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Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty; Mueller's Team Squeezing Trump's Orbit; Trump Wants Russia Probe to End. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 1, 2017 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. President Trump has told you over and over and over again that nobody in his campaign had anything to do with Russia. And we learned today that simply is not true.

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser and a key member of the Trump campaign, pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia's then ambassador to the United States.

You can't call him (AUDIO GAP) call him a coffee boy. You can't even say he was only part of the administration for a short time. Even though White House lawyer Ty Cobb said exactly that today, to no surprise. Because Michael Flynn was right in the inner circle of the Trump campaign. There's absolutely no question about that. Donald Trump's own words prove it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where is General Flynn? He's around here someplace.


Incredible guy. How about General Flynn. We love General Flynn, right? Mike Flynn. I want to thank General Flynn for being a great guy. Great man.

General Flynn, who is here someplace. I love General Flynn. Michael Flynn, General Flynn, is a wonderful man.


LEMON: This is no witch hunt as the president has repeatedly claimed. This is a search for the truth. Following the facts wherever they lead. Even into the president's own family.

CNN learning tonight that Jared Kushner himself, the president's son- in-law, directed Flynn weeks before the inauguration to contact the Russian ambassador about a U.N. Security Council vote on Israeli settlements. That is according to sources familiar with the matter.

Here's a timeline of Flynn's contacts with Russia. December 22, 2016. General Flynn asks Russian Ambassador Serge Kislyak to postpone that Security Council vote. December 29th. President Obama announces new sanctions against Russia. And Flynn asks Kislyak not to retaliate. November 30th, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he won't

retaliate against U.S. sanctions. January 20th, 2017, President Donald Trump is inaugurated. January 24th, Flynn lies to FBI investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

January 26th, then acting Attorney General Sally Yates warns the Trump White House that Flynn was lying about calls with Kislyak. January 30th. President Trump fires Yates after she refuses to defend his initial travel ban.

February 13th, Flynn resigns after misleading Vice President Pence about his calls with Kislyak. Now Flynn's bombshell guilty plea has thrown the White House into turmoil. Despite the president's efforts to make the investigation go away.

Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, saying this today.


MARK WARNER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: You've got this repeated pattern of the President of the United States, who is trying desperately to stop this investigation. Cost Jim Comey his job, because he wouldn't stop the investigation. He intervened with senators. He intervened with other senior intelligence officials.

You know, I think the American people and a lot of us ask why is he so desperate to have this investigation stopped.


LEMON: Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the intelligence committee, has a blunt assessment.


JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: In your view, has the president lied about what communications his team had with Russia?

ADAM SCHIFF, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, abundantly and frequently and in just about every way.


LEMON: CNN has learned that Senate intelligence chairman Richard Burr suggested that republican senators avoid commenting on the Michael Flynn news. But questions tonight, what was Michael Flynn trying to hide? Why did he lie? And what did the president know and when did he know it?

Let's get right now with CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash, chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, and justice correspondent Evan Perez. There's a lot to discuss this evening.

A close source to the White House is saying that President Trump and his team are, quote, "totally in a bubble," right, they should be treating this Michael Flynn guilty plea like a red alert. What are you learning about that?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's reporting from Jim Acosta. I have been hearing from people in and around the Trump orbit today and into tonight that the bubble has burst.

LEMON: Really?

BASH: And to the point where, or at least in the notion that the president is in a very foul mood. He's clearly very upset about this. That should not be surprising.

[22:04:59] And even separate from the White House, Don, down Pennsylvania Avenue, because even though it is late on Friday night, the United States Senate is still in session, and senators obviously republicans I'm talking about here, are on the Senate floor saying to each other and saying to themselves, how is this going to end?

And most importantly, the question is as much about how the president is going to respond as it is how the special counsel is going to continue this. Because that is one of the big, big concerns.

Nobody ever expected the president to fire James Comey back at the end of January, you know, showing the timeline. Of course, that led to special counsel Robert Mueller's appointment and led to where we are today. And although they're saying at the White House no one is even talking about firing Robert Mueller, you never know what's going to happen.

LEMON: But you know, if I was a senator, I would be wondering do I want to be on board with anything to do with this because it's not knowing -- we don't know where this is going to end up, right? Do I want to be on board with approving something that's going to have his stamp of approval on it? Do I want to be--

BASH: Yes.

LEMON: -- lumped into that? I think that is a very legitimate question at this point.

BASH: Well, it is, except that they now have their -- I mean, they've had their own hides to watch for a while.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: But even more so, the the burning desire and desperation really to get things like tax reform done, which they're going to do at least in the next stage in the Senate tonight, is even more critical according to -- I talked to one republican senator tonight, because they even more so have to prove that they can get things done. Even more so have to have a legislative accomplishment, given the political firestorm going on the Russia side of this.

LEMON: Jim, Flynn's guilty plea is the first charge against a person inside the Trump administration, and now CNN is learning that Jared Kushner was, quote, "very senior transition member, the one who directed Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador." What do we know about that?

SCIUTTO: Listen, the White House has tried to portray Flynn, in these conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition, first they tried to portray them as completely innocent conversations. You had Sean Spicer, when this was first revealed, saying they were exchanging holiday pleasantries.

We know that's not true. Secondly, they tried to portray this as something he did on his own, kind of free lancing here. We know from the statement of offense, that that's not true. Because he was very clearly keeping members of that very small Trump transition team aware of his conversations, multiple conversations with someone who we now know is K.T. McFarland, the national security adviser to the Trump transition while he was speaking to the Russian ambassador.

And in addition to that, that he was getting directions on these conversations from a very senior, as was described in the statement of defense, Trump transition official, which Dana, Gloria, and I reported earlier today was Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.

So there were conversations with the Russian ambassador that Flynn was having that he lied about and there were conversations that Flynn was having with the Trump transition team about those conversations with the Russian ambassador.

So, others knew that he was doing that. And that belies all, you know, what we've heard for months and still we're hearing today that we didn't know. Whatever he did, he was lying about it, he lied to us. Vice President Pence said that he knew nothing about it.

That those stories have all been blown up by what we see in the statement of offense, and that's a real problem going forward because this was a small transition team. The president was a micromanager; he was involved in many things. Does it stand to reason that the president had no knowledge of these conversations?

And crucially, now that Flynn is cooperating with the special counsel, is he prepared to say that the president told him to have these conversations? Open question, we don't know. But a very reasonable question.

LEMON: And when people lie so much, I mean, you don't know what to believe. But usually what you end up believing is none of it. So Evan Perez, walk us through this. What did Flynn admit to exactly?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he admitted to really just one count of false statements, but really contained within that one count, Don, were four separate lies to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians.

In addition to that, there is also as part of that statement, a statement of offense that Jim is referring to, there's also a mention of his failure to file declarations of being a foreign agent for work he was doing on behalf of the government of Turkey. There were three multiple filings that he made as part of that, that

essentially were false. So really all together, we're talking about up to seven lies that are really contained in this one count plea that he made today, the guilty plea that he made today.

[22:09:55] We have his statement that he issued right at the end of the hearing today. I'll read part of it, which says, "My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel's office reflect the decision I made in the best interests of my family and our country and I accept full responsibility for my actions."

Don, we're looking at, you know, somebody who served the country for 33 years in the U.S. military, and he was looking at some really, really big legal bills here, and he decided that it was time for him to cooperate.

LEMON: Evan, I have another question for you because Jim just mentioned K.T. McFarland. You have new information about another administration official involved, K.T. McFarland. What do you know?

PEREZ: Right. Well, just before all of this happened, we know that K.T. McFarland, who was Flynn's deputy, she's a former Fox News contributor, she had left the White House earlier. She went in for -- to provide information to the special counsel, Don.

So even before we knew all of this had happened, all of this information that was contained in this guilty plea, it appears that the special counsel was working very hard to get in people who might have information relevant to what Mike Flynn was talking about.

And so we know Jared Kushner came in earlier in November, and we know -- we now know that K.T. McFarland also came in for an interview with the special counsel.

LEMON: Dana Bash, I want to play this moment from General Flynn. It was during the RNC. Watch this.


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Lock her up. That's right. Yes, that's right, lock her up! If I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.


LEMON: All right, Dana, listen, a lot of people are say thing is karma. And we can get to that. But we have some breaking news that I wanted to speak to you about. We're just getting in.

According to White House, a senior White House official, says that Flynn pardon not under consideration. A senior White House official tells Jim Acosta that a pardon for Michael Flynn is absolutely, it's a quote, "absolutely not under consideration." Surprising?

BASH: Yes, that they closed the door on this, because the president likes to leave things like this open for himself. But given the severity of this, both legally and politically, it's the smart thing to say.

Because as I mentioned, the concern that I was hearing from republicans on Capitol Hill, in particular about how the president go (TECHNICAL PROBLEM)


LEMON: Our breaking news. The Russian investigation reaching further into President Trump's inner circle. The former national security advisor Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, and now cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigation. So what is he telling them? And is this a turning point?

Let's discuss now with CNN contributor John Dean, a former Nixon White House counsel is here, and CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein.

What a day for news, gentlemen. Thank you so much for joining us. John, you're first. A senior White House official is telling our Jim Acosta that a pardon for Flynn is absolutely not under consideration. What's your reaction?

JOHN DEAN, CNNCONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's certainly the intelligent thing to say, because the only reason he would pardon Flynn at this stage would be to obstruct justice. And that couldn't be more conspicuous. So, I think that's certainly the safe message to put out there, if he's back channeled something else to the general, he better do it quietly.

LEMON: Yes. Some are saying that maybe they forgot for now, out of that sentence but I don't know -- I don't know if it would be prudent for that to do that.

DEAN: It should not be.

LEMON: Yes. Carl, I want to ask you, even it feels like we learned so much today. You say we are still only seeing a small part of where this investigation is going right now. What do you think Mueller will do next?

CARL BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: I don't know. But I think he's going to keep indicting people. And that's [art of the lesson of what we're seeing today. He has now gotten a plea from the person who is closest in many ways to Donald Trump during the campaign, and in the national security area, who knows the most about what went on with Russia, with dealings with Russians not necessarily Trump's business dealings, but in terms of the campaign, and policy.

And I want to ask John Dean, Bob Woodward and I were talking today, and we asked each other, is General Flynn going to be John Dean? Does he have enough knowledge and was he part of a conspiracy that he admitted, admits to he was a criminal conspirator? Is that what we're seeing, John? What do you think?

DEAN: Well, Carl, I certainly think he has enough knowledge. He has more knowledge than I did. He was much closer to Trump than I was to Nixon. I had like 20 meetings with Nixon, 39 total where other people were there. But some 20 one on one, where Flynn was meeting with Trump throughout the campaign, and throughout the early 24 days of his job as national security adviser daily and frequently.

So I think he's much more knowledgeable than I am. And if there is collusion, if there was a conspiracy, nobody is more likely to know it than he is.

LEMON: Well, let's talk more about that then, since you have such knowledge of this. Explain the details of this cooperation agreement.

[22:19:59] I'm wondering what he is, what Flynn is getting and what Mueller is getting, because it seems like, you know, what he copped to was the lesser of what he could have -- what they could have charged him with.

BERNSTEIN: What Mueller is getting--


LEMON: For John. For john. And then I'll bring--

BERNSTEIN: I'm sorry, go ahead.

LEMON: Yes, go ahead, John.

DEAN: Well, they left a lot on the table. As came up in the last segment, there were seven lies or potential lies that he admitted to that were in the plea agreement. That could have been a seven-count indictment.

But there could have been other counts to the indictment. There could have been the Turkey business where he was dealing improperly. There could have been the failure to register under FARA, which he failed to do. So there was a lot left on the table. It was a good deal for Flynn. And I can't believe Mueller is a turkey in the other sense and didn't get a good deal for it.

LEMON: Carl, do you think that maybe their -- because they're hoping to extract so much information from him that he -- they're trying to give him the best deal they could possible -- they could possibly give him so that they can get a bigger person or get more information? Because if they shut him down and charge him with all these things, they may be thinking he may shut up.

BERNSTEIN: I think they're playing a very strong hand, that they know they had him and they could send him to jail for a long, long time. He would be in the slam for half of the rest of his life if he was charged with everything that could be on the table.

And this is a minimal sentence, if he is willing to cooperate and deliver what apparently he says that he can deliver. But I'm very interested in another aspect of this, and that is the possibility that the Logan Act might be in play here. It seemed inconceivable to me for a while, the idea that it's illegal to aid a foreign power. It's never been invoked really in modern history. And at the same time, there's some signs pointing that way, and I

started to think about Nixon, and that Nixon, had we known at the time of Watergate, what Nixon did to undermine the Paris peace negotiations, he would have -- as a candidate for president of the United States, he would have been charged in those articles of impeachment with violating the Logan Act. I have very little doubt about that.

And the idea here that what we're seeing are attempts by the candidate for president of the United States and his national security aides, to undermine the foreign policy of the President of the United States, and the existing government of the United States, may really be in play here. I think it's a possibility.

LEMON: I've heard some wonder that, but most legal experts that I have seen quoted have said that they don't believe that the Logan Act does apply. We'll see as it plays out. It's certainly a very good question.

But just before I let you go, John, I want to ask you about this. This is a statement from the White House counsel Ty Cobb, releasing this today, saying "Today, Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser at the White House, for 25 days, note, 25 days during the Trump administration and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn."

Listen, I know you were taken aback by this statement and explain -- I can -- I know why, but explain to our audience.

DEAN: Well, it's certainly not candor, and it made me frankly pull out the model code of the ABA to look at where the limits are for lawyers and what they can say publicly about their clients. And this is right on the borderline. So it's a pretty close statement.

LEMON: Yes. Not to mention that the Obama administration warned the incoming Trump team about Michael Flynn and said that they perhaps they should not be considering for him for any post at all.

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. When we come back, former intelligence officials and a former federal prosecutor join me to weigh in on what Flynn's guilty plea means for the investigation. They're going to tell me where it all goes from here and who else could be in trouble.


LEMON: In June, fired FBI director James Comey testified under oath that President Trump said to him "I hope you can see your way clear to letting Flynn go."

Knowing what we do now, how does that conversation work into Robert Mueller's investigation?

Let's discuss with CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, a former FBI senior intelligence adviser joins us, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem who has been predicting today's news for a while now, and Robert Ray, a former Whitewater independent counsel and former federal prosecutor.

Juliette, I do have to say -- and by the way, good evening to all you. You predicted a lot of what has taken place, and you predicted that something big from Mueller, you said around Thanksgiving. And here we are. So what does this tell us about the investigation?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: So despite what I think Trump supporters will tell you, it's really remarkable what Mueller has done in six months. When you actually think he's gotten two indictments against senior members of the Trump team, including his former campaign Manager Manafort, a lower level plea arrangement with a lower level campaign adviser, and today, the national security adviser.

Let's say those words again, the national security adviser for Donald Trump has pled guilty for a very, very minor offense, right?

So that's where this now leads, is that why would he plead guilty to relatively minor offense and why would Mueller actually accept that? And that is because you and I and Phil and Robert and everyone will be here for the next couple of months determining where the next shoe will drop.

[22:30:02] Is it Jared Kushner? Is it Pence, who sort of has an interesting role right now, or is it in fact Donald Trump? And that's the way that this has unfolded.

But Flynn has always been the center of it, because he got fired, because he had so many liabilities against him, and because he really had no other pathway forward as a father, as a person in debt, and as a person who knows a lot. And Mueller basically is saving him at this stage.

LEMON: So, Phil, given what Juliette just said, Flynn is cooperating. Where does this investigation go now? Who is vulnerable?

MUDD: Where does it go? It goes ugly, Don. Let's put some time frames in place here. You look at the document that was released today as part of the plea bargain, the prosecution, the phone calls with the Russian ambassador going to December 29th, a year ago. The conversations with the FBI that involved Mike Flynn lying. That goes to January.

We're now 10 months ahead. What do you think happened in those 10 months in terms of the FBI's acquisition of data to support Robert Mueller and support the case against Mike Flynn? They acquired a ton of data.

So as Juliette said, why did they decide then to drop the prosecution of Flynn? Let me cut to the chase? That's because Flynn said I have a lot to offer, and then less than a month ago, investigators go talk to Jared Kushner about Mike Flynn. Do you think they wanted to know about Mike Flynn? Or do you think they wanted to know about what Jared Kushner would say about what he told Mike Flynn?

I think where this goes next is questions about whether White House officials are honest in their conversations with federal investigators about what they advised Mike Flynn to do. And the backdrop to this is that Flynn, in cooperating, has already given Mueller the information to put White House officials on the hook. This is fascinating, Don, and I expect to see more in the next month.

LEMON: Robert, you've been watching this all say, you've been listening to the analysis here and even some of the conversations that I've been having. What do you think?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL AND SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the last bit, I mean, that's nothing in my judgment other than wild speculation about where this goes. The second thing, I disagree with the first point.

A federal felony plea to a false statement is not a little deal. Trying being on the receiving end of that. You know, whether he goes to jail ultimately or not is beside the point. You're talking about a former three star general, the former national security adviser pleading guilty to a federal false statements charge in connection with a federal criminal investigation.

So in and of itself, that's a big deal. And that's separate and apart from the fact that there's a special counsel investigation involved.

LEMON: Weren't there things in there that could have sent him to jail for a longer period of time?


RAY: Well, I mean, you know, there's some other things in there, but I think, you know, for understandable reason they would be things that you would exercise some prosecutorial discretion about.

Charging somebody, for example, about failing to register as a representing a foreign agent is technically a violation of the federal criminal law, but prosecution in that area is not one that really traditionally has been brought. That's the first thing.

The second thing is making false statements on financial disclosure forms is a bit of a tricky prosecution to bring, because people have innocent reasons as to why they don't capture everything that should be disclosed on a financial disclosure form.

This one is different. This one is a false statements charge where the Justice Department from the outset knew exactly what Michael Flynn had been discussing with Kislyak, because the conversations were recorded.

LEMON: I've got to get to a break, though. And I really need you to this because we only have one hour tonight.

RAY: Sure.

LEMON: But I have to say, in my colleague's defense, both of whom have predicted pretty much exactly what has happened now, and you said it's wild speculation. But both Juliette and Phil had said months ago this is where we would be--


RAY: There's no question we were going to get here. I think any reasonable observer looking at things back as far as May understood that two people in this investigation had exposure. Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Now, whether anybody else has exposure, no one has really speculated about, and no one really knows for sure.

LEMON: All right. Stick around, everybody. Stay with me. When we come back, I want you to weigh in on the president's attempts to shut down the Russian investigation. We're going to discuss who he pressured, when, and what it could mean.


LEMON: We're back now. From the very beginning, Donald Trump slammed the Russian investigation as a phony democratic excuse for losing the election. But now that his former national security adviser is an admitted felon, and a number of Trump's people with verified Russian contact growing, it looks increasingly difficult for the president to claim this is all a hoax.

Back with me now is Phil Mudd, Juliette Kayyem, and Robert Ray. So let's talk more about this because there was some disagreement among you guys where this would go next. Juliette, you say Jared Kushner you believe.

KAYYEM: I think if you read the plea agreement today and the talk of senior transition officials, that leads to Jared Kushner picking up on what Phil said, the fact that Jared Kushner was brought in last month.

Look, you can put -- as Robert was saying, you can try to put this into a little box and say, it's just Michael Flynn and ignore a year and a half of essentially lying by the Trump administration and the people around him about any contacts with Russians.

Remember, this began with them saying there were no contacts with Russians. So take a step back and ask yourself why have they consistently been lying? It i not because they're afraid of the Logan Act, let me tell you. Something else is going on. And we know something else is going on, because Flynn has now pled to -- maybe it's not an insignificant crime, but it's certainly not as bad as some of the other stuff we heard about Flynn, and another shoe, if not two or three will drop, and there are more than hints of it. More than hints of it.

And you guys are reporting on it that that next shoe may be Jared Kushner.

LEMON: Phil?

MUDD: Let's be clear here. Let me lay you a few packs on the table. I spent four and a half years working for Robert Mueller. The man is a hammer. He decides not to bring a hammer against Michael Flynn, who is not peripheral here. He is a core in the investigation. Why does he not bring all the charges he could bring?

I agree, it's not clear what those charges could be, but it certainly appears that they could have extended into various financial irregularities. And then we learn that Flynn flips and finally, the last piece, Don, is that after Flynn flips, feds go to talk to Michael -- to Jared Kushner and Jared Kushner's lawyer says, it's not a general conversation, it's a conversation about Mike Flynn.

Let me give you where this goes. Why are they talking to Jared Kushner about Michael Flynn? It's because they need more information to prosecute Flynn? No. They had that last January. It's because they want to see if Kushner is going to lie about what Flynn has already said happened in his conversations with Kushner. I think this is clear.

LEMON: You want to respond?

RAY: Good luck with that. Jared Kushner's well represented by Abbe Lowell. The difference is that so far as I understand, General Flynn went and talked to the FBI without a lawyer, which was obviously the benefit of hindsight a huge mistake.

MUDD: We agree on that.

RAY: And with regard to Jared Kushner taking on -- if the investigation decides to take on Jared Kushner, they're going to be in for a real battle, because they're taking on the president's son-in- law.

And I think, you know, in terms of speculation where this is going, I mean, on the assumption that Jared Kushner is the very senior member of the presidential transition team, what's alleged in the statement of facts is simply that there was a direction to contact officials from foreign governments in December of 2016, which is well into the transition, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on, in this example, the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution in connection with Israel.

LEMON: Isn't that when the sanctions or placed that was after the sanctions were place by the Obama administration?

RAY: Sure, but I guess the question is, what's wrong with that? And even if you--


MUDD: It's not the question.

RAY: Even if you have issues about one government at a time and one administration at a time, there's nothing unlawful about that.

MUDD: It's not the question.

LEMON: Go ahead, Phil. MUDD: The question is whether he tells the truth.

KAYYEM: Right. I'll give Robert that. I have to say I'm going to give Robert that, right.

LEMON: Quickly, guys.

KAYYEM: Robert, we'll give you that, right? In other words, it was a mistake of Jared to try to influence it while President Obama was still President Obama. Why are they always lying about it? That's the question that--


RAY: I think I can answer that one.

KAYYEM: -- none of Trump supporters or someone like will never answer. Why they're always lying about it.

LEMON: You've got five seconds. If you can tell me in five seconds. If not, we'll have to wait till another--

RAY: In five seconds, it was politically problematic to be acknowledging contacts with Russian government officials. And I think what probably went on, which is the danger of every administration is lying because you think that it's helpful to the administration. That's a problem.


RAY: It turned out to be a federal felony.

LEMON: Phil, are you going to lie to federal investigators, Phil, for something politically? I mean, that's not -- that's not very bright.

MUDD: Yes. But this is not a political case.

KAYYEM: You're not going to do it.

MUDD: Every person in the seat sits there and says, they don't know what I know, and if I sort of dance around this, I'm not going to -- everybody entering Washington does that. And that you see it in terrorism cases so this is common.

RAY: And apparently he didn't realize his conversations were being monitored.

LEMON: Yes. That's it. The reason I said Phil Mudd or Phil Mattingly I was talking to my producers who said we have to go now.

Thank you all. We've got another huge breaking news story tonight. The Senate expected to vote on the massive GOP tax bill.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is on the Capitol Hill for us with more. Phil, good evening to you. I mean, it's incredible that this is still going on. What's happening? PHIL MATTINGLY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, look, only a matter of time,

that's what one GOP aide told me as I walk over here from the Senate floor. In terms of that they're actually going to get this done. But Don, this has been a remarkable day.

This morning, republicans knew they had the votes to move this forward. About an hour and a half ago, they actually had a final bill. The idea that they are about to pass something that literally will affect every single individual, every single industry, every single company, and just a few hours ago got ahold of the bill itself, is remarkable.

However, it's worth noting, this also underscores what's been going on over the course of the last two months up here. The political imperative for republicans to move forward on this, to have a legislative victory, to have a victory and a tax overhaul, has really overcome everything else that's going on.

The big issue right now, as they move towards the final vote should be around 1.30 or 2 a.m. at the current pace. People are finding out what's inside the bill. People are starting to read the bill. Democrats are seizing on specific provisions.

Earlier tonight they talked about a specific carve out for a conservative colleague. The republicans have changed the language since that time to try and broaden out that carve out.

But Don, the interesting thing is when you only have the bill for an hour and a half, two hours before you start voting on it, the odds are, you're going to find a lot more of those issues in the days and weeks ahead.

[22:45:03] Still, republicans are on track right now to pass in the U.S. Senate a tax overhaul, something that hasn't been done in 31 years. That is a huge step for them. Something they will have to complete by reconciling two different versions from the House. Don, there's no question about it, they're almost there to a major legislative victory.

LEMON: All right, Phil Mattingly, standing by and watching it for us. Thank you, Phil. We appreciate it. When we come back, the president or family? It looks like General Flynn picked his son over the president. I'm going to ask Fareed Zakaria what he thinks about that. That's next.


LEMON: This after America's former national security adviser pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador. Michael Flynn and his wife went to visit their son and grandson in Virginia. Michael Flynn, Jr. who went to Russia with his father back in 2015 was at one a target for investigators early on.

So what happened during those conversation -- conversations that compelled Michael Flynn, Sr. to lie? Fareed Zakaria is here, he's the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS right here on this very network, CNN. Before I get to that, quickly, can I ask you about the White House

saying tonight pardon is off the table for Michael Flynn.

[22:49:56] FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN: I think one of the ways that Mueller has constructed his case by going in this very careful way and very purposefully indicting on specific issues. He has made it very hard for the White House to obstruct the investigation or to issue pardons.

So notice the count for Flynn is lying to the FBI about contacts with a foreign government. It would just look very bad for the White House to pardon somebody for that. This is not a minor infraction. This is a pretty important thing. You know, how can the chief law enforcement officer of the country, the president, pardon somebody for lying to the federal agents?

LEMON: Yes. So let's talk about Michael Flynn, Jr. and Michael Flynn because this move was -- his move was widely interpreted as the only way that he could possibly guarantee that his son avoided jail time or didn't get further, you know, into this than it was.

Flynn Jr. tweeted today, "Family is the most important thing in life, don't ever take yours for granted. Thanks, everyone for your support." It was quite a decision that Michael Flynn, Sr. faced, right, his son or the president?

ZAKARIA: Absolutely. When people talk about this is as a minor -- you know, it's a single count and things like that, look, it's a felony charge. I mean, he is never going to be able to vote again. This is a man who was the national security adviser of the United States, three- star general.

LEMON: Yes, three-star general.

ZAKARIA: He is never going to be able to own a gun in his life. There's all of these things that go along with being, you know, a felon. So it's a big deal. Any one of us who has, you know, has children knows it is a no-brainer in the sense of the trade-off you would make for your children.


ZAKARIA: But I think that the larger policy issues remains, you know, let's not forget what this is all about is the -- is, you know, the continuing conundrum as to why the Trump administration was trying to be so nice to Russia.

So when it happened, what happen, the question is why was it during the campaign, after the campaign, in the transition, after the transition that they were trying to be nice to Russia.

LEMON: All right. So then, why then? Let's just -- why? Why would they lie about this, especially--


ZAKARIA: I think that's -- that's the part--


LEMON: That's the core question.

ZAKARIA: -- that looks fishy, which is they were trying to be uncharacteristically nice to Russia of all countries in the world, and every time they forgot to mention the contacts on forms, they lied about it to federal officials. The White House lied about it publicly.



LEMON: We have time for the Preet Bharara sound bite with Jake Tapper? OK. You heard Preet Bharara on saying and talking about the core issue, and I guess that is why they are lying. And basically many people saying there's much more to come. This is sort of the beginning. Some people say, this is the end, you know, they've got Michael Flynn, that's all they have. This is the beginning.

ZAKARIA: One would have to assume, if you think of Mueller as a careful prosecutor in the way that your previous guests were describing him, if this were the end presumably he would have thrown the book at Flynn, and there were a lot of things that could have been thrown, some of them minor, some of them maybe not so.

The fact with Flynn he chose this one charged suggests what Flynn -- you know, what Flynn is giving in return are bigger things. So it's very unlikely this is the end. Now, where it leads I think none of us know.

But as I say, you just have this extraordinary pattern of having, you know, tried to change policy toward Russia, then lied about contacts with Russia, lied to the FBI about Russia, and then, of course, the president tried to dismiss the investigation.

Let's remember what he told James Comey when he called him in was, I hope you can let Flynn go, he's a good man.


LEMON: You can see it.

ZAKARIA: And then when Comey seemed resistant that's when he fired him. So the whole thing, if there isn't something there, it is the most bizarre case of trying to cover-up a non-crime.

LEMON: As I was reading at the top of the show, just the timeline of what would take place, you know, someone would say something, something would happen and then this action would take place. And i's just - it's odd behavior, it's odd.

Thank you. Always a pleasure.

ZAKARIA: Welcome. LEMON: Don't miss CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS at Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Well, tonight voting is underway for the CNN hero of the year. Here is one of this year's top 10 heroes. His name is Aaron Valencia.


AARON VALENCIA, CNN HERO: Custom cars, set me and my life in a whole different directions. I started smoking meth at about 14. About 15, the first time I ever shot heroin. Robbing and stealing. The judge committed me to a year of drug treatment. I walked into rehab and never looked back. My life completely changed. I opened up a small shop.

You came here to work? That's what I like to hear.

Kids were kind of gravitating towards the shop to see what was going on.

How are you?

It was like, let's have them come here and they can learn a trade, learn a lesson, learn something to better their life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He taught us like to put the wheels on there. He inspired me because I always wanted to be a mechanic.

VALENCIA: We cater to foster, at risk and low income youth in the community.

We're not looking for perfection, we're just looking for better than yesterday.

I'm just trying to be someone who sees where they're at right now and what they're going through, and offer a bit of stability.

If any of you guys ever thought maybe you're out there in the world alone and nobody has got your back, a lot of people got your back right now.

They're learning there's somewhere positive. It was a win for all of us.


LEMON: Well, vote for Aaron, any of your favorite top 10 CNN heroes. You can do that at Make sure to stay tuned for Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa, that special CNN heroes that will air later on this month.

That's it for us tonight. We thank you so much for watching our coverage, our special coverage continues now. Jim Sciutto and Pamela Brown, they will be live for you in Washington. I'm Don Lemon. Make sure you have a great weekend.