember the Access Hollywood story came out at 5 o'clock on a Friday and I was doing MSNBC the next morning and CNN as well, and immediately spent the next week looking at some of these allegations. And I do think that, you know, in the world where you are innocent until proven guilty, there were some questionable stories.
LEMON: You think all of them are lying?
KINGSTON: I don't know about all of them. But I would say, for example, in Jessica Drake, just Google her. I don't think she's a reliable witness. If she was offered $10,000, I can tell you she did a lot more for less. LEMON: Well, listen, I don't want to impugn anyone's reputation, but
there are people who have said and we have not reported it here the same thing about the Franken accuser, considering that she was a model and for Playboy and all of that. But what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? It has nothing to do with anything.
KINGSTON: Well, I'll tell you what it had to do with particularly at that time, Don, is that all these women came forward in almost a one- week period of time. And let's -- I'll admit that Gloria Aldridge (Ph) is the celebrity defense lawyer...
KINGSTON: Allred, I'm sorry, you know, she may be the best, but she's also the one who is out there the fastest, particularly when it comes to I'd say maybe even some with a political flare. But, you know, I'll give you another example.
LEMON: I want to get April in.
LEMON: I want to get April in. Because we've been...
APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Thank you. Thank you.
LEMON: You know, listen, April, first Sarah Sanders and you know, you were there today at this press briefing. That this is a conversation that should be taken seriously. But then what comes with that, though, for her is an asterisk which means not for the president. Go ahead.
RYAN: Well, here is the issue. When you have a president who is the moral leader and he's pointing fingers at people for something that he's alleged to have done, you've recounted 13 times, it's tough.
And listening to Jack at the very beginning, he was -- that was poignant when Jack said. Jack is concerned himself. For him to be such a staunch supporter and someone on the campaign trail with this president, it's a real issue.
When you talk about going after Al Franken and being silent on Roy Moore at this moment and then you have 12 accusers, it is -- the silence is deafening. He not only has to speak about Roy Moore now, but he also has to speak about himself. He's got to save himself now. If he can do that as it relates to these sexual misconduct allegations.
[22:15:04] So, this is a real issue, and this is something -- this is an albatross around this president's neck. And this could -- this could stay with him for a while. He may, weather the storm but it still stays with him, and then what's damning for this president, is that Access Hollywood tape. I mean, you had Tic Tac come out. The Tic Tac company come out talking about this is we don't condone this. I mean, this was such a real issue when it came out. And it was not locker room. This was joking in the midst of trying to move on to meet with a woman, a beautiful woman that they were going to talk to.
RYAN: The president has to speak.
RYAN: He has to speak.
LEMON: Well, listen, we've got a lot more to talk about and I don't want you guys to go anywhere. You heard, you know, Jack mention, you know, the Clintons and all of that. We're going to discuss that when we come back. Hillary Clinton weighs in and is this still 2016 or something?
Also, straight ahead, breaking news on the Russia investigation. First on CNN, the White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law told congressional Russia investigators that he did not communicate with WikiLeaks and did not recall anyone on the Trump campaign who had. Well, it turns out that is not the whole story. We're going to tell you about an e-mail Kushner forwarded from Donald Trump Jr.
LEMON: The Trump White House really seems to have a blind spot when it comes to allegations of sexual misconduct.
[22:20:00] Jack Kingston is here, Kirsten Powers, and April Ryan are all back with me. Jack, listen, Kirsten hadn't had a lot of time to talk, but I do, I mean, I do have to say, I have to give you some credit for saying that you have questions and concerns about hypocrisy coming out of the White House.
KINGSTON: Well, I think the White House is in a damned if they don't, damned if they don't position in terms of engaging on this particular topic. And, you know, I think the thing that did make Al Franken's a little bit easier for his critics, the critics of Al Franken is that a picture is worth a thousand words because so many of these sexual harassment cases are many years ago and spotty witnesses. And I'm not saying they're not legitimate.
But I'm just saying that one picture really makes -- you know, when Al Franken admits something, well, no duh. Look at the picture, Al. He didn't have any other choice.
LEMON: I think everyone can agree with you on that. And Kirsten, my question is, you know, there is a picture. The picture is wrong. It's wrong, his behavior. He shouldn't have been doing that. But wouldn't a videotape be worth a thousand words as well admitting to grabbing a woman by her private parts? POWERS: For me? It certainly would be. But obviously it wasn't, you
know, in the end for a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump who either decided that they didn't care or decided that they bought his story that this was not something that he actually did. That he was just joking around, that it was just locker room talk and then they would have to also not believe the women who came forward and described him essentially doing what he...
LEMON: But Kirsten, can I ask you about the strategy here because on Roy Moore this White House continues to say if true. But the truth is it's a scapegoat because they know, Kirsten, that these Roy Moore accusations, they wouldn't be adjudicated and the reality is here is Moore is following the Trump playbook to a t.
POWERS: He's following it not quite to a t. I would say I think that, you know, Donald Trump leaned into it a little bit more than Roy Moore is. He's hiding more than Donald Trump did. Donald Trump in fact sort of became even more aggressive, if you remember, about it by bringing the women to the -- Bill Clinton, who had accused Bill Clinton, bringing them to the press conference, sort of trying to rub this in Hillary's face.
I mean, he wasn't backing away from it. I think Roy Moore is hiding a little bit more. But what they're doing the same, I guess, is just the denial, saying that it just didn't happen and it doesn't matter how much evidence comes forward, they just keep saying that it didn't happen.
And they have voters who are willing to believe this. Who absolutely are willing to believe and maybe Jack can explain why republican voters seem to be more inclined to accept this.
LEMON: As a matter of fact we have a woman on a little bit later on in the show who is going to explain why she actually was part of and helped to lead a support for Roy Moore rally down in Alabama today. So we're going to hear from that.
But I have to get this in because this is just in. Hillary Clinton is now responding to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's comments that she thought President Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Lewinski affair. This is what she told WABC. Watch this, everyone.
(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't exactly know what she was trying to say because her whole comment was somewhat contradictory, but I'll let her speak for herself.
This was a painful time not only in our marriage but in our country, as I've written about. But it was investigated fully. It was addressed at the time. He was held accountable. That is very different than what people seem to be remembering from that period because you can go back and look at the history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, Kirsten Gillibrand was asked in an interview if she thought that Bill Clinton after the accusations of what happened during the Lewinski scandal if he should have stepped down at the time. She said yes. Remember, she's an accolade of the Clintons, but now she's saying he should have stepped down. What's your response to this, April?
RYAN: You know, it kind of goes along with something that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today in the briefing room, because I asked her a question -- I talked to Hillary Clinton as well today, and I asked Hillary Clinton about this situation with President Trump as well as Roy Moore.
And she said, you know, the president's past is showing us his present and his future. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders said something along the line that, you know, she basically has a lot of nerve to talk. And she was referencing Bill Clinton, then President Bill Clinton.
You know, I was there with the Monica Lewinski scandal. You could see the pain in their family. You could also see the pain in the nation. I remember when Ken Starr drove up to depose the president of the United States at that time in the map room.
[22:25:01] It was a day I'll never forget. He was asked about it. He was investigated about it. He was impeached basically over it. So, and ultimately, you know, he -- he lied about it at first. But then I remember him saying I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
LEMON: He had no choice, actually. The evidence showed something different. I mean, there was a blue dress and DNA.
RYAN: Right. Right.
LEMON: You know, he lied under oath.
RYAN: Right. That blue -- exactly. But he lied under oath. But guess what? It all came out. It was investigated and he was impeached. There was a hearing on the Hill. There was, you know, testimony on the hill. All this was going on the Hill about this. Now what do we have here?
RYAN: People need to stop looking at the past and look at the present. A lot of people like to deflect. And I'm not saying this to make people think that I'm for one side or the other. But the issue is now that happened then and it was real then and it does play into now. We've seen this.
And if it played into then, it needs to play into now.
RYAN: Everything comes to the White House from water piece and everything in between.
LEMON: And if it's...
RYAN: And this is in between.
RYAN: And the president is a moral leader. And this is at his doorstep. And I mean, I'm telling you tonight is a moment that I'll never forget when Jack actually is a supporter of the president who has concerns about this. And if Jack has concerns, imagine the rest of the republicans who have concerns...
LEMON: That's got to be the last word.
RYAN: ... about this president and the allegations.
LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it. Fascinating conversation. I'm sure we'll be talking about it much more. Have a good weekend. Thanks again.
When we come back, new developments in the Russian investigation. A source telling CNN that Jared Kushner told congressional Russia investigators he didn't recall anyone in the campaign communicating with WikiLeaks even though he had received and forwarded an e-mail about just that. We're bringing you the details next.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[22:32:00] LEMON: We have to discuss some new developments in the Russia investigation tonight. We're learning that contrary to what he told congressional investigators, Jared Kushner received an e-mail about WikiLeaks and it came from the president's son.
CNN's justice correspondent is Evan Perez and he's here with more. Good evening. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Don. Well, Jared Kushner told congressional investigators that he didn't communicate with WikiLeaks and didn't recall anyone in the Trump campaign who did, but we know from disclosures this week that Donald Trump, Jr. sent an e-mail to Kushner and others in the campaign last year to pass on information that he learned from WikiLeaks and that then Kushner then forwarded that e-mail to Hope Hicks, one of the closest aides to then candidate Trump, and of course, the communications director at the White House now.
Now what this latest revelation does, Don, is it turns up the pressure for Kushner to go back to Capitol Hill for more interviews and to explain himself. We heard yesterday from the leaders of the Senate judiciary committee
who sent a public letter to Kushner's lawyer saying that Kushner had failed to turn over documents that they know exist, and that includes information about WikiLeaks, Don.
LEMON: So what about Kushner and his camp? Are they responding? What are they saying?
PEREZ: They are. Abbe Lowell, his attorney says that the WikiLeaks question is a got you question. He adds that, quote, "In over six hours of voluntary testimony Mr. Kushner answered all questions put to him and demonstrated that there had been no collusion between the campaign and Russia."
And Lowell, by the way, also disputes the judiciary committee's letter accusing Kushner of not turning over documents. He also says that the Senate judiciary committee should ask other congressional committees for their transcripts of their Kushner interviews and that they should go to the White House for additional documents, Don.
LEMON: Yes. So, listen, one of the mysterious questions raised by the senators was an e-mail chain that suggested a Russian back door overture and dinner invite. Do you know anything about that?
PEREZ: Well, yes. We now know from both from sources and from Abbe Lowell himself that there was this overture that it came from a -- it originated with a West Virginia man, and it all centers around another attempt by the Russians to make inroads with the Trump campaign.
Now, this involved a Russian official by the name of Aleksander Torshin, and apparently who he was doing was passing on through this West Virginia supporter of the president an effort to set up some kind of side meeting at an NRA convention. At the same time he also was trying to get a connection between Putin and the Trump campaign.
Now, all of this according to Abbe Lowell was rejected by Jared Kushner, who basically warned people in the campaign about dealing with people who are simply exaggerating their connections, Don. So it appears that this didn't go anywhere.
LEMON: Evan Perez. We appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
PEREZ: Thank you.
LEMON: I want to bring in now CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, a former chief of Russian operations for the CIA, and Jack Barsky. Jack is a former KGB spy and author of "Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America."
Good evening, everyone. Thank you. Welcome to the program. Steve, Kushner testified he didn't communicate with Russia, and he didn't know of any such contacts by the campaign. We now know he received and forwarded an e-mail from Donald Trump Jr. about contacts the president's son had with WikiLeaks. Kushner's attorney says he got got you questions. Do you believe that? What do you think? STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, again, coming
from a counterintelligence background like I do where you're looking for patterns, this is just another piece of the puzzle, another part of the pattern.
You know, Jared Kushner and others in the Trump team can say well, you know, there's no connections to Russia here. There's no connections, you know, to WikiLeaks or others. And we have to remember the role that Kushner has played.
[22:34:59] You'll also recall previous reporting indicating that Kushner was involved with Cambridge Analytica, the political research firm, which was trying to get connections to WikiLeaks.
So, you know, you've got sort of a dance going on here. You've got people on the Trump team who seem to want to play a little bit with the Russians, whether it's Kushner's meetings with ambassador -- former Ambassador Kislyak or his involvement, you know, with WikiLeaks through Cambridge Analytica.
And then you've got the Russians who are clearly looking at all the different areas of the Trump team that they can get into starting at the very top from family members like Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr. and all the way down through smaller fish like, you know, like Papadopoulos and guys like that. So it's part of an interesting Russian operation.
LEMON: Laura, I'm sure you remember after his testimony this summer Jared Kushner spoke to reporters, but let's just sort of refresh everyone's memory for a bit here. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON-IN-LAW: Let me be very clear, I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Here the Kushner documents that Senate judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein say were missing -- are missing, OK? The missing Kushner documents, communications with Flynn, security clearance documents, e-mail chain concerning WikiLeaks, Russian back door overture dinner invite, phone records source, Senate judiciary committee's letter to Kushner.
So when it comes to Kushner, it seems like we never get the full picture and how far can the - I don't recall defense go?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think that it's time that it can't go any farther. And frankly, all these different caveats and kind of semantics based arguments about what you recall and what you did not recall. And, is that what you remember?
The list that you just gave, Don, several of those have been in the news quite recently, including one involving the wife -- the brother of his own wife involving WikiLeaks. You would think that his memory would be jogged that he would say perhaps I should be more comprehensive in the information that I turn over. As opposed to having to continue to drip, drip.
A lot of this is self-inflicted wounds, the idea of only handing over that which is requested by you. This is an operation and a counterintelligence probe that is widening and widening its scope and its scrutiny largely based on the actions of the people that it's investigating.
Because there seems to be this impression that if you drip, drip, drip and you're not entirely forthcoming, that somehow that will enter to your benefit and as they see time and time again and as we see time and time again, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The entire role of the FBI is to be the proverbial dog with a bone who is intent on finding out why people have this selective amnesia and how far they're willing to take it.
LEMON: So, Jack, as Evan just reported before this segment, we have more information about the back door overture and the dinner, that invite the Senate judiciary committee is asking about. It refers to, by the way, a West Virginia man, a former contractor in Iraq who proposed a meeting between Russians and the Trump campaign on the sidelines of an NRA convention. Does this sound like a Russian covert operation to you?
JACK BARSKY, FORMER KGB SPY: Yes, of course it sounds like the sand box I was trying to play in. Any chance you get, you know, to make inroads, you probe, you try here and there and everywhere.
So what we got here, when you look at the entire picture, we have with WikiLeaks a bunch of an anarchists who are out to make trouble and you don't know exactly who they're aligned with.
You've got -- you've got some really, really well trained operatives on the Russian side, and you've got, let's just be very nice to Mr. Kushner, we've got somebody very naive who attempted to take advantage of that bite and take that bait. And so we've got a big old mess.
I just don't know where all the investigation is going to lead us. We are losing focus on the real problem, and that's the Russians and their capability and their continued meddling. And they're not going to stop. And there's too much focus on this fringe stuff around it. You know, maybe Kushner is guilty in some way, but I think the big fish is still the Russians.
LEMON: OK. Stick with me, everyone. When we come back, the attorney general cracking this joke today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I want to ask you, is Ambassador Kislyak in the room? Before I get started here. Any Russians?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: And we are back now with Laura Coates, Steve Hall, and Jack Barsky. So, Laura, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions was at the Mayflower hotel today. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: I was just was thinking, you know, I should want to ask you is Ambassador Kislyak in the room? Before I get started here. Any Russians? Anybody been to Russia? Got a cousin in Russia or something?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Really? I mean, come on. Laura, Sessions -- he testified that he did not remember meeting Kislyak during a VIP reception. That was before an April 2016 campaign event that was at the Mayflower hotel. I mean, it's not really a laughing matter, is it?
COATES: No. I mean, his obvious attempt at humor was very well- received in the company he was keeping, but what he was doing was trying to be dismissive and hark back to the time when he said, look, I only had these kind of sideline meetings, if at all, with Kislyak. If I met him or when I met him, it was of nature that was not supposed to be intended to have an in-depth conversation about anything nefarious or illegal or anything about collusion.
[22:44:58] But, in fact, again, the self-inflicted wounds. He in fact did have a selected amnesia regarding his meetings. Only later on did he come back to talk about the fact that he recalled even a suggestion that Trump should meet Putin when the media reported it.
And so it's not really time to gloat or try to be dismissive or try to be satirical about the fact that he remains, frankly, a lame duck attorney general because of his contact with that particular person, and it's not time yet to laugh.
LEMON: Yes. Jack, listen, speaking of Kislyak, on Russian television this week he joked about the investigation, saying his contact with Americans would be too long to list. You know people who have worked with Kislyak. Was he mocking this whole Russia investigation?
BARSKY: No. He's just stirring up more trouble. You know, whatever comes out of his mouth you cannot believe you understand? I recently -- you're going to love this one. I had a meeting which was an ex-KGB folks reunion. We had a general from the KGB and ex-major who was actually CIA and the undercover guy was me.
And the general who knew Kislyak pretty well, he said, you know, he reported -- he wasn't on the payroll of the KGB, but he reported sort of in to the KGB. He has always been and is a very, very skilled operator. Whatever comes out of his mouth is deliberate and is meant to create more confusion. LEMON: So, Laura, did you want to respond to that, Laura?
Well, I'm thinking about the term that you just used about intending to, you know, cause confusion. And I'm thinking back to the discussion that Donald Trump, Jr. had allegedly with WikiLeaks and the e-mail direct messaging accounts through Twitter talking about the idea of being beautifully confounding to the American people.
And the exchange between the two would be beautifully confounding if it in fact allowed WikiLeaks to disseminate information and have an air of impartiality. And so, you have a theme here that's emerging in more than one location about this notion of trying to infuse the nation's discussion with confusion and also to have a duplicity that is inherent with every single conversation that's had.
And certainly it's been successful in the notion that we are doubting and casting doubt on any interaction with these people.
LEMON: Yes. Steve, quickly here and my question is long, but if you can give me a short answer here. The special counsel Robert Mueller wants to meet with the music publicist Rob Goldstone who set up the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and the Russian lawyer. What do you think they're looking for?
HALL: You know, I think that's one of the most important, single most important meetings that happened because we have firm evidence on an e-mail from Donald Trump, Jr. saying I want dirt on my political opponents. And I think they want to know more about that because I think that's one of the really concrete things that comes as close as possible to that collusion cooperation question. Where they're trying to -- trying to get the game right in their favor based on information that the Russians could give them. So I think that's why they're correctly focused on that critical meeting.
LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, a Senate candidate facing allegations of sexual assault of minors. The president's former chief strategist openly challenging his old boss on candidate picks. How does this play out and how does the Republican Party deal with this crisis of character?
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Roy Moore is demonizing the republican establishment saying that if anyone should step down, it is Mitch McConnell. What does the infighting mean for the Republican Party? No better person to talk to than Mark McKinnon. There he is. He is former advisor to George W. Bush and co-host of the circus.
So good to have you on. My first question, the Republican Party is in a state of crisis right now in both political and the moral front. The political crisis between the moderate wing of the party, Mark, which is led by Mitch McConnell and then the ultra- conservative wing of the party which I guess you can say is led by Steve Bannon. Is the GOP as we have known it for decades, is it disintegrating?
MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: It is, and thanks to Roy Moore now, the Republican Party is clawing its way to the bottom fast. You know, when we have a party that is welcoming Roy Moore and discouraging people like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, we're on the fast track to minority status.
Now the republican leadership in the Senate and the House, both Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have ask Roy Moore -- have said that they think Roy Moore should step down, but the president hasn't, and he's probably the only one, if anyone could have any impact on that decision, it would be Donald Trump.
But he's not using his moral authority because he doesn't have it. And that's the problem. And he knows that if he -- and he says if it's true, well there's not going to be any -- this is not a court of law. This is a public opinion. And the only thing that's going to adjudicate this is a vote.
So you either believe Roy Moore or you believe the nine women who bravely came forward and reported the activity for which there is no upside for them doing this except for I'm sure a lot of embarrassment and shame and impunitive reaction from republicans around Alabama.
LEMON: And threats. Because they say that they are getting threats...
MCKINNON: And threats, exactly. Yes.
LEMON: ... and they're worried about their own safety and security. Listen, Bannon is reportedly preparing to lead challenges against five sitting republican senators, Mark. Let's -- this is what he said at the values voter summit about the conflict last month, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There is a time and season for everything. And right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment. This is not my war. This is our war.
And you all didn't start it. The establishment started it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So how do you see this fight between Bannon and the establishment GOP playing out?
MCKINNON: I don't see any ceasefire. I think this is going to be a fire fight and burn the party down to the foundation. You know, if Roy Moore is the opening bid for the Bannon slate of candidates, it's not a good sign. It reminds me a lot of Todd Aiken and Sharron Angle who viewers may remember were similar candidates, fringe candidates that were similarly supported in a fashion like this and then lost badly in the general election.
So, I think we have a situation in Alabama now where something may happen or is likely to happen that nobody thought possible which is a democrat may win the Senate seat.
LEMON: Can you imagine that? Going from red to blue just like that overnight?
MCKINNON: Well, given the news cycle over the last week, I can, yes. Because if I'm a voter in Alabama, I much prefer, you know, somebody with the credentials and history of the democrat running than the republicans.
[22:55:09] LEMON: Well, let's dig in on this a little bit more. And you talked about it in your first answer, I think, but I want to drill down a little bit more on it.
This moral crisis was brought on by the allegations of sexual assault by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. And it was in some ways it was exacerbated by the complete lack of response by this president. Is the Republican Party dealing with this, with the moral crisis in the right way or is there a conspicuous lack of courage on display here?
MCKINNON: Well, I think there's no exercise of moral authority. And this is a situation that demands it. I mean, this is the situation where, you know, I yearn for John McCain or George W. Bush on an issue like this. I think they would -- they would have stood up quickly and loudly.
LEMON: But pretty much every republican, established republican in Washington said he needs to get out of the race, the president is the only one.
MCKINNON: Exactly right. And by that standard, it's suggesting that we have a president who won't even stand up with the rest of the leadership of his party because he's got similar problems.
MCKINNON: And I mean, if he applies that to Moore, he would have to apply it to himself and he's unwilling to do that. And so, he says, you know, if it's true. And we know that that never be adjudicated in court before the election.
LEMON: Mark McKinnon, it is always a pleasure...
LEMON: Go on, do you want to finish?
MCKINNON: Well, my bottom line is that anybody who's banned from a mall should be banned from the Senate.
LEMON: I'm at a loss for words. Words of wisdom. Thank you, Mark. Always a pleasure. Enjoy your weekend. If I don't see you, happy Thanksgiving, OK? Did he respond? No. All right. When we come back, is Jared Kushner in hot water? A source telling CNN
there could be a problem with his testimony in front of congressional Russia investigators. We'll bring you the details next.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11 p.m. here on the East Coast.
We're live with breaking tonight. That black cloud of Russia, that Russia investigation is getting darker.