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CNN TONIGHT

Michael Wolff Defends His Book. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Time to turn it over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. In a moment, the author of the book that is throwing the West Wing into an uproar. "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House." Michael Wolff is here to answer the critics, many of them in the Trump White House who claim his book crosses a line between journalism and gossip. It is a big juicy bestseller in the making full of quotes like this.

Steve Bannon calling Donald Trump Jr.'s infamous Trump tower meeting with Russians treasonous and unpatriotic. Bannon reportedly going to tell -- going on to tell Wolff quote, "They're going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV."

That, apparently fracturing Bannon's relationship with the president, forcing the flame-throwing former chief strategist into a sort of an apology calling Trump Jr. quote, "a patriot and a good man," which is unlikely to placate the president who has already slammed Bannon with one of his patented unflattering nicknames calling him sloppy Steve.

All the president's men and women going on the offensive against the picture that Wolff paints of the president who repeats the same thing over and over in a matter of minutes. In a White House where he says staffers mention the 25th Amendment at least 20 times. That would be the amendment allowing the cabinet and the vice president to initiate removal of the president.

All this, as the president adopts his best what, me, worry? That attitude. Reliving his election victory at his speech tonight in Nashville.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you happy you voted for me? You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Joining me now is Michael Wolff, the author of "Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House." What a book.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, FIRE AND FURY: What can I say?

LEMON: Let's start, the president and his lawyers have responded with this book and they're saying that they're questioning its authenticity. They're calling it fake, they're saying it's gossip. Is it gossip, is it journalism? What is it, Michael?

WOLFF: It's what I saw and what I heard. In front of my face, in my ears. What is that? I mean, you know, the goal, my goal in this book when I was thinking about how, what the effect should be. You know, I sat on this couch in the West Wing, I'm sort of part of the furniture, and I thought, if I do this right, the reader will feel like they're sitting on the couch here, hearing, seeing, the entire circus go by.

LEMON: So how -- how often did you sit on that couch? How many times? From what month to what month?

WOLFF: From shortly after the inauguration pretty much through to when Steve Bannon was left which was in late August.

LEMON: So you lost your access when Steve Bannon was left. Was he -- was he the person who get you...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: No, no, I would have -- and I was back after that, but that was a point at which I saw, you know, this was original set up, the original idea was I would do the first 100 days.

LEMON: Right.

WOLFF: And then it -- the first 100 days were, it just didn't stop. And so, Steve -- Steve leaving gave me a kind of -- a kind of end.

LEMON: So you didn't get kicked out by Kelly when Kelly took reigns?

WOLFF: No, no, no, they were -- they were perfectly, perfectly -- as a matter of fact, they were -- they actually tried to see me even more because they knew that it, you know, was sort of a balance between you were talking to Steve, we got a sort of deprogram you from what Steve might have said.

LEMON: Who's they?

WOLFF: Other people, let me just without saying who I spoke to, other, the other senior people in the White House.

LEMON: Yes, so who did you speak to at the White House? Because did you -- how many people did you talk to at the White House besides Steve Bannon and Katie -- you said 200 people.

WOLFF: Yes.

LEMON: Two hundred interviews.

WOLFF: Two hundred interviews. Yes. So inside, outside, you know, people from Trump's past, I mean, you know, as many people as I thought would have relevant information. I was certainly trying to see. And in terms of in the White House, deep. A deep bench of the people closest to the president.

LEMON: Including top advisors and top people in the White House. WOLFF: Absolutely.

LEMON: OK. And the president, because you said you'd interviewed the president for three hours. He said that that is untrue. The White House says that the last time you spoke to the president was in February. And the conversation wasn't an interview at all. And you were...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: I don't know what -- listen, yes, I don't know what he thinks of is an interview or not. The conversation I had with him in February was perfectly on the record. Or that is to say he didn't put it off the record.

In success of things when I would see him, in the White House, you know, we spoke in a friendly way. Important point here, and this is the point, they're trying, of course, you know, they first try to put this as this is about Steve Bannon, when it's not.

[22:05:05] It's a book about the president of the United States, and then they started to try to put this, well, you know, I didn't see the president. I only saw the president for these three hours. And they don't...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: They're saying that it was in February, the conversation wasn't an interview, you were telling the president about the book. So, how, how many times did you speak to the president as president?

WOLFF: OK. You don't tell the president anything. Because he motor mouths. He just keeps talking at you. So this is not a question of me telling him, it's a question I got this, this enormous information feed at that moment from the president, as you always do. But again, this is not a book not about my impressions of the president, it is the book about the impressions of the people around him of him.

LEMON: OK. I want to understand, you had this extraordinary access, did you find it odd that you had this access? Who granted you the access initially, was it Steve Bannon? Who was it?

WOLFF: It was the President of the United States.

LEMON: You asked him you said I am going to...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: Yes, I want to write a book. I mean, the thing, and I've recounted this before, I said I want to write a book. I want to write about the first 100 days. And then he said a book. I said -- I said I want to come in and I want to observe. And then he thought I was asking for a job.

LEMON: Yes.

WOLFF: And then I said no, I want to write a book. And he said, a book.

LEMON: Yes.

WOLFF: And then, and then he said, do you know Ed Cline? Another writer who he knows. Who wrote an anti-Hillary book. I would like him to write a book about me. And I said, but I would -- I said, OK. It was like, OK. So then I went and told everybody the president says it's OK.

LEMON: And so you had access. You told everybody who, at the White House? In the West Wing?

WOLFF: Yes, I would call up, write an e-mail and say the president has this -- and he did. Everybody, you know, this was not a -- this was not secret. Everybody was told to speak to me.

LEMON: And in the book you say, Bannon told people to cooperate.

WOLFF: Bannon told people to cooperate, Sean Spicer told people to cooperate, Kellyanne Conway told people...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So then why are they saying it's fixed?

WOLFF: Because they are liars. This is what are you talking about? This is Donald Trump. This is what he does. A day after day after day after day after day, incident after incident after incident after incident, he doesn't tell the truth because he doesn't know what the truth is because he doesn't care what the truth is, because his reality is different from everybody else's reality.

LEMON: So then, what are you saying then? Because you write in the book, I think you say, you talk about his -- the horror of forgetfulness. You say that "President Trump's neurosis is horror, a forgetfulness or senility." I want you to explain that especially in the contents -- the context of what you're writing about the president and this book. About him not recognizing friends, a succession of friends you said. Who came to Mar-a-Lago. What are you saying about the president?

WOLFF: I am, I am just reporting the facts on the ground. So I am saying, I mean, I'm not a doctor, and -- but obviously you don't have to be a doctor to find it notable and alarming that as everyone on his staff does, that he, that he repeats and repeats and repeats the same thing in the same conversation. I mean, everybody has to stand there and look like this is not a, not a crisis.

LEMON: You say everyone, are you using that as the understood everyone, or do you mean everyone including his daughter, his...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: A hundred percent.

LEMON: Everyone? WOLFF: Yes. You can't...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Even his family members?

WOLFF: Yes.

LEMON: Even Kelly?

WOLFF: Yes.

LEMON: His family members deny it?

WOLFF: Yes. You cannot miss this.

LEMON: So you think he is suffering something? He is losing his cognitive ability?

WOLFF: I -- you know, we can all draw -- you just draw this conclusion. I'm just describing the facts as they are. Repetition after repetition, people -- and they -- everybody -- everybody discusses the nature of this. How this has, you know, in the beginning it used to be, you know, the same three things in 25 or 30 minutes. And then it became the same thing three things in 15 minutes. And the same three things in ten minutes. It's notable.

In the end, you know, in September, they cancelled a 60 Minute interview because they felt he couldn't do it. They went instead did a Hannity interview because Hannity would give him the questions. I know Hannity denies this, of course, but this was an open secret in the White House without the question.

[22:10:00] LEMON: So what -- as far as the country, the American people, this is the leader of the free world. What do you say to that? Are you saying that all of the people who are in the White House are somehow in cahoots and hiding...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: I would say something...

LEMON: Making excuses for someone who is not...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: They are certainly making excuses, but the people in the White House, and these are largely good people, professional people, people who are doing their jobs. People who are thinking about their own careers as well as the good of the country. These are people who think, OK, this is the situation. We -- it's now up to us. It's our responsibility to temper this guy to -- to protect the country from this guy.

LEMON: All right. If you're saying, so let's -- you're saying -- this is your quote, you say senility in that, possibly dementia, I think it's mentioned somehow.

WOLFF: No, no, no -- this is not -- this is not...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK.

WOLFF: I said that he -- that's the kind of thing. He's afraid of that. You know, when, you know, when someone didn't want to -- actually when Steve Bannon didn't want to sort of interfere with his relationship with Murdoch, he had Roger Ailes call the president and say Murdoch, Murdoch was losing it. So, and when you bring up this up to the president, that's a, that's a hot button issue he doesn't want to know about that.

LEMON: Because why do you think he doesn't want to know about it?

WOLFF: I understand his father had...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you think that he thinks that he's suffering from this?

WOLFF: Again, draw the conclusion. I don't know if he thinks that. It is to everybody who speaks to him, if you spoke to the president, if you interviewed the president, you would, you would call me up and say, my God.

LEMON: Did you -- when you interviewed him were you thinking, my God.

WOLFF: I certainly was.

LEMON: Why?

WOLFF: Because it's completely alarming. The guy can't go put one coherent sentence after another. He's off, he can't stay on subject.

LEMON: Do you think...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: He can't stay on point. And then you come back to the same off point thing he said five minutes ago, he's now saying again.

LEMON: Do you think that this sort of truncated schedule that has been reported that the president has something to do with that? That he starts late and ends early?

WOLFF: Well, I certainly wouldn't be surprised. But I also know when he went into the White House and people say, you know, outlined the schedule that would have to be. He said, what is this? You know, and how many meetings are you going to put in a day? I had like, you know, I'm used to one or two meetings.

LEMON: So you, you say that the 25th Amendment is brought up all the time in the White House. How exactly? WOLFF: In the -- it's sort of a curious measure, you know, and half I

don't know if it's half the joke or but it's like one of the things they say. Well, that was weird, but it's not, it's not 25th Amendment weird, yes.

LEMON: How many times would you say you heard that?

WOLFF: Twenty.

LEMON: Twenty times?

WOLFF: Yes.

LEMON: By top level people.

WOLFF: Yes. I don't know one -- well...

LEMON: In what context?

WOLFF: In that people talk all of them talk about how alarming the president in his actions and his conversation is. So therefore, it's a measure. How alarming is it?

LEMON: They will just...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: Donald Trump being Donald Trump and sometimes they would say that. It's Donald Trump, but sometimes they would say, OK, that's -- it's bad. Is it 25th Amendment bad?

LEMON: So, I want to get -- I want to ask you about this because do you remember when Ronald Reagan towards the end, and when Nancy Reagan was finishing his sentences, and I guess the media back then didn't really want to talk about it. Do you think that that's happening now? Do you think that it's OK to question the fitness of the sitting president of the United States?

WOLFF: I think, I think it's -- would be irresponsible not to. Of course.

LEMON: And so, for those who are saying that it is grotesque and that it is awful and that it has been the dignity to question the fitness of Donald Trump...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: Well, yes. I mean, those are obviously people who want not to. Not to question the fitness of Donald Trump.

LEMON: Yes.

WOLFF: And they don't want to question the fitness of Donald Trump in part because it's such a unavoidable question.

LEMON: You -- let's move on. Let's talk about women. You said it's an unrelatable question, how so?

WOLFF: As I said, you cannot listen to this man talk without, without at least contemplating the possibility that something is grievously amiss.

[22:15:00] LEMON: OK, Michael, I want you to stand by. I have a lot more questions for you. When we come back, I want to talk more about what your book reveals about some of the people surrounding the president in the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Back with me now, Michael Wolff, the author of "Fire and Fury," the bestselling book about the Trump White House. You write that his chief strategist Steve Bannon called the 2016 Donald Trump, Jr. tower meeting treasonous and unpatriotic.

Bannon issued a statement now and he's saying quote, he said, "Donald Trump Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda. I regret my delay in the responding to the inaccurate reporting -- inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr. attention has diverted attention from the president's historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency." Why do you think Bannon folded?

WOLFF: He didn't really fold. I mean, this is the weirdest apology in the world. There's no apology, number one, number two, he also doesn't, doesn't disavow anything that he said to me. He takes issue with -- he says, I'm not saying this, I'm saying this about Paul Manafort.

You know, I can tell you, and I actually have come to like Steve and think he's a man of enormous insights, but I will tell you how that conversation went and you can judge for yourself.

LEMON: OK.

WOLFF: He gave me the background of that meeting and he said, and he said Don Jr. wanted to get rid of -- it was actually Kushner and Don Jr. wanted to get rid of Corey Lewandowski, then the campaign manager.

[22:19:56] And Bannon said, in order to do this, he had to, Don jr. had to prove he had the chops to his father. He had to bring his father something.

LEMON: Something.

WOLFF: And so then this, the possibility of getting this dirt on Hillary was the thing. So this is exactly what Steve Bannon said to me. So from that, I concluded...

LEMON: That Don Jr. called in.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF: Possibly I concluded wrong. LEMON: But what was your conclusion?

WOLFF: But my conclusion is this is what he was saying principally about Don Jr., not about Paul Manafort, although Paul Manafort was in the meeting. And I'm sure that, that Steve thought, not only Don Jr., but Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner were knuckleheads, treasonous or otherwise.

LEMON: So you think they were all in? You think they knew what was going on as has been said?

WOLFF: I don't -- again, this book is truly not about what I think. There's no I once in this book. Steve Bannon thinks this. And you can infer from that. Does Steve Bannon know, does he know what happened, you know, well, he's pretty close to these people.

LEMON: Yes. I want to play, this is what top White House aide, this is Steven Miller, he spoke with Jake Tapper, here's what he said about Bannon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: It's tragic and unfortunate that Steve would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive. And the whole White House staff is deeply disappointed in his comments which were grotesque.

And with respect to the Trump Tower meeting that he's talking about, he wasn't even there when this went down. So he's not really a remotely credible source on any of it. It reads like an angry vindictive person spouting off to a highly discredible author.

The phenomenon is happening that the rest of the political class didn't see. All these so-called political geniuses in Washington, whether it be at the big lobbying firms or...

(CROSSTALK)

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: The only person who called himself a genius is the president.

MILLER: Because it happens to be a true statement.

TAPPER: OK.

MILLER: He's self-made billionaire who revolutionized reality TV and who change the course of politics.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I'm sure he's watching and he's happy that you said that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Is he pleasing the president when you appear on television? Is that, 3do you think that's what he was doing, Stephen Miller?

WOLFF: I'm sure it was, but I'd also say that Stephen Miller sort of rose from, you know, everybody has, you know, the early staff has left the White House and that has, it's very hard for them to get new people. So that means the least, the bottom of the -- the bottom of the rung have risen up. So Stephen Miller is now one of, probably one of two key advisors to the president in the White House. Stephen, Steve Bannon called Stephen Miller my typist.

This is -- in other words, this is -- we're in a reality so inverted at this point.

LEMON: But the truth of the matter is that Stephen Miller is not a neophyte neither is Kellyanne Conway when you write about both of them, that she had no national experience. She's a very respected pollster. Regardless of whatever you think about what, you know, what she says and does on television.

WOLFF: Well, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And Stephen Miller work with Jeff Sessions...

WOLFF: I can, you know, you have -- the media put her into that position as respected pollster. She is a down ballot pollster. She wasn't -- she was a, she certainly was not something, someone, before this campaign who anyone would have thought on a -- would be -- could work on a presidential level. Stephen Miller is a, I mean, literally a junior congressional staffer who has -- who has rocketed to the top.

LEMON: You said he could barely put sentences together on paper. It was bullet point when he had to write the executive order...

WOLFF: Exactly.

LEMON: ... concerning immigration and travel ban.

WOLFF: Exactly. A very curious thing that he became the sort of central speechwriter in this administration which really had no speechwriter which you heard Donald Trump talk is obviously the cave.

LEMON: Did you come on my show before and here's how I remember you're talking about President Trump. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF: The first thing I don't actually think he's thin-skinned at all. I think he's incredibly strategic. I think he is doing now exactly the things that prove to be so successful during this campaign. He sets -- he sets up us, literally the media, who does he run most against? He runs against the media because we do the things -- he sets us up, we do the predictable thing. And that plays to the people who have elected him. I mean, I think...

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: But can he be thin skinned and play the media at the same time?

[22:25:01] WOLFF: Yes, he can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You were on the show a number of times -- on the show a number of times and you are I talked. Were you playing to an audience of one there?

WOLFF: Not in the least, that was actually what I thought when I went into this, and that's a kind of a central point. I went into this White House, almost predisposed to them. To finding out that this could, that this could work. I was open, I was willing.

LEMON: Yes. I have to ask you about something that is, that's close to home. Did anyone at the White House talk to you about the AT&T, Time Warner deal, merger at all?

WOLFF: Yes.

LEMON: They did? So what did they say?

WOLFF: Not going to happen.

LEMON: What do they want?

WOLFF: I don't know what...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Why is it -- why it's not going to happen?

WOLFF: I think for probably all of the obvious reasons. The president -- Trump during the campaign said it was not going to happen. Obviously, and I would -- I would assume that his antipathy to this network figured in this...

LEMON: Because of CNN?

WOLFF: Yes, but everybody, not going to happen. Because I would -- you know, my other job is I'm a media reporter. So I thought I better do my day job occasionally and I would say, you know, what about this -- no, never.

LEMON: They have said that they didn't discuss it. That it has not been discussed.

WOLFF: Who's they?

LEMON: The White House is saying it's not been discussed leaving it to the Justice Department.

WOLFF: Well, it may be the individual opinions of everyone I spoke to.

LEMON: Yes. WOLFF: Do you think this is going to happen? Not a chance.

LEMON: Yes. Is there anything else that you would like to say, especially when it concerns the people of the United States, what's happening at the White House. The message that's coming out of the White House and what is being portrayed in the media about this administration?

WOLFF: You know, I mean, I think that -- I think that this book offers an opportunity for people to sit back and to, and to give some thought to what's happened here. You know, one of the interesting things is we get this every day, explosions, explosions, explosions, and I think you lose track of the larger picture.

LEMON: Yes.

WOLFF: I can give you -- I think that in this book I've given you the forest for the trees.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Michael Wolff, I appreciate your time.

WOLFF: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. The book is called "Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House," and it is out now.

And when we come back, one of the president's close friends will have a lot to say about Michael Wolff and his book. Chris Ruddy is here and I'm going to get his reaction to my interview and the growing questions about the president's health just ahead of his physical.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Michael Wolff defending his bomb shell book about President Trump insisting that the White House staffers were told to speak to him.

I want to bring in Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, who is personal friend of the president, you saw the president over the holidays, right?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: Quite a few times.

LEMON: And it's always fiery when you come. We appreciate you coming.

RUDDY: And he remembered my face. He remembered who I was. We had coherent conversations.

LEMON: So what do you say.

RUDDY: So when I watch Michael Wolff give this, it's like a fantasy world. He's a psychiatrist, Michael Wolff, did you notice, he has -- I call him now Dr. Michael Wolff. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You're being sarcastic.

RUDDY: But what is this, Don, you have to ask yourself, what is his expertise to declare the president's psychologically unfit? There is probably 100 high-powered journalists that cover the White House, talked to all the same sources he supposedly talked to, no one has ever reported the president psychologically unfit.

LEMON: Let me just give you a caveat. I'm not here to defend Michael Wolff, what I will tell you...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: You're going to promote it.

LEMON: ... what you know -- no, I'm not here to promote it. It's a book and it's in the news.

RUDDY: Well, you just gave him a half hour on your show.

LEMON: I gave him 20 -- 18 minutes as a matter of fact. And I think it's very news-worthy. But most journalists and most people don't get that much access to an administration, especially a president to write a book. And so...

RUDDY: So I think this cuts really to the heart of Michael Wolff's, Dr. Wolff's credibility, here's a guy that claimed he interviewed the president. He's been asked that point-blank. He did not interview him ever for this book.

I am told that the longest conversation he had was in a phone call with the president, Michael says it was a half hour...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: He said...

RUDDY: ... the phone logs obviously show it was 12 minutes or something like 12 minutes. He had a brief meeting with the president to pitch the book, the president said, why should I do a book with you? There's other authors that want to do the book.

It's a very brief meeting that was no questions asked about policy. He did an interview during the campaign for the Hollywood Reporter. So there was no real interview. So why does he keep claiming, I interviewed the president? I think that cuts to the very heart of not only his credibility, but where he's embellishing things.

I think it's perfectly -- I've been on your show. I've criticized the president on certain issues on policies I disagree with, that's perfectly fine, but to make up stuff.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: What he says is that he interviewed the president, he doesn't know if the president realizes that was an interview but he said he was... (CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: There's no record of it.

LEMON: And if...

RUDDY: I would love to...

LEMON: If you listen to -- hold on, Chris, if you listen to the interview, held said the president told people to cooperate, gave him access along with Steve Bannon, along with others, along -- along with...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: Don, I hear there is an e-mail train between people in the White House and Dr. Wolff that show that he never got access and he was begging for the last minute to have that interview. So he's never officially interviewed the president.

Meanwhile, he's making -- he's claiming 100 percent of the people around the president, he conducted 200 interviews, all say he's crazy. He just said to you...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I don't think he said crazy.

RUDDY: ... he thought -- well, he said, unfit for office. He's not sane.

LEMON: The question...

RUDDY: He's not mentally fit.

LEMON: ... able to do the job.

RUDDY: No, he said he's mentally unqualified for the job. He's mentally unfit.

LEMON: Yes.

[22:34:58] RUDDY: He's directly questioning the president's sanity. Look, Donald Trump's a different type of guy. I mean, he operates differently. And I think that difference has made him very successful in business, and entertainment where he had a hit show and he talked about this.

And then to become president after against all of those odds, so you can disagree with Donald Trump, but to say that he's crazy because you don't like his -- remember...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You keep saying crazy. Let me say this. And I'm not saying that either way for the president, I don't know, I haven't spoken to him since the last interview I did I think it was in '16 or what have you, it is that the presidency is a very tough job. A very demanding job.

RUDDY: Absolutely.

LEMON: There were presidents and people who started jobs who have been, who have done well, Ronald Reagan as an example, and then left the office, not at their best. So he could have started the campaign being fine, the weight of the office could be, it could be weighing on him.

RUDDY: I think the weight of the office does weigh on Donald Trump just like it does every other...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And (Inaudible) if you're not sleeping. I mean, even in this job if I'm not sleeping, if I'm working too much, I'm not at my best.

RUDDY: Yes. But I think he has adjusted to this position. Look, I think he's very serious. Like Michael will claim, he doesn't care about people. He's only interested in himself.

I've talked to this president at length, he's just totally obsessed and devoted about figuring out how to fix the economy and getting jobs into these rust belt states. He's worried about Korea. I think Korea keeps him up at night. It's not like he's worried about what people think I think about Korea or the job -- he's worried about the country. He's worried about the millions of lives, Don, that are at stake.

LEMON: Let me get the question. Let me get quick answers from you. Does he repeat stories?

RUDDY: Sure.

LEMON: He repeats stories.

RUDDY: He repeats things -- let me finish, if he gives a speech, you will see him repeat things throughout the speech. Why? Because Donald Trump believes that this is this is an effect. It's a very powerful effect in communications. So, I don't believe, like Michael's saying in ten minutes he's repeating...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Why do you do that -- why do you need to do that when your staffers are people...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: So, it's a ridiculous claim what he's claiming. I was with the president in early December, he invited me in the residence, there was a small group of about seven people, we talked for well over an hour. There was a very respected medical doctor sitting there. He never repeated anything in that it was a great coherent conversation. LEMON: OK. I get your point.

RUDDY: So, I know it's frustrating for you when I tell you something...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: No, it's not.

RUDDY: ... that goes against the narrative.

LEMON: I think I get the point. You're saying that you believe...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: But where is -- where Dr. Wolff getting this stuff?

LEMON: Chris, I only just to get as much covered as possible. There is no...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: OK.

LEMON: My agenda is to get as much covered as possible.

RUDDY: But any time I'm trying to make a point, interrupts me, OK.

LEMON: I get your point. You said the president -- you think the president is fine. I get your point. You don't have to give me a long story. You think he's fine.

So listen, the White House is pushing back about Wolff having access. But this is what former --this is trump aide, Sebastian Gorka wrote an opinion piece for The Hill to push back against "Fire and Fury". Here's what he says, "So when I met Michael Wolff in Reince Priebus' office where he was waiting to talk to Steve Bannon and after I had been told to also speak to him for this book. My attitude was polite, but firm, thanks, but no thanks."

That backs up what Wolff just said, that he had access and people told them...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: He had very limited access. He barely spoke to the president. Who is this that he cooperated with?

I'm told that the whole cooperation was Jason Miller asked someone in the White House what should I talk to the guy and somebody sent back a note saying, hey, you should say nice things and talk about the president's accomplishments. And that was the only thing that was communicated to staff. It was never a blanket discussion, I am told that people should cooperate.

LEMON: You said there were hundreds of journalists who were at the White House who were in the West Wing who were reporting and that they don't report these things. But there are also many journalists who say who can confirm, Michael Wolff had unprecedented access and he became a fixture around this White House.

RUDDY: I don't think he did, and if you look at the fantastical stories that he's telling, for instance, he says his own children hate him. So I've known the president, I first met him 20 years ago. I've known him very well over the...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But the book -- there was nothing...

RUDDY: He says he's made these -- he's made these comments that he's not close, he wasn't a good father. All of this stuff.

LEMON: Not the only one to say that.

RUDDY: So I've seen him interact with his family for many years.

LEMON: This is -- listen, I know...

RUDDY: And that's usually people like yourself that don't know the family.

LEMON: No, no, no.

RUDDY: I think this family is so close.

LEMON: No, no. Nope, nope, there are people very close to him who said, who told me, personally...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: Not that close then.

LEMON: ... that he had, yes. Very close. He had very little to do with the children's upbringing.

RUDDY: I don't believe that. I think that he had a lot of interaction, even as a businessman would be seeing the kids -- remember, they were divorced they were separated at the time.

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: But I think he really loves the kids.

LEMON: Have you read his ex-wife's book, maybe you should read it.

RUDDY: I haven't.

LEMON: She wrote it.

[22:39:55] RUDDY: But look, I've seen up close for many years the relationship and it's very close and it's very loving. When I see these stories putting up that he's not a good father and I see his relationship with Barron. I mean, he loves that kid. He'll change his schedule for that kid to be around.

LEMON: That's great, and he should.

RUDDY: Yes. But that story -- you know, that's not the perception that CNN is putting out about him as a father.

LEMON: CNN didn't write the book.

RUDDY: You know, the Reagan kids, I know Mike Reagan really well. But Reagan kids all just left...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I know Michael Reagan.

RUDDY: Every one of the kids has difficulty with the dad.

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: You know, these stories we look back at different presidents.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's OK. A lot of people have difficulties with their dad, but I've never heard Michael Wolff -- maybe -- but I did not read in the book I should say that his kids...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: He's been saying this. He's been saying this. And it's not good. And he keeps lying about the president's -- you know, you can say you disagree with the president's policy or you disagree you think his temperament should be different when he approach to the press, I think that's all fine criticism. But to say he's mentally unfit and 100 percent of the people believe that when it's clearly not true, don't you think that that's going like a bridge too far?

LEMON: Please, real quickly because we're running out of time here. You don't think it's OK to question the mental and physical health of the leader of the free world?

RUDDY: Certainly fair to ask questions, but when you're insinuating like Dr. Wolff is...

LEMON: OK.

RUDDY: ... that he's psychologically unfit when you don't have a medical credential, I think that's way, way overboard.

LEMON: I get your point. How's the president reacting privately?

RUDDY: Well, I think he's frustrated and unhappy with what he's seeing coming out in the press. I think he's very disappointed in Steve Bannon as well because he thought Steve had been pretty loyal to him and was supportive and to hear some of the things coming out. So that's disappointing. But at the end of the day, he's got an incredible accomplishments

going on with the economy, even around the world, I was just reading that the former head of the British army said that Donald Trump had accomplished in a few months what Barack Obama took eight years...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Did you speak to him. How do you know it's true that he said it?

RUDDY: Well, I saw -- I read a speech that he gave.

LEMON: That's same thing I'm saying about -- I've been saying about the interview that I did with Michael Wolff. He's writing these things, so you're just posing...

RUDDY: I see. Well, I'll be nice to you from now on.

LEMON: Yes. Let me just real quickly because we have to go. It is claimed by Michael Wolff that the White House cancelled a 60 Minute interview in September, did it with Sean Hannity, they say Sean Hannity gave the questions, Sean has denied that or whatever, that's neither here nor there. If he is, knows everything he's talking about, doing OK, why won't he do interviews with outlets that are, you know, who just won't possibly...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: I don't talk to him on every subject. I personally think and I've said to him he should engage with CNN, MSNBC. I think it's a mistake. I think his approval numbers are lower because you guys beat up on him all the time. And I think the more people hear from him...

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: ... and that he appeals to your audience and I think he talks about his accomplishments, which you guys don't want to talk about.

LEMON: No, I do.

RUDDY: Obviously that's why I have a short interview with you tonight.

LEMON: No. This is a long interview, Chris. Are you kidding me? We've gone almost ten minutes.

RUDDY: Well, Michael got a half hour to question every part of...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: When you write a book like Michael Wolff -- he's here half hour. Chris, you're here all the time.

RUDDY: If I was writing a book like Michael, I could retire because he's going to become so rich. LEMON: Yes. I do have to say, you did -- didn't you set up the

interview with him and the New York Times, the president and the New York Times.

RUDDY: With Michael Schmidt.

LEMON: Yes with Michael Schmidt.

RUDDY: Yes. And there are...

LEMON: Right. The president should do that.

RUDDY: And Michael -- and the president recognized who he was even though he didn't know who he was going to be here. And I think Michael, I don't want to put words in his mouth, thinking he was the same person after speaking for almost 45 minutes.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I think the president should do more interviews and people would talk about his accomplishments.

RUDDY: With you?

LEMON: And if he came here...

RUDDY: With you. You would be nice to him.

LEMON: Well, I would -- I would...

RUDDY: You wouldn't share the questions, but...

LEMON: I would be fair. It's not my job to be nice. You and I go back and forth, it's not always nice.

RUDDY: You've interviewed him.

LEMON: Yes. I've interviewed him about eight or nine times. So, somewhere in there.

RUDDY: We'll try to persuade him. I'll work on him.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. Always a pleasure.

RUDDY: Thank you. Always good to be here.

LEMON: When we come back, republican leaders seem to be warming up to President Trump lately, but could Michael Wolff's book damage the president's relationship with his own party.

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Republican leaders and Trump administration officials rallying around the president insisting he is fit for office.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentators Scott Jennings and Ana Navarro, and republican strategist Rick Wilson. Hello everyone, happy New Year. Good to be back, good to have you on.

ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I'm sure you love being in New York, you just came from a week in Florida. That's got to have been so, so, so tough.

LEMON: It was a little chill in Florida, but when I look back at five degrees...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: It was so cold, iguanas are falling from the trees. That's how cold it was.

LEMON: I still went to the pool. So, listen, since the publication of Michael Wolff's book, president's advisors have been out in full force defending his mental fitness, including you saw Chris Ruddy moments ago. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: No one questions the stability of the president.

REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I've never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness.

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES CIA DIRECTOR: President Trump is capable of working alongside of us and leading us.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I've enjoyed working with him, I don't think he's crazy. I think he's had a very successful 2017.

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: The reality is, the president is a political genius.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. So Ana, republicans seem closer to the president than ever now. And they keep saying crazy, I read the book I never heard crazy in the book, but what kind of message do you think this sends?

NAVARRO: The message is very clear. He's unfit. He's a kook, but he's our kook, and therefore we're going to work with him, if we can get agenda items through, we will.

Look, the fact that we are all talking about his fitness, and to me, I can't even begin talking about his mental fitness. I think he's unfit character wise. I don't think he's got the character to be president.

LEMON: But that's not how we judge presidents by their character. I mean, because...

(CROSSTALK) NAVARRO: We should, why not?

LEMON: When Bill Clinton was impeached, he would have been pushed out of office instead of doing another term.

NAVARRO: Yes. And he had to -- he had to pay a very high price for the things he did.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: This president yet has to.

LEMON: All right. I just want to play, this is from Lindsey Graham on The View. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So do you think he's like really smart and a stable genius?

GRAHAM: I think this, if he doesn't call himself a genius, nobody else will.

(APPLAUSE)

[22:50:01] So, the first -- the first thing that I want to tell you, he beat me like a drum. He ran against 17 republicans and crushed us all. He ran against a Clinton machine and won. In my view, he is my president and is doing a really good job on multiple fronts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: By the way, you're not seeing things. That was Ana co-hosting the view. But this is for Scott. So Scott, he makes -- he makes...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: I'm not wearing the same outfit.

LEMON: He makes fun of him and then he flips. Is this sort of -- do you think he's trying to get back in good graces or what?

SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think the republicans are rallying around the president because in the last couple of months of last year we saw what happens when the republicans get together on stuff. They confirm judges, they passed tax cuts and they show that the country -- they show the country that, hey, we can govern and do the things we ran on.

And I think what the Republican Party at large is doing right now is saying if we're going to stave off the democratic wave we have to be unified, we have to work together. And if that means the Lindsey Grahams and the Donald Trumps of the world are on the same page, you know, that will be good politically for them.

If you're a republican who intends to see agenda items accomplished there's no way to do that with division. Unity is the path.

LEMON: So, Rick, what do you think? Republicans are sticking together, if there's any truth, I'm not saying there is, to you know, what is in this book, is it the right thing for them to do, stick together to get things done or be honest about the president's fitness?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think in terms of wanting to pass the tax cut, you know, they would have tolerated Donald Trump walking around the White House naked and everything with pair of flip- flops if they could pass the tax cut. They wouldn't care. That was the number one, two, and three agenda item on both Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan's agenda.

And no matter what they wanted to push that through. That was the number -- like I said, that was the absolutely -- that was the pinnacle of the agenda for them.

The president, you know, look, Wolff hasn't characterized the president in a way that many, many other reporters haven't noted, that his character -- that his aides characterize him as. But I think the biggest part -- as Ana touched on.

This is man with a sort of very shallow intellectual grasp of issues and policy. He's not a guy who is particularly granular in his thinking about these things and republicans have seen an opportunity on the Hill to say we're going to drive our agenda through.

But look, this tax cuts wasn't engineered by Donald Trump. He was a passenger on this train. This was an army of lobbyist, the speaker and the majority leader who pulled this tax cut off.

And so if they can use that sort of, you know, very narrow intellectual grasp of things that very short attention span to their benefit they're certainly going to do that. But I do think there will be a point where the president's character and the difficulties he has in actually maintaining interest and focus on agenda items starts to have a negative political impact on republicans in the country.

LEMON: All right. Everyone, I want you to stick with me. When we come back, a new report about the list of President Trump's daily duties getting shorter.

[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Tonight the White House pushing back on a report about President Trump's work schedule. Axios reporting his official day has been shrinking. He now gets to the Oval Office around 11 a.m. The schedule says Trump has executive time in the Oval Office every day from 8 a.m. to 11. But the reality is he spends that time in his residence watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting.

So back with me now, Scott Jennings, Ana Navarro, and Rick Wilson. So, Rick, let's talk about executive time. Why does President Trump need so much executive time to tweet and watch television if these reports are true? WILSON: Well, look, I mean, executive time is the worst possible

euphemism for what Donald Trump is clearly doing, which rage tweeting and watching three screens of television. You know, I know Americans signed up for Trump to make America great again, but apparently it's Donald Trump obsessively watching the news to see which network mentions him either most favorably or unfavorably so he can tweet about it.

It's disturbing and it ought to be -- ought to be a concern. I mean, look, George Bush was in the office by roughly 6.30, 6.45 every morning.

LEMON: Yes.

WILSON: And you know, Barack Obama a little later, but still pretty consistent in the day. And you know, you don't get more time back as president. Every day that passes is one more day you're not president any longer. And so you need to focus on these things and get to work and get up at the crack of dawn.

And maybe he doesn't like do doing that. Maybe that's not his work style. But it strikes me the engagement and constant sort of presence in the management of the government is sort of what you sign-on for a president to be when you're president.

LEMON: Well, Scott, the White House is pushing back saying in the statement that "The time in the morning is a mix of residents and Oval Office time, but he always has calls with staff -- excuse me, cabinet members and foreign leaders during this time. The president is one of the hardest workers I've seen, and he puts in long hours and long days nearly every day of the week all year long. It has been noted by reporters many times that they wish he would slow down because they sometimes have trouble keeping up with him."

But when you look at the president's public appearances and tweets, does that seem to be the case here?

JENNINGS: Well, I can tell you I've personally spoken to United States senators and congressmen who have told me personally Donald Trump is on the phone with them and their colleagues all the time. Night and day, early morning, late at night, weekday, weekend.

So it does ring true to me to borrow a phrase that's in the news today that the president is working the phones all the time.

The other thing that is clear he's clearly not in curious about the world around him. I mean, what's happening is he's a voracious consumer of news and information. Now, he's not reading it necessarily in clips that are being handed to him, he's watching it. But that's not a lot of people get there in news.

And we know he's watching it because he is commenting on it from time to time as has been noted. So, I don't really have a problem with the president being engaged with the news and talking with other government officials on the phones. If that's what he's doing, fine with me. LEMON: Ana?

NAVARRO: Honey, the less time he's in the Oval Office the safer this with country and world is. I think he should put a bumper sticker on the back of the beast that says I'd rather be golfing, I promise you I won't be more than five minutes in the Oval Office a day. And you know, that might be his re-election slogan.

Look, he's not on the weeds on policy, he's not terribly interested in policy. He's not a guy who, you know, ruled in ideology, he's not a party guy. He's 70 plus years old. It's very hard to change a 70 plus year man. he's very hard to change a man after he's finished teething, OK. God knows, I've tried.

So, you know, he's not going to change his habit. This is a guy who is used to his work habits who are not much work habits from all these years in New York and in the real estate business and in the private sector. This is who Donald Trump is.

[22:29:55] And I think that's part of the reason why you see so many republicans still sticking with him. Because they're taking advantage of the fact that he's not into the details, that he's not into the policy and that they can fill in the blanks, they can fill in the agenda, they can work with John Kelly. They can work with the cabinet secretary. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:31:46] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Michael Wolff defending his bombshell book about President Trump insisting that the White House staffers were told to speak to him.

I want to bring in now Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, who is a personal friend of the President. You saw the President over the holidays, right?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO: Quite a few times.

LEMON: And it's always fiery when you come. We appreciate you coming.

RUDDY: And he remembered my face. He remembered who I was. We had coherent conversations.

LEMON: So what do you say?

RUDDY: So when I watch Michael Wolff give this, it's like a fantasy world. You know, he's a psychiatrist, Michael Wolff.

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: You didn't notice this? He has -- I call him now Dr. Michael Wolff. I mean what is his expertise?

LEMON: I know you're being sarcastic.

RUDDY: But what is this -- Don, you have to ask yourself, what is his expertise to declare the President's psychologically unfit? There's probably 100 high-powered journalists that cover the White House, talked to all the same sources he supposedly talked to. No one has ever reported the president psychologically unfit.

LEMON: Let me just give you a caveat. I'm not here to defend Michael Wolff. But what I will tell you --

RUDDY: You're going to promote it.

LEMON: -- and what you know -- no, I'm not here to promote it. It's a book and it's in the news.

RUDDY: Well, you just gave him a half hour on your show.

LEMON: I gave him 20 -- 18 minutes as a matter of fact. And I think it's very news-worthy. But most journalists and most people don't get that much access to an administration, especially a president to write a book. And so --

RUDDY: So I think these cuts really to the heart of Michael Wolff's, Dr. Wolff's credibility. Here's a guy that claimed he interviewed the President. He's been asked that point-blank. He did not interview him ever for this book. I am told that the longest conversation he had was in a phone call with the President. Michael says it was a half hour. The phone --

LEMON: He said -- well, entirety --

RUDDY: That the phone logs show it was 12 minutes or something like 12 minutes. He had a brief meeting with the President to pitch the book. The President said, why should I do a book with you? There's other authors that want to do the book.

It's a very brief meeting that was no questions asked about policy. He did an interview during the campaign for the Hollywood Reporter. So there was no real interview. So why does he keep claiming, I interviewed the President? I think that cuts to the very heart of the -- not only his credibility, but where he's embellishing things.

I think it's perfectly -- I've been on your show. I've criticized the President on certain issues on policies I disagree with. That's perfectly fine. But to make up stuff--

LEMON: What he says is that he interviewed the President. He doesn't know if the President realizes that was an interview. But he said he was --

RUDDY: There's no record of it.

LEMON: He told him that he was writing a book. He -- and if--

RUDDY: I would love to --

LEMON: If you listen to the -- hold on, Chris. If you listen to the interview, he said the President told people to cooperate, gave him access along with Steve Bannon, along with others, along with -- (CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: Don, I hear there is an e-mail train between people in the White House and Dr. Wolff that show that he never got access and he was begging for the last minute to have that interview. So he's never officially interviewed the President. Meanwhile, he's making -- he's claiming 100 percent of the people around the President, he conducted 200 interviews, all say he's crazy. He just said to you --

LEMON: I don't think he said crazy.

RUDDY: Well, he said, unfit for office. He's not sane.

LEMON: The question --

RUDDY: He's not mentally fit.

LEMON: -- is the ability to do the job.

RUDDY: No, he said he's mentally unqualified for the job. He's mentally unfit.

LEMON: Yes.

[22:34:58] RUDDY: He's directly questioning the President's sanity. Look, Donald Trump's a different type of guy. I mean, he operates differently. And I think that difference has made him very successful in business, in entertainment where he had a hit show and he talked about this.

And then to become president after against all of those odds, so you can disagree with Donald Trump, but to say that he's crazy because you don't like his -- remember --

LEMON: You keep saying crazy. Let me say this. And I'm not saying that either way for the President, I don't know, I haven't spoken to him since the last interview I did. I think it was in '16 or what have you. It is that the presidency is a very tough job, a very demanding job.

RUDDY: Absolutely.

LEMON: There were presidents and there are people who have started jobs who have been, who have done well, Ronald Reagan as an example, and then left the office, not at their best. So he could have started the campaign being fine, the weight of the office could be -- it could be weighing on him. I mean --

RUDDY: Well, I think the weight of the office does weigh on Donald Trump just like it does every other --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The fact that you're not sleeping, I mean, even in this job if I'm not sleeping, if I'm working too much, I'm not at my best. RUDDY: Yes. But I think he has adjusted to this position. Look, I think he's very serious. Like Michael will claim, he doesn't care about people. He's only interested in himself.

I've talked to this President at length. He's just totally obsessed and devoted about figuring out how to fix the economy, getting jobs into these rust belt states. He's worried about Korea. I think Korea keeps him up at night. It's not like he's worried about what people think I think about Korea or the job, he's worried about the country.

LEMON: So he doesn't --

RUDDY: He's worried about the millions of lives, Don, that are at stake.

LEMON: Let me get some questions. Let me get some quick answers from you. So, does he repeat stories?

RUDDY: Sure.

LEMON: He repeats stories.

RUDDY: He repeats things just like if you watch -- let me finish. If he gives a speech, you will see him repeat things throughout the speech. Why? Because Donald Trump believes that this is this is an effect. It's a very powerful effect in communications. So I don't believe, like Michael saying in 10 minutes he's repeating. So I had --

LEMON: Why do you do that? Why do you need to do that when your staffers are people who are on this --

RUDDY: It's a ridiculous claim what he's claiming. I was with the President in early December, he invited me in the residence, there was a small group of about seven people, we talked for well over an hour. There was a very respected medical doctor sitting there. He never repeated anything and that it was a great coherent conversation.

LEMON: OK. I get your point. Let me just --

RUDDY: So -- but I know it's frustrating for you when I tell you something --

LEMON: No, it's not because I get your point.

RUDDY: -- that goes against the narrative.

LEMON: You're saying that you believe that the President --

RUDDY: But where is Dr. Wolff getting this stuff?

LEMON: Chris, I only just want to get as much covered as possible. There is no agenda.

RUDDY: OK.

LEMON: OK. My agenda is to get as much covered as possible.

RUDDY: But any time I'm trying to make a point, interrupts me, OK.

LEMON: I get your point. You said the President -- you think the President is fine. I get your point. You don't have to give me a long story. You think he's fine.

So listen, the White House is pushing back about Wolff having access. But this is what the former -- this is Trump aide, Sebastian Gorka wrote an opinion piece for The Hill to push back against "Fire and Fury".

Here's what he says, "So when I met Michael Wolff in Reince Priebus' office where he was waiting to talk to Steve Bannon and after I had been told to also speak to him for this book, my attitude was polite, but firm. Thanks, but no thanks."

That backs up what Wolff just said, that he had access and people told them --

RUDDY: He had very limited access. He barely spoke to the President. Who is this that he cooperated with?

I'm told that the whole cooperation was Jason Miller asked somebody in the White House, what should I talk to the guy and somebody sent back a note saying, hey, you should say nice things and talk about the President's accomplishments. And that was the only thing that was communicated to staff. It was never a blanket discussion. I am told that people should cooperate. But the point --

LEMON: You said there were hundreds of journalists who were at the White House who were in the West Wing who were reporting and that they don't report these things. But there are also many journalists who say, who can confirm, Michael Wolff had unprecedented access and he became a fixture around this White House.

RUDDY: I don't think he did. And then if you look at the fantastical stories that he's telling, for instance, he says that his own children hate him. So I've known the President, I first met him 20 years ago. I've known him very well over the --

LEMON: But the book, I didn't -- there was nothing that his own children hate him.

RUDDY: He says he's made these -- he's made these comments that he's not close, he wasn't a good father. All of this stuff.

LEMON: Not the only one to say that.

RUDDY: So I've seen him interact with his family for many years.

LEMON: This is -- listen, I know people who have very, very close --

RUDDY: And that's usually people like yourself that don't know the family.

LEMON: No, no, no.

RUDDY: I think this family is so close.

LEMON: No, no, no, no. No, no, no. There are people who are very close to him who said, who told me, personally --

RUDDY: Not that close then.

LEMON: -- that he had, yes. Very close. He had very little to do with the children's upbringing.

RUDDY: I don't believe that. I think that he had a lot of interaction, even as a businessman would be seeing the kids -- remember, they were divorced, they were separated at the time.

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: But I think he really loves the kids.

LEMON: Have you read his ex-wife's book? Maybe you should read it.

RUDDY: I haven't.

LEMON: She wrote it.

[22:39:55] RUDDY: But look, I've seen up close for many years the relationship and it's very close and it's very loving. So when I see these stories putting up that he's not a good father and I see his relationship with Barron, I mean, he loves that kid. He'll change his schedule for that kid to be around.

LEMON: That's great, and he should.

RUDDY: Yes. But that story doesn't -- you know, that's not the perception that CNN is putting out about him as a father.

LEMON: CNN didn't write the book.

RUDDY: You know, the Reagan kids, I know Mike Reagan really well. The Reagan kids all dislike, you know has --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I know Michael Reagan.

RUDDY: They all -- every one of the kids has difficulty with the dad.

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: You know, these stories we look back at different presidents. Ron Kessler wrote -- talked about --

LEMON: That's OK. A lot of people have difficulties with their dad, but I've never heard Michael Wolff -- maybe -- but I did not read in the book I should say that his kids hate him. RUDDY: He's been saying this. He's been saying this. And it's not good. And he keeps lying about the President's -- you know, you can say you disagree with the President's policy or you disagree you think his temperament should be different approach to the press. I think that's all fine criticism. But to say he's mentally unfit and 100 percent of the people believe that when it's clearly not true, don't you think that that's going like a bridge too far?

LEMON: Please, real quickly because we're running out of time here. You don't think it's OK to question the mental and physical health of the leader of the free world?

RUDDY: Certainly fair to ask questions, but when you're insinuating like Dr. Wolff is--

LEMON: OK.

RUDDY: -- that he's psychologically unfit when you don't have a medical credential, I think that's way, way overboard.

LEMON: I get your point. How's the President reacting privately?

RUDDY: Well, I think he's frustrated and unhappy with what he's seeing coming out in the press. I think he's very disappointed in Steve Bannon as well because he thought Steve had been pretty loyal to him and was supportive and to hear some of the things coming out. So that's disappointing. But at the end of the day, he's got an incredible accomplishments going on with the economy, even around the world. I was just reading that the former head of the British army said that Donald Trump had accomplished in a few months what Barack Obama took eight years--

LEMON: Did you speak to him. How do you know it's true that he said it?

RUDDY: Well, I saw -- I read a speech that he gave.

LEMON: OK. Well, that's same thing I'm saying about -- I've been saying about the interview that I did with Michael Wolff. He's writing these things, so you're just posing -- yes.

RUDDY: I see. Well, I'll be nice to you from now on.

LEMON: Well, let me just real quickly because we have to go. It is claimed by Michael Wolff that the White House cancelled a 60 Minute interview in September, did it with Sean Hannity, they say Sean Hannity gave the questions. Sean has denied that or whatever. That's neither here nor there. If he is -- knows everything he's talking about, doing OK, why won't he do interviews with outlets that are, you know, who just won't possibly --

RUDDY: I don't talk to him on every subject. I personally think and I've said to him he should engage with CNN, MSNBC. I think it's a mistake. I think his approval numbers are lower because you guys beat up on him all the time. And I think the more people hear from him --

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: -- and that he appeals to your audience and I think he talks about his accomplishments, which you guys don't want to talk about.

LEMON: No, I do.

RUDDY: Obviously that's why I have a short interview with you tonight.

LEMON: No. This is a long interview, Chris. Are you kidding me? We've gone almost 10 minutes.

RUDDY: Well, Michael got a half hour to question every part of --

LEMON: When you write a book like Michael Wolff -- we'll give half hour. Chris, you're here all the time.

RUDDY: If I was writing a book like Michael, I could retire because he's going to become so rich.

LEMON: Yes. I do have to say, you did -- didn't you set up the interview with him and the New York Times, with the President of the New York Times?

RUDDY: With Michael Schmidt.

LEMON: Yes, with Michael Schmidt.

RUDDY: Yes. And there we go.

LEMON: Right. The President should do that. And --

RUDDY: And Michael -- and the President recognized who he was even though he didn't know who he was going to be here. And I think Michael, I don't want to put words in his mouth, [22:43:28] thinking he was the same person after speaking to him for almost 45 minutes.

LEMON: I think the President should do more interviews and people would talk about his accomplishments.

RUDDY: With you?

LEMON: And if he came here, then we'll do that..

RUDDY: With you.

LEMON: Yes.

RUDDY: You would be nice to him.

LEMON: Well, I would be --

RUDDY: You wouldn't share the questions, but--

LEMON: I would be fair. It's not my job to be nice. You and I go back and forth, it's not always nice. RUDDY: Well, you've interviewed him.

LEMON: But it's -- yes. I've interviewed him about eight or nine times. So somewhere in there.

RUDDY: Well, we'll try to persuade him. I'll work on him.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. Always a pleasure.

RUDDY: Thank you. Always good to be here.

LEMON: When we come back, Republican leaders seem to be warming up to President Trump lately, but could Michael Wolff's book damage the President's relationship with his own party?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Republican leaders and Trump administration officials rallying around the President insisting he is fit for office.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentators Scott Jennings and Ana Navarro, and Republican Strategist Rick Wilson. Hello everyone, happy New Year. Good to be back, good to have you on.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sure you love being in New York, you just came from a week in Florida. That's got to have been so, so, so tough.

LEMON: It was a little chill in Florida, but when I look back at five degrees --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: It was so cold, iguanas are falling from the trees. That's how cold it was.

LEMON: I still went to the pool. So, listen, since the publication of Michael Wolff's book, President's advisors have been out in full force defending his mental fitness, including you saw Chris Ruddy moments ago. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: No one questions the stability of the President.

REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I've never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness.

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES CIA DIRECTOR: President Trump is capable of working alongside of us and leading us.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I've enjoyed working with him, I don't think he's crazy. I think he's had a very successful 2017. STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: The reality is, the President is a political genius.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. So Ana, Republicans seem closer to the President than ever now. And they keep saying crazy, I read the book I never heard crazy in the book, but what kind of message do you think this sends?

NAVARRO: The message is very clear. He's unfit. He's a kook, but he's our kook, and therefore we're going to work with him, if we can get agenda items through, we will.

Look, the fact that we are all talking about his fitness, and to me, I can't even begin talking about his mental fitness. I think he's unfit character wise. I don't think he's got the character to be president.

LEMON: But that's not how we judge presidents by their character. I mean, because --

NAVARRO: We should, why not?

LEMON: When Bill Clinton was impeached, he would have been pushed out of office instead of doing another term.

NAVARRO: Yes. And he had to pay a very high price for the things he did.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: This President yet has to.

LEMON: All right. I just want to play this. This is from Lindsey Graham on The View. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So do you think he's like really smart and a stable genius?

GRAHAM: I think this, if he doesn't call himself a genius, nobody else will.

(APPLAUSE)

[22:50:01] So, the first thing that I want to tell you, he beat me like a drum. He ran against 17 Republicans and crushed us all. He ran against a Clinton machine and won. In my view, he is my President and is doing a really good job on multiple fronts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: By the way, you're not seeing things. That was Ana co-hosting the view. But this is for Scott. So Scott, he makes -- he makes--

NAVARRO: I'm not wearing the same outfit.

LEMON: Yes. He makes fun of him and then he flips. Is this sort of -- do you think he's trying to get back in good graces or what?

SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think the Republicans are rallying around the President because in the last couple of months of last year, we saw what happens when the Republicans get together on stuff. They confirm judges, they passed tax cuts and they show that the country -- they show the country that, hey, we can govern and do the things we ran on.

And I think what the Republican Party at large is doing right now is saying if we're going to stave off the Democratic wave we have to be unified, we have to work together. And if that means the Lindsey Grahams and the Donald Trumps of the world are on the same page, you know, that will be good politically for them.

If you're a Republican who intends to see agenda items accomplished, there's no way to do that with division. Unity is the path.

LEMON: So, Rick, what do you think? Republicans are sticking together, if there's any truth, I'm not saying there is, to you know, what is in this book, is it the right thing for them to do, stick together to get things done or be honest about the President's fitness?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think in terms of wanting to pass the tax cut, you know, they would have tolerated Donald Trump walking around the White House naked and everything with pair of flip-flops if they could pass the tax cut. They wouldn't care. That was the number one, two, and three agenda item on both Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan's agenda.

And no matter what they wanted to push that through. That was the number -- like I said, that was the absolutely -- that was the pinnacle of the agenda for them.

The President -- you know, look, Wolff hasn't characterized the President in a way that many, many other reporters haven't noted, that his character -- that his aides characterize him as. But I think the biggest part -- as Ana touched on, this is a man with a sort of very shallow intellectual grasp of issues and policy. He's not a guy who is particularly granular in his thinking about these things and Republicans have seen an opportunity on the Hill to say we're going to drive our agenda through, because look, this tax cuts wasn't engineered by Donald Trump. He was a passenger on this train. This was an army of lobbyist, the Speaker and the Majority Leader who pulled this tax cut off.

And so, if they can use that sort of, you know, very narrow intellectual grasp of things that very short attention span to their benefit, they're certainly going to do that. But I do think there will be a point where the President's character and the difficulties he has in actually maintaining interest and focus on agenda items starts to have a negative political impact on Republicans in the country. LEMON: All right. Everyone, I want you to stick with me. When we come back, a new report about the list of President Trump's daily duties getting shorter, what's behind it and what exactly does he do during what's called executive time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:56:04] LEMON: Tonight, the White House pushing back on a report about President Trump's work schedule. Axios reporting his official day has been shrinking. He now gets to the Oval Office around 11:00 a.m. The schedule says Trump has executive time in the Oval Office every day from 8:00 a.m. to 11. But the reality is he spends that time in his residence watching T.V., making phone calls and tweeting.

So back with me now, Scott Jennings, Ana Navarro, and Rick Wilson. So, Rick, let's talk about executive time. Why does President Trump need so much executive time to tweet and watch television if these reports are true?

WILSON: Well, look, I mean, executive time is the worst possible euphemism for what Donald Trump is clearly doing, which is rage tweeting and watching three screens of television. You know, I know Americans signed up for Trump to make America great again, but apparently it's, you know, Donald Trump obsessively watching the news to see which network mentions him either most favorably or unfavorably so he can tweet about it.

It's disturbing and it ought to be a concern. I mean, look, George Bush was in the Oval Office by roughly 6.30, 6.45 every morning.

LEMON: Yes.

WILSON: And you know, Barack Obama a little later, but still pretty consistently in the day. And, you know, you don't get more time back as president. Every day that passes is one more day you're not President any longer. And so you need to focus on these things and get to work and get up at the crack of dawn.

And maybe he doesn't like do doing that. Maybe that's not his work style. But it strikes me that engagement and constant sort of presence in the management of the government is sort of what you sign- on for a president to be when you're president.

LEMON: Well, Scott, the White House is pushing back saying in the statement that ,the time in the morning is a mix of residents time and Oval Office time, but he always has calls with staff, members -- excuse me, cabinet members and foreign leaders during this time. The President is one of the hardest workers I've seen, and he puts in long hours and long days nearly every day of the week all year long. It has been noted by reporters many times that they wish he would slow down because they sometimes have trouble keeping up with him.

But when you look at the President's public appearances and tweets, does that seem to be the case here?

JENNINGS: Well, I can tell you I've personally spoken to United States senators and congressmen who have told me personally Donald Trump is on the phone with them and their colleagues all the time, night and day, early morning, late at night, weekday, weekend. So it does ring true to me to borrow a phrase that's in the news today that the President is working the phones all the time.

The other thing that is clear, he's clearly not in curious about the world around him. I mean, what's happening is he's a voracious consumer of news and information. Now, he's not reading it necessarily in clips that are being handed to him, he's watching it. But that's not a lot of people get there in news.

And we know he's watching it because he is commenting on it from time to time as has been noted. So, I don't really have a problem with the President being engaged with the news and talking with other government officials on the phones. If that's what he's doing, fine with me.

LEMON: Ana?

NAVARRO: Honey, the less time he's in the Oval Office, the safer this country and this world is. I think, you know, he should put a bumper sticker on the back of the beast that says I'd rather be golfing. I promise you I won't be more than five minutes in the Oval Office a day. And you know, that might be his reelection slogan.

Look, he's not in the weeds on policy, he's not terribly interested in policy. He's not a guy who, you know, ruled in ideology. He's not a party guy. You know, he's 70 plus years old. It's very hard to change a 70 plus year man. It's very hard to change a man after he's finished teething, OK. God knows, I've tried.

So, you know, he's not going to change his habit. This is a guy who's used to his work habits who are not much work habits from all these years in New York and in the real estate business and in the private sector. This is who Donald Trump is.

[22:59:55] And I think that's part of the reason why you see so many Republicans still sticking with him because they're taking advantage of the fact that he's not into the details, that he's not into the policy and that they can fill in the blanks, they can fill in the agenda, they can work with John Kelly. They can work with the cabinet secretaries.